There is a common misconception that the mind and the spirit are in constant conflict. The temporal world takes care only of the physical side of existence. Whatever can be measured using the five senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch constitutes the physical world. Language, when it is used to denote simple words pertaining to action like come, sing, write, sleep and go is easily understood as action follows the words. Anything that is not contained within the temporal limits can be considered to be spiritual. Feelings, thoughts, ideas and of course, God is thought to be of this realm. When language graduates from mere action to concepts, there is an added richness along with accompanying complexity.
Accepting this mind-spirit-body split is the first step towards ill being. Physics has time and again postulated and proved that energy can neither created nor destroyed. It can be made to change form, almost endlessly. The whole of known (and unknown) creation arises from a common point of energy. Call it life, soul, being or atom; the vital force is the same. Continents, skin colour, languages, sexes etc are superficial details. However, we differentiate between people almost entirely on their physiognomy. When you say “Rajinikanth”, we immediately think of the man, not his acting abilities or philanthropy. This is the immediacy of the physical world.
All religions promise love, wisdom and peace. Yet, most of them seek to control (at worst) or clone (at best) their followers. Whether this is done with a primal instinct to add to safety and relevance by increasing numbers, or for political ends is a moot point. The first step towards taking control is to create confusion in the mind. “Am I this body or this spirit?” has, in reality, only one correct answer and that is, “both.” Traditionally Hindus have never shirked away from acknowledging the body. A cursory look at our temple architecture will reveal a celebration of the physical form, whether human or animal.
The tantra-based (not tantric) practice of consecrating idols in temples is done by physically putting unrefined rice grain, rice, and water from a conch, chanson (sandalwood) and tulasi. Esoteric prayers are chanted and the person who consecrates the Vigraham (that which has the power to absorb and emit energy) bases his/her energizing what is essentially a piece of sculpture into divinity, on the tenet Aham Brahmasmi, or the Supreme force is within him/herself.
Even though the consecrated idol represents the divine, the daily rituals in a temple are very similar to that of a human being. The Vigraham is wakened, bathed, fed, clothed etc much like his/her human counterparts. The devotees agree to look after the idol in certain pre-agreed ways and the deity, thus looked after, blesses the devotees as a tangible piece of the great being. This contract is considered to be sacrosanct on both the human and divine side.
Dharma (righteousness), ardha (wealth), kaama (desire), moksha (salvation) is the foundation of Hinduism. While moksha is the ultimate goal of living beings, it is not a single, simple step from birth to salvation. The original life span of a human being was a hundred and twenty years. Shashtiabdapoorthi or sixtieth birthday was celebrated in a big way because it was the official entrance into middle age. Living for a hundred and twenty years would ensure that a human being went through all the raasis (zodiac signs) within a single lifetime.
All prayers, dating from the Vedas to the vernacular entreat the divine being thus extolled to give wealth, children, good health, long life to witness it all and moksha after death. The ancient symbols of Hinduism show the seamless merging of the physical and the spiritual. But increasingly the symbols are not interpreted properly. Either there is a frantic effort to “decentify” (read clothe) the exquisitely voluptuous architecture or to blithely explain it away under the drab guise of pseudo-philosophy as the union of Jeevatma and Paramaatma or the individual souls into the great consciousness.
The natural balance of the mind and the body is getting lost in the contortions of propaganda. Krishna, the most complete of Maha Vishnu’s incarnations was able to frolic with all the gopikas of Vrindavan and create the Bhagavad Gita with equal ease. He is reputed to have had a sixteen thousand and eight wives. Puritans claim that Krishna gave salvation to the said sixteen thousand. Surely, as God Krishna could have saved the universe and not limited His generosity to such a finite number. It was the deep love of the gopikas that led to ecstasy in Krishna’s arms, night after clandestine night.
Mercifully, our Puranic stories were free of this mind-body divide. Adhering to them could be a first real step in filling in the rifts of our mind, so conveniently used by vested interests, against ourselves.