The body is a temple

The body is a temple


Representative image. Credit: iStock Photo

For far too long we have not treated our bodies with the respect that is due. We tend to forget what a wonderfully complex, interconnected, integrated and smooth functioning apparatus that we are gifted with— numerous systems: Circulatory, respiratory and not to forget the electrical and plumbing circuits, all working relentlessly throughout the span of our lives.

We take all this for granted until something like a pandemic strikes us. That is why the scriptures remind us of nature and the importance of our body, which is likened to a temple.

The Sariraka Upanishad for instance tells us that the human body is a composite of various elements like earth, water, air, space and energy (fire) with the spirit (soul or jiva) being the lord of the body. It elaborates on the relationship between the body and the soul and what happens at significant stages of our lives.

That the body is a composite of various elements is borne out by science too, for we know that up to 60% of the human body is composed of water and our brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, muscles and skin all contain a certain percentage of water.

The space component is represented by the external orifices in the body. Fire is what we feel when we are hungry for instance. And breath that is air is invaluable to life— a fact that came home cruelly when people had to go scurrying for oxygen cylinders to keep gasping patients alive during the pandemic.

Keeping the body clean, being conscious of the kind of food we eat, exercising, retaining the body's suppleness and flexibility through movement— asanas and even prayer and worship (kneeling and prostration are all very beneficial physically too), being mindful about not polluting the atmosphere and thereby supporting our bodies in the mission that they are set out on; are things we should ideally do.

To avoid the extreme sense of self, we need to be constantly reminded that we are not the body. While it is a wonderful instrument that helps us do things, it is also fragile and perishable. Celebrating the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and glorifying God in it, which the Christian scriptures also prescribe, is the right attitude to adopt.

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