When a car buff happens upon a vintage vehicle the first of many questions often is: how old is your car? Once this is established the discussion flows to more specific questioning. What model is it? What’s under the hood? What accessories came with it? Is the interior original? Does it still run well?
The yogi thinks of their vehicle, their physical body, in the same way. How old is this body? Rather than how old am I, how old are you? The spiritually inclined are aware that the body is a temporary instrument for this incarnation and when it wears out and can no longer fulfil its role as chariot for the soul, it will be released from duty and a new make and model will be supplied by the Karmic Council.
There are several advantages of seeing and experiencing the body in this way. Firstly, and most importantly, when we ask how old is our/your body, we are discerning between the body, the mind and the Soul. Within the phrasing of the question, there is a clear delineation that the body and its owner are separate entities, just as the car owner knows they are not their car. This concept can be somewhat challenging because we have been encouraged to believe that we are this body. However, the most superficial of reflection will find this to be an illusion.
The ability to create some space, some clarity, some lightness around the body and who we are is liberating. This liberty allows us to not be as trapped by the body and its constant fluctuations. Our bodies and minds are susceptible to disease and ease, to cravings and to fears, to strengths and to weakness. It is often its own worst enemy in relation to want it wants and what it truly requires to be the optimal chariot for the Soul.
Each time we identify ourselves as the Soul and not the body, nor the mind or the role the body, mind and personality are playing, we inch closer to the truth of our being. These slight changes in language, action and thinking overtime reverse misperception. We become more identified as the timeless, the all-encompassing, ever-present than we do with the temporary and gross.
This gift of correct perception of the body, mind and Soul also alleviate unnecessary suffering in relation to the inevitable decline of the body and the mind. When we treat the body as important, but not as the essence of who we are, less suffering arises when lines, curves, bumps and lumps arrive. If the owner of our antique car thought that when their car broke down that was them breaking down, then suffering would manifest.
Sutra 2.16: heyam duhkham anagatam
“The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.” B.K.S Iyengar
Krishnamurti is reported to have said about his injured knee that “there was pain in the knee”. Not, that he was in pain, not even that it was his knee. He was very clear to create space between the body/vehicle and the passenger within the vehicle (Soul). Sri Ramakrishna also described the intense pain from his throat cancer in a way that demonstrated that it was not related to his beingness, to beingness itself.
Identifying as the Soul, the divine is equally valuable when emotions are banging on the door of the mind or even when they have gate-crashed the mind. The Yogi is able to discern that the emotion is present, yet not be overwhelmed or fooled into believing that they are the emotion. For if there was not something that noticed that an emotion was present in a weak or strong state, how would we ever know that emotions came and went. How would we, how could we describe ourselves as being upset if there was not someone who knew we were upset and reported that information back to the mind.
Gradually implementing these subtle changes in thought, word and deed, enables us to become more fully established in the state of Sthita Prajna (established in wisdom). This state is one the seeker may visit as a result of a wholehearted sadhana, an uplifting satsang, an act of pure service or devotion, but is easily lost by returning to the identification with the body and mind, thus, ignorance about the true self has returned.
Be alert to times when you describe yourself as the body or your things. Not just vocally, but in thought. Catch yourself proclaiming you are the body and re-think, re-word and see what identifying as the one produces in daily life.
Love Hanuman Das