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The Mirror Of The Self: [16] Perception Of Body

Published: 15.02.2009

Abiding Companion

Spiritual masters have said, "Abandon the feeling that you are the doer! Rather be a non-doer! It is very difficult to sustain inaction, to be a non-doer. One walks on one's feet, and one has already performed an action! One drinks a drop of water and one becomes a doer! Whatever action one performs, turns one into a doer. How is it possible to subsist in inaction? The very concept of inaction, of non-doing, of being a mere witness of the action going forward, sounds odd. It is said - Be a seer! Perceive your body!  But why perceive one's body at all? What for? After all, we exist in the body. What does this talk about perceiving the body mean? Some co-travellers accompany us for a while and are then separated from us. However, our body is a companion that never leaves us, and if once we are separated from it, we cannot find it again. What is the necessity of perceiving this body, which has been our companion since the beginning of time, and which is at all times visible to our eyes.

An Important Question

As a matter of fact, we do not know how to perceive anything. To see something with our eyes is one thing, and to be a seer is something altogether different. People acquire a lot of knowledge, they are acquainted with art and literature, language and science, but very few know how to see really. Even after having mastered a number of arts, one does not necessarily come to know the art of seeing. Seeing is a great art. How to see? is a very important question. We meet a person with whom we have a feud. We see him coming. The question arises, Are we able to look at him as he is? Do we really see him? Actually, we do not see him at all! We have a notion, a concept about that man, and it is through our opinion that we perceive him. With our eyes, we see him coming. But between our eyes and him intervenes a screen of ill-will. It is through that screen of ill-will that we perceive the manas a rival or a foe. Some beloved person presents himself before us. Do we see him really? For, between our vision and the man stands the screen of attachment! Our love for the man colours our perception of him.

Our Perception Is Illusory

Actually, we never see a person as he is. Our vision is forever qualified by like, or dislike. In the karmic terminology, perception is the function of jnanavaran (knowledge-covering) and darshanavaran (intuition-covering) karman. But we never make use of these karman, for between these two stands mohaniya (deluding) karman, like a pestle in milk pudding! Mohaniya karman arrives unwanted, uncalled for and uninvited. Attachment comes to the fore and seeing and knowing recede to the back­ground. We do not know how to perceive and see; we only know attachment and delusion. Our vision has become distorted. We may call it a false approach or desire-deluded. We stand deluded sometimes by like, at other times by dislike.

Fascination Hinders Perception

We do not see, we stand fascinated. Seeing begins where fascination is not. Various experiments are performed in hyp­notism. An expert hypnotist successfully mesmerizes another person. After the subject has been hypnotised, the hypnotist says, "A red-hot coal has been placed on your hand. Feel that your hand is scorched; a blister has appeared there." And a blister does appear on the subject's hand. It may be only a piece of ice on his hand, but he feels it to be a red-hot coal. The ice is cold, but he feels as if his hand is burning, and in a matter of seconds, a blister appears on his hand. The whole world seems to be in a state of hypnosis. The biggest empire in the world is that of hypnotism. Mohaniya (deluding) karman occasions the biggest attraction - there could not be a greater fascination than that. Such fascination constitutes a great hindrance to direct experiencing. Whenever we want to see, our vision stands blocked by the deluding karman. Right seeing is that which is not vitiated by attachment or aversion, by hatred, fear, etc. We should look at a person or thing as they are. That is seeing indeed. All other seeing is vitiated by fascination; it is not pure seeing at all.

The Starting Point And The Consummation

Seeing is really a tough job. For this one has to undergo much toil. It is only after long practice that the power of seeing, the capacity of a seer, is awakened in a man. It is not easy to be a seer. A seer is one who only sees. The question arises as to how a man can become a seer if he is a victim of delusion. Delusion and attachment would not let him see. He who becomes a seer may be said to have achieved all. A seer needs no sermons. He does not have to attend discourses, nor take part in meditation camps. The secret of Mahavir's spiritual practice may be stated in one phrase - only knowing, only seeing. That is the starting point of spiritual practice, also its consummation. No distance separates the beginning and the end.


Often a question is posed, Is omniscience possible today in the present epoch of degeneration? Well, it is possible. Why not? With regular practice, one can attain to omniscience. One can attain to it right now, only if one can steer clear of attachment and delusion. Only knowing, only seeing! One must become a knower-seer! A thing is merely something knowable. Let nothing come between the knower and the known. What remains is the relationship between the knower and the known.

Omniscience is pure knowledge. There flows the sacred Ganges. Let no defilements from the factories run into the pure stream. If the refuse of the factories is not let into the Ganges, we shall have clean water. How difficult it has become to get clean water; it is very much adulterated with putrefactions. In the big cities is to be found the sewerage system. The pipes carrying water and sewerage run together. If they together burst at some junction, the filth gets mixed with potable water. It is this adulterated water which comes out of the taps in people's homes. No wonder if epidemics break out. Announcements are made, "Boil the water before drinking! Otherwise there is danger of your catching the plague!" Similarly, our knowledge has ceased to be pure. Our stream of knowledge has been polluted by the admixture of mohaniya (deluding) karman. If we can prevent the filthy gutter of mohaniya karman from flowing into our stream of knowledge, if our knowledge remains pure and unadulterated, we can attain to omniscience here and now. Let us exercise utmost vigilance. Let not the refuse from the factory of attachment and delusion pollute the stream of our knowledge. Let us preserve ourselves from the chemical waste-matter, the by-product of mohaniya karman.

An Instance Of Pollution

Between Balotara and Jassol village there runs the Luni River. During the rainy season, as the river is flooded, the wells nearby are filled with water. There was a time when the water of these outlying wells near the stream was eminently potable; it was wholesome. But since the establishment of a network of factories on the banks of this river, its water is no longer pure. Since the effluents of the factories were released into the stream, the water in the wells has also been affected. Because of the admixture of effluents, it has lost its purity. This is not the case with only Jassol, Balotara or Pali. Wherever factories and industrial units have sprung up, the air and water have become polluted. We can ensure the purity of the water only by preventing the flow of effluence into the river. The same holds true of knowledge. Let us be free from attachment and then our knowledge will remain pure.

The Art Of Seeing

The art of seeing lies in being free from attachment and delusion. He, who has learnt this art, becomes truly great. Let us first master the art of seeing and then let us perceive our body. When we look at the body while standing before a mirror, our infatuation with it increases. That is why it is said, why look into the mirror at all? Even an intelligent person, preoccupied with his reflections, acts queerly. Now he looks at his mouth, then into his eyes, and still later, he gazes at his nose. He would put on and off his spectacles to find how he looks with or without them. He would look at his face from different angles. Confronted with a mirror, he acts as if he has gone crazy. No art is involved in merely looking at one's reflection in the mirror. First we must learn how to look, and then we may look at our face in the mirror. The great emperor Bharal also saw his body in the mirror. He achieved omniscience while looking at it. Sanat Kumar too perceived his body and grasped the Ultimate. He, who has learnt the art of seeing and practises it constantly, succeeds in reaching his goal. For true perception one does not need a mirror, nor physical eyes; one only needs to awaken one's capacity to experience and feel.

Movement And Vibrations

The question arises, what are we to witness in the body? There are two things before us - movement and vibrations. Should we concentrate upon movement or upon vibrations? In the terminology of Ayurveda, all movement is occasioned by the wind. According to medical science, all movement takes place through the medium of the voluntary nervous system. The movement of finger, hand or foot, speaking - all these are the activities of the voluntary nervous system. The vibrations, however, are occasioned by the involuntary nervous system. The network of vibrations embraces the entire body; it is autonomic. Movement is voluntary, but vibrations are involuntary; they are the function of the involuntary nervous system. Perceiving the body means to perceive the activities of the involuntary nervous system which are not dependent upon our will.

Meaning Of Body-Perception

It is recognised that the movement of the voluntary nervous system is dependent upon a person's will. He may initiate a movement or he may not. But the functioning of the involuntary nervous system is not so dependent. The heart palpitates. Its beating or not beating has nothing to do with our will. Many people have a habit of lying down immediately after taking meals. They are not conscious whether the food they have consumed is being properly digested or not. Lying down immediately after food certainly hinders digestion. The common rule is - one should not sleep for at least half an hour after taking meals. We may go to sleep, but sleeping would obstruct our digestive functions. The digestion of food is involuntary. So also is the process of blood-circulation. We are not aware of the extent of blood circulation in our body. There are taking place all the lime vibrations of the electrical body (taijasa sharir). How much electricity is generated we do not know. A woman hailing from Ahmedabad came to practise meditation. She was immediately lost in deep meditation. Her hands began to move as if of themselves. Her electrical body got activated. She started practising asanas, postures, etc. as if moved by some power within herself and she was completely oblivious of the external world. The vibrations of the subtle body also take place all the time. To perceive all this is to perceive one's body.

Reading One's Fate

Let us perceive the body from within. Let us study that which is hidden in the body. There we can discern our fate.
Here is a story from olden times. A man went to a moneyed person with a letter of introduction. The moneyed person let him slay in a part of his house. He gave him flour to cook chapatees, also a little bit of pulse and spices. But the guest wanted some ghee as well as sugar. And he wanted a great many things more.

His host said, "Pray, be content! I have given you whatever I thought been necessary."

The guest retorted, "My master told me I would be well looked after and be offered sweets and all kinds of delicacies. But you are very niggardly in treating me."

At this, the host, giving him the letter he had brought, said, "See for yourself what your master says here. He says you are lo be provided with nothing but flour!"

A great many desires arise in us. We want this and that. But do we ever consider what our capacities are and how much we exert ourselves and how much we really deserve? To come to see this constitutes the art of changing one's destiny; it is the art of achieving success and advancement. If we can learn to witness things as they are, freed from delusion and attachment, our success is assured.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahmedabad
  2. Asanas
  3. Ayurveda
  4. Balotara
  5. Body
  6. Electrical body
  7. Fear
  8. Ghee
  9. Karman
  10. Meditation
  11. Mohaniya
  12. Pali
  13. Science
  14. Sharir
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