About the Book
The body is a mystery workshop, the full secret of which is yet to be understood. At once a remarkable instrument, an impressive cloak, an interesting laboratory, a work of art and a work of science, the human body defies a simple understanding. In fact we hardly ever notice it except when it fails to function ‘normally’. However, there is greater confidential information that the body hides, a deeper truth that one day man will learn, and on learning it he will grow wiser and humbler. The truths of the earth out of which it has sprung up and is presently constituted and the earth out of which it has sprung up and is presently constituted and the truth of what lies beyond the sensory apparatus are both concealed within this mysterious vault we know as our body.
This book is an attempt at unravelling some of its secrets, some known and some not so widely known. These secrets help us not only in understanding the body better but also, by applying them in our everyday life, they open new doors to health and healing as well as the future possibilities of the human body.
Dr. Alok Pandey is a doctor by profession and philosopher by temperament. On a spiritual journey, Dr Pandey discovered that neither prevalent scientific and intellectual nation nor traditional religious and conventional spiritual beliefs could satisfy his quest to resolve deep existential issues regarding life and death.
He studied Medicine at the prestigious Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, and served the Indian Air force as a General Physician and Psychiatrist for 20 years before taking voluntary retirement to settle in Pondicherry to pursue the trail of his inner life.
Dr Pandey is a member of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and a Founding Member of the Sri Aurobindo international Institute of Integral Health and Research dedicated to the work and Vision of Sri Aurobindo in the field of health.
In addition to being a contributing editor of the quarterly journal Namah editing numerous books, delivering lectures, and holding workshops in India and abroad, Dr Pandey has also authored the books Death, Dying and Beyond and Patient at the Crossroads.
The Vedas Are a Living Body of Knowledge
The body is a living Veda. Veda is the living body of knowledge that inspired the seekers of truth and seers who saw in this world, hidden behind appearances, a secret All-knowing Wisdom, an occult Almighty Power at work. It is living in the sense that unlike a man-made mental system of thought or ethics it can be renewed in contemporary experience, stated in contemporary terms and even expanded into a many-sided richness. Of course the bedrock or the fundamental foundation of the Vedas is that there is a Conscious Force that works in the depths of creation, hidden by our surface view of life. This Conscious Force that works secretly in the heart of creation has come to a point of emergence in the human nature. In the animal creation, and all that is still below in the evolutionary scheme, it works from behind, completely hidden from sight, acting through a blind intuition of which the animal and plant forms are themselves unaware. It is there, submerged in the clod and the stone, arranging the indeterminate electrical horde into ordered Space and rhythms of Time. In Man it begins to emerge, to recover or rediscover something of itself but in terms of matter and in the physical body. That is the great marvel of man, his exceptional privilege. The real struggle of life is not the struggle for survival, but the struggle for the emergence of this secret Wisdom and Truth. Survival is only a first condition, not the last. If that were not so, then it is doubtful if evolution would have crossed the threshold of the first micro-organisms that can still outsmart man and his machines. Nay it would not have taken even the first steps towards life emerging out of rocks and minerals. The human body in this view has to be seen as a tool of the almighty wisdom that works in the heart of creation concealed behind the surfaces of life. Man can recover this Wisdom, first in his inner being and next express it in his outer life. His body is given to him for this purpose, for the recovery and the unfolding of this Greatness. The unwritten pages of the Vedic text must be written in his body even as they exist in the spiritual ether.
The Vedas reveal to us that this life is an evolutionary struggle, not just between one form of life and another (the horizontal view of traditional science), but between the forces of darkness and light (the ascending view of Vedanta). In man this struggle has reached its climax or rather a crucial turning point. In the animal creation, there is simply a blind habitual movement, subservience to instincts and impulse. In man this begins to be replaced with something like a reflection, a referral and appeal to thought before action flows out through us. This is the first glimmer of light that begins to dawn in us, the light of reason, the birth of conscious thought and with this birth man can assist the evolutionary struggle. The Vedic lore speaks of some human beings who joined the ranks of the gods to assist them in their battle against the dark and titanic powers. Indeed man can evolve to the stature of the gods; he can become, through his thoughts and deeds, a luminous shaft of Light, a power of faith and love, a bringer of hope and joy, a catalyst of a great revolution or a much-needed change. This is his destiny, and the secret of achieving this is also enclosed in his body as a cryptic script. His body itself is a symbol. Unlike his predecessors, man neither crawls nor runs on his fours; he can neither swim as fish nor fly as a bird but his body stands erect, his eyes facing forward and not sideways. His vision of the world is rainbow-hued and he is able to look into the distant horizon as well as upward. The early stir of sounds have taken in him the form of speech and thought through which he can fly higher than any bird can even dream of and dive deeper than any creature of the sea. His hands are expressive of the capacity to hold and grasp, not just objects and things but also concepts and ideas that his hands must translate into practical realities of the earthly life. His feet help him to stand erect. All the five senses refer their data to the brain, where lies his seat of consciousness, his station from where he is meant to control and act. But his centre, the point of electrical neutrality, lies in the heart where hides the mystery of mysteries, the flame of the Vedic seers, the altar where life offers the sacrifice of his days and nights.
But man has this difficulty that he is called upon to make conscious choices. He can look upward but also downward. Though meant to move forward, he can take a few steps backwards. His hands can hold not only the pen but also the sword. Strangely, he can use his pen to slay even as he can use his sword to save! He knows how to hold but knows not how to let go. The animal is not dead in his heart, it lies hidden in his underbelly and prowls waiting for a moment of unconsciousness to wake and devour not just others but also the man himself. He must pass through the cycle of sleep that is a death, to live each day again. He must eat and absorb earth- stuff to resume his heavenly flight. What he gains through the day, he may lose at night. The very mind meant to help him consciously grow and evolve, may become his greatest enemy never letting him free of the incessant habit of the past. Even strengthened by the new-born powers of his mind, they may become worse and assume a hideous face or a deceiving mask. His life is a conflict and a battle, not only an outer one but much more so an inner one. And yet something in him is ever dissatisfied with the past and the present and seeks to find a better and more perfect future. This persistent dissatisfaction is, in a way, the hallmark of man and his conflicted life. This is his evolutionary spur, his burden of fate as well as his door to the future. Man cannot remain content; he is the eternal seeker who hardly finds, the thinker who must move to the home of truth where thought is born out of the fires of revelation and a seeing idea remoulds life. He is the rebel who must destroy what he himself had built yesterday and then rebuild again under new conditions and with new materials. He alone of all the creatures is capable of educating himself, learning new and endless things, trying new and never before trodden paths, adventuring into the unknown, exploring new lands and adapting to new conditions faster than anyone else.
Books are not merely a collection of facts and figures, they are meant for learning and education. They are an invitation to think, to ponder, to reflect upon the mysteries of life that have vexed mankind since inception. They are also a collective body of knowledge where each bit has built itself by standing upon countless other seen or unseen, acknowledged or unrecognized shoulders. Above all, books are meant to inspire and compel us to look beyond the narrow and fixed frames of reference that we unconsciously build around ourselves. It is in this sense that knowledge is liberating. On the one hand, it releases us from the prison house of 'ignorance'; on the other hand, it empowers us to handle our life better. The difference between information and knowledge is a special gift which comes by Grace. While it is easy to collect data and bundle it up neatly in facts and figures, it is not so easy to make sense of this enormous data knocking for appeal and admittance at the gates of our senses, claiming attention by our mind. No doubt facts exist in books, but what a book is meant to do is to reveal to us what works behind these facts. The data that the senses provide, on which much of our knowledge and theories are built upon, is only the first desideratum. The phenomenon is only a facade of an immensely complex play of forces that hold it against the background of Time and Space. True empowerment comes when we understand this background that gives birth to, supports and eventually draws back the phenomenal appearance that it had placed before our senses.
Much of our science is the 'science of appearances'. It deals with the surfaces of things, the flow and flux that we see and recognize. But we seldom understand how and why this flow came into being and into what does it collapse. We catch some intermediary processes, but the deeper lines of forces always elude our grasp. We know genes and molecules, but not 'that' which turns the genetic key into the right lock and regulates the molecular switch. We know the physiology and chemistry of life, but not its beauty and artistry. We know each and every detail of the house of clay, but are completely unaware of its builder and its owner. We also hardly know the many inhabitants of this house, except for our formidable ego-self. To this grand 'ignorance' we give the name 'knowledge'. But knowledge is not just bits of information strung together in columns with neat margins. As the Isavasya Upanishad (one of the principal Upanishads of Indian metaphysical thought that deals with the comprehensive nature of the Reality in which and by which we live) puts it so clearly:
Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.
But all this sounds like some mystic and meaningless doctrine of a bygone era. We belong to another age, the age of fast transfer of information and of a quick analysis of data under which heaps of knowledge lies buried for want of space; and, thus, wisdom remains silent and unseen. Indeed we live in an age of information explosion. We are flooded with information of all sorts from every side. Each piece of this vast and increasingly complex body of information is further supported by data of all kinds. Strangely we have streaming in towards us information and data that is often completely contradictory. Depending upon the angle of observation, we build different theoretical models and frameworks of knowledge and systems to make sense of the flood that is bursting the seams of our mind and its capacity. Confused and confounded we make one of the two choices. Either we pick up our own angle of vision, our window of approach, and look at life and the world through that or we trust a wider perception of those who have gone beyond us.
Thus glued, almost hypnotically to our small point of perception, we declare all else as a non-existent reality, a hallucination or a chimera. This helps us to handle things, which could otherwise be lost in an unintelligent sea of non-comprehension. Obviously we miss out on much that is equally if not more important. But in the bargain we seem to preserve our sanity.
But for how long? We are flooded each day, each minute, each second and we cannot ignore it any longer. We must reconcile contradictory things. We need to synthesize the supposed opposites. We cannot remain blind for long, or play at the great game of denial that often passes off in the name of modern 'science'. There is indeed much more in heaven and earth than our Science dreams of.
The paradox of our times is that we have too many answers, but very few questions. Our mind believes that just because something has passed through the crucible of reason, and that illusory thing we call as logical proof, it must therefore be true. This is nothing short of a blind faith in reason, though every such proof is dismissed by fresh evidence and new proofs. The corpse of the truth of yesterday is often revived and revitalized as new data pours in, while the truths of today fade into oblivion leaving behind a slain body upon the highways of Time. Yet something survives and even grows through all this change and death and rebirth of Ideas-it is the human quest for Perfection, for Truth, for Light, for Immortality. To this indefatigable thirst for truth, this eternal seeking of the Eternal hidden in forms and names, trapped in the dust of time and captured however momentarily in the systems of thought and patterns of experience, we give the name Veda. It has been said that if we distil information, cutting out the trash and the waste while keeping the reality hidden within the husk of outer fact, then we arrive at knowledge. When we distil this knowledge that is nothing but one way of looking at the vast incomprehensible universe and thus uncover the essence hidden carefully within the systems of knowledge, then we have Wisdom. But when we surpass even Wisdom and go straight to the heart of Truth, where all Ideas rejoin Reality and rest in a harmonious concert, becoming the many faces of a single Truth, then we have the Veda. The Vedas are not simply surface data and heaps of information, they are not even a system of Knowledge, a way of looking at things like many others; it is not even Wisdom that comes through an inner illumination and the dawning of a sudden insight that opens a path to hidden truths. It is rather an intuition that goes straight to the heart of the matter and puts us in touch with its core and unveils the secret truth that it contains. Such was the path the ancient seers followed in a spiritual and intuitive age of mankind. While this must have happened everywhere, since mankind has a common origin and a common quest and a common goal, yet it has been given to India to safeguard this knowledge and explore the many paths that lead to it and the many ways it expresses itself in life and creation.
One such expression of this Intuition hidden in the depths of creation is the human body itself. It is also, for those who know it, a secret pathway to lead us into a larger and vaster and freer existence now hidden to us, but to which there are secret doorways that open from within our human body itself. It is said in one of the Upanishads that when the One brought out many a form from within, He asked of the gods (the many powers of this One Supreme Transcendent Existence) if they would want to enter into any of them. The gods refused till the human form was brought forth into which they happily agreed to enter. The human body thus became a tabernacle in which the gods reside and where still a secret worship is offered to the Divine Presence that is imminent in the universe. This is a view of life that may seem to some of us modems a bit archaic today. Have we not dissected the human body and found that there is no god but only a bundle of chemicals or call them molecules if you like? This model of man echoes the sentiment of the previous century, especially its early phase. Biological and psychological sciences followed in the trail of physics in the last century and often mechanically parroted what physics, the leading frontier of science, declared. In the process, these other sciences lost an opportunity for fresh and original thought. The logic ran thus- matter is basically chemicals and atoms and molecules; therefore, anything found on earth and built with matter would share the same basic nature. What we missed out was the glaring fact that living being alone. The true formula of man is matter plus life plus mind. The laws of life and the laws of mind are not merely a repetition in different terms and on another ground of the same fundamental laws under the pressure of something that is imposed upon material substance?
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