65. The Body as a True Bhagavata and Karma Yogi

Human Body

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V

Have you ever thought of this? Your body exemplifies the virtues of a Bhagavata (God’s servant) and the actions of a karma yogi who, according to the Bhagavadgita, engages in selfless actions and renounces their fruit as an offering to God. The body is an important and inseparable aspect of our existence. Most people take their bodies for granted. As they become deeply attached to them and identified with them, they do not pay them much attention, unless there is a problem, pain or sickness.

However, our bodies can teach us important lessons about how we can live upon earth and uphold our Dharma, which is to represent God upon earth and perform his actions for his sake for the order and regularity of the world. We learn this important lesson from the Bhagavadgita and many Upanishads.

This message (that we have to selflessly do our part in God’s creation to ensure its continuity) is hidden in the functioning of our bodies, just as it is hidden in the natural functions of all the beings and objects in creation. Nature (Prakriti) is God's true Bhagavata. She is a true karma yogi, who dutifully manifests his will without any interference from her, and the body as the field (kshetra) of Nature, does the same.

To know the wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, we do not have to go far or attend special training classes. We can mindfully observe how our bodies function and learn from them how we can selflessly fit into the divine order of things without disturbing others or being disturbed by them. The human body is programmed to function according to the wisdom and the teachings of the Bhagavadgita. The same is true with regard to the mind and senses also. They are modeled on the principles of the Bhagavadgita only and the ideal of karma sanyasa yoga.

Let us examine this concept further. Your body is your loyal servant and trusted companion, just as any devotee. It obeys your instructions and follows your will. Both your mind and body engage in actions according to your wish and will. They are never separate from you and always wait upon you. Since they do not possess a will of their own, they follow yours in word and deed as your most trusted and loyal servants. From your birth until death, they engage in your service as their very Dharma.

Your will is their will, and your wish is their command. You are their lord and master (Isvara). They do your bidding and engage in good and evil actions according to your will, judgment, whim, fancy or discernment. It is up to you, how you use them or for what ends. Whether you want them to help you in your liberation or in your worldly actions and material pursuits, it is entirely up to you.

It is true that you cannot always control them. Certain aspects of their functions, movements and propensities are beyond your will either because of the design of Nature or your karma and past life impressions (vasana). For example, the autonomous functions of your body such as breathing or the heart beat or those that take place during your sleep are not under your direct control. They are under the will of God and Nature. Some of your natural behavior and emotional reactions may also arise from your past karma and overwhelm your will. It does not mean that your body is not obeying you.

It means that when your body is not serving you or manifesting your will, it is serving the will of God as your servant and lieutenant, and thereby participating on your behalf in the order and regularity of the world to fulfill your obligation to God. Whether it is obeying your will or the will of God, it is always engaged in the dharma (duty) of serving God. Thus, your body is a divine instrument. It is meant to serve you as your vehicle to facilitate your journey upon earth in the service of God.

Your body is a fruit of your past karma. It serves you according to your knowledge, gunas and discernment, which are also determined by your karma only. Except for some limitations, your body is entirely under your control and programmed to execute your wish and will or fulfill your desires. In many ways, its relationship with you is the same as your relationship with God.

For example, just as God controls your life and destiny, you control the life and destiny of your body. Just as God knows you, but you do not know him, you know your body, but your body does not know you. The same is true with regard to your mind and senses. They do not know you, but you know them as their lord, witness and enjoyer. Similarly, your mind and body are bound to you and dependent upon you, just as you are bound to God and depend upon him for your existence and continuation.

Your body performs its functions according to your desires and decisions. It manifests your will, and what you want to make out of your life upon earth. Serving thus, it exemplifies the virtues of surrender, humility, forbearance, devotion, and detachment. It lives and dies for you, in your service, without any expectations of its own, consecrating to you all its actions as an offering to ensure your enjoyment, happiness and fulfillment, just as we are supposed to live upon earth in devotion to God.

The teachings of the Bhagavadgita and the knowledge of all the yogas are already built into the functioning of your mind and body. They constitute your microcosm. You are responsible for their use or misuse. You can make them into a vehicle of light and delight or darkness and suffering. You can engage in transformative actions, using your discretion (buddhi), to cultivate purity, divine qualities, knowledge and virtue or become deeply attached to it and perform evil actions to delay your liberation and suffer from the consequences.

In all these activities your body is a mere instrument, and you are the cause (nimitta). You are responsible for what happens to you and your body. It is the physical self, which is your friend or your enemy, depending upon how you choose to use it and what actions you perform with it. As the Bhagavadgita states, the self is the friend of the Self and its enemy. It is very true with regard to your relationship with your mind and body.

Your body along with your mind is your small world. You can use them to uphold dharma or adharma. You are its creator, preserver and destroyer. It is home to divinities who enjoy the food you eat and the pleasure and happiness (sukham) which you derive from sense gratification. By serving them you can fulfill your obligations and enjoy peace and happiness and the right to attain liberation. Alternatively, by giving shelter to evil thoughts and desires, you can convert it into a world of darkness or a battleground (Kurukshetra) between good and evil forces.

Therefore, if you want to form an ideal relationship with God and engage in the practice of Karma Sanyasa Yoga or Bhakti yoga, or learn the virtues of surrender, devotion, selflessness, service, renunciation, detachment, egolessness etc., you can look to your own body and take inspiration. You can execute the will of God by surrendering your will to him and serving as a true Bhagavata.

You are a part of God’s body. All the embodied souls (jivas) and objects in creation constitute God's body (the not-self) only. They are supposed to perform their natural functions and obligatory duties to ensure the continuation of the worlds. Just as your body lives its entire life in your service, you are expected engage in desireless actions in the service of God as a sacrifice to manifest his will upon earth. The problem is most of the time, we ignore this and try to carve our own path. It is when we incur sinful karma.

<<Previous Next>>

Suggestions for Further Reading

Translate the Page