Preksha Dhyana: Perception Of Body ► [3] Perception Of Body: Raison D'Etre

Posted: 05.02.2010

The slogan-"See thyself by thyself" means—"Perceive carefully deeper levels of consciousness by your conscious mind". This process of seeing will take us to our goal—the pure consciousness. However, the first object of our perception is body. But body is also consciousness. As long as one lives and the vital energy continues to flow in the body, it cannot be separated from the conscious self. One can raise one's finger because it is energised by consciousness. Not a single organ in the body is devoid of consciousness - not a single cell can function without consciousness. Life is consciousness. One eats, speaks and breathes, because one is 'living'. If the conscious self leaves the body, one cannot eat, speak or breathe. Breath, speech and body, thus can be identified with the conscious self. The process of eating, digesting, speech, perception and thought are physiological as well as psychical functions. The whole body itself is physiological as well as psychical.

Principality of the Body

Breath, speech and mind have no independent existence. The body contains the machinery for producing the apparatus of breathing, speaking and thinking. The respiratory system, the vocal cords and the brain are the instruments of breathing, speaking and thinking respectively. The body possesses the complete blueprints for producing these instruments. This is the physical aspect. The philosophical aspect is different, according to which there are specific different groups of material particles which are taken in by the body to make these instruments. For instance, a specific class of particles is 'taken in' by the body and transmuted into voice through the voice-box and the vocal cords. The transmuted particles are then radiated in the form of sound-waves and the speech comes into existence. The entire exercise of transmutation etc. is performed by the body. Speech, therefore, has no independent existence apart from the body. In the same way, the mind which is the instrument of thinking, is created by the transmutation of another specific class of material particles (mindeons?). They are collected, transmuted into thoughts through various parts of the brain and radiated as electromagnetic waves. The existence of mind, the instrument of thinking, is transitory, while the organism which integrates the process is the body. In fact, the body is the only organism which can coordinate and integrate the functions of breathing, speaking and thinking. Thinking without and outside the body is not possible. Bodyless thought, bodyless speech and bodyless breath just do not exist Realising this basic principle of the organism, the importance of a steady motionless body to keep a steady mind is self-evident External wandering of the mind and the sense-organs is fundamentally caused by a restless body. No sooner does the body assume a steady posture than it becomes motionless and still, the wandering mind and sense-organs reverse their field, and turn inwards. The process of reversal commences. Wandering in external field is transgression (atikramaṇa) whereas retreat from the conflict with others is pratikramaṇa or retracing one's steps. The retreat automatically commences.

In the state of pratikramaṇa the conscious self reverses its connection with the external world and turns inwards. When it is engaged in the perception of internal phenomena with full concentration, it becomes fully aware of the breath Each and every breath is consciously taken and the breath fills up the entire awareness. The first effect of turning inward is perception of breath - an effortless awareness of the phenomena of respiration. In motionless body the respiratory system continues to function slowly, silently and rhythmically. When the body is restless, active and tense, the rate of breathing is high. As the restlessness or excitement increases, the rate of breathing also increases. The normal rate, at rest, is 16 breaths per minute which increases to 20, 25, 30 and may sometimes become as high as 60 or 70. As the excitement and tension reduces, the rate comes down, the fragmental breath becomes regular and ultimately becomes slow, silent and rythmic. Thus the state of breathing is intimately related to the state of the body.

Some aspirants may find it odd that so much importance is being given to the perception of the body. For those who presumed that meditational practice must be a religious mystical exercise, perception of the body may look cheap. "Perceive your eyes. Your ears, your mouth, your cheeks" - all these can be, perhaps, more carefully, perceived through a mirror. One can do it at home and perhaps in a better way, why then organise 'shivirs' (meditation camps)?

What you can perceive through a mirror is only skindeep, the outermost portion of the body, the shape and colour of the body. Have you ever perceived what lies beneath the skin? Have you ever become aware of the internal sensation caused by the flow of vital energy inside? No! Nobody even thinks of being aware of what is happening inside, deep inside where the conscious self is activating the flow of the vital energy. The reason for perception of body is not to look at the external surface of the body but to be aware of one's own real self, to realise that within this bundle of bones and flesh, vital energy is constantly flowing energising every cell. Perception of body is the only means of direct cognition of the internal phenomena.

Process of Self-awareness

Perception of the body is the means of self-awareness and self- realization. One who hasn't mastered the technique of percep­tion can never achieve self-awareness. A doubt may be raised - every one sees his own body day in and day out. The body is visible. Moreover, there are mirrors - full size mirrors-to look at every part of the body. This 'looking at' is not perception. Perception of the body is a technique: it is a system. And until one learns the technique, one can see the skin, the colour, the form, the limbs, the face, but none of these can be called perception of body. To do this, one must first understand the system and learn the technique - focus the attention on each part of the body in turn, starting from the outermost surface, penetrate deep inside and concentrate. In the body, various systems are functioning continually, The heart beats, the blood circulates, oxygen fills the lungs and is carried inside by the hemoglobin in the blood; all organs are active; the whole organism throbs with activity. The machinery of the organism works incessantly like a colossal factory. Every minute, innumerable phenomena occur, thousands of chemical reactions take place, millions of old red blood cells are destroyed and new ones are created, but the common man is completely unaware of all these. He is blissfully ignorant of what goes on inside (his body). The reason of unawareness is that most of the functions are automatic, i.e., do not involve the conscious mind. Only a deliberate concentration of internal perception can give an idea of the colossal activity within. And there is a high degree of automatization which filters out most of the sensations from being perceived. The instrument of perception has thus been blunted and is unable to detect subtle sensations. A process of deautomatization by a deliberate concentration and focusing of the attention can sharpen this in­strument to some extent to enable it to get an idea of the colossal activity inside. Be aware of the tremendous activities of various organs such as, subtle movements inside due to the flow of the vital energy; chemical reactions due to metabolic functions; electri­cal impulses being transmitted from nerve to nerve; every moment various body mechanisms have to react to the continual changes in the external environment - heat and cold, humidity and dryness—a dynamic equilibrium is maintained by continual adjustment of body fluids; food materials are torn down into simpler units or oxidised to release the energy; bio- electrical phenomena take place continually. All these are to be perceived and be aware of before one thinks of the most subtle element—the soul. The soul is inside the body, but before one can reach this most subtle truth, one has to open umpteen windows and unlock umpteen doors. When everything else is perceived and laid threadbare, one can hope to realise the soul. The soul is at the centre, surrounded by impenetrable envelops of subtle body material. Unless and until these envelops are torn open, one cannot come face to face with one's real self. The process is long and arduous. One has to develop the ability to perceive more and more subtle phenomena, step by step. One cannot aspire to reach the destination at the very instant of one's commencing the tour. A tour must take its own course; however high the speed of the transport may be, it must travel the distance between the point of leaving and the point of arrival. Some journey may take a few minutes while some may last for hours.

Our tour of self-awareness, tour to realise the pure innermost self, commences with perception of breath. The second step is perception of body. Perception of body! The body is what we live with. It is our constant and closest companion. What is there to see? What is there to perceive inside the body? Such doubts arise only until one commences the perception. Afterwards, such doubts automatically vanish. In fact, there is so much to perceive that it is never completed. Each exercise of perception will reveal new and interesting events. One would then realise that perception of body is really worthwhile. A doctor has to examine a patient's body from within to diagnose the disease. He will measure the temperature, feel the pulse, examine the chest, listen to the heart-beats, probe the abdomen, have a look at the tongue and the throat. If the clinical examination fails to tell him what is wrong, he may order an X-ray or pathological tests. He may take help of delicate instru­ments and probe carefully inside. He does all these to know the state of the internal organs and thereby infer where and what is amiss. The intense search for the symptoms of the diseases finally succeeds in revealing the dysfunction of an organ or a system and in diagnosing the cause of illness. No doctor can diagnose a disease without proper examination with or without the help of instruments. One must probe deep to get at the root of the trouble. Perceptual meditation (prekṣā dhyāna) also probes deep to perceive the subtle. It is concentration of perception.

Perception is a process of great significance. Its importance can be realised only when one's attention is totally concentrated, focused and riveted to object. Perception of the body means perception of the internal functions. It is the process of looking wholly inwards abandoning the outside or external objects. Extent of soul is precisely equal to that of the body and the consciousness pervades each and every space-point covered by the soul. In other words, consciousness pervades each and every cell in the body. That is why hundreds of thousands of sensory messages are received by the brain every second from all over the body. The raw sensations are converted into perception by the conscious mind. Thus to perceive is to know, to be aware of one's own existence. A high level of self-awareness leads to higher level of consciousness.

It is obvious that the process of the body-perception is that of looking inwards. Conscious activity, normally, engages itself with the external environment. The body is the tool for reversing the direction of the conscious activity from outwards to inwards. The technique enjoins one first to be aware of the outermost layers of the body, and then move inwards, i.e., the process is centripe­tal—towards the centre. Once the conscious mind is withdrawn from the exterior surroundings and turns inwards, it is comparatively free from the emotions of likes and dislikes and is therefore calm. Such a state of mind can reach cellular levels within the body. Cellular organisation is benefited by direct communication with the conscious mind. When the attention is wandering externally, cellular organisation functions subconsciously, without the benefit of the psychical supervision. With the supervision of the conscious mind, the cells function more efficiently. Regular practice of perception of body by well- trained mind enhances cellular conscious­ness and a high degree of self-awareness is achieved.

Process of Self-realization

Our existence is made up in several levels. Firstly, it is a dual existence, that is an immaterial conscious self or soul within a material body. Though transcendentally separate, the two elements are so combined that separateness is not perceptible. Secondly, the material body itself is divided into gross, subtle and subtlemost body or microbody.

The aim of body-perception is to realise and directly experience the separateness of the body and soul. Obviously this can be achieved in specific steps. The easiest, and so the first, perception is that of the gross body. Next comes the flow of the vital energy from the blood-stream to the cellular nuclei. Next to that is the activity of the subtle body—taijasa śarīra—in the form of electrical impulses criss-crossing the nerves. If one is able to perceive the bio-electrical functions, one can hope of perceiving the vibration of subtlemost or microbody. At this stage the transcendental separateness is no longer an imagination but be­comes a real experience. The existence of the real self with all its glory is then revealed. When one is in direct contact with the splendour of the real self, the exterior loses its charm and appears pale and trivial. Till then one is not aware of this inherent treasure. How divine is the internal music, how sweet is the smell, how beautiful and captivating is the scene! One is unaware of all these until the door is unlocked and the treasure is revealed. However learned or religious one may be, his total interest will be in the exterior, until he has had a glimpse of the inherent treasure. There is no other way to withdraw from this temptation. Any number of theological discourses and sermons, any amount of traditional rites and ritual would fail to draw one away from the lust of the sensual pleasures, until and unless one has had a glimpse of the inherent, has become aware of his own real self. Best of sermons delivered by the cleverest minister is able to reach and impress the intellect—the brain—but is incapable of unlocking the deep-level consciousness.

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Jain Vishva Bharati
Ladnun-3 41 306 (Rajasthan)

Edited by: Muni Mahendra Kumar

© Jain Vishva Bharati

Fourth Edition: September, 1995

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