Chapter 18 — Denunciation of the Body

Rama speaking:—

This body of ours that struts about on earth is only a mass of humid entrails and tendons, tending to decay and disease, and to our torment alone. It is neither quiescent nor wholly sentient, neither ignorant nor quite intelligent. Its inherent soul is a wonder, and reason makes it graceful or otherwise. The skeptic is doubtful of its inertness and exercise of intellect, and unreasonable and ignorant people are ever subject to error and illusion. The body is as easily gratified with a little as it is exhausted in an instant. Hence there is nothing so pitiable, abject and worthless as our bodies.

The face is as frail as a fading flower. Now it shoots forth its teeth like filaments, and now it dresses itself with blooming and blushing smiles as blossoms. The body is like a tree. Its arms resemble the branches, the shoulder-blades like stems, the teeth are rows of birds, the eye-holes like its hollows, and the head is like a big fruit. The ears are like two woodpeckers. The fingers of both hands and feet are like so many leaves of the branches. The diseases are like parasitic plants, and the acts of the body are like axes felling this tree, which is the seat of the two birds: the soul and intelligence.

This shady tree of the body is only the temporary resort of a passing soul, whether it be related or unrelated to anybody, or whether reliable or not. What man is there, O venerable fathers, who would stoop to reflect that each body is repeatedly assumed only to serve as a boat to pass over the sea of the world? 10 Who can rely on his body with any confidence, a body like a forest full of holes abounding in hairs that resemble trees? 11 The body composed of flesh, nerves and bones resembles a drum without any musical sound, yet I sit watching it like a cat. 12 Our bodies are like trees growing in the forest of the world, bearing the flowers of anxiety and perforated by the worms of sorrow and misery, ridden by the apish mind. 13 The body with its smiling face appears like a good plant bearing both good and bad fruit, but it has become home for the snake of greed and the crows of anger. 14 Our arms are like the branches of trees, and our open palms like beautiful clusters of flowers. The other limbs are like twigs and leaves continually shaken by the breath of life. 15 The two legs are the erect stems and the organs are the seats of the birds of sense. Its youthful bloom is a shade for the passing traveler of love.

16 The hanging hairs of the head resemble long grass growing on the tree, and egoism, like a vulture, cracks the ear with its hideous shrieks. 17 Our various desires are like the hanging roots and fibers of a fig tree that seem to support the trunk of its body, but is worn out by labor to become unpleasant. 18 The body is the big home of its owner’s ego, and therefore it is of no interest to me whether it lasts or falls.

19 This body, linked with its limbs like beasts of burden to labor, the home of its mistress greed painted over by her passions, affords me no delight whatever. 20 This abode of the body, built with its framework of backbone and ribs and composed of cellular vessels tied together by ropes of the entrails, is no way desirable to me. 21 This mansion of the body, tied with strings of tendons, built with the clay of blood and moisture, and plastered white with old age is no way suited to my liking. 22 The mind is the architect and master of this bodily dwelling, and our activities are its supports and servants. It is filled with errors and delusions which I do not like. 23 I do not like this dwelling of the body with its bed of pleasure on one side, and its childlike cries of pain on the other, and where our evil desires work like its shouting handmaids.

24 I cannot like this body. It is like a pot of filth, full of the foulness of worldly affairs, and moldering under the rust of our ignorance. 25 It is a hovel standing on the two props of our heels, supported by the two posts of our legs. 26 It is no lovely house where the external organs are playing their parts, while its mistress understanding sits inside with her brood of anxieties. 27 It is a hut thatched over with the hairs on the head, decorated with the turrets of the ears, and adorned with jewels on the crest, which I do not like.

28 This house of the body is walled about by all its members, and beset by hairs growing on it like ears of grain. It has an empty space of the belly within which I do not like. 29 This body with its nails as those of spiders, and its entrails growling within like barking dogs, and the internal winds emitting fearful sounds, is never delightsome to me. 30 What is this body but a passage for the ceaseless inhaling and breathing out of the vital air? Its eyes are like two windows continually opened and closed by the eyelids. I do not like a mansion such as this. 31 This mansion of the body, with its formidable door of the mouth and ever-moving bolt of the tongue and bars of the teeth, is not pleasant to me.

32 This house of the body, having the whitewash of ointments on the outer skin and the machinery of the limbs in continuous motion, its restless mind burrowing its base like a mischievous mouse, is not liked by me. 33 Sweet smiles, like shining lamps, serve to lighten this house of the body for a moment, but it is soon darkened by a cloud of melancholy, wherefore I cannot be pleased with it. 34 This body, the abode of diseases and subject to wrinkles and decay and all kinds of pain, is a mansion with which I am not pleased. 35 I do not like this wilderness of the body, infested by the bears of the senses. It is empty and hollow within, with dark groves of entrails inside.

36 I am unable, O chief of sages, to drag my domicile of the body, just as a weak elephant is incapable of pulling another that is stuck in a muddy pit. 37 Of what good is affluence or royalty, this body and all its efforts to a person when the hand of time must destroy them all in a few days?

38 Tell me, O sage, what is charming in this body that is only a composition of flesh and blood both within and without and frail in its nature? 39 The body does not follow the soul upon death. Tell me sage, what regard should the learned have for such an ungrateful thing as this? 40 It is as unsteady as the ears of an enraged elephant, and as fickle as drops of water that trickle on their tips. I should like therefore to abandon it before it comes to abandon me.

41 It is as tremulous as the leaves of a tree shaken by a breeze, and oppressed by diseases and fluctuations of pleasure and pain. I have no relish in its pungency and bitterness. 42 With all its food and drink for evermore, it is as tender as a leaflet and it is reduced to leanness in spite of all our cares, and runs fast towards its dissolution. 43 It is repeatedly subjected to pleasure and pain, and to the succession of affluence and destitution, without being ashamed of itself as the shameless vulgar herd. 44 Why nourish this body any longer when, after its enjoyment of prosperity and exercise of authority for a length of time, it acquires no excellence nor durability?

45 The bodies of the rich and the poor are alike subject to decay and death at their appointed times. 46 The body lies like a tortoise in the cave of greed amidst the ocean of the world. It remains there in the mud in a mute and torpid state without any effort for its liberation. 47 Our bodies float like heaps of wood on the waves of the world, finally serving as fuel for a funeral fire — except a few which pass for human bodies in the sight of the wise.

48 The wise have little to do with this tree of the body, which is beset by evils like harmful orchids about it, and produces the fruit of perdition. 49 The body, like a frog, lies merged in the mire of mortality where it perishes no sooner it is known to have lived and gone. 50 Our bodies are as empty and fleeting as gusts of wind passing over dusty ground. Nobody knows from where they come or where they go. 51 We know not the travels of our bodies, as we do not know those of the winds, light and our thoughts. They all come and go, but from where and to where, we know nothing. 52 Fie and shame to them who are so giddy with the intoxication of their error that they rely on any state or durability of their bodies.

53 They are the best of men, O sage, whose minds are at rest with the thought that their ego does not exist in their bodies, and that in the end the bodies are not theirs.

54 Those mistaken men who have a high sense of honor and fear dishonor, but who take pleasure in the excess of their gains, are truly killers of both of their bodies and souls. 55 We are deceived by the delusion of ego, which like a female evil spirit lies hidden within the cavity of the body with all her sorcery. 56 Unaided, our reason is kept in bondage by the malicious fiend of false knowledge, like a slave within the prison of our bodies. 57 It is certain that whatever we see here is unreal, and yet it is a wonder that the mass of men are led to deception by the vile body, which has injured the cause of the soul.

58 Our bodies are as fleeting as the drops of a waterfall. They fall off in a few days like the withered leaves of trees. 59 They are as quickly dissolved as bubbles in the ocean. Therefore it is in vain for it to hurl about in the whirlpool of business. 60 I have not a moment’s reliance in this body, which is ever hastening to decay, and I regard its changeful delusions as a state of dreaming. 61 Let those who have any faith in the stability of lightning, autumn clouds and ice castles place their reliance in this body.

62 In its instability and ability to perish, the body has outdone all other things that are doomed to destruction. It is moreover subject to very many evils. Therefore I value it as nothing, like straw, and thereby I have obtained my rest.