Chapter 23 — The Wonders within the Realm of the Body

Vasishta continued:—

The man liberated in this life and settled in the Supreme state of joy is not tarnished by reigning over the realm of his body and turning about like a wheel. The body of a wise man is like a princedom to him, calculated for his benefit and of no disadvantage. It is comparable to the dwelling of a holy hermit for the consummation of his efforts and liberation.

Rama said, “O great sage, how can you call the body to be the dominion of a man, and how can a yogi have his princely joy in it?”

Vasishta replied:—

Beautiful is this city of the body. Being enlightened by the light of the mind, it is filled with every good to mankind and it produces endless blessings in both worlds.

The eyes are the windows of this city, letting out the light for the sight of distant worlds. The two arms are like the two hinges of this city-gate, with hands like latches reaching to the knees. The hairs on the body are like moss and grass on the walls, and the porous skin resembles the netted covering of the palace. Thighs and legs are like the columns of a building, and the feet with ankles and toes are like pedestals of the columns.

Lines marked under the soles of the feet are like inscriptions marked on the foundation stone and upon the base of column pedestals. The outer skin that covers flesh, marrow, veins and arteries, and the joints of the body are like the beautiful plaster of the building hiding the mortar and bricks inside. The middle part of the body above the two thick thighs contains the aqueducts, beset by hairy bushes about them, and like rivers running amidst a city, between rows of trees on both sides of the banks.

The face is the royal garden beautified by eyebrows, forehead and lips. Glances of the eyes are like blooming lotuses, and the cheeks are like flat planes in it. 10 The broad bosom is like a lake with nipples like lotus buds. Streaks of hair on the breast are as its herbage, and the shoulders are the rocks projecting from it. 11 The belly is the store-house, eager to receive the delicious articles of food. The long lungs of the throat are blown loudly by internal winds. 12 The bosom is considered to be the treasury where jewels are kept.

The nine openings of the body serve as so many windows for the citizens to breathe. 13 There is the open mouth like an open doorway, with its teeth slightly seen as its gratings. The tongue moving in the door way like a naked sword is like the tongue of goddess Kali, thrust out when she devours her food. 14 The ear-holes are covered by hair-like long grass, and the broad back resembles a large plain surrounded by rows of trees on its borders. 15 The two private passages serve as sewers and drains of the city to let out its dirt.

The heart is the garden-ground where passions promenade like ladies. 16 Here understanding is bound in chains like a prisoner, and the organs of sense are let loose as monkeys to play about.

The face is like a flower garden. Its smiles are its blooming blossoms.

17 The life of the man who knows the proper use of his body and mind is prosperous in everything. It is attended by happiness and advantages and no disadvantage whatever. 18 This body is the source of infinite trouble to the ignorant, but it is the fountain of infinite happiness to the wise man. 19 Its loss is no loss to the wise, but its continuance is the cause of continued happiness to the wise man. 20 The body serves as a chariot to the wise who can travel everywhere by riding in it. The body of a wise man can produce and procure everything conducive to his welfare and liberation.

21 Having a body is of no disadvantage to the wise man. He can use it to obtain everything: all the objects of his hearing and seeing, of his touch and smelling, and his friends and prosperity. 22 It is true that the body is subject to a great amount of pain and pleasure, but a wise man can well bear with them.

23 A wise man reigns over the dominion of his body without any pain or trouble in the same manner as one remains the lord of his house without any anxiety or disturbance. 24 He is not addicted to licentiousness like a high spirited horse. He is not subject to greed after some poisonous plant, so he does not part with the auspicious daughter of his prudence.

25 The ignorant can see the cities of others, but not see the gaps and breaks of their own. It is better to root out the fears of our worldly enemies (passions) from the heart, than live under their subjection.

26 Beware of diving into the perilous river that flows fast by the dreary forest of this world with its currents of desires, whirlpools of greed, and sharks of temporal enjoyment. 27 Men often bathe their outer bodies in holy streams without looking to the purification of their inner souls. They shave their hair where rivers meet the sea in hopes of obtaining their object.

28 All sensual people are adverse to the unseen happiness of the next world and dwell on the pleasure of their own imagination in the inner recesses of their minds.

29 This city of the body is pleasant to one acquainted with his spiritual nature because he deems it as the paradise of Indra filled with pleasurable fruit as well as the fruit of immortality. 30 All things depend on the existence of the city of the body, yet nothing is lost by its loss since the mind is the seat of everything. These bodily cities that fill the earth cannot be unpleasant to anybody. 31 The wise man loses nothing when he loses the citadel of his body, just as the emptiness in a vessel is never lost when the vessel breaks. 32 As the air in a pot is not felt by touch like the pot itself, so is the living soul that resides in the city of the body.

33 The omnipresent soul situated in this body enjoys all worldly enjoyments until at last it comes to partake of the joy of liberation which is its main object. 34 The soul does all actions, yet it is no doer of them but remains as witness of whatever is done by the body, and sometimes presides over the actions actually done by it.

35 The playful mind rides on the swift car of the body, like mounting on a carriage to get to one’s destination, and passes in its unimpeded course to distant journeys. 36 Seated there, the mind plays with its favorite and lovely objects of desire that are seated in the heart as its mistresses. 37 These two lovers, (mind and heart, will and desire) reside side by side in the same body, just as the moon and the star Vishakha happily remain gladly in the same lunar mansion.

38 The sage, like the sun, looks down from above the earth’s atmosphere on the hosts of mortals who have been cut down by misery, like heaps of brambles and branches scattered in the woods. 39 The sage has full satisfaction of his desires and full possession of his best riches. He shines like the full moon without fear of waning. 40 The worldly enjoyments of the wise do not tend to spoil their nature, just as the poisonous drink of Shiva was not capable of doing him any injury.

41 The food that is one’s habit is as gratifying to him as a thief who by long acquaintance forgets his thievishness and becomes friendly to his neighbors. 42 The wise man looks upon the separation of his friends and possessions in the light of the departures of the visiting men and women, or actors and actresses at the end of a play in a theatre. 43 As passengers chance to meet unexpectedly on their way to see a play, so the wise people look unconcernedly at their meeting and separation from the occurrences of life.

44 As our eyesight falls indifferently on all objects about us, so the wise man looks unconcernedly upon all of life’s things and transactions. 45 The wise man is self sufficient in all conditions of life. He neither rejects the earthly blessings that are presented to him, nor does he long or strive hard for what is denied to him. 46 The regret of longing after what one does not possess, like the fear of losing what he possesses, does not trouble the mind of the wise, like the plumes of a dancing peacock do not shake the unshaken mountain.

47 The wise man reigns like a monarch free from all fears and doubts, devoid of all cares and curiosity, and with a mind free from false fancies. 48 The soul that is immeasurable in itself is situated in the Supreme Soul, just like the boundless Milky Ocean is contained in the body of the one universal ocean.

49 Those who are sober in their minds and tranquil in their spirits laugh to scorn the vile beasts of sensuality as being madmen, as are those who have debased themselves to the state of mean reptiles by the meanness of their sensual appetites. 50 The sensualist eager to gratify his senses is as much ridiculed by the wise as a man who takes a woman deserted by another is derided by his tribe.

51 The unwise man becomes wise by renouncing all the pleasures of his body and subduing the emotions of his mind by his reason, just like a rider subdues an uncontrollable elephant by the goad in his hand. 52 He whose mind is bent on the enjoyment of bodily pleasures should first of all check that inclination, just like they pull poisonous plants from the ground. 53 The well governed mind, once let loose, returns to its former habits like a spoiled boy, like a tree withered in summer heat grows luxuriant at a slight rainfall. 54 That which is full out of its time does not become fuller in its season, like the river that is ever full receives no addition over its fullness in the rains. 55 The mind that is naturally greedy wishes for more with all its fullness, like the sea with enough water to flood the earth receives rain waters and the outpourings of innumerable rivers in its unsatisfied womb.

56 The mind that is restrained in its desires is gladdened with little gains, and these being increased are reckoned as blessings by the restrained mind. 57 A captive prince, who when he was free was unsatisfied with his realm, is content with his morsel of bread when freed.

58 You must chastise your reprobate members and mind with the writhing of your hands gnashing of your teeth and twisting of your limbs and body. 59 The brave and wise man who intends to overcome his enemies must first of all strive to subdue the internal enemies of his own heart and mind and the members of his body. 60 On this earth, those men are reckoned the most prosperous and best disposed in their minds who have the courage to govern their minds instead of being governed by them.

61 I revere those pure and holy men who have quelled the huge and crooked serpent of their minds, lying coiled in the cave of their hearts, and who rest in the inner tranquility and serenity of their souls.