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Matter and Spirit
Try the following simple exercise. Sit alone and perform the contemplation exercise and share your realizations with two more friends after finishing the exercise:
Contemplation I - The Present
• sit quietly and comfortably with as little distraction as possible. Focus your attention on different parts of your body and ask the following questions to yourself;
Am I the nose? Am I the hand? Am I the legs?
If I am the body, then why do I not know details about my own body?
Do I know how many hairs are there on my head? Do I know how my nails grow?
Do I know how the food I eat turns into blood on one hand and stool-urine on the other?
I am only able to see the superficial skin and other parts of the body.
Do I know everything that is happening inside my body at the current moment?
How is the body related to me? Is it not just a vehicle on which I am seated?
Contemplation II - The Past
Try to remember when you were 15 years old. What was your body like then?
Go back further to when you were 10 years old and then to when you were 5 years old.
Try to remember a few specific instances, which stay clearly illuminated in your memory.
Now try to imagine what you did when your body was 1; when you were making your first attempts to walk.
Create a mental picture of yourself within the womb of your mother - what kind of body did you possess then?
Note the continuous sense of identity throughout all these bodily changes - try to see yourself as only the witness to aU these changes and events.
Contemplation III - The Future
Now project your thoughts into the future. Imagine yourself to be 80 years old. Your body is weak, your face wrinkled, hairs white, teeth fallen, hands and knees paining due to arthritis. You are holding a stick. Now you are going to seek admission for your grandson in an engineering college.
Try to imagine your body when it is dead: what will happen to it, what your relatives and friends will be doing, how arrangements will be made to carry your body to the grave yard.
Imagine the body being eaten by insects or animals. Imagine flames consuming it.
Contemplation IV - Ownership
Scan over all the previous phases of your meditation and consider who owns the body when it is in the womb, at school, at work, at home with family, in the hospital or buried in the ground.
At what point am I ever the owner of "my" body?
My body has changed from childhood to youth; and is now changing from youth to old age.
I can observe three things: "Although my body is getting old and dwindling, I am always young and fresh in my consciousness", "My body is undergoing changes without my control or willingness", "I am just a witness observing these happenings with no control over them."
I can observe, "When I came out of my mother's womb, I came out with a naked body with nothing in my hands. When I die I will leave behind my home, my room, my table, my suitcase, my computer, my car, my bank balance and cheque-book, my degree certificates, my relatives and friends etc." Do I own all these things? Do I own all these people?
The above contemplation will help us to understand we possess a dimension of existence, which transcends all material conditions, both gross and subtle. In fact, we do not 'possess' a spiritual identity; rather we are that spiritual identity. I do not possess a soul. I am the soul who has a body, mind, intellect and ego.We can sometimes replace a lost organ with an artificial one capable of doing much the same work as its predecessor. Douglas Bader, the airman who lost both his legs, remained very much a complete person, and his artificial legs never checked his adventurous spirit. Suppose a kidney is transplanted from someone else's body into mine. Do I experience a little of the other person's nature mingling with my own? When a person has cornea transplant he still remains the same person though seeing through a different lens. Like a pair of spectacles, the eyes may enable sight but they do not themselves see.
Once Socrates observed a cobbler using his hammer, his working instrument. On observing him, Socrates thought, "The tool of my trade is my voice. As the cobbler's hammer is an instrument that he uses, similarly my vocal chords are instruments that I use. Therefore, I am different from my body."The conclusion we reach is that it is "my arm, my leg, my kidney", not "me leg, me liver", and so on. Thus we gain an understanding of ourselves as an eternal conscious distinct entity, apart from the body