By Sonita Kashyap – Exclusive to Sanskriti
Commonly, we as humans do not really care about the body symbolism. Some people are concerned about it though and there are many perspectives when it comes to this topic. Hinduism is considered the most popular one. Deham is the general word used as a reference of the body. Deham means “to protect a self”. The other word that represents the body is sarira derived from the word sarah which means 5, thus denoting the existence of 5 elements in its formation. Some people also use the word Dehanam as the same meaning as the body. It’s actually last rites performed on the corpse burning ritual conducted by Vedic chants.
Basic Description of the Body in Hinduism
So, what’s the exact portrayal of the body in Hinduism? The fact is there are numerous descriptions of it. The principle is to take good care of the body with compassion and love. The body is the part of nature. That means it’s the subject of particular modifications such as death, birth, sickness, aging, and others. Not to mention the body is the part of impurities including grossness, uncleanliness, and tamasic lethargy. Apart of these boundaries, the body is also deific. It’s because the body is the jar of the divinities. It’s the place where a bound soul stays intact.
Therefore, people should develop a well-adjusted and healthy attitude when it comes to their body. That means they need to take care of their body in a proper manner. They also need to purify their body through right living. Yoga can be a good option, actually. Knowing the symbolism interpretation of the body is considered important in Hinduism. With this, people are able to recognize more aspects of their body. When it is about the imagery or symbolism associated with the body, there are many descriptions available.
Here’s a list of the symbolism of body based on Hinduism’s perspective:
The body is considered as a creation. It’s also described in the scriptures. Brahma appears in this world both as creation and the creator. It doesn’t matter what kind of form that he might use, he’s the part of the creation, after all.
The body consists of internal organs and senses. It’s also associated with ego and intellect. It’s also described as the self. The master of the body should differentiate different selves inside the body including animal and physical self. There is also the highest form called the immortal self.
Basically, the manifested Brahman includes a dual aspect. People consider the body as nature based on that fact. It’s both the Primal Energy and Supreme Self. This duality is also represented as Prakrit or the material body of the God.
Hinduism compares the body to a chariot. The principle is that people should drive their own chariot toward a particular destination. They can steer it by using actions and decisions. The horses are their senses. This kind of symbolism was found in Bhagavadgita.
The body is also compared to a field. It’s also called kshetra. The owner of the field is called kshetrajna. Like a field, the body has boundaries. The owner should take care of the field. Not to mention the body becomes the subject to modifications.
It’s quite similar to the chariot. In Hinduism, however, the vehicle is called vahana. It’s more than a conveyance. Instead, it represents the qualities and powers over the owner. Someone should be the lord of their body or vehicle. The body will facilitate people toward their journey upon earth.
The body isn’t only a kshetra or field. It also represents a battleground where evil and good fights against each other. The battle keeps going as long as the owner is alive. The body can be either a hell or a heaven depending upon how the owner uses it.
The Sacrificial Pit
In Vedic symbolism, the body is considered as a sacrificial altar. It’s the place for offering, worshipping, and praying.
The Self has no role in regulating any of body’s activities. It only becomes the observer. It’s the master of the body. However, it’s also the prisoner at the mercy of this house. The self can’t escape from the body and he remains in there.
The body is represented as mala or impurity in some scriptures. That means the master needs to develop detachment from it. He needs to purify any impurities of the body by having better attitude and activities.
It’s true that the soul belongs to the body temporarily. In Hinduism, the body is represented as the sacred temple of the God. Temple is composed with various deities. So does the body as it includes different bodily organs.
Needless to say, the body is perishable. It ages over time and it’s the subject of death. The existence isn’t eternal. That means it’s a temporary construct. It seems like an illusion or ephemeral phenomenon.
The body is considered as an obstacle. It consists of many demonic qualities. The master needs to liberate this obstacle to finding the inner peace. Yoga is the best choice to overcome the issue, actually.
The Physical Cosmos
Hinduism considers the human body as the physical universe. In particular verses and hymns of creation in RigVeda, the cosmos is represented as the Purusha’s body. This divine being sacrificed his body to create the universe.
In the Upanishads, the body is symbolized as the city. There are eleven gates connected to this city. These represent the 11 openings of the body, viz., two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, mouth, anus, sexual organ, the navel and the aperture in the top portion of the head. There’s a belief that whoever conquers the city will be unbound from sorrow and vice versa.
In summary, there are many symbolism or analogies of the body in Hinduism. People even consider it as the representation of the universe itself. It’s also a vehicle in which the master should navigate throughout his life. It’s the subject of impurities and death. It’s also the subject to transformations or changes. Self-awareness and moderation will help anyone to achieve a better life. Thus, they are able to minimize the dangers and vulnerabilities associated with their body.