Religion’s Love Hate Relationship with the Physical Body

Philosophy started with wondering about the origin and nature of the world. The experience of wonder, that philosophy provides, sustains our thinking, takes us beyond history and language. Philosophy, as a world-view, connects us, directly or indirectly, to the entire structure of culture, art, religion, law and science.

Various religions and philosophies have developed a variety of theories and its relationship with the body, its mortality, and also life after death. Body resembles the human and mortal, which can be broken down. With all that said, different religions have talked about body in different ways. Let’s look at this love hate relationship with the body that religion has been carrying since time immemorial.

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna

As you put on fresh new clothes and take off those you’ve worn, you’ll replace your body with a fresh one, newly born.

On The Uselessness of The Body

Would you believe that the body is just a container of spirit and once gone it is no longer important and has to be disposed of. Similarly Tibet philosophy also states that the body is just a vessel for the soul.

In some ancient philosophy it is mentioned that the interim body is just a temporary dwelling and that is different that the natural body or the permanent body (pure physicality of the “resurrection body”)

The belief that one’s body is just ‘something I live in here on earth’ is also accompanied by a spiritual body once the physical body has served its duty.

▪️ Hinduism ▪️ also says the body is just a shell, a vehicle to contain the self, the jiva atma, and it is just a vessel to carry our thoughts forward. ‘Earthen pot’, that’s what body is, say some of Hinduism scriptures.

According to ▪️ Buddhism ▪️body is just a combination of the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water. Appearance and disappearance of body is nothing but the appearance and disappearance of those four elements which have no identity. Some ▪️ Buddhism ▪️ texts also mentions that the body is just a skin-bag full of filth.

▪️ Buddhism ▪️ also pronounces that this body is just a label, a covering, of very little importance — like a guest house or hotel that you live in as long as you are here.

It’s hard to conclude what this body is? If we say it is an illusion, a story, then it’s a persuasive one.

If we touch a little of philosophy and psychology we can say body is just the appendix of the mind and causation lies with the spirit. It could be just an idea as we hardly examine our relationship with our body.

Medical scholar might tell you that your body is just a source of sensory inputs — from your lungs, heart, metabolism system, body temperature and other chemical changes. All this has no meaning in the psychological world.

But this body, call it earth suit, could be worth of tens of thousands of dollars — but also a skin bag full of filth.

On The Usefulness of Body

Body is a vessel to experience the life in this world. Body is the only thing we have that represents ourselves in the physical world. Your body is the ground for mind.

Body, speech and mind are regarded as sacred and are seen as the three kayas, or bodies, of Buddha — primordially pure expressions of wisdom and compassion.

The physical body is vital to God. He created it, redeemed it, and will yet transmute it. We, God’s people are to care for our bodies and provide for the physical needs of His less privileged children

Bible followers also agree that body is to be respected as a temple in which the spirit of God dwells and some of its text says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

In the Christian view, the health of the body is vital insofar as it facilitates a relationship with God.

Body could be a cage for our eternal souls. However we archetype it and whatnot it stands for to us, but body is all what we’ve got, in other words, this means that we are our bodies. Body is not just a thing, it has a value, though extrinsic one. It is created by more values to some extent and is a powerful instrument to an individual’s liberation.