It has been said for ages that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but it is a commentary on human understanding that, as with everything else, we have given a very superficial interpretation to this statement. Through generations of human life, we find that civilizations have concentrated exclusively on the physical cleanliness of our living conditions. And in most nations of the world, we have made considerable progress in this direction, although in countries all over the East, they are still living under very dirty living conditions.
Being clean has an important psychological impact not just on our judgment of ourselves, but on our perception of others. It’s a short step between physically dirty and psychologically so.
This miraculous body, given to us at birth, requires proper rest, nutritious food, good hygiene, and adequate exercise, not only to support our physical health, but also to regulate our vital energies. This sets the best possible bodily stage for spiritual practice.
But, like everything else in human life, care of the body can suffer many aberrations. Hypochondria, fastidiousness, squeamishness, timidity, vanity, lust, gluttony and laziness suggest the wide range of excessive or obsessive attitudes we can have toward our body. These and others arise from self-centered, egoistic views of life.
The adage Know Thyself is traditionally ascribed to ancient Greece. The origins of this profound maxim, in fact, reach further back into history and arguably originated from the Coffin Texts of ancient Egypt, texts that adorned burial sarcophagi of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom from as early as 2000 B.C.
Herodotus wrote, in the 5th century BCE:
Egyptians are the happiest and healthiest and most religious. The excellent condition of the Egyptians was attributed to their application of metaphysical realities, in their daily lives.
The Egyptian medicine understood man as a whole, in tune with the cosmos. The body is an immensely complex vibratory system. Everything is in a constant dynamic state of movements that are intimately connected to the rhythms, harmonies and pulsation of the universe. Accumulating evidence proves the existence of cycles in the incidence of diseases, and in their intensities, which are indicative of cosmic resonance. If a person’s orderly rhythmic patterns were disturbed, this was an indication of trouble ahead. When out of tune, the body was seen as unhealthy or diseased.
To heal a person, is to bring that person back into tune, by the deliberate summoning up of the specific harmonic phenomena pertinent to the case, Magic for Ancient Egyptians was the profound understanding of cosmic resonance, (as opposed to the current shallow notion, that magic is a synonym for superstition).
In Egyptian “mysticism”, the human body is the temple of the living god. It is the abode of the soul and spirit. Therefore, temples for worshiping god and initiating spiritual seekers were laid out in a manner to reflect this truth. The human body has three major chambers: 1) the abdominal cavity, 2) the cardio-pulmonary cavity, and 3) the cranial cavity.
In their conceptions of moral purity, the Ancient Egyptians always emphasized sanitary observance of the human body and surroundings. The most sacred of Ancient Egyptian texts, such as the Book of Coming Forth by Light (incorrectly known as the Book of the Dead), emphasize:
Maintaining a clean body, such as: frequent bathing, mouth wasting, clipping and cleaning finger nails and toenails, shaving (including body hair), washing hands and feet, etc.
Purity of the food. Herodotus (500BCE) describes the measures taken by the Egyptians to ensure the ceremonial purity of sacrificial animals.
The ancient traditions also emphasized maintaining good eating habits, with an attitude of eat to live- not live to eat. They also recommend going through cyclical internal cleansing by fasting (abstention from eating fish, meat, and dairy products for a cycle of 40 days), and other means, such as a safe managed colon-cleansing to empty the bowel from potential disease causes.
Cleanliness is virtue shared by all people and societies. The link between bodily cleanliness and moral purity is evident throughout the world’s cultures. Physical cleanliness and moral purity are highly encouraged by religions. Scientific experiments document the relation between physical purity and moral purity. This helps to understand the reasoning behind the encouragement of cleanliness in different belief systems.
The first Surah in the Qur’ān speaks of the knowledge planted in every person’s heart by God that He is the highest, to whom alone all praise is due.
Katie Liljenquist, professor of organizational leadership at Brigham Young University‘s Marriott School of Management and lead author of the new study, to be published in Psychological Science. “There is a strong link between moral and physical purity that people associate at a core level”.
When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God said “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Genesis, III, 22). In many of the world’s religious traditions, the good go up, to heaven or a higher rebirth, while the bad go down, to hell or a lower rebirth. Even for secular folk, moral motives are spoken of as the “highest” and “noblest” motives, while greed and lust are regarded as “baser” or “lower” instincts. Morality is therefore like the temple on the hill of human nature: it is our most sacred attribute, a trait that is often said to separate us from other animals and bring us closer to God.
In our present times, we say “Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and “Your body is a temple,” The Egyptians applied such premises to their daily life. To have a healthy mind and spirit, one must have a healthy body and surroundings.
Psychologist Philip Tetlock of the University of California, Berkeley, says shows that “there is a deep psychological connection between morality and physical cleanliness,” he says. “Indeed, our thinking about moral purity appears in some respects to be a metaphorical extension of our deep-rooted aversion to filth and contamination.”
The real bath is to remove the dirt of the mind. Cleanliness is control of the senses. True wisdom is to see oneness everywhere.
In any culture, things can arise, become acceptable, and become part of the culture – but this does not necessarily make them right.
Illness presents an opportunity to reassess our situation, our goals, our choices. Any illness can serve as a small reminder of our inevitable death, and as such, can stimulate consideration of the legacy we are creating, of the kind of person we are, of the life we are living, of appropriate use of our talents and disposition.
Illness can also teach us acceptance and patience. Sometimes in illness, the depletion of our energies weakens our egoism and allows our more essential nature to shine through. An acquaintance, in the process of dying from brain cancer, gradually underwent a remarkable transformation and became a source of love for all around. Even lesser, non-fatal illnesses, can open our being and our heart.
As our body ages, slowly, slowly, its powers wane. New aches, pains, limitations and challenges enter our life, tempting us to dwell on the decline rather than on continued living in the wisdom, dignity, and warmth of heart that aging can bring.
The mind and the body work together. Your body needs to be a good support system for the mind and the spirit. If you take good care of it, your body can take you wherever you want to go, with the power and the strength and energy and vitality you will need to get there.
“All that you may learn of the Father God is already within self. For your body is indeed the temple of the living God, and as you meet Him there you may gain in your own consciousness the satisfaction of walking and talking with Him. When these consciousnesses are yours and you are one with Him, then indeed may you see that the kingdom of heaven dwells within.”
“This is a promise to you, to each soul; yet each soul must of itself find that answer within self. For indeed the body is the temple of the living God. There He has promised to meet you; there He does. And as your body, your mind, your soul is attuned to that divine that answers within, so may you indeed be quickened to know His purpose; and you may fill that purpose for which you entered this experience.”
The body offers a fertile arena for inner work. At all ages, instinctive intuition of what our body really needs challenges our perceptions and fixed opinions. Awareness of physical sensations, posture, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, movement, breathing, eating, and all our myriad physical activities grounds us in the present moment, reveals truths about ourselves, and provides a necessary platform for deeper spirituality. A proper object for our love and respect, a cared-for body repays us with well-being, energy, and a solid home for building our soul.
When you begin to treat your body with the same reverence you might treat a temple, really great things will begin to happen for you. You will become more aware of what you eat and drink, you will notice how you breathe and perhaps most importantly you will develop the capacity for self-correction.
Treating the body like a temple means being aware enough to know what it needs and what it doesn’t. Think of how your demeanor shifts if you enter a church, temple, synagogue or other holy place. Your voice lowers and you have a heightened sense of reverence and awareness. If we can develop this same attitude regarding the body, we are taking the first steps toward optimal health and toward overcoming illnesses of all kinds.
The “Your Body is a Temple” philosophy is more than just about respecting our bodies, or living healthier, or living leaner, or living stronger, it’s about respecting ALL life. Life is the most precious of the cosmos’ creations and by respecting our own bodies, we symbolically show that we respect life. The heart of this philosophy essentially boils down to this question. If we cannot respect our own bodies, that which is most personal to us, we have to ask ourselves, can we truly respect all other life, life that is not personal to us?
Responsible treatment of our own body forms a crucial part of a responsible attitude toward life as a whole. Responsibility stands as one of the highest spiritual qualities and begins with our own body. To help maximize our spiritual possibilities, we can work to maximize our physical vitality.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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