Veda of the Body

— Dr Alok Pandey

cover

Price: Rs 450

Pages: 387
Dimensions (in cms): 15x23
ISBN: 978-81-7060-338-2
Soft Cover
   
Publisher: AuroPublications, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry

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About Veda of the Body

Looking at the human body and its natural state of health from a spiritual perspective, this is a study that ranges across such diverse aspects as the physical consciousness, the key to educating the body, the seeds and roots of illness, health as a dynamic equilibrium, the mystery of death, various approaches to stress management, and an integral model of health. Drawing inspiration from the vision of the seers of the Vedas and from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it echoes the sentiment that the spirit within is the true guide to health and healing, and to the conscious evolution of the body as an embodiment of that spirit.

REVIEW


The mainstream spiritual tradition of India preferred to eulogize the soul at the expense of the body. Sri Aurobindo changed the password in spirituality from liberation to transformation. This necessitated giving as much importance to the soul's instruments, notably the body, as to the soul itself. After Sri Aurobindo passed away in 1950, The Mother continued the work of exploring the deeper realms of body consciousness to accelerate the work of transformation for the benefit of the human race at large. In a significant development, Western scientists began in the 1950s studying the effects of meditative practices on the body. Many of the early studies had flaws, but with improved instruments like fMRI and EEG, it has been possible to study how the body and brain change after one begins to meditate regularly. The Mother passed away in 1973, but her work had sent ripples through the realm of consciousness. Herbert Benson's work titled The Relaxation Response, published in 1975, was the first comprehensive document recording the benefits of meditation through changes in metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and brain chemistry. Since then many studies have been conducted on the different aspects, phases, and types of meditation. With increasing interest in consciousness studies throughout the world, it is now felt that the ambit of research in the area of consciousness and the body has to expand from merely studying the effects of meditation to a more comprehensive and wholistic framework of reference. It is here that Sri Aurobindo's consciousness perspective, with its evolutionary and simultaneously integralist dimension serving a transformational aim, becomes increasingly relevant.

Alok Pandey follows the trail of seed-ideas implicit in the transformational yoga initiated by the experiential realizations of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in his attempt to construct a ‘Veda of the Body'. The endeavor has led to two significant directions. The first is a unique understanding of the body through a consciousness perspective with important implications for health, psychology, and well-being. The second is a transformational trajectory where the body itself has the potentiality for a qualitative change to prepare itself for a further evolutionary leap.

Dr Pandey takes pains to elaborate on the false opposition between Spirit and Matter, and describes how the spiritual dimension not only includes the material, but has the capacity to alter the laws, and to change the course of material and biological forces. To understand these forces calls for new approaches to research and enquiry. He explains how the whole universe is concealed in a single body, and thus, through a process of awakening, the higher spiritual forces implicit in the body can be harnessed for greater gains. He uses a consciousness paradigm to explain the journey from illness to health as a progression from disharmony at one level to harmony at a higher level of consciousness, a journey where drugs are merely palliatives, and the real power of healing lies in the very consciousness of the cells. In this healing journey, the sufferer and the healer have equal opportunity for inner progress. He observes how illness progresses in a phased manner, starting as a seed implanted in the falsehood implicit in the inconscience, then manifesting in the roots of desire and its allies, facilitating wrong patterns of energy-flow and maladaptive habits, and finally consolidating in physical pathology and organ affliction. Pandey rightfully pleads for a new taxonomy to classify illness as arising at different levels of our nature, and manifesting at different planes of consciousness.

Pandey gives a lucid description of the workings of life-energy (prana), and explains how imbalances in its flow can result in illnesses. His clinical expertise enriches his analysis of the working of the mind-principle at different planes of consciousness with clinical implications. He gives a fresh orientation to the understanding of stress by viewing it as an evolutionary challenge. Problems arise at different planes of consciousness, and diverse remedies also act at different planes, and both the illness and its intervention can be used as opportunities to discover the healer within in the matrix of the ego-surpassing soul (psychic) consciousness. This psychic consciousness is in contact with the universal healing energies and spiritual force. Thus Dr Pandey's book effectively demonstrates that it is not only meditative practices that Western scientists study, but also that every opportunity of life, including even illness and stress, can enrich us with secrets of consciousness, and provide an opportunity for inner progress with ramifications in the body's functionings. He advocates an integral model of health that gives equal leverage to physical and psychological self-development, and brings the fundamental parts of the being under the direct influence of the soul-element, a movement that marks the quintessence of integral health. He also briefly touches on how changing from within can initiate a change in the world around, leading to newer sociological insights based on unity and harmony, a topic that justifies a more elaborate exploration. Finally, the book dwells briefly on the evolutionary transformation of the body, which can be initiated by the power of consciousness from within.

The book has a brief chapter on the mystery of death explaining how the inevitability of death represents a habitual movement of consciousness. His recipe for surpassing the movement of death dwells on the necessity of the principle of immortality being consolidated in the collective psyche of the human race, and on the need for awakening and activating the subtle physical consciousness. His innovative idea in the preface that death can be viewed as a phenomenon of complete organ transplant is significant in a world view that acknowledges how consciousness qua consciousness extends beyond the ordinary life span.

Alok Pandey's Veda of the Body is suitable both for general readers and for therapists and healers. It is enriched with relevant quotes from the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. A more comprehensive referencing of the seed-ideas and significant terms used by Sri Aurobindo would be helpful to academic researchers. A more elaborate exploration of the transformative process of the body would add to the value of the book, and justify the emergence of a new Veda of body-consciousness from the annals of Integral Yoga as something unique that surpasses the already existing science of life encrypted in the traditional Ayurveda.

—Dr Soumitra Basu

Soumitra Basu is a psychiatrist exploring the consciousness paradigm of health, psychology, and psychotherapy from the integral perspective of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

December 2014