If the physical body is unreal, should we be concerned about its health?
My GPs and consultants have urged me to quit smoking, to no avail. Even my philosophy tutors, the ones who impart the material we consider that shows that ‘we’ are manifest expressions of the one immortal, invisible self which never changes, seemingly disapprove of the smoking habit. Do you have any words to offer on the health of the physical body, which is bound to die anyway? And what’s your take on free will?
Thank you for your email. In your statement that the body is unreal as it is not unchanging, you give credence to the idea of the body as a physical object and then deny its reality because it is not changeless.
However, we cannot claim that the body is unreal and then imply its physicality. These are two mutually exclusive positions. It is true that the body is unreal in the way it is normally conceived, in the sense that objects themselves are never actually experienced, but once we have admitted the presence of objects we, by definition, believe them to be real, if only temporary.
It is necessary to see clearly that there is no body or object in actual experience, and in order to see this clearly we must first see that we are not a personal subject. Once it is clearly see that we are not a personal subject ‘in here’ (the body) and that there is no object, other or world ‘out there’, we find ourself as impersonal awareness, at the heart of and pervading all experience.
This does not mean that there are no responses to situations. There are, but the response is a part of the totality itself. It is not the response of a personal entity to a situation outside and separate from itself. This impersonal response will be on behalf of the totality and will tend to restore peace and harmony to the situation given the limitations of that situation.
So if we find ourself engaged in activities that are a result of our feeling of lack and therefore of our feeling of being a separate entity, we should be careful not to justify these activities with beliefs about the unimportance of the body. If we truly feel that we are impersonal awareness, it is very unlikely that we will engage in activities that are designed to relieve the sense of lack that is inherent in the separate entity.
Likewise, if we feel that we area separate entity, although we may subscribe to the idea that we are impersonal awareness, then it is inevitable and unavoidable that we will likewise consider ourself to be the doer, the chooser, the decider. In this case, the best we can do is to question the one that we believe ourself to be whilst, in the meantime, choosing attitudes and actions that are, as far as possible, in line with our understanding of impersonal awareness, such as it is.
In other words, the belief and feeling that there is free will is inevitable if we believe and feel ourself to be a separate entity.
With kind regards,