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Notes on counseling

The body beautiful 

Dr. Soumitra Basu


Sri Aurobindo has warned that if mankind did not evolve further in consciousness, a resurgence of a primitive barbarism would be possible. We see the impending danger around us. The human body has been enriched due to the presence of the soul and this makes it vulnerable to attacks by adverse forces. A radical change in our attitude to the body is needed which should be trained to respond to a higher will and determinism. This needs to be poised in the psychic consciousness (the soul-essence). 

A popular television news channel shocked viewers by showing how an actual autopsy was being performed. Actually, the viewers were being prepared for a more macabre show that was to be telecast shortly afterwards. An artist devoured a dead foetus while claiming that his act did not clash with his belief in God. This outrageous act that took ethics, aesthetics and religion for a ride touched my counselling conscience. As a medical student, I had heard that human flesh was the most delicious of all non-vegetarian food. It is believed that the Royal Bengal tigers of the Sunderbans became man-eaters after they discovered the delicacy of human flesh when a tsunami many years back had depleted the forest of most of the other animals. I began to think that there would be a return to cannibalism! Would there be a retrograde regression to a state of barbarism if mankind did not make the choice to progress along the evolutionary spiral of consciousness? 

My mind was engrossed in this thought and it culminated in a strange dream. I was in an operation theatre where the surgeon, after excising a tumour on a patient’s arm, allowed everyone to taste drops of the oozing blood. All were taken aback by the delicacy of the taste. The dream-experience was so strong that for a few days after the dream, I retained that taste in my mouth in my waking state. I thought very seriously that if the delicacy of human flesh became a public experience, then it would not be possible for anyone to share space with a stranger. As luck would have it, I had to do so when my flight could not take off due to dense fog and the airline transferred me to a hotel suite for the night where I had to share the room with a fellow-passenger. All my strange insecurities crowded into the mind and I viewed my thoughts with a sense of humour. I was surprised to find my room-mate, a young college student, trembling with fear. He told me that as the flight was delayed, he had missed taking his usual anti-epileptic drug and he was scared that if he had a relapse of his epilepsy, I would abandon the room leaving him to the dogs! He did not seem to be reassured when I told him that I was a doctor.  

These happenings brought to mind two important perspectives. The first was Sri Aurobindo’s warning in The Life Divine that if mankind did not collaborate with the innate divine plan of a further evolutionary extension along the trajectory of consciousness exceeding the present human mentality with its excessive stress on materialism, we would not be able to rest in a contented way as there would be the possibility of a resurgence of primitive barbarism. (1) The inconscience could raise its hydra-head which cannot be resisted by the human will or even any spiritual power short of what Sri Aurobindo described as the Supramental power. It is the endeavour of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga to make the Supramental power operative in the earth-atmosphere by consciously accelerating the evolution in consciousness. 

The second perspective was puzzling to me. Why is human flesh the most delicious of all non-vegetarian food? This quest led to a more interesting insight. Nolini Kanta Gupta, one of the forerunners in the Aurobindonian tradition describes, “It occurs to me that human flesh is really sweet; the human body has been sweetened because it contains something which the other animals do not have... because the human body enshrines a soul, and the soul is the source of all sweetness. Thus, since the body holds the soul in it, the body itself becomes sweet by contact or infusion.” (2). Nolini-da adds that this secret is known to the adverse forces, the delegates of the Devil, the rakṣasas who attack the human body at the slightest pretext making life a constant battle for survival. And the corollary that follows is that if a human being is highly evolved, a seer, rrssi or prophet, the adverse forces become more vengeful in their vendetta and in human history that has even culminated in the crucifixion. Nolini-da comments, “The rakshasas have come to know of it, that is to say, not the soul but the sweetness that the soul induces in the material flesh. There must be some truth in the suggestion. Consequently a rishi’s body must be all the more appetising to the rakshasa, for it must contain a larger store of sweetness, a rishi’s body enshrining a larger and greater soul in view of his rishihood” (3). 

It might be argued that the vulgar and the grotesque is a fact of existence and also represents Truth and hence cannot deserve condemnation. But whatever causes a breach in the Delight of existence, in the Ānanda of creation, in the Joy of life needs to be surpassed to serve the cause of a higher Truth. In the quest for the Higher Truth, mankind discovered that the vulgar could indeed be surpassed by higher values, by morality, by aesthetics, by religion, by spirituality and this very act of surpassing our basal urges brought a sense of fulfilment, a joy of progressive perfection and rendered a meaning to life.  

If we undertake a reappraisal of the cannibalistic act that was telecast, there are four important points to be noted. Firstly, it has changed the connotation of the values associated with entertainment. If entertainment is an industry, then it requires newer markets. The macabre and gruesome is indeed a novel market. Perversion is a more readily available investment than true creativity. Secondly, it changes the perspective of aesthetic appeal. If the superconscious is the source of our highly evolved potentials, the inconscience is the repository of all our atavistic roots and repressed instincts. In a materialistic world, our higher artistic creations should be marketed more than our basic instinctual products to help mankind progress. Thirdly, ethics have been overthrown to justify our suppressed urges. If there is a resurgence of the cannibalistic trend, there will be no inhibition in designing new killing fields. Fourthly, religion takes a back seat as one can be afford to be cool and detached while being dastardly outrageous. Who knows if human sacrifice might make a comeback! After all, we are witnessing a rise of fundamentalism in many parts of the world, using science as a weapon, whereas we had contemplated that the rise of science would have countered such motives. This means that it is no longer possible to counter a resurgence of atavism with aesthetics, ethics or religion. Even the fiefdom of reason, which is the basis of science, will not hold its fort. 

The only way to approach such a barbaric resurgence would be to radically change our attitude towards the body. The human body is not a passive neuronal playing field where hormones and enzymes interplay to erect an edifice that is qualitatively better than the bodies of other creatures. The human body per se has a unique consciousness of its own other than its unique mindset and unique emotional repertoire. It is not represented solely through and by the senses, otherwise hedonism would be the only goal worth pursuing. It is alive, alert, sensitive, and meaningful and responds to Truth. It can be trained to respond to a developed will and a higher determinism. And this unique capacity arises from the presence of the soul — the delegate of the Divine in the human body. It is the soul which imparts to the body its consciousness, its flexibility, its malleability, its capacity to respond to the Truth. It is the presence of the indwelling divinity that allows the human body to be a template for a further evolutionary growth. The Mother has described how the future evolved body would be more harmonious, beautiful, flexible and luminous (4). 

This insight has remarkable connotations in the field of health, psychology and well-being. The human body with its sweetness, beauty and grace truly stands apart from all other living forms in creation. And it is the only typal body that can be developed in many directions. One can develop the capacity for unique physical feats, one can cultivate beauty, one can strive for robust health and longevity and one can with purity make the body a temple for the indwelling divinity. In all our efforts to make the body more beautiful and in progressive harmony with both mind and nature, the prime motivation arises in acknowledgement of the indwelling soul. The innate urge to care for the body, make it beautiful and cure it of any illness arises as it enshrines the divine spark, though this knowledge is ordinarily hidden and unknown to our senses and thought and embedded in the occult matrix of things. If we could be conscious of the true value of the body our whole perspective of health, well-being and beauty would change. We would care for the body and bestow attention on it not merely because we have to be strong and healthy, be good at gymnastics and sports or satisfy the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, but basically because it houses the Divinity within. We can then find beauty not only in models who walk down the ramp but in the lonely seer, the demented elderly and the mongoloid child. All life offers us an

opportunity to seek and strive for beauty and grace. Only then only can the body become an ideal template for the next progression along the evolutionary curve of consciousness and we can outgrow completely our barbaric atavism. 

The Mother describes how wondrous would

be the consequences of the body that has transcended its atavistic habits on the way to transformation: 

“The bodily transformation will be the supreme spiritual rebirth — an utter casting away of all the ordinary past. For spiritual rebirth means the constant throwing away of our previous associations and circumstances and proceeding to live as if at each virgin moment we were starting life anew.... When this cutting away of the past is triumphantly accomplished in the consciousness, all those mistakes, blunders, errors and follies which, still vivid in our recollection, cling to us like leeches sucking our life-blood, drop away, leaving us most joyfully free. This freedom is not a mere matter of thought; it is the most solid, practical, material fact. We really are free, nothing binds us, nothing affects us, there is no obsession of responsibility. If we want to counteract, annul or outgrow our past, we cannot do it by mere repentance or similar things, we must forget that the untransformed past has ever been and enter into an enlightened state of consciousness which breaks loose from all moorings. To be reborn means to enter, first of all, into our psychic consciousness where we are one with the Divine and eternally free from the reactions of Karma. Without becoming aware of the psychic, it is not possible to do so; but once we are securely conscious of the true soul in us which is always surrendered to the Divine, all bondage ceases. Then incessantly life begins afresh, then the past no longer cleaves to us (5).”     


1. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 19. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1970, pp. 1032-52.

2. Nolini Kanta Gupta. Collected Works, Volume 4. Kolkata: Sri Aurobindo Centre of Education, Pondicherry; 1973, p. 401.

3. Ibid.

4. The Mother, Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 3. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1977, pp. 175-6.

5. Ibid. pp. 176-7.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist, is the Director of a new school of psychology, the Mira Vision Trust. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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Sri Aurobindo


Joy of life

Evolution of the body

Beauty and grace

New birth