Five Disciplines for the Body You Didn't Know About

"देवद्विजगुरुप्राज्ञपूजनं शौचमार्जवम्, ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च शारीरं तप उच्यते" - Bhagavad Gita 17.14

Five techniques for enhancing the lustre of body are Giving Respect, Cleanliness, Simplicity, Abstinence from sensual pleasure, and Non-violence.

It is clear that Cleanliness is to do with the body but how could Respect, Simplicity, Celibacy and Non-violence are categorized under body discipline but looks more intrinsic traits. Because, they help to control negative emotions - Lust, Anger, Greed, Ego, Attachment & Bias. Lord Krishna indicates that controlling these shadripu (six enemies) enhances health and lustre of the body and hence they are categorized as body discipline.

Story time. Story of a butcher who taught the meaning of discipline to a learned brahmin. This story is also in my book Grandma in the BoardRoom. Repeating here as the story is very relevant to this sloka, a butcher who practiced all the above five techniques and much more while continuing to perform his materialistic responsibilities. It is not essential that one must sacrifice materialistic goals in order to do penance.

Five Disciplines for the Body You Didn't Know About

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Butcher Who Practiced Penance

Kaushika was a Brahmin sage and mastered all the four vedas for 14 years. When he was doing penance under a tree, `Droppings’ from a crane sitting on the tree branch above his head fell on the sage and disturbed his focus. The sage stared at the crane angrily. Alas! The poor crane burst into flames. Kaushika looked at the bird horrified. But deep down he could not help but feel proud of his new-found power. He had managed to burn a crane merely by looking at it.

On another day, he went to a nearby village to seek alms. He stood outside a house asking for alms. (In those days feeding an ascetic was considered a priority and punyam). The lady of the house made him to wait as she was serving her tired and hungry husband. The lady came back to the sage with food after attending to her husband, but the sage was angry with the treatment given by the lady. Kaushika stared at the lady angrily. Alas. Nothing happened. Smilingly, the lady responded, “Did you think I am a Crane”?

Kaushika was flabbergasted “How could the lady know the crane story”? The woman smiled and clarified that she got the power of clairvoyance by performing her duty of taking care of her family sincerely. She continued 'You are a sage. A well-read man but you are yet to learn the true meaning of life! It is quite natural for a crane to excrete in the open. A man who had truly understood the scriptures would not get affected by such happenings”.

Kaushika was dumbfounded. He requested the woman to teach him the real virtues. The woman refused, quoting her duties and redirected him to Dharmvyadha (vyadha means butcher in sanskrit) in the city of Mithila.

Kaushika went to Mithila and enquired about Dharmvyadha. Everyone in the city knew about the man as he was a well-respected man in Mithila.

Kaushika saw the man outside his shop cutting meat pieces and attending to his customers. Kaushika was sceptical looking at the scene unpalatable to him. Still, Kaushika introduced himself and asked the butcher to teach him virtues. The butcher nodded his head. 'You must be the sage whom the lady sent. Please wait....I am serving my customers. I am afraid I may be of any help to you only after I finish my work.'

Kaushika watched the man in a kind of trance. The man was a butcher. He was dealing with dead meat and what a gruesome work. However, the man did not look the least bit ashamed of what he was doing. He could notice a strange lustre in the butcher’s face.

The Butcher sold all the meat, closed the shop and walked back to his house with the sage. On reaching the house, the butcher fell at the feet of his parents and looked after to their needs. The butcher's parents looked thrilled on meeting the sage and they along with the butcher's wife looked after the sage well. The butcher's children were well mannered. The sage ate with the family. The food was simple but delicious. The entire family looked very happy. Kaushika suddenly remembered about his own parents. He left them to fend for themselves in order to practice penance.

After food, Kaushika requested Dharmvyadha to teach him real virtues.

The butcher smiled and gave the first lesson. “Every individual who is sincere to his/her duty and performs the duty cheerfully leads a virtuous life....”

Kaushika frowned. “But you are a butcher! How can you?....”

The butcher smiled. 'It is my kuladharma. My parents before me and their parents have all been butchers. I am just doing my family profession. There is no shame in it. I do it as my duty. I sell meat but I don’t kill animals. My parents, my wife and my children....They are my life and I do everything that I can do to keep them happy.

Kaushika further asked “'How shall I know what is virtuous conduct?”

Dharmvyadha replied “Virtuous men are always kind to all creatures, speak only truth and well-disposed to the welfare of everyone. They abstain from injuring any creature and are never rude in their speech”.

Kaushika felt enlightened. He reverently looked at the butcher. “Here is a man who is in total control of himself and does not let his emotions rule him....That is the sign of a learned man. A man who runs away from his responsibilities can never know the true meaning of virtue. Only and only when you do your duty and do it wholeheartedly, you can begin to know the true meaning of virtue....”

Dharmvyadha followed all the five body disciplines given by Lord Krishna: Respecting elders, Cleanliness, Simple life, Controlling lust and Non-violence. In addition, he covered our next set of five speech disciplines as well. We shall learn about the 5 speech disciplines in the next blog.

Mahabharath has two gitas, Bhagavad Gita which we are enjoying for the past few blogs and this story and the teachings from Dharmavyadha known as another Gita, Vyadha Gita. 'Vyadha Gita' told by the sage Markandeya to Yudhisthira in Vana Parva section of Mahabharath. This is told as a teaching for the Pandavas (indirectly great teaching for all of us).

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S Bhavadharani
  • 2024-01-05 22:07:42
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