Indian architecture offers an intriguing reversal of the concept that the body is a temple, as described by Indian poet and scholar A. K. Ramanujan (1973, 20):
Indian temples are traditionally built in the image of the human body. The ritual for building a temple begins with…planting a pot of seed. The temple is said to rise from the implanted seed, like a human. The different parts of a temple are named after body parts. The two sides are called the hands or wings, the hasta; a pillar is called a foot, pada. The top of the temple is the head, the sikhara. The shrine, the innermost and the darkest sanctum of the temple, is a garbhagrha, the womb-house. The temple thus carries out in brick and stone the primordial blueprint of the human body.
Nifty—but entirely unnecessary. Here’s what another Indian poet Basavanna had to say on the topic:
“The rich will make temples for Siva. What shall I, a poor man, do? My legs are pillars, the body the shrine, the head a cupola of gold. Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers, things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay” (Ramanujan 1973, 20).
Indeed, why imitate what you already have? Your body is a temple. Why build another one? For that matter, why burn the gas to drive your Self to where you are not in the name of worship? Why not worship at home?
What do I mean by “worship”? I mean love. However you want to see the ultimate source—Reality, Creation, Universe, Dao, Cosmos—find a way to connect to it, from within and without brokers.
Even if your body isn’t a temple, it certainly has one. Touch your index finger to the side of your head to point to the cupola of golden presence inside the brick-and-mortar of your skull. And as you next partake of the sacrifice of life that is food, sanctify it with your presence.
When you know yourself, there is no need to go any farther than where you are. You have built (and are building) this temple of a body; now populate it with presence.
[adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, New Harbinger, 2012)]
Indian temple photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 2 Jan 2013