Governing the Body

Standing upon the firm ground of faith, Mind sets forth to know that which it shall become.  Life is naught but the exercise of God, a Divine Meditation of the Celestial Mind in which the hands of wise architects do their glorious work.  It is only natural that this experience should bear witness to the free flow of Mind, unimpeded as it courses through well-attenuated bodies of its own creation.

Vitality can be exhausted by sadness, but there is no end to activity:  if what you hold to is uncertain, in the external world you will indulge indiscriminately in worldly fashions.  Therefore sages inwardly cultivate the arts of the Way and do not put on an external show of humanitarianism and dutifulness.  To know what is good for the senses and the body and roam in the harmony of the vital spirit is the roaming of the sage.  –  Wenzi

So hasten to moderation in life, for the reach toward perfection can so easily be strained too far.  Yet, to devote oneself entirely to God, to expend freely of that autonomy provided thereby, it is but a natural consequence that one should seek continually the perfection of one’s life.  It is in environmental and bodily health that these organs of God are made optimal for the purposes of Mind.  Though virtue alone is the refuge of the sage, it is to be expected that autonomy reaches toward the platform necessary to its fullest exercise.

[T]he body with which you cultivate the Way needs to be clothed and fed.  There are some things you cannot dispense with; accept this with an empty heart, take responsibility for it with clear eyes.  Do not say this will impede your mind and create vexation and excitement; those who get vexed and excited over things already have active afflictions of mind – how can that be called pacifying the mind?  –  Sima Chengzhen, Sitting in Oblivion

Before mankind is placed the task of understanding, and this task meets its limit in the very autonomous force bequeathed by God for its own direction.  It is with the finite body, immersed in the multiplicity of creation, that understanding is made possible at all.  It is within the imperfection, the incompleteness of reality, that the religious journey takes place.  To grasp this fully is to treat faith not merely as some theoretical intellectual exercise, but to recognize its manifestation within the interdependence of creator and created.  To respond to this adequately is to consistently hone with relentless, serious faith one’s entire existence.

The body is the house of life, energy is the basis of life, spirit is the controller of life: if one loses its position, all three are injured.  –  Wenzi

Though the spirit controls understanding, it is the body by which understanding is made possible.  And though virtue, and not the consequences thereof, is the sole demand upon the righteous, none can escape the recognition that without Mindful governance, the body cannot be made into an adequate platform for the understanding.  What the body cannot accomplish, the spirit cannot direct, and though the religious life demands of its adherents only an acceptance of virtue as the sole moral necessity and sufficiency, it is clear that virtue itself entails a corresponding labor of devotion.

Embracing virtue, they are warm and harmonious, thereby following Heaven, meeting with the Way, and being near to virtue.  They do not start anything for profit or initiate anything that would cause harm.  Death and life cause no changes in the self, so it is called most spiritual.  With the spirit, anything that is sought can be found, and anything that is done can be accomplished.  –  Wenzi

So though this end of bodily cultivation must be relentlessly sought, it is equally mandated that the peace of righteousness attend to those bodies suffering from disability or disease.  Though such a body may be utterly bereft of mere pleasurable sensation, it is forever by the strength of Mind that peaceful contentment might arise from the satisfaction of one’s duty.  It is undeniable that the power of Mind is strained to its very limit by the extreme ends of creation (and this is to be expected in a meditation whose aim is to understand its own power), but in Mind is the sole refuge of the righteous, and no facet of creation may stand as its substitute or prerequisite.  The disintegrating sage shall lose last his active faith and the peace of righteousness conferred thereby, and then only when it is no longer his to need or possess.

Life is what we temporarily depend upon; death is where we ultimately return.  Therefore when the world is orderly one protects oneself by justice, and when the world is disorderly one protects justice by oneself.  The day of death is the end of the journey.  So exemplary people are careful about unity, only using this.  So life is what is received from the universe, destiny is what is met in one’s time.  If one has the talent but doesn’t live in the appropriate time, that is Nature.  There may be a way to seek something, but whether one gets it is a matter of fate.  Ideal people can do good, but they cannot necessarily reap its blessings.  They are unwilling to do wrong, but they cannot necessarily avoid troubles…Therefore those who are not regretful even though they be poor and lowly have found what they value.  –  Wenzi

And so, should one suffer unavoidable calamity or infirmity, this ought not to detract from one’s happiness, for it is only in doing what one is able, with what one has, where one is, that one’s obligations are met.  Happiness arises from one’s own God-given judgment that one has done well in this respect; the accidents of the world are not to interfere in this essential matter.  This is perhaps the greatest means by which the experience of life educates the living, bringing that which can be understood into harmony with that which only faithful devotion may touch.

The Way says, “In darkness follow the authority of Nature and share the same energy with nature; you’ll have no thoughts or worries, keep no excessive surplus.  You do not welcome what comes or cling to what goes…In this way you avoid losing your honesty even when you are in the midst of dishonest people; you flow along with the world yet do not leave your domain.  You do not contrive to be good and do not try to avoid embarrassment.  Following the Way of Nature, you do not deliberately initiate anything and do not focus exclusively on yourself.  Going along with the design of Nature, you do not plan ahead yet do not waste time or neglect opportunities.  Placing your hopes on Nature, you do not seek to gain yet do not refuse good fortune.”  –  Wenzi

Mystics the world over have struggled with the proper means by which one is detached from creation in order to attach perfectly to that divine substrate.  But given what has been written here, it is as simple as retaining one’s moral conviction in the face of contrary movements within creation.  This is not to abandon that which is reasonable, but to reject a mindless subservience to that which is not reasonable.  Look not for words to remove this responsibility by provision of Ultimately, it is to attach only to that divine substrate of Mind, and to be determined entirely thereby.

As the Buddha discovered, mindless asceticism and the mutilation of the body is no means to this end.  Rather, good governance of the body without complacency or indulgence is the middle path in this regard.  Creation yearns for its steward, and as a flock needs its shepherd, so does the body need its master.

[Diogenes of Sinope] used to say, that there were two kinds of exercise: that, namely, of the mind and that of the body; and that the latter of these created in the mind such quick and agile impressions at the time of its performance, as very much facilitated the practice of virtue; but that one was imperfect without the other, since the health and vigour necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body.  –  Diogenes Laertius

In this modern time of cancer and disease, when life expectancy actually falls on account of despair and self-destruction, we do well to return to the more simple and direct demands and rewards of Nature.  We must maintain the human form which offers up such a marvelous platform for the understanding.  It is the mandate of our ancestors that we cherish the fruit of millions of years of Mindful labor, the heroic struggles and valiant stories of those myriad lives that came before.

The limbs of the body are a burden to those who do not use them.  –  The Sentences of Sextus

We must regain the ferocity mandated by the Wilderness, every creature’s instructor, so that, when demanded of us, we too might become conduits for that Mindful intensity whose standard bearers are now so seldom seen among mankind.  We know first-hand the disease of machinery and our hyper-comfortable lives, the danger to our planet and the decay of human bodies all around us.  We know the solutions we have crafted have become perhaps worse problems than those they displaced, and we ignore the cultivation of these bodies.

The highest sages emulate natural law, the next best esteem the wise…  –  Wenzi

So work, but work not to an exhaustion which inhibits a dutiful religious life.  Where the demands and limitations imposed by Nature have receded before the might of society, it is every body’s duty to maintain for itself those demands and limitations by dint of Mind, for these are good for the living.  Live naturally among the unnatural, and understand that it is by neither schemes nor tricks that he modern man of God finds the means to manage the nearly inexhaustible opportunities for the exercise of virtue, but a constant and consistent focus on that to which one must attend.

The body is the garment of the soul; keep it pure, for it is innocent.  –  The Sentences of Sextus

Govern the body so that in its various pursuits Mind is not distracted by its needs.  Soundly feed, clothe, and exercise the body so that the seated posture necessary for one’s work feels well-earned.  Cause order in this most necessary of systems that its orderliness may be intelligently leveraged for the purposes of God in every manner potentially required of it.  Train in the ways of the Pentathletes, those whom Aristotle once described as the most beautiful of all athletes, for they had accomplished the honing of the body such that it might respond with great adequacy in all those demands likely to be made thereof.

A sane frame of mind is when you have an inward facility for access to essence while outwardly acting according with justice and following reason, not being tied up in things.  –  Wenzi

Govern the brain in like fashion, for it is part of the body.  Recognize the dependence of righteous thought upon the health of the body and though its object is transcendent, divorce not one’s faith from the physical realm of creation.  And when this bodily platform has been well prepared by God, for God, give it over entirely to the purposes of God; be simply autonomous and uncontrived; be free.  Surrender to that Prime Mover, pursuing every virtue as that natural, innate spontaneity would have it, and have faith in the goodness of that pursuit.

Those who do not worry about the chaos of the world but enjoy order in their own bodies can be engaged in conversation about the Way.  –  Wenzi

For innumerable generations, the ancestors of mankind, as with the rest of the biological creatures, have labored intently and valiantly on the Way in order to develop the systems through which Mind contemplates virtue.  It is the holy duty of every creature to see to the maintenance of this divine inheritance such that the beautiful athleticism exhibited in worship by one’s ancestors is forever attainable as a rule for all creatures who operate out of respect for those wise decisions which have been made before their time.  It is the Way of nature that all shall seek to cultivate those natural processes which have led to the constitution of the physical forms they know today.

Just as we are governed by a soul, so too the cosmos has a soul that holds it together, and it is called Zeus.  Being alive from the very beginning and for all time, it is the reason that everything that lives is alive.  And so Zeus is also said to rule everything, just as the soul and nature within us might be said to rule us.  –  Cornutus, The Compendium of the Traditions of Greek Theology

In governing the body there is a deep religious significance which must not be abandoned, for it is this plot over which the soul has been given jurisdiction in the process by which man becomes God.  In the experience of mankind is found a microcosm in which religious work is done.  That Prime Mover responsible for all creation exerts its force in every part thereof, and it is of its exertion in human ways that the life of man is composed.  All success and failure is to be considered in relation to the purposes of God, and the navigation of life’s waters is a task only Mind may accomplish.

The sage labors not over that which life cannot do.  – Zhuangzi

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