Mastery of the Body’s Present Functionality, or Complete Transformation of the Body?

While rare, there are documented cases of individuals remaining alive for extended times while stopping the breath, or discontinuing food. Individuals have been placed in sealed below ground chambers for days or weeks at a time and departed the chamber in full health. Paramhansa Yogananda in his famous Autobiography of a Yogi related personal experience of a visit he made to an individual who did not consume food or drink, but who lived on the cosmic energy. He interviewed her at length in the book. Tibetan Yogis practice the art of tummo which involves the generation of internal heat to such a degree that they can sit naked, or in a thin white cloth in freezing conditions and not feel the cold or get frostbite. The intrepid French explorer Alexandra David-Neel reports becoming herself an adept in this practice.

While these instances provide some amount of proof that it is possible, in theory, to avoid breathing, intake of food and drink, they do not provide us with a satisfactory answer for the evolutionary development of a divine body more generally. In the case of the cessation of breathing or heartbeat, extensive and difficult practices are often required. Of course, there are also instances known to medical science in the West of people returning from what has been called “clinical death” after their breathing has stopped and their hearts have ceased beating, albeit for relatively short periods of time. People have been known to be declared dead and sent to the morgue, only to revive at some point prior to burial. Even in the time of Shakespeare, there were tales of a potion that could create the semblance of death, with the eventual awakening coming after an extended period. This same type of understanding was related by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo where a specific potion was used to make it seem an individual had died. While Shakespeare and Dumas wrote works of fiction, they related information they found current in their time as to possible herbal preparations with this effect. These things have been related as being either partially or entirely conscious practices, a grace of the Divine, or occurring through the use of various drugs to induce the effect. There is no sign here that conscious control over and mastery over the functioning of all these internal organs, while maintaining the life and activity of the individual, is the actual evolutionary intention.

Should the evolutionary process move in the direction of conscious mastery over the functions of the organ systems, eventually, the question arises as to whether, indeed, they are any longer required, or could eventually lead to a new divine body that functions on a different set of principles than the current human body and its organ systems.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Again, it might be thought that a full control would be sufficient, a knowledge and a vision of this organism and its unseen action and an effective control determining its operations according to the conscious will; this possibility has been affirmed as something already achieved and a part of the development of the inner powers in some. The cessation of the breathing while still the life of the body remained stable, the hermetic sealing up at will not only of the breath but of all the vital manifestations for long periods, the stoppage of the heart similarly at will while thought and speech and other mental workings continued unabated, these and other phenomena of the power of the will over the body are known and well-attested examples of this kind of mastery. But these are occasional or sporadic successes and do not amount to transformation; a total control is necessary and an established and customary and, indeed, a natural mastery. Even with that achieved something more fundamental might have to be demanded for the complete liberation and change into a divine body.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, The Divine Body, pp. 57-58

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