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Concept of Body as Elucidated by Pandit Shripad Damodar

Dr. Lalita Deepak Namjoshi

K.J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham, Mumbai

Pandit S. D. Satawalekar‟s exposition and interpretation of the Vedic literature

is unique in every sense. When we take a review of his prolific literature on the Veda-
s, the Rāmāyaṇa, and the Mahābhārata, his nationalist, pro- active and inspirational
stand point is very obvious. All these features of his ideology are imbibed in the way
he considers Śarīra, that is, body. In fact, the body of a human being is his/her distinct
identity. It should be treated with due respect. However, it is comprehended as gross,
matter, non-self and hence avastu- not the ultimate principle to be sought in Indian
philosophy. It is of no significance and more over it is seen as it is the root cause of
bondage, the greatest debacle that man faces.

Śarīra is to be conquered, to be disdained to develop the sense of detachment,

that is, vairāgya is the prime duty of man since attaining Mokṣa which transcends the
body is regarded as the Summum bonum of human life. As this spiritual aspect leading
towards renunciation became firmly grounded in the Indian psyche the Vedic view
point of a strong and powerful body considered to be sacred slowly dissipated. Pandit
Satawalekar brought forth vehemently the Vedic view all through his writing very
eloquently. The present paper is based on his delineation of human body from his book
„Vaidika Vyākhyānamālā‟ and the relevant portions from his commentary
„Puruṣārthabodhinī Ṭīkā‟ on the Bhagavadgītā.

Pandit Satawalekar deals with the concept of Śarīra on three levels, namely,
the individual Body as microcosm (vyaṣṭi), the body in the form of society or nation as
macrocosm (samaṣṭi) and the Body of God (Parameṣṭhi). Along with these three, he
has discussed a cosmic body(viśvaśarīra) as well.

Individual body
He has treated the individual body as the holy temple of gods. He has quoted now and
again the saying from the Atharvaveda, (XI.8.32) “Just as the cows stay in the cow-

shade, the deities dwell in the human body.”1 He says that body is an assembly of
gods. He quotes the passage from the Aitareya Upaniṣad where the creation of the
world is described. According to the Aitareya Upaniṣad, the Fire ( Agni) entered the
mouth in the form of speech, Vāyu entered as Prāṇa in the nose and Sun became the
vision in the eyes; whereas the regions ( Dik) abided in the ear becoming the olfactory
function. The deities of plants and trees became hair and remained with skin. Moon
entered the heart and became mind. Thus other deities also took resort in human
body.2 According to the Atharvaveda, the cosmological account of creation begins
with the origination of ten sons of ten gods. Those ten son gods created a mortal home
in the form of body and dwelt in it. Pandit Satawalekar adds that not only those 10
gods but 33 „koṭi‟ gods stay partially as aṁśa-s in the body. Then he affirms that the
soul which lives inside the body is also part of Brahman and he governs the body.3
The metaphor of a hermitage (āśrama) is also used by the Veda-s to describe
the body. The Vājasaneyi Yajurveda Saṁhitā describes as follows, “Seven sages dwell
in the hermitage, that is, the body, and diligently protect the sacrificial quarter of the
hermitage. There are seven streams which go back to the place where one sleeps but
two gods keep vigil without reposing even for a moment.”4 The essence of this verse
can be described in the following way. Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and tongue are
the seven sages. They are continuously busy in the sensory activities of perception of
external world. The vṛtti-s of the sense organs, mind and intellect are the seven
streams following out whereas Prāṇa and Apāna are the two gods who never sleep.
Body itself is the sacrificial quarter, it ,verily, is the holy hermitage according to
Pandit Satwalekar.
In the Atharvaveda, the body has been described as the citadel of gods that has
eight cakra-s and nine gates. It has golden treasure engulfed by light of heaven.5

सर्वा ह्यस्ममन ् दे र्तव गवर्ो गोष्ठ इर्वसते I


ऐतरे य उऩननषद् १.२


ये ते आसन ् दश जवतव दे र्व दे र्भ्

े यो ऩुरव I

े यो ऱोकं दत्तत्तर्व कस्ममंमते ऱोकमवसते II अथर्ार्ेद ११. १०
ृ ं कृत्तर्व मत्तयं दे र्व् ऩरु
ु षमववर्शन ् I... अथर्ार्ेद ११. २९
...तममवद्र्ै वर्द्र्वन ् ऩुरुषममदं ब्रह्मेनत मन्यते II अथर्ार्ेद ११. ३२.
सप्त ऋषय् प्रनतहहतव् शरीरे सप्त रऺस्न्त सदमप्रमवदम ् I

सप्तवऩ् मर्ऩतो ऱोकमीयु् तत्र जवग्रतौ अमर्प्नजौ सत्रसदौ च दे र्ौ II र्वजसनेयी यजुर्ेद संहहतव ३४.५५
अष्टवचक्रव नर्द्र्वरव दे र्वनवं ऩ् अयोध्यव I तमयवं हहरण्मय् कोश् मर्गो ज्योनतषवर्त
ृ ् II अथर्ार्द
े १०.२.३१

Pandit Satwalekar quotes the verse and describes the body as an invincible and un-
destroyable city.

The Threefold Body

Panditji has discussed the three aspects of body, namely, the gross (sthūla), the
subtle (sūkṣma) and the cosmic (kāraṇa) body. From the point of view of the gross and
subtle body, every individual is independent or separate from all others; but the as the
cosmic body the whole humanity is one. The needs of gross and subtle body of the
individual may be different but as the cosmic body all humanity being one, working
for the welfare and progress of the whole humanity should be the ultimate goal and
purpose of the human life according to him.6 While elaborating the famous verse
र्वसवंमस जीर्वानन यथव वर्हवय .... from the Bhagavadgītā Chapter II, he says, “Just like the

men put on one apparel on the other, similarly the soul also puts on the robes in the
form of the gross, the subtle and the cosmic bodies.” To explain his point he compares
this to the act of a man putting on a scarf, a coat, a jacket, a shirt and an inner vest. He
has given a figure, displaying the Self at the centre with the layers of gross body,
subtle body, pranic body, psychic body, intellect and then the five sheaths, viz,
physical (annamaya), pranic ( prāṇamaya), mental ( manomaya), intellectual (
vijñānamaya) and blissful ( ānandamaya) sheaths. When death occurs only the outer
garment, that is, the gross body is destroyed.7
Body as the Kṣetra
The XIII chapter of the Bhagavadgītā is titled as Kṣetra- Kṣetrajñayoga. The
verse of this chapter states that this body is called Kṣetra, that is, a field. While
commenting on this verse in his Puruṣārthabodhinī, Pandit Satawalekar writes, “Here
we have to give a thought to the issues such as what is meant by kṣetra, its nature,
characteristics, the changes, transformation and evolutes and also who is the knower of
the kṣetra, and how the knowledge about him is to be gained.” He opines that this
knowledge is to be gained in the first stage of life, i.e. in the brahmacaryāśrama itself.
He feels that the idea of considering body as a kṣetra gives the spiritual aspirant an
easily accessible path of self- realization. When the aspirant considers the body as his
own field, he is inspired to think that this field is possessed by me. I can sow whatever

Puruṣārthabodhinī Ṭīkā , p.73


Ibid, p. 102

I wish in it and I can reap a good harvest by making this field fertile with my own
efforts. In a field, there may be regions which are of excellent, medium or low fertility,
in the field of the body as well there are three tendencies, viz, sāttvika, rājasa and
tāmasa. Even the barren land can be made fertile by adding proper fertilizers / manure
and a lot of toil, similarly even the tāmasa disposition can be converted into sāttvika
disposition with austerities and Yogic practices. Thus he has very effectively brought
out the implications of the term kṣetra that Lord Kṛṣṇa has used for body. In fine he
feels that it preaches that the tool for one‟s spiritual progress is in one‟s own hands as
our body is fully controlled by us.8 In the course of his further interpretation, he
enumerates the 31 components of this field such as, five fundamental elements, Ego,
Unmanifest (Prakṛti), intellect, five sense organs, five organs of action, mind and the
five objects of the sense organs, volition, avarice, happiness, misery, composites,
consciousness and dhṛti. He has discussed the changes that take place within these.
Here it seems that he understands the term vikāra as the deterioration and so he pleads
that since this field is prone to change for worse and tends to become diseased,
therefore an aspirant should take maximum precaution not to let it to be subject of
vikāra -s. He has compared those vikāra-s to the weeds that grow in the field or the
loss that is incurred due to drought or heavy rains, or the pests that affect the crops. He
reviews all other terms used in the Bhagavadgītā to denote Prakṛti and Puruṣa and
comments that amongst all these term kṣetra and kṣetrajña are the best terms as these
indicate a very positive meaning implying the achievement of the puruṣārtha-s. He
feels that the Lord has used the commonsense of a farmer that, “I am independent; this
field I possess is with me, I will get crops only if I till the land with great effort,
otherwise I will be starved”, to enlighten the aspirant about his spiritual wellbeing. Of
course, for this just like a good farmer knows his field very well, the sādhaka also
should know thoroughly what his field is like, what are the defects in it and what he
has to do to improve it for better results.9
Body as Svarājya
In the third chapter of his book „Vaidika Vyākhyānamālā‟ titled „Āpale
Svarājya‟, he has described our body as our svarājya- a self - governed kingdom. The
idea of Svarājya was very popular in the pre- independence days in India under the

Puruṣārthabodhinī Ṭīkā, p. 790
Ibid, p.791

British rule. Panditji writes, “Our body is our own possession and no one else has rule
over it; It is governed by ourselves, thus the body is our own sovereign state”- this
appears to be the foundation of this concept. He advises that our goal should be to run
this svarājya with full control and a firm resolve on the right path. Every individual is
bestowed with it right from his birth. If it is to be sustained then the governance of the
master of the kingdom, that is, of the Self must be there. It is the powerful who can
rule, so importance of gaining power is also underlined by him.
Body and Nation
Satwalekar has extended the same concept of svarājya to the political
sovereignty in the framework of nation and an individual. He has pointed out the
similarity between the body and the nation point by point. He states that there are 33
crore cells in a human body while there is 33 crore population in the then nation. Both
are the subjects of their respective nation. There are organs and body parts in the body
and the nation had divisions of regions and states. Every sense organ has a governing
deity while every region of the nation has its governor. In the body there are sense
organs who enjoy their respective objects while Prāṇa-s don‟t have any object to
enjoy, still they serve the body. Similarly in the nation there are workers who work for
the wages and other benefits and selfless volunteers. The ruler of the body is Ātmā
and the ruler of the nation is the king or Samrāṭ.10 Here of course, he has not
considered the democratic structure of multilayered governance of a nation, but the
autocratic system of kingship. His interpretation is based on the mantra from the
Praśnopaniṣad where Mukhya Prāṇa allotting the different area of functioning to
other Prāṇa-s is compared to the king delegating and appointing different officials.11
His description of the organs as salaried employees is very interesting and worth
reading in the original. It reflects the government mechanism of his times and can be
connected with present times as well. The enjoyment of sense organs of their
respective subjects is the salary or remuneration of the sense organs. If they are not
paid, they are displeased and stop their work. They don‟t think about the consequences
that their nation, that is, body will face. These are like the selfish and pleasure thirsty
officials and because of them, the body is encroached upon by enemies in the form of

Vaidika Vyākhyānamālā , p.40
यथव सम्रवट् एर् अधधकृतवन ् वर्ननयुङ्क्ते एतवन ् ग्रवमवन ् एतवन ् ग्रवमवन ् अधधनतष्ठमर् इनत I एर्मेर् एष प्रवर््

इतरवन्प्रवर्वन ् ऩथ
ृ ्ऩथ
ृ गे र्सस्न्नधत्तते II प्रश्न उऩननषद् ३.४

diseases and body suffers a lot of damage; but in the same body there are unselfish
volunteers like Prāṇa-s who work incessantly without any reward. If is because of
them that the body becomes strong and sense organs get vigour. Thus describing the
Svarājya in form of body, he has reiterated the importance of selfless volunteers for
The chief officer in the nation of body is mind, it gets the job done from the
organs, it is has close friendship with Prāṇa, according to him. Panditji has advised
that the mind has to be trained to become „Śivasaṁkalpa‟- having auspicious resolve
for the right functioning of the nation in the form of body.
According to him ,the special feature of the Vedic style of expression is that it
can be applied to similar subjects. In this manner, he has discussed the divine nature of
the body and how this can be extended to the case of the nation in an inspirational
way. He declares that the body has the latent potential of innumerable strength and it is
very much possible to develop this seed. He has given a Pañcasūtrī - five point
guideline- to conduct this svarjāya in good governance in the 2nd chapter titled
„Vaidika Arthavyavasthā āṇi Svāmitvācā Siddhānta‟12. This article is based on the first
mantra of the Īśāvāsyopaniṣad.13 While concluding the chapter, he quotes the
Pañcasūtrī as follows:
1) I am the master of this body.
2) Whatever is there is the body will be under my control.
3) The organs stay in this body taking resort there. They must maintain the
wellness of the body. The must use restrain while enjoying their objects.
4) The enjoyment should be with a sense of renunciation. Craving for pleasures
must be renounced.
5) The benefit of the body as a whole should be given prime preference than the
satiation of a particular organ.

Thus, Pandit Satawalekar has discussed the samaṣṭi śarīra in the context of
nation, the citizens of the nation and various organizations in the nation.

Vaidika Vyākhyānamālā , p.36


ईशवर्वमयममदं सर्ं यस्त्तकञ्च जगत्तयवं जगत ् I


तेन त्तय्तेन भुञ्जीथव मव गध

ृ ् कमयस्मर्द्धनम ् II

He has referred to the cosmic body of God and has stated that the relation of the
individual body and the cosmic body is of non-difference. While commenting on the
cosmic form of the Lord in the XI Chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, he writes, “We are
compounded in that cosmic form of the Lord. The whole cosmos is His body. The
Bhagavadgītā (VII-4-6) describes the nine-fold Prakṛti of the Lord. Our body is also
constituted by the same components. Thus, we have the same components as of the
Supreme Lord. In the XV Chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, it has been announced that an

aṁśa of the Lord has entered the body as Jīvātmā. Thus whatever we have, we have
taken it from the cosmic form of the Lord.” He has affirmed again and again that it is
necessary that the components of the individual body, of the body of nation or society
and cosmic body must work in harmony and unison so that their respective purpose is
served. He has described it as Virāṭa Puruṣa and explained it with the help of the
Puruṣasūkta. The whole universe is the body of Puruṣa. As described in the
Atharvaveda ( X.7) , bhūmi (earth), antarikṣa( sky) and dyuloka ( heaven) are included
in it. It is the dwelling place of Agni, Candramā, Sūrya and Vayū; thirty three deities
live in it as organs, Āditya-s, Vasu-s and Rudra-s live there, in it are established the
past, present and future worlds- this verily is the Virāṭa Puruṣa.14
Strong Opposition to the Idea of Distaste for the Body
It is obvious that the concept of Śarīra as discussed variously by Pandit
Satawalekar is very positive in spirit. So he strongly criticizes the tendency to treat this
body as a pile of dirty excretions or a cage or a prison based on the view that
everything in this world is only misery ( as clearly expressed in Buddhism and even in
Pātañjala Yogasūtra-s) . He refers the Vedic sayings where the body is described as a
sacred hermitage or a holy sacrificial quarter. He puts it in very strong words. He says,
“We, the Indians, have neglected the Vedic view and have committed a great blunder
of comparing the body to a toilet. No doubt, the impure secretions and excretions are
produced in the body, but God has also created proper systems and channels of
removing them from the body so that the body remains clean. Thus thinking the body
as unclean as a toilet is similar to calling the house itself a toilet that has a toilet
section.”15 The main purpose of the body is to serve the son or part of God, namely,

Vaidika Vyākhyānamālā , p.p .69-70
Ibid, p. 233

Ātman as an abode for hundred years, so how can it be filled with misery ? He has
raised this question with his deep conviction that the body should be duly respected. It
is to be enabled to reach the highest Puruṣārtha.
From this point of view he has blamed the concept in the Yogaśāstra that on
the path of sādhanā, the aspirant abhors contact with others and develops aversion to
his own body16 since these are not in tune with the Vedic ideal of bringing people
together in harmony. Such an aspirant starts hating his own body as he goes on
purifying it, he dislikes other people, he does not marry, in youth he practices celibacy
and renounces the world, thus disconnecting himself from the society. The Vedic way
of life believes in the succession of the āśrama-s like Brahmacarya, Gṛhastha and
Vānaprastha. All these stages have a public life and contact with others. According to
him, the Vedic Dharma never ever appreciates the aversion or dislike for one‟s own or
other‟s body.
Conclusion :
The salient points of the elucidation of the concept of the body by Pandit S. D.
Satawalekar can be summarized as follows:
 A genuinely positive and constructive approach to śarīra.
 A novel interpretation of the concept of kṣetra.
 The unique idea of body treated as Svarājya.
 Acceptance of body with respect for the purpose of individual and universal
 No reference to the Advaitic concepts of Māyāvāda, Adhyāsa, Anityatva and so
 The doctrine that the world is the body of the Lord and there is non- difference
between the cosmic body of the Lord and individual body comes very close to
the tenets of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Philosophy of Rāmānujācārya.
 The inclusion of modern physiological concepts such as the body cells and
their regeneration after every seven years, etc.
 Reference to the concept of cakra-s in the Haṭhayoga while explaining eight
cakra-s of the city of human body.

शौचवत्तमर्वङ्कगजुगुप्सव ऩरै रसंसगा् I ऩवतञ्जऱयोगसत्र २.४०


 The consideration of body as city of gods gives impetus to the message that
body is not just for pleasures (bhoga-s) but it is an instrument to soar to higher
goals for the individual, society, nation and the world.

Thus the concept of body as elucidated by Pandit S.D. Satawalekar is

completely relevant and in harmony with his pro- active, nationalist and
positive interpretation of the Vedic texts.
1. Satawalekar S. D., Puruṣārthabodhinī Ṭīkā’ on the Bhagavadgītā in Marathi
( Fifth Edition) , Svadhyaya Mandal, Killa Paradi, 1987
2. Satawalekar S. D., Vaidika Vyākhyāna Mālā in Marathi, Svadhyaya
Mandal(Paradi) Pune Branch, 2004
3. ऩस्ण्डतजगदीशशवमत्री( संऩवहदत ), उऩननषत्तसंग्रह् , मोतीऱवऱ बनवरसीदवस , हदल्ऱी ,१९९८.