The bhagvad gita firmly states that each one of us has an “Aatma” which gives us the vitality central to life. It builds on this concept to say that all our emotions, our thoughts are governed by this “aatma” which has a divine connect with the “paratma” or the holy spirit. Hence, true salvation and happiness in life is to be gained by meditating and turning our thoughts inwards. A theist would, in good conscience, go to the mandir and pray to the “parmatma” and hope to gain an understanding of the Ultimate Truth, calm his “aatma” and attain inner peace. The process of praying, in my opinion is the most selfish activity one can engage in, albeit for a good reason. Even for the true theists (not the inveterate god-fearing “devouts”) this activity is focused on cutting off from the outside world and constantly rebuild the “aatma”. Such an activity transcends into the daily materialistic life, occupying the mind whenever idle. It is not uncommon to see them murmur the “shlok” or say out loud some verses from the Gita. Their diet becomes devoid of frivolities. Meanwhile, in the background, the “aatma” subconsciously evolves and gradually rebuilds to a more enlightened version of itself.
Interestingly enough, my workout has this effect on me. I call my “aatma”, the beast. In my opinion, everyone has it within themselves. This beast at first appears to be the complete opposite of the detached and enlightened “aatma” described above. It only cares about how much it can lift. This seems to be a petty and materialistic outlook. Honestly, a 2.5Kg increase in 1RM (1 rep max) seems irrelevant when compared to understanding the teachings of Krishna to Arjuna. The beast, however, is the inner strength. It does mimic the detachment of an enlightened soul. Any materialistic pleasure outside of the gym is merely a distraction. I leave behind all these distractions and enter the gym. I lift. I pray. Each rep is an offering. A sacrifice of my time and energy. My gods are made out of iron and rubber instead of marble. All my thoughts are focused on my body. It becomes instrumental to focus on the chakras. For me, they are my core, my back, my shoulders and my legs. The workout does transcend into my materialistic life. Out of habit, I flex my chest, my biceps. I admire the change taking place inside. Marvel at the beauty of the beast within. Much like the “sadhus” from ramayana, I gain more control over my breath. My awareness of the body and its potential increases. Failure becomes the aim. I come out of the gym a changed man. In Indian temples, it is common to offer the devotees a small holy snack called “prasad”, which is given while leaving. Even I receive the “prasad” that I take back with me. It is the burn. I consider it a blessing if my muscles are too sore to move. When the weights overpower me in the last set, my faith is called into question. The beast within tests my mental strength, my understanding. For if your mind can conceive it, your body will achieve it. I don’t consider it a success unless I fail. This humbles me. The crushing weight of the gods above shows me how insignificant my life is. How far I have to go. I tear the beast apart each day, only to find him stronger. Happier. This is inner peace. This is contentment.
Meet the beast within you. Respect him.