Physical Strength as The Basis of Enlightenment

physical-strength-spirituality“First of all our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards,” said Swami Vivekananda. “Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the [Hindu religious text of the Bhagavad] Gita… You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger.”

We in the West have inherited the Christian image — and I would say, largely a false image — of the spiritual or enlightened man: self-sacrificing, passive, slender, and in a sense anti-physical.

Where Christianity has declined or disappeared, this image and the assumptions of the religion — equality, a focus on — or a belief in — the poor and the outcast, and strong suspicion of the physical body, especially physical strength — have become the major motifs of politics.

But the traits we associate with spirituality and intelligence are not necessarily accepted by either non-Western or pre-modern cultures.  Continue reading “Physical Strength as The Basis of Enlightenment”