The Buddha said:
There was once a man who, being in despair over his inability to control his passions, wished to mutilate himself. The Buddha said to him, “Better destroy your own evil thoughts than do harm to your own person. The mind is lord. When the lord himself is calmed, the servants will of themselves be yielding. If your mind is not cleansed of evil passions, what avails it to mutilate yourself?”
Many things to be understood. First: a great misunderstanding exists about Buddha that he was anti-body. That is absolutely wrong. He was never anti-body. He was not for the body, that’s true; but he was never anti-body. This sutra will make it clear. He says:
There was once a man who, being in despair over his inability to control his passions, wished to mutilate himself.
And there have been many persons like that, not only one person. Millions of people have destroyed their bodies in the search for truth, God, ecstasy, or whatsoever you call it. Millions of people have concluded that the body is the enemy. There is a certain logic in it.
People think it is because of the body that you are in misery. People think it is because of the body that you have sexuality; it is because of the body that you have greed; it is because of the body that you need money; it is because of the body that you need relationship. People think it is because of the body that the whole trouble arises, so why not destroy the body? Why not commit suicide?
There have been many religious sects which are suicidal, which really teach suicide, which say, “This body has to be dropped. If you are courageous enough, then in one leap, drop this body. If you are not courageous, then slowly, in parts, cut the body, drop the body.”
There was a very popular sect in Russia before the revolution – it was very popular – that used to teach people to cut their sexual organs. And there were thousands and thousands of people who followed it – just to mutilate the sexual organs. The idea is that by cutting the sexual organ you will go beyond sex. This is simply foolish, because the sex does not exist in the sexual organ, it exists in the mind. You can cut the sexual organ and sex will still exist. In fact, now it will become more neurotic because there will be no way to fulfill it.
There have been sects all over the world which teach fasting. Once in a while, once a month, fasting can be of help, can be very healthy, can be a cleansing process. But to go on long fasts is destroying the body. But there have been sects: in Buddha’s time there was this sect of the Jainas which was obsessed with the idea of fasting. “Go on fasting – one month, two months, three months – and if you die while you are on a fast, you will reach to the highest heaven.”
Why did this idea of fasting become so deep-rooted? Food and sex seem to be the two obsessions of man. And the people who think, “How to get out of the misery?” think these two things are the reasons why they are miserable. In fact, just the opposite is the case.