The Inner Life, v. I/Fifth Section/XIII
THE PHYSICAL BODY
Physical immortality is not a possibility, for that which has a beginning must also have an end, and birth, growth, decay and death are the rules of the physical universe. No reasonable being could desire to retain the same body continuously; it is precisely as though a small child should wish to wear the same suit of clothes during the whole of his life. As man evolves, his successive vehicles will become purer and nobler, and better fitted to meet the needs of his increasing capacity, so that even if a man could keep the same body he would check his growth by doing so, just as the child's growth would be checked by always wearing something of iron rigidity which was much too tight for him.
At the same time it is our duty to take the best possible care of our bodies and to improve them as much as we can. Never ill-treat the physical body. Take care of it as you would of a valuable horse, giving it enough rest and food, and keeping it scrupulously clean. It can do only a certain amount of work; for example, a very strong body might walk a hundred miles without resting but it could not walk a thousand. In meditation put it into a comfortable position and then forget about it. You cannot forget it if it is uncomfortable, as it would constantly call you back.
What should you eat? Well, so long as you avoid alcohol and corpse-eating it probably does not matter very much. Certain vegetables are coarser than others, and therefore when there is a choice it is as well to abstain from them. Among those I should class onions, mushrooms and cabbages. Rice is very pure food, but wheat, barley and oats give more nutriment in the same amount. I consider eggs undesirable, though I should unhesitatingly take them if no other food was to be had.
There is no sort of question that vegetarianism is better in every way than the devouring of flesh. It furnishes more real nutriment, diminishes the liability to disease, gives greater strength, and does not stimulate the lower nature. The vegetarian diet makes it far easier for a man to develop his higher qualities. It is known that our Masters make a single physical body last much longer than an ordinary man can do, by living always in accordance with hygienic laws and absolute freedom from worry. In that respect we should all try to copy them as nearly as we can, but to endeavour to retain the same body indefinitely has always been a mark of those who follow the selfish path.
There are various undesirable means by which such men have prolonged physical life — sometimes by vampirism, merely depleting the vitality of others, and sometimes by the complete transference to themselves of a succession of other human lives. But it is hardly necessary to warn Theosophists against proceedings of this nature. It is obvious that a person adopting such a plan would be one who is not evolving; and even if he succeeded he would only be as it were patching and enlarging an old coat, but with all his efforts it would remain an old coat still.