The fuss generated over the film, The Da Vinci Code, bypasses the spiritual temper of Leonardo Da Vinci, a multi-faceted genius whose words on spirituality echo those of our ancient savants.
Da Vinci advocated yogic dietary principles of eating in moderation (called mitahara) and supping lightly, remaining vegetarian in an exclusively meat-eating society. “Eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to health,” he warned, sounding much like Swami Swatmarama, compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Da Vinci’s keen interest in life sharpened his musings on death. He felt the inherent need of all things to ‘return to the primal chaos’ and experienced the ‘constant struggle to return to its source’— concepts intrinsic to Eastern philosophy.
In How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michael Gelb notes ‘the maestro articulated concepts that are at the core of much Asian wisdom’ and compares Da Vinci to a Buddhist. The artist advocated the Eastern concept of non-attachment or vairagya.
Da Vinci was intrigued by the concept of the void as the source of all things — which quantum physics has been grappling with. He said, “Among the great things found among us, the existence of Nothing is the greatest.
Its essence dwells as regards time between the past and the future, and possesses nothing of the present. This nothingness has the part equal to the whole and the whole to the part, the divisible to the indivisible and it comes to the same amount whether we divide it, multiply it, add to it or subtract from it.”
This is echoed in the Ishavasya Upanishad. “Om Purnamadah Purnamidam Purnaat Purna mudachyate, Purnasya Purna maadaaya, Purnamevaa vashiseyate.” Translating to “This (void) is full, That is full/ From the full, the full is taken/ The full has come (from it)/ If you take full from the full, the full alone remains.”
(The writer is a yoga instructor in Mumbai.)