Here, I’d like to take a look at the physical and spiritual bodies, as described by Sri Ramakrishna. Like most of us probably know, the physical body isn’t the only one we possess by far, and within it lives the spiritual body, which never dies.
When our time in the physical body ends, we’ll depart it with the spiritual body intact and explore the next, higher state of consciousness that waits for us.
Some spiritual teachers, like Ramakrishna, encourage us to transcend our attachment to the physical body (and the material realm in general), but I think we can love, support and nourish it despite that it’s impermanent.
A lot of teachers have encouraged us to completely transcend our attachment to the physical realm, but even though we’re collectively evolving into a higher state of consciousness that’s free of the physical features we’ve grown used to, I think we can still love our reality and our physical body.
I think we should treat our bodies with love and respect, and just because they won’t follow us into the higher realms doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of attention and nurturance.
I try to exercise every day and eat foods that support my body, for example, and I think that with dedicated inner work, we can merge the physical and spiritual; bring our spiritual body into the physical and have it take the physical body’s place.
Some people don’t believe we’ll take our bodies with us into the higher realms or merge the physical and spiritual, but whether or not we ultimately do, I’ll still exercise and do everything else that supports and nurtures my body because I think it’s important and worthy of attention.
As long as we remember that the greater spiritual reality we’re tapping into is much worthier than anything that constitutes the physical, we can focus on the physical to a degree by keeping the body healthy and bringing as much art to this world as we can.
Sri Ramakrishna describes our different bodies.
“The body consisting of the five gross elements is called the gross body. The subtle body is made up of the mind, the ego, the discriminating faculty, and the mind-stuff. There is also a causal body, by means of which one enjoys the Bliss of God and holds communion with Him.
“The Tantra calls it the Bhagavati Tanu, the Divine Body. Beyond all these is the Mahakarana, the Great Cause. That cannot be expressed in words.” (1)
Without desire, he tells us, “The body cannot live.” (2)
He also poses a thought provoking question.
“Body and wealth are impermanent. Why go to so much trouble for their sakes?” (3)
Most people focus entirely on feeding the materialistic beast. They build up their body, not because they love it but for the sake of ego, and they try to accumulate wealth or, in the case of most people, work a job they don’t care for just so they can survive.
All the while, they fail to realize that all these things they’re doing are achieving impermanent ends that won’t really satisfy them in the big picture.
Everything we’re doing to keep our ego-driven personality going is pushing us further and further from the true reality that exists beyond our conscious perception, but again, we can do little things to show our bodies love without descending into egoism or forgetting who we truly are.
Our main task is to bring our spiritual color through to this reality, and that’s why being in a physical form is so important.
There are things we can do to increase our spiritual receptivity that don’t have to do with meditation or other direct forms of spiritual attunement, and we can practice them without losing ourselves in the material realm.
Exercise is one thing we can do that doesn’t technically attune us to spirit but still gets the spirit flowing by getting the body active and the blood pumping, and there are plenty of physical things we can do to stay attuned that won’t cause us to lose ourselves, as long as we remember why we’re doing them.
Ramakrishna encourages us not to strive for material rewards like wealth and fame, but for spiritual rewards.
“A true spiritual devotee does not care for such things as wealth or health. He thinks: ‘Why should I practise spiritual austerities for creature comforts, money, or name and fame? These are all impermanent. They last only a day or two.’” (4)
Speaking of his own body, Ramakrishna called it “Just a pillow-case.” (5)
The ‘pillow case’ hides the true essence; the spirit; whatever you want to call the consciousness that exists within the body. Most people think our consciousness is localized explicitly to the brain and we can only see with our eyes, hear with our ears, etc.
Little do they know that even the physical senses are spiritual faculties that’ll expand when we’re back in a higher state of consciousness. The physical senses will be more refined in the higher realms, because we’ll have shed the physical limitation that kept us from understanding our reality in a deeper way.
As a result, we’ll see, hear, feel, touch and sense things in a more refined way than we ever did before, and we’ll have ‘new’ spiritually rooted senses that’ll expand our perception even more. This is why we’re encouraged not to focus solely on the physical body, and the things we can perceive with the spiritual senses are far more rewarding.
Ramakrishna also tells us that the seeker who’s realized God no longer cares much about their physical body.
“The body and the soul. The body was born and it will die. But for the soul there is no death. It is like the betel-nut. When the nut is ripe it does not stick to the shell. But when it is green it is difficult to separate from the shell.
“After realizing God, one does not identify any more with the body. Then he knows that body and soul are two different things.” (6)
Again, we don’t necessarily have to identify with the body or be overly attached to it to recognize the importance of treating it right.
I haven’t come close to enlightenment, so I couldn’t tell you what it’s like or how one feels about the body after attaining it, but in my current state of consciousness, treating the body healthily seems important.
Who knows – maybe we will stop caring about the body entirely after enlightenment, but for now, I see it as a vessel for the expression of our consciousness and keeping it healthy and lively seems like a great way to increase our spiritual reception.
I wrote an enlightenment report a few days ago about the importance of activity once we’ve attained enlightenment, and the teachers we heard from affirmed that it’s essential to be physically and spiritually active after we glimpse a higher state of consciousness.
I don’t think we fool ourselves if we exercise or do other things that are meant to keep the body healthy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to point to an attachment to the material realm. We’re encouraged to renounce the material altogether, but I don’t think this realm would exist if we were only meant to ignore or transcend it.
To be honest, the idea that we should stop focusing on the material realm seems like avoidance. This reality can be just as spiritual as any higher dimension (even though the higher dimensions are unlike anything we have yet to perceive), and it is, after all, Source’s creation.
Unless we really don’t want to be here, why should we avoid it or continuously try to transcend it? From my perspective, instead of trying to transcend it, we can use art and creativity to bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual.
We won’t have any of the material things we’re currently comfortable with when we evolve, but for now, I think we can bring the spiritual into the physical by keeping the body healthy and using it to bring art to the world, which is desperately needed.
Let’s make sure we use our art to bridge the gap instead of producing shallow art that doesn’t communicate anything about spirit, because the purpose of our existence here is to bring the spiritual into the physical.
Ramakrishna tells us that being conscious of the body causes us to be conscious of duality.
“As long as a man remains conscious of the body, he is conscious of duality.” (7)
The best way to transcend our dualistic consciousness is to transcend our attachment to the body, and when it comes to exercise and other things we do for our health, we can stay detached while we do it all by recognizing that these things also keep the spirit healthy.
We can love the body and treat it right without being attached to it, and all it takes is the recognition that keeping it healthy allows us to express our spirituality through it in a clear way.
A body that gets plenty of exercise is able to bring the spirit through without reservation, but a body that’s stiff and tired isn’t able to express its latent consciousness very purely.
We have to treat the body right without becoming too attached to it or any other aspect of our illusory physical reality, and while it requires balance and discipline, it’s very possible. Everything, we’ll find, requires us to stay balanced and embrace some discipline, and it’s all worth it in the end.
The human body is a great thing, but like anything else in the material realm, we don’t want to be too attached to it or we’ll lose ourselves in our own ego.
As long as we remember that we’re spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around, we’ll be able to treat our bodies right without becoming so attached to them that we forget who we truly are.
We’re beings of full consciousness who are here to uplift the world and bring our society into the light, but as difficult as it is to accept for avid followers of spiritual teachers who talk about enlightenment, we’ll want to be physically and spiritually active.
Yes, we could meditate all day long in an effort to raise our consciousness and achieve enlightenment, but if we want to use our spirituality progressively or put others in a position where they can uplift themselves, we’ll want to embrace physical and spiritual work.
A lot of spiritual seekers might not agree with me, but I really do think our purpose here is to merge the physical and spiritual. Maybe I’m still a little too attached to this reality, but the idea of all-out renouncing it just doesn’t sit well with me.
Again, I feel like it wouldn’t need to exist in the first place if it wasn’t relevant in one way or another, but I’m sure we’ll know the truth in time. For now, let’s continue to be active without losing our focus or investing ourselves too heavily in the material.
An equal balance of physical and spiritual effort seems like the best way to go for now, and the picture will become clearer as we continue to raise our vibration.