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Going Beyond Body

Our body is our first address. That is where we live, that is what we constantly associate our personality with. Our every action, speech, and thought is centered around our body.

When one stands in front of the mirror, it is one’s own body that a person thinks of as one’s personality.

Integral to our very existence in this ephemeral world, our body is the ladder to achieving anything, temporal or spiritual. Through this body, we have to toil and achieve our dreams of this mundane world. And it is through this body that we have to attempt to comprehend, contemplate, and realise the beyond.

While we seem to have no problem adjusting ourselves to the fact that this body is a tool for achieving things temporal, it is beyond us, to most of us, how this body can be a stepping stone to things spiritual.

The first step in understanding that this body can help us comprehend our true nature, our spiritual personality, is to understand that it is a window to our true personality, the Atman. It is because of the Atman that this body seems so potent, so conscious, and so powerful. It is because of the substratum of Atman that wrongly identifies with the body, that the body gets so much strength and importance. It would help us much if we understand that the body is just like a bully, whose influence grows the more you give importance to her or him. Ignore the bully and her or his sway wanes.

Though our first address is our body, we are just guests at that address. Our true home is elsewhere and we are convalescing our days of the illness of ignorance in the rest house of our bodies.

When we would be cured of this terrible disease, we would go back to the beautiful and pristine home we all have, the Atman. Our bodies are just passing stations in the long and arduous journey to our true nature. 

Our body is important only in that it forms a crucial part of the path and not because it has got anything to do with the destination. Spirituality is elusive to most of us because it is beyond the grasp of our senses. One has to transcend the grip of one’s senses to have even an inkling of one’s spiritual nature. This is where the problem lies.

In the illness of ignorance we suffer from, it is rather cosy a thought to think of ones rest house to be the place where we would be resting forever. We think that this body is the be-all and end-all of our personality. Instead of being desperate to end the seemingly endless period of convalescence and get out of this rest house and go to our true home, we try to be at home there. We try to beautify that place. We intensify our association with it.

We know that our body is impermanent. But who acts that way? We spend much time, energy, and resources to maintain, beautify, and ensure that it does not stink. Yes, most of our effort in maintaining our body is to avoid its inherent stink. Our body contains so much filth that probably we would win a contest for being the filthiest living being in this universe! And we would also win a contest for being the living being that tries the most to cover up this filth! We have a tough time accepting the truth that the body is bound to perish and that it is nowhere becoming any less filthy. To understand this and to come to terms with it would be another and a very important step towards our destination, the Atman.

As long as we remain identified with the body, as long as we need it to continue our spiritual journey, we need to maintain it. Just like a person driving a car needs to maintain it till one needs it or at the least, till one reaches the destination; we need to maintain our body till we realize our true nature. Hence, a basic hygiene, basic nutrition, minimum rest, and care and treatment in illness, are necessary till we have to drive our bodies. This is an unpleasant and inevitable task we have to do. A true spiritual aspirant would consider it unpleasant. However, most of us tend to make our lives pleasant by engrossing ourselves in these tasks. Most of us live a considerable part of our lives in activities involving the bedroom, bathroom, and the dining room! We forget that the destination is not the vehicle. We have to reach the destination, not make our homes in the vehicle. While eating, drinking, rest, and all other bodily pursuits are necessary, they are not the final goal of our spiritual lives.

The restraint of the senses becomes important in our spiritual lives in that it helps us to take our mind away from our body and fix it on our destination, the Atman. Almost all bodily pursuits are playgrounds for the senses. And the most active and titillating to the senses is the playground of bodily contact, the playground of sex. No true spiritual tradition or spiritual teacher would say that sexual activity or sexuality in the past disqualifies a person from becoming a spiritual aspirant. All the same, no true spiritual tradition or spiritual teacher would say that sexual activity or sexuality is the spiritual path. That is the most convenient stand one can take. Just because I cannot control the senses, just because I cannot control the sexual urge does not mean that I be controlled by the senses and that I be urged by sexuality. Sexuality is not spirituality. Ones sexual orientation or sexual preferences have nothing to do with spirituality. If that were true, then cats, dogs, and rabbits would have been the most spiritual. And rabbits would have been spiritual seers! The Atman and the senses, God and the senses, cannot be worshipped together. You are either spiritual or sexual. You cannot be both. The world has seen thousands of centuries of spiritual and religious life but is yet to see a person who could control one’s internal and external environments through the power of spirituality and yet thrived in expressing one’s sexuality. You would have to put off one to get the other.

Spirituality is the search for our true nature. It is a path open and inevitable to all of us. Sexuality is the expression of one’s carnal desires. This is a trait primitive and instinctual in all of us but it is not inevitable. Spiritual life is for everyone. Even for people who had a sexual expression or a distinct sexual orientation. But, if one has to become spiritual one has to leave one’s sexuality or sexual orientation. Just like the satisfaction one gets from eating one’s favourite food after a long time is not spiritual illumination, understanding or finding one’s natural sexual orientation is not spiritual realisation. If it were so, all the spiritual traditions would become big lies and all one would need to become spiritual was a session with one’s therapist! Spirituality or self-realisation is not just ‘coming out of the closet’. It is going beyond all orientations, not finding another one.

To set upon the journey of spirituality, the journey to realise one’s true nature, is an informed choice. It is a state when you want to go beyond the body, beyond all orientations. We should remember that just like there are heterosexual and homosexual orientations, there is an asexual orientation, the orientation of the spiritual aspirant, who does not want to be bogged down by the pulls of the flesh but wants to transcend them and realize one’s transcendent nature, the Atman.