It has been a part of the spiritual development of mankind to reject the life of the world, the life of the body in order to liberate the Spirit. The “refusal of the ascetic” has played an important, even a necessary role in this spiritual evolution, as otherwise, we humans have been too bound and attached to the life of the body to achieve the needed separation and spiritual focus.
At the same time, we cannot deny the force and the recognition that “All this is the Brahman” and “One without a second” of the Upanishadic sages. At some point, the complete spiritual liberation must include the freedom to take up the life in the body and manifest the Spirit in it and through it.
The Bhagavad Gita contains a verse that sums up a new attitude toward the body “Brahmarpanam, Brahma havir, Brahmagnau, Brahmana hutam….” Brahman is the food, Brahman is the offering, Brahman is the fire of the offering, Brahman is the sacrifice, Brahman receives the sacrifice and accepts it as Brahman. All is one Reality and Matter and Spirit are One.
When we can see and experience Matter with the reverence of its spiritual essence, we can take up the life of the spirit in the world and the “refusal of the ascetic” will have served its purpose and be overpassed as no longer useful to our spiritual existence or development.
Sri Aurobindo discusses this new relationship in our awareness: “The Spirit has made itself Matter in order to place itself there as an instrument for the well-being and joy, yogakshema, of created beings, for a self-offering of universal physical utility and service. The gnostic being, using Matter but using it without material or vital attachment or desire, will feel that he is using the Spirit in this form of itself with its consent and sanction for its own purpose. There will be in him a certain respect for physical things, an awareness of the occult consciousness in them, of its dumb will of utility and service, a worship of the Divine, the Brahman in what he uses, a care for a perfect and faultless use of his divine material, for a true rhythm, ordered harmony, beauty in the life of Matter, in the utilisation of Matter.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 27, “The Gnostic Being”