The Body Can Become an Instrument of the Divine Life

Spiritual seekers have struggled with the role of the body. In some cases, they have projected that there would be a luminous energy body replacing the physical frame in a fully enlightened spiritual being. In other cases, they reserve salvation for a status after the death of the body for those who achieved samadhi or enlightenment under whatever name during the life of the body. The body has been subjugated and suppressed. The need of the body for eating food, and the process involved in killing and assimilating other beings in order to feed the body, have been cited as holding back the spiritual development. Others point to the desires that permeate the body, the sexual drive, the seeking of comfort and enjoyment as being impediments. Some look at the flow of occult energies in the subtle body and point out that in their experience, the leaking of energy into the lower chakras, those governing eating, sex and drives for external forms of power and control, stands in the way of the flow of energy into the higher chakras that need to be “opened” to achieve spiritual fulfillment.

Sri Aurobindo recognizes all of the issues set forth here, but points out too that there are signs that the body can adapt, or be adapted, and can become not just neutral for the spiritual seeker, but an actual basis for the expression and manifestation of the spiritual energies, just as it has been at least partially co-opted to support the functions of the higher levels of intellect and reason.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is the past evolution of the body and especially its animal nature and animal history which seems to stand in the way of this consummation. The body, as we have seen, is an offspring and creation of the Inconscient, itself inconscient or only half-conscious; it began as a form of unconscious Matter, developed life and from a material object became a living growth, developed mind and from the subconsciousness of the plant and the initial rudimentary mind or incomplete intelligence of the animal developed the intellectual mind and more complete intelligence of man and now serves as the physical base, container and instrumental means of our total spiritual endeavour. Its animal character and its gross limitations stand indeed as an obstacle to our spiritual perfection; but the fact that it has developed a soul and is capable of serving it as a means may indicate that it is capable of further development and may become a shrine and expression of the spirit, reveal a secret spirituality of Matter, become entirely and not only half-conscious, reach a certain oneness with the spirit. This much it must do, so far at least it must transcend its original earth-nature, if it is to be the complete instrument of the divine life and no longer an obstacle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, The Divine Body, pg. 47

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