If we reflect on the time we spend each day dealing with the needs of the body, we can see that in order to maintain the body we have very little time to focus on other things, such as our higher aspirations, our mental focus and our life goals. In many cases, the life goals and mental focus are in fact tied up with our material circumstances, thus further monopolizing our time and attention on the material world and our existence in it. It is no wonder that those who are touched by the call of the Spirit have worked to overcome this preoccupation and replace it with the spiritual practices they follow.
Spiritual seekers eventually have found that they have to either minimize the attention to the body, or virtually abandon it entirely, once realisation is attained. We may however reflect on several points. One is that there is no real duality between Matter and Spirit, but as the ancient sages remind us “All this is the Brahman.” Another is that there is a significance and purpose to the material creation which our attempts to abandon it simply disregard. It is like the solution of “cutting the knot” rather than untying it.
Of course, this is not to imply that the focus and material functionality that we now struggle with are the intended final result of the universal manifestation. It is both possible and likely that through spiritual practice, and evolutionary pressure, that the current habitual preoccupations on the body will be modified or entirely changed as our ability to manage the relationship with our bodies, and the balance between all the aspects of our existence, increases and takes more charge of the action on the material plane. We can be liberated from bondage to the body and its needs without necessarily undermining the purpose and action of the body.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “Still the inconveniences of the animal body and its animal nature and impulses and the limitations of the human body at its best are there in the beginning and persist always so long as there is not the full and fundamental liberation, and its inconscience or half-conscience and its binding of the soul and mind and life-force to Matter, to materiality of all kinds, to the call of the unregenerated earth-nature are there and constantly oppose the call of the spirit and circumscribe the climb to higher things. To the physical being it brings a bondage to the material instruments, to the brain and heart and senses, wed to materiality and materialism of all kinds, to the bodily mechanism and its needs and obligations, to the imperative need of food and the preoccupation with the means of getting it and storing it as one of the besetting interests of life, to fatigue and sleep, to the satisfaction of bodily desire. The life-force in man also is tied down to these small things; it has to limit the scope of its larger ambitions and longings, its drive to rise beyond the pull of earth and follow the heavenlier intuitions of its psychic parts, the heart’s ideal and the soul’s yearnings. On the mind the body imposes the boundaries of the physical being and the physical life and the sense of the sole complete reality of physical things with the rest as a sort of brilliant fireworks of the imagination, of lights and glories that can only have their full play in heavens beyond, on higher planes of existence, but not here; it afflicts the idea and aspiration with the burden of doubt, the evidence of the subtle senses and the intuition with uncertainty and the vast field of supraphysical consciousness and experience with the imputation of unreality and clamps down to its earth-roots the growth of the spirit from its original limiting humanity into the supramental truth and the divine nature.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, The Divine Body, pg. 48