We Are Not The Body, But…

By Kesava Krsna Dasa - 19.12 2017

Because we think we are “not the body”, it can lead us to do so many wrong things in the name of Bhakti.  It can induce false detachment and renunciation.  That is, pushing oneself to be detached without spiritual taste to replace it – it becomes an off-the-body form of mind and body deprivation that does not last, because it is exerted by passion, not natural spiritual progress.

An artificial renouncer might think, “I am denying myself of all trappings of sense gratification, so why should others also not share in my renunciation?” Because one is depriving oneself and demands others to do the same, is a reflection of envy. Self-punishment is not the way to get off the bodily platform.

It can turn us into impersonalists by our actions and words.  This is, because we think I am not the body and everyone else is not the body, we must not attach much importance to the body, meaning it is not important how others feel emotionally to our vigorous application of chastisement, strictness, conformity, and other demands. Bhakti is a voluntary offering of mind, body and words in love.

It can turn us into indifferent ‘psychopathic’ cases while tending the Bhakti creeper that will hardly grow. Krishna-prema remains just a theory.  We may think, “I am not the body, you all are not the body, so who cares about what I do or say and why should others care about what I say or do to them… just get off the bodily platform… stop being mental about things…”

It can cause insensitive and uncultured behaviour towards others.  Vaisnava culture holds the highest form of respect for others in matters of reception, hospitality, affection, care for the body of others, comfort, nourishment and so forth. Properly renounced Vaisnavas do not impose their own renunciation on to others.

It can cause extreme and strange applications of austerity, celibacy, self-denial, and more – all made difficult by self-loathing. If it is bad to have a material body in envy of the Lord, then punishing it seems to be the means to apply not-the-body philosophy. This is not Bhakti-yoga.  It is dominated by jnana.

An erroneous understanding of “I am not this body” will transfer responsibility for love, care and welfare for others on to others’ bad karma, nature or God.  This relinquishing of responsibility is an extended form of selfishness. “Let Krishna take care of him or her… why should I care for someone else’s body if that is their due punishment or mercy of the Lord?…” Such selfishness is not Bhakti-yoga or the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.

For instance, if a devotee suffers with high fever and illness, but is still coerced into taking a freezing bucket bath and do energetic services as normal, because, “You are not the body”, it is a dereliction of duty. To not care for another in the name of not-the-body philosophy is without balance. To care for the bodies of devotees is not illusion or Maya.

Because “we are not the body”, it does not mean we can say to someone who has a bald patch on the head and say openly, in front of everyone, “Gosh!  You are losing hair quite rapidly, but don’t worry about it – we are not these material bodies”.  To cause embarrassment like this is not in line with Vaisnava culture.  To pick out or joke about any past-karma physical anomaly is uncultured, even among those who understand not-the-body concepts.

“We are not the body”, but we still have to identify with it to preserve health and to try for God-centred peaceful coexistence.  We are not the body and yet we act with our mind, words and deeds in dealings with other embodied souls.  Our bodies are the means to reach perfection of our lives in Bhakti.  Our bodies are used in service for the Lord.  Our bodies are past-karmic reactions to be made the best use of bad bargains.

Without our human bodies we cannot perform Bhakti and progress spiritually.  A human body engaged in devotion to the Lord is awash of past karma.  Physical anomalies are no hindrance at all in the execution of Bhakti.  Bhakti makes all physical anomalies glorious because they can somehow please the spiritual master and Krishna. 

To not be the body is to develop a balance of seeing and overlooking human realities. Human potential is the driving force, and not bodily appearances.  Genuine Vaisnava culture heeds this balance.  So long as we are in preaching mode, this balance remains.  

Vaisnavas are the first persons to show affection and love to others because they are balanced.  In fact, we can say “All glories to that human body being selflessly engaged for the Lords’ pleasure”, because such a body is a gift to the world, and is not material. Devotees view their own bodies as useless and bad, but other devotees see those same bodies as potential for service.

Not-the-body philosophy is knowledge of the soul within the body. It is jnana with useful application in Krishna consciousness. If however, we retain off-balance not-the-body concepts and practice Bhakti-yoga with this dominance, our outlook is jnana-mishra-bhakti, not pure devotion. Bhakti dominated by jnana causes problems and its effects are experienced by others.

When we preach not-the-body concepts, they are basic tenets of Vaisnava philosophy. Vaisnava culture includes care for the body of others in a selfless mood. To give of ourselves in service, without selfish motive, is the real – not-the body – application of philosophyin practiced on a deeper level. All glories to the spiritualised bodies of all devotees engaged in Krishna consciousness.

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.