In the initial stages of cultivation of Krsna Consciousness this question is rarely asked. We get to know that we are NOT this body, and that is, considering all the consequences of this fact, a most revolutionary idea. For those, who are bereft of Krsna Consciousness, EVERYTHING they do is based on the bodily perception.
Forgetting that we are not two bodies, the gross consisting of the four elements, and the subtle consisting of the mind, intelligence and false ego, even devotees sometimes ignore to take into consideration the damages the subtle body sustained in the process of voracious sense gratification we indulged in. (Specifically, usage of synthetic drugs seems to have life long effects, as we can see in the case of even „senior vaisnavas“, previous hippies).
To see somebody with amputated legs commands pitty, but to see somebody with damaged mind, that requires much deeper insight.
Whatever the case may be, we find ourselves cultivating Krsna Consciousness while being constantly obstructed by our bodily needs. Too often devotees turn to mayavada type of negation, specialy those of the kanistha adhikari kind, forgetting the formula of „acquering higher taste“ as given by Srila Prabhupada. It seems to be so easy to simply deny the existence of the body than to try to understand its nature according to varna and asrama, and use it for Krsna´s service.
By mere negation of what was given to us, brahmacaries and sannyasis run danger to become ruthless fanatics, and grhastas acting as „monks and nuns“ become an agitated flock of individuals while their children wonder why mother and father are fighting with each other all the time.
For understanding the nature of our bodies we have to turn to the authorities, preferably to an experienced spiritual master, whose DUTY is to help his disciple to place his or her body in such strategic way so it can be according to the time, place and the still prevailing karmic conditioning in maximum way engaged in devotional service.
Some rigid steps have to be taken. The following of the four regulative principles is an absolute necessity as no men or women indulging themselves in unrestricted sex, meat eating, gambling and intoxication stand a chance to make any progress in spiritual life.
But the process doesn´t stop there. Once being regulated this way, it is an absolute necessity to understand what kind of body we got. The predominance of ignorance, passion, and occasional glimpses of the quality of goodness is to be considered in each individual case, and it is the duty of the spiritual master to be the master of this art, or to take an assistance of those who are.
The final goal is the return back home, back to Godhead, but as Krsna states in Bhagavad Gita, only when understanding the working of spiritual and material energy in essence, such return is possible.
„One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.“
So there is no place for negation of the body, but plenty of means to purify it.
Finally, the body being temporary will vanish, but the reactions of our deeds performed with this body will not. How many devotees, not understanding the nature of the vehicle they drive, become discouraged when not developing patience and pragmatic ways of engagement while dealing with their bodies!
Of course, there is a danger while trying to investigate into the nature of one´s body. One may learn to accept all sorts of mundane psychoanalytical pseudo-spiritual concepts how to understand the more intricate layers of conditioning we suffer from.
I remember that even one of my godbrothers arrived at the conclusion that the psychoanalyst Freud, whom Srila Prabhupada defined as a demon, was „also somewhat Krsna Conscious“.
Once again, an authorized guidance is in order and Krsna will surely supply expert advisor to those who are sincere at heart. It is wise to always keep Arjuna´s example in mind, who initially wanted to withdraw from the battlefield and engage in a process of tyaga. Such renunciation was not approved by the Supreme Lord, and Krsna explains from all points of view to Arjuna that to simply negate the nature of one´s body makes one actually a cheater of oneself and consequently to a cheater of others.
Coming from the material field, the art of how to understand what kind of body we are not is not known to us. From the very first moment of our birth in this body, we were DESIGNATED by others, being educated to accept false identities. Even our own parents, often so much dominated by the desire that we are to be shaped along their liking, forced us in protest to finally deny any designation per se, unaware that there is a world free of designations, the spiritual world where we are truly our spiritual bodies and we are what we are following our constitutional nature.
But to get to this state of transcendental consciousness is a gradual process where the regulation, proper placement and the proper usage of the body is an absolute requirement.
The more we truly realize that we are not this body, we also realize what kind of body we are not. All this happens along our realization of the presence of the all-pervading and ever-present Supreme Personality of Godhead who like the Sun illuminates everything, including our awareness what kind of body we are not. When the Sun rises, everything becomes illuminated. In the absence of the Sun, living in darkness, we are doomed to rely on our subjective illusory perception, likely to be cheated by our imperfect senses and becoming naturally a cheater.
To realize what kind of body we are not may not be necessary a pleasant experience. Mostly we tend to think we are operating from a higher position as we truly do. By dint of artificial academic education, today a must for every „educated“ man and woman, we become even more illusioned and proud, finally loosing any sort of „common sense“ thinking. The sastra is clearly stating that in this age everybody is born as sudra.
But as Srila Prabhupada taught us, one can be educated and elevated in the spiritual sense by following the order of a pure devotee. A fully dedicated sudra, using his sudra bodily qualities in devotional service, is not anymore a mundane worker, but a wonderful fully surrendered devotee, operating on a far higher platform than a puffed up academically educated „brahmana“. Nevertheless, varna and the consequent asrama realization is a must for everybody who is serious about spiritual life. When artificially designating oneself, denying the nature of the body one carries, one becomes a hoax and a pitiful image of one´s still prevailing material desires.
It is at this point, where the frustrated puberty dreams of a „seniour vaisnava“ become his „lila“ while he is praised by fools and sentimental followers. Even such fellow may preach that we are not this body, lacking a mercy of his guru, he will be forced to follow his unfulfilled material desires taking his illusioned flock of followers with him.
One can avoid to be embarrassed in this way by scientifical understanding of the nature of one´s body (often reflected by others who from an external point of view can see much better what kind of pattern of behavior we develop while being long term engaged in devotional service).
Here are some slokas from Bhagavad Gita which may be useful to those who sincerely try to cultivate higher consciousness by usage of their body.
The body has to be maintained by work, meaning activity:
„Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.“
The body will be maintained by the Supreme Lord, provided such devotee is CONSTANTLY engaged in praising the Lord.
„But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have.“
One should work along one´s nature, considering the nature of one´s body:
„Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows his nature. What can repression accomplish?“
One should be aware of the transience of one´s body, hence become detached from the results of ones work. Finally, one should dedicate one´s body to the service of the Lord.
To balance the presence of one´s body with the presence of oneself, the soul takes training and needs mercy of the spiritual master. It requires sincerity on the part of the one who is learning. Srila Prabhupada assured us that to go back home, back to Godhead, while successfully engaging and finally leaving one´s body, is possible in this very same lifetime.
Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!