Sri Ramakrishna would often draw the attention of the devotees to the limitations caused by the body in our struggle for spiritual progress.
It is very difficult to get rid of the idea of identification with the body. People in general cannot think beyond the idea of body and mind. But true spiritual progress is possible only when one transcends these limitations. How to solve this riddle? What should be one’s attitude in this regard?
Our shastras say that the body is the medium or the means for spiritual striving or sadhana. So, in the initial years of spiritual life one can assume the idea that the body is the abode of God and view it as something sacred. It is to be taken care of, but at the same time no indulgence should be allowed. The body should not be misused by indulging in too much of bhoga or enjoyment.
Initially, one faces a lot of hurdles, but as one persistently pursues the spiritual ideal, one is able to slowly overcome the identification with the body. In this regard Sri Ramakrishna would give a beautiful example.
“A clay mould is useful only so long as the silver image has not been formed. When accomplished, the mould is destroyed.” Just as the final image, which is made out of silver or gold or some such costly material, is not possible without the initial mould made out of clay, in the same way, the body cannot be ignored in the initial stages of sadhana.
After the final image is cast, one may still retain the clay mould for some time. Thus the spiritual aspirant or sadhaka starts his journey of spiritual striving with the idea of body-mindedness, but through hard and intense spiritual struggle slowly transcends the limitations of the body and realises that one is pure sprite or consciousness. Once the final illumination is attained, it hardly matters whether the body persists or drops away.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 5th July 2014.