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Namah Journal

The body

The body — our perfect teacher

James Anderson


When we integrate the body in our true growth and progress, it becomes our teacher. To learn we have to listen to it. The unique relation it bears with the soul facilitates this. The author touches on some of his experiences.

The relationship we have with the body reflects our direction in life. At the bottom of the scale, if we totally immerse with it, our nature slumps to an animal level, wallowing in desire and surface needs. All our solutions will be drawn from the material plane and satisfying the body’s demands becomes the calling of our life. When a problem emerges, we automatically seek material answers to it. Our life revolves around a cycle of material extraction and consumption. We walk a treadmill which reinforces this preoccupation with matter. It is a suffocating existence and much of humanity is still trying to claw its way out of this bottomless pit. Our consciousness rarely peers below the surface and there is no way out from the grip of the ego. We are caught inside a net of samsara for many lifetimes until some form of awakening occurs.

When it does awaken, immediately we reach a crossroads where a choice has to be made. Our orientation starts turning inside and if we are to continue to expand and grow we have to decide what we need to do with the body itself. At first it seems inimical to pander to something that has up to now clamped our consciousness so much onto externalities. Indeed it always seems to incessantly drag us backwards! So abstinence and renunciation, for some, become the convenient answer. Such ascetic tendencies are latent in many of us in varying degrees. There is a tendency to by-pass or ignore the vital and physical natures as there seems to be no way of accommodating them in our upward passage. The interests of life and body are so mixed up with each other that shunning them both seems to be the only way to rise up in consciousness. At an extreme level, the desires of the vital are throttled and all communication is cut with the body.

The work of integration

However, there is an alternative and this comes through integration. We can choose to integrate the body together with the rest of our nature, on this passage to self-growth and mastery. There is no ill-will in the body so it will always do its best to collaborate. Indeed, much to my surprise, I found that, as soon as it accepted its dharma, it became my teacher! The work centres on the vehicle of consciousness and the divine seal comes through our Psychic Being1. The aim is to divinise our nature; there are no shortcuts and no parts of our nature can be overlooked.

Everything must be included. Because of this, our development takes a more spherical course, not linear as experienced on the traditional path. For this work, we need to be grounded yet detached at the same time. We station ourselves in the true consciousness. A sincere attitude will eventually yield a well-being independent of all circumstances, a dire necessity in modern-day living. However our whole nature is being addressed and the resistance it throws up often retards our relationship with the soul.

Because of this, progress may appear to be very tardy at times and we have to pass though many phases of darkness and light. As there is ego, duality will persist. The obscurity of the physical may confound us time and again, so we often have to pause to let it catch up. However, all the time it is teaching us something. It reminds us incessantly of our ultimate aim. We are not only fixing ourselves solely upon soul-realisation but also upon the mastery of mind, life and body. It is not really just a matter of personal salvation because this dominion over one’s nature has a ‘cascade effect’ on the world around. Both targets are equally essential in the Plan so the process will always unfold simultaneously.

Nature can reflect soul, the two states become one and indivisible. The work passes through liberation, the aim of traditional practices, but does not stop there. Even the context and implications of our liberation are dissimilar. It is not liberation from our nature but rather liberation in conjunction with our nature that has to be reached. That is because the final destination is totally unique. It aims at the transformation of our entire being, which includes the vagaries of our lower nature. The final link in the chain is the body itself. It is the body that makes transformation complete.

So if we are to get there, we have to guard against the tendency of relegating the body to the background. The body needs our attention. Our health and well-being depend on it. The difficulties that the body so often brings do make it tempting to put its troubles to one side in our daily life. That is my experience, at least. But we have to embrace the darkness that the physical consciousness brings and go through it. And go through it we shall, if we persist. At the end we come back always to the source because involved in all Matter is a shining seed of Truth and we have to identify with that rather than the illusion that appears before our eyes. The trouble is, the illusion seems so immoveable and fixed; the Reality is so masked by form.


We need to build a relationship with this form. We do this through communication; we have to allow the body to speak to us. Much maligned or taken for granted, its signals are often ignored. If the Truth were absent, the body would be totally inarticulate. Most of us will have felt the body’s alarm call when harm or danger is imminent. This happens when the Truth suddenly addresses us. So the first step is to align to this Truth. We do this with the intention of aligning all nature to this Reality. Each of us needs to embrace the fact that we are all the Truth itself: essentially there is nothing else. Even the body, which some consider to be engulfed in Maya, contains this Truth in each of its cells. Everything is That. But we live also in shadows and initially we may find the physical nature somewhat reticent. We have to realise though, that the body is only doing its best. Its consciousness certainly has shortcomings but there is an innate ‘simplicity’ and ‘goodwill’2 about it that makes it a worthy candidate for this work. So we learn to connect it with the psychic influence. We have to somehow build a bridge between body and soul.

As we do this, our body-consciousness gradually and securely refines and develops. As the body-consciousness expands and grows, the physical structure somehow becomes more luminous and transparent, an ever-more perfect transcript of the Truth that has been waiting inside. An independent, living consciousness starts to awake; it begins to reflect the treasure that lies inside. As this consciousness develops, it becomes more and more pliable and transparent. It becomes imbued with Bliss. This has an enormous effect on our health because any type of illness or disease is an anathema to the Truth. Whatever problems have beset it in the past and whatever scars may still be apparent, there will be an enormous wellness that radiates from inside.

Over a period of time, I have become more and more conscious of how good a channel the body can be. When the soul is present, it becomes our most perfect messenger. It offers the ideal gateway to our inner world and provides such a detailed insight of our inner psychology, where every conceivable formation gets imprinted in its cells. When a true connection is present, each will find release and rise to the surface. This brings me back to what I term the ‘sacrifice of the body’. It is on the body that nature and soul are forged; here indeed is the anvil of transformation. When a memory is awakened, bringing a stab of pain to the body, it is offered to the soul to take it away. Every distortion has to be vividly felt on the physical before it can be transformed. The body lays everything bare for the Consciousness to resolve. When active, the Consciousness does the rest; it keeps its station above the body and does not identify with any distortion or pain. But it goes inside and experiences, albeit with a unique perspective. It goes inside, always maintaining its alignment to the Truth. It also imparts knowledge on all it sees: once a problem is seen it becomes known and once it is known it becomes resolved. It is a simultaneous process and this knowledge truly heals. The implications of this work are immense. The body gives itself to the work of transformation. The body offers itself so that a perfect solution to our inner condition can be found. Everything revolves around the sacrifice of the body.

The teacher

Each one of us has our own unique experiences in life and our own particular relationship with the body. For me, it has truly been a catalyst for growth and change. It has propelled me inside; its limitations have forced me to search for solutions within. Really, it has given me the necessary impetus for progress. It has made me step outside my habitual boundaries. It has instilled a greater humility and reinforced a determination to overcome all obstacles. With a tendency to float and drift, it keeps my feet firmly planted on the ground. It always demonstrates what has yet to be accomplished. The body has mapped all my life-movements. Indeed it is only through the promptings of it and the soul that I am here3 at all! Through the vehicle of the body, the soul has charted a chain of synchronicity which keeps drawing me towards my true destiny. It is the Truth within the body which has done all this.

The body is the earth in microcosm. As humanity learns from the earth, each of us learns through our body. We can absorb so much from their example and their sacrifice. The earth yields everything for humanity, as the body sacrifices all for the individual. The body is a symbol of Universal Matter. If the body transforms, the rest will follow. More than any other part of our nature, it is ready to prostrate itself before the Truth. This Truth seeks the fullest possible expression through the body. This is the next step in evolution and where the supreme alchemy will unfold. The time for the body is now.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 6. 2nd ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2003, p. 6.

1 The Divine Person and our soul in evolution. It is central to our transformation, accompanying us through our various lifetimes and its growth and emergence marks the level of spiritual evolution that we have reached.

2“In fact the physical being has a simplicity and even a goodwill, which is not always very enlightened, far from it, but still a simplicity and goodwill which put it in a closer relation with the psychic than the passions of the vital and pretensions of the mind (1).”

3At the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.

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