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Death does not give you freedom from the body, it just substitutes one body for another. What is meant by 'freedom' in this context is mastery over the demands of the body. The body remains only an instrument and cannot dictate terms to you.
Freedom from the body means the unfailing awareness that the body is 'this' and not 'I". The compulsions of the body like sleep, hunger and thirst belong to 'this' and not to 'me'. You treat your body just as you treat any of your possessions. And the body is a precious possession of an aspirant. He cannot therefore afford to neglect it. A healthy body is necessary for him to pursue spiritual disciplines — a body that can withstand the rigour and strain of sadhana.
A perfectly healthy body would be an ideal instrument. But how many can boast of this privilege? The body is after all a dwelling place of the soul and you have got to pay a regular 'tax' on it. In these days of adulterated food-stuffs and polluted air and water, you have frequent opportunities of paying the tax in the form of various physical disorders. Nevertheless, it is possible to keep the body in a fairly healthy condition by proper diet, suitable physical exercises, and a judicious combination of work and rest (for freedom from body)
The bondage that the body imposes by its demand for sleep, hunger, thirst and creature comforts, can be overcome by a disciplined and goal-oriented life. A spiritual seeker (looking for freedom from body) therefore needs to draw up his own daily routine and stick to it as far as possible. 'Taking life as it comes' may sound a very pragmatic counsel, but nothing could be more disastrous for one who is just embarking upon the spiritual journey. A perfect control over the organs of the body is called dama in Vedanta, and this is an important requirement for spiritual life. When the body comes under control, it ceases to be a bondage and becomes a friend.
The body and the mind, however, are interdependent. When the body is disturbed it affects the mind; when the mind is disturbed it affects the body. Today it is believed that more than half of the physical ailments people suffer from originate in a disturbed and sick mind. A complete control over the body becomes possible only with a complete control over the mind, and the converse is also true.
To be continued
About the author
Swami Tyagananda, of the Ramakrishna Order is presently the head of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston. This write up is an excerpt from his 'Degrees Of Freedom' which is about the ultimate or true freedom, the spiritual freedom.