We are Not the Body

Published on February 24th, 2017 | by Madhudvisa dasa


You’re Not the Body!

The beginning of spiritual life is to realize “Your not the body.” It’s very easy to say. And fairly easy to understand from an intellectual point of view. But, because we have been so conditioned to accept our bodies as ourselves and our whole existence in the material world is based on this misconception of thinking that I am the body, it is very difficult for us to give up this bodily concept of life and realize in truth that “I am not this body — I am the spirit soul trapped in this body.”

Firstly let us try to understand this concept in theory. According to the Bhagavad-gita we have three bodies. We have the material body, the physical body, made of earth, water, air, fire and ether. Then we have the subtle body which is also material but composed of the more subtle elements: mind, intelligence and false ego [ego means identity]. Both the subtle and material bodies are coverings over our real spiritual body. The Bhagavad-gita likens the gross and subtle bodies to clothing that is put on and which is covering the real spiritual body underneath:

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.22)

Therefore our material bodies are just like clothing the soul is wearing. Today I am wearing an orange shirt, but tomorrow I may wear a blue shirt. So because I am going to wear a different shirt tomorrow does that mean I will be a different person. No, of course not. I can change my clothes unlimited times but still I remain the same person. So now my body is an Australian man’s body, but soon I will be forced to change to a different body but, just like when I change my shirt, I will remain the same person.

We can directly perceive that our bodies are changing while our identity remains constant. I can remember what I did when I was a child, but if I look at the photos of me when I was a child the child’s body I had then has gone now, it does not exist. Now I am in an old man’s body. My current body has no similarity whatsoever to the body I had when I was a child. Still I know that was me. I remember having that body of a child. So I know that I am the same person who was in that child’s body. But that child’s body is completely gone now. Even the scientists estimate that within 7 years all of the cells within the body are replaced. So even from a scientific point of view I must have changed my body completely about eight times since I had that child’s body. So we can perceive that we are changing bodies, yet remaining the same person, even in this life.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bhagavad-gita 2.13)

Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change. This individual soul finally changes the body at death and transmigrates to another body. As I have explained we can actually perceive that we are accepting different bodies in this life yet we know that we remain the same person. So this is absolute proof that we are not the material body. We are something distinct from the material body. And the Bhagavad-gita clearly identifies us as ‘the embodied soul’. So we are a spirit soul trapped in a material body.

An good way of understanding the material body is that it is a machine made of the material energy.

The body itself is not alive. The body only appears alive because of the presence of the spirit soul. As soon as the spirit soul leaves the body it is just a lifeless pile of flesh, bones, blood, etc. So the body is a machine made of the material energy and this machine of the material body can be utilized by us, the occupier of the bodies. So we can utilize this material body in the same way we can utilize any other machine. For example a motor car. That is also a machine made of the material energy and we can use the car to carry us to the places we want to visit. The motor car has some needs. We need to supply it with fuel, we need to get it serviced and put air in the tires, etc. With the motor car we understand that we are not the motor car, but that the car is a machine and we can use it for our benefit. The material body is also a machine and we can also use the material body for our benefit. But the problem is we misidentify ourselves with the body.

Like the car, the material body also has some needs. It needs some food, it needs some sleep, to reproduce sex is needed and it needs to be defended from dangerous things. But these are not our needs, they are not the needs of the spirit soul. They are the needs of the material body which is just a machine like the motor car. Our needs, the needs of the spirit soul, are quite different.

We are the driver of the body in the same way as we can be the driver in the car. So if someone misidentifies the car as himself and thinks that simply by satisfying the needs of the car he will be happy, that will not be a very successful program. He can supply any amount of fuel and oil to the car, but that will never satisfy his hunger. Because he is not the car, he is the driver of the car. His needs are different from the needs of the car.

So as  we maintain the car nicely and keep it clean and supply it with fuel and oil, similarly we have to supply our material bodies with the things they require for maintenance and keep our bodies clean, etc. But as the fuel and oil are not the food of the driver of the car, the needs of the body are not the needs of the spirit soul, the driver of the body.

The whole world is going on under the misconception of the bodily concept of life. Practically everyone is misidentifying himself with his body and is thinking that if he can satisfy the senses of the body he will be happy. But this is not successful for anyone. All our attempts to become happy by satisfying the senses of our bodies are doomed to failure because we are not the material bodies. The soul needs spiritual food, spiritual satisfaction.

By intelligence only one can understand things as they are. By intelligence only can one understand whether or not he is the body. The study to determine whether one’s identity is spiritual or material begins in doubt. When one is able to analyze his actual position, the false identification with the body is detected. When false identification is detected, then real identification can be understood. Real understanding is proved experimental knowledge. This experimental knowledge can be achieved when one has understood the false knowledge. By experimental or proved knowledge, one can understand that he is not the body but spirit soul.

A devotee has no more bodily interest.

He knows that he is not the body.

From the very beginning, therefore, without wasting time, a devotee searches out a pure devotee and simply by his association becomes advanced in spiritual consciousness. Because a devotee knows that he is not the body, he is never affected by bodily happiness or distress. He is not interested in bodily relationships with wife, children, home, bank balance, etc., or in the distress and happiness which come from these things. This is the special advantage of being a devotee. This status of life is possible only when a person is interested in associating with a pure devotee, who always enjoys the fragrance of the lotus feet of the Lord.

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About the Author

My first contact with a Hare Krishna was a most merciful Mataji in Oxford Street, London who sold me a "Higher Taste" cook book in 1984 while I was on holidays there. I started seriously reading Srila Prabhupada's books in Australia 1985 and by 1986 Srila Prabhupada had convinced me "Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead" and "we should surrender to Krishna." I joined the Hare Krishnas in Perth, Western Australia in 1986. Since then I have been chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, reading and distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and preaching as much as I can. That's my life and full-time occupation now really. I like it more than anything I've ever experienced before. Srila Prabhupada's books are so amazing... Even after reading them all many times they're still fresh and new. They are truly transcendental! That's it really. Now I'm just hankering to once again see the world chant Hare Krishna, dance and feast and float away in the ecstasy of Lord Caitanya's Sankirtana movement as it did in Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. Let the whole world drown in the ecstatic flood of love of Krishna!

33 Responses to You’re Not the Body!

  1. suresh babu says:

    Guruji Pranams

    You said the physical body and subtle bodies are the cloths of spiritual body. then next life the persons mind intelligence and ego will be different from the previous one.

    • No. Subtle body goes with the spirit soul from one material body to the next. It is only if the soul becomes liberated and goes back to the spiritual world, then only the spirit soul goes back home back to Godhead. Otherwise, if he is taking another material body, then it is the mind, intelligence and ego, subtle body, that carries the spirit soul to its next material body.

  2. Tapas says:

    Hare Krishna Prabhuji

    Thanks for such an elaborate explanation which is self explanatory of the truth of living body and and spiritual soul. Our endeavour is to remove all the misgivings of our conditioned soul and sparkle the spiritual soul residing within us to connect with supreme Lord for infinite bliss and transcendental joy.
    Thanks for the inspirational message

  3. Mishra Bhagavan Dasa says:

    May you please help me to find the 1st canto of Srimad Bhagavatam printed by Srila Prabhupada before coming to America?

  4. Shashi Das says:

    thanku so much.

  5. Dhaneswar munda says:

    Hare krishna…Thank you very much sir, for enlightening me a lot almost regularly..So please kindly keep on enlightening this fallen soul, as much as possible for which I,the fallen soul shall remain grateful to you till the last respiration of this material body within which this fallen soul is entrapped since birth …once again thank you very much…Hare krishna…

  6. kan says:

    Thank you for the reply.
    my question now is how do I find a devote.

  7. Jim says:

    I am 76 years old. Only in the last year have I begun to seek Truth. I feel that I may be too old to awaken – my ego has grown and calcified to the point that my efforts at non-duality are doomed to failure. Can you offer me any hope ?

    • Hare Krishna Jim

      Yes. We are not the material body. That point we have to realize. We are the spirit soul trapped in the material body. As spirit souls we are eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. So if we can realize this first point, that I am not the body, I am a spirit soul. Then it is irrelevant what age our material body is.

      So Krishna consciousness is good for everyone, it does not matter how old or young our material body is. Krishna consciousness is an activity of the soul, not the body.

      So do it. Become Krishna conscious. Chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day, strictly follow the four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication and read Srila Prabhupada’s books at least 1-2 hours a day.

      The thing is we have to become totally absorbed in Krishna consciousness. Because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. As soon as we stop serving Srila Prabhupada and Krishna maya is ready to get us engaged in serving darkness.

      So becoming Krishna consciousness means learning how to live our lives in a way where we are constantly engaged in serving Krishna 24 hours a day. Srila Prabhupada is teaching this art in his books. Please read Srila Prabhupada’s books and follow the instructions he gives you as you read them and you will make rapid advancement in spiritual life and you will feel good also.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

    • Barrat says:

      Hare bol you are not too old to realize the Lord, at the time of death what ones remember at very last moment that’s the body he will get.

  8. Leif Fjeldberg says:

    Dear friends!
    Thank you for newsletter. Very, Very interesting.
    Warm regards from

  9. dilip kumar mehrotra says:

    Is spirit soul varies from person to person? If spirit soul is part of Lord Krishna then why nature of person varies. Within the same family, having the same sanskara, a person is different in nature.

    • Hare Krishna Dilip

      Yes. Spirit soul is individual in every person. Spirit soul is an individual person. All spirit souls are different persons. But Supersoul is also there with us in our hearts. So Supersoul is one, same in every person.

  10. Shashikumar says:

    Perfect exploration regarding three bodies, It’s really ambrosia.

  11. sachin says:

    Hare krsna Madhudvisa prabhu,it is very difficult to root this basic spiritual knowledge in mind,heart and intelligence,I think self realisation is practically impossible in this age due to heavy wings of kali yuga blowing every where the modes of ignorance and passion.But Srila prabhupad said “The best means of spiritual realisation in this age is the chanting the holy name of the lord”,But i like very much hearing Srila prabhupad japa, kirtans ,lectures etc..Do u think that,Any one who want spiritual advancement must chant Hare krsna?The problem is I cannot concentrate when i chant Hare krsna mantra,will u instruct me how to chant attentively?

    • Hare Krishna Sachin

      Yes. The ONLY WAY for spiritual advancement in Kali-yuga is chanting Hare Krishna.

      So if you want to advance then you have to chant Hare Krishna. It is a very simple thing. Just chant it:

      Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
      Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

      So simple, even a child has no problems chanting Hare Krishna.

      So just do it. It is easy. It does not matter if you can concentrate or not. We are not saying concentrate, we are saying chant the Hare Krishna mantra and hear it, at least 16 rounds a day, so simple thing. So just do it…

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  12. T S Venkatesh says:

    Really a very good teaching regarding the body

    Hara Krishna

  13. roger vilfort says:

    Hare krishna ,

    Thank you for the last article . it’s inspiring .
    I have a question : can you please share with me a few miracles of Krishna in the lives of Hare Krishna devotees . Are there , for example , genuine , documented cases of Krishna healing miraculously devotees with cancer or any incurable diseases ?

    thank you very much.

    Hare Krishna

    • Hare Krishna Roger

      No. Devotees have no interest in that sort of thing. We do not ask Krishna to do anything for us. We ask Krishna to engage us in His service. That is all. A devotees prayer is simply: “Krishna, Please engage me in Your service.” We do not want Krishna to serve us. We want to serve Krishna.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  14. sakthi murugan says:

    That means we have to act such that not indulging deeply in any activities.h ow to remain calm,silent and humble…..

    • It does not mean we should not perform any activities. We are active by nature. We can not stop performing activities. We have to act for Krishna. We have to work for Krishna. It is not necessary that we may be calm, silent, etc. Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita is encouraging Arjuna to become angry, to fight, to kill his family members. So Arjuna got angry for Krishna, this is devotional service. Acting for Krishna, working for Krishna, doing what Krishna wants us to do. Not that we will always remain calm, silent. Of course a devotee is always humble. But still he has to work for Krishna in whatever way Krishna wants him to work.

  15. P Satyanarayanadas says:

    Hare Krishna
    The title – You are not the body – is well explained. True, in the material world, it is impractical to detach body from the daily life thinking to deal with routines unless one renunciate worldly affairs. Holy Bhagawatgita says exercise positive wisdom, in dealing with others, pray God, and leave egoism and proudiness (as we have to leave this life one day as a dress-change) and not ask God anything and HE cares such devote in all respects for a perfect peaceful life and eternal Bliss.
    Hare Krishna.

  16. Arun says:

    I feel material body is driven by spiritual body which is under control of Absolute power.

    • Actually yes, we have a spiritual body and that is driving the material body and it is under the control, ultimately, of Absolute power, that is Krishna. But Krishna has given us a little independence. So He has allowed us some free choice. So we have misused that free choice. That is why we are now in the material world, not in the spiritual world with Krishna.

  17. Himadri sarkar says:

    HarA Krishna. I am practicing Krishna mahanam since 2 years. But till now I am unable to control my emotions ,wishes and my material body. I just want to purify my soul as well as my body to test the real fruit of Krishna name. Direct me to right direction.

    • The right direction is Srila Prabhupada. Read his books and actually follow his instructions and you will be able to control your emotions, wishes and your material body. It is a scientific process but you have to follow it. To start it you have to at least surrender to chanting at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day, strictly follow the four regulative principles: no illicit sex, no meat eating, no gambling and no intoxication and read Srila Prabhupada’s books at least 1-2 hours a day. If you do not do all these things at least then there is no question of Krishna consciousness and no possibility to control your senses, etc,

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

  18. Pramada dasi says:

    Pradeep kumar Rana’s question is very important for everyone, especially those not in the renounced orders of life. The teachings of our acharyas is clear – that we should view everything as belonging to Krishna, and this includes all living beings. Vaishnavas care about the well being of all souls, and this includes physical well being as well as the vital spiritual well being. Serving Krishna does not mean that we should neglect our responsibilities, even our Srila Prabhuapada stayed at home with wife and children until he had grown up sons, even though his wife was not helpful in his service to Krishna.

    Trying to help those in our care get closer to Krishna is very pleasing to Him. Srila Bhaktivinoda is another perfect example; and he states in his poems, that his household was not “his” – it was Krishna’s household, and he, Bhaktivinoda, was merely Krishna’s servant and caretaker. With a surrendered attitude, even household life can become Krishna centered and the path to perfection in spiritual life.

    • Yes. But very often the members of the household have no serious interest in Krishna consciousness. In that case there is no use staying with them. Of course if the members of the family are serious about Krishna consciousness and want to work together as a family to serve Srila Prabhupada and Krishna and all get out of bed before 4:00 and attend mangal-aroti, morning program, kirtan, etc, etc, and all strictly follow the four regulative principles and chant at least 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra every day and are enthusiastic to spread Krishna consciousness all over the world there is no need to ever leave such a family!

      But in reality such a family is very rare. So if the family is not interested in Krishna consciousness there is no need to stay with the family.

      Our duty is to serve Srila Prabhupada and Krishna. Our duty is to become free from the bodily concept of life. It is only because of the materialistic bodily concept of life that I think I am attached to a particular family. That is maya. And that family attachment is a great problem for advancing in Krishna consciousness. So unless the family is actually prepared to become Krishna consciousness one can give up that family.

  19. Pradeep kumar Rana says:

    How can I overcome responsibilities like Looking After aged Parents, Bringing up Children to the age of 25yrs, giving company to the girl Whom I married, Maintenance of immovable property of parents acquired through their hard labour while wish to serve the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna?

    • Do it till you have some adult son and then hand over the family responsibilities to him then you can concentrate your time and energy fully on Krishna consciousness.

    • Pramada dasi says:

      Replying to Pradeep Kumar Rana and Madhudvisa dasa –

      A couple of more considerations as to renouncing household life. Our Srila Prabhupad was married to a wife who did not support his service to Krishna and was even sometimes an impediment. He did not leave her but stayed supporting his wife and children until sons were old enough to carry on the responsibility, while at the same time serving his Guru and Krishna.

      A bit of my background, very short: in 1971 around the time Srila Prabhupada kindly initiated me, he was in LA giving a lecture while I was there. At one point he pounded on the arm of his vyasasana and shouted, loudly: “You distribute my books. Why don’t you read them? Why don’t you read them? Why don’t you read them?” I then took as my life and soul, reading and studying his books, and have spent much of my life distributing books in my own small way. Nowhere in his books has he ever said that every family member must be chanting 16 rounds and getting up for arati at 4:00 AM or the husband should leave the family. If family members commit blasphemy to the pure devotee or Krishna or try to stop the devotee in the family from chanting, of course such a family has to be rejected. But if family members are favorable and amenable, it may take some time for them to become committed devotees.

      After he came to America and had many disciples, he regretted that his temples were become refuges for rejected widows and wives, as some of his male disciples were whimsically leaving behind their wives and children on the plea that family responsibilities were hampering their service to Krishna. Many women and children were left behind in the dust, unprotected and prey to predators or in great difficulties, and Srila Prabhupad has never taught this.

      His own life as a responsible householder is an example. Jiva daya – kindness to living beings – is a foundational principle of Krishna bhakti, and this also means mercy to those who, by Krishna’s arrangement, we find ourselves connected to for a while in this life. There are many ways that family members can be attracted to Krishna and become devotees, in time. Seeing all living beings as Krishna’s dear parts and parcels is essential, and that everyone belongs to Him, rather than seeing spirit souls as some kind of obstacles I need to get rid of so I can be liberated.

      Srila Prabhupada loved everyone and knew just how to treat everyone, and his shining love can be a guiding light for all.

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