Why do we have a physical body? We undergo pain and suffering related to having a body as we age, experience illness, injury, the infirmities of old age, and eventually the process of death of the body, in some cases through very painful means. Those who conclude that the body is purely an obstacle to the operation of the higher forces such as the spiritual force, or even the purely mental force, work to minimize the needs and demands of the body, and in some cases, work to drop it away entirely, with the idea that they will then be able to experience their spiritual nature untrammeled by the dense physical body (an assumption which, however, is not possible to be proven conclusively by those of us who remain in the body).

The body however does have an important role in the evolution of consciousness. To appreciate this, it is first necessary to have at least a basic understanding of the way the vital plane and other higher planes of consciousness operate. The vital plane is a place of fluidity and intense interaction between the various vital forces. This tends to create an intermingling of the energies and it is therefore virtually impossible to create a separate individualised nexus of consciousness such as we have with the physical body, which thereby becomes the basis for the development of the higher mental and spiritual levels in the divine manifestation, as they tend to develop most effectively in single points rather than in the broad amorphous mass, and expand their influence horizontally through that point of emergence.

Sri Aurobindo writes in Thoughts and Glimpses: “The limitations of the body are a mould; soul and mind have to pour themselves into them, break them and constantly remould them in wider limits till the formula of agreement is found between this finite and their own infinity.”

A disciple asks: “Sweet Mother, how should we understand: ‘the limitations of the body are a mould.’? “

The Mother writes: “If you did not have a body with a precise form, if you were not a formed individuality, fully conscious and having its own qualities, you would all be fused into one another and be indistinguishable. Even if we go only a little inwards, into the most material vital being, there is such a mixture between the vibrations of different people that it is very difficult to distinguish any of you. And if you did not have a body, it would be a sort of inextricable pulp. Therefore, it is the form, this precise and apparently rigid form of the body, which distinguishes you one from another. So this form serves as a mould. (Speaking to the child) Do you know what a mould is? — yes! One pours something inside, in a liquid or semi-liquid form, and when it cools down one can break the mould and have the object in a precise form. Well, the form of the body serves as a mould in which the vital and mental forces can take a precise form, so that you can become an individual being separate from others.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 6, Some Answers and Explanations, pp. 153-154

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 19 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.