How can one realize and live the truth that we are not the body, but spirit soul, and yet remain skilled and safely competent in the physical life as well? For example, avoiding harm while using a knife to cook for Krishna?
by Laxmimoni dasi
Realization of "you're not this body" takes place in stages. To begin with, one at least understands on the intellectual level, that I, the soul, am different from the body. The body dies, but the soul is eternal. We see, even as we mature, that the body goes through changes yet we, the soul, remember those different bodies, in retrospect, as "mine." When the soul leaves the body, the body is easily determined to be just a lump of matter.
Without the presence of the soul, no one - no matter how beloved in life - wants to remain in proximity to the body for any length of time. Without the consciousness, which is a symptom of the soul, the body is no longer attractive.
That said, however, the body is our vehicle, with which we have to execute our activities in this life. How we use the both our gross and subtle (mind, intelligence and false ego) bodies will determine our future home....whether we stay in the material world or return to the spiritual world.
We can hone the body for various tasks, both higher and lower. We can train and become an athlete, study and become a scholar, or practice devotional service and become a devotee; all of these can be done to whatever degree we choose, to achieve whatever goal we set for ourselves. But the body is our vehicle; without it we can't act properly in this world. And just as whatever body we have now is the reaction of our past decisions, we are now creating our next situation for the future. Therefore, we must use this body wisely.
The way we use this tool shows Krishna our degree of love for Him. Whatever we do - whether it is sharpening a knife for cooking food for Him, or becoming expert in our job and then offering the fruits of that labor to Him - He is interested in the intention behind what we do, the REASON that we do the things we do, using the vehicle that He has given us to work with.
In the Bhagavad Gita the 9th chapter focuses on this point – engaging whatever we do, whatever we offer or give in Krishna's service. That is the point of Bhakti Yoga and the culmination of our devotional endeavor. When we can focus on using the body exclusively for Him - and minimize time and energy spent on material, bodily sense enjoyment - accepting only what we need to keep body and soul together, then we've achieved the goal of spiritual life.
I hope that is helpful.