It dawns on me now just how often I spoke and wrote about the concept that “I am not this body” [during the early 1990s] – following the lead of the vast, vast majority of Hare Krishna devotees I looked up to. Oddly, Vedic texts don’t exactly present this idea in so many words. They say ahaṁ brahmāsmi, but that means “I am brahman” / “I am consciousness” / “I am spirit.” This is a positive assertion, notably different from the negation, “I am not this body.” The Vedas certainly explain that consciousness is distinct from the body as its origin and foundation, as an eternal constant from which various bodies emerge as temporary projections. But I didn’t seem to get the part about how my body and soul were intrinsically related. All I seemed to grasp was that the body was not the essence of my true self, and I stretched that thin as taffy to mean “I’m not this body and that’s all there is to it.” It seems I wanted to believe that I had nothing to do with my body at all, as if it something I picked up by chance one day at a flea market.
But why? Why was I so eager to create a chasm between me and my body? There was nothing wrong with it. It wasn’t sick, or ugly, or handicapped. I guess there was a psychological motive: If I had nothing to do with my body, it felt so much more reasonable to completely divorce myself from things related to it: like parents and family. It felt so much less scary to destroy everything that could protect its long term welfare: like my education, career, and so on.