Translation

 As long as the body breathes, people at home inquire about your welfare. When the breath is gone and the body destroyed, even the wife fears that very body.

 

Interpretation

Having spoken about the approach one must have to wealth and fame in the earlier verse, Shankara is telling us about the role our body plays in our spiritual pursuit.

Unfortunately, we have become a generation of body-worshippers. Most concerned only about the way we look. We have become obsessed with botox and detox. Through this verse, Shankara is trying to tell us that the wrinkles and toxins we need to address are not the ones on our bodies but in our minds. He points out the insignificance of the body in this verse and how even a spouse fears his/her own life partner’s body once the life in it is gone. Our problem is that a majority of our life’s exertions are geared towards satisfying only our physical needs and comforts.

It is true that the body must be nurtured, maintained and well taken care of. But not at the cost of spiritual development. The body must be seen as an instrument to get our spiritual goal of self-purification. We must exercise, keep fit and keep our bodies fighting fit. But at the same time we must put in even greater effort to keep our minds healthy and clean. Free from the wrinkles of selfishness and the toxins of negativity.

Shankara is not trying to say the body is useless. In fact it is an important instrument in our quest to evolve. It must be respected. But only to make our spiritual journey smoother.