Sri Ishopanishad: Mantra 11
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.
~Sri Ishopanishad, Mantra Eleven
Some neophytes on the spiritual path may fall into the illusion that taking care of the body is somehow evil, or a sign of spiritual backwardness. Not only may they neglect the needs of the body, but they may go out of their way to actually damage the body. Such people actually hate the body. They see it as a source of misery, and thus they take out their anger on it. This is certainly a mistake.
Masochism can never lead to spiritual perfection. The body is actually a most precious property of the self; it enables the self to engage in various devotional activities that can bring about a change in consciousness. A person's external activities affect his consciousness, and his consciousness affects his external activities. Knowing this, a bhakti yogi consciously chooses to engage in particular external activities in order to bring about the desired spiritual happiness and wisdom.
A person who tries to be a goswami is careful not to engage in those activities that are harmful to his spiritual development. For example, he refrains from taking intoxicants (including all sorts of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and so on); from having illicit sex; from gambling; and from eating meat, fish, and eggs.
If a person engages in the process of bhakti yoga and yet continues to engage in activities that are detrimental to spiritual progress, his spiritual progress will be very slow. This does not mean that a person must be completely free of all bad habits before he can even begin the process of bhakti yoga. For example, in the Philippines, one teacher saved many young people who were addicted to heroin and other drugs by teaching them the process of bhakti yoga. It took some time before they could completely give up all drugs, but eventually they did.
Sometimes a person is still addicted to cigarette smoking or meat-eating. If he follows the process of bhakti yoga, then gradually he will be able to give up such habits. It is a question of tasting a higher taste. If a person engages in the process of bhakti yoga, he will gradually begin to taste the higher spiritual happiness, and he will be able to give up all vices naturally. After he gives up such bad habits, then his progress will be very rapid.