Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


Here is a place to linger, to let your intellect roam. Aatmaavrajanam is being written as a progressive study and, as such, can be read like a book. Anyone arriving at any time can simply start at the very first post and work their way through at their own pace. Please take time to read the info tabs and ensure you don't miss a post, by subscribing to the blog. Interaction is welcomed. Don't be a spectator - be a participator!

Grasping Steam

Hari OM

Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!

We are now undertaking basic technical discourse on Vedanta. The text forming the basis of these posts is 'Kindle Life'.

We have been looking at the 'material' structure of our existence through the panchakosha-s; the five sheaths of substance ranging from the gross through to the subtle. We are at the Aanandamaya kosha.  The Bliss Sheath.

This is the most subtle of our material 'envelopes' - remember we are discussing here the physical manifestations of the Great Self when it takes form and the "We" is the expression of that Self in its state of maya (delusion). This is why each kosha has 'maya' attached at the end of its name, to remind us that none of these conditionings is, in fact, Reality. In terms of this pyramidal illustration, bliss is the closest in form to the Self, or in other diagrammatical representations it can be thought of as the innermost part of our structure. (Neither illustration is the full picture of course!) Aanandamaya can be a hurdle for the spiritual seeker because it can lead to false samaadhi.

Aanandamaya is not the Self but gives us a sense of the possibility of existence beyond the physical. It is actually made up of  आविद्य/avidyaa, ignorance. This is ignorance of the True Self and is associated with the deep-sleep state of consciousness. Every single one of us, regardless of who or where we are,  has experienced a level of deep sleep which, on rising back through dream into waking state we shake ourselves off and declare "oh that was blissful!"

In the state itself we know nothing so cannot say that we are in bliss whilst experiencing it, but the memory is there of having 'known nothing' and that it brought relief from the turmoil of life, thus we consider it blissful.

Nevertheless, aanandamaya is still a condition in which our vaasana-s lie and therefore it is governor of our intellect and, by default, all other sheaths. Therefore [technical note!] whenever reference is made to the following, know that all are but synonyms for aanandamaya kosha;

  • वासनाः/vaasana-s - the tendencies, habits, motivational drivers
  • आविद्य/avidyaa - the condition of not knowing, i.e. ignorance
  • आभावन/aabhaavana - non-comprehension (or non-apprehension) of the state of things; if one doesn't know what to look for how can one see it?
  • कारण शरीर/kaarana shariira - causal body
  • तैजस/taijasa - deep sleep state.

All these terms are interchangeable, yet each has its own quality also. These words are used often, so it pays to learn the Sanskrit terminology; you will find with each level of learning that another dimension of understanding is added yet the names remain the same. Rarely does a Sanskrit word have a solitary co-responding translation.

आत्मन्/Aatman is at the core (or the pinnacle) of the sheaths. It is not itself a kosha, but is the separated part of the whole which puts on the sheaths, as if they were clothing. The clothes we wear are not us (though there are some who would have society believe otherwise!). Equally, the sheaths are not the aatman.

By describing the aatman as being 'within', subtlest of the subtle, it can seem as if we are describing something infinitely small. Far from it! Aatman is the most expansive of all. It is Everything. It is that which pervades and informs everything that we perceive and is, in truth, that which governs all. It is the very subtlety which permits the pervasiveness. The example given by Gurudev in our text is that of ice (solid and restricted in where it can go), water (subtler than the ice which it was and pervasive but only at certain levels) and steam (subtler state which can pervade levels that water cannot)… all are water in different and ever more subtle states. From this we extrapolate that the annamaya kosha is restricted and cannot expand (beyond its skin); praanamaya pervades all of annamaya but also can extend into the space around annamaya; manomaya contains the ability to 'travel, and is therefore unrestricted by annamaya, yet is still contained within fields of perception and what is known; vijnaanamaya can then use what mind has given and go one step further, postulating something beyond the known, flying into the realms of imagination; aanandamaya moves around and within all these yet can also go where they cannot - into nothingness. Aatman, though, is separate. It exists even when these matter envelopes do not.

On the pyramid image, we can see reference to shtuula shariira and suukshma shariira. The gross is clearly related to annamaya; however it can also include praanamaya, though not shown thus here. We shall explore more on praanmaya and why there can be this confusion of whether shtuula or suukshma are applicable to the vital airs. The mano and vijnana sheaths are easy to understand as being suukshma. The reason aanandamaya is called as 'causal' is that is consists of vaasana-s and these 'cause' our misperception and control our actions. All of these envelope the aatman, which is the Consciousness, or the Life Principle.

We shall continue this analysis next workings-day. Do remember to utilise the little book which will become your best friend for referring to the technical words. If you have them noted down, when they appear again, you will not have to page back and search wildly through posts to ascertain meaning. Just as, if you go to a biology or anatomy class, you are expected to learn the language components which pertain only to that discipline, so it is that there are certain terminologies within Vedanta which cannot be escaped!  

one of Yamini-amma's many notebooks!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hari OM
If what you have read has made you think, tell me why. If you are wondering, others are too, so ask that question. If you have a doubt, let it out.

Please note that only members of this blog can leave comments. You are respectfully requested to refrain from entering hyperlinks to other sites. You may otherwise find your comment deleted. Thank you for your courtesy.