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


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Layered Matter

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'. (Please see the label at side bar of same name to locate publications availability.)

Last week we saw that 'life is defined as a continuous series of experiences'. Have your notebooks at the ready!  The Sanskrit term for this definition is  अनुभवधार/anubhavadhaaraa. (anubhava = knowledge derived from personal experience, impression left on the mind not from memory; dhaaraa = continuous.)

We have also seen that the Rsis broke down 'experience' into three distinct parts; experiencER, experiencED and experiencING.  The particular area of interest to our magnificent forefathers was the field of the experiencER. This is the 'subject' in the fullest sense of the meaning, whilst material scientists tend to look to physical world - i.e. the object being experiencED. Study of the experiencER, whilst scientific in its approach and rigorous analysis, is called as philosophy. Study of that which is experiencED is simply called as science.

The aim of the Rsis was to assist man in rising above the physical aspects of the world, thus minimising or avoiding the trials and tribulations thereof. Not so much the raising of the standard of living (the goal of the physical sciences) but of raising the standard of life itself. In researching thusly, taking into consideration that every individual has a different experience of the same event or object, it was determined that there are four components to the personality; mind, intellect, ego and 'memory'.  We shall look at these more closely soon, but it is important to grasp that these subtle aspects are wrapped in a physical structure.  Let us now explore this.

Firstly, it is determined that there is 'spark of life', something that as yet defeats all material scientists in the definition of what exactly is life.  This divine spark is called as  आत्मन/aatman, the Self with the capital 'ess'. The Rsis determined that this Self was present in all life.  In the human creature it is wrapped up in five layers of matter, ranging form the gross to the subtle and that these five 'sheaths' can be categorised into three 'bodies'.

To represent aatman diagramatically, we have OM. It sits above all else. It is unsullied, ever-present and knows no change. It is the 'sword' which, although it is encased in its scabbard (sheath), is not a part of that material.

Now let us come down to the bottom of our particular 'pile'. The bit we are most familiar with; the gross body.  The Sanskrit (technical term) is श्तूल/shtuula shariira. Gross body pertains to the most material of the sheaths, which is  अन्नमय/annamaya kosha, or the food sheath. It is called thus not only because the gross body requires food as fuel, but also because it can become food itself and is made up only of foodstuffs. This is the essence of the body belonging to the earth, being made up of all the same elements as all other material substances, just in a different formula. Right from womb to tomb, all that keeps it going is the input of food, nutrients which constitute a varied amount of each of the same elements of which it is made in order to keep it in balance.  We shall learn more of this gross body soon, but be aware that it has many sub-categories also, not least of which are the  इन्द्रीयाः/indriya-s - the organs of interaction.

Moving into the subtle body ( सूक्ष्म  शरीर/suukshma shariira) we find there are three kosha-s linked to it.

First is that of  प्राणमय कोष/praanamaya kosha, which is the sheath of the Vital Airs. The term 'praana' is used to refer to the five airs as a whole, but is in fact the first component of the five.  प्राण/Praana as such is the connector, the control centre for the airs to respond to the input via the sense organs. Each of the remaining four 'airs' are reactions to input.  अपान /apaana is the facilitator of excretion; everything which is of no worth to the body must be thrown out of it, including vomit, perspiration, urine and so on. It relates to the colon and all glandular function.  समान/samaana facilitates digestion within the stomach and small intestine.  व्यान/vyaana takes over from digestion by ensuring circulation of nutrients to the various body parts. The blood and plasma are therefore under its influence.  उदान/udaana is the facilitator of thinking processes. It ensures that each individual has the capacity to raise their thoughts to ever higher possibilities. Note that each of the individual praana-s is not a kosha, but the five together become the praanamaya kosha.

Second kosha in suukshma shariira is  मनोमय कोष/manomaya kosha, the mental sheath. Here we find the understanding that the praana-s and therefore the shtuula cannot function without some 'organiser'. Manomaya is the regulator insofar as, if the mind becomes disordered in any fashion (positive or negative reaction to situation), then the praanas react in an attempt to preserve the body. Some of this will be at the instinctual level, hardwired through our limbic system and ANS, but there is another part which is a controlled, considered, higher-functioning aspect within the cerebral cortex. The Rsis understood this and thus also presented us with the third kosha,  विज्ञानमय  कोष/vijnaanamaya kosha. The intellectual part of our nature.

We shall take up the comparison between 'mind' and 'intellect' next week. Do be sure to take note of the Sanskrit (technical) terms as these will be used much and familiarity is best built early.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative definition of life and body,Yamini. All these annamaya to vijnamaya pertaining to intellect make think more about it.Useful read.


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