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


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About The Body

Hari OM

'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]

Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. Please use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text.

The enquiry into Truth was begun  with the shishya asking the Guru what exactly was the nature of the enquiry of Vedanta, to which the answer was an enquiry into Truth, that Truth being the Self.  The shishya wanted to have the Self defined and we learned that it is not of anything that we currently know, all of which must be negated in order to reach what is essentially undefinable, That which remains in its condition ever and always, the condition being of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, ever witnessing of play of Maya.  It is short response carrying import beyond full understanding of the beginner. The entire text following (and all other gradually more complex texts) are there to assist the seeker of that Self in grappling with this import. Learning first to negate - what is and what is not. Everything which is perceived is 'not', for everything, even the universe, has finity inbuilt. The only truly infinite is Self/existence, in the form of Consciousness and Bliss. Knowing this is the goal, the sadhaka sets off on the journey of discovery, ever enquiring and testing out what is heard in response. [FYI; when studying this text at Sandeepany, we had some four hours of discourse on 'mithya' and 'aatmaa' definitions alone! As you read here, be continually aware that there is limitation in this process via blog; you must take it and work it around deeply within yourselves - this is the purpose of Vedanta after all!]

The structure of the prakarana grantha is such that there is supreme logic in the q&a process. Responses to each question ought, automatically, to prompt pertinent enquiry from the shishya - even as you read here, see if you have the question in your own mind, in the manner of the shishya of the text. This is important - seeing thought flow of the Guru. In the last section there was mention of things such as gross, subtle and causal bodies. Therefore, now the Knowledge-hungry student wants more detail on the individual components which were told about.

/shariira-traya (the three bodies).
  1. /sthuula shariira (gross body).

स्थूलशरीरं किम्                            sthuulashariiraM kim ?
पञ्चीकृत-प्अञ्चमहाभूतैः कृतं सत्कर्मजन्यं       pa~nciikR^ita-p!a~ncamahaabhuutaiH kR^itaM satkarmajanyaM
सुख़दुःख़ादि-भोगायतनं शरीरम्                 suKaduHKaadi-bhogaayatanaM shariiram
अस्ति जायते वर्धते विपरिणमते अपक्षीयते       asti jaayate vardhate vipariNamate apaxiiyate
विनस्श्यतीति षड्विकारवदेतत् स्थूलशरीरम्।      vinasshyatiiti ShaDvikaaravadetat sthuulashariiram.
"What is this gross body?"
"That which is made up of the five great elements that have undergone the process of panchiikarana, born as a result of the good actions of the past, the counter of experiences like joy, sorrow etc and subject to the six modifications, namely, to exist, to be born, to grow, to mature, to decay and to die, is the gross body."

Currently, all we 'know' is in the gross only - hence teaching starts with the familiar.

The word shariira comes from the verbal root शृ /shR, which means 'to decay'; and we know this fact, that the body is in a constant state of decay throughout life from the moment of birth! The body can be perceived by all our senses, whether our own internal ones, or by the senses of others. This physical awareness is referred to as being 'gross'. From what does the shariira arise? What does it become at the time of departure? Nothing but the same elemental materials as the entire physical world. It is recognised as such in the biblical term of 'from dust to dust'. The great Rsis determined that there were five basic elements from which all material can be formed.

Bear in mind also, that whilst the body arises from the panchamahaabhutaiH and returns there also, it is at not time separate from them throughout its living existence either. It is simply that the elements have been enlivened by the existence principle, activating and motivating and using the matter substance as a 'vehicle'.

The five elements are आकाश /aakasha, वायु /vaayu, अग्नि /agni, जल /jal and पृथिवी /prthivii. Space, air, fire, water and earth. (Memorise the names for now. Much study will come on these.) The elements exist at the most subtle level as तन्मत्राः /tanmatras and only by process of "mix'n'match" do they start to build into ever less subtle substances and finally manifest as gross material. The process of the permutation and combination of the tanmatras is called as panchiikarana.

The shariira is nothing but all of these in a certain combination. Yet the "I" inside starts to call it as its own and think if separate from all material! In Vedanta, we can begin to understand and objectify even our own bodies, knowing them to be 'different from ME'.

Further, the Guru has indicated that the body we are born into represents a fructification of past actions (karma). We know that human birth, on this Earth, is of the highest form, taking us above the average in the animal world. It is not to say that the rest of the animal and elemental world is nothing compared to the human; but rather, in this condition we are at the culmination of a very, very long process of spiritual travelling and can now make serious choices as to whether or not we wish to continue along the eternal cycle of birth, life, death or seek to determine the Truth of our existence - beyond the scientific, which is grand indeed, but remains only in the material world. We have, as humans, an intellect. It is a powerful tool, with which we can discriminate between right and wrong, real and unreal etc. Knowing our uniqueness, we must not waste the opportunity to rise beyond the physical.

This body is our 'shop counter', our vehicle of experience. In it we go through the whole gambit of all possible emotions and transactions. Furthermore, there are six modifications (shadvikaaravat) during its existence. There is asti (existence), considered to be the moment of conception in the womb. Then comes jaayate (being born). Next is vadhate (growing) through nourishment by food. Fourth is viparinamate, the process of maturation, moving from childhood to adulthood and so on. This is followed by apakshiiyate (decay) - though strictly speaking this is a life long process, it becomes apparent to us as we move into our elder years; the joints grow stiff and muscles weaken and so on. Finally, vinashyati, death. Disintegration and return to elemental state of the body.

Throughout this "I" do not change!!! You all have felt it, he nah? The "I" which is nothing whatsoever of the substance of the body feels no age or decay. Knowing that "I" to be different from the body removes fear of the material decay and demise. It means we are more likely to take best care for the vehicle, ensuring cleanliness and maintenance to the best of our ability - as if it were a place of worship. Just as we know we can visit the temple and leave it, gaining much without being attached to it, so must we become with our bodies.

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