'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 Subtle Body - suukshma shariira - is next taken up for a little more exploration and understanding.
अपञ्ची-कृत-अपञ्च-महाभूतैः कृतं सत्-कर्म-जन्यं
सुख़दुःख़ादि-भोगसाधनं पञ्चज्ञाने-न्द्रियाणि पञ्चकर्मे-न्द्रियाणि
पञ्चप्राणादयः मनश्चैकं बुद्धिश्चैका एवं सप्तद्शकलाभिः
सह यत्तिष्ठति तत्सूक्ष्मशरीरम्।
apa~ncii-kR^ita-apa~nca-mahaabhuutaiH kR^itaM sat-karma-janyaM
suKaduHKaadi-bhogasaadhanaM pa~ncaGYaane-ndriyaaNi pa~ncakarme-ndriyaaNi
pa~ncapraaNaadayaH manashcaikaM buddhishchaikaa evaM saptadshakalaabhiH
saha yattiShThati tatsuuxmashariiram.
"What is the subtle body ?"
"That which is composed of the five great elements which have not undergone grossification, born of the good actions of the past, the instrument for the experience of joy, sorrow and so on, constituted of seventeen items, namely the five sense organs, the five organs of action, the five praanas, the mind and the intellect; this is the subtle body."
The subtle body is that part of our existence which governs the physical (the 'gross') and pervades all parts of the sthuula shariira. Having continued the enquiry with the student's simple 'what is…' format, the Guru expounds, first, the substance, then the cause and then the manifestation of the suukshma shariira.
The five great elements, (recall them by Sanskrit names, aakaasha, vayu, agni, jal and prithivii), in their nascent (unmanifest and unadulterated) form are referred to as the tanmaatras. Absolutely everything which manifests in the world, from the grossest to the subtlest of the subtle, are made up of these in there endless permutations and combinations. The suukshma shariira is made up of the unformed elements, the Guru now states. They are called subtle because they cannot be perceived by any of our senses. The suukshma shariira is the presence which knows itself, yet is still separate, insofar as it cannot know another - it can see the body of the other, hear the other, smell the other, touch the other - but it cannot be the other nor know it beyond those things. Its subtleness is limited to the gross body which binds it. By this also, it is when the subtle body leaves the gross body (death) that it reveals the presence and essence of 'life'.
In all of creation, there are threads of existence, each carrying its own 'story' throughout the entirety of time until that moment of 'Realisation' and it returns to source. Each of these is referred to as the jiva (when embodied) or the aatmaa (when 'on hold'). The history of each jiva is its karma, that spiritual accounting of all actions, thoughts and experiences. Thus the subtle body (jiva) is karmajanyam...born of the consequences and subsequent 'balance' in the karma account.
If we have a positive balance, a predominance of 'brownie points', we are likely to have a higher birth. If, for some time, there is a deficit balance, a predominance of 'black marks', then we find ourselves paying out the debt in one of the lesser births, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral. For this reason alone, it becomes clear why we ought to be careful of all existences - all of it is us only! Be not flippant about it. All substance mixes and matches and re-emerges as something 'new' but containing only what has always been. The births, be they high or low, are to provide an avenue for the aatmaa to exhaust all the karma; however this comes with the difficulty that, by being born into each birth, we have to deal with the oncoming experiences and reap yet more karma from them - भोग जन्म /bhoga janma, the life of enjoyments - 'enjoyments' here simply meaning experiences. It is, however, only within the human body that the jiva has the opportunity to work on the karma balance, to add or subtract by choice even within the limitations of what is given from the current balance - योग जन्म /yoga janma, life of The Path.
Thus it is said that there is 'sukha-dukha bhoga-saadhanam'; the subtle body also has the mind and the intellect as part of its makeup and it is here that we experience the joys and sorrows and all the other swings and roundabouts of life - and it is here that we can take them or leave them. The body feels no pain or honour when pricked or garlanded, respectively. It is the mind which recognises this. "Oh" someone cries "but that is a matter of chemistry!" This is why the Guru now says that there are saptadashakalaaH, seventeen parts which make up the suukshma shariira. Complex! There are the pancha-jnaan-endriyani, the five faculties of knowledge. That is to say, the instrumentation we have for gathering information and processing it. True, there is chemical reaction going on in within the nervous system and the various cells of the body which carries messages to the brain. Vedanta does not deny the science! The subtle point here though, is who or what 'knows' and names the joy or the sorrow, the hurt or the pleasure? The chemical reactions are there, no doubt, but even those are gross in nature. It is the reaction to the messages which falls within the realm of the subtle body. Without that presence, chemistry holds no value; in the deep sleep state, or a state of unconsciousness, the mind-intellect are temporarily ceased in their functioning, with no experience of the world and all manner of things can be done to the body in this state. Mind and intellect alone identify and quantify experience at all levels.
Then there are the pancha-karm-endriyani; the faculties of action. Yes the gross body has limbs, eyes, ears and such like… but in Vedanta we learn that these physical 'tools' have their subtle equivalent - the informational aspect of each tool. The ear is not just a lump on the side of the head, but also a system by which the subtle body obtains information.
The list continues with the five vital airs (praanas), and finally the mind and the intellect. Thus we have the seventeen components.