'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 a simple 'what is it we are researching again?', to which the answer was 'the nature of Self'. Then arose the next logical question; 'what is this Self about which you speak?' The Guru gave a compact and precise answer. Self is nothing that you think you know now - (that is to say, nothing of the physical world, nor of the various states of consciousness) - but is, in fact, the witness of those things and is that very Consciousness itself, which is also the nature of existence and therefore blissful…
As the individualists we currently are, we continually identify ourselves according to 'me' and 'everything else' and thus we tend to labelling as 'mine/not mine'. This even includes our body, mind and intellect. We are conditioned to it due to the various envelopments which hide the truth of 'all being me', the upaadhis, which give a property to each thing. The Self is like the crystal sitting on a coloured cloth; which by its proximity, takes on the appearance of that colour, but can never actually be that colour. When taken away from any such influence, we can experience the purity and clarity of that crystal, it is experienced 'as it is', separate from all the influences. Thus if Self could be experienced 'as it is', we would find no colouration from any of the physical influences such as those described in this response.
The /shariira-traya, three bodies, refers to the physical beings. All of us consist of these. An important range of new terms are being added now (note books at the ready -what? Had you forgotten your little work books??? This is an active-learning blog, please remember &*>)
स्तूल शरीर /stuula shariira is the gross body. It is the one with which we interface with the world, the one we see, touch, smell and so on. It requires nourishment in the form of other gross bodies being sacrificed for it. It can be damaged, become 'rusty', perform all sorts of task… but not of its own accord. The stuula shriira is nothing but a lump of matter, whatever its form. Only when it is activated by the सूक्ष्म शरीर /suukshma shariira, the subtle body of mind and intellect, can it be said to be alive and active. It is the suuksma shariira which identifies with the matter which carries it, calling it 'my body'. It is the suukshma shariira which knows that the stuula shariira requires fuel - 'I am hungry' … but even the suukshma is not really 'ours', for it springs forth from the कारण शरीर /kaarana shariira, the causal body, the seat of all the inherent tendencies and talents, called as वासनाः /vaasanas. These may be considered as the 'operating system' of the mechanical parts of creation called as 'personal beings'.
None of these, the Guru pointed out, is the Self - no, not even the kaarna shriira, for that is still an identifiable component of single units. To clarify how the human being is but a manifestation of the Self in physical form, we now learn about the 'clothes', the layers of being-ness, called as the पञ्चकोशाः /paNchakoshas, the five sheaths.
अन्नमय कोश /annamaya kosha is the food sheath. This is another definition of the stuula shariira - for what is it but food itself once it has finished consuming other food? "From dust to dust"… the dust is the earth, to which we return and thus become inclusive in the food chain.
प्राणमय कोश /praanamaya kosha is the vital air sheath. It is that which informs all our physiological activity. Without breath, all the complexity which is the physical machine would be nothing; when praanamaya is imbalanced, the stuula suffers in one way or another. Praanamaya, whilst its presence is physically understood, cannot actually be perceived other than by movement of the gross body, is therefore considered as part of the suukshma shariira.
मनोमय कोश /manomaya kosha is the mental sheath. Here we find all emotional activity. This is why, in Vedanta, it is understood that mind is also heart. The physical engine of the body has no power of thought - it is as much gross matter as the rest of the body. What happens though, when there are intensely affecting thought processes? These thoughts have a physical effect and it is these which are referred to as 'feelings'; the reactions are nothing but thoughts but we 'feel' those thoughts due to chemical stimulation which arises from them. Manomaya, then, is still very much in the realm of the physical, the gross, yet due to not being seen, because we cannot actually perceive the mind itself, it is referred to as being suukshma.
विज्ञानमय कोश /vijnaanamaya kosha is the intellectual sheath. The part of us which does the "I"dentifying and drives all action according to effects which may affect the "I" which it perceives. Whilst we may perceive the effects of the intellect (ie the resultant words and deeds which it commands), we cannot at all 'see' the intellect and it is therefore of the suukshma shariira.
आनन्दमय कोश /aanandamaya kosha is the 'bliss' sheath. It is alternatively referred to as the kaarana shariira - it is our personality, still an identifiable entity separate from the Whole, and contains all the history of the जीव /jiiva (individualised spirit, also referred to as the आत्मा /aatmaa, soul), but exists whether or not there is currently a physical presence to carry it. When this history remanifests in a physical body, it identifies with that and becomes blinded to its whole existence. The influence of that ethereal existence, though, provides the drives and motivations in the current existence. It provides a cause from which arise the effects of daily life, this it is referred to as the 'causal body'.
Remember at this point that the student has, essentially, enquired as to 'who am "I"' by asking for a definition of the Self. At first the Guru advises what this "I" is not. Fine, but the question is about what "I" am, and not what "I" am not! To which the response is that there are three states of consciousness, the अवस्थात्रय /avasthaatraya. These encompass the whole range of experiences that the jiiva undergoes. What are the three?
जाग्रत अवस्था /jaagrat avasthaa; the waking state in which we know we experience, through which we perceive and interact with the gross world.
स्वप्न अवस्था /svapna avasthaa; the dream state, pertaining purely to mind and our own self-interaction.
सुषुप्ति अवस्था /sushupti avasthaa; the deep sleep state in which we experience the absence of the other two, where we are free of action, emotion and thought. (It is the state which - after we wake up - we think of as 'blissful', but actually cannot even be that as this implies presence. In deep sleep nothing is no such awareness.
Again the Guru says that these are not the Self - for then he goes on to say that the "I", the True Self, is nothing more than the साक्षी /saakshii, the witness of even these most subtle of states. Thus nothing that we know (or think we know) now, is any way to understand True Self. Our search, as saadhakas, is to bring all our individualised selves back into the presence of the Whole, which is further told to us now as being of the nature of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss - सच्चिदानन्द स्वरूप /sacchidaananda svaruupa. सत् /Sat is the state of existence which cannot be negated, thus 'sat' is also translated as 'truth', it is the final, undeniable, very essence of presence. Who can negate the negator? This is the "I" which ever exists. चित /chit is consciousness, the knowledge principle, through which all else is illumined, which understands all the trappings and conditionings and aids Sat in the negation of them. आनन्द /aananda is the bliss of awareness without conditioning. The ultimate sense of freedom, knowing no beginning or end.
When we come to not just read these things, not just intellectually 'know' these things, but actually experience yoga (union) with That, we are said to have attained मोक्ष /moksha, liberation. This striving for Self-Knowledge is the entire purpose of Vedanta. Therefore, we must delve ever more deeply into the things discussed here, little by little performing self-excavation. So, the ever alert student of our text now picks up questions on each of these things...