Monday is AUM-day; in search of meditation.
Meditation & Life, with Sw. Chinmayananda (Gurudev).
We are now exploring the writings of Gurudev on our focus subject of Meditation. The book is a thorough treatment of the subject and extends to over 170 pages of closely printed text. No attempt is intended, here, to present the text in its entirety. However, important paragraphs and quotes will be given, within a summary of each section. You are encouraged to use the links on sidebar to obtain a copy for yourselves from CM publications.
Please remember that each of the posts under this title is part of a thought flow and it is important to go back and read the previous post in order to refresh and review the context.
4: Spirit Enveloped in Matter
Our Multiple Personalities; cont'd
The composition of the various sheaths, we discovered in last Text-day's post and is explored last week, is varied according to function, from the gross to the most subtle of material substance. Here is a summary (more will come on Text-days also);
Annamaya Kosha (food sheath); is the physical body, of which everyone is aware during the waking state of consciousness. It is born of food assimilated by the parents, it exists because of the food regularly taken in, and ultimately after death, it must decompose (or become ash) and return to the earth where it becomes food again. The physical structure then, arises from food, exists in food and returns to food, thus is appropriately named. The indriyas - the organs of action and the organs of knowledge gathering - exist within this sheath.
Praanamaya Kosha (vital airs sheath); the air we breathe mixes with our blood and reaches every cell of our body. Oxygen forms an inner lining, as it were, of our physical sheath. The praanas control all the organs of action and they are five in number; 1) praana (respiration - also considered as 'perception' in the sense of its requirement to control energise the organs), 2) apaana (elimination - of wastes from the body), 3) samaana (digestion), 4) vyaana (circulation - not just of blood, but of nutrients resulting from samaana), 5) udaana (ejection, eg vomiting, crying - and also of sparking thought). The annamaya and the praanamaya sheaths are together known as the sthuula shariira.
Manomaya Kosha (mental sheath); none of us is unaware of existence of the mind. It entertains our doubts, joys and a variety of emotions, constantly erupting with non-stop flow of thought 'lava'! The mind can fly to things and places seen or heard and because of its' vast reaches, it is considered subtler than the preceding sheaths.
Vijnaanamaya Kosha (intellectual sheath); While the mind is the doubting element, the intellect is the determining factor in each of us. In Vedantic literature, the two are considered one and the same but defined separately due to still more subtle workings at the intellectual level. When our thoughts arrive at a determined decision or a willed judgement, they are called the intellect. It is subtler because not only can it venture to known places, but also reaches realms beyond the known, previously unheard and unseen (and which may never be). These are the realms of revelry and conquest, adventure and fancy - but also the places where what might be is first envisioned and formulated into something achievable. The mind and intellect together as known as the suukshma shariira.
Aananadamaya Kosha (bliss sheath); This, the subtlest of the sheaths, is made up of the ignorance (non-apprehension) that exists during our deep-sleep state of consciousness. It is considered blissful because, whatever be the condition of our waking consciousness, when once we fall asleep and regardless of our position in life, rich or poor or sad or happy etc, we experience undisturbed peace and bliss. We experience a state of pure non-apprehension, ie, absence of everything. This sheath is called the kaarana shariira as, from non-apprehension arises mis-apprehension and thus misunderstandings of the gross and the subtle. It 'causes' an erroneous state of existence which we refer to as 'life'.
Aatman, the Life Centre, is subtlest of all and is the core (or pinnacle) of this five-sheathed structure.
All these together constitute the spirito-physical entity that plays as you and me. Consciousness exhibited by the organism depends upon the condition of its mental and intellectual sheaths. Stones have no awareness because mind and intellect are absent in them. According to Vedanta, plants have a rudimentary mind and intellect thus they live and grow and posses some awareness; the minds and intellects of animals are further developed, thus greater awareness than plants but still lacking in discriminative ability. That supreme development is reached in the human being. The purer the mind and intellect, the brighter are the beams of consciousness which radiate from the individual. The saint or prophet is he who has the maximum awareness manifest within… ब्रह्मविद् ब्रह्मैव भवति /brahmavit brahmaiva bhavati - 'the Knower of the Absolute becomes the Absolute', roar the Upanishads. To realise pure awareness - aatman - is the goal of life, the culmination of evolution, the fulfilment of 'supermanhood'.