'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
We are now studying Aatmabodha. As always, with each week, you are encouraged to review the previous teachings and spend some time in contemplation of the meanings as the affect your life. Please do consider purchasing the text. Remember, also, to recite the mangala charana before each study and review the lessons before each new one.
The next shloka, number twelve, now begins the delve into Sanskrit science! The Rsis, high in their thinking, somehow knew and understood basics of the physical sciences; not in this but in later texts, reference is made to the 'anu' - the atom! Deep and logical thought and powerful meditation brought these things to light for those incredible men - the seers. Here now is the essence of it.
zrIr< suodu>oana< _aaegaytnmuCyte.12.
pangchiikRta-mahaabhuuta-sambhavam karmasangchitam, shariiram sukhadukhaanaam bhogaayatanamuchyate ||12||
Determined for each individual by his own past actions, and made of the five elements which have gone through the process of fivefold self-division and mutual combination - is born the gross body, the medium through which pleasure and pain are experienced; the tenement of experiences.
Thus are the upaadhis explained. To understand how the components of Self called as jiiva, individualised souls, it is necessary to explain how the body comes about. All the matter of life comes about through a process called the panchikarana; the 'five times making'. Recall at this point the learning from TattvabodaH about the sthula, suukshma and karana shariiras, the gross, subtle and causal bodies…[now would be a good time to revise!]
The gross body, pure matter, is made up of the five elements called Aakaz-aakaasha/space, vayu-vaayu/air, Agin-agni/fire, Ap>-apaH/water and p«iwvae-pRthivii/earth. In modern biology we will call all the combinations of these things as many long and interesting names, but they all fall into one or other these categories in terms of their 'quality'. Every creation is a manifestation of the gross arising from the previously subtle state. We all know that cause will have effect and that there can be no effect without cause. In panchikarana, we find an explanation of how everything has a pure, subtle state (tNmatr-tanmaatra), which becomes impure through a process of division; first into two halves; then one half holding and the other half again splitting but now into four; these smaller divisions have a tendency to migrate and mingle with the smaller divisions of other elements, meaning that each element now holds something of the other four, but it is dominated by its main tanmaatra. This process is shown visually in the following manner;
Everything in the universe arises from this grossification of the pure elements. The originating cause is a matter of much debate; Vedanta ultimately holds that all is illusion - like the silver on the shell. This does not deny the presence of matter but questions the value we place upon it. The focus of this shloka is on the upaadhi (conditioning) that we know as the human body, one of the effects from all the mixing and matching of the tanmaatras. It having developed, Aatman found a home - but in entering the body and enlivening it, Aatman also became attached to it and developed ego/ individuality and thus became forgetful of its origin. [It is worth mentioning that the Adam and Eve tale of the dawning of self-consciousness in the form of the body and wishing to cover it and satisfy its needs equates, philosophically, with the loss of Divine connection and the need to always keep searching for reconnection.] As a result of taking on jiivaatman status, each individualised soul now has to go through the duration the body allows it facing up to pleasures and pains and all manner of experiences as a result of karma. Here the shloka is referring to the greater span of karma - the bank balance of the spirit, whereby each and every thought and deed leaves a mark upon the account. The jiiva must go through as many lives as are necessary to wipe that account clean and rediscover the fullest treasure of reunion with Aatman. Everything we do in this life determines the kind of life we have to live in next incarnation. Karma is the cause of our life path... and it can be the solution also.
The concept of reincarnation is best understood when one considers again that basic tenet of Vedanta as stated prior - all is illusion. In the same way that each of us can go to bed each night and have dreams, often different, sometimes the same but always with some small variance… so it is with the Pure Consciousness which has split and drifts off into the manifest conditionings. We awaken and say "such a dream I had!"… eventually, we will Awaken and Realise the wholeness of our dreaming! Till then we must accept the body as our 'tenement of experience' and understand that it is within our power to determine its destiny.