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


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Subtle Life

Hari OM

'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.

Having given the 'building blocks' theory of manifest (gross) life in shloka 12, the Guru now proceeds to explain the subtle aspects of life, which still come into the material expression.

ApÂIk&t_aUtaeTw< sUúma'g< _aaegsaxnm!.13.
apanchiikRtabhuutottham suukxmaangam bhogasaadhanam ||13||
The subtle body, which is the instrument of experience, is constituted of five praanas, ten organs, mind/intellect; formed from the basic elements (tanmaatras) as they exist before their fivefold division and combination.

How succinct is Sanskrit?! We are told all in this one shloka that the mind and intellect processes of the human critter, whilst still of the material realm, insomuch as they consist of the five elements, are also so subtle that they cannot be seen. The Rsis put this down to them being made up of unadulterated, pure elements which have not yet gone through any process of division and multiplication. Furthermore, a description of the subtle body is included; the five 'essential airs', the ten organs of perception and the 'central processing unit' of the mind/intellect.

We have seen these explained in earlier texts, but let us recap.

The praana is not simply mechanical breathing, but is an entire-body process. In many respects, the praana-set are the 'hinge' between the purely physical and the purely subtle. The first of the five, itself also called praana, is the grossest of the five 'airs' in that it is the breathing regulator - but it also regulates the sense organs; it is the essential life force in all living things. Even plant life has praana. Next of the five is apaana; this regulates excretion. Apaana takes what is good for the body and eliminates what is left over - but it also recognises what is dangerous and seeks to expel it with haste to minimise damage to the body. Thirdly we have samaana; this is responsible for the digestive processes, ensuring correct absorption of nutrients. Fourth comes vyaana; this takes the digested nutrients and distributes them through the circulatory and cellular osmosis systems. Fifth of the 'airs' is udaana; on the purely physical level this amounts to forceful expulsion. Spiritually, it is the force at the time of the jiiva departing the body; but also, during saadhana, it is the force which can uplift us and assist in our inner evolution.

As mentioned, praana is the link between the body and the spirit. In its control of the sense organs, prana brings the information to the 'cpu'. The place of the body where the information makes contact are the sense organs (golakas/instruments), but the organs themselves are not functional without the life force behind them. For example, the eyes are only instruments through which the power of vision is utilised, the themselves do not 'see'. Light and its various refractions are reflected in them but the 'seeing' is done with the subtle equipment of the mind/intellect. Have you not experienced times when you or another are deeply in contemplation, lost in a day dream or some such, and despite the eye being open and the world reflecting in them, the individual - in that reverie and distracted from 'seeing operations' - does not actually see what is in front of them? Same can be said for hearing, smelling and so forth. If our inner equipment is withdrawn from operations, the golakas. A telescope can gather all the light imaginable, but it amounts to nothing if no-one is looking through it to interpret the information contained there.

The mind/intellect is where the work is done. It is here only that all pleasures and pains are registered, monitored, ignored or responded to.

Thus, the gross body is made up of the grossened elements and serves as the vehicle by which experiences may be gathered. The subtle body, made up of the pure elements, gathers the experiences and gives them value. Without the subtle, the gross is nothing but inert matter.

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Hari OM
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