Please post the topics in the most appropriate forums. This topic was posted in “Vedic Cosmology” and I have moved it to “Sankhya Philosophy”. This is important to maintain the forum over time. If we post everything everywhere, there will be too much clutter, making it very hard.
Yes, the subtle body also has form. But it is not physical form. Even your gross body is not a physical form. Just because you see something doesn’t mean it is physical. The term “physical” simply means the properties used by physics, such as mass, charge, energy, momentum, etc. There is no other meaning to “physical”. As the book Sankhya and Science discusses, your gross body is not physical. It is also information. Like that your subtle body is also information. It is our mental conditioning that makes us think that the gross body is some physical thing. It is due to many lifetimes of thinking about oneself as only the body — not even the mind. When the consciousness advances, then the mind is seen, then slowly the ego is seen, and eventually, the soul is seen. Then all these things are not considered physical. So, the description of the Vedic texts is from the point of view of the enlightened souls who see the body differently.
An enlightened soul doesn’t just see the soul and God. Rather, because he sees the soul and God, he also sees the body differently. That is the measure of enlightenment. Accordingly, those who cannot see the body differently are not very advanced spiritually. This is one of the tests of advancement. This test is described in the Vedanta Sutra. If one cannot understand the body then he is not qualified to be a spiritual master. This is stated in the Vedanta Sutra. So a prospective disciple is urged to test the spiritual master by asking him questions about material nature. If he cannot answer these questions then he should not be taken seriously.
There are three kinds of bodies. Sometimes they are called Sthula, Sukshma, and Karana. And in Sankhya Sutra, they are called Sthula, Linga, and Sukshma. The Linga sarira comprises of senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense. Linga means “gender”. This means that men and women have different kinds of senses, mind, intellect, ego, and moral sense. In the modern gender-neutral propaganda, they don’t understand how the male and female mind and senses are different. But this difference is described in Sankhya Sutra by calling the mind and senses Linga sarira.
At the time of death, the Sthula and Linga sarira are destroyed. The Linga sarira contains the knowledge acquired in this life, the memories of this life, and the habits of this life. And by its destruction, we forget everything acquired in this lifetime. This body is also called the “dreaming state” so it can be conscious, although it requires a more advanced type of consciousness than the waking state. Then, the Sukshma or Karana sarira is called the deep sleep state, and it is unconscious. All these things are described in detail in Sankhya and Science. When the Sankhya Sutra commentary comes out, you can read that as well. It gives more detail.
When the soul goes from one body to another, he with the Karana sarira. It comprises three things — chitta, guna, and karma. There is also prana, and it is activated by time. So, due to prana, it is a living body, but it is a deep sleep state, where there is no comprehension. From this Karana or Sukshma sarira, a Linga sarira is developed, and from that Sthula sarira. This means a man can be born as a woman or vice versa. That feeling of man or woman goes away when one enters the deep sleep state. But karma, desire for enjoyment, and past impressions are there.
If all this is not easily understandable, just chant Hare Krishna. As the consciousness is cleared up of the past contaminations, everything will become crystal clear. This is not just theory. It can be practically experienced. But it takes time. Those who are totally engrossed in the gross body cannot understand the mind and the senses. Those who are engrossed in the senses and the mind cannot understand the unconscious body. And even if this unconscious is understood, the soul is still harder to understand. And finally, God is the hardest to understand. So, in Vedic scriptures, everything is described systematically. First, understand the gross body, then understand the nature of the mind, then understand the universe, then the soul, and finally God. Otherwise, one might pretend to know something, but if the previous subject is not known, the next subject is also not known. This is the big difference in Vedic philosophy — it is step by step.
In other religions, they just talk about the soul and God. They have no idea about the body, the mind, the senses, prana, the unconscious, the universe, etc. So, whatever they say about soul and God may be true to some extent, but nobody truly knows these things. That is why there is a process of gradual understanding. A spiritual process is given to purify our consciousness so that we can understand. So, soul and God are the destinations, the spiritual practice is the road to the destination, and realizing the truth of the body and the universe is a milestone on that road. If we cannot understand something, we should not get frustrated. We should become humble, and realize that we don’t have the capacity to understand, but one day it will come naturally.
In earlier times, this knowledge was restricted to very few people. It was not open to everyone. Only a person who has been trained from birth into the discipline of knowledge was allowed to read the scriptures. People think that it is a “caste system”. But it is not. That system existed because it is fact that unless one is trained like that, they cannot understand anything. So, they will either think that it is all false, or they will create their own interpretation. So, it is better not to tell them anything. But the problem in this time and age is that nobody is trained properly. So, if we discriminate between people, then the fact is that everyone is disqualified. So, all these things are given freely, but that doesn’t mean everyone can understand. Very rare few people can understand, but everyone can potentially understand. It depends on them. If they practice spiritual life seriously then they can understand.