Composition of Subtle Body

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    Pradeep Kumar

    Hare Krishna,

    1) We read in scriptures that “subtle body” comprises of mind/memories, intelligence/logical abilities/discretion, Ego/identity/values. Is this “subtle body” has a form, if so Aren’t these very abstract to have a physical form? How to understand This “form”? This “subtle body” is Changing at every moment because our memories and the logical abilities and identity in this world is changing every moment? Is the state of the subtle body At the time of death is going to determine the next gross body? Is it as simple as my thoughts Creating my desires and actions and their impressions on desires and in this way a “subtle body” is getting updated at every moment? How to understand this clearly. Thank you.

    Ashish Dalela

    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.

    Pradeep Kumar

    Thank you very much for the detailed explanation. Eagerly waiting for Sankhya Sutras book to come out.

    As a followup question, innate abilities or intuitive abilities like problem solving etc are so natural to some one and not for others – is this coming from Karana sarira (which has guna-proclivity, Karma- consequences, chitta-??) ? , as previously acquired/practiced abilities/insights are lost with Linga Sarira? If some one practiced practiced problem solving for whole life will it be lost or will it become part of Karana Sarira through Chitta and it will become manifest as Karma-Consequence as intuition/insights so that they become great problem solvers?

    Ashish Dalela

    Idea acquisition is also in three modes.

    In tamo-guna, one acquires an idea and it is just like a record in memory. When a new problem arises, one tries to find an exact match against a previous record, and if the problem is slightly different, then the record matching fails. So, the person in tamo-guna says that I don’t know the answer because the exact question and answer do not match the memory. Such a person can only do repetitive tasks because every time the same record is used from memory. They cannot do new things. So, if a person is in tamo-guna they can become a manual laborer. They learn with effort some new thing, and then they repeat the same thing over and over. Every time a new problem arises, they say that we have not seen it before, because it is slightly different.

    The same idea when acquired in rajo-guna becomes more reusable and adaptable, in the sense that one can use the same idea to solve similar although not identical problems. So, for example, one can memorize Newton’s three laws, and then use them for solving different mechanics problems. This is what is tested in competitive exams. They teach children some formulas, and they give them new problems and check if they are able to solve the new problems using the same formula.

    The same idea when acquired in sattva-guna leads to the ability to solve problems where it is not even clear which formula must be used. Many such formulas may be required, and sometimes no formula may be known. But based on previous knowledge, a person can create a new formula, by adapting previously learned things. This new formula involves the creation of a new idea.

    So, if sattva-guna is developed, then whatever basic ideas are acquired, they are automatically capable of generating new knowledge. If rajo-guna is developed, then new ideas are not generated, but the existing ideas can be applied in various contexts. And if tamo-guna is developed, then one can neither generate new ideas nor can one use the same idea in different contexts. One can only memorize things and create a big catalog of questions and answers for matching.

    You can think of three kinds of people — a scientist who creates new theories, a technologist who applies these theories to create various types of products, and a manual laborer who only knows how to use these products repeatedly. The scientist who created the theory of mechanics is in sattva-guna. The technologist who creates machines for producing cloth using mechanics is in rajo-guna. And the worker who only knows how to operate that machine is in tamo-guna.

    So, if one develops sattva-guna, then even if they have meager education, they can create lots of new ideas. Ramanujan was like that. He had very little education, but he could create so many theorems. If they are in rajo-guna, then they can apply the ideas in various contexts. Edison was like that. He could take one idea and create many inventions out of it. He could not create a single new scientific theory, but he had numerous patents against his name. And if they are in tamo-guna, then they can only do repeated manual jobs, because learning is very hard.

    Whatever mode is developed continues in the next life. But the ideas acquired by the person in tamo-guna are almost completely lost. The same ideas acquired by the person in rajo-guna are slightly more persistent. And the ideas acquired by the person in sattva-guna are most persistent. So, knowledge of tamo-guna is almost totally lost. The knowledge of rajo-guna continues slightly but has to be developed again. And the knowledge of sattva-guna is persistent across lives.

    You can think of a musician. Some musician is born with a full understanding of music from childhood. Other musician is born with innate talent but has to practice somewhat to develop musical ability. And then some musician only memorizes how to play a few songs. When this person dies, he will forget all the songs. The person with some talent will again be born with that talent and with slight practice, he will get the full skill again. And the musician with the full understanding from the start will continue with that ability and doesn’t need to learn.

    So, the main point is that one must develop sattva-guna. If one tries to memorize things, it is almost completely useless. If one tries to apply that knowledge in a practical way then it is slightly better. And one tries to understand it deeply, then that is the best.

    Pradeep Kumar

    Thank you, it is clear now, learning in Sattva leaves a deeper impression on chitta, there by enabling the person to use the insights in next life.

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