Vedānta Series – 10

What is Self? Tattvabodha says, that which is not the three types of bodies (gross, subtle and causal bodies), that which is beyond pañca kośa commonly known as five sheaths (annamaya, prāṇamaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya and ānandamaya kośa-s), that which remains as a witness in the three normal states of consciousness (active, dream and deep sleep) and that which is sat-cit- ānanda (existence-consciousness –bliss) is the Self.

There are two negations and two affirmations.  Brahman or Self can be realised only through negations and affirmations. There are three types of bodies in every person. Gross body or sthūla śarīra is the physical body, where all the sensory organs are embedded and pass on the images of the materialistic world to the mind. The shapes and forms that we see are the gross bodies.  The other two bodies, subtle and causal are not visible.  It is only the gross body that decays after death. 

Subtle body, also known as sūkṣma śarīra is just beneath the gross body.  It is only the gross body that makes the subtle body to function. Primarily, the subtle body depends upon the breath or prāṇa inhaled by the nostrils. The prāṇa thus inhaled is transported to kanda, situated below the navel of the gross body.  Kanda is the place where all the 72,000 nerves originate and get distributed throughout the body.  The prāṇa that reaches kanda is not the respiratory system that ends up in lungs. When the inhalation is made, nostrils inhale both air and the vital force or the cosmic energy.  Air goes to the lungs to keep our body system functioning.  The cosmic energy, on the other hand is directly routed through idā and piṅgala.  The cosmic energy that we inhale along with air aids in spiritual and psychological systems.  Kanda is the place where kuṇḍalinī, the vital energy of man rests. Properly directing the cosmic energy to kanda will make the kuṇḍalinī to ascend and awaken the spirituality in man. The atmospheric air mainly consists of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and other minor gases forming the balance 1%. The vital energy gets converted into ten different types of prāṇa and spreads throughout the body.  They establish interconnectivity between gross and subtle bodies. Prāṇa is widely prevalent in nature also known as Prakṛti.  Prāṇa can be manipulated with certain exercises and techniques. This in turn casts its effect on the mind to seek the spiritual path, by muting sensory inputs from the gross body. 

The third one is the causal body, also known as kāraṇa śarīra is the inner most body, where soul and impressions of subconscious mind are placed. Causal body is the immediate sheath surrounding the soul and is full of ignorance. Pañcikaraṇa-Vārttikam (verse 41) explains causal body, “It, this Nescience is neither made up of parts, nor is it non-composite, not even both composite and non-composite. By virtue of its being unreal, it is destructable by knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Ātman.”  At the time of death, when the soul leaves the body, causal body also leaves the body along with the soul and at the time of incarnation, it enters the new body along with the soul.  The causal body not only holds the soul within, but also holds the impressions of subconscious mind and one’s karmic account. The impressions in the subconscious mind are also known as vāsanā-s. Karmic account and vāsanā-s together decide the quality of a person, good, bad, etc.

Brahman or the Self is not the three types of bodies discussed here. The first of two negations is that related to the three types of bodies.