Vedānta series 12
Beneath the gross body is the subtle body. Subtle body cannot be seen with biological eyes, as the elements forming the subtle body are also subtle in nature. Tattvabodha explains the subtle body or sūkṣma śarīraṁ as “apañcīkṛta-pañcamahābhūtaiḥ”. The difference between the gross body and the subtle body is highlighted by adding a negation through the alphabet ‘a’ before pañcīkṛta-pañcamahābhūtaiḥ, which explained the gross body. Gross body is made up of five elements in their developed forms. The subtle body is made up of five elements in their nascent forms. The nascent forms of five elements are known as tanmātra-s, also known as subtle elements. They are śabda (sound), sparśa (touch), rūpa (form), rasa (taste) and gandha (smell). They are also known as cognitive faculties. Only from tanmātra-s, the five great elements originated. These tanmātra-s originated from the Brahman, in the form of soul, placed within the causal body, the body beneath the subtle body. Tanmātra-s are called subtle elements because, they are related to subtle body, as against five great elements related to the gross body.
Subtle body is not merely tanmātra-s, but also includes karma and experience such as pleasure and pain. This combination of the three is the subtle body and the cause of which are five organs of perception (ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose); five organs of action (mouth, feet, hands, organ of excretion, organ of procreation); five prāṇa-s (prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, udāna and samāna); mind, and intellect. Thus there are several seventeen constituents for the subtle body.
Chart containing the components of causal body will explain this. The top block containing five tanmātra-s, karma and experience is the causal body and is formed out of the seventeen components of lower block comprising of five organs of perception, vice organs of actions, five prāṇa-s, mind and intellect.
The first block of seven together is the causal body and the components of which are the second block of seventeen. The connection between the subtle body and the external world is established though nine apertures that exist in the gross body. The nine openings in the gross bodies are two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, mouth, organ of excretion and organ of procreation. The subtle body lies in between the causal body and the gross body. The creation begins from the causal body where soul is placed, proceeds to subtle body and finally the gross body is formed. The three types of bodies can be compared to a car tyre (tire). The outer rubber portion is the gross body, the inner tube is the subtle body and the air within the tube is the causal body. When the tube is deflated, the air inside escapes, as a result of which, the car cannot run. In the same way, if the soul escapes from the body, the body cannot function and death is caused. Like tube and tyre supporting the air within the tube, causal and gross bodies support the soul within.
Tanmātra-s are foundation of the causal body and are the evolutes of Prakṛti. Anything evolved from Prakṛti is constituted by three guṇa-s. Likewise, tanmātra-s are also formed of three guṇa-s. The interaction between the 17 constituents form the subtle body of a person. The quality of the subtle body is decided by one’s karma. The ratio of the three guṇa-s decide the quality. A holy person will have more of sattvic guṇa and a vicious person will have more of tamo guṇa. Sattvic guṇa is the purest and tamo is the lowest. At this stage, guṇa can be explained as the quality of a person, as guṇa will be discussed in greater detail later in this series.
Mind and intellect are also subtle like tanmātra-s. Eyes see the beauty of the Nature. This is an experience. Openings of the eyes are embedded in the gross body and through the openings, the beauty is conveyed to the mind and it is only the mind that enjoys the beauty of the Nature. Therefore mind - intellect combine is the experiencer. As long as the mind-intellect combine is associated with the apertures in the gross body, mind-intellect combine will continue to enjoy worldly pleasures. In deep sleep state, mind is totally rested causing no experience. In the awakened state, if the mind is turned inwardly, focusing on the causal body within, where soul is placed, realisation of the Self begins.
Mind and intellect cannot be considered at the same level. Intellect is the individual ability to comprehend. Though, intellect is the refined form of the mind, it does not mean that it is supreme to the mind. Intellect always in close coordination with mind plays a significant role in discrimination. This discrimination is conveyed to the consciousness through the mind.