We have now discussed jagat and Brahman. As we said in the introduction, every philosophy tries to understand the relation between universe, God and the individual. Understanding jIva (individual) is the remaining entity in our study of advaita vEdAnta. advaita starts from our current understanding of what we are - adhyArOpa (our secular understanding is that we are body, mind and intellect); it then presents the scriptural view of the svarUpa of jIvas ; Finally vEdAnta helps us negate (apavAda) our delusional understanding based on the shruti pramANa, to clearly help us understand our svarUpa.

sharIra Thraya - Three Body Forms.

Three body forms are associated with the jIva - sthUla sharIra or gross body, sUkShma sharIra or subtle body and kAraNa sharIra or causal body.

sthUla sharIra or gross body:

Four kinds of gross bodies are classified; - chaturvidha sharIrANi tu jarAyuja, anDaja, svEdaja, udbIjjA khyAni. They are

  1. jarAyujAni jarAyubhyah jAtAni manushya pashvAdIni - taking birth in a womb, like humans, mammals.
  2. anDajAni anDEbhyO jAtAni pakShi pannagAdIni - taking birth through an egg like birds and reptiles.
  3. svEdajAni svEdEbhyah jAtAni yUkAmashakAdani - taking birth through moisture like some flies and insects.
  4. udbbijAni bhUmim udbhidya jAtAni latA-vrikShAdIni - taking birth by breaking the earth like plants and trees.

A jIva can take birth in any one of the four gross bodies, in accordance with his karma and karma phala.

There are similarities in the different gross bodies, as well as some differences. The jarAyuja is the most evolved sthUla Sharira. We will focus our attention on this sthUla sharIra in the discussion below.

shIryate iti sharIrah - that which decays or is lost is the gross body. The physical body with limbs, head and body is the gross body. All names and forms - man or woman, Hindu, Christian etc., young and old are the descriptors of this body. This body consisting of bones, skin, flesh, blood, fat, bone marrow, and excretions is born and bred of food; so is called the body of food - annamaya sharIra. The source of these body components are the five great elements - earth, water, fire, air and space. The gross body communicates with the jagat through nine outlets - two eyes, two nasal nostrils, two ears, mouth and two lower outlets. This body goes through six changes (shadvikAra) - (1) asti or present in the womb, (2) jAyate or born, (3) vardhatE or grows, (4) pariNamate or becomes old, (5) apakShIyate or decays and (6) vinashyati or dies.

Among the animals and humans, the gross body is animated by the vital airs and mind. The plants possess only vital airs and no mind.

The gross body is also called the annamaya kOsha- Food Sheath - because of its dependence on food for birth as well as growth. The annamaya kOsha is the outermost sheath or casing. The other kOshas in the order are prAnamaya kOsha - sheath of vital airs, manOmaya kOsha - sheath of mind, vijnyAnamaya kOsha - sheath of knowledge, and Anandamaya kOsha - sheath of happiness. We will learn more about these in appropriate contexts.

What is the purpose of the gross body? - The gross body is the medium for the jIva to communicate with the outside world or jagat. The jIva needs this medium to experience the fruits of action of previous lives.

The previous life was for the experience of fruits of its previous life or lives. So the life experience for the jIva is beginningless - having a gross body anytime is a result of a previous life existence. So there is no description of first life. The jIva, through the body, experiences the fruits of the previous life only or do more karma, guaranteeing a future life with another gross body. Good deeds only beget a divine body, mixed deeds beget a human body or bad deeds only beget an animal or plant body. Suffering from continuous births and deaths, at some point, the jIva recognizes the futility of the cycle of birth and death from the beginning-less time; he then begins the quest for liberation from this cycle of birth and death and over time will become a realized person or jnyAni.

Is the jIva, the gross body? - If the jiVa is acquiring new bodies every time he is born, obviously the gross body is not the jIva. Just as humans discard old torn clothes and acquire new clothes, the jIva discards old and frail bodies and acquires new bodies to experience the fruits of his action (gIta 2-22 - vAsAmsi jIrNAni yathA vihAya..). Just as a human does not change when he acquires new clothes, so the jIva does not change with the acquisition of a new body.

This is also obvious from our life experiences. As the individual is growing from child to adolescent to adult to oldage, the individual is the same individual. During sleep the individual has no association with the body. During surgery under anesthesia, the individual has no experience of cuts on his body. So the jiVa is not the gross body. This rejects or negates (apavAda) the understanding that the jIva is the gross body(adhyArOpa)

We will discuss sUkShma sharIra (subtle body) in the next unit.

Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).

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