The Journey

Giri gmadras at ENGR.UCDAVIS.EDU
Mon Mar 24 15:20:56 CST 1997

On Mon, 24 Mar 1997, Dennis Hill wrote:

> the Atman does not need the journey. At death the physical and subtle
> bodies fall away.

Let us look at some shruti and smriti passages (all verses are from memory,
so please excuse me for errors).

Chandogya 6.8.6

'Man departs, speech enters into manas, manas into prana, prana into tejas,
        Shankara in the Brahma suutra bhashya (BSB) deals with this in great
detail. It is in 4.2.1-5 (I think). As he says, speech herein means all
the nine Indriyas. So the question arises 'Does the sense organ when it
enters into Manas, dissolve in its functional activity or does in its very
essence ? The answer is that only the functional activity (vritti), not
the Indriyam that perishes. Shankara says, 'vaag-vR^itti manasi
sampadyate'. Thus Shankara says that the functional activity of Manas
dissolves in Prana. Only the function of Manas comes to rest in prana in
one who falls asleep etc (Katha upan.). When it is mentioned in Chandogya
that prana merges into heat (tejas), it enters not into heat, but into the
adhyaksha (i.e the overseer). Who is the overseer of the body and organs ?
Jeeva, as Shankara points out. Shankara quickly points out that the jeeva
in this occassion is defined as Self (Atman) endowed with upadhis. For
those who might protest that jeeva is not mentioned in Chandogya passage,
Shankara quotes from Brihad. 4.3.38 etc.

        The soul with the Indriyas, manas and prana further needs a
vehicle (I think Shankara uses the word, aachraya) of material nature.
This basis is called, suukshman sariira (subtle body). Shankara usually
says in BSB that it is deha-viijaani bhuuta-suukshmaaNi "the elements
which form the seed of the body.' In order to attain a future body, the
soul must take with it this seed of the body, not just tejas alone
because as Brihad. 4.4.5/6 says that 'The soul is nature of the five
elements,' and the Smriti passages like Manu agree.

        The subtle body is extensively described by Shankara in 4.2.6-11
and also on the third chapter. As Shankara points out, the subtle body
departs through the viens (for the "unrealized") and has the extension
(tanutvam) and also transparency (svachchhatvam), which is the reason why
people standing around a soon-to-be corpse don't see it leaving. The
bodily warmth also proceeds from it (Shankara, quote from chandogya
upan.), and the subtle body is not injured when the corpse is burned.

        The soul (jeeva) is accompanied with the subtle body, the latter
exists as long as samsara exists. Until the jeeva gains perfect
knowledge, the subtle body is never destroyed. As Shankara clearly says,
the rebirth takes place as based on this subtle body. What is the
difference between a samsaric one and a jnani ? Shankara again says 'The
ignorant passes with the subtle body to new embodiment, the knower passes
on a special path to immortality.' Subtle body is a material vehicle, as
required, without which there is no "going." Shankara also emphasises this.
As he says, 'This subtle body formed out of heat it the bearer
of organs etc., continues to exist until the entrance, until liberation
from samsara, as that liberation follows upon perfect knowledge. Samsara
continues for a person with a subtle body with persons 'attaining a
mother's womb, another becomes a plant, as deemed by knowledge and deeds.'
Bondage has its ground only in false knowledge and can be "loosened" only
by perfect knowledge that there are no differences.

        The "jeeva" goes through the series of lives *only* because the it
thinks it is *different* from Atman/Brahman by identifying with one of the
upadhis. This point is brought out in later verses of Katha upanishhad
(which is how this discussion started in the first place), in which Yama
says, 'As long as one see differences, the samsaric cycle continues.'
Katha 2.1.10-11 ( I think). That is, the whole cycle is due to the fact we
see differences at some level. That's why Advaita is called non-dualism
and not monistic since it eliminates differences at all levels.

        Please refer to Shankara's BSB especially the IV.1 and IV.2. There
is another book which is an good introduction called 'The goal and the
way,' by Swami Satprakashnanda. This book combines several sources
(upanishhads, BSB etc) and tries to show a goal and a way :-) Not that the
journey of the soul is critically important for a person who wants to
realize the seeker and the sought are the same (Brahman) here and now.
Please excuse me for the length of the e-mail.

aum shaanti.

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