Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 9

Notes on Tattvabodha
Dr. Vishnu Bapat

Dr. Bapat (72) was the co-founder of an Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Industry and served as its Managing Director for 26 years until retirement. He is associated with several professional and spiritual bodies. He is now fully engaged in the study and practice of Vedanta.




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17. What is subtle body?

 सूक्ष्मशरीरम् किम्?
अपंचीक्रतपंचमहाभूतैः क्रतं सत्कर्मजन्यं
सुखादुःखादिभॊग साधनं पंचज्ञानॆन्द्रियाणि पंचकर्मेन्द्रियाणि
पंच प्राणादयः मनश्चैकं बुद्धिश्चैका एवं सप्तदशाकलाभिः सह
यत्तिष्ठति तत्सूक्ष्मशरीरम् ।।

सूक्ष्म शरीरम् किम् – What is subtle body? अपंचीक्रत-पंचमहाभूतैः – by the five subtle elements which have not undergone grossification क्रतम् – made of सत्कर्मजन्यम् – born of good actions in the past Punya karma सुख-दुःखादि-भॊगसाधनम् - an instrument for the experience of joy sorrow etc., पंचज्ञानॆन्द्रियाणि – the five organs of perception or knowledge पंचकर्मेन्द्रियाणि –the five organs of action पंच -प्राणादयः – the five pranas (प्राण, अपान, व्यान, उदान समान), मनः -च -एकम् –the mind बुद्धिः -च -एका – the intellect एवम् – thus सप्तदशाकलाभिः -सह – with seventeen constituents यत् – which  तिष्ठति – remains तत् –that सूक्ष्मशरीरम् – subtle body

What is subtle body? That which is composed of the five great elements which have not undergone grossification; five sense organs, five organs of action, five vital pranas, one mind and one intellect, thus totaling into seventeen numbers. The subtle body is born on account of its predominantly good actions in previous births as a platform for enjoyment of good and bad experiences in the present life.

सूक्ष्मशरीरम् किम् - What is subtle body? The subtle body is the second body of man. It permeates the entire outer physical body. It has no definite shape and cannot be perceived by the senses. The subtle body enlivens the gross body. Like the gross body, the subtle body can also be considered in six headings.

    • Material: The subtle body is made up of five subtle five elements or panchabhutas which have not undergone the process of panchikarana or grossification. The five matters are space, air, fire, water, and earth. But these elements are in their nascent forms or tanmatras. The entire subtle world is constituted from the permutation and combination of subtle elements. The subtle body being a part of the subtle world is therefore made of five subtle elements. Since the subtle body is also made of five elementary matters it is considered as भौतिक शरीर just like the gross body.
    • Body parts: The subtle body is composed of seventeen elements which are the instruments of transactions. Gross body is only an office but subtle body are the equipments. These seventeen elements are considered in this chapter later.
    • Function: The function of the subtle body is transaction of metabolic and physiological functions. In this all the seventeen elements are involved.
    • Nature: It pervades the whole physical body. It has two parts external and internal. Out of the seventeen elements except mind and intellect all others are external. So they are called बाह्यकरण. The mind and intellect being internal are called अंतःकरण.
    • Visibility: Some transactions are perceived by the senses but the transactions of the mind and intellect are known to oneself only.
    • Longevity: Although the physical body dies, the subtle body continues to live. It gets into another physical body and continues its journey. The subtle body is terminated only at the time of pralaya or grand dissolution.

अपंचीक्रत-पंचमहाभूतैः क्रतम् – made of un-grossified elements. The subtle body is made up of five subtle elements or panchabhutas which have not gone under the process of panchikarana or grossification. The five material elements are space, air, fire, water, and earth. But these elements are in their nascent forms or tanmatras. The entire subtle world is constituted from their permutation and combination. The subtle body being a part of the subtle world is therefore made of five subtle elements. The subtle body is also a physical body or भौतिक शरीर because it has the five matters.
सत्कर्मजन्यम् – Born as a result of predominantly good actions. If the good karmas are not done, the jiva does not get the birth of a man. Only meritorious karma can give a human birth.
सुख-दुःखादि-भॊगसाधनम् – instrument of experiences of happiness and grief. Gross body is an abode of pleasure and pain where as the subtle body is an instrument of experience of pleasure and pain. It is the mind and intellect or the subtle body that experiences emotions like joy, sorrow, heat, cold, praise, censure etc. The physical body is inert matter and so cannot experience pleasure or pain. It is the mind that recognizes them. The book I hold or the chairs on which I sit are unaware of my action because they have no subtle body. I am aware of the gamut of emotions because I have a subtle body. Therefore in the deep-sleep state, when the mind and intellect are put on hold, there is no experience of the world.
एवम् सप्तदशाकलाभिः सह –The seventeen instruments of experience or components of the subtle body are the five sense organs, the five organs of action, the five pranas, the mind and intellect. The physical sense organs belong to the gross body. Their action belongs to the subtle body. Physical body is an office but the subtle one is the equipment. Therefore the organs as such are called ‘Golaka’ (गोलक). By itself the Golaka cannot perceive or cognize a stimuli. It is the subtle body which enlivens them. 
पंचज्ञानॆन्द्रियाणि – “श्रोत्रं त्वक् चक्षुः रसना घ्राणम् इति पञ्च ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि”
The five organs of perception are: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. We should note that the five external organs of perception are mere apertures or hardware. The subtle body is the software. Without it, the external organs cannot function. The subtle body is created just once. The same subtle body takes on numerous physical bodies, until the self realizes the truth. So whatever changes appear at each birth are merely the outer covering or hardware. The same personality can take birth once as a human being, and another time as a tree - all due to sins and virtuous acts committed in life. “So our actions are extremely important. Noble actions such as service to others, prayer, worship, meditation, selflessness lead to higher realms while ignoble actions pull us down. And this procession of birth and death goes on.”
पंचकर्मेन्द्रियाणि – “वाक्पाणिपादपायूपस्थानीति पञ्चकर्मेन्द्रियाणि”  
वाक् - organ of speech. पाणि - hands पाद - feet  पायुः - excretory organs उपस्थम् - organs of reproduction.
पंच प्राणादयः पञ्चवायवः the five pranas or vayus are: प्राण, अपान, व्यान, उदान, and  समान. The pranas are the physiological functions without which the body cannot survive. They supply energy to the gross and subtle bodes.
प्राण वायु or respiratory system. By exhalation and inhalation of air it pumps in oxygen and pumps out carbon dioxide.
अपान वायु – or excretory system. Any form of removal of waste is called apana.
व्यान वायु – circulatory system. It circulates blood, oxygen and nutrition to all parts of the body.
समान वायु – digestive system. It makes complicated food into simple digestible food.
उदान वायु – retrovert  action. This is a reversal action normally resorted to at the time of death of the body. All the other four life giving systems gradually lose their action. 
मनःच एकम् – the mind or manas one in number.  The mind is the seat of emotions, and संकल्प - विकल्प (assertion and negation) or perceptions and the capacity of volition as also doubt.
बुद्धिःच एका – the intellect one in number; the faculty of rational judgement, reasoning, discretion, discrimination, analysis, and judgment. संकल्प विकल्पात्मिकम् मनः निश्चयात्मकम् बुद्धिः
The mind and buddhi are sometimes called by a single name अंतःह्करण or inner equipment.
The ego (अहम्) and the faculty of memory (चित्त) are included respectively in manas and buddhi. Therefore they are not mentioned separately. Thus in all there are seventeen elements.
एवम् सप्तदशाकलाभिः सह यत् यः तिष्ठति तत् सूक्ष्मशरीरम् -  Thus that which comprises of these seventeen constituents is called subtle body.


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Page last updated: 29-Dec-2015