- Classification of the Mind Part 2
Death is defined as the separation of this
subtle body from the gross body. The process
of death involves mind collecting all its 19
physiological functions and exiting the body.
In common parlance, we say 'He is dead and gone'
- implying that someone who was residing in the
body has now left it. Thus, the gross body, which
is the product of food, is sustained by food
and will eventually go back into food (for insects),
is left behind when the subtle body leaves, stopping all associated
Doctors cannot define what life is, but can
only know if a person is alive or dead as a result
of expressions of life through the physiological
functions. According to Vedanta, death occurs
when this subtle body finds the gross body no
more conducive for its residence. Hence, in simple
terms, death is described as the subtle body
changing its worn out clothes or shifting its
residence. ‘Worn out’ does not necessarily
mean that the body is dilapidated and hence not
useful. It could be any body that is no more
conducive for the subtle body to express itself
for one reason or another. Extending this argument
then, ‘birth’ is the subtle body
entering with its package at conception. Parents
give birth only to the physical body and not
to the subtle body; the subtle body enters taking
its new residence. As the new body matures, the
faculties get expressed more and more vividly
to yoke out experiences with the external world.
Biologically, one can only account for the physical
body in terms of chromosomes and genetic codes,
but expression of life through the mind, physiological
functions, and individuality come with their
own inherent traits that differ from one child
to another, even when born of the same parents.
Even if one clones and creates an offspring duplicating
the mother, the individuality of the child is
different from that of the mother and they can
even compete with each other for their survival.
Hence genetically they may be the same, but their
subtle bodies are different.
The subtle body is considered to be made up
of subtle matter, which is not perceptible to
the sense organs. Even the existence of mind
cannot be established by direct perceptual or
empirical means. It has to be inferred since
it is subtle. But we all accept that we have
a mind of our own and we can theorize about its
nature based on its functions and working; but
none of the theories can be validated by any
objective scientific means. The tools of validation
that we normally use in the field of objective
sciences are inadequate to handle subtle matter.
Validity or invalidity, therefore, cannot be
established by objective means. Hence one can
only infer based on individual behavior to the
external stimulus, just as a physician uses external
stimuli to infer the working of physiological
functions. In fact, according to some idealists,
existence of objects and the world 'out there'
also cannot be established independent of the
mind. 'Can the world be established independent
of the mind?' and conversely 'Can the mind be
established independent of the world?' are questions
that concerned many philosophers. Here, we only
recognize that there is interdependency of the
world and the mind and it appears that one cannot
be established independent of the other.
Of the four components that were defined - mind,
intellect, ego and memory - each has its field
of operation. The mind in the above is the locus
of emotional thoughts, classified as nine moods
or feelings of expression (nava rasa-s) consisting
of love, passion, anger, jealousy, etc. In addition,
the mind is also a clearing house for input from
the senses and output through the organs of action;
it can be thought of as a receiving and dispatching
clerk. Furthermore, it is also a 'doubting Thomas',
entertaining all the doubts and the associated
worries and indecisions. Some people cannot make
up their minds easily, because they are dominated
by this part of the mind, which is indecisive.
This emotional component of the mind is where
intense attachments and emotions play a major
role, often overpowering logic and reason. Some
constantly doubt their capabilities, worrying
at every step: whether something will materialize
or not, whether the house is locked or not, whether
the stove is on or off, whether he is going to
be successful or not, etc. Constant worrying
can even cause a nervous breakdown. At the same
time it is also a center of beautiful expressions
of love, admiration, compassion, etc. In general,
nature appears to maximize this component more
in women, perhaps for the protection of the offspring.
I am reminded of the song by the professor in
'My Fair Lady' - 'Why can’t a woman be
more like a man?'
Proceed to the next essay.