I Am Not the Body by Dr. Gulab Kothari

That part of us which is eternal, is not of the physical body.
  “Integration” Blog     at Institute of Spiritual Sciences     “Regular Articles” Department  

Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna on the battlefield. Lord Krishna is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and Arjuna is a man, and yet, Krishna is Arjuna's friend, mentor, and adviser. Arjuna was a key warrior in Pandava's victory over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra War.

I Am Not the Body
The Body Is Not Me: It Is Mine
by Dr. Gulab Kothari

In the body, the process of inhaling and exhaling goes on. In addition, the heart throbs and dreams also appear. There are other bodily activities which also continue to happen, but we have no control over them. Everything is automatic, but we have no answer to the question as to why it is so. We also do not know how long these functions in the body will continue.

The gross body is the vehicle of one's journey of life. This body is not me, whereas the whole world is enmeshed in it only. This Hymn of the Kabir(1) Tradition explains it well: “Do not be proud of your body and false glamour. Your body is more fragile and rawer than the clay”. It means, do not pride yourself on it because the body is more unstable than the clay. It is perishable and impermanent.

“gidharmakhshatre kurukshetre samveta yuyutsavaha
mamata pranavaishnaiva kimkurvata Sanjay”

Dhritarashtra said: “O Sanjay, after gathering on the holy field of Kurukshetra, and desiring to fight, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do?”

Sanjay and King Dhritarashtra. In the Mahabharata, the story of a war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the blind king Dhritarashtra is the father of the principals of the Kaurava side. Sanjay became a close confidant, adviser, and Charioteer to King Dhritarashtra. He acted as an ambassador between the Pandavas and the Kauravas during the unsuccessful peace negotiations.

In the first Sloka of the Bhagavad Gita,(2) Dhritrashtra asks Sanjay about the great battle. The sentence, “dharmakhshatre kurukshetre”, expounds the deep spiritual thought that underlies it. The Kurukshetra(3) that has been described here, is in fact, the human body itself. It is the realm of dharma, because its basic cause is Brahma (the supreme reality). This body changes into a battlefield. In it the battle between the gods (supraphysical energies) and demons that goes on incessantly, “dwau bhootasargau lokeasmindairs asura eva cha” (In this world, two types of beings have been created, the divine and the devilish; Gita 16/6). The reason behind it is the layer of the three attributes consisting of sattva (purity), rajas (passions) and tamas (darkness or ignorance).

We see diversity in the universe on account of these three attributes only. Krishna says that man does karma under the influence of these three attributes only. He cannot stop doing karma even for a moment. These attributes create three types of human dispositions. This body is a mere instrument for this journey of life. The Soul that dwells in the body is indestructible immortal.

Lord Krishna also says :
“idam shahram kauntey kshetramityamidhiyate
etadyo veti tan prehuha kshetrajna ititdvidaha”
(Gita 13/1)
“O Arjuna! this body is known as kshetra (a field). He who knows it is called kshetraj (the knower of the field). This kshetra (field) i.e. the body is inanimate, gross whereas the kshetrajna is consciousness, a subtle form. This body is perishable mortal. Since it decays it is called kshra (perishable).” In the first Sloka, Arjuna says that he is disenchanted with war. He doesn't want to slay the people siding with the Kaurvas for the sake of his royal comforts.

“na kad kshe vijayam Krishna na rajya sukhani cha
kim na rajyana Govindam kim bhogerjivitena va”
(Gita 1/32)
Here Krishna says to Arjuna, that he is grieving over the mortal body. It is not true that they (Arjuna and Krishna) were not present in any Aeon of the cycle of time or those kith and kin were not there.

“ashochyananvashochastvam prajnavadaschabhastase
gatasushcha nanyshachanti pandita”
(Gita 2/11)
In reality, this gross body of living beings is called living (endowed with prana) after it is joined with the Subtle body and the Causal body. Without the vital force (prana) it is dead. The body makes us aware of our existence, our Being. It is the carrier of our consciousness. It regulates our mana (mind) and pranas.

The body is also a medium of our expression, but is this body indeed ‘we' or ‘me'? The body is ours, mine but ‘we' and ‘me' are totally different. It is evident from the fact that the body is marked by breathing, palpitations and dreams. There are many other activities in the body which are beyond our control. Everything is self-regulated. But we have no answer to the question as to why it is so. We even do not know how long will it continue? In order to understand the concept of ‘kshestra' it is imperative that we understand all these three types of bodies.

The body that we know is a combined form of these three bodies. Our external appearance is the gross body. It is regulated and controlled by the Subtle and the Causal bodies. Explaining the form of kshetra, Krishna says: “The brief form of kshetra constitutes “pancha mahabhoota”, the five basic material elements (earth, water, fire, air, interspace) and ego, intellect, prakriti made of sattva, raja and tamas, the organs of sense (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin), organs of action (hands, legs, mouth, urinary tract, rectum), mind, the ingredients of the five senses (word, touch, form, juice, smell), desire, envy, joy-sorrow, the gross body, sentience and fortitude along with their modifications. The changes that take place in them are called vikaras (modifications). All these are the external structure of the body, its functions, and objects (vishayas). The Subtle body which controls the activities of the gross body is always most active in the form of prana (Supraphysical Energy).

During sleep, the body does not function but the pranas within it continue working. The heart beats continuously and the blood keeps circulating in the veins. Breathing goes on and dreams also appear in one's sleep. What it means is that the mind remains active even in a state of sleep. These functions are carried out by the pranas. In other words, it is the Subtle body that performs these functions. When this function ceases, it is said that the pranas have left or deserted the body. The main function of the Subtle body is to receive energy from the Solar system and the environment around it, change it into various categories for the use of the body and distribute the same within it. Its other functions include conveying the experience of our material or gross body to the Soul and express the samskaras(4) accumulated by the Soul by means of the body. The Subtle body is generated by the sheaths permeated with pranas (vital force), mana (mind) and vijnana (knowledge of the vast and variegated world).

In Anugita(5) it is stated that the seven constituents of the body, which include nose, eyes, tongue, skin, ears, mind, and intellect remain connected with one another, but since they reside in the Subtle body, they do not see one another.

“Granamchaksuscha jivha cha tvak shvotram chaiva panchamam
manobuddhisaha saptaite hotaraha prathagashritaha
sukshamavakashe tishthanta na pashyantita retaram”
(Anugita 23/2-3)
The Causal body is known as jivatma (Embodied Soul). Since it is a part of Brahm it is permeated with bliss. The fruits of a person's karma of the previous birth determine his next existence (new body) through which he undergoes joy or sorrow. Therefore the Causal body is the basis of the awareness of our existence in the form of ego or ‘I'. That is why we describe the gross body as ‘our body' but it cannot be called ‘I'. Our Subtle body serves as a bridge between the gross and the Causal Bodies.(Spiritual Bodies).

Krishna says, “Consider me the knower of the kshetra in all kshetras (field in all fields). The knowledge of the kshetra and the knower of the kshetra has been regarded as my own knowledge.” It means that the body in the form of kshetra is infinite. In all the bodies only one Ishwara is present as khshatrajna (knower of the kshetra). We call it Jivatma Brahm. Krishna says that the consciousness that everybody is possessed of is his own manifestation. In that sense, every living being itself is a form of Ishwara or Brahm (Lord or Supreme God).

Our body is earthly. It is associated with the earth. Since it is bound with panchpasha or panchklesha (five clutches) it is called a beast. These five clutches or bondages are: ignorance, one's self, attachment, hatred, and fear of death. It alone is ignorance or avidya. Surrounded by ignorance, a jiva (Soul) becomes oblivious of his Divinity. All living beings consider their body as the Soul. They also believe that the body is the “doer” of any everything.

As a matter of fact, the consumer body is not the doer of action or its sufferer or enjoyer. It is a person's Soul that is responsible for all the deeds. The gross body is a mere tool to suffer or enjoy the fruits of karma. In reality, only the Subtle and the Causal Bodies exist:
“karyakaran kathitve hetvha prakriti rushyata
purushsha sukhadukhaman bhoktritve heturushyate”
(Gita 13/28)
The gross body is the vehicle of one's journey of life. This body is not ‘me' whereas the entire world is entangled in this body only.

From a Spiritual point of view we have four levels: body, mind, intellect, and Soul. The amalgamation of those four creates our personality. Of them the body alone is the dwelling place of mana (mind), buddhi (intellect) and Soul. It is through the senses only that we touch a particular object or vishaya. These objects or vishayas reach the mind through them only. They reach the intellect through mana (mind) and the Soul through intellect. After receiving vishayas the Soul makes a decision and the body acts accordingly. This entire process of the regulation of life is based on Prakriti(6) veiled by three gunas (attributes) known as sattva, raja and tamas. It is also the basis of birth-death and rebirth. Prakriti alone is called disposition. On this very basis the senses choose objects and actions in accordance with them.

The fruits of karmas also vary from being pure to active and dark. They become formative influences (samskaras) and, also impact the Soul. They get accumulated in the Causal body in the form of avidya (ignorance) or vidya (dharma, knowledge, and dispassionateness). These coverings of avidya camouflage the form of the knower of the kshetra, Soul, Divinity and Brahm. Therefore, we forget our original nature.

The aim of our philosophy of life is the realization of the self, i.e. making use of the gross and Subtle body in realizing “the self”. The man who thinks that the body itself is the Soul, invariably undergoes the joys and sorrows of the states of lust, anger, love, hatred, birth, and death, but he who experiences the separateness of the Soul and the body, does not feel the pangs of suffering.

The old age-death etc. produced by avidya are not associated with the Soul in any way. Similarly joy and sorrow are also not related to the Soul because both are caused by avidya. Once a person is able to know the reality of the Soul, the senses that distinguishes between the two things comes to an end. When the “sense that differentiates between things” dissipates, Krishna and Arjuna become one.

(1) Kabir: (Arabic: “Great”) Born 1440, Varanasi, Jaipur, India; died 1518, Maghar, India. Kabir was a 15th-century Indian poet, mystic and saint who is revered by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.
(2) The Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit) literally: ”The Song by God” or “Song of the Lord” is often referred to more simply as the Gita, and it is part of a larger work, the epic Mahabharata. The Gita itself is a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his teacher and charioteer Krishna. At the start of the dharma yuddha (the “righteous war”) between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, Arjuna is preoccupied by a moral and emotional dilemma and is morally and spiritually troubled about the violence and death the war and battle will cause his friends and kin.
(3) Kurukshetra: literally, “The field of Kurus”; it is the setting, or battlefield, for the climactic battle of Mahabharata.
(4) Samskaras (Sanskrit): In vedic philosophy, every action or intent by an individual leaves a samskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of the person's Soul. These impressions come to fruition in that individual's future when Samskaras manifest as tendencies, karmic impulses, and subliminal impressions.
(5) Anugita is an ancient Sanskrit text embedded in the Book 14 of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Anugita literally means an Anu of Gita.
(6) Prakriti (Sanskrit) prakriti is the prime force or energy The term is derived from the Sanskrit pra, meaning “beginning,” and kriti, meaning “creation.”

Special edit for the Institute of Spiritual Sciences (ISS); permission to publish given by Dr. Gulab Kothari 02/21.
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