Deep concept of the Subtle Body (How the subtle body causes new births)
According to yoga philosophy, our body comprises three bodies: physical (gross), subtle, and causal.
The five koshas are present within these three bodies: Annamaya kosha, Pranamaya kosha, Manomaya kosha, Vignanamaya kosha, and Anandamaya kosha. The gross body is what we observe, and it is composed of a combination of five elements: earth, water, air, fire, and ether (sky).
Our body functions properly when there is a balance of these five elements. Any imbalance in one element can cause deformity in our body. Hence, maintaining the balance of these elements in our body is crucial.
What does Subtle Body mean?
The subtle body comprises the energy and knowledge corpus and does not perish even after death. It encompasses the pancha jnanendriyas (five sense organs), pancha karmendriya (five organs: feet, hands, rectum, genitals, and mouth), as well as the mind, intellect, and ego. Therefore, comprehending the subtle body is akin to understanding the sense of self. Although the subtle body cannot be seen with the physical eye, it can be experienced through yoga and meditation. In the Bhagavad Gita, the subtle body is described as a combination of mind, intellect, and ego, and it controls the physical body. Through this body, a human experiences happiness and sorrow.
The subtle body comprises three of the five koshas of human existence:
Pranamaya Kosha: The sheath of vital life force/energy
Manomaya Kosha: This encompasses psychological or mental sheath.
Vigyanamaya Kosha: This kosha encompasses knowledge and intelligence.
The subtle body is the reason for new births
The subtle body is believed to be the cause of rebirth, as it is dominated by the mind and its desires, which never truly fade away. As a result, humans are born, die, and are reborn again.
Avidya, or ignorance, does not die, nor do the desires of the mind, such as the desire for sensory experiences, the experience of pleasure and pain, the urge to progress, attachment to oneself, and the will to live. These factors persist until the very end, leading to the endless cycle of birth and death. When the physical body dies, the gross body collapses, but the subtle body continues to exist. The soul is said to reside within two bodies, the subtle body and the gross body.
At the time of death, the gross body comes to an end because it is composed of physical elements like soil, water, air, and so on. However, the subtle body, which is made up of thoughts, sensations, and vibrations, remains. This body, which is surrounded by fibres, thoughts, and desires, begins a new journey with the soul and then enters a new gross body. It is important to note that only the gross body falls at the time of death, not the subtle body.
At the time of ultimate death, known as moksha, the subtle body also dies along with the gross body, and there is no rebirth of the soul. This is because all desires, including happiness, sorrow, the desire to live, and the desire to be connected to loved ones, come to an end. This release from the cycle of birth and death is considered the ultimate goal in many spiritual traditions.
The ordinary person loves the gross body, while the yogi is familiar with the subtle body, and the one who has achieved samadhi understands the soul. Through meditation, one can feel the subtle body, but what lies beyond it can only be experienced in samadhi. Even during meditation, when a person transcends the subtle body, samadhi can be attained. Therefore, an ordinary person experiences the body, while a yogi experiences the subtle body, and a supreme yogi experiences the supreme soul. When the soul achieves ultimate liberation, its birth and death come to an end. The soul is never born and never dies.
The subtle body, which causes new births, ceases to exist when it is finished. So the subtle body encompasses our thoughts, desires, experiences, and knowledge. However, in the absence of any remaining desire, one is freed from the cycle of birth and death. The subtle body cannot be perceived by the physical eye but can be experienced through yoga and meditation. By practising asanas, pranayama, and meditation, we can sense the energies of our subtle bodies and bring our minds, desires, and senses under control. The yogi, who comprehends the layers of the subtle body through the eight limbs of yoga and meditation, attains salvation.