Chapter 40 — Subtle Body & Astral Travel; Intellectual Body; Details on the Process of Death, Conception & Birth

Vasishta related:—

The nocturnal fiends infested the gloomy field, and the attendants of Yama, the Lord of Death, roamed about it like marauders in the daytime. Under the canopy of thick darkness, naked and fleeting ghosts in their nightly abode reveled on their provisions of carrion that was likely to be taken by the clutches of one’s hand.

It was in the still hour of this gloomy night, when the host of heaven seemed to be fast asleep, that a sadness stole in upon the mind of Leela’s magnanimous husband, the warring King Viduratha. He thought about what was to be done the next morning in council with his counselors, and then he went to his bed which was as white as moonlight and as cold as frost. For a while his lotus-eyes were closed in sleep in his royal camp, which was as white as moonbeams and covered by the cold dews of night.

Then the two ladies issued forth from their empty abode and entered the tent through a crevice, like air penetrates into the heart of an untouched flower bud.

Rama asked, “How is it possible sage, that the gross bodies of the goddesses, with their limited dimensions, could enter the tent through one of its holes, as small as the pore of a piece of cloth?”

Vasishta answered saying that:—

It is impossible for someone who mistakes himself to be a material body to enter a small hole with that gross body. But it is possible to go anywhere one pleases if he understands that he is only pent up in his physical body like in a cage and obstructed by it in his flight, and if he does not believe that he is confined by his material body but has the true notion of his inner subtle spirit. 10 He who perceives his original spiritual state to be the better half of his body may pass as a spirit through a chink. But whoever relies on the lesser half of the material body cannot go beyond it in the form of his intellect.

11 As air rises upward and the flame of fire never goes downward, so the nature of spirit is to rise upward, and that of the body to go down, but the intellect is made to turn in the way in which it is trained. 12 A man sitting in the shade has no notion of feeling heat or warmth, so one man has no idea of another man’s knowledge or thoughts. 13 As is one’s knowledge, so is his thought. Such is the mode of his life. It is only by means of ardent practice (of meditation and learning) that the mind is turned to the right course.

14 One’s belief of a snake in a rope is removed by knowledge of his error. The habits of the mind and conduct in life are changed from wrong to right by the knowledge of truth. 15 It is one’s knowledge that gives rise to his thoughts, and thoughts direct his pursuits in life. This is a truth known to every man of sense, even to the young.

16 Now then, the soul resembles something seen in a dream or formed in fancy. The soul is of the nature of air and emptiness and is never obstructed anywhere in its course. 17 There is an intellectual and astral body which all living beings possess in every place. It is known as consciousness as well as the feelings of our hearts. 18 It is by Divine Will that consciousness rises and sets by turns. At first it was produced in its natural, simple and intellectual form and then, being invested with a material body, they together make the unity of the person out of the duality of material and immaterial essences.

19 Now you must know that the triple emptiness composed of the three airy substances — spirit, mind and space — are one and the same thing, but not so their receptacle the material body which has no ability to flow or extend.

20 Know this intellectual, consciousness body of beings is like the air, present with everything everywhere, just like your desire to know extends over all things in all places and presents them all to your knowledge. 21 It abides in the smallest particles, and reaches to the spheres of heavens. It reposes in the cells of flowers, and delights in the leaves of trees. 22 It delights in hills and dales, and dances over the waves of the oceans. It rides over the clouds, and falls down in the showers of rain and hailstones of heaven. 23 It moves at pleasure in vast space and penetrates through the solid mountains. Its body bears no break in it, and it is as minute as an atom.

24 Yet it becomes as big as a mountain lifting its head to heaven, and as large as the earth which is the fixed and firm support of all things. It views the inside and outside of everything, and bears the forests like hairs on its body. 25 It extends in the form of the sky and contains millions of worlds in itself. It identifies itself with the ocean, and transforms its whirlpools to spots upon its person.

26 This intellectual, consciousness body of beings is of the nature of an uninterrupted understanding, ever calm and serene in its aspect. It is possessed of its intellectual form from before the creation of the visible world, and being all comprehensive as emptiness itself, it understands the natures of all beings. 27 It is as unreal as water in a mirage, but by its intelligence, it manifests itself as a reality to the understanding. Without this exercise of the intellect, the intellectual man is as nothing as the son of a barren woman, and as blank as the figure of a body seen in a dream.

28 Rama asked, “What is that mind to which you attribute so many powers? What is that which you say to be nothing? Why is it no reality and something distinct from all that we see?”

29 Vasishta replied:—

All individual minds are provided with these faculties, except those whose minds are engrossed with the error of the outer world. 30 All worlds are either of a longer or shorter duration, and they appear and disappear at times. Some of these vanish in a moment and others endure to the end of a kalpa age. But it is not so with the mind, whose progress I will now relate to you.

31 There is an unconsciousness which overtakes every man before his death. This is the darkness of his dissolution (maha-pralaya-yamini). 32 After the shocks of delirium and death are over, the spiritual part of every man is regenerated anew in a different form, as if it was roused from a state of trance, reverie or swoon. 33 Just like the spirit of God, for its re-creation after the dissolution of the world, assumes his triune form with the persons of Brahma and Virat (the Universal Form), so every person after his death receives the triplicate form of his spiritual, intellectual and corporeal being.

34 Rama said, “As we believe ourselves to be reproduced after death by reason of our memories, so must we understand the re-creation of all bodies in the world by the same cause. Hence there is nothing uncaused in it.”

35 Vasishta replied:—

The gods Hari (Vishnu), Hara (Shiva) and others, having obtained their disembodied liberation (videha-mukti) at the universal dissolution, could not retain their memory to cause their regeneration.

36 But human beings, having both spiritual and intellectual bodies entire at their death, do not lose their memory of the past, nor can they have final liberation like Brahma unless they obtain their disembodied state, which is possible to all in this life or hereafter only by the edification of their souls through yoga meditation. 37 Birth and death of all other beings like yourself are caused by their memory and because they lack disembodied liberation and eternal salvation. 38 The individual soul, after its pangs of death are over, retains its consciousness within itself, but remains in its state of unconsciousness by virtue of its own nature.

39 The universal emptiness is called nature (prakriti). It is the reflection of the invisible Divine Consciousness (chit prativimbam) and it is the parent of all that is dull or moving (jada-jada) which are produced by their reminiscence or its absence (sansmriti and asmriti); the former causing the regeneration of living beings, and the latter its cessation as in inert matter. 40 As the living principle or animal life begins to have its understanding (bodha), it is called an intelligent being (mahat) which is possessed of its consciousness (ahankara). It has added to it the organs of perception and conception, all from their elements (tanmatras) residing in the empty ether.

41 Next this minutely intelligent substance is joined with the five internal senses that form its body and which is otherwise called its spiritual or ethereal body (ativahika or lingadeha; the astral or subtle body). 42 This spiritual being, by its long association with the external senses, comes to believe it has ordinary senses, so it finds itself invested with a material body (adhibhautika deha) as beautiful as that of a lotus. 43 Then seated in the embryo, it rests in a certain position for sometime, and then inflates itself like the air until it is fully expanded.

44 Then it thinks itself to be fully developed in the womb, like a man dreams of a fairy form in his sleep and believes this illusion as a reality. 45 Then he views the outer world where he is born to die, just like one visits a land where he is destined to meet his death, and there he remains to relish its enjoyments, as prepared for him.

46 But the spiritual man soon perceives everything as pure emptiness, and that his own body and this world are only illusions and vain nothings. 47 He perceives the gods, human dwellings, the hills, and the heavens resplendent with sun and stars to be nothing more than homes of disease, debility, decay and ultimate death and destruction. 48 He sees nothing but a sad change in the natures of things, and that all that is living or inert, great or small, together with the seas, hills, rivers and peoples of this earth, and the days and nights, are all subject to decay sooner or later.

49 The knowledge that I am born here of this father and that this is my mother, these are my treasures and such are my hopes and expectations, is as false as empty air. 50 That these are my merits and these my demerits, and these the desires that I had at heart, that I was a boy and am now young, are the airy thoughts of the hollow mind.

51 This world resembles a forest where every being is like a detached tree. The dark clouds are its leaves and the stars its full blown flowers. 52 Walking men are its restless deer and the aerial gods and demons its birds of the air. Broad daylight is the flying dust of its flowers and the dark night the deep hiding place of its grove. 53 The seas are like its streams and fountains and the eight boundary mountains are its artificial hills. The mind is its great water reservoir containing the weeds and shrubs of human thoughts in abundance.

54 Wherever a man dies, he is instantly changed to this state, and he views the same things everywhere. Thus everyone rises and falls constantly, like the leaves of trees in this forest of the world. 55 Millions of Brahmas, Rudras, Indras, Maruts, Vishnus and suns, together with unnumbered mountains, seas, continents and islands have appeared and disappeared in the eternal course of the world. 56 No one can count the numbers of beings that have passed away, are passing, and shall have to pass hereafter, or those who are in existence and have to become extinct in the unfathomable eternity of Brahman.

57 Therefore it is impossible to comprehend the stupendous fabric of the universe in any way except in the mind, which is as spacious as infinite space itself, and is as variable as the course of events in the world. 58 The mind is the empty sphere of consciousness, and the infinite sphere of consciousness is the seat of the Supreme.

59 Now, know the whirlpools and waves of the sea are of the same element as the sea in which they rise and fall even though, in their impermanence, they are not of the same durable nature as seawater. So the phenomenon is the same as its conception, though none is a reality. 60 The ethereal sphere of heaven is only a reflection of the intellectual sphere of the Divine Mind, and the bright orbs of the sky are like gems in the bosom of Brahman. Its vault is the cave of the mind of the Eternal One.

61 The world according to the sense in which I take it, as the seat of God, is highly interesting, but not so in your sense of it being a sober reality. So the meaning of the words “I” and “you” according to me refers to the intellectual spirit, and according to you to the individual soul and body.

62 Hence Leela and Saraswati, being in their empty astral bodies, were led by the pure desire of their souls to every place without any obstruction or interruption. 63 The spirit of consciousness has the power to present itself wherever it likes, on earth or in the sky, and before objects known or unknown and wished to be known by it. It was by this power that they could enter into the tent of the prince.

64 Consciousness has its way to all places and things, and over which it exercises its powers of observation, reflection and reasoning to their full extent. This is known as the spiritual and unconfined body (ativahika, the subtle body, astral body, mind body) whose course cannot be obstructed by any restriction whatever.