Chapter 32 — Shiva on the Preservation and Dissolution of the Body

Shiva continued:—

Listen, holy sage! I will now explain how the active and oscillating principle of consciousness acts on the human body and makes it move, whereby it receives the noble title of its active agent. But a mind compelled by its former propensities prevails over the intellect. Being hardened in its vicious deeds, the mind pursues its changing wishes and desires. The mind strengthened by illusion, the intellect becomes as dumb and hard as a rock. This power of delusion, growing stronger by divine dispensation, displays the universe to view.

It is by the good grace of this power that consciousness is sometimes allowed to perceive the fallacy of this city-in-the-sky world, and at others times to believe it to be a reality. 5 The body is as dumb as a rock without the presence of intellect, mind and its individual ego. When these are present, then the body moves about like a stone flung in the air. As dull iron is made to move by the presence of a magnet, so the living soul acts its parts by the presence of the omnipresent Soul. The power of the all pervading Soul makes the living principle shoot out into infinity forever, just as seeds sprout into trees everywhere. Just like a mirror receives the reflection of objects situated some distance away, so the living soul reflects the image of the distant Supreme Spirit.

Forgetting its own real nature, the living soul contracts to become a foul gross object, just as a legitimate twice born man (brahmin), forgetting his birth, mistakes himself for a shudra (low caste). By forgetting its own essence, consciousness is transformed into the sensuous mind, just as some great souls are deceived to believe they are miserable by being distracted from their awareness of their consciousness.

10 The intellect moves the dull and inert body, just as the force of winds shakes the waters of the deep to roll and range about in successions of waves. 11 The active mind, always prone to action, randomly leads the body machine together with the passive and helpless living soul, just as the winds blow in different directions carrying inert materials with it. 12 The body is the vehicle, and God employs the mind and vital breath as the two horses or bullocks that drive it. 13 Others say that the rarefied consciousness assumes a compact form, which becomes the living soul, and this riding on the car of the mind drives it by the vital airs as its racers.

14 Sometimes consciousness seems like something born and in being, as in its state of waking and witnessing objects all around. At others it seems to be dead and lost as in its state of deep sleep. Again, it appears as many as in its dreaming state. At last it comes to know itself as one when it comes to the knowledge of truth and its identity with the sole unity. 15 Sometimes it seems to be of a different form, without forsaking its own nature, just as milk becomes butter and curds, and just as water appears in the shapes of waves and foam.

16 As all things depend upon light to display their different forms and colors, so the mental powers and faculties all depend upon the conscious soul for their different actions. 17 The Supreme Spirit situated in the mind within the body gives the animal soul its life and action, just as all things appear to sight while a lamp shines inside the room.

18 The ungoverned mind gives rise to all diseases and difficulties rising as quickly and thickly as rough waters rise in waves foaming with thickening froth. 19 The living soul, dwelling like a bee in the lotus bed of the body, is subject to diseases and difficulties like the bee is to rains and flood. The living soul is as disturbed by the casualties of life as calm seawater is disturbed to waves by blowing winds.

20 The idea that “the Divine Soul is omnipotent, and the living soul is impotent and limited in its powers; therefore the human soul is not the same as the divine” is the cause of our grief and serves to darken understanding, just as clouds raised by the sunlight obscure the sun.

21 The living soul passes through many incarnations in its ignorance and utter lack of self consciousness, like one subdued to dullness by some sleeping drug that makes him insensitive to the pain inflicted upon his own body. 22 But as the living soul comes to know itself through some means or another, it recovers from its dull unconsciousness and regains its state of original purity, just as a drunken or deluded person turns to his duty once he comes to remember himself. 23 The living soul fills the body and is employed in enlivening all its members. It does not strive to know the cause of its consciousness, just as a leper never attempts to use the parts of his body he is incapable of raising.

24 When the soul is devoid of its consciousness, it no longer makes the lotus-like heart beat and vibrate with the breath of respiration. The heart becomes as motionless as a sacrificial vessel untouched by the priest. 25 When the action of the lotus-shaped heart stops, the motion of the vital breaths also stops, just as the fanning of the palm leaf being over, there is no more breeze. 26 Cessation of the vital air in the body and its flight to some other form (i.e., death) silences life which recedes into the original soul, just as flying dust settles when the winds die down. 27 At this time, O sage, the mind remains in its unstained state without support until it gets another body in which it rests like a seed in soil and water. 28 Thus, the causes of life cease, the eight principles of the body become inert and extinct, and the body drops and becomes defunct and motionless. 29 Forgetting intellect, the intelligible (truth), and intelligence produces the desires to vibrate. This brings memories of the past, or they are buried in oblivion.

30 The expansion of the lotus-like heart causes the subtle body (puryashtaka, astral body) to expand also, but when the organ of the heart ceases to blow and breathe, the body ceases to move. 31 As long as elements of the subtle body remain in the physical body, it lives and breathes, but when these elementary powers are quiet and still, the body becomes inert and is said to be dead.

32 When the contrary humors, or feelings and passions and conscious perceptions, or outward wounds and strokes cause the inner actions of the heart to stop, 33 then the eight-fold material body forces are pent up in the cavity of the heart, just as the force of winds is lost in the hollow of a pair of bellows.

34 When a living body has its inner consciousness but becomes inert and motionless in its outer parts and members, it is still alive by the action of breathing in the inner organ of the heart. 35 Those whose pure and holy desires never forsake their hearts live in a quiet and even state of life. They are known as the living liberated and long living seers.

36 When the action of the lotus-like machine of the heart has ceased and breath no longer circulates in the body, it loses its steadiness and falls unsupported on the ground like a block of wood or stone. 37 As the eight-fold body mixes with the air in the emptiness of the sky, so the mind also is absorbed in it at the same time. 38 But being accompanied by thoughts to which it has been long accustomed, the mind continues to wander about in the air in the regions of heaven and hell where it had long believed it would go upon leaving the body. 39 The body becomes a dead corpse after the mind has fled into the air. The body remains like an empty house after its occupant has left.

40 The all pervading Consciousness, by its power of reasoning, becomes both the living soul and the mind. Passing from its embodied form, it assumes its spiritual nature. 41 In its heart it fosters the subtle essence of the elemental mind, which later assumes a grosser form like the thoughts of things appear in dream. 42 Then, as the intensity of its thoughts makes the unreal world appear as real, it comes to forget and forsake its spiritual nature and transforms itself into a gross body. 43 By mistake it thinks the unreal body is substantial, the unreal is real, and the real is unreal. 44 The intellect is only a particle of the all pervading Consciousness that makes the living soul and which reflects itself in the form of the intelligent mind. Then the mind ascends on the vehicle of the eight-fold body and surveys the phenomenal world as a sober reality.

45 Consciousness is the prime mobile power that gives force to the eight-fold material body to move itself. The action of the breath in the heart, called life, resembles the spiritual force of a ghost rising up in an inert body. 46 When the aerial mind flies into the empty air, after its material frame is weakened and worn out, then the lifeless body remains like a block of wood or stone. Then it is called dead by the living. 47 As the living soul forgets its spiritual nature, becoming decayed in course of time and according to the frail nature of material things, it fades and falls away like withered leaves. 48 When the vital power forsakes the body and the action of the heart muscles stop, the breath of life becomes extinct and the animated being is said to die.

49 All beings, having been born and come to life, fade away in time like all created things in the world. Human bodies also fade and fall away in time, like the withered leaves of trees. 50 The bodies of all embodied beings are equally doomed to be born and die in their time, just as the leaves of trees constantly grow and fall off in season. Why then should we lament the loss of what is surely to be lost?

51 Look at these chains of living bodies, indiscriminately and constantly rising and falling like bubbles and waves in the vast ocean of Divine Consciousness. There is no difference between any and another. Why then should the wise make any distinction between objects that are equally frail in their nature, and proceed from and return to the same source? 52 All-pervading Consciousness reflects itself only in the mind of man, and nowhere else, just as only the mirror receives the reflections of objects and not any other opaque substance.

53 The acts and fates of men are all imprinted in the spacious and clear page of Divine Consciousness, yet all embodied beings cry and complain loudly against the decrees of Heaven which are the results of their own ignorance and tend towards their bitter grief and vain lamentation.