Tattva Bodha – What is the Gross/Physical Body? (Sthula Sharira) (37)

Tattva Bodha – What is the Gross/Physical Body? (Sthula Sharira by Adi Shankara) (37)


Lesson 37 answers (a) What is the material cause of every Gross Body (sthula sharira), and (b) What CAUSES your body to be born with certain attributes/parents/country/sex, etc? Point is, once we know what our Physical body is, it's much easier to negate it as NOT-I (anātman/anitya/mithyā).

Source: Adi Shankara's Tattva Bodha

If haven't attended the physical class, then be ready to write. It's process of writing that'll help mind assimilate the knowledge.


  • śarīra: body, that which decays
  • sthūla: Gross, physical, what can be perceived


  • “I am not the body”. This modern spiritual statement does NOT work. Because person making the statement does NOT know (A) what “I am” is, and (B) what it means to say “my body”.
    • Above statement only becomes meaningful when A/B are both addressed in detail. That's why we first took care of “ātmā kaḥ?” (nature of “I”) in previous session 36. And in this continuing session, we address “sthūla-śarīra kim?”, physical body. By this order, one can see and appreciate the thoughtfulness within traditional Advaita Vedānta.
  • What is Gross Body (sthūla śarīra) made of? Made by WHAT?
    • Material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa)
  • What is Gross Body CAUSED by? Made by WHOM?
    • Efficient cause (nimitta-kāraṇa). Another way to translate is: Intelligent cause.
      • What does “efficient” mean?
        • To produce, bring about. To “effect”, is to bring about or CAUSE something to happen.
      • “To effect” is DIFFERENT from “to affect” (influence/impact what's already created/effected). This is why “affect” has been brought up, to give clarity to word “effect”, thus “efficient”.
      • EG: Carpenter EFFECTS (meaning he brought it about, he created it, he is the cause for it's manifestation) a Table. While fire AFFECTS the table.
  • What's the purpose of knowing about Material/Efficient cause of your body?
    • It helps in one's Objectification of one's own body (not “I”). The more individual doesn't know about what is it that's being objectified or negated, the stronger the tharldom of that object stands over the individual. Thus to reduce the power/fascination of the body, we educate the intellect by revealing the objective truth of what the body actually is. This removes possibility of glorifying the body or giving it value that it doesn't deserve.
      • EG: Woman & makeup. Man & big muscles in gym. Each showing off combination of elements to each other. Feeling each others elements. Pleasuring each other's elements. Adoring each others elements. Consuming mind-alternating substances to increase sensitivity of each others 5 elements. Romanticizing over each others elements. This is eternal saṃsāra!
        Talking, glorifying and valuing bunch of atoms. And it's considered sexy or normal.
        How far will one get in the dating game by saying: Oh baby, I, Ātman, witness permutations/combinations of 5 elements comprising form called “body”, effortlessly standing detached from the outcome of tonight's conversation… illuminating the presence of 2 bodies turning on each other by use of speech, to satisfy each others rāga/dveṣa (likes/dislikes). My Body-Mind yearns to use it's 5 elements in form of fingers, and gently stroke them through your luscious hair made of keratin protein. Come baby, let's rub 5 elements together and increase their proportion of FIRE!! 😀
        • NOTE: I didn't say “don't date”. Just take a moment to see things as they are at atomic level – to see how we get trapped by saṃsāra, and it goes unquestioned for infinite lifetimes.
  • Examples demonstrating Material/Efficient cause relationship:
    • Pot is made up of clay (material cause). And pot is effected by the potter (efficient cause).
    • Necklace is made of gold (material cause). And the goldsmith effected the necklace out of the material cause (gold).
    • Wave is made up of water (material cause). And moon/wind effects (or causes) the wave to gain certain attributes (like height/speed/strength).
  • What is Body made of? (MATERIAL CAUSE)
    • 5 Elements (pañca-bhūta). Space (that which accommodates the next 4), Air, Fire, Water, Earth. Notice each succeeding gets more Gross.
  • Choose any object, inert or sentient. Ask, what is this made of?
    • Answer: Permutations/combinations of 5 elements. Thus there's no difference between THAT which we glorify (our body), use for seduction (beauty), use for branding purposes, use to show off by means of big muscles… then a lump of earth.
    • Use this kind of inquiry to turn-off from this disease of body-glorification. We're not attempting to devalue the body. Just to see it for what it is: elements.
    • Now, “beauty is skin deep” starts to have meaning.
    • Fascination over body beauty is nothing but NOT knowing who and what God is. For example, a wise person sees no difference between excreta of a crow and one's own body flesh. Because all is God.
  • Efficient cause of of body is: karma-janyam
    • What principle determines (a) what kind of body will be born (b) in which country (c) with which siblings (d) with what kind of family: kind, loving, alcoholics, lower-upper class financially, patient, angry, many friends, no friends, loving, abandoning, etc. (e) with type of guṇa combinations (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas) (f) with amount of intellectual capacity, etc.
      • Answer is: karma-janyam (One's own past actions which are combinations of: puṇya (meritorious actions), pāpa (adharmic, sinful, damaging actions), miśra (mixture between puṇya/pāpa).
      • This means, whatever type of body you have, with whichever kind of personality-complex, with the type of mind (clear, active, dull) you have… are all result of PAST KARMA.
        • EG 1: Person is lazy and careless. Doesn't do anything about it in this life. Then dies. In next life, the personality will be: Lazy + Careless + WHICHEVER NEW PERSONALITY TRAITS ARE ACQUIRED
        • EG 2: Person is lazy and careless. Applies much effort to become active and caring. Then dies. In next life, the personality will be: Lazy + Careless + Active + Caring + WHICHEVER NEW PERSONALITY TRAITS ARE ACQUIRED.
    • Karma-janyam is CUMULATIVE KARMAS (Sañcita Karma) expressed as “one packet” assigned to just THIS PRESENT lifetime (prārabdha karma) which you're experiencing each day.
      • Sañcita Karma: Totality of all Karma-janyam's (results of every action ever performed) from beginningless beginning assigned to each jīvātma (transmigrating individual taking on different forms). Yes, all jīvātmas actions are”tracked”. What this means is: There's no effect without corresponding cause.
        • EG: A dry lake (effect) is a caused by drought/heat. Thus every action witnessed does NOT stand alone. Every action (effect) has a relationship to previous unseen cause.
      • Similarly, your body-mind is an effect of previous unseen cause. By this logic, we can confidently assert bases of PAST-LIVES (or incarnation). Thus incarnation is NOT a belief, but observable logic that any form expressed with certain attributes, is result of an unseen connection to something else that's not perceptible to us. Thus we can't discard reincarnation just because we can't perceive the cause right now.
  • 2 Types of Elements: 
    1. Gross 5 Elements: sthūla-bhūta (pañci-kṛtam): Perceivable grossness. Anything which can be perceived by senses, or instruments like microscope/telescope/etc. EG: body, tree, rock, cells, stars, etc.
    2. Subtle 5 Elements: sūkṣma-bhūta (apañci-kṛtam, tanmatras): Can't be seen/perceived. EG: memory, thoughts, emotions. One may say “I CAN perceive emotion!”, but that's incorrect because to perceive is for it to be concrete/tangible/graspable/sustainable. For example, one can't smell, touch, feel, see or taste anger. Emotion is abstract. This is why it's subtle.
      • pañci-karaṇa: Process of converting Subtle to Gross. This will be mentioned later in course in more detail. It's unnecessary for mokṣa, but certainly interesting for intellectuals who wish to know technical details how Creation is created.
  • What is sthūla-śarīra?
    • ayatanam: Your home, your address. Your body.
    • In a sense, we're all like gypsies, carrying our home with us everywhere.
    • It is staying in this home (body) where all sukha (joys) and duḥkha (suffering/sorrows) are experienced (bhoga).
    • Meaning, whether the home is pure (Sattva) or dirty (Rajas/Tamas) depends on proportion of sukha/duḥka. Entirely up to you how clean your home is.
  • Body instrument (ayatanam: your home) goes through 6 modifications during course of it's life (assuming it's not prematurely aged by means of intoxicants/excess pollution/suicide):
    1. asti: IS, but don't see it. It is in unmanifest. (Notice I didn't mention “baby” because that which is in unmanifest can't be mentioned anything until it's form (rūpa) is perceivable; only then name (nāma) can apply. In other words, one can't assign name/form to POTENTIAL). Also applies to stage where potential is in baby form, but in womb.
    2. jāyate: Baby is born. Meaning, it takes it's first breath of air.
    3. vardhate: Growth into infant. Limbs strengthen. Muscle develops. Mind absorbs environment. Language is learned. Self-consciousness is developed.
    4. viparīnamate: Maturity-puberty. Peak of growth (stage 3) is reached. Hair grows in sexual region, breasts develop, voice breaks, intellectual reasoning enjoyed. At this stage, male/female has grown to 95%+ of full growth capacity.
      • Any additional growth would be due to excess food or hormonal inconsistencies. This stage is like tree bearing maximum fruits. Any additional fruits would be like adding unnatural fertilizer to the tree. The tree will produce more, but the quality of fruit will suffer. (EG: Organic vs inorganic vegetables).
    5. apakṣīyate: Slow decay of instrument. Like anything born, it exhibits stage of peak maturity, then begins gradual process of decay/weakness/loss.
    6. vinaśyati: Death. When decay of instrument reaches a point where it can't keep itself alive/functioning any longer (IE: synergy fails), then entire instrument STOPS. Body gains a new name (nāma), corpse. It goes back to 5 elements like anything else in Creation.
      • Jīvātma (term used for ignorant person; ajñāni) inherits a new body depending on it's karma-janyam.
      • For jñāni (liberated person), nothing happened! There's no death. Sense of satisfaction has NOT increased because body ceased. Satisfaction during aliveness of a Jñāni is EXACTLY THE SAME after body's death. Because jñāni was never the body-mind in the first place. For a jñāni, it's comparable to watching strangers body die, but not yours. There's neither positive nor negative feelings about it. It's witnessed like a leaf falling of a tree. An unimportant event that goes unnoticed.
  • Function of body? Acts as home for individual.
  • Based on WHAT experiences individual (jīvātma) has to go through,  karma-janyam (efficient cause) will fashion 5 elements (material cause) to correspond individuals sañcita-karma.
    • Story of reincarnation: Suppose in previous life, the jīvātma by act of retaliation, damaged someone's back. The “victim” (whose actually not a victim but “paying” for their own karma, which is why the back was damaged) is then partially disabled for rest of his/her life.
      The jīvātma knows about the victims disability and until death, and never develops maturity to apologize, nor asks for forgives for inhumane actions, nor develops sense of regret for one's cruel behavior.
      Eventually the jīvātma dies.
      In the next life, the baby (due to karma-janyam) will be born retarded whose completely dependent on parents to take care of it's needs. Of course parents are also paying their own karma, which is why they were assigned a retarded/incapable child.
      This retardation FORCES the  jīvātma to begin appreciating everyone who is in better physical position then him.
      This appreciation of everyone, teaches jīvātma to “see or consider” another person and wish the same for oneself also. In other-words, karma-janyam (efficient cause) fashioned the 5 elements (material cause) to help jīvātma work out it's karma, by developing positive “feelings” for others, or to admire others, since in last life, the jītvātma only admired him/herself.
      Conclusion: Your birth has nothing to do with Īśvara (God). And everything to do with karma-janyam.
      Thus any attempt to blame or be angry at God for any reason, is to (a) demonstrate one's ignorance of what God is, and (b) to fail to appreciate the greatest gift given by God to humans; freewill (freedom to will).
      It doesn't matter what happenED. It doesn't matter how one is TODAY. It doesn't matter what one doesn't know. It doesn't matter what disadvantages one believes they have.
      All that matters is what one does with what is PRESENT right now. The ability to assess, learn from, evaluate, contemplate on, resolve and improve from in the future… is the gift made possible by our advanced Intellects; which has freedom to will (freewill). Using freewill intelligently is what qualifies one worthy of being called “human being”. If used unintelligently, then one is called “muhyanti jantavaḥ” (confused creature): BGītā CH 5, verse 15.


  • Tattva Bodha verse used in class to answer “what is the gross body?”…





  • Class test to be completed in 1 hour, right after watching video above.


Keywords: anatma, anatman, mithya, atma kah, sthula sarira kim, vedanta, upadana , karana, karanam, samsara, pancha, panca, bhuta, guna, papa, punya, sancita, samcita, sanchita, panci krtam, kritam, apanci-kritam, panci-karana, moksha, sukha, duhkha, jayate, viparinamate, apaksiyate, apakshiyate, vinasyati, vinashyati, jivatma, jnani

Recorded 19 Feb, 2019


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