Speaker: I am beyond the three fold bodies, I am beyond the consciousness, that is Brahm! Consciousness, ‘चेतना’ in the context of wisdom literature, especially Indian wisdom literature, refers to a relaxed state of understanding versus a turbulent state of thought. Consciousness can refer to both. Consciousness can refer to the turbulence of thought that one usually experiences, or consciousness can refer to a very relaxed state of understanding. It can denote both. Here when you are reading it, it refers to the ‘settled understanding’.
You said, ‘the three fold bodies’. We talk of the gross body, the subtle body, and the causal body- स्थूल, सूक्ष्म, कारण that does not mean that there are actually three bodies or ten bodies. It only means that when you look from a gross perspective, all you see is grossness. It is in your eyes not in the object. The object does not have three layers. The object is in the mind, and all the layers that are attributed to the object are also in the mind. Let us say that you are sitting in front of me. What do I mean by your gross body? If I am terribly body identified, terribly, I see nothing but material. Then I will see only flesh in you. Only flesh. What is in front of me? Flesh. Right? This is ‘gross body’, coming from a ‘gross mind’. It is gross body coming from a gross state of mind.
If I am a little more sensitive, if I am available to the delicate nature of life, if there is something subtle in my perception, then I will be able to look at your face and see not only flesh but also your thoughts, your emotions, which are really not material, but yet I will be able to read them on your face. The same face that is flesh will not be only flesh anymore. It would be a messenger of something a little deeper than the flesh. Right? I can read your forehead, and I can see that you are worried. I can look into your eyes and say that there is something in the heart. This is the subtle mind looking at the subtle body. Right?
It doesn’t stop here. The poet, the artist looks at the subtle body. The materialist looks only at the gross body. But there is another level of being higher than that of the poet, the artist, the singer, that is of the man of wisdom. Call him the sage, call him the saint, or just call him the ordinary man possible, in the context of Zen. He looks and he really looks. When he looks he does see flesh, he also sees emotions and thoughts, but he also sees something which is absolutely beyond the perception of the eyes and the mind.
The eyes see flesh, the mind sees thoughts, the saint sees something which is neither flesh nor thought, yet it encompasses both flesh and thought. Everything originates from there. It is the bowl in which everything is contained, and because everything is contained in it, it is actually the cause of everything. It is a potent nothingness which is the cause of all somethingness. So it is like that I look at you and I see a blankness, a blankness from where a lot is being given birth, a very fertile blankness, a very fertile emptiness which causes everything else to sprout from itself. This is the causal body. It is nothing in itself; absolutely nothing in itself, but from this, everything else arises. So these are the three bodies.
Do not confuse the third body with the state of joy. In fact, the causal body is the most condensed, most compressed form of conditioning. You could liken it to a seed which is nothing in itself, just too small, but will give birth to a lot of things. It will give birth to a lot of things. This too is visible when you look from clean eyes, but it requires eyes to be very clean. Gross eyes will only look at grossness. With subtle mind, with subtle eyes, you look at something more subtle. And when you are nothing, then you are able to see the nothingness from where everything else is coming. You are in the middle of it, yet all you see is blankness, about which one can’t be serious.
You see a lot, but you also know that all this lot, this apparent diversity, comes from one single source. Those who have known have called this source as ‘I AM’. ‘अहंवृत्ति’which is the mother वृत्ति which is the कारण, the cause of everything else that happens in the mind. It is a very deep seated thing; absolutely deep seated. It is the seed, the cause, the कारण. But remember it will not be perceptible. Why? Because I am is perceptible only when it joins itself to an object. ‘I am’ is perceptible when you say, ‘I am X’, when you say, ‘I am an Indian’, then ‘I am’ becomes material. ‘I am’ is constantly in search of something. If it is not obtained, then ‘I am’ in itself is impotent but ready to get out of impotency. We all have that nagging ‘I am’ within us. It is like a free radical in chemistry, unable to do much on its own but actively, radically looking for something to get attached to. We all have that वृत्ति, deep seated within us, something to get attached to, that fundamental restlessness which we call as ‘Man’. That fundamental restlessness is the causal body.
‘I AM’, is nothing in itself, because ‘I am’ does not mean anything, but highly potent, because it will search something and get latched to it. That is the reason why the sage is saying, ‘I am beyond all the three bodies’. Obviously, I am not saying that I am this gross body. So, ‘I am body’ is ruled out! Next level is, ‘I am mind’, सूक्ष्मशरीर, that is also ruled out. Next level I, ‘I Am’, that too is ruled out. Even the ‘I AM-ness’ has to be ruled out. So first thing one sees is that whatever I am doing there is a strong sense of ‘I am present’ in that. Take a life situation, there is something there so, in the moment of tension I have to be somebody. I am somebody, that is why the tension. If it is not there, the tension cannot be there. My son has not returned from school and I am tensed. Why am I tensed? Because I am… I am…
Listeners (one by one): A Father! A mother!
Speaker : A father or a mother. Getting it? I am thinking of the future and that makes me very happy. Now son is the body, the future is an idea, an imagination. Even in that happiness, I have to be somebody to feel happy. I am imagining, I am imagining as an identity, as somebody. I am somebody. The wise one rules out that. He sees that all this is happening because ‘I am’ has taken a formal shape and has become an identity. He strikes that out, and he says, ‘what is the point in striking out object after object, because I am can attach to any object. How many objects will I keep killing’?
So he says that I will go to the cause of all these- the causal body- the कारण शरीर, and he says that I will wipe it clean there, because if ‘I am’ is present, it will find something. It is so restless, it will find something. It needs an identity to survive. So he goes there and says, ‘clear this. I am out. Clear this. I am out, because this ‘I am’ is a limitation. Clear this’ Then what remains? Well nothing! It says, ‘I am beyond the three fold bodies’. Just beyondness. Not that the three bodies, not that their actions, do not remain visible to this man. Yet he sees bodies, yet he sees emotions, he also knows where they arise from, but yet there is certain beyondness in his being.
Even when he says, ‘I am beyond all these’, this ‘I am’ is no longer I am, because it is not a limited I am. It is ‘I am something’. This ‘I am’ is complete in itself, not waiting to get a partner.
This ‘I am’ is not in search of an object, complete in itself, ‘I AM’ and then, this ‘I am’ is beyond everything, it encompasses everything. A thought in the mind- I am; the world, the sky- I am; birth and death- I am; within the world- I am; beyond the world- I am; thinkable- I am; unthinkable- I am; known- I am; unknown – I am; knowable- I am; unknowable- I am. And then it is all right. This state is also called as the state of aloneness.
I alone am! Nothing else. I alone am! Nothing else. So one could either have consciousness that is related to these three states, a gross consciousness for which the material is supreme, an emotional mind, a thinker who lives in ideas, or somebody who has been able to go beyond these two but is yet restless with this ‘I am’.
One’s consciousness can rest in these three states or it can find a peaceful and relaxed home in just nothing. Call it just nothing or call it absolutely everything. An all pervasive I AM. Whenever we say consciousness, we inevitably mean a limited consciousness, a limited sense of consciousness which can be compartmentalized, here, there; there, somewhere it can be fitted in. And whenever the mind is turbulent, it would always be because of a limited sense of seeing things otherwise, there would be no question of turbulence. Are we together on this?
If the mind is looking at the bodies, it very well knows that bodies can disappear. Bodies are subject to death. The mind will be turbulent. Turbulence cannot be far away. If the mind is living in ideas, if the mind is living in hope, then fear would always be accompanying hope, and the mind has to be turbulent. Turbulence cannot be far away. But if the mind is there, close to the source, peaceful, relaxed, then the word consciousness takes different meaning altogether. Then it is not our everyday routine consciousness, then that consciousness is something else.
-Excerpts from a clarity session held at Advait office. Edited for clarity.