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5-Gross and Subtle

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Kathopanishad-Page 5
p 63-76

Gross and Subtle

Yam further says - "Below the surface of the body consciousness, we begin to see that we are not living with one body, but two. The one is called "Sthool Shareer" in Sanskrit, usually translated as the "Gross Body". This is the physical organism which we are familiar with. But the Gross body has a kind of double, made of Praan (see Vaayu) just as the physical body is made of matter. Its Sanskrit name is "Sookshm Shareer" or the "Subtle Body"; and it roughly corresponds to what we call the mind, feelings, desires, intellect and will.

Gross Body has no intellect and is usually unaware of the needs of the Subtle Body (let us call it his wife). Subtle on the other hand, has a highly sensitive nature. She does not simply walk, she glides, so noiselessly that Gross scarcely knows that she is around. She lives in a different  world, maybe in dreamland. In fact when we sleep,  only Gross is asleep. Awareness is withdrawn from the Gross and senses are consolidated in Subtle.

Gross is highly physically oriented. If it cannot touch, hear, see or smell anything, it simply does not exist. Consequently his attention is all on the outward appearance of things. He may not hear what you are saying, but if one of your buttons is not matching, he will surely notice it. Thus his relationships with others are based on how they look. When a person's attention is caught by attractive physical appearance, the superficial differences are magnified, such as, people over 60 years of age are excluded, people over 30 should not be trusted, their values and thinking processes are different.

But as the body consciousness lessens, superficial differences like age, appearance, physical disability, all fade away. You do not identify people with their bodies any more than with their hair styles or their clothes, but the person living inside the body.

The people whose attention is all on appearances are characteristically insecure. Their moods are at the mercy of every little tiny change around them and their security can be shaken only by a misinterpreted word, or an unusual glance, or an unexpected turn of events, all of which they magnify and take personally. If they don't get an aisle seat in the movies, they will be grudging for it throughout the whole show. Most of us belong to this category in some degree. For some we say "emotionally unstable"; others just have their "little ways".

Tragically, those who live by physical appearances, are most affected by time. One may feel something different in his teens, the same person will feel different in his middle age. And underneath this big anxiety of all, ever present but seldom expressed, the fear of last great change - the death.

The more we are caught in physical differences, nothing seems satisfactory, everything seems wrong - none or all 27 flavors of ice cream is right, there are no proper shoes for us, weather is either too cold or too warm. Things are always too short or too long, too bright or too dark, or too salty, or too scratchy etc. All these impose a great stress on both mind and body. They give rise to anger, resentment, anxiety, greed, jealousy, depression etc.

Television is the worst kind of junk food for the mind. Parents and children all suffer from the same diet. If Gross Body eats a kind of junk food, he becomes what he eats; in the same way if Subtle Body eats violence, selfishness, disrespectful relationships, she assimilates it.

Thus for all the differences in their looks and behavior, Gross and Subtle match perfectly. Dis-ease in the mind is often a precursor of physical ailments. People respond to the stresses of life in different ways. If the response to such stresses is severe, or the stress is sustained; that particular part of the body may simply break down. People fall ill. Bereavement, especially after the death of a loved one, greatly increases the risk of falling ill, or dying, or a broken heart.

Many a times such mental stresses give rise to physical illnesses, so one has to find out if a certain physical illness is really because of mental stress. When a young man hugs his girl friend, all kinds of things happen with his body chemistry which may not happen at all when he hugs his 80-year old aunt. As regards to physical illness, treating one illness may create problem in another part of the body. Even surgical removal of any part of the body is not without risk, because nothing in the body is separate from the rest. Everything is the part of a dynamic interdependent balance. When that balance is disturbed, any number of consequences may ensue.

While solving marital problems, the main problem is of self-will - the overriding driving of "me, me and me", which cannot help manipulating and offending others. Self-will invariably provokes resentment, reservation or fear. As long as both parties are self-centered, no amount of physical counseling can solve their problems. On the other hand, if even one partner can begin to reduce his or her self-will, the other person cannot help responding the partner's soft behavior. Tenderness comes, respect deepens, and all relations fall into harmony. Once you understand the nature of the body and senses, and that it is not their fault if we are manipulated by desires, so there is no point in punishing them.

[Here the author says - "For this reason I do not inflict any kind of harsh training on the body in the name of self-discipline. All my efforts go to train the mind not the body, which is very opposite to asceticism. When the mind is obedient, there is no craving, no compulsion, no addiction. Then Subtle's problems are largely solved and Gross is also healthy."]

Yam further says - "But this kind of training of mind cannot be done by any amount of external manipulation, we need to go into the field of forces, that is mind.




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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 06/09/11