This is a series of articles by KAMLESH D. PATEL about the evolution of consciousness, and how spiritual practices are designed to help consciousness expand and evolve.
The Science of Spirituality
Part 1 – The Three Bodies
When we talk about weaving a destiny, a future for ourselves, what do we mean? In the worldly sense, we want a good life. From my one-bedroom apartment, I want a five-bedroom house; from owning one factory I hope to own ten factories; I dream of being promoted from the position of a clerk to that of a CEO; I want a happy and fulfilling family life, and to raise children who also have fulfilling lives.
From the spiritual perspective, we are concerned with a much bigger picture. In order to explore this further, we need to first describe the human makeup. We have a physical body made of flesh and blood that is the most solid part of us. While it changes a little bit, according to how we live our lives, it doesn’t change much. Physical evolution happens over longer periods than one lifetime, so we don’t expect our physical body to evolve in this life. The physical body is associated with matter.
We also have a subtle body, also known as the astral or mental body, that is associated with energy and vibration. This is what we call the heart and mind. The third body we have is our causal body, the cause of our existence, which is also known as the soul. The causal body is associated with the absolute state of nothingness, the substratum of existence. This causal body is pure, unchanging and immutable, so it is does not need to evolve.
With the physical and the causal bodies, we cannot expect to find evolutionary changes. When we want to change our thinking and our patterns of behaviour, during any process of self-development, be it psychological or spiritual, what evolves or transforms is the middle layer, the subtle body. Spiritual destiny has everything to do with the purification of the subtle body by removing the layers that surround it. In the mineral kingdom, all three bodies are so closely tied together that it is difficult to separate them; they don’t have much freedom. To the extent to which they can free themselves vibrationally, they have different qualities and we give them names like Gold, Lead, Osmium, etc.
SPIRITUAL DESTINY HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE PURIFICATION OF THE SUBTLE BODY BY REMOVING THE LAYERS THAT SURROUND IT.
In the plant kingdom, the three bodies are a little looser. Look at a tree. How do you know it has a subtle body that responds? Have you seen flowers that open up when the sun comes? How do they know? They respond so nicely, turning as the sun moves. There is also a plant called Lajvanti, and when you touch it the leaves fold in. When there is a breeze, or even a storm, the leaves and branches of trees dance, but the moment someone tries to cut the branch of a tree, it becomes agitated.
You can feel it. In plants, the subtle body, and the causal body are very tightly tied together, and the subtle body cannot express much. In animals, there is a still greater separation, and in human beings all the three bodies are labile or loosely connected. Among different human beings, there are also differences in separation. The three gunas in Vedic philosophy — tamasic, rajasic and sattvik — are based on how loosely or how strongly the bodies are connected.
In a sattvik person, the subtle body can move around, whereas a tamasic person is more stone-like. One person can think of something somewhere else, but another person with limited mental capacity may not grasp what is happening around them. Even if you tell them about it, their mind cannot reach there. Sometimes, when we communicate, certain concepts are not understood by the other person because of the subtle body’s inability to grasp them.
SO AT THE LEVEL OF THE SUBTLE BODY, WE CAN CHOOSE TO EVOLVE AND GO BEYOND THE ANIMAL LEVEL OF EXISTENCE TO THE HUMAN LEVEL TO THE DIVINE LEVEL, BY EXPANDING OUR FIELD OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
So at the level of the subtle body, we can choose to evolve and go beyond the animal level of existence to the human level to the divine level, by expanding our field of consciousness.
How can we describe the subtle body, and how does it evolve? There are four main functions of the subtle body that we will consider, and they are:
- Chit or consciousness,
- Manas or our contemplative faculty,
- Buddhi or intellect, and
- Ahankar or ego.
They all have a role to play in our evolution, and in the next part we will explore them further.
In Part 1 of this series, Kamlesh D. Patel described the three main bodies that together, form the base of life forms on earth. In this second article of the series, he explores one of these in depth; the subtle body, and how it evolves.
THE SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY
Which body evolves?
Understanding that we have these three bodies – physical, subtle, and causal – we can then ask, which of these bodies is evolving?
The soul is immutable. It is pure, absolute and unchangeable, and so the causal body does not evolve.
The physical body cannot change much. Its structure is fixed, although some minor changes can occur in weight, posture and fitness etc., but we cannot grow extra arms, wings to fly, or a tail in this lifetime.
It is the subtle body that can evolve, so that we can design our destiny. It changes according to how we purify and simplify it, so that the joy of the soul shines and radiates from within, and through this process we find the evolution of consciousness.
The Subtle Body
The subtle body is a vibrational field; the heart-mind field. Depending on how we manage this field, it can either be turbulent and complex, like a roaring ocean during a storm, or, at the other extreme, it can be like a still pond where even a feather landing on the surface creates ripples. This is where a spiritual practice has a vital role to play, as it gives us the techniques to regulate, purify, and simplify this field, bringing clarity, stillness, and peace.
In yogic philosophy the heart is known as the field of action for the mind. This is a vast topic. Let’s start to explore what this means.
There are four main functions of the subtle body within this vibrational field – consciousness (chit), thinking and feeling (manas), intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahankar). They work in an interactive way together to make up what we know as the mind.
Of these four, consciousness is our focus here. The other three have their existence in consciousness. Consciousness is as good as a canvas to a painter, and within consciousness the play of the other three bodies is orchestrated daily.
How do we actively allow our consciousness to expand and evolve? It is not enough just to wish it so. We need to understand how a spiritual practice contributes towards this evolution by creating the conditions for stilling the mind progressively at deeper and deeper levels, and opening up the inner universe.
At a physical level, when I want to strengthen my body muscles I have to exercise my body. Similarly, for the mind to evolve so that consciousness can expand, I must use what belongs to that subtle plane of existence. First, it is important to understand that the evolution of consciousness has nothing to do with the acquisition of knowledge. Second, consciousness in itself will not expand or evolve without the help of buddhi, manas and ahankar to free it. Intellect has to evolve to help expand consciousness and ego must evolve, contributing to the evolution of consciousness.
UNLESS AND UNTIL WE MEDITATE PROPERLY, AND UNLESS AND UNTIL WE REGULATE OUR MINDS PROPERLY, OUR CONSCIOUSNESS WILL NOT EVOLVE.
What does meditation have to do with this? We meditate to regulate our minds. An unregulated mind is pulled by wishes and desires, fears and habits, in many different directions. The mind becomes weak as it scatters in many different channels. In contrast, a regulated mind brings focus, and promotes well- being. Unless and until we meditate properly, and unless and until we regulate our minds properly, our consciousness will not evolve.
Manas, buddhi and ahankar are all refined and developed through meditation, especially manas as we learn to simplify our thinking process from many channels to one channel, then deepen it to feeling. Thus the habit of ‘feeling’ is slowly cultivated from ‘thinking’.
Developing the Meditative State Further
Holding and nurturing the condition received in meditation throughout the day is a byproduct of good meditation, and helps us regulate and deepen the mind to an even higher level. When we are in this state of constant awareness or remembrance of the inner state, we do not allow our canvas to be spoilt, so consciousness remains afresh. The canvas remains clean and is not destroyed by the multifarious impressions we form.
Imagine the heart-mind vibrational field having a spectrum of consciousness spanning the subconscious, conscious, and superconscious states. Swami Vivekananda once said, “Consciousness is a mere film between two oceans, the subconscious and the superconscious.” Or you can imagine the subconscious as being like the ocean, consciousness like the surface of the land, and superconsciousness like the sky going out into the universe. As we evolve, our consciousness expands into both the subconscious and superconscious realms, traveling through the vast infinity of the human potential. Another way of saying this is that we go deeper and deeper into the vastness of the heart, from our starting point at the surface.
WISDOM IS TO UTILIZE ALL OUR FACULTIES AT THEIR BEST. WISDOM IS TO HAVE THE MAXIMUM OUTPUT WITH THE MINIMUM INPUT.
Buddhi and Prayer
In this process of diving deeper, the intellect, buddhi, becomes more and more heart-based. Intuition and inspiration develop, and buddhi becomes fine-tuned, like a sensitive antenna picking up the signals of the heart. Intellect evolves into a state of wisdom. Often we think of a wise person as someone who makes wise choices, but here we go further into a different dimension where choice is no longer required, as the heart’s wisdom is pure and correct.
There is a big difference between an intellectual person and a wise person, and here the spiritual practice of prayer helps us to move from mere intellect to wisdom. Prayer takes us into the heart, connecting us to the Source, where we are able to let go of any mistakes we have made, deciding not to make the same mistakes again. Is this not wisdom? Whereas if we succumb to making foolish mistakes day after day, hour after hour, we are not becoming wiser. We become wiser when we wish to change from the bottom of our hearts and ask for help to do so. When we live with this attitude every moment, wisdom flourishes.
Wisdom is to utilise all our faculties at their best. Wisdom is to have the maximum output with the minimum input. With minimum action we have the maximum result. Only with a meditative mind, only through meditative acts in our day-to-day life, can we expect to have such good results.
Purifying and Simplifying the Subtle Body Through Cleaning
For this to happen, the heart-mind field has to be purified, otherwise it is like expecting to see the bottom of a lake through muddy, turbulent water. There is no clarity in a turbulent mind. The spiritual practice of cleaning past impressions is therefore also necessary for consciousness to evolve.
The third aspect of the subtle body is ego, ahankar. Ego plays a vital role in whether or not expansion or evolution of consciousness occurs. Ego is often seen as the bad guy by spiritual practitioners of all traditions, but ego is also essential for our evolution. It is the active function of the mind – the doing, thinking function – and we need it in every aspect of daily life, even to have the craving to evolve. It gives us our identity. It is the activating or initiating force. If it is used wisely, it serves us well, like any other resource, but it is often misused, and this is what we commonly refer to as being egotistical. When ego is used for selfish purpose, we become arrogant and self-important, whereas if we constantly refine the ego, consciousness develops very rapidly.
What does it mean to refine the ego? The more humility we have, the less the egotistical proliferations. All great spiritual teachers have given so much importance to this aspect of character formation. They have valued this quality so highly that humility at any cost must be maintained, whether towards a child, a poor person, or a stranger. The philosophy here is that there is nothing wrong in thinking yourself to be great, but always think the other person in front of you is greater.
Ego can be like a black hole. It can have the greatest gravitational pull upon our consciousness. It will not allow consciousness to expand. Just as the earth’s gravitational pull does not allow us to fall into infinite space, likewise our ego can hold consciousness to its core. An example of this is a very narcissistic person, who is undergoing a devolutionary process where consciousness contracts in on itself to its core, and can become like a stone. In contrast, by transcending the relationship with the ego by refining it, becoming more and more humble, consciousness can expand infinitely.
Ego manifests in many ways. For example, in a music concert, when I am happily playing my flute as a performer, it gives so much joy and the audience reciprocates accordingly. But as an artist, I will not be happy unless I surpass my previous performances all the time. The manifested ego makes me perform well. But to think that no one can play the flute better than myself is not a welcome manifestation of ego. Ego can be our best friend in helping us outperform our own past records.
EGO CAN BE LIKE A BLACK HOLE. IT CAN HAVE THE GREATEST GRAVITATIONAL PULL UPON OUR CONSCIOUSNESS. IT WILL NOT ALLOW CONSCIOUSNESS TO EXPAND.
The fourth function of the subtle body is manas, which is the function of contemplation. During meditation, the first step is to bring the mind from many and varied thoughts to one thought, for example in Heartfulness it is the source of Divine Light in the heart. But it is not necessary that all throughout the meditation this thought should haunt us. The thought should leave at some point so that the object of thought can be felt in the heart.
If all you do is think this one thought throughout the meditation, you will have a headache and consciousness will not expand. This initial thought is just the springboard, to take us deeper so that we dissolve in the feeling of the presence of the Divine Light. You have to feel that presence and while you are feeling that presence slowly you disappear, and even feeling is gone. The ego is gone; you are not even there to experience it.
So as manas evolves through a meditation practice, feeling develops, and eventually we go beyond feeling to a state of being, then to a state of becoming, and finally unbecoming to merge into the Absolute state of existence.
So buddhi, manas and ahankar evolve through spiritual practice, and with this the subtle body becomes lighter, purer and simpler, like the still pond with minimal ripples. With this, consciousness is able to expand and evolve.
What do we then do with this expanded consciousness we receive? Let’s say I have a particular state of mind, and I am aware that the condition is so good. After meditation, I go off to work. It is not enough just to hold that condition; I must be able to radiate that condition wilfully, consciously, and with the confidence that wherever I go it will spread its fragrance on its own.
So after meditation think for a while that, “The condition which is within me is also outside me. Everything around me is absorbed in a similar state. When I look at people, or talk to them, or listen to them, or I am silent, let that condition spread everywhere.” Let consciousness expand wherever it can go.
Part 3: The Role of Yogic Transmission
Above is described the subtle body of a human being, including how it evolves, and the importance of a meditative practice in that process. In this issue, he introduces us to the journey we embark upon to expand consciousness and the role of Yogic Transmission in that journey.
In Part 2, we looked at the process of refinement and purification of the subtle body, so that consciousness can expand and evolve. The purer and simpler our vibrational field, the more we can observe, explore, and expand across the spectrum of subconsciousness, consciousness and superconsciousness. In fact, without this cleaning of the subtle body, there is no real inner journey! As we progress, our ego becomes more and more refined, we develop wisdom and uncover the world of feeling and beyond, all of which are possible through a system of heart-based meditation with cleaning of the subtle body.
THE PURER AND SIMPLER OUR VIBRATIONAL FIELD, THE MORE WE CAN OBSERVE, EXPLORE, AND EXPAND ACROSS THE SPECTRUM OF SUBCONSCIOUSNESS, CONSCIOUSNESS AND SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS.
There is also a second process that aids our journey into higher and higher states of consciousness. Without it, we would not maneuver past the obstacles, like with any journey into unknown universes. That vital ingredient is Yogic Transmission, known in the yogic literature as pranahuti. More particularly, it is Yogic Transmission utilised by a teacher of caliber.
We often think of spiritual teachers – yogis, mystics, saints, sufis and shamans – as being full of wisdom and love. They speak wisely, and inspire us with wonderful words and insights. But words on their own are not catalysts for inner transformation. Wisdom can encourage and inspire us to want to change and evolve, but it does not make the transformation happen.
While love is transformative, as we know from worldly life – love can work miracles, conquer all, and make the world go round – the love required for inner evolution of consciousness is a universal love that is beyond anything we normally understand in worldly life. Here the teacher’s role is paramount.
The transformative effect of Yogic Transmission has been one of the greatest mystical secrets throughout the ages. What was once passed down only from heart to heart by spiritual teachers of caliber to their immediate disciples, is now openly available to all humanity. And this process requires explanation.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECT OF YOGIC TRANSMISSION HAS BEEN ONE OF THE GREATEST MYSTIC SECRETS THROUGHOUT THE AGES. WHAT WAS ONCE PASSED DOWN ONLY FROM HEART TO HEART BY SPIRITUAL TEACHERS OF CALIBER TO THEIR IMMEDIATE DISCIPLES IS NOW OPENLY AVAILABLE TO ALL HUMANITY.
Some basic spiritual anatomy
In Part 1 of this series, we spoke about the three bodies of a human being – the physical, mental and causal; body, mind and soul; matter, energy and absolute; the three major states of existence in physics also – energy solidified into matter, energy as vibrational field, and potential energy in its unmanifested state.
It starts to become really interesting when we realize that the centre or connecting link of these three bodies is the heart.1 That is why scientists these days are finding that the electromagnetic field of the heart is the dominant field in the human body.2
From this vibrational heart, currents radiate out into worldly life. Some are directed towards the physical world of matter – we need energy to exist and perform actions in the physical plane, e.g. walking, lifting, gardening, dancing, exercising, and so on.
Some of the heart’s currents are also directed into the mental sphere of existence: thinking, studying, teaching, research, problem-solving, or engaging in any other way in the field of knowledge and wisdom.
IN A PERSON WHO WANTS EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS, SOME OF THE HEART’S CURRENT NEEDS TO TURN INWARD, AWAY FROM THE EXTERNAL WORLD.
Now, in a person who wants evolution of consciousness, some of the heart’s current needs to turn inward, away from the external world.
We can also explain it like this: the stream of thoughts we constantly receive from the universe comes from the cosmic realm, where everything originates, what we call brahmand mandal in yoga. Imagine the stream is descending from above, down through the crown of the head into our system. The thought stream descends into the heart and in most people 99 percent of it goes outwards from the heart, to be used in worldly life.
When the inner journey starts, one stream of the heart’s current is diverted inwards. Not all, as we still have to live in the world, look after a family, manage a job etc., but enough so that the pull of the soul is felt.
On the left side of the chest, the currents are radiating outwards into worldly life from the point where the physical heart is found. When one stream is turned inwards, it turns towards the right side of the chest, to the point in the human spiritual anatomy known as the atman chakra or soul point. This is the spiritual heart of a human being.
The catalyst for this inward movement is a teacher of caliber, who utilizes Yogic Transmission for this purpose. As we then continue to meditate, we are drawn towards the inner universe and start to integrate it with worldly life, so that both continue side by side.
But this inward movement can be a difficult transition. It is like moving from one galaxy to another, and as with any change the mind rebels, feeling uncomfortable at first, much like when we move from one house, one city or one job to another. It takes a while to settle in. This is itself the first hurdle in our journey of expansion of consciousness. If we can cross that hurdle, the first step in the battle is won! Now we enter the realm of a different type of human consciousness – that of the immense peace and calm of the soul point.
…But this is just the beginning of our journey.
In Part 4, we will explore in more detail how our minds keep us entangled in worldly issues that stifle the expansion of consciousness, and how we can address this through spiritual practice.
To be continued…
ARTICLE BY KAMLESH D. PATEL
About Kamlesh D. Patel
Kamlesh Patel is the world teacher of Heartfulness, and the fourth spiritual Guide in the Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga. He oversees Heartfulness centers and ashrams in over 150 countries, and guides the thousands of certified Heartfulness trainers who are permitted to impart Yogic Transmission under his care. Known to many as Daaji, he is also an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the inner world of spirituality and the outer world of science, blending the two into transcendental research on the evolution of consciousness. Building on the insights of his first Guide, Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur, he is expanding our understanding of the purpose of human existence to a new level, so necessary at this pivotal time in human history.