Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Swami often reminds us that the gross body is made up of flesh, blood and bones. Then there's a subtle mind, which is much more than the brain; and finally there is the atma.


So it is a 3 - tier structure, layer within layer one might say, with the atma at the core with a sheath called the mind enveloping the atma, and finally the body and the senses as the crust - rather like an onion with its many layers.

This is only an analogy and an image to fix our ideas.


The point simply is that after death, the gross body is disposed off. So what happens to the other 2 components, namely the mind and the atma trapped within? According to Vedanta, these 2 entities now form a union that is often referred to as the subtle body and at the time of death the subtle body simply cuts loose from the gross body and floats away. Floats away to where and to do what?


Swami has said that the atma wears the human body as a dress. Just as we change dress every day, the embodied atma as referred, also keeps on changing the body. What do we do when a dress of ours becomes old and tattered? We simply discard it and go in for a new one, don't we?


The subtle body does the same sort of thing; it discards the old body and goes in search of a new one. That is to say, it goes in search of a new foetus.

The subtle body goes in search of a new body because it feels it still has things left to do here in this world.


Now, while unfulfilled desires do form one major reason for rebirth, there is another and an even more important reason for it, which is the settlement of karmic debt or accounts. Along with latent desires, settlement of karma also forms one of the important reasons for rebirth. And it is the Law of Karma that generally decides who would be born to whom, when and where.


Thus, rebirth is a delicate matching process in which the karma of the one who is to be born gets tied up with the karma of the entire family into which the person is being born.


For example, there might be a person who has led an evil life, caused untold misery to many and hardly paid for his sins during his lifetime. The person dies and when his subtle body floats away, it carries for sure a huge suitcase full of karmic debt. This subtle body looks around for a place to park itself.


Destiny steers this subtle body to the womb, of say, the daughter of a rich man, given to evil ways himself. He is destined to suffer, and so also is the person to be born. Destiny now plays a matching game by bringing all of them together.


The subtle body enters the foetus growing within the womb of the favorite daughter of the rich man, and she consequently delivers a child, probably mentally challenged. The joy of a birth in the family now turns to gloom. Troubles start coming one by one with the mentally challenged child suffering in its own way, the rich man's family paying for theirs through such multiple pains, and so on.


Altogether, it is a complex, but wonderfully balanced process, but we might not be aware of all the details. God does not leave loose ends the way we humans do; The Law of Karma has got a detailed operating system, complete in every sense.


The magic formula to ESCAPE this unending cycle has been offered over 2000 years ago in a very simple form by Adi Shankara in his famous devotional song entitled Bhaja Govindam. (See photos)


Swami has often recited this particular stanza, in which Shankara says, "O fool, if only you would constantly chant the name of the Lord, you can get out for sure from this endless cycle of births and deaths."


Hearing this, some might be skeptical and say, "O that one, I have heard it, but I don't think it would work." In the Gita, Lord Krishna Himself says the very same thing and in our lifetime, Swami has reiterated this to us 100s of times; so, how can the formula be wrong?



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