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amba.jpg

ambA devI
(World mother)

yA devI sarva bhUteSu mAtRrupeNa samsthitA
namastassai namastassai namastassai namo namaH

Again and again I bow to the devi who abides in all beings as mother.

I have written about koshas and said they appear like spheres around my center of personality. In my illustrations, I have marked off each kosha from another with perforated rings. Then I stretched them and spread them out, all the while pretending to recreate or reconstruct a new universe. The rings are now straight lines and koshas are now layers. I called the outermost sheath gross body or sthula sharira, then after stretching it out, called it virAT or the material / physical plane. I called the next three sheaths the subtle body or the kshushma sharira, then after spreading it out, I renamed it (the world of) hiraNygarbha. I called the innermost sheath causal body or karana sharira, then stretched it out and called it akAsha. But I never said what "stuff" all this is made of.

We all know that the physical plane is made of matter. We know that matter in turn can be reduced to fundamental particles called protons, electrons and neutrons, and more fundamental particles, if you want to dig deeper. What makes up the world of hiraNyagarbha and akAsha? Ancients came up with somewhat similar building blocks for akAsha and hiraNygarbha, ie. the dharma kshetra. The fundamental "particles" are now guNas. Just like the fundamental particles in material plane, there are three guNas or constituents - sattva, rajas and tamas. guNas literally mean strands or fibers (as in strands of a rope). These three guNas - sattva, rajas and tamas, - are to the subtle world what protons, electrons and neutrons are to the material world. These are the strings which are interwoven to make up the web that is dharma kshetra.

sattva guNa is the proton of the subtle world. It represents essential nature or being-ness and imparts this attribute to all that it pervades. It promotes and, in turn, feeds on the
experience of all that it supports.

rajas guNa is the electron of the subtle world. It represents the energetic component of the subtle world. It is engine of activity in all that it pervades. It inclines all that it supports towards activity and change.

tamas guNa corresponds to neutrons and imparts inertia to all it pervades. Ignorance and sloth are its defining characteristics.

Together, the guNas contain the hidden code that governs the subtle world. It is the interplay of these gunas that makes up the transformations occurring in the subtle world. Just like the protons, electrons and neutrons combine to make up the atoms, molecules, macromolecules, crystals, polymers, etc. in the material world, the three guNas combine to make up our total personality. Protons, electrons and neutrons, with atoms create forms which we name in the material world. guNas make up our personalities in the subtle world.

The contents of the personality profiles I have shown in various pages are composed of guNas. The saMaskAras and vAsanAs, or the impressions and intentions that result from actions and experiences affect the guNas that define our personality complex.

The five kleshas  mentioned in yoga sutra result from our confusing our identity with the personality complex resulting from guNas. kleshas are thought of as something that cling to us and are normally tanslated as afflictions.They are avidyA (ignorance), asmitA (I-am-ness), rAga (attraction), devsha (repulsion or dislike) and abhniveSa (survival instinct or clinging to life).

avidya is primal ignorance. It is our inability to understand the nature of creation and our place in it. asmitA , literally I-am-ness, and its twin, ahaMkAra, literally I-do-ness, are what create separation between us the world around us. rAga gives rise to our attachments to some things and dvesha is why we hate other things. Finally, abhiniveSa is the clinging that we feel for life. It is why we cannot let go even when we suffer. It is what survives even death and prevents loss of identity even after death. When a person dies, a portion of his personality break down and loses identity. The part that survives forms the seed that initiates rebirth.

Whence all this? And why is it important?

This brings me to the topic of dharma once again - dharma as core personality. If there is something at our core, and I believe there is,  it is common to us all. That is what centers us, from time to time. At the core, I don't consider myself to be different from anyone else. All of my visible or manifest uniqueness comes from sheaths. Sheaths are what grow out of the core, while the core simply is. Only other thing I can say about the core is that it is, that it is self-aware and aware of everything. I have refered to a third aspect of the core. That is blissfulness. Blissful aspect of the core makes intellectual sense. This aspect finds its expression in our manifest nature or personalities and keeps us constantly on the prowl for happiness. Since dharma manifests in all three aspects of the creation (the coin!), it is indeed present in all that exists. 

Here is what wiki has to say about dharma: "Dharma" derives from the verbal root dhR, which simply means "manner of being." The term must therefore be understood in its original (i.e. metaphysical) context, that of a "conformity" to a Divine or Creative Principle at work in an individual. It represents the individual's internal "law," to which an obedience must be given if that individual life is to live in accordance with a Divine Will.

Etymologically, the root dhR means to support or hold up physically. The word is used in this sense in modern day vernaculars to this day. But we cannot of speak of someone physically holding up the entire creation. Thus dharma stretches the meaning of the root from physically holding to holding in metaphysical sense. Example of such usage can be found in atharva veda which says "pRthivim dharmaNa dhRtamM" or "This world is upheld by dharma." dharma then is the core personality of all existence.

dharma, as I have noted earlier, expresses itself in three manifestations.

(1)Manifestation on the material or physical plane: Here it establishes Rta, "the course of things" or the natural laws.

(2)At the core, dharma has only three characteristics - being, awareness or consciousness of everything including self-awareness and inherent blisfullness. Hence the core is referred to as sat-chit-Ananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss.

(3)Thirdly, dharma is also the link between the core and manifest creation. The medium that forms this link is "dharma kSetra" or the field of dharma. This is our inner world. We sense this inner world naturally but we sense it as being isolated and unconnected with the rest of the world. In the universe, modeled as a coin, the inner world that we sense is but a portion of the inner world that forms the nexus betwen the physical creation and the core.

I think we can learn a lot about us and the world starting with dharma as core personality. Most importantly, It has implications for our values. In the East, values are based dharma, the core personality that underlies all creation. Here are some examples.

First aspect of core personality is sat. sat derives from as which means to be. sat is therefore translated as being. Being always is. It did not come to be and it will not cease to be. It is this aspect of the core that that correlates with eternity. Being as a core aspect is synonymous with eternity. There was no beginning and there will be no end. In the visible or the material world, this aspect gives rise to various conservation laws and the law of inertia.

sat also gave rise to notion of truth. Truth is simply what is. Not surprisingly, sat is the only word in Sanskrit for truth that I know of. Untruth then is simply asat or what is not. Truth is simply what is and untruth is what is not.

Second aspect of the core is chit i.e., awareness and consciousness. Consciousness makes it possible to conceive of change and to sense change. What good would consciousness be if everything was static and nothing ever changed? Change in manifest world shows up as time. chit is also what prompts change. But change has to occur within, what else, the parameters of law or dharma. This is possible because chit, at the core, is all-knowing. dharma in material world manifests as natural laws and in our inner world as the principle of karma.

Third aspect of the core is Ananda or bliss. This is what drives change. We share in this aspect of core personality in very obvious manner. We are always seeking happiness. Finally, our notions of good and bad arise when we couple the principle of karma with our need to find happiness.

How does core personality participate in manifest world?

We saw earlier that core personality as dharma manifests in the material world as "the course of things" or laws of nature. Ancients have also explained how this occurs. These are their ideas as I understand them.

First evolutes of the core personality are the guNas. If the core personality is purely non-material and physical world is all about matter, guNas are what link matter with non-matter. We can think of them as semi-matter. guNas literally mean strands, as in strands of a rope. They are usually translated as constituents or constituent qualities (of nature - the rope). I prefer the term attributes for guNas. Interestingly, as we saw earlier, there are three guNas or three basic attributes that spring from the core personality. These are the tamas, rajas, and sattva guNas.

tamas means darkness. It is associated with heavyness or denseness. I like to think that it evolves from the sat or being aspect of the core. It corresponds to matter in the physical plane.

rajas is usually translated as passion or energy and is the cause of activity in nature. I like to think that it evolves from the Ananda or the joy or bliss aspect of the core. It corresponds to energy in physical plane.

sattva is usually translated as goodness or purity. I prefer to translate it as essence or essential nature. It imparts characteristic qualities to everything. In the physical plane it corresponds to the natural laws. I see it as evolving from chit or consciousness aspect of the core.

Since guNas traverse the space between the physical world and the core, they are the stuff of the inner world, middle portion of the world as a coin, the four sheaths that link gross body to our inner core.

Can we prove guNas actually exist? I don't know how. But we cannot prove existence of core personality or even mind. Mind is inferred from observations. The best we can do is infer guNas. The guNas make it possible to explain the link between core personality and the physical world. In any case, that's where I find them useful.

Just as the guNas evolve from core personality, the physical world evolves from the guNas. Being the stuff of the inner world, guNas are what respond to karma and what influence  karma.

One of the reasons I modeled universe or reality as a coin is because like a coin, the universe always has two sides and there simply cannot be a coin that has only one side. The upper side, AD, is the material or physical side and the side BC is the metaphysical or essential side. Neither of these sides can exist by itself without the other. This monistic view of the world is, in my view, the most fundamental chararcteristic of Eastern thought.

This monistic reality can be marked, divided, partitioned, measured, etc. on its one side. On its other side, it is is described as indivisible, inestimable (aprameya), unmeasurable (amit), etc. Thus X is marked of as distinct from Y in the physical plane. But on the other side, the indivisible side, X and Y share the same core personality BC. One cannot measure what is essentially always just one. Science deals with the side of reality that can be measured and it does so admirably most of the time. Science is perhaps adequate if one is satisfied with understanding one side of reality. But to get the full picture of reality, one needs to dig deep within onself where traditional science so far is helpless.

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