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Not Being Identified With The Body – Ashariratvam

Ashariratvam is the state of not being identified with the body. Sharira means the body (literally, that which is subject to destruction). It has a three-fold nature, namely, sthula (gross), Sukshma (subtle) and karana (causal). The gross body is made up of five elements – earth, fire, air, water and ether – and after their pancakarana (grossification), it is subject to the modifications of existence – birth, growth, maturity, decay and death. The subtle body is composed of the five elements before their grossification, which are called tanmatras. It is made up of five karmendriyas (organs of action), five jnanedriyas (organs of perception), five pranas, manas (mind) and buddhi (intellect). Karana sharira or the causal body is the ignorance, which is the cause of the other two bodies.

Sthula/Sukshma sharira can be broadly stated as the mind-body complex, upadhi (adjunct) that conditions or limits the all-pervasive consciousness. This conditioning, caused by ignorance, leads to superimposition of attributes of the body onto the self and vice versa. Thus the feeling of being embodied leads to wrong identification of the self with the body. On the other hand, the knowledge of dis-embodiedness is the absence of such false self-identification with the body, rather than loss or destruction of the body. Hence the knowledge of dis-embodiedness is associated with a realized soul even while living, since vidya (self knowledge) destroys avidya (non-liberating knowledge) as well as its effect such as false identification. This is the phenomenon of jivanmukta.

While shariratva (embeddedness) denotes bondage due to the confinement of the all-pervasive consciousness to a limited mind-body complex, ashariratva denotes liberation from the false superimposition and the manifestation of the true nature of the self. The dawn of such discriminatory knowledge leads to the realization of the true self. Thus dis-embodiedness and embodiedness of the self are the consequences of discriminatory knowledge and its absence, rather than the result of the presence or absence of the body.

As Chandogya Upanishad states, ‘the bodiless transcends the duality of joy and sorrow, while the embodied cannot escape the web of alternating sorrows and joys.’