Spiritual Tools: The 3 Bodies & The 3 States of Consciousness

Children’s Class in San Francisco
Saturday, April 21
According to the tradition that we have now established over several years, the children first practiced their meditation posture and a few cycles of basic pranayam to calm body and mind.  We then offered a simple arati at the altar, the children joining in with bells, and everyone, parents too, offering flowers.  When we were all settled in this peaceful mood, Babaji came in to give us instructions on meditation.
Meditation's GoalBabaji talked about the importance of a peaceful mind and how breathing can help us.  If our breathing is fast and uneven, our heart will beat fast.  And if our heart is not calm, then our mind will be restless, and we will not be able to meditate.  Babaji gave the children another chance to practice the simple pranayam breathing exercise.  Next, he talked to the group of two girls and two boys about meditation and its purpose, and how natural it can be. He reminded them of the different kinds of meditations they can practice. The children sat for five minutes and then shared their experiences.  Babaji gave them additional teachings and suggestions according to what a few of the children said.

We moved next into our class mode and reviewed the lesson from the last class, which concerned the three bodies we have: our gross body, subtle body, and causal body.  This is a foundational teaching for Vedanta.  It helps us discriminate between what aspect of our psycho-physical being we are currently identifying with: our body, our mind, our ego, or our true Self (Atman) that witnesses these different “bodies.” This is a sound start to helping embodied souls become centered in the Self while navigating the experiences of daily life.  “All strength comes from the Atman.”  The children were given homework in the last class, which consisted of recognizing which body they were calling “I” when they spoke or thought.  Some examples are, “I went to school today.” (gross body) “I feel sad.” (subtle body)

The lesson this time made the connections between the three bodies and the three states of consciousness (waking, dream, and deep sleep).  The gross body moves in the waking state,  the subtle body acts in the dream state, and our formless, causal body is the deep sleep state, where all thoughts, objects, and forms dissolve, like sugar crystals into hot water.  We spent a lot of time on this topic, because we had a special project connected to this idea for after the lesson.  

If the deep sleep state is so peaceful and satisfying, then why do we come out of it?  Because we still have things we want or expect to do with our gross and subtle bodies.  We want to see our friends, our family, go to school, eat ice cream, and so many other things.  A sugar crystal dissolves into water, but the sweetness is still there.  If we wait long enough, under certain conditions, the crystals will reform.  Just like that, our experiences, dreams, actions, and desires from the waking and dream states all melt into the deep sleep state, but they are still there in essence, resting, ready to take form again.

Sugar water.After the lesson, we bowed down at the shrine and went to the kitchen to boil some water.  Then we poured lots and lots of sugar into the hot water.  The children took turns scooping sugar and stirring the thickening goo until all the crystals were dissolved and we had a clear and very sweet liquid before us.  We poured it out into jars for each child and gave them a piece of yarn and a weight at the bottom to hang from the top.  Now the children are waiting to see the sugar crystals reform and will report back at the next class.

The purpose of this teaching is several fold.  The first is to increase the children’s tools for discrimination and apprehension of a root Witness underlying gross, subtle, and causal bodies and their related states of consciousness.  Another is to prepare them to understand, at least intellectually, that our true nature is birthless and deathless – that bodies and minds arise from a formless condition and return there, again and again, not just in this lifetime, but over many lifetimes.  In the future, they will learn about karma, cause and effect, and how egoic actions leave a “karmic crystal” in the subtle and causal bodies that pulls one out of not only deep sleep, but Samadhi, and after-death states back into embodiment.   

Om Tat Sat, Om