When the great death called delusion—mistaking the body and its associate connections such as members of the family for the self—is conquered, one becomes fit to attain that state of immortality, says Sri Adi Sankaracharya in the Vivekachoodamani.
One method adopted by Vedanta is to condemn something that we have to withdraw our attention from. We pay attention to something because we think it gives us joy, it is eternal and it is real.
For these reasons, we identify with our own body and believe it to be real and suffer as a result.
So what is the physical body made up of? Though we know the contents well, the naturally well-packaged body, seamlessly covered by the skin, will never make us experience the true identity.
So the Acharya spells out its contents—skin, flesh, blood, nerve strings, fat, marrow and bones. The mixture of all these is filled and tightened with excretory matter.
The body is a result of the mixing of five elements in a mathematical formula called quintuplication or Pancheekaranam.
The shape, size, colour and health of the body we get is dependent on our past actions. This gross body is an abode or a counter for different experiences of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thoughts and feelings. It is able to have the various experiences of perception in the waking state.
Through the help of the sense organs, the gross body comes in contact with gross objects such as garlands, sandalwood paste, other human bodies and objects of various sizes and shapes.
The individual consciousness considers this body to be the self and it has a variety of experiences in the waking state.
Just as a house gives shelter to the one who lives in the house, the body gives shelter to the individual who lives in the body, occupying it.
The special characteristics of the body arising out of its gross nature are that it is subject to old age and death.
It has many qualities such as being fat or thin. It goes through various states such as being a toddler, a little child and growing up.
There are many disciplines that the body is subject to such as living in the Varnashrama. The several other experiences are that the body is sometimes worshipped, some time belittled and at other time it is given many gifts and presents.
In this body are situated the organs of perception (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin), the organs of action (mouth, hands and legs) and the organs of excretion and reproduction.
While the sense organs of perception help us understand the different objects, beings and situations around us, the organs of action helps us in expressing in this world through our actions.
The writer is Sevika, Chinmaya Mission, Coimbatore (www.chinmayamission.com); email: email@example.com