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Theosophists and the Macrocosmic Causal Body
David: Hi. I had an interesting dialogue with a guy about the causal body. It did not go far, because he has theosophical view and attitude towards consciousness, Creation, the causal body, etc. They say that consciousness is dependent on form and without form it cannot exist. It only exists in the manifested universe. They claim also that we cannot call it the causal body if it is does not have form (body) and the unmanifest could not be the causal body.
My answer was he should read the Manduykya Upanishad. ☺ And he interpreted my view on the causal body as something beyond time and space. The causal body is a very subtle topic, and I asked him about what is happening in deep sleep (and the waking state and the dream state).
He did not want to answer!
Sundari: I am not surprised you did not get far with this discussion with your philosophical theosophist friend! As you know, the mind must be qualified to understand and assimilate the teachings of Vedanta, so even if he reads the Mandukya chances are very good he will not understand or assimilate its teaching but interpret them according to his ignorance. Theosophists do not understand the Self, they have no ability to discriminate between satya and mithya; they have no teaching. They have bits and pieces of knowledge from various sources cobbled together with their own ideas and experiences. What Madame Blavatsky focused on is the idea of the “astral realm,” what the Tibetan Buddhists call the bardo. It is a realm of the spirits of “enlightened” beings who intercede for and with humans. This siddha loka is a supposedly the realm where previously embodied beings who have burned up their karma reside. Many people claim to “channel” these beings.
The factual basis for Blavatsky’s ideas are non-existent. Although she claimed to have received her information during trances in which mahatmas of Tibet communicated with her and allowed her to read from the ancient Book of Dzyan, but who knows? There is much controversy around her work, the Theosophical Society and all such teachings based on spiritual or psychic phenomena, not least of which because all such information cannot be verified and comes through the personal filters of the “channeller.” While the basis of the work may have been based on an attempt at being impartial, promoting the good of humanity as a whole, it falls far short of a valid, non-dual means of knowledge or a valid and independent teaching.
David: Thanks for another thorough e-satsang. Several years ago, I followed a kriya yoga teacher who was interested in spiritual discipline, devotion to God and theosophy. He had his own channeled info from similar “beings” (ascended masters) as Alice Bailey, Blavatsky, etc. in the theosophy business. As you say, they do not understand the self and they do not have any teaching that is trustworthy as a valid non-dual means of knowledge. Channeling ascended masters was popular in the past and maybe not so much today.
Sundari: Yes, indeed.
David: The macrocosmic causal body is the seed state – unmanifest – as we as jiva (prajna) “go to” when we sleep. And there is still ignorance there and reflected bliss.
Sundari: The microcosmic causal body/unconscious, or vasana load, the subtle body, goes into seed state (or is subsumed) into the macrocosmic causal body (macrocosmic unconscious) during deep sleep. The subtle body seems to belong to the jiva (although it really belongs to Isvara) and produces the jiva’s karma. It is the vehicle for the jiva’s vasana load, its unconscious conditioning.
Yes, the bliss of deep sleep is reflected bliss, the experiential bliss of no objects, meaning no desires or fears, no dependence or attachment. Because there is no knowledge of this, as the mind/intellect are not present in deep sleep, there is no freedom from ignorance. This bliss ends when you wake up.
David: 1. Is the macrocosmic causal body still both form and formless as with Isvara? Or only formless, unmanifest (seed state, pure potential)?
Sundari: The potential for all forms, all thoughts, vasanas, etc. are held in seed state in the macrocosmic causal body. The “seed state” is prakriti, which is the subtle nature and cause of matter and energy, matter in seed form. Being pure potential, it has neither form nor formlessness. It is a principle. Pure macrocosmic sattvic prakriti is like a bright, clear mirror, capable of reflecting consciousness (pratibimba chaitanya). It has three qualities, the three gunas which reflect the Self and seem to, but do not really, conceal it, because nothing can conceal consciousness. Prakriti does not exist without Maya. There is no point in talking about the difference between them, because prakriti does not mean anything without Maya. They are the same, but they are not. Isvara associated with Maya is independent of prakriti because Isvara is trigunaatita, beyond the gunas. Prakriti depends on Isvara, not the other way around. And Isvara as pure consciousness gives rise to Creation but is always free of the Creation.
Therefore the world and all external objects, whether gross matter or subtle matter, are comprised of prakriti. Macrocosmic sattva is the blueprint for all forms existing eternally within Maya, the entire Creation: the eternal truths, forces, laws, jivas, karma, three gunas and five elements. It knows everything. It is not yet mixed with rajas and tamas, it is pure knowledge. It is consciousness appearing as the knower. It is an object known to consciousness and contains all objects, including energy and space. When rajas and tamas arise and pure sattva is contaminated, the mirror shatters into innumerable shards. Maya becomes avidya, multi-faceted, diverse, pluralistic. It creates all objects sentient and insentient, containing the essence of consciousness, conditioned by rajas and tamas.
The macrocosmic causal body is another name for Isvara. The technical teaching on Isvara/prakriti/Maya, or the causal body, is complex because all terms are synonymous, but there is also a subtle distinction between all of them. Isvara is pure consciousness wielding Maya, so it is two things: consciousness and matter, prakriti. Therefore Isvara is conscious and by default makes Maya (matter) look conscious, which it is not. But when we investigate matter, we find that it too is consciousness even though consciousness is not matter. Isvara in the role of Creator creates, sustains and destroys everything. Therefore deep sleep is synonymous with the causal body and with pure tamas: matter, or pure ignorance. These are subtle points, but important to understand the distinction.
David: 2. The macrocosmic causal body is still in time and space since it is not “me”? (I am beyond the macrocosmic causal body, and it cannot be me, since it lacks knowledge in this deep-sleep state and I am free of ignorance.)
Sundari: The macrocosmic causal body cannot be you, because it is an object known to you, the Self, just as Isvara in the role of Creator and Maya are objects known to you. The macrocosmic causal body is reflected consciousness: it provides the reflected medium for the jiva to manifest. Although it is “below the line” time, space and causality do not restrict it, because it is not conditioned by the gunas. It is an eternal principle in consciousness.
Although the macrocosmic causal body houses all three gunas, which are the basic “building blocks” of Maya, it never manifests as a discrete physical entity itself. So it cannot be said to emanate from any particular quality, to be manifest or unmanifest. On the macrocosmic level, it is essentially pure consciousness, Isvara/Brahman wielding its inherent power of ignorance, Maya. As such, it is the cause or source of all experience, as stated above.
Within the context of the macrocosmic causal body, which is the universal pool of all potential gross and subtle objects) each apparent individual must deal with the same vasanas.
These vasanas we might refer to as Isvara’s, or the Creator’s, vasanas, which, in this context, it would be more accurate to think of as ideas, archetypes, or “impressions in the mind of God.” Moreover, since, technically speaking, the microcosmic causal body is not actually separate from the macrocosmic causal body, the apparent person is conditioned to a certain degree by the collective store of vasanas, apart from having their own seemingly personal load of vasanas. In truth, there is no such thing as a “personal vasana,” because all vasanas originate from the three gunas.
Having thus equated the macrocosmic causal body with Isvara and described it as the location of the vasanas, it must be pointed out that this is not its traditional presentation. In fact, according to traditional Vedanta, there is no such phenomenon as the macrocosmic causal body. Traditionally, what has here been referred to as the macrocosmic causal body is presented simply as an unmanifest state of pure ignorance, which is essentially equated with the veiling power (avaranna shakti) of Maya. As such, it has no attributes (i.e. is not comprised of the three gunas) nor does it harbour any dormant impressions, or archetypal “ideas,” and thus it cannot be the cause of anything.
On a microcosmic level, this state of pure ignorance is referred to as avidya, the personal self-ignorance that afflicts the mind of the apparent individual and causes the Self (atma), that portion of limitless consciousness associated with a particular mind-body-sense complex (subtle body), to apparently forget its limitless nature and assume the identity of the limited individual it seems to be. Because ignorance (avidya) causes desire (kama), and desire causes the apparent individual to execute actions (karma), and these actions produce results/consequences that must eventually be experienced, and experience requires a mind-body-sense complex, this state of ignorance is considered the cause of the apparent individual, and therefore is referred to as the causal body (karana-sharira), for it is the cause of both the subtle and gross bodies (sukshma-sharira and sthula-sharira respectively).
Thus the macrocosmic causal body is presented variously, depending on the source. Some say that it is avidya, pure ignorance. Others reason that since something can’t come out of nothing there has to be a source for the subtle phenomena that appear in the subtle body. Those that align with the latter view equate the macrocosmic causal body with the subconscious mind in which are harboured in dormant form the seeds for the subtle phenomena that sprout as ideas and desires in the subtle body. Conceived of in this way, the macrocosmic causal body also becomes the repository for the gross and subtle bodies during deep sleep. Were the macrocosmic causal body not an “ocean of pure potentiality” in which all manifest forms reside in a dormant state, it would seem that the gross and subtle constituents of the universe would simply cease to exist when not manifest.
Were we to cease to exist during deep sleep, however, we would not wake up. Moreover, the macrocosmic causal body is so called because it is the cause of the subtle and gross bodies. The individual’s appearance in the gross body is said to be the result of karma, one’s past actions. But those actions are the result of kama, desire. These desires appear in the subtle body, but must arise from somewhere else, so to speak. Since they are not always present, but quite obviously enjoy a sustained existence as is evidenced by the fact that they continue to nag us at every opportunity, they must be residing in a state of dormancy “within” a subtler realm of being when they are not manifest.
Those that align with the former view argue that the vasanas are stored in the chitta, the memory function of the subtle body. It would seem that Adi Shankara holds with this perspective. In his commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, Shankara refers to vasanas as samskaras, and he likens their influence on the mind to that of the paint left on a canvas as the result of a brush stroke and to the pictures embroidered on a cloth. Of course, since no one can see the vasanas and both the subtle and causal bodies are simply figurative representations of aspects of Maya, there is no way to determine for certain exactly where the vasanas reside.
But whether the vasanas abide in a state of dormancy within the macrocosmic causal body and sprout as desires in the subtle body or are nestled all along within the chitta makes little difference. We know that they exist as subtle objects and that they are the products of the deluding power of Maya, ignorance, that either is the causal body itself, in which case the macrocosmic causal body itself would be the “veil of ignorance” that obscures one’s ability to “see” our true nature. Or it is the projector of the macrocosmic causal body, in which case the macrocosmic causal body would be the product of Maya and exist as the “pool of pure potentiality,” whose constituent elements are the three gunas and in which the forms that comprise the manifest universe abide in an unmanifest state.
David: 3. Vasanas that we have recorded in the macrocosmic causal body: Can we still call it form?
Sundari: See above. I am not sure why you are hung up on form. How can vasanas or the macrocosmic causal body have form? The vasanas are subtle impressions, tendencies that become entrenched in the subtle body as we repeat certain experiences. As stated above, the macrocosmic causal body is a figurative representation, a teaching aid, to explain what is extremely difficult to commit to words: the teaching on Isvara/Maya. Assigning location to the vasanas is simply one aspect of the orderly presentation of the essential components that comprise the grand mechanism of the manifest universe and the functions that contribute to its cohesive operation.
Whether they are assigned to the causal or subtle body has virtually no effect on the obvious “intelligent design” that underlies the “Creation.” Thus intellectually interesting as it might be, the exact location of the vasanas has little bearing on the fundamental point of Vedantic cosmology, which is simply to account for Brahman as the adhishthanam, the substratum, of every aspect of manifestation, and thereby illustrate the truth that Isvara and atma are one and the same consciousness, that the reality informing the existence of the universe is the same reality informing the existence of the apparent individual.
With regards to the purpose of explaining the dynamics of action and experience, we also know that no matter where the vasanas are stored, they give rise to likes and dislikes, which are the offspring of the vasanas. The vasanas are simply the impressions left in the subconscious from experience. Those that are pleasurable give rise to likes/desires; those that are painful give rise to dislikes/fears. Since vasanas are the source of the likes and dislikes, the term is often used synonymously. In any case, it is the vasanas that “inform” the intellect’s decisions concerning the appropriate response to any given stimulus.
David: I understand the macrocosmic causal body as a figurative representation, a teaching aid the teaching on Isvara/Maya. I am not sure either why I was hung up on form when I asked the questions. Your explanation is very good, as usual. The Creation has always fascinated me, and it is funny to know that the Creation is only apparently real, especially when I am reading the Mandukya Upanishad and Gaudapada’s Karika at the moment.
Sundari: I am glad it helped. Yes, the Creation is a fascinating subject; and the doctrine gets quite technical and confusing. The non-origination teaching presented in Gaudapada’s Karika in the Mandukya Upanishad is beyond the scope of most inquirers, as it is very advanced. Once the cause-and-effect teaching taught in less advanced texts like the Bhagavad Gita has been assimilated, then we negate cause and effect with the non-origination teaching.
David: So many profound details about the Creation, the macrocosmic causal body, seed state/prakriti, etc. Pure macrocosmic sattvic prakriti is like a bright, clear mirror, capable of reflecting consciousness (pratibimba chaitanya): Clear mirror is like a holographic projection?
Holographic principle? Or it does not become a hologram until rajas (projection) arises?
Sundari: Yes, you could say it’s holographic in a way, except it has no dimensions, like the Self, being a pure reflection of consciousness. Remember though, the imagery of a pure mirror is just a teaching tool we use. It helps us to understand such a subtle teaching. Here is what I said:
Macrocosmic sattva is the blueprint for all forms existing eternally within Maya, the entire Creation: the eternal truths, forces, laws, jivas, karma, three gunas and five elements. It knows everything. It is not yet mixed with rajas and tamas, it is pure knowledge. It is consciousness appearing as the knower. It is an object known to consciousness and contains all objects, including energy and space. When rajas and tamas arise and pure sattva is contaminated, the mirror shatters into innumerable shards. Maya becomes avidya, multi-faceted, diverse, pluralistic. It creates all objects sentient and insentient, containing the essence of consciousness, conditioned by rajas and tamas.
~ Much love, Sundari