Indic philosophy associates each body with the eternal soul. The Bhagwad Gita says the soul is not cut by weapons, burnt by fire, dissolved by water or blown away by air. Just as a human being abandons a torn cloth and wears a new one, so does the soul; the soul abandons the worn-out body and takes a new one when the body dies. What binds the soul to the body?
The soul is not a physical entity, like the body that has five elements; earth, water, air, fire, and space. Earth represents the solid state of matter; water the liquid state; air the gaseous state; fire is energy; and space is where these elements operate. According to laws of physics, both matter and energy are indestructible and inter-transferrable. Thus when death comes, matter and energy are transferred to the surroundings, and the body does not remain as it remained before. A dead body does not have a soul.
How does a living body embed a soul? Since different people behave differently, what has the soul to do with it? Since the soul is not a physical concept, the binding cannot be physical. Since it is the binding of a non-physical soul to the physical body, the mechanism should be a judicious mix of both physical and non-physical means.
On the non-physical part, we can classify the binding broadly as saatvik, rajasik and tamasik. If saatvik, then the body shows saatvik characteristics – purity, illumination, rigidity, and elasticity – depending on the circumstances, but not influenced by these, for the body controls these. If the binding is rajasik, it shows dynamism (motion), energy and strength, but controlled by these.
All these traits have a motive behind them. The tamasik binding is the least strong. Here, the body shows inertness, darkness and weakness – love for excessive mundane pleasures is the characteristic. Although these bindings are non-physical, their manifestations in the body, are physical. Thus there is a connection between spiritual forces and physical manifestations.
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These are the three spiritual states of the body. Just as matter and energy undergo transformations, these spiritual states can also undergo transformations. By diligence and practice, a tamasik body can acquire rajasik and saatvik states. Similarly, the saatvik and rajasik states can also be downgraded to a tamasik state, if the internal strength of body and mind wanes.
In addition to physical states, the body has two other important elements – mind and ego. Ego is a negative quality for all states. But the mind can be both positive and negative. A positive mind elevates the state and a negative mind degrades it.
Strength and characteristics of a binding depend on the strength and characteristics of mind and body. An illumined mind is responsible for a saatvik state. Similarly an impure mind reflects a tamasik state. But keeping the mind under control is the toughest thing in the world. Nobody has complete control, but the effort for complete control itself can bring about the necessary changes in the nature of the binding.
Both spirit and matter control life. The quality of life depends on both. But no quality is permanent; it undergoes transformations. It is good; for change is the law of nature.