How the body, mind and soul are related
Hindu Vedantic thoughts have repeatedly stated that the soul is pure, it is always free and immortal. The great Adi Shankaracharya in his immortal creation "Atma Shatakam" summarized this non-dualistic philosophy saying "Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham" (I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, Shiva, love and pure consciousness).
Yet, the same Hindu scriptures also speak of the fact that the soul keeps taking rebirths in various life forms (as embodied soul), not only on planet earth but also on other planets too, depending on the laws of karma.
What is this process? How do the mind, the thinking process, and the desires of the living form affect this cycle?
In this post it is my humble attempt to present a few verses from Srimad Bhagavatam which discuss this very important question. These verses explain how our thinking, desires, actions, and the body are inter-related. These verses also throw light on how and why the pure immortal soul takes up a physical form, and why it takes a specific physical form (not just human form...).
Readers who are already familiar with the verses of Bhagwad Gita would find it interesting to note that much of what has been stated in the following verses of Srimad Bhagavatam can also be found in Bhagwad Gita.
Srrmad Bhagavatam (also known as Srimad Bhagavata, Bhagavatam, Bhagavata Purana or Bhagwat) is an authoritative exposition of Vedic knowledge. It covers subjects like the nature of the self, the origin of the universe, what is life, what is a human being's role in life, what is meant by cycle of birth and death, what is the relation between God and man, etc. It contains tales related to various incarnations of Lord Vishnu and mainly deals with the life and work of Lord Krishna.
One must not confuse Srimad Bhagavatam with Srimad Bhagavat Gita. While Gita is a summary of the entire Vedantic Knowledge compressed in just eighteen chapters totalling only 700 verses, Srimad Bhagavatam is a massive work comprising of 12 sections called "Skandhas"(cantos), and a total of 18000 verses.
1. mrityur janmavatam vira dehena saha jayate
adya vabda-satante va mrityur vai praninam dhruvah
(Srimad Bhagwatam 10.1.38)
One who takes birth is sure to die, for death is born with the body. Someone may die today and someone may die or after hundreds of years, but it is sure that every living entity will die.
2. dehe pañcatvam apanne dehi karmanugo 'vasah
dehantaram anuprapya praktanam tyajate vapuh
(Srimad Bhagwatam 10.1.39)
When the present body dies and is reduced to five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether) the indweller of the body (the embodied soul), automatically takes another physical body depending on his own karma.
3. vrajams tisthan padaikena yathaivaikena gacchati
́ yathā tṛṇa-jalaukaivam dehī karma-gatiḿ gataḥ
(Srimad Bhagwatam 10.1.40)
Just as a person walking rests one foot on the ground and then lifts the other foot, just as a catterpiller transfers itself to one leaf and then gives up the previous one, in the same way the living entity (the embodied soul) undergoing the karmic consequence takes shelter of another body and gives up the one he had before.
4. yenaivarabhate karma tenaivamutra tat puman
bhunkte hy avyavadhanena lingena manasa svayam
(Srimad Bhagwatam 4.29.60)
The embodied soul physically acts in a gross body in this life. However, this physical body is guided to action by a subtle body which is composed of mind, intelligence and ego. After the gross body is lost, the subtle body is still there to enjoy or suffer.
5. sayanam imam utsrjya svasantam puruso yatha
karmatmany ahitam bhunkte tadrsenetarena va
(Srimad Bhagwatam 4.29.61)
Just as while dreaming, the living entity gives up the actual physical body and acts in another body (in dream), similarly the activities of his mind and intelligence in the present body will determine what will happen to the embodied soul after giving up this gross material body (after death). The living entity may enter either an animal body on one extreme or a demigod's body on the other extreme, either on this planet or on another planet to enjoy the results of the actions of his past life.
6. yato yato dhavati daiva-coditam mano vikaratmakam apa pancasu
guneshu maya-rociteshu dehi asau prapadyamanah saha tena jayate
(Srimad Bhagwatam 10.1.42)
At the time of death, according to the thinking, feeling and desires of the mind, one receives a particular body in the next cycle (the mind, not being liberated, becomes attached to the material qualities).
7. nunam pramattah kurute vikarma yad indriya-pritaya aprnoti
na sadhu manye yata atmano 'yam asann api klesada asa dehah
(Srimad Bhagwatam 5.5.4)
When a person considers sensual gratification as the aim of life, he madly runs after materialistic living and engages in all kinds of forbidden activities. He is unaware that due to his past misdeeds he has already received a body which, although temporary, is the cause of his misery. In reality, the pure immortal soul should not have taken on a material body, but he has been awarded the material body for sense gratification. Therefore, an intelligent man should not involve himself again in the activities of sense gratification by which he perpetually gets material bodies one after another, thus moving away from liberation.
8. mamaite manasa yad yad asav aham iti bruvan
grhniyat tat puman raddham karma yena punar bhavah
(Srimad Bhagwatam 4.29.62)
The embodied soul labors under the bodily concept of "I" and "My". "I am this, I am that. My duty is this, I shall do that, etc. etc." These are all mental impressions, in reality all these activities are temporary. However this load is carried forward as further karma and the soul gets another chance to execute all his mental images in another physical body.
9. nanubhutam kva canena dehenadrstam asrutam
kadacid upalabhyeta yad rupam yadrg atmani
tenasya tadrsam rajal lingino deha-sambhavam
sraddhatsvananubhuto 'rtho na manah sprastum arhati
(Srimad Bhagwatam 4.29.64-65)
Sometimes we suddenly experience something that was never experienced in the present body by sight or hearing. Sometimes we see such things suddenly in dreams. To a living being, this is the proof of life produced in a previous body, because not a single thing is able to manifest in the mind which hasn't been tried, experienced or understood before.