Chapter 5: The Nature of the Individual
The Initial Predicament
Human personality is not a granite or flint pillar. Man is not a solid object. "Your personality" or "my individuality" - whatever it may be called – is not a solid object like a stone, a brick, or a heavy substance. It is a movement, a continuous transition, rather than a thing that exists exclusively. Man is a concentrated point of movement. This is an important thing to remember. Movement can be higgledy-piggledy, chaotic action, running about in any direction, or like the cyclone or the wind that blows, but the movement that is human personality is not a jumble of agitation. It is not a tempest that blows in any direction as it wills. It is a well-organised purposive movement. There is a system even in madness, as they usually say. In this transitoriness that the human personality is, in this movement that man is, in this complex of forces rather than of substances that he seems to be, there is an order, a system, a method, and a logic of its own. That is why human beings are actually sane and not wild sceneries. If man were to blow like wind, and the components of his personality were to go anywhere they willed, like a storm in the ocean, he would be torn to pieces; a part of him would be there, and another part of him would be anywhere else.
Does not everyone think that he has a status and a substance of his own, which makes him feel that there is a method in his existence? Everyone has a memory of the past, and an anticipation of the future. The memory of the past is an important aspect of human psychology, which brings us to the point of a consideration of there being a connection between the past and the present; to mention only one aspect of it. If the past had no relationship with the present, there would be no such thing as memory. How could anyone know what happened to him days back, when he is now, today, many days afterwards? There is, in this transitoriness of the motion of the mind, a continuity that seems to maintain itself. If this continuity were not to be there, there would be only bits of thoughts, like bricks thrown here and there, without any kind of a cementing element in them. Every moment man thinks of one thing; and every other moment he thinks of another thing. There is not always a connection of one thought with another thought. Though it is true that there is a psychological disparity in the human personality, accepting and granting that there is a multiplicity of thoughts and feelings arising in minds every moment of time – man keeps on changing his moods and feelings, thoughts and volitions all the time – yet, there is a unity that is maintained by him, all the same.
There is a differentia of the selfhood present in every object. Everything regards itself as itself. "I am myself, you are yourself," says everyone. This so-called affirmation of a self identity of any particular thing is the 'selfhood' of that thing. It may be even an atom; it maintains itself. There is a pattern of compactness which even a small atom maintains. It cannot become something else. The affirmation of the compactness of a particular thing is the selfhood of that thing. So, everybody has an insistence or a persistent feeling of maintaining an indivisibility, or an isolation of oneself. This study has been taken up in the Vedanta philosophy. It asks: "What are you?" What is this personality that is referred to? What does man see when he looks at himself? He sees only the body, a six-foot height. Is this the self? It is taken for granted, generally, that the body is the self, because the "I" that everyone speaks of is generally associated with the body. This is a common feature among everyone. It can be easily observed in our own selves. We say, "I am tall; I am thin; I am heavy; I am light; I am strong."
Sometimes we say, "I am hungry; I am thirsty." When we say "I am hungry, I am thirsty," we are speaking in a manner different from the way when we said that we are tall, short, etc. Or, sometimes, we say, "I am upset; I am unhappy, I am agitated; I am annoyed; I am disturbed." Here, statements of this kind, naturally, do not refer to the body. And, "I slept yesterday, I had a good sleep" – when we speak like this, we are referring to a different personality. An analysis of the structure or the components of the individuality of a person has resulted in a discovery of what man really is.
Sometimes we talk of ourselves as, "I am Mr. So-and-So, I am Mrs. So-and-So, I am a judge, I am a minister, I am a rich man," and so on. This is to define an individual by social relationships. When we say, "I am hungry, I am thirsty", we refer to ourselves in a manner different from the way when we talk of our height, weight, etc. When we say, "I am happy, I am upset, I am unhappy, I am agitated, I am annoyed, I am disturbed", or when we talk of any individual as "intelligent, good, efficient, moral, ethical, rational," etc., an inward constitution is referred to and not the physical body. Again, when we say, "I slept yesterday, I had a good sleep," a different personality is indicated.
Thus, we refer to man at different levels of understanding, though it is another matter that, generally, there is a mix-up. These different levels may be termed as the layers of personality. Even the psychologists and psycho-analysts hold that man is but layers of psyche. He is not one mass of mind like a heap. Man is, again, layers vertically, like clouds which form themselves into a thick mass by the coming together of various strata of atmospheric pressure. The psyche seems to be a heap of clouds, but made up of different strata.
Human personality, thus, is said to be constituted of certain layers, which may be considered to be material, basically. The Vedanta philosophy accepts the fact of the existence of matter, though it has its own definition of it, quite different from that of Samkhya or the materialistic definition.
It was seen that society is but a notion. Does it exist? The existence of society cannot be denied. It is as real as human beings, or matter. If a thought or a notion has as much reality as matter, can it be considered to be constituted of a type of matter? Can the psyche be a substance? Yes, says Vedanta. This, probably, is one of the ways of understanding matter, as referring to the constituent substance of the layers of the human personality.
The body is a material substance, but constituted of layers of matter, and not one solid thing. All these different layers of personality may be brought under three broad categories: Gross Body, Subtle Body and Causal Body.
The Gross Body is the physical sheath; The Subtle Body is the psychic one. Though, when man consciously thinks, he cannot think of himself to be anything other than the physical body, mostly he is psychological in nature. Human life is more mental than physical. Actually, it is the essence of one's personality.
In passing, it should be mentioned that there is another familiar classification which says that the human personality is made up of layers, or koshas, namely: annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha, and anandamaya kosha. But this classification is not different from what is given above. Annamaya kosha is the Gross Body; the next three koshas, viz., pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, and vijnanamaya kosha constitute the Subtle Body, and anandamaya kosha forms the Causal Body.
The Gross Body, known as sthula-sarira in Sanskrit, is nothing but the physical body. This is the outermost layer. This mass of flesh, bone, marrow, and the solidity that is seen, is the physical body. It is called the annamaya kosha. In Sanskrit, anna means food. It is said that the physical body exists and is maintained by the food and drink that one takes. If one does not take meals for days together, he gets emaciated physically. The physical matter, which is the physical body, is worn out on account of no plastering applied to the physical structure, just as walls, if they are not plastered, wither and fall. Every day, one has to eat food. The energy that is present in the vitality of the food is the source of the strength that is gained by the physical body. The body is made up of the essential components of one's parents. A very subtle, minute potentised form of the physical essentiality of the parents becomes the source of the physical body. So, matter is the origin of the body. It may be a highly potentised form like an homeopathic medicine. Nevertheless, it is physical. This little drop of a force, with which man originates his physical life, grows in thickness, solidity, substance, length, breadth, height, and weight; but after all, with all its features, it still remains a physical substance only, a Gross Body.
The physical sheath is inert, essentially. Matter has no consciousness. Man can be insensible at times when the vitality of the body is withdrawn. There can be schizophrenic action by which the mind splits itself into parts, and one person imagines himself to be two, three, four, etc. In a paralytic stroke a part of the body loses consciousness or sensation. Paralysis is an outstanding example of one's having a physical body, and, yet, having no sensation about it, no consciousness of it. The body is not the same as consciousness. Many materialists, and schools of this kind, imagine that consciousness is an exudation of matter. This cannot be, because consciousness is that which is aware of the existence of the body and it cannot be an effect of that body itself, as it is prior to the body. The cause is there, which is the knowing factor. How could the body, if it be the source of consciousness, be the object of the very knowledge which it produced from within itself? Consciousness cannot be identified with the body. This is made clear when it is seen in one's own life that existence as a conscious entity, even without being conscious of the body, is possible. One of the examples is the phenomenon of dream and sleep, in which states the body is present, but consciousness of it is absent; and man is not dead, he is alive. So, man can exist as a conscious entity, and a living being, even without connection with the physical body. This Gross Body, or the physical sheath, is, therefore, not the true personality of man.
Inside the physical body there is the astral body, or the subtle body. It is more rarefied and ethereal than the physical one. In Sanskrit, it is called sukshma-sarira. Sometimes this sukshma-sarira, or the astral body, is also called linga-sarira. In Sanskrit, linga means an emblem, an insignia, a mark, or an indication. One may wonder why this Subtle Body is known as a linga, or an indication, or a mark. It is because whatever the sukshma-sarira or the Subtle Body is, that man is. It is an indication of what man is made of. The physical body, or the physical feature, or the physiognomy of the body, is also an expression of the internal composition of the Subtle Body. Electricity is there inside physical matter. Something like that, one may say, is the way in which the Subtle Body is inside the physical body. The Subtle Body is a force. It can be compared to electric energy to some extent. It is not a hard substance. This Subtle Body, or the sukshma-sarira, or the linga-sarira, is the essence of one's personality. All that one is, all that one thinks, contemplates, and conducts, is the outcome of the nature of this Subtle Body which is within. Just as the physical body is made up of the subtle essence of the food that the parents have taken, and also the food that one eats, the Subtle Body is constituted of many other small components. Prana is a part of the Subtle Body; the senses are a part of the Subtle Body; the mind is part of the Subtle Body; the intellect is part of the Subtle Body. These are broad divisions; further subdivisions can be made, if one likes, on deeper analysis.
What Is Meant by Prana?
What is meant by Prana? What is life? The biologists tell us that there is a thing called life which is incapable of identification with matter. Though, many times, mechanistic materialists have held the opinion that life is not different from matter, it has become very difficult to accept this doctrine. How can anyone say that life is the same as brick, or a body with which one is lumbering, and without which also one can exist? It is seen that man can exist even without being conscious of the body. If the body were the same as life, life would be extinct when it is dissociated from the body. But man is alive even in dream, sleep, and states of deep concentration. In deep meditation one is not aware of the body. Man would be dead at one stroke, if it were true that matter is life, in conditions when the body is not an object of his consciousness. It is not true that matter is the same as life. They are two different things. But it is difficult to understand what the relationship is between these two. No one has ever come to a final conclusion as to what life means. It is this life-force that is called prana-sakti.
There is the prana-sakti, the power of the prana. Prana is vitality, living force, organic energy. It is a living, protoplasmic, organismic, and energising vitality in man.
Sometimes prana is identified with breath. But it is interior even to breath. The blacksmith applies a kind of pressure upon a bag called the bellows, and he pumps air into the fire to make it ignited. The air that is pumped is not the pressure itself. The two are different. The air that he pumps moves due to the pressure that he exerts. Something like that is the case with the relation between the breath that is outside and the energy that is inside. There is a pressure that is exerted upon the air that is breathed by inhalation and exhalation. The metabolic process of the physical body is conditioned by the prana, the movement of the vital energy within man. But, wherefrom has this pressure come? Who is this blacksmith that pushes the bellows in order that the air may be concentrated upon the fire that is to be ignited? This is another important question.
The Source of Prana
The vital energy within man is the sum total of his strength. Whatever strength or energy that one has is nothing but the prana. It does not always come just from the food that one eats. Though fuel is necessary to ignite fire, fuel is not the same as fire; petrol is not fire, though petrol is necessary for ignition. There is a difference between the heat, and that which causes the heat to ignite itself by means of a fuel action. So, while energy is accelerated, accentuated, and enhanced by consumption of food, it is not identical with strength itself. Strength is an impersonal capacity that is within man, the force that is inside. How does man gain strength at all? It is not merely from the almonds that he eats, or the milk that he drinks. A corpse also can have food thrust into it; milk may be poured into its mouth, but it cannot gain strength. Any food that is served to the corpse cannot infuse energy into it. Another principle, called vitality, is necessary for the energisation or the digestion of the food that is eaten. Vitality is that which helps the working of the medicine that is taken, but if the vitality is gone, medicine is dead matter. It helps no one. So is the case with food. Food is also a kind of medicine that is taken for the illness of hunger, but it itself cannot provide the energy, unless there is vitality within. Wherefrom does the vitality come?
Indian philosophy in its higher reaches opines that the energy of the individual comes from the cosmos. It does not arise merely from the food that is eaten. Sun is the source of energy; oxygen is the source of energy; the five elements outside are the sources of energy; the whole universe is a mass of energy. To the extent man is in union with the universe, in the proportion to which he is in alignment with the forces of Nature, in that proportion, and to that extent, he is strong. So, strength emanates from the cosmos; it does not come from any other mechanical activity like physical exercise and the meal that one consumes, though these are, of course, accessories. Accessories are not to be identified with the primaries. This is important to remember.
The thoughts of the great thinkers in India rose up to the heights of a cosmic identification of all things. They would not interpret anything without relating it to the universe. The universe is the source of energy. It is the dynamo that generates the energy which is the source of the movement and life of everything.
Functions of Prana
The prana is a common name that is applied to the total capacity in man, the energy of the personality, but it performs different functions. When a man does the work of dispensing justice, he is called a judge; when he is a chief executive of a district, he is called a collector; when he dispenses medicine, he is called a physician, and so on. The same person is known by different names on account of the functions he performs. So is this prana, which performs five functions. When one breathes out there is exhalation, and prana is operating. Prana is a term that is used in a double sense. It indicates the exhaling force, and also the total energy of the system. So, prana means two things, – the force that expels the breath out in exhalation, and also the total energy. The force by which one breathes in is called apana. The force that circulates the blood through every artery, vein and every part of the body equally, is vyana. It is known that the body is connected to other parts in such a harmonious manner that if any part of the body is touched, the sensation is felt in every other part also. This sensation that is felt in every part, as a wholeness of one's personality, is due to the vyana operating, a particular aspect of the function of the energy which moves throughout the body equally. The energy that digests the food is called samana. There is another force which causes the deglutition of food. When food is put into the mouth, it is pushed inside to the oesophagus, through the part of the throat by which food is swallowed. An energy operates here. If that energy does not work, the food will be sticking there; it would not go in. This is udana, which enables the food to move in. It has other functions also; it separates the body at the time of death, and it also makes one go to sleep.
There are other minor functions of prana mentioned in Yoga scriptures. But it is sufficient to know that prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana are the five principal designations of a single energy - not five different things – just as one person can perform five functions. All this structure is in the Subtle Body.
Harmonious Balance of Prana Is Necessary
These different aspects or forces of the prana must be kept aligned in a methodical manner, so that they flow through the nervous system as water flows through a pipe. When there is a clogging of the pipe, the water does not flow properly. If there are sand particles sticking, or if there is any dust or debris inside the water pipe, there is no flow in a smooth manner. When there is no fluent breathing, when there is heaving breath, there is irregular activity of the prana. The prana is a homogeneous energy that flows through the entire system of the person. It is not supposed to be concentrated in one place. If there is such concentration, one can have ache in that particular part of the body. When one walks too much for miles, there is felt ache in the legs, because all the prana has gone to the legs. If one thinks too much, there can be headache; the prana rises up to the brain in intense thinking and worrying. Whenever there is excessive activity in any part of the body, the prana flows through in that direction. It is noticed that one feels like sleeping after a heavy meal. The reason is that blood goes to the stomach for the purpose of the digestion of the food, and when the blood moves, the prana is drawn towards it. The brain then has less of prana at that time, and so one dozes. If one does not eat well, that day one does not sleep well.
Prana gets irregularly distributed in the personality on account of desires, primarily. Man is full of desires. No one is free from them. But, if they are wholesome desires, harmonious with the atmosphere or the environment in which one is, they do not cause agitation. There is nothing devilish about desires as such, but, then, there is nothing devilish about anything in the world, ultimately. Everything is right, provided it is in its allotted place. Only when a thing is put out of context, when it is misplaced, or is given an excessive importance, especially when there is intense love and intense hatred, the prana is thrown out of gear, and there is a lack of its equidistribution in the body.
Love, of course, is good, and man lives only by love – certainly so. But it does not mean that one should pour one's love on a particular object only. The lowest kind of knowledge is that where there is concentration on a finite object, as if it is everything. Love is the source of our vitality, energy, health, and sustenance; but love directed exclusively to a single object is a danger. There, prana is directed unwholesomely in one direction only, cutting off its relationship with other objects.
Man's strength depends upon the energy of the cosmos. He derives his strength from the universe. So, if he is not harmoniously related to the totality of the atmosphere, which is the universe, but disharmoniously concentrates his love, or affection, or hatred towards a particular object, he is dissociating himself from the other parts of the universe. Thus, laying excessive emphasis on one part only, towards which the prana moves, the mind goes, and is in that object for the time being, and is wrested out of other parts of the universe. Then he is a friend of one thing, and an enemy of another. When there is love for any particular object, enmity, automatically, is created towards that object which is not loved. Though this is not usually called enmity, here is a psychological implication that one is not equally considerate towards the other aspects of Nature, because of the excessive consideration that is bestowed upon one object. And, here is the source of physical illness and mental frustration.
It is a mistake to think that things are gained by loves concentrated on objects. Here is a blunder in the understanding. Then, why does anyone love anything excessively? What is the purpose behind it? The purpose is simple – a miscalculation of the processes of the mind. The mind calculates wrongly when it imagines that excessive love, when poured upon an object, is the source of satisfaction that it gains from that object. It is always imagined that joy comes from things outside, from objects of sense. This is not true. This fact must be kept in mind always. Our satisfactions are not the outcome of attachment to objects. On the other hand, joys are the result of harmony with things. The more is man in harmony with the world outside, equally, not with excessive pressure exerted upon any part, the more is he happy. But, if he exerts too much in the direction of a particular object – it may be a human being, or an inanimate object; it may be wealth, it may be property, it may be a building; it may be even a social status, love of name, fame, power, authority; even these are objects, if there is too much concentration on these, he dissociates himself from the harmonious relationship that he is expected to maintain with the whole atmosphere. All these things explain how prana can be wrongly distributed.
In the process called pranayama, one is asked to keep the different forces of prana aligned in a methodical way. As one derives one's strength from the cosmos, one must try to unite oneself with the cosmic energy. This is not merely a closing of the nostrils and holding the breath, as votaries of pranayama sometimes may tell. Pranayama is not possible and should not be conducted if one is emotionally disturbed in any manner. It is a dangerous technique, if it is practised by a person who is not emotionally calm and mentally balanced. An unbalanced person should not do pranayama, and a person who is deeply worried over a heavy sorrow or is sinking in grief should not practise pranayama. Pranayama should not be practised after a heavy meal, because the prana is concentrated on the stomach at that time. Similarly, it should not be practised after a long walk of several miles. There are many such minor details concerning pranayama.
Prana Is the Connecting Link Between Mind and Body
The connection between the mind and the body is prana. When a thought arises, immediately the prana vibrates, and it produces an impact upon the body. Any kind of thought that is generated in the mind has its force communicated to the body. If one is upset in the mind, this mood of the mind is transmitted to the body immediately, and the liver goes off. There would be no hunger that day. One says, "No, today I don't eat! My son has died; my mother has gone; I have lost all my property; I am in a helpless condition; I have no hunger today; I cannot eat." What has happened to the hunger? The sorrow that has descended upon the mind has been communicated by the prana, as if by an electric wire, and the liver, the stomach, and everything has gone out of order. If anyone is happy, he has a tremendous energy; and even if he has not eaten for four days he will say, "I shall lift bricks!" Man can lift a stone and carry a tree, even if he has not eaten for days, because he is happy for some reason. "Oh! I am so happy, I am full, complete, everything is fine, I can do any work that you give me." But if he is grieved, even if he has just eaten a heavy meal, he cannot get up from his place, let alone lift things. He needs someone else to lift him then. "I am drooping, please lift me," he will say. What power thoughts have! The mind communicates its impressions through the prana to the body, and the body is affected sympathetically. So, this is the relationship between the mind and the body through the prana, which is such a mysterious collection of forces.
Essence of Subtle Body Is a Totality of the Psychic Personality
It is observed on an analysis that man is constituted of subtle layers of personality within the physical body, and he is more a mind than a body. Though man looks like a body and it appears as if the body is everything, the truth is otherwise. Human life is more mental than physical. The processes of the mind are the processes of human life, rather than the circumstances of the physical body.
Prana is only one aspect of the Subtle Body. There are other more important and vital aspects of it which are mentation, volition, feeling, intellection, etc. This so-called Subtle Body is a great wonder. A lack of sufficient knowledge of its structure is the reason why there are so many schools of thought concerning the theory of knowledge, - how knowledge arises in the mind at all. Centuries of discussion have passed, and even today the controversy is continuing. How does one know anything at all? Philosophers call this science Epistemology. Is knowledge imported from outside and planted in one's heart so that one knows what things are outside, or is knowledge exported from inside? Where is the location of knowledge? Where is it rooted? From where does it rise? It must exist somewhere, in order that it may become manifest in the form of man's experiences. This is the reason why one has to go a little deep into the nature of the Subtle Body. It is subtle because it is superphysical, is incapable of grasp by the sense-organs. It cannot come under the grips of even ordinary thinking, because thinking itself is a part of the way in which it works. The Subtle Body is a totality of man's psychic personality. By "Subtle Body" is not meant merely the mind, or the intellect, or the emotion, etc. It is the total of what man is made of. It is the entire energy reservoir of oneself, or, rather, it is oneself. The individuality, the personality, or the so-called characteristics exhibited in one's daily life are a procession of the stuff of which the Subtle Body is made.
The activities which are psychological are the movements of the Subtle Body. It operates in the dreaming state, and also in the waking state. It does not operate in the deep sleep state. The light of the psyche is flashed forth through the apparatus of the sense-organs, and that is why man is having sensory knowledge, perception of things outside. It is not the eyeballs that see, or the eardrums that hear, but the energy that is pumped out with a great velocity from within that becomes responsible for the externalised intelligence, which is called perception, or knowledge of the world. One is urged forward with a tremendous strength which constitutes the Subtle Body. The word "body" is used here because there is no better word for it in the language. Actually, it is not a solid substance. It is an energy-complex, an electromagnetic field, an energy centre, a pressure point which pulsates with such a force that it never allows man any rest. He is pushed out of his own self, as it were. He is compelled, as it were, to become something different from what he is. That is why man is so eager to see things outside, rather than to look within.
All the thoughts of the mind are concerned with things outside it, and the whole engagement of life, or rather, the business of life, may be said to be man's concern with everything other than his own self. Man is busy with things external, whether these are humans or non-humans, and he is obliged by the very structure of this Subtle Body to engross himself in this business of life, by which what is meant is his connection with things outside him, and the requirements on his part to adjust with these principles outside – persons, things, etc. Man is in an unfortunate condition. He is not healthy, truly speaking, as seen by a deep analysis into the way in which the Subtle Body is working. He is helplessly driven outside his own self, as if a devil is sitting inside him, never allowing him to think of the point from which this energy arises. So, no one thinks of his own self. It is impossible to find time for that, or even to have the capacity to investigate in this manner. The whole activity of life, right from morning till evening, is a pushing out of oneself the whole energy that is within, and pouring it on something else, as if the entire world is made up of everything except one's own self. This happens due to the very nature of the Subtle Body. It is like a pumping engine which releases energy externally, and externalises the whole personality, so that, in a way, man is pushed by someone outwardly, perpetually, day-in and day-out. The whole of man's life may be said to be a helpless movement in some direction which is chalked out by the intentions of the Subtle Body.
The Subtle Body is an inexhaustible source of energy. This pump-house never gets tired of working, and it cannot get exhausted, perhaps, even when one dies. It continues, and it shall continue as long as its purposes are not fulfilled, like a creditor who will pursue the debtor wherever he goes. Even if the debtor is ruined completely, the creditor is not going to leave him, because he feels that the debtor owes something to him. A pitiless and irrepressible activity is going on in the Subtle Body, which is filled with infinite cravings, and the vehemence of its craving is the reason for the velocity of its action.
The Subtle Body Is an Organisation of Desires
The power with which the Subtle Body works is proportional to the desires of which it is constituted. And, by another form of definition, it may be said that the Subtle Body is nothing but a heap of desires. This is a view very near to that of the Western psychoanalysts, and, perhaps, there is a great truth in this finding. They hold that the whole personality of the human being is the urge of a desire; it may be a bundle of desires, or it may be said, in a way, to be a single desire.
Here psychologists differ among themselves - whether it is one desire, or two desires, or three or more desires that man has. Researches were made in this line by psychoanalysts like Freud, Adler and Jung. These researchers thought that the human personality is made up of three different structures. Man has various types of urges, and differences in the schools of psychology arise on account of the feeling that the urges are different from one another. But, principally, they are the ramifications of a central impulse, a form of man's whole impulsive nature, which takes different shapes, just as a man puts on different behaviours in his life according to the needs of the time. He appears differently at different hours of the day due to the requirement or the exigency of a particular occasion. But, he is not different persons; he is the same person. Man reveals a fraction of his personality when he behaves in a particular way or puts on a special mood. Likewise, it may be said that these impulses, these desires, these urges, are not necessarily different sections compartmentalised by the psyche, but they are facets, as it were, of a single diamond, each one reflecting the other, and each one contributing to form a single force. A pin-pointed spatio-temporal pressure of a desire is what is known as individuality.
Man is an individual because he is capable of being isolated from others. The segregation of oneself from other similar locations or points of self assertion is maintained by the affirmation of a type of desire. One's desire is constituted in such a way that it cannot get identified with another's desire, for reasons of its own; and, therefore, man maintains his individuality. Otherwise, one would merge into another, and there would be no personalities separated from one another. The intense affirming character of the individual is due to the intensity of the desire.
Basic Desires of Man According to General Psychology
What are these desires? An analysis of the nature of desire will be of much help to know what things are contained within man, and to know what competency he has to do anything in this world, where he is placed in this context of creation. Also, if the Subtle Body, as mentioned above, is full of desires, a study of what these desires are must definitely help us to understand the Subtle Body more clearly.
There are two desires in man, as it is usually said by the schools of General Psychology – the desire to preserve oneself, and the desire to perpetuate oneself. Again, the desire to preserve oneself has a twofold character. It asserts itself or manifests itself as an affirmation of the body, and also as an affirmation of the psyche. Not only the body but also the mind has to be preserved. So, the desires, which are supposed to be what are known as self preservation and self perpetuation, can be dissected further into three desires, viz., self perpetuation, and self preservation of a double character, physical and psychical.
Normally, man has a love of the body, and he does not wish to shed that body. By self preservation, usually, people mean a preservation of the body, keeping it intact. But it may be extended a little deeper to understand the twofold affirmation of ourselves in the body as well as in the psyche. So, there is an egoistic desire to preserve oneself in the psychic nature. It is not enough if one merely preserves the body; one has also to preserve one's psychic identity. That is why man is after name, fame, authority, domineering spirit over others, etc., which, sometimes, takes an extraordinary proportion of his life, overwhelming even the desire to preserve the body itself. Man may even cast off his body for the sake of a name! One can imagine the strength of the desire to preserve the identity of the psyche! People can become martyrs politically or even religiously for the sake of an idea that is in their heads, and the idea becomes so strong that it completely drowns all the importance of the physical body. This is an extraordinary circumstance. However, it is a desire to exist always. It is a desire to exist first, and then a desire to exist always.
Metaphysicists tell us that these impulses have a relation to space and time. Man has a fear that he may be carried away by the flux of time which flows like a river in flood. He is always in such a state of anxiety that it is not easy to maintain his self identity. So he struggles hard to maintain it in every way that is accessible to him. Man is perpetually gripped by the fear of losing himself in the mass of human society or in the flux of the time process. Time kills everybody and everything; it is a destroyer of all beings and a swallower of the whole creation. In Sanskrit, 'time' is called kala, which has a double meaning. Kala means time, usually, but it also means the destroyer. The God of Death is also called Kala. Time is the God of Death, who will not permit the continuance of anything in a state of self identity. Every moment man has to change. Are not the cells changing every moment? The anxiety of man to preserve himself has not been taken note of by this urge of time. It cares not a whit for his desire to maintain his solitariness. It shall swallow man one day or the other, and he knows it very well. So, he is so eager to see that it is not worked out; but it succeeds, and he is defeated! The body undergoes change every minute. The mind also is subject to a similar change; hence this vehemence of self-assertion. Man is fighting against time, when he asserts himself and wishes to perpetuate himself. This is the reason why there is such an intense desire within him to see that he continues to exist.
There is another aspect of this desire to exist, which manifests itself as a wish or a will to expand the dimension of one's physical personality. Though it be granted that man is to continue, he would not like to be perpetuated like a fly or like a nobody in this world. There is a need felt of a different type altogether, which is supposed to be the effect of space upon him, together with the effect of time causing him to feel a need to assert himself for his self perpetuation. Man has a desire to accumulate things. It is the greed for wealth and property, a greed which wishes to grab as much as possible from the outside world, to become rich materially. To put it precisely, man does not wish to live long like a pauper or an unwanted individual in the world. He does not long to perpetuate his existence like a helpless individual, emaciated physically and psychologically. He craves to be a well-maintained, robust individuality. There is a desire for wealth, which includes every kind of material accumulation. A desire for a kingdom is common among rulers. Kings have a desire to enlarge their empires. They invade another kingdom and add it to their own. The desire to grasp property, and have as large a quantity as possible, in any form that is permissible in this world, is the impulsion from within to expand the dimension of one's individuality.
Individuality is not man's true existence. The so-called individuality is a false form which existence has taken, and it wishes to rectify this error, into which it has crept, by the attempt to expand spatially, together with a desire to perpetuate itself temporally, also. Therefore, man lives a life of desire, endlessly asking for more and more of things in the world, – more friends, more relations, more buildings, more lands, more money, and more contacts with the world, so that he can become as large as the world itself, if possible. He would like to go to the moon, and Mars, and all the stellar systems outside, and become as large as the universe itself. Why remain inside the room like a small individual? Man's desires expand themselves horizontally trying to achieve the size of the physical cosmos, and vertically struggling to defy time by a longing for eternal endurance.
The desire has not succeeded. No person in history has ever succeeded in fulfilling this desire. Nobody could become as rich as he wanted, and nobody could grasp things like that. The world has not become the property of any individual up to this time. It has always eluded the grasp of everyone; and everyone who tried to control, rule over, and possess the world was thrown out and destroyed, finally. People went disillusioned. This is the saga of man.
The desire to perpetuate oneself, again, has not succeeded. Whatever be the depth of one's desire to plant himself firmly on this earth, this desire cannot be fulfilled. Nobody lived; everybody went away. While it is true that there is a desire of this kind, there is also a suspicion that it cannot be fulfilled. Again, there is a contradiction in the psyche. Everyone knows that these desires cannot be fulfilled, for reasons which one may not be able to probe deeply into. Everyone knows very well that one cannot possess the things of this world; everyone knows that one cannot perpetuate oneself in time. Who does not know this? But everyone strives for this in spite of knowing it. In spite of the knowledge that no one can become so rich as to be the lord of all creation, in spite of the knowledge that no one can perpetuate oneself in the processes of time, everyone struggles! How does one struggle? In a very artificial manner. Childish does it look, indeed. In a foolhardy manner man tries to deceive his own self into the belief that it is possible to fulfil all these desires. If this deceit were not to enter anyone, nobody would be alive here even for three days continuously. A continuous self deception keeps man healthy and happy in this world.
It is not for nothing that we hear it said, "Ignorance is bliss." Perhaps, it is so. Man's struggle to accumulate property in all its forms, simultaneously with the knowledge that it is not going to last, is one aspect of the way in which the psychic personality works. The other way is the falsified attempt on the part of the individual to perpetuate himself by self reproduction. Eternity speaks in one way, and infinity speaks in another way. The character of infinity is the reason behind one's love for expansion of the dimension of one's personality, horizontally. And the character of eternity is the reason why one wishes to perpetuate oneself by self reproduction. Infinity and eternity, which are the characteristics of the Ultimate Reality, are pressing man forward to become rich materially, grasping as large a quantity as possible, trying to rule like a Napoleon, or an Alexander, or his grandfather, and to reproduce himself in his own species, in his own shape, in his own form – an urge which no one can resist. Who can resist eternity? Who can oppose infinity?
Here is a picture of the Subtle Body and how it works. How foolish the human being can be! And yet, this foolishness is caused by a great meaning behind life itself. The tremendous significance that is at the root of all life is reflected, in a humorous manner really, in all the desires which manifest themselves in man by way of self preservation physically and psychically, and self reproduction. These themes have been studied for years by psychologists and psychoanalysts. In the West they have come to the point of what they call the unconscious level. Man is, perhaps, capable of being divided into three layers, the conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious. But he is not only these three phases; he is also something more. By now, we have some idea as to the nature of the way in which the Subtle Body works. Yoga psychology has delved deeper still into this subject. What does it say man truly is?