The Matter constituting the substance of the individual body is not an isolated aberration, it is drawn from the universal Matter by which it is sustained and into which it is dispersed when the body disintegrates. The Life-Energy animating the material substance of an individual being is not an isolated quantum of energy that has appeared from nowhere but a condensation of the Universal Energy with which it is always in dynamic communion.
If the scaffolding that holds the body becomes weak or unable to hold itself against the shearing forces of the external environment or if the Life-Energy that animates the substance of the body becomes deficient in supply or is unable to vitalize the substance of the body and thus unable to renew itself, the individual being ‘has to go through the process of death for a new construction or renewal’. (Ibid)
We are so long concerned with the dynamic interchange between the individual substance and animating Life-Energy with the universal Matter and Life-Energy.
‘Not only so but, again in the language of the Upanishad, the life-force is the food of the body and the body the food of the life-force; in other words, the life-energy in us both supplies the material by which the form is built up and constantly maintained and renewed and is at the same time constantly using up the substantial form of itself which it thus creates and keeps in existence. If the balance between these two operations is imperfect or is disturbed or if the ordered play of the different currents of life-force is thrown out of gear, then disease and decay intervene and commence the process of disintegration’.(Ibid, pg.206-207)
This Upanishadic insight is the forerunner of the scientific concept of the metabolic processes of anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the process which builds molecules needed by the body and requires energy for its execution. It uses small molecules (monomers) to build highly complex molecules (polymers). Catabolism is the process which breaks down complex molecules into smaller molecules and releases energy to be used by the organism. The principal catabolic process is digestion whereby ingested nutrients are broken down into simpler components like glucose, amino acids and nucleotides which are then used again in the anabolic synthesis of new compounds. Thus the Upanishadic paradigm of ‘the eater eating is himself eaten’ has not only a symbolic but also a figurative value
The role of the mind
The play of the animating Life-Energy from its universal source and their harmony maintains creation at all levels along the evolutionary hierarchy. It is present in plant life and animal life but with the development of the mind with a consolidating will-power, a new dimension is added. The Mind, conscious and possessing an Intelligent Will can make excessive demands of Life-Energy for a more dynamic and constructive action, for working out impossible dreams, for ascending untrodden heights, for traversing unplumbed depths. The demand may be too much for the form of the body, the structure or scaffolding to maintain and support and unless the viability of the scaffolding is worked upon, disease, decay and death may ensue. Moreover, the forces wanting to scale new heights are also at risk of being opposed by contrary forces in the cosmic consciousness and this occult conflict imposes its own strenuous consequences. Sri Aurobindo elaborates these two distinct yet inter-related phenomena:
‘And the very struggle for conscious mastery and even the growth of mind makes the maintenance of the life more difficult.
‘For there is an increasing demand of the life-energy on the form, a demand which is in excess of the original system of supply and disturbs the original balance of supply and demand and, before a new balance can be established, many disorders are introduced inimical to the harmony and the length of maintenance of the life;
in addition the attempt at mastery creates always a corresponding reaction in the environment which is full of forces that also desire fulfilment and are therefore intolerant of, revolt against and attack the existence which seeks to master them. There too a balance is disturbed, a more intense struggle is generated; however strong the mastering life, unless either it is unlimited or else succeeds in establishing a new harmony with its environment, it cannot always resist and triumph but must one day be overcome and disintegrated’.(Ibid, pg. 207)
This is the reason the votaries of immortality in the Indian tradition worked to devise techniques like Hath yoga and Pranayama which would in the long run lead to some sort of ‘universalisation of individual vitality’.(The Synthesis of Yoga, pg.34)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu