Desire; the substance of the Three Bodies that Encage the Soul

By Desmond Yeoh

Ceramic Products Manufacturer in Malaysia

Ceramic Products

Sri Yukteswar passed away on 21March 1936. A few months later, on 19 June 1936, he appeared to Yogananda in his physical form. Filled with utmost joy, Yogananda rushed to hug his beloved Master. It was as if his Master never died. He could detect the same faint, fragrant natural smell which had been characteristic of his Master’s body before.

Kriya Yoga - Cages of the soulAfter an emotional reunion, the Master explained to Yogananda about the three bodies that encage the soul. He said to Yogananda, “You have read in the scriptures that God encased the human soul successively in three bodies; the idea or causal body; the subtle astral body, the seat of man’s mental and emotional natures; and the gross physical body. On earth a man is equipped with his physical senses. An astral being works with his consciousness and feelings and a body made of lifetrons. A causal-bodied being remains in the realms of ideas…

When man’s desire to live is severely shaken by disease or other causes, death arrives; the heavy overcoat of the flesh is temporarily shed. The soul, however, remains encased in the astral and causal bodies. The adhesive force by which all three bodies are held together is desire. The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man’s slavery

Physical desires are rooted in egotism and sense pleasures. The compulsion or temptation of sensory experience is more powerful than the desire-force connected with astral attachments or causal perceptions…

Astral desires [of beings reborn in the astral realm[1]] centre around enjoyment in terms of vibration. Astral beings enjoy the ethereal music of the spheres and are entranced by the sight of all creation as exhaustless expression of changing light. The astral beings also smell, taste, and touch light. Astral desires are thus connected with an astral being’s power to precipitate all objects and experiences as forms of light or as condensed thoughts or dreams.

Causal desires are fulfilled by perception only. The nearly-free beings who are encased only in the causal body, see the whole universe as realisations of the dream-ideas of God; They can materialise anything and everything in sheer thought. Causal beings therefore consider the enjoyment of physical sensations and astral delights as gross and suffocating to the soul’s fine sensibilities. Causal beings work out their desires by materialising them instantly. Those who find themselves covered only by the delicate veil of the causal body can bring universes into manifestation even as the Creator….

A soul, being invisible by nature, can be distinguished only by the presence of its body or bodies. The mere presence of a body signifies that its existence is made possible by unfulfilled desires…

When the gross physical receptacle is destroyed by the hammer of death, the other two coverings- astral and causal- still remain to prevent the soul from consciously joining the Omnipresent Life. When desirelessness is attained through wisdom, its power disintegrates the two remaining vessels. The tiny human soul emerges, free at last. It is one with the Measureless Amplitude…

In the wakeful state on earth, a human being is conscious, more or less, of his three vehicles. When he is sensuously intend on tasting, smelling, touching, listening, or seeing, he is working principally through his physical body. Visualising or willing, he is working mainly through his astral body. His causal medium finds expression when man in thinking or diving deep in introspection or meditation; the cosmical thoughts of genius come to the man who habitually contacts his causal body…

A man identifies himself about sixteen hours daily with his physical vehicle. Then he sleeps; if he dreams, he remains in his astral body, effortlessly creating any object even as do the astral beings. If man’s sleep be deep and dreamless, for several hours he is able to transfer his consciousness, or sense of ‘I-ness’, to the causal body; such sleep is revivifying. When a dreamer is contacting his astral and not his causal body, his sleep is not fully refreshing…”

Since we are physical beings, we need to focus on transcending our desires relating to the physical senses and burn them permanently in the fire of our wisdom. Sri Yukteswar said to Yogananda, “The physical karma or desires of man must be worked out before his permanent stay in the astral worlds becomes possible. Two kinds of beings live in the astral spheres. Those who still have earthly karma to dispose of and who must therefore reinhabit a gross physical body in order to pay their karmic debts, could be classified, after physical death, as temporary visitors to the astral world rather than as permanent residents…After the astral rest, such a man returns to the material plane for further lessons, gradually accustoming himself, through repeated journeys, to the world of subtle astral texture.

Normal or long-established residents of the astral universe, on the other hand, are those who, freed forever from all material longings, need return no more to the gross vibrations of earth. Such beings, have only astral and causal karma to work out…”

How do we transcend desire? We should heed Osho’s advice that one should not suppress one’s desires. Suppression will only cause the desire to increase within us. If one enjoys burgers but tries to suppress that desire, pretty soon, one will be dreaming about burgers day and night. However, this does not give us the license to over-indulge! There needs to be a balance.

The answer is wisdom. We need to understand what desire is and how it arises. There are many things which we desire. We may desire physical comfort and things that are pleasing to our senses; beautiful objects, pleasant sounds, fragrant smells etc. We may also desire mental pleasures such as respect and praises from others, power, fame etc. Wanting revenge and justice is also a form of desire. These desires are the chains that bind us to this physical realm and pull us back over and over again after death until we finally transcend them[2].

Kriya YogaSwami Rama warned that for those advanced on the spiritual path, the greatest challenge is the desire for respect and fame. One may have transcended the desire for sense pleasures but the desire for respect and fame still lingers in the subconscious mind. Fortunately, the Divine will often send someone to remind us of this by showing us disrespect. Once while Osho was giving a talk, someone stood up and shouted, “Bullshit! Bullshit! This is all Bullshit!”. Osho’s talks were often designed to shake the listeners’ belief system and obviously, this person was shaken hard. Osho just smiled and said to the crowd, “Anyone else want me to stop talking?” When everyone remained silent, he turned to the angry person and said, “You see, that is the problem. Only the two of us would like me to stop talking. The rest want me to continue talking. What can I do?” Osho placed himself on the same side of the person who just attacked him!

The next time we have a strong desire for something, we can observe our thought process. We will see that desire easily overwhelms us because it focuses our mind on all the positive aspects of the sense object and blinds us to the negative aspects. This is how we can learn from our own experience and use our wisdom to view the desired object with a more balanced approach. We should also question the negative aspects of the object. If the object is something valuable, we should recognise that it would disturb our peace of mind because we will have to worry about protecting it from those who might want to steal it from us. Here is a related story:

When Alexander the Great arrived in Taxila in northern India, he sent a messenger to fetch an Indian Sage, Dandamis, a great Sanyasi of Taxila. Upon meeting Dandamis, the messenger said, “Hail to thee, O teacher of Brahmins! The son of the mighty God Zeus, being Alexander who is the Sovereign Lord of all men, asks you to go to him, and if you comply, he will reward you with great gifts, but if you refuse, he will cut off your head!”

Alexander offered two items that he thought Dandamis desired; wealth and his life.

Dandamis replied, “I am also the son of Zeus, if Alexander be such. I want nothing that is Alexander’s, for I am content with what I have, while I see that he wanders with his men over sea and land for no advantage, and is never coming to an end of his wanderings…Know this, that what Alexander offers and the gifts he promises are things to me utterly useless; the things I prize and find of real use and worth are these leaves which are my house, these blooming plants which supply me with daily food, and the water which is my drink; while all other possessions which are amassed with anxious care are wont to prove ruinous to those who gather them, and cause only sorrow and vexation, with which every poor mortal is fully fraught. As for me, I lie upon the forest leaves, and having nothing which requires guarding, close my eyes in tranquil slumber; whereas had I anything to guard, that would banish sleep. The earth supplies me with everything, even as a mother child with milk. I go wherever I please, and there are no cares with which I am forced to cumber myself”.

One may be tempted to conclude from the above story that money is evil, but that is not the point. Money is just money and it is the thoughts of men that make it good or evil. Sri Yukteswar had to attend court battles in order to protect his property but he did so not because of attachment to his property. He needed his property to serve others and to not depend on the charity of others in order to carry out his work. If he thought that humanity did not need his help, I believe that he would have abandoned everything for a solitary life in the Himalayas.

Similarly, all of us have certain karmic effects that have been put in motion and we need to work out those karmic debts. For example, if one has children, one has the responsibility to provide for their needs and ensure that they grow up to contribute positively to the world. It is not appropriate to abandon one’s family to become a monk or sanyasin.

We could also observe those who already have the object we desire and see if they are happier than us because of if. Let us take the example of the US President, Barrack Obama. He is now the most powerful person in the world. Is he happier than us because of the position? He may enjoy the envy of others but he is constantly distracted with no time for himself. He is raised by praises from one group of people at one moment and dragged down by the condemnation from another group at another instance. His life is like a perpetual rollercoaster ride. If one defines that as happiness, then one can go ahead and pursue it but I think most of us will have the wisdom to see that it is not happiness.

Below are the pictures of Obama before and after presidency. Decide for yourself if the presidency is bringing him happiness:

Kriya yoga

Kriya YogaWe could also observe the easy and natural happiness of those who have transcended greed. In his beautiful autobiography, ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’, Swami Rama wrote about the absence of greed amount the villagers in the Himalayas. Their houses do not have locks because locks are unnecessary. If someone drops his purse, after one week, the purse would still be there because the villagers know that it is inappropriate to take the things belonging to others. They live happily without fear, worry, craving, anger or envy. Perhaps, they could be described as living in heaven.

Kriya YogaAs Rudra Shivananda pointed out, if we analyse our negative emotions, we can easily see that they arise from desire. All other negative emotions stems from desire. When we get what we desire, fear arises because we begin to worry about losing the object. When an obstacle stands in the way of the object of our desire, anger and hatred towards the obstacle arises. When someone steals the object of our desire, we generate anger and hatred towards the thief. If some else already owns the object that we desire but do not own, there is envy and jealousy. Therefore, desire is like a stick and all the other negative emotions are like objects balanced and stacked on that stick. If we can knock down the stick, all the other negative emotions will tumble down naturally. All we need to do is to observe how desire arises within us and the effects of desire on our life. The greater our understanding of desire, the more it loses its grip and eventually, we will achieve freedom. It is that simple!

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[1] The famous American psychic, Sylvia Browne, calls the astral realm ‘the Other Side’. She is able to communicate with beings from the astral realm and relay their messages to loved ones remaining on earth.

[2] Please see also the chapter ‘Craving for More’ in the e-book ‘We are here to Celebrate’ which can be downloaded from under the ‘Free e-books’ menu item.

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