Despite much advancement in modern technology, the complexity of the human construct is still a reality that we are all confronted with. Even as science embraces the intricate psychosomatic nature of the body and its functions, and continues extensive research on the same, a simplistic understanding still seems elusive.
This is because our human body is a holistic and complex mechanism of not just matter, but also an enduring concept called the spirit. Though often ignored and even rejected by much of modern science, the spirit, also recognised as the non-material part of a person, forms an integral part of how the traditional knowledge systems understood the holistic human body. Understanding the body in a holistic manner would not just be more accurate, but also would provide us means and processes to influence them in a more positive manner, be it for health, wellbeing or for spiritual development.
One of the earliest sources of references to such an elaborate perception of the human body can be found in the Upanisad-s. The Upanisad-s are a series of texts originating in the Veda-s, some even dating approximately to 1500BC. Most of the Upanisads presents their teachings through stories in a poetic language that will inspire every ardent seeker.
The concept of the human body is presented through one such story in the well-known Taittiriya Upanisad. It is presented as an intriguing discussion between a father and son. Bhrgu, the student embarks on this inquiry under the precious guidance of his father Varuna.
Bhrgu approaches his father, also his teacher, and asked 'Father, kindly impart to me the spiritual knowledge that you possess.'
The father replied gently 'Matter, breath, eyes, ears, mind, and speech are the things that you daily come across. However, you must now know that Reality from which all these things issue and live, towards which all these move and in which they finally merge. That is the Brahman [the divine spirit]. You can know it through meditation and contemplation.'
The son duly obeyed his father, and after some meditation came to the conclusion that gross matter itself is the spirit. He went back to his preceptor and reported his findings. The patient father, encouraged him to reflect a bit further.
The eager son once again went back to his reflection. He realised then that Prana or the vital breath was the spirit, and that it was out of Prana that things took birth and into Prana they finally merged. He excitedly shared this finding with his father.
'You are making profess. But kindly meditate a bit further,' his father replied, and once again asked him to meditate further. Dutifully following his teacher's words, the boy went back into his reflection. He then concluded that it was the mind, from which all manifestation emerged. It was more subtle than gross matter, and the vital breath, and could pervade both. He reported this experience to his father.
The ever-patient father was encouraged by his son's sincere process. But he sent him back with the same advice to meditate a bit more.
The eager Bhrgu was only more motivated. He again meditated and found that the power of understanding (vijnana) was the more subtle aspect of the human construct, and concluded that it was the spirit. His father was not totally satisfied with this response and urged his son to continue his research.
The son again meditated and finally came to the conclusion that feelings or pure joy was the Supreme Spirit - the source and the destination of all creation. When Bhrgu told his father about this conclusion of his, he was overjoyed and said, 'Dear child, this indeed is the highest term of existence in the material plane. All these five layers are there, one more subtle than the other, but the finest and the subtlest is beyond all of these, and its the unchanging spirit. All of matter changes. But spirit is that which does not change. But there exists a necessary and intricate relationship between spirit and matter and this is what makes the human construct so special and complex. He who knows this and understands this it goes beyond all sorrow and death.'