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The Journey from the Gross to the Subtle

The Journey from the Gross to the Subtle

“Nature has manifested itself on grosser and subtler levels. Body and mind are two different aspects of who you are. If you leave it to the body, you will only want to eat and sleep. This is the body’s nature.”


Sadhguru explains that spirituality is a journey from the gross to the subtle, to the point of nothingness.

Questioner: Sadhguru, you said nature knows what should happen at what time, and that there is intelligence to it. But you also said that nature is duality and that to be spiritual is to transcend nature. Could you please explain?

Sadhguru: People ask me, “Eating is nature; reproducing is nature. Why not do it whenever we feel like it?” Nature has manifested itself on grosser and subtler levels. Body and mind are two different aspects of who you are. If you leave it to the body, you will only want to eat and sleep. This is the body’s nature. But the mind tells you, “Let’s sit here and listen.” Which aspect of who you are do you go by right now? You have left the body aside and have listened to the mind. You have ascribed more value to the nature of the mind than that of the body because you have realized that the nature of the mind is a little subtler than that of the body.

When it comes to body and mind, the question is not what is higher – the question is what is subtler. If something is subtler, it has more possibilities. The grosser something is, the more limited it is. The subtler it is, the more expansive it is. A stone for example can only lie there. It may lie there for a million years, without anything happening with it. On the other hand, the breeze is subtle – it is all over. Space is even subtler – it encompasses everything. What becomes subtler, becomes freer. It goes beyond limitations.

The whole spiritual process is, in a way, to become subtler and subtler, to the point of nothingness. Nothingness is the subtlest thing in existence. So, it is not a question of whether something is superior or inferior. It is a question of how limited or unlimited something is, or rather whether something is bound or free. As it gets more and more subtle, you can’t bind it. Only the gross can be easily bound.

Questioner: So if you are being driven by something, how do you know if it is the subtler nature or the grosser nature that is driving you? Or in other words, how do you know whether it is liberating you or binding you?

Sadhguru: If you are being driven by something, you should look at what the driving force is. Body, mind, emotions, and your energies are the four basic aspects that can drive you.

Questioner: But mind and emotions can also drive the body. If I am after physical pleasure, drugs, or some such thing, it is not necessarily just a bodily need.

Sadhguru: It is always a combination. We cannot separate the four yogas [karma yoga, gnana yoga, bhakti yoga, kriya yoga] because you are a combination of the four. You only need to look at what is predominant right now.

As I said, if you leave it to your body, you will want to eat some more now and lie down – this is the body’s nature. But people on the spiritual path consciously fast, even if food is available. Someone who is struggling to get enough to eat may think you are utterly stupid – you have food, but you do not eat. He may ask what you are trying to achieve. You are fasting since you want to address a subtler aspect of you, because if you go by the gross, it will bind you.

Whatever you seek, it is usually a combination of things that drives you. The mind is very much involved with food too, though food is a physical requirement. It is just that since the mind is enslaved to the body, food has become the occupation of the mind too. If there was no body, you would not think of food. If there was no mind, you would still seek food. So, fundamentally, food is about the body.

Your mind and emotions may be enslaved to the physical body – that is why all three are seeking the same thing. When you are fasting, in a certain way, you are trying to enslave the body to your mind. Your mind says, “I’m not going to eat today because that will be beneficial in some way.” That way, the body does not rule your life anymore. You do not want the gross to rule your life. You want to move towards the subtle, because the gross is bondage, the subtle is freedom.

Editor’s Note: Download the ebook, “Encounter the Enlightened” where, Sadhguru explores the realm of the enlightened.

A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower January 2016. Download as PDF on a “name your price, no minimum” basis or subscribe to the print version.

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