The yoga tradition considers the human being as a whole composed of 5 bodies, from the most “gross” to the most “subtle”:
- The physical body
- The energetic body
- The emotional body
- The mental body
- The subtle body
These bodies are interdependent, and each one is related to the one below and above.
The mental body
The mental body is the most subtle and refined of the five bodies identified in the Yoga and Ayurvedic traditions. It is the bridge between the consciousness of the outer world and the inner world. Inherent in all spiritual experience, it is the body of which we are aware and which is closest to the more subtle bodies. It encompasses several aspects, including discernment, will, analysis, ego (I-consciousness), and intuition.
Each of the different bodies is purified and refined through practice and over time. The work on the denser bodies, from the physical body to the emotional body, prepares and favours a better disposition for the work of the mental body, the most important. When it is linked to the subtle body, it allows us to develop the ability to understand and to assimilate useful knowledge in life. When it is linked to the causal body, it reveals the intuitive aspect of intelligence, which is called “Buddhi”. This is the highest faculty of discernment and discrimination.
The tools to progress
In the practice of Suryashtanga, the development of this mental envelope is undertaken by means of both meditation and study. Indeed, through a focused and regular practice of meditation, and in particular through visualisation, the practitioner creates mental matter. Mental matter, which, sufficiently dense and refined, will allow the connection with the more subtle bodies. Meditation is also a means of developing discernment and gaining mental clarity, in order to be able to differentiate between what is transitory/illusory and what endures. Study is also a means of refining one’s intellectual body, gaining a better understanding of oneself. It also allows for informed learning of texts on philosophical and spiritual subjects and the world around us.
The Yoga of knowledge
In Yoga, there is a path of Self-knowledge which is directly related to the most advanced development of the mental body. This is Jnana Yoga, or the Yoga of Knowledge. By investigating oneself, one’s mental patterns and thoughts, the seeker on this path goes back to the origin of thoughts and reaches the ultimate state of Yoga, the state of Samâdhi.