Stages of development (GUNASTHANA)
It is to be remembered that the combination of soul and matter now in question is subtle one, and that a mere mechanical separation is not possible. By what is called killing, the soul is separated from the body and its forces, but not from the matter of a more subtle nature that is the substance of the energies that render the soul impure. As already mentioned, these energies go with the soul at death and by reason of them the being gets a new material body. The energies which render the soul impure, and which make us ignorant, wretched, unkind, cruel, weak, infirm, or misshapen and which bring in their train old age, and death, can be removed from the soul only by mental and moral disciplines. This process is the process of stopping the inflow of fresh matter and removing what matter is already attached to the soul. It is the gradual process of removing in turn the four classes of impelling forces previously mentioned, which are the instrumental causes of the attraction an assimilation of foreign matter by the soul.
This process is considered in fourteen stages, arranged in logical (not chronological) order. It is the process of development; and the process of development has a beginning in time. There is a beginning to the development of the soul; and so it follows that there was time in the past when this development was not going on in us; and there is always in existence a class of living beings (nigoda) in whom development has not yet begun; it is a class of living being with which the universe is packed, so that there is not an inch of space anywhere these are not. They are conscious, very minute, and cannot be seen with the eye or microscope; fire will not kill the, nor will water; they pass through things without being hurt; no human instrument can kill them; they can pass through mountains, – anything. There is an infinity of them; and this is the source whence come the developing and liberated souls. It is the state of existence before development has begun. When once out of this state the living being never goes back to it again (avyavahara mithyatva nigoda). It comes out of this state by circumstances, and its development begins. We human beings are, of course, all now out of this state and our development is proceeding, either naturally and slowly, taking a long time, or scientifically and taking not so long a time.
The fourteen stages of development can be grouped into four sets corresponding to the four cause above mentioned, plus one stage, the 14th, in which none of the four causes operates.
- In the first of the fourteen stages, all the determinant causes work.
- In the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th stages of development only three of the determining causes work, namely, the non-control, the moral uncleanness, and the final cause.
- In the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th stages of development only two of the determining causes work, namely, moral uncleanness and the final one.
- In the 11th, 12th, and 13th stages only the final cause works.
And in the 14th stage none of these four causes works. It is only a momentary stage.