While people may speak of past karma or desire driving the form of this lifetime, the qualities of the life that unfold are found in various factors. Shadbhava is a term from Ayurveda meaning 6 houses or areas of life. It refers to the influences we have when starting this life. (it also refers to the 6 stages of life, but that’s another discussion)
Three or half of the factors relate to the body we’re being born into. The father, the mother, and nutrition during pregnancy. In other words, our bloodline and prenatal care. Many traditions honour their ancestral bloodlines and prescribe careful care of pregnant women.
Science has found that a fetus develops to prepare for the environment into which it expects to be born. If it is exposed to a lot of stress through the mother’s experience, it will tend to develop more musculature and less fore-brain (higher faculties). In a more nurturing environment, the reverse is the case. A woman who experiences samadhi (transcendence) during pregnancy will pass that experience to the fetus as well.
“In stressful environments, fetal blood preferentially flows to the muscles and hind brain, while shorting the flow to the viscera and the fore-brain. The development of fetal tissues and organs is proportional to the amount of blood they receive. Consequently, a mother experiencing chronic stress will profoundly alter the development of her child’s physiologic systems that provide for growth and protection.”
— Bruce Lipton
(On Bruce Lipton’s web site, select the Nature, Nurture article for much more detail.)
The other half of the equation are the aspects our soul (jiva) brings in. These are Rasa, Sattva, and Atman.
Rasa means flavour or essence and relates to the dosha or body type / constitution that results. (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) The flavour we bring to the bodies bloodline. (which is why you see some kids out of type in a family)
Sattva relates to the degree of purity and our karmic debt. The baggage or resistance we bring in and the unresolved desires. And this relates to Maya and the way we perceive the world.
Atman relates to our degree of infusion of spirit. Our spiritual history.
Atman and sattva in particular illustrate prior spiritual development and how we pick up where we left off. Their mix also illustrates the wide variety in ways people experience personal and post-personal development. It depends on what we’ve taken care of and what is yet to open.
I found this an insightful overview. Our life and growth are not just about our own history but that of our family and community.
To quote John Donne (English clergyman & poet (1572 – 1631)):
“No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
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