Objective 'conquest of matter' is what our civilisation is trying to do relentlessly. We may have tasted intermittent success in this but from the long range perspective, our conquest of matter seems at best a Pyrrhic victory. The rate at which our biosphere is being destroyed seems like enough evidence for that. Nevertheless, this is not the subject of this article. Instead, this article is interested in exploring subjective 'conquest of matter'.
To understand subjective 'conquest of matter', one first needs to recognise the various components of the subject. Towards this end, the traditional approach of splitting matter into the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and sky) is taken. Traditionally, the following simple explanation is given to show why the body contains the five elements.
When an individual dies, the first thing that leaves the body is the breath or the wind element. Next, within a few minutes, the body looses the heat in it. This is seen as fire leaving the body. These days, most dead bodies are immediately kept in a freezer and hence the corpse is frozen. But, if it is kept out, we can notice all kinds of fluids, i.e. the water element, starting to leak out of the body. Next, all kinds of organisms start acting on the body and the body starts to disintegrate. As the earth element disintegrates, finally the space element that is held within is also released. Thus, death is the dissolution of matter which makes up the body into the sea of potentiality from which other bodies arise.
Our mind being a function of the body, is obviously influenced by the components of the body and hence can be studied in terms of the characteristics of these elements. Thus, subjective 'conquest of matter' is in other terms is simply conquering the negative sides of these elements in ones body and mind.
In order to see the characteristics, lets go from the gross to the subtle. Earth element which can seen, felt, tasted and smelled is the grossest of them all. Some of the important characteristics of the earth element are stability and dependability. The primary reason why individuals lack this is lack of discipline. Therein, one concludes that conquest of earth is conquest of indiscipline.
Next is the element water. It comes next because it can be seen, felt and tasted but cannot be smelled. The most important characteristics of water is that of life giver. It also has a pacifying / calming effect on most people. This is usually equated with sincerity / genuineness. Thus, conquest of water is the conquest of insincerity.
Next comes the fire element which can be seen and felt but neither can be tasted nor can be smelled. The most important characteristic of fire is that of energy provider. While water can also do some work, there is nothing like fire to do intense / focussed work. Fire also provides light, which no other element can. In human beings the energy to act comes from desire and motivation. Thus, conquest of fire is the conquest of lack of motivation / desire.
Next comes the wind element which can only be felt. Wind can go places easily. It can expand / contract effortlessly. It is very difficult to block wind. These are also the characteristics of imagination / intelligence. Thus, conquest of wind is the conquest of lack of imagination / intelligence.
Finally, comes the space element. This can only be known by intuition. No sense can indicate its presence. Space elements holds you and me. It also holds the ugliest toad and the most beautiful flower. It has space for Hitler and Christ. Normally, we do not have such an all encompassing space in us. We do not accept certain kinds of people. We do not accept certain kinds of situations. Conquering this lack of acceptance is verify conquest of space.
When the characteristics of these five elements in our bodies and mind is complete, we may say one has accomplished bhoota jayam or conquest of matter. All of these apply at both the physical and mental levels. Discipline / sincerity / motivation / imagination and space are equally applicable to both body and mind. For example, the amount of space we have in our minds to accept things is dependent on the amount of space the spine has to elongate in our back, the amount of space our lungs have to expand in our thoracic cavity and the amount of space the diaphragm has to descend into the abdominal cavity.
Regular adherence to the limbs of yoga helps in this conquer of matter! One who has conquered the elements this way is verily set for great things in life. The inner voice will be heard clearly and will be manifested in the world beautifully! The individuals life acquires great depth and meaning. The ego becomes punier and punier but the ideals / values etc that the individuals life demonstrates, become more and more precious. Thus, this is probably the most important conquest that one should concern oneself with in this life!
PS: The same can be analysed in many other ways. This is a perspective that works wonderfully for me! :)