According to yoga philosophy, a person has not only the physical body but two more bodies which happens within the outer physical body. It’s called the concept of Sharira Traya or three bodies in yoga.
Yoga believes that three bodies must be treated for a complete healing process rather than just the physical body. Yoga, Advaita Vedanta, Tantra, and Shaivism all adhere to the Three Bodies Doctrine, which is a fundamental principle in Indian philosophy and religion.
Every human being is said to consist of three vital bodies, namely the Sthula sharira (gross body), Sukshma sharira (subtle body), and Karana sharira (causal body). Each body has a unique energy field composed of different compositions that vibrate at various frequencies. Our “Self” appears to be clad in three bodies and experiences three interconnected states, namely sleeping, dreaming, and waking, respectively.
“Five koshas” or sheaths, which are respectively annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha, and anandamaya kosha, – are incorporated in these three bodies.
In this article, we will see each of the three body’s characteristics, components and related koshas to it.
Sthula Sharira – The physical or gross body
The material, mortal, breathing, eating, and moving body is known as the “gross body,” or sthula sarira. It is made up of flesh and bone, including tissues, cells, molecules and atoms, and serves as the vehicle for all the other Principles (bodies).
The experience of sthula sharir or gross body is felt during the waking state.
1. Components of the gross body
This sthula sharira or gross body is made up of the five elements (Pancha tattva); Akash (space or ether), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jal (water), and Prithvi (earth). To increase, restore and balance these elements and maintain gross body health, yoga poses and breathing techniques can be practised.
The primary goals of the gross body (Sthula sharira) are to understand the Self (Atman), experience eternal bliss, and achieve the peak of spirituality, which will ultimately result in salvation (Moksha).
In its lifetime, the physical body goes through many changes and modifications and is visible to us as well as others. Being able to see and feel its exterior layers on a daily basis makes it the body that most people find easiest to relate to.
The sthula sharira undergoes six different changes throughout our lives – birth, subsistence, development, maturity, decay, and death. It’s the cycle of the physical body.
The gross body only lasts for a limited time period in the natural world, and after that age, nature declares it to be extinct. The 5 basic components are divided after death when the physical body expires.
3. Related kosha
The gross body is home to the annamaya kosha or food sheath and a portion of the pranamaya kosha, the vital or energy sheath.
The mouth, hands, feet, anus, and genitalia are the five karmendriyas or organs of action that make up the pranamaya kosha. We experience hot, cold, hunger, thirst, and other things within this kosha.
The gross body’s demands are met by the Annamaya kosha and Pranamaya kosha, which give it food, water, and air.
Sukshma Sharira – The subtle or astral body
The suksham sharira or the subtle body is what happens behind the physical or gross body. Prana resides in this body which is vital force of life that keeps the physical body alive and directs its activities.
The astral body is subtle, invisible to the eye components, and is not tangible or material in nature like the sthula sharira. The Nadis (subtle energy channels) have a fine union with the physical body to live in this astral body.
The ability to access it utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches is possible despite the fact that it is outside the range of our normal physical awareness.
The experience of sthula sharir is felt during the waking and dream states.
1. Components of the subtle body
It consists of seventeen components:
- Five perceptual senses (jnanendriyas) – eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose
- Five action organs (karmendriyas) – mouth, hands, legs, anus, and genitals
- Five vital vayu or air – Prana (respiration), Apana (evacuation), Samana (digestion and assimilation), Vyana (circulation), and Udana (supporting other vayus).
- Mind or manas
- Intellect or buddhi
The subtle body resonates at a much greater frequency and is the home to the kundalini energy.
It is connected to our senses through which we experience pleasure and pain.
The Sthula Sharira is encircled by the subtle body’s energetic aura. It exists before the physical body since it is created upon, around, and within it, and it truly expires and passes away when every last piece of the dead physical body is destroyed.
It is in sukshma sharir that you can experience clairvoyance and clairaudience. A yogi who is much advanced in his spiritual path can hear and see through his astral eyes and ears, also called astral senses.
3. Related kosha
The three koshas; pranamaya kosha (vital or energy sheath), manomaya kosha (mental sheath), and vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual sheath) make up the sukshma sharir.
The five organs of action (karmendriyas) make up the pranamaya kosha.
Manomaya kosha is where the mind (manas), subconscious (chitta), and five perceptual senses (jnanendriyas) lie. They help us feel and experience thinking, doubting, anger, lust, etc.
Vijnanamaya kosha is made up of our intellect (buddhi) which we use to analyze and evaluate the information we intake. It also regulates the ego (ahamkara), discrimination, and decision-making.
Karana Sharira – The casual body
The human being was created from a subtle vibration known as karana sharira or causal or karmic body. It is also the largest facet of our existence. Of the three bodies, karana sharira is perceived as the most intricate.
It is not a body in this definition; rather, it is an elemental force. Karana sharira is that which cannot be explained (anirvachaniya) and has no beginning (anadi).
A blend of the astral and physical bodies, the causal body is one of the subtlest types of bodies. It preserves the spirit of the person from one life to the next when reincarnation occurs and keeps track of all of our previous ideas, behaviors, and acts.
We sometimes overlook this body since it is much more difficult to sense and connect with and it connects to the larger Self.
The experience of karana sharira is felt during the waking, dreaming and deep sleep state.
Characteristics of the causal body
We get to know God through the causal body.
It contains details on all the lives we have already lived as well as all of our past experiences, memories, and habits.
When a person dies, both the astral and causal bodies leave the physical body jointly.
Deep introspection utilizing meditation as a tool is the only way to actually experience it.
The term “soul,” “spirit,” or “atman” refers to the simple fact that consciousness itself resides within the body.
The karana sharira falls in line with all the worldly attachments and deep cravings for the bodily goods and pleasures called vasanas.
The causal body is associated with anandamaya kosha (spiritual bliss) which is the fifth and final sheath. We call it our blissful, joyful, and peaceful side, and is our ultimate goal in yoga.
Yogis contend that despite the fact that anandamaya kosha is claimed to permeate all of the outer sheaths, it is impossible to see until the outer sheaths’ fallacies are dispelled.
How to cleanse the three bodies
For purifying three bodies, you must first purify the koshas or sheaths as they are directly associated with each other. This is a must if you want to discover your true self, advance in your spiritual path, and attain peace of mind.
The practices you can employ for cleansing the three bodies are:
Yoga Asanas – Asanas will purify the annamaya kosha by toning, reducing stress, and removing toxins and blockages from the overall body.
Proper Nutrition – Follow a healthy and sattvic diet, stay away from unwanted substances that may overstimulate the mind, and include dairy. This will also help in purifying the annamaya kosha.
Meditation and Positive Thinking – These facets target the manomaya kosha as it is related to the mind. Regular meditation will improve concentration and mental clarity. It will lead to lower stress and positive thinking. Adopting bhakti and karma yoga can be helpful.
Truthfulness and Contentment – By letting go of ego, resentment, and pride, will cleanse the vijnanamaya kosha. Selflessness, being truthful to one’s intention, and being content with what you have will have a positive impact on your intellect.
Self-realization – this comes when all other koshas have been purified. Once you reach this stage, your Anandamaya kosha is cleansed.