Sharira Traya (शरीरत्रयम्)

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According to Sharira Traya, the Doctrine of the Three bodies in Hinduism, the human being is composed of three shariras or "bodies" emanating from Brahman by avidya, "ignorance" or "nescience". They are often equated with the five koshas (sheaths), which cover the atman. The Three Bodies Doctrine is an essential doctrine in Indian philosophy and religion, especially Yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Tantra.

The Three Bodies

Karana sarira - causal body

Karana sarira or the causal body is merely the causeTemplate:Sfn or seed of the subtle body and the gross body. It has no other function than being the seed of the subtle and the gross body.Template:Sfn It is nirvikalpa rupam, "undifferentiated form".Template:Sfn It originates with avidya, "ignorance" or "nescience" of the real identity of the atman, instead giving birth to the notion of jiva.

Swami Sivananda characterizes the causal body as "The beginningless ignorance that is indescribable". Siddharameshwar Maharaj, the guru of Nisargadatta Maharaj, also describes the causal body as characterized by "emptiness", "ignorance", and "darkness".Template:Sfn In the search for the "I am", this is a state where there is nothing to hold on to anymore.Template:Sfn Ramanuja concludes that it is at this stage that consummation of the atman with the Paramatman is reached and the search for the highest Purusa, i.e., of Ishvara, ends.Template:Sfn

According to other philosophical schools, the causal body is not the atman, because it also has a beginning and an end and is subject to modification.Shankara, not seeking a personal god, goes beyond Anandamaya Kosha in search of the transcendent Brahman.Template:Sfn

The Indian tradition identifies it with the Anandamaya koshaand the deep sleep state, where buddhi becomes dormant and all concepts of time fail, although there are differences between these three descriptions.

The causal body is considered as the most complex of the three bodies. It contains the impressions of experience, which results from past experience.[1]

Suksma sarira - subtle body

Suksma sarira or the subtle body is made up of seventeen (17) elements:[2]

  1. Five organs of perception (ज्ञानेन्द्रिय): Eyes, Ears, Skin, Tongue and Nose
  2. Five organs of action: (कर्मेन्द्रिय): Speech, hands, legs, anus and genitals
  3. Five vital forces (Pranas) : Prana (respiration), Apana (evacuation of waste from the body), Vyana (blood circulation), Udana (actions like sneezing, crying, vomiting etc.), Samana (digestion)
  4. manas
  5. Buddhi, the Intellect, discriminating wisdom

In samkhya, which does not acknowledge a causal body, it is also known as the linga-sarira.Template:Sfn

Sthula sarira - gross body

Sthula sarira or the gross body is the material physical mortal body that eats, breathes and moves (acts). It is composed of:[2]

  1. Panch Mahabhutas: Prithvi (पृथ्वी, Earth), Apas/Varuna/Jal (जल, Water), Agni(अग्नि, Fire), Vayu (वायु, Air), Aakash(आकाश, Ether).
  2. Five sense organs (ज्ञानेन्द्रिय): Eyes, Ears, Skin, Tongue and Nose
  3. Five vital forces (Pranas) : Prana (respiration), Apana (evacuation of waste from the body), Vyana (blood circulation), Udana (actions like sneezing, crying, vomiting etc.), Samana (digestion)

The Sthula sarira’s main features are Sambhava (birth), Jara (old age or ageing) and Maranam (death), and the "Waking State". The Sthula sarira is the anatman.

Three bodies and five sheaths

The Taittiriya Upanishad describes five koshas, which are also often equated with the three bodies. The three bodies are often equated with the five koshas (sheaths), which cover the atman:

  1. Sthula sarira, the Gross body, also called the Annamaya Kosha[3]
  2. Suksma sarir', the Subtle body, composed of:
    1. Pranamaya Kosha (Vital breath or Energy),
    2. Manomaya Kosha (Mind),
    3. Vijnanamaya Kosha (Intellect)[3]
  3. Karana sarira, the Causal body, the Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss)[3]

Four states of consciousness and turiya

The Mandukya Upanishad describes four states of consciousness, namely waking consciousness, dream, and deep sleep, and turiya, the base-consciousness. Waking consciousness, dream, and deep sleep are equated with the three bodies, while turiya is a fourth state, which is equated with atman and purusha.


  1. Gregory P., Fields (2001). Religious Therapeutics: Body and Health in Yoga, Āyurveda, and Tantra. State University of New York Press. p. 27. Retrieved 4 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Vedanta Lecture IIT Bombay
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.Jagadeesan. The Fourth Dimension. Sai Towers Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9788178990927.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>