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3 Types of Bodies: Gross (Sthula), Astral (Linga) and Causal body (Karana)
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3 Types of Bodies: Gross (Sthula Sharira), Astral (Linga Sharira) and Causal body (Karana Sharira) 
3 Types of Bodies: Gross (Sthula Sharira), Astral (Linga Sharira) and Causal body (Karana Sharira)
Three bodies where Koshas reside
Hinduism identifies man in terms of 3 Bodies, 5 Koshas (sheaths), and 3 States. This page provides details about 3 types of bodies.

Human beings have three bodies where its Koshas reside.
  • Gross Body (Sthula Sharira)
  • Subtle Body or Astral Body (Linga Sharira)
  • Causal body (Karana Sharira)

The soul is different from these three bodies.

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Gross body or Sthula Sharira
Gross body is physical body that is made up of the Panchmahabhutas – the five primordial elements, i.e., Akash (vacuum), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jal (water) and Prithvi (earth) and is subject to a sixfold change: birth, subsistence, growth, maturity, decay, and death. This is the dense physical body. Gross body is simply the vehicle of all the other Principles (bodies) during physical incarnation. Annamaya & part (physical manifestation) of Pranamaya Kosh reside in Gross (physical) body. Gross body needs gross food, drink and air which it gets from Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha. At death the physical body perishes and its five constituent elements are dissolved.

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Subtle or Astral body or Linga Sharira
Subtle or astral body (Linga Sharira) is where lives mind and intellect. Manomaya and Gyanamaya Kosh and part of pranamaya kosha resides in Astral or Subtle body. Linga Sharira contains pranamaya kosha, movement of the pranic force directing our physical and mental activities. This movement happens through nadis or channels, conductors of energy which are controlled by the six chakras. Vital sheath is a subtler sheath when compared to annamaya kosha. This is composed of vital energy. As long as this vital energy exists in the organisms, life continues. This sheath is responsible for our physiological functions namely breathing, digesting, metabolizing, circulation, endocrinal, neural, skeletal, muscular etc.

The Linga sharira (subtle body) surrounds the Sthula Sharira (physical body) as an aura of energy. The Nadis (subtle energy channels) exist in this subtle medium through a fine merger into the physical medium. This is the “vital body” and the prototype and reflection of the physical body. It comes into existence before the physical body as the latter is built and formed upon and around it and it only fully fades out and dies when the very last remaining particle of the deceased physical body disappears and disintegrates. In the internal astral body there are counterparts of organs outside. They are called astral senses. A yogi hears through astral ears and sees through astral eyes. Thus he can hear sounds from distant lands, he can see objects in distant localities. This is called clairvoyance and clairaudience.

When a person dies, his or her gross body (sthula sharira) is burnt. This being in fact the ‘Antya ishthi’ (antyeshthi) the last sacrifice offered in fire, but the soul cannot quit the gross body without a vehicle of some kind. This vehicle is the Linga-sharira or subtle body, sometimes described as angustha-matra (of the size of a thumb), invested in which the deceased person remains hovering near the burning ground or crematorium. It is the vehicle for and of Prana.

The Upanishadic texts reiterate the existence of a purusha (being) of the size of the thumb (angustha matram) enshrined in the interiors of the heart - "The self (purusha), that is of the size of a thumb (angustha), resides in the cave of the heart. The self who is the size of a thumb is a light (jyoti) without smoke." This "being" dwelling inside the heart has been equated with the ‘jiva’ or the ‘self’ which carries the consciousness and a meta-physical body (prakriti), also termed as the karana sharira. Kathopanishad says “This shining, luminious angustha-matra entity residing in the cave of our heart is “vibhrajate because of which the whole world is illuminated.”

Astral Body’s Lower Mind: This sheath is the also energy of action. This mental sheath is composed of two qualities, mana (mind) and buddhi (intellect). Mana is the rational, linear, sequential, thoughtful mind. Buddhi is the quality of discrimination which comes after knowledge, after the removal or the absence of ignorance. The former constitutes the manomaya kosha, while the latter is called as the Vigyanmaya Kosha.

Astral Body’s Higher Mind: The Vijnanamaya kosha is the sheath of the intellect (buddhi) and intuitive knowledge/wisdom which gives us the discriminative capability that helps to differentiate between virtues & vice, good & bad, right and wrong, truth & untruth. It controls the mind, the senses, the fructifying samskaras & all activities of the body. The ego-driven intellect can lead to actions when it gets co-mingled with the memories and is clouded over by the manas which result in pain and suffering. Its knowledge is affected by the moods of the mind and other factors. Through the practices of meditation, regular self-study & enrichment of knowledge through libraries & discourses could lead towards devotion. Our mind becomes purified and the intellect can then begin to depend more and more on the pure intuitive wisdom rather than be influenced by the ego. As you begin to experience this aspect of existence, you discover that this sheath is merely an illusion covering over the eternal self. Hence the self is different from the body, unchanging, ever pure and free from modifications. Therefore, the self is a witness of the Vijnanamaya Kosha.
Yogi Swami Vivekananda’s view on Linga Sharira
Yogi Swami Vivekananda
Yogi Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda says"The astral body is what we call the Linga Sharira. When this body dies, how can it come to take another body? Force cannot remain without matter. So a little part of the fine matter remains, through which the internal organs make another body — for each one is making his own body; it is the mind that makes the body. If I become a sage, my brain gets changed into a sage's brain; and the Yogis say that even in this life a Yogi can change his body into a god-body.”
Swami Sivananda Sarasvati about Linga Sarira
"The mind performs all actions very speedily in the linga sarira (subtle body) and fluctuates thereby. But the gross body knows not anything and is inert. Should this gross body be dissolved, the mind quickly assumes a fresh body. This physical body is the mould, as it were, of the mind. It is made by the mind for the outpouring of its own energy, for its own enjoyment. Thereby it gains different experiences of this world through the organs of knowledge or perception.

Yogi Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Yogi Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The body is really our thoughts, moods, convictions and emotions objectivised, made visible to the naked eye. Every cell in our body suffers or grows, receives a life impulse or a death impulse, from every thought that enters the mind. You tend to grow into the image of the thing you think about most. When the mind dwells on a particular thought, a definite vibration of matter is set up. This tends to repeat itself, to become a habit.

The body follows the mind and imitates the changes. Every change in thought makes a vibration in your mental body (linga sarira) and this, when transmitted to the physical body, causes activity in the nervous matter of the brain. And this activity in the brain and nerve cells causes electrical and chemical changes in the body."

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Causal body or Karana Sharira
Anandmaya Kosh resides in Causal body (Karana Sharira). Causal body needs bliss or peace which it gets from Anandmaya Kosh. Karana Sharira or Causal body is the map template which is the sole cause for the gross and subtle bodies in the future birth of the soul that is not liberated or detached from the causal body. Karana Sharira controls the formation and growth of the other two bodies, and determine every aspect of the next birth.

Karana Sharira is the doorway to the higher consciousness. It is associated with the state of dreamless sleep and samadhi. It links individual consciousness with the collective consciousness. Experiences (samskaras) from our past lives are stored in the causal body, it carries the information and knowledge acquired during the previous births. The attachment of Maya and intense desires for the worldly objects and pleasures, called “vasanas” also go along with Karana Sharira.

At the time of death, both the causal and astral bodies (that remain together) separate from the physical body. Once the soul is completely detached from its causal body it goes to the abode of God. The soul never needs to come back to the world again except for the God’s wish. When they come back to the world they come in the form of Gurus (Perfect masters). Guru is the one who leads the created to the creator. Guru is the descent of the Divine in human form to create the right conditions for the seekers to ascend to his Divine essence (Moksha or Enlightenment or Chaitanya).

(Sadgurus or Perfect masters are in reality, the seers who have realized the Absolute or have reached the highest realm of spiritual attainment, are present forever in the whole universe whether in an embodied or in an un-embodied state. They operate in gross, subtle, or mental world. They have been chosen to execute the Divine Mission and work together for the execution of the Divine Mission – Liberation of the seekers.)

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Summary
According to Hinduism human individual has three bodies: physical or gross body (Sthula Sharira), subtle body (Linga Sharira), and causal body (Karana Sharira).

Life span of each of the bodies is different. Gross body depends on gross food therefore has very less life, compared to subtle body that depends upon thoughts and feelings, therefore can survive longer. Causal body survives longest since it needs only peace. The soul is different from these three bodies. Soul does not need anything since it is the experiencer, observer and therefore it is eternal.

The term which we call death is fall of gross body. The soul survives along with subtle and causal body where samskaras are stored. Man must take birth again and again with the help of gross body till all the Samskaras are consumed. You can consume Samskara (karma-phala) only in human life with the help of conscious living and power of will. It is not possible in any other life and that is why human life is considered as extremely important from the liberation point of view. (There are three things which are indeed rare and are due to the grace of the God. They are 1) human birth, 2) longing for liberation and 3) protecting care of a perfected sage – The Guru.)

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3 Types of Bodies: Gross-Sthula, Astral-Linga & Causal-Karan body 
3 Types of Bodies: Gross-Sthula, Astral-Linga & Causal-Karan body


 
 
  

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Kundalini Yoga is also known by the names: Siddha Yoga, Sahaj Yoga, Shaktipat Yoga, Maha Yoga, Shakti Yoga or Kriya Yoga