The Causal Body in Indian Thought

In yogic philosophy, the causal body is the subtlest of the three bodies, the other two being the astral body and the physical body, descending from subtlest to coarsest. In Sanskrit, the causal body is known as the karana sharira and consists of karma and samskara. Karma is the record of the individual’s actions in all previous instances in this life and the previous iterations, and samskara refers to the experiential impressions and imprints upon the mind (the first is active and the latter is passive). The causal body is the body that endures the death of each physical body, and transports the essence of the individual from each life per reincarnation.

As the yogi journeys from one life to the next with the ultimate goal of final liberation from rebirth, he masters the physical body, the astral body and then finally, the causal body, from the coarsest to the subtlest. The last two of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, puts the individual in touch with the causal body. These last two limbs are called dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (superconsciousness). Each body possesses koshas, which veil Atman, the true Self, and it is by progressively peeling away the layers of these koshas that the individual reaches eventual Enlightenment and freedom from rebirth and the suffering associated with it.

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