What is the Causal Body?

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Karana (causing) + Sarira (body)

Causal Body Definition

In Sanskrit, the term “causal body” is rendered Karana Sarira, Karana Sharira, or kāraṇaśarīra.

Karana means “making,” “muscle,” or “causing.”

Sharira means “body.”

In yogic philosophy, human beings are composed of three bodies, consisting of five koshas (sheaths) in total.

1. Sthula Sarira, the physical or gross body, which contains:

  • Annamaya kosha (the food sheath).

2. Sukshma Sarira, the subtle or astral body, which contains:

  • Pranamaya kosha (the energy sheath);
  • Manomaya kosha (the mental sheath);
  • Vijanamaya kosha (the intellect sheath).

3. Karana Sarira, the causal body, which contains:

  • Anandamaya (the bliss sheath).

These bodies come into being via avidya (nescience, unawareness, ignorance of the Self), which creates jiva (the individual soul hiding from its true self).

layers of orange, yellow and brown earth

Causal Body Deep Dive

In yogic philosophy, human consciousness is divided into the waker, the dreamer, and the deep sleeper. The gross body is identified with the waker, the subtle body with the dreamer, and the causal body with the deep sleeper. Together, these three bodies form your being, your individuated consciousness.

You therefore “experience” the causal body in deep sleep, and in moments of pure awareness, of living “in the now.”

As the deepest and subtlest of the Sarira Traya (three bodies) that veils Atman (the true Self), the causal body is said to be the blueprint, the seed – in effect, the cause – of the gross and subtle bodies. But if you go looking for the seed, you won’t find it. It has become you, existing out of space, out of time. It’s the reason and core of your existence. The bridge between your everyday awareness in the finite world and your true Self.

This is where your karma is stored. Like a memory bank, everything that has happened to you in this life and past lives resides here, along with samskaras (psychological imprints), and vasanas (unmanifest desires). All of these inputs affect the development of the subtle and gross bodies.  

The causal body may therefore be seen as being made of four elements:

  1. Avidya, or “causal matter,” arising from unawareness and ignorance.
  2. The subtle and gross body in potential form.
  3. The memory bank for the subtle and gross bodies.
  4. Eternal life, existing out of space and time, not even evident to yourself.

The anandamaya kosha (bliss sheath), the seat of pure love, joy, and peace, is the only kosha that resides in the causal body.

The Taittiriya Upanishad describes the causal body thus:

“Hidden inside it is yet a subtler body composed of pure joy. It pervades the other bodies and shares the same shape. It is experienced as happiness, delight, bliss.”

a computer generated image of a human representing the layers of the causal body

The Causal Body in Your Life

Spiritual aspirants like to wonder what they can do with a new piece of information. How can this tidbit of knowledge help me on my spiritual quest?

When you learn about the causal body however, you discover that it is not so much about The Causal Body in Your Life, as it is Your Life in the Causal Body.

Knowing what you now know about the causal body, how do you want to live this life?

Overall, a broader understanding of the five koshas is helpful. You can start by learning more about them, and then connecting with and nourishing them. This is a comprehensive process.

It will involve caring for your body and mind, through yoga and meditation. It will involve everything from what you eat, to what you read, and examining your attitude towards yourself and others. It will involve being fully present with what truly is. And it probably won’t happen overnight.

But a seeker is sure to find. And doors are opened to those who knock. If you are reading this, your yoga journey is already well on its way.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Hailing from the Yukon, Canada, David (B.A, M.A.) is a yoga teacher (200-hour therapeutic YTT) and long-time student and practitioner of various spiritual disciplines including vedanta and Islam.

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