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Kāraṇa-Śarīra

A Sanskrit term which literally translates as “causal body” and is equivalent to the theosophical use of the term CAUSAL BODY. An alternative term, sometimes used, is kāraṇopādhi (i.e., kāraṇa + upādhi). It is one of three such bodies identified in the Vedānta literature (i.e., UPANIṢADS and ADVAITA VEDĀNTA philosophy). It is the reincarnating soul or jīva, retaining within itself the essence of one’s life experiences which cause the conditions of one’s future incarnations. It is sometimes termed the “higher mind.” Since it is not the SELF, it may also be defined as the Self (ĀTMAN) limited by a material vehicle. It is sometimes considered to be an illusion (māyā). But, since the root of the word māyā is , meaning “measure,” the soul is merely the Self limited by a vehicle or body (śarīra, upādhi). This delimiting of the Self results in a feeling of one’s being a separate ego; in that sense the limitation is a kind of “illusion,” so the Vedānta definition of jīva as “Self + illusion” is not really incorrect, even if somewhat misleading. All its vehicles limit the expansive consciousness of the Self. But without such vehicles, the Self could not act within a material universe.

The other two bodies are the sthūla-śarīra or “gross (i.e., physical) body,” and the sukṣma-śarīra or “subtle body,” what Westerners would call the “personality” (i.e., the emotions and categorizing mind). Another classification identifies five vehicles or “sheaths” (kośas) of consciousness: the anna-maya-kośa, literally “food-made-sheath,” (i.e., biological body, which is equivalent to the sthūla-śarīra), the prāṇa-maya-kośa (vital energy body, called, in theosophical literature, the “ETHERIC DOUBLE”), the mano-maya-kośa or “mind-made-sheath” (one of the components, with the prāṇa-maya-kośa, of the sukṣma-śarīra), the vijñānamaya-kośa or “intellect sheath” (equivalent to the kāraṇa-śarīra), and the ananda-maya-kośa or “bliss-made-sheath” (called in theosophical literature the “buddhic body”). Because mind and emotion commonly function together, the sukṣma-śarīra is also referred to in theosophical literature as the desire-mind (kāma-manas). And note that maya (“made”) here is not māyā.

Since the kāraṇa-śarīra or Causal Body is the receptacle of the essences of a life’s experiences and tendencies, and since in the normal process of REINCARNATION the vehicles which would normally store specific memories and behavioral tendencies are shed, it is only in unusual cases of rapid reincarnation that one would recall a former life. Furthermore, the distilled experiences of a human incarnation could never result in the rebirth in an animal form, so theosophical theory does not admit of the popular Hindu notion of transmigration. Only in cases of the most extreme cruelty or debauchery could future incarnations be considered even a human retrogression. Evolution of consciousness and conscience may be slow for the majority of people, but it is steady.

It is stated in theosophical literature that the kāraṇa-śarīra or Causal Body is formed at the time of Individualization, that is, at the transition from animal to human consciousness. It is at that point that all three aspects of the Trinity manifest, at first only in a latent form, in what is termed in theosophical literature the lower quaternary (“lower” mind, emotions, etheric double, and physical body) with the Causal Body being the “bridge,” as it were, between the upper triad (ĀTMA-BUDDHI-MANAS) and that lower nature. In some theosophical literature that “bridge” is termed the ANTAKAḤRAṆA or “internal instrument,” but in classical Indian literature the antaḥkāraṇa is said to be made of the ego-nature (AHAMKĀRA), BUDDHI (variously interpreted as intuition or moral sense), MANAS (probably the “lower” or desire-mind), and citta (individual consciousness, as contrasted with universal consciousness or cit) and is not considered a “bridge” to one’s higher nature, but rather is what would be termed the personality in Western thought.

R.W.B.

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