Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 23

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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I - The three components of the body

Having considered the subject with the support of reasoning and the çruti and arriving at the self, we may now analyze it through our experience, reasoning and the çruti.[154] When we consider ourselves, due to ignorance (avidyä), as individuals confined to the body-mind-sense-complex [155] or as the jéva, we undergo three different states of experience. They are the waking state in the waking world, the dream state in the dream world and the dreamless sleep state called as the deep sleep state in the deep sleep world [156]. Çästra calls the body-mind-sense-complex as the abode of experience during these states [157] and reveals that it consists of three parts, namely, the gross body, the subtle body and the causal body. [158]


The gross body is made up of the elements of space (äkäça), air (väyu), fire (agni), water (äpa) and earth (påthivé) [159] in their gross condition. The gross body can be perceived and consists of the head, the trunk, the hands and the legs. It is subject to six changes: exists (in the potential state), is born, grows, transforms, decays and dies.[160] It has a life as long as the fruits of the person’s actions in his previous lives [161] that are allotted for undergoing during the present life [162] take to be experienced.


The subtle body is made of the same five elements in their subtle state [163]. They are not visible. The subtle body consists of:

    • the sense organs [164] through which we gain knowledge, namely the eyes, the ears, the skin, the tongue and the nose; the sense organs refer to their functioning, which is invisible and subtle, and not to their physical counterparts (golakams) which are visible and gross;
    • the organs through which we act which are the mouth, the hands, the legs, the organs of excretion and reproduction; again, these refer to their functioning which is invisible and subtle and not to their physical counterparts which are visible and gross;
    • the five vital principles, präëa, apäna, vyäna, udäna and samäna [165] behind all the physiological functions and the operations of all the organs; and
    • the antaù-karaëa (internal organ), which is the aggregate of the mental processes of (i) the mind (manas) consisting of thoughts, which are indecisive, and feelings; (ii) the intellect (buddhi) consisting of discerning thoughts; and (iii) the memory (citta) consisting of the stored thoughts and feelings and (iv) the I-sense (ahaìkära), which is identification of the individual in all the processes. It is the I-sense, which creates the distinction between the experiencer-I and the experienced-object.

      Buddhi, which is the subtlest in the antaù-karaëa, has the capacity to manifest (or reflect) consciousness (ätmä), in it. On buddhi manifesting consciousness, the mind gains consciousness from it. The sense organs gain consciousness from the mind while the physical body gains consciousness from the sense organs. The manifestation of consciousness in the entire body-mind-sense-complex makes us conclude that the body-mind-sense-complex is ätmä. This is correct. But we also conclude that ätmä is the body-mind-sense-complex. This is incorrect and is the cause of all our problems.

      Buddhi is the instrument of knowledge. Knowledge is in the buddhi in the form of våtti, or mental modification, which we generally refer to as thought. When consciousness is reflected in the våtti, the våtti becomes known. It is important to understand that the våtti itself is not jïäna.

      The internal organs cannot be individualized and given specific locations. They are four different mental processes at work. It is given a particular name contextually depending upon the predominance of the mental process that is functioning. However, the composite internal organ is often referred to as the mind.

The subtle body also undergoes change like the gross body. When it leaves the gross body, the gross body loses its sentiency and dies. The subtle body resolves into the causal body and the living being continues to exist in it. According to its allotted fruits of action, it takes another subtle and gross body and starts its interaction with the world in which it comes into being. This being is called the jéva.


The causal body is formed of the five elements in their most subtle form. It is the seed-state of manifestation and it is in the invisible, undifferentiated form. [166] It is from the casual body that the subtle body is formed and sustained. It is from the subtle body that the gross body is formed and sustained. The causal body is also the resolution ground of the subtle body. During deep sleep, the subtle body withdraws into the causal body to manifest again on waking up. After death, the subtle body resolves into the causal body. On the resolution of the entire manifestation (pralaya) also, the subtle body resolves into the causal body. Both at the time of the next birth and after pralaya, the subtle body is formed from the casual body and the gross body is formed from the subtle body. Then the jéva begins interacting with the world in which it comes into being.


The causal body is in the form of avidyä, which conceals the true nature of the limitless self and projects it as the manifestation with limitations of form, attributes and change. [167] It is because of avidyä that the self is mistaken to be the body-mind-sense-complex and everything else is erroneously considered as real, independent entities separate from the self. [168]


154. Analysis is generally done through çruti (veda), yukti (reasoning) and anubhava (perception of the object and recognition of the subject).
155. This is called dehätma-buddhi. The body-mind-sense-complex is called kärya-karaëa-saìghätä.
156. The teaching method (prakriyä), which uses these three states, is called avasthä-traya-prakriyä.
157. It is called bhogäyatanam.
158. The gross, subtle and causal bodies are called sthüla çaréra, çükñma çaréra and käraëa çaréra.
159. These are called pañca-bhütas.
160. The six change of states are called as ñaḍbhäva-vikäräù, are asti, jäyate, vardhate, vipariëamate, apakñéyate and vinaçyati.
161. This is called sañcita-karma.
162. This is called prärabdha-karma..
164.The organ of knowledge is called as jñänendriya and the organ of action is called karmendriya. The jñänendriyas are eyes (cakñu), ears (çrotram), skin (tvak), tongue (rasanä) and nose (ghräëa). The karmendriyas are mouth (väk), hands (päëi), legs (päda), organs of excretion (päyu) and reproduction (upastha).
165. Präëa is the vital principle of energizing, apäna is the vital principle of cleansing, vyäna is the circulating vital principle, samäna is the assimilating vital principle and udäna is the forceful rejecting vital principle.
166. Anirvärcyänädhyavidyärüpaà çaréradvayasya käraëamätraà satsvarüpä’jñänaà nirvikalpakarüpaà yadasti tatkäraëaçaréram| That which is inexplicable, beginningless and in the form of avidyä, the cause for the other two bodies, ignorant of one’s own real nature, free from duality or division is known as the causal body. (Çaìkaräcärya, Tattva-bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, p. 30.)
167. Concealing is called ävaraëa and projection is called vikñepa.
168. Depending on the context, avidyä is also referred to as mäyä, avyäkta and prakåti. These are dealt with in detail later.

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Page last updated: 11-Dec-2015