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Suksha Sharira In Hindu Philosophy

Suksha Sharira is a subtle body in Hindu philosophy. Subtle body is one of the three types of bodies, the other two being karana sharira (the causal body) and sthula sharira (the gross body). Sooksha Sharira is also known as linga sharira. It is said sharira because of its perishable nature (kshiryate iti sariram).

The body produced from the undifferentiated or pure, elements prior to the process of panchikarana (the process of grossification) is called the sukshma sharira. It is termed as sukshma also because it is not amenable to direct sensory perception.

The subtle body is composed of 17 constituents as follows:

  • Five organs of knowledge (jnanendriya)
  • Five organs of action (karmendri)
  • Five aspects of prana
  • Mind (manas)
  • Intellect (buddhi)

All these seventeen are the modifications of the five basic elements – prithvi (earth), jala (water), tejas (fire), vayu (air) and akasha (space).

The process of creation is catalyzed by prakriti and ishwara. Prakriti has three attributes or aspects, sattva (purity), rajas (passion) and tamas (passivity). When the desire for jivas for enjoyment becomes precipitated, there arises in Ishwara the desire to create the Universe. The latter is needed to provide the objects of enjoyment. Correspondingly, jivas, too, need instruments or vehicles to enjoy those objects, and the bodies constitute such instruments. In response to the creative desire of Ishwara, tamas (passivity, dullness) becomes predominant in prakriti and becomes ready to undertake the creative function.

The above-mentioned five elements are born out of that prakriti, characterized by tamas. The individual sattva aspects of these five elements, in turn, produce respectively the five organs of knowledge relating to hearing, touch, smell vision and taste. Likewise, the individual rajas aspects of the five elements give rise to the five organs of action dealing with speech, movement of hands, movement of feet, reproduction and excretion.

The sattva aspects of the elements together collectively produce the inner organ (antahkarana) which has the two-fold division of manas (which is analytical) and buddhi (which is decisive). Similarly, the rajas aspect of all the elements collectively generate the five pranas, - prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana.

It is to be noted that in the entire process, each of the five elements is in its pristine form, unalloyed by the other elements. It is only later, through the process of panchikarana, that the elements are grossified and made fit for the generation of gross bodies.

Suksha sharira corresponds to the triad of pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha and vijnanamaya kosha in the panchakosha model outlined in Taittiriya Upanishad.

The five pranas and the five organs of action constitute the pranamaya kosha. The five organs of knowledge and mind represent the manomaya kosha, while the five organs of knowledge and intellect together constitute vijnanamaya kosha. The subtle body corresponds to the state of dream (svapna) in the three-fold experience described in Mandukya Upanishad.

All bodies, including the subtle bodies, are the instruments for enjoying the fruits (good as well as bad) of the actions that had been performed by jivas.