The Doctrine of Three Bodies
Yoga is a completely holistic approach to well-being and happiness. Instead of simply addressing the physical body, yoga determines that three bodies need to be addressed for the overall healing to take place.
According to The Doctrine of three bodies in Vedanta, every human being has three vital bodies namely the Physical(Gross) body, Astral(Subtle) body, and Causal body.
This doctrine of the trinity is an essential concept of Ancient Hindu philosophy that one needs to master to deeply understand the teachings of yoga.
The Three Bodies
Let us first understand what are the three bodies and what each one of them consists of.
The Physical body, Gross or Sthula Sarira
This is the one that we all are familiar with, the human body that breathes, eats and moves. Birth i.e Sambhava, old age i.e Jara and Death i.e Maranam are the three main phases that a physical body goes through in its span of life.
A physical body is made up of five elements; earth (Prithvi), air (Vayu), water (apas), fire (Agni), and ether (akasha).
We can increase or restore these elements through yoga postures and breathing exercises. Upon death, the physical body dies and these 5 essential elements get separated.
The Astral/Subtle Body or Suksma Sarira
The astral body is not a physical or material thing but it is made up of subtle elements that the eyes cannot see.
The astral body is composed of prana, i.e the vital force of life that keeps the physical body alive and directs its activities. The mind is full of emotions and thoughts that affect the movement of prana in our bodies.
The astral body relates to the senses and the way we feel or act. This body consists of five perceptive organs, five organs of action, five vital breaths, the mind, and the intellect.
It is responsible for functions like breathing, digestion, metabolism, circulation, muscular, neural, skeletal, etc.
The Causal body or Karana Sarira
The causal body is one of the most subtle bodies and is a combination of the physical and astral bodies. It records our past thoughts, habits and actions in all their state of existence and carries the spirit of the person from one life to another upon reincarnation.
Thus it is the foundation of the physical and astral body and connects you to your true self.
How to Cleanse the Three Bodies
To grow spiritually, you must remove all the impurities from all the three bodies. You need to purify these bodies to discover your true self, and attain good health and peace of mind.
Below are some of the practices one needs to follow for purification and proper functioning of the three bodies:
- Yoga Asanas
- Proper Nutrition
- Pranayama Breathing Exercises
- Positive Thinking
The three-body doctrine is considered to be very important in Indian philosophy and religion. Each of these bodies has a different span of life.
The physical body depends on food thus it has a shorter life span as compared to the Astral body which depends on thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and thus lives longer.
The causal body has the longest span of life as it only requires self-discovery and peace. Whereas the soul is eternal as it is distinct from these three bodies and does not need any means of survival.