Causal Body and Seed State
Tattva Bodha (‘the introduction to Vedanta’ text) teaches us that every person has 3 different bodies: Gross, Subtle, Causal. Having seen the Gross (Sthula) and Subtle (Sukshma) bodies previously, we will now see the Causal body (Karana Sharira):
What is the Causal Body? The very name suggests 2 things: (1) It is merely another body; (2) It is the cause of something (i.e. ‘Causal/Karana’ means cause). Cause of what? The cause of the other 2 bodies previously examined – Gross and Subtle (sharira-dvayasa karana-matram). So there is a cause-effect relationship between the causal body and the gross/subtle bodies.
Example 1: Seed and Tree. The tree comes from the seed. Therefore: Seed = cause; Tree = Effect. What is the difference between the seed and the tree? Well…essentially nothing. The tree is nothing but that same seed, so in essence there is no difference. The seed is merely the potential/unmanifest form of the tree. The whole tree is in that seed. Where? In unmanifest or dormant form. So the tree is the manifest form of the seed.
Example 2: Adult and child in the womb. Embryo in the womb = Cause; Adult = Effect. An adult is the same group of cells that form in the mother’s womb (embryo). So there is no essential difference between an embryo and the adult (i.e. cause and effect). It’s just that the adult is in unmanifest/dormant form in the womb as an embryo, then it manifests as an adult.
From these 2 examples we can conclude/generalise:
- A cause and effect are essentially the same
- Only difference between a cause and effect is in their form. i.e. Unmanifest Form = Cause. Manifest Form = Effect. This is the only real difference between a cause and an effect.
Extending (a) and (b) to the causal body, we can say:
- Causal Body is essentially the same as the Subtle and Gross Bodies
- Only difference is: Causal Body = Unmanifest Form of the subtle/gross; Subtle/gross body=Manifest Form
What does ‘manifest’ and ‘unmanifest’ really mean?
Manifest = Various divisions are perceptible (you can see them). E.g. In a tree you can see a variety of divisions manifest (vyakta) – leaves, branches, trunk, roots, fruits, etc. But do you see the leaves and branches and fruits in the seed? No. So do these branches, fruits, etc. exist in the seed? Yes, else a mango tree could not specifically evolve from a mango seed. How do all these differences exist in the seed? In unmanifest form. In potential/dormant form. Therefore: Unmanifest = Divisions are not perceptible, but do exist in potential form. It is the same logic with a baby/embryo – you do not see any legs, hands, feet, eyes, nose in a small group of cells in the womb (embryo). The divisions are imperceptible, but they are there in unmanifest (avyakta) form. The divisions manifest in the adult.
What is the word for ‘division’ in Sanskrit? Vikalpa. So all effects are seen ‘with divisions’ or ‘Sa-vikalpa’. Any cause is seen ‘without division’ or ‘nir-vikalpa’. This is a general rule, even in science. Hence the causal body, being a cause, is called ‘nirvikalpa’.
The causal body is also described as Mithya (remember the clay-pot example or see here: http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/clay-pot-the-reality-of-the-universe/ ).
Being Mithya, the causal body is ‘undefinable’ (anirvachya). Just like a clay-pot is undefinable. How? Because…if I ask you – is the pot identical to clay? No. Because if it were, every time I say ‘bring me clay’ you would bring me a pot. But clay could be in the form of a pot, a plate, a rod, a lump. So clay and pot are not identical. Ok…so is the pot different from the clay? No. Else I could say ‘you take the clay and I will take the pot.’ Impossible! The Pot is made of clay, they are not 2 separable different things. Hence, the pot is neither identical nor different from the clay! So we call the pot ‘undefinable’ (anirvachya). So to the causal body is ‘undefinable’ with reference to its substance (Satyam).
The beginning of the causal body cannot be understood (anadi). Why? Because to understand something you need your mind (buddhi). And the buddhi is part of the subtle body. And the causal body is the cause of the subtle body. Therefore, the subtle body (including buddhi) must be unmanifest or dormant in the causal body. Hence the buddhi is not operating in the causal body so there is no mind available to understand the concept of the causal body in the 1st place. E.g. A young boy said to his parents: “I’m very angry with you. You did not invite me to your wedding!” But he was not even born/manifest then so it’s impossible for him to have been there. So to, the mind is unmanifest so not available to understand itself in causal form.
There is no Self-Knowledge in the causal body. The casual body is still ignorant of its own true nature (as Atma). Your causal body is individual to you and has a very long life – it survives even when the gross body dies and the subtle body goes into hibernation at the end of this kalpa (cycle of the universe). Only when you gain Self-Knowledge, it will go.
The above describes the Karana Sharira or Causal Body – the last of the 3 bodies which make up every individual being.