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It is called "Sukshma Sharira", or "Linga Sharira", but what exactly is it?

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    You can read this answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/31709
    – Rickross
    Aug 29 at 13:10
  • Interesting. Does the subtle body have a physical presence like the gross body? @Rickross
    – Rahul
    Aug 29 at 14:59
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    No it does not have .. that's why called Sukshma. But Indriyas (eyes, ears etc.) are also part of the subtle body but they have physical presence. Mind, on the other hand, is also a part but it does not have a physical presence.
    – Rickross
    Aug 30 at 6:11
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    @Rickross Thanks for explaining
    – Rahul
    Aug 30 at 17:27
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Subtle body or linga sarira or sthula sarira forms part of human personality.

In this context, the analysis of the human personality according to the Vedanta may be stated. The human personality has three bodies consisting of five sheaths or Kosas. These Kosas are: Annamaya-kosa or gross body; Pranamaya-kosa or Vitalistic sheath; Manomaya-kosa or mental sheath; Vijnanamaya-kosa or intellectual sheath; and Anandamaya-kosa or the sheath of bliss.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita translated by Swami Tapasyananda

These five sheaths are organized into three bodies - the Sthula sarira or the gross physical body, the subtle body consisting of the Pranamaya, Manomaya and Vijnanamaya Kosas. The Anandamaya kosa forms the karana sarira.

What does the subtle body consist of?

On the subject of the Asat or the body, one has to keep in mind the distinction between the Sukshma-sarira (subtle body) and the Sthula-sarira (the gross body). The gross body is the one that changes from birth to birth. So it is compared to changing of dress. The analogy is used to show the absolute discontinuity, the catastrophic break that marks physical death. But the other body, the subtle body or Suksma-sarira in which the Pranas (vital forces), mind, intellect and the ego are integrated, survives, carrying all the karma-efficiencies created in one life to the next. It is because of the Suksma-sarira that re-embodiment becomes possible. So in respect to of Suksma-sarira there is continuity from birth to birth.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita translated by Swami Tapasyananda

Suksma-sarira consists of sixteen parts: the five jnanendriyas (organs of knowledge like the eyes); the five karmendriyas (organs of action like the hands); the five pranas (vital airs like prana and apana) and the mind (including the buddhi or the intellect).

What role does the subtle body play in moksha?

But when the enlightenment comes and the Jiva realizes his real identity as the Atman, the Suksma-sarira also perishes. This marks the real death which is the door to Immortality. Death in this sense is also catastrophic in that it brings enlightenment, whereas in physical death it is catastrophic at the physical-level only; what follows is only another embodiment.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita translated by Swami Tapasyananda

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It is called "Sukshma Sharira", or "Linga Sharira", but what exactly is it?

Brhama Sutra says;

तदापीतेः, संसारव्यपदेशात् ॥ ८ ॥

  1. That (fine body lasts) up to the attainment of Brahman (through Knowledge), because (the scriptures) declare the state of relative existence (till then).

In the text cited in Sutra 1 we have, “And fire (is merged) in the Supreme Deity”. The opponent argues that as fire and the other elements are merged in the Supreme Deity, whieh is the cause of these elements, this is only the final dissolution, and so everyone at death attains Liberation. This Sutra says that this merging is not absolute merging, but the one we experience in deep sleep. Only the functions of these elements are merged, and not the elements themselves. The final dissolution does not take place till Knowledge is attained; for the scriptures declare that till then the individual soul is subject to relative existence: “Some souls enter the womb to have a body” etc. (Kath. 2. 5. 7). If the merging at death were absolute, then there could be no rebirth.

सूक्ष्मं प्रमाणतश्च, तथोपलब्धेः ॥ ९ ॥

  1. (This fine body) is subtle (by nature) and size, because it is so experienced.

The body formed from the essence of the gross elements in which the soul abides at the time of death is subtle by nature and size. This is understood from scriptural statements which declare that it goes out along the Nadis (nerves). So it is necessarily subtle or small in size. Its transparency explains why it is not obstructed by gross bodies, or is not seen when it passes out at death.

नोपमर्देनातः ॥ १० ॥

  1. Therefore (this subtle body is) not (destroyed) by the destruction (of the gross body).

अस्यैव च-उपपत्तेः-एष ऊष्मा ॥ ११ ॥

  1. And to this (fine body) alone does this (bodily) heat belong, because this (only) is possible.

The bodily beat observed in living animals belongs to this subtle body and not to the gross body, for the heat is felt so long as there is life and not after that.

Subtle body has following natures;

  • It combines with the god.

  • Leaves the body after death.

  • Can't be destroyed.

  • No one can see it.

The following characters are of Atman as given in Bhagwad Gita.

The Atman is neither born nor does it die at any time, nor having been it will cease to exist again. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Atman is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (2.20)

Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding the old ones, similarly Atman acquires new bodies after casting away the old bodies after death. (2.22)

It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body. (2.25)

Shwetashwara Upanishad I-8: The Lord supports this universe, which consists of a combination of the perishable and the imperishable, the manifest and the un-manifest. As long as the self (Atman) does not know the Lord, it gets attached to worldly pleasures, and is bound; but when it knows Him, all fetters fall away from it.

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