A human is identified in terms of 3 bodies, 3 States and 5 Koshas or Sheaths.

The Atman or soul is covered by three bodies, which are:

  1. Karana sharira (Causal body),
  2. Sukshma sarira (Subtle body) and
  3. Sthula sharira (Gross body).

According to Hinduism human individual has three bodies: a Physical or Gross body (Sthula Sharira), a Subtle body (Linga/Sukshma Sharira), and a Causal body (Karana Sharira).

The life span of each of the bodies is different. The Gross body depends on gross food therefore has short life span, compared to subtle body that depends upon thoughts and feelings, therefore can survive longer. The Causal body survives the longest since it needs only peace. The soul is different from these three bodies. The soul does not need anything since it is the experiencer, observer and therefore it is eternal.

The term which we call death is the fall of the gross body. Once the soul is completely detached from its causal body it goes to the abode of God. The soul survives along with the subtle and causal body where samskaras are stored. A man must take birth again and again with the help of a gross body till all the Samskaras are consumed. You can consume Samskara (karma-phala) only in a human life with the help of conscious living and power of will. This is not possible in any other life and that is why a human life is considered as extremely important from a liberation point of view. (There are three things which are indeed rare and are due to the grace of the God. They are 1) human birth, 2) longing for liberation and 3) protecting care of a perfected sage – The Guru.)

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The gross body is the outermost covering of the Atman and the Subtle body is the middle covering of the Atman while the causal body is the final/innermost covering of the Atman. At the time of death, both the Causal and Subtle body (that remain together but) separate from the physical body.

My questions are:

  • Where does a Soul attach to these bodies?

  • Where and how does the physical body, the subtle body and the causal body attach to each other? Specially, attachment of Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) and Sthula sharira (the Gross body).

  • Can a spiritually-enlightened person see Karana sharira (Causal body) and Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) of ours with his/her naked eyes or with Divya dhristi?

  • Can we see our own Karana sharira (Causal body) and Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) through meditation?

  • Why is the life-span of each of the bodies different in different people?

  • Why does Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) called as Linga sharira?

  • Can living beings other than humans also consist of these 3 bodies?

  • 3
    Good question. It will take a little while to put all the scriptural references together for an answer. Mar 17, 2015 at 15:01
  • 1
    Awesome q sir, could you please clarify what do you mean by 'where does soul attached to these body'. Are you expecting any physical location like 'Brahma Loka' or 'Lo Loka' ?
    – Sai
    Mar 18, 2015 at 17:16
  • 1
    No, I am not expecting physical location like 'Brahma Loka' or 'Lo Loka' . Actually, I Was thinking that Sukshma sharira /Subtle body and Sthula sharira /the Gross body must be attached to each other at physical organ of our body (physical body)... like one or many of our body parts like Novel, heart, Brain etc. Or Somewhere in Sheath like annamaya or manomaya khosa. But anyways Swami ji has given a such vivid answer and cleared my view on this topic. Anything more you want to add on this topic please go ahead sir...Thanks to both of you :) :)!! Mar 19, 2015 at 9:46
  • 1
    No doubt this Q is interesting. But it has 7 questions combined(some are reletaed, some are partly related, some are not). Whenever somebody posts more that 2 questions in one, the moderators suggest to split the questions (which is a correct thing). Then how come this 7-in-1 Q did not get moderators' attention? (I have nothing against the OP or moderators. Just wish to get clarified the best practices in asking Q).
    – Vineet
    Jul 2, 2018 at 4:29
  • 1
    The atman alone is not the soul. Atman or Brahman is infinite, and present everywhere like the air we breathe. It is all pervasive. When this Atman or Brahman which is nothing but spirit or energy, animates the subtle body, it is called soul. (i.e Atma the energy + subtle body = soul/jiva). Sep 21, 2018 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question. It would be best to first clarify a few points you make before answering your questions.

You wrote:

A Human is identified in terms of 3 Bodies, 3 States and 5 Koshas or Sheaths. An Atman/soul covered by three bodies, Which are Karana sharira (Causal body), Sukshma sarira (Subtle body) and Sthula sharira (the Gross body).

The ‘causal body’ does not really exist on an individual level. There are 3 upadhis (not states as you refer to) that make the Atman appear to be something than what it is. These upadhis are the gross, subtle, and causal bodies. The causal body, however, exists on a universal level and refers to the collective maya out of which the universe is created – it does not exist on an individual level as the gross and subtle do. Sankara says “Avidya, or nescience, indescribable and beginningless, is called the cause, which is an upadhi superimposed on Atman.” (Atmabodha 13.) Sankaracharya describes these 3 upadhis in Atmabodha 11-13.

It is not a ‘human’ who is identified in terms of 3 bodies, it is the atman which appears to identify with the subtle and gross bodies as a result of the 3 upadhis. Out of the subtle bodies all living creatures are formed, not just human.

You wrote:
Where does a Soul attached to these Body?

The ‘Soul’ when seen from universal standpoint is often referred to as the Atman. The Soul when seen from an individual standpoint is often referred to as the atman (small 'a' denotes the Atman in the individual). The individual jiva is Pure Consciousness limited by the upadhi of the vijnanamayakosa. It is also said to be the reflection of Pure Consciousness. “...(the individual soul) is intelligence itself.” (Brahma Sutras 2.8.18) The Brahma Sutras (2.8.19-22.) say that it is ‘atomic’ in size. It is said to reside in the cave of the heart (Brahma Sutras 2.8.24) - “He sees the Person dwelling in the heart who is supreme, higher than the individual souls” (Prasna Upanishad V.5., see also Chhandogya Upanishad VIII. i. 1-5.). The heart is interpreted to mean the buddhi, the intellect. The cave being the innermost part. See also Brahma Sutras 1.3.12-13 and 2.8.18-50. “Though all-pervading,...It is manifest in the buddhi…” (Atmabodha 16.)

You wrote:
Where and How does the Physical body, the Subtle body and the Causal body attached to each other? Specially attachment of Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) and Sthula sharira (the Gross body).

They are not ‘attached’ to each other, one is enclosed with the others, that is why they are kosas, or ‘sheaths’, because they cover the Atman like a sheath. Each kosa is finer and finer. Each kosa permeates the more grosser sheaths. The annamayakosa (physical body) is the least fine so it does not permeate any other sheath. The pranamayakosa is finer than the physical and therefore permeates it. The manomayakosa is finer than the pranas and permeates it. The vijnanamayakosa is still finer and permeates the manomayakosa. Finest is the anandamayakosa. I don’t know what you mean by ‘astral body’. This is not a Hindu term. The causal body I referred to previously to above.

You wrote:
Can Spiritual enlightened person see Karana sharira (Causal body) and Sukshma sarira (Subtle body) of ours with his/her naked eyes or with Divya dhristi?

A spiritually enlightened person may see the Causal Body as Maya. Some highly enlightened persons can see their subtle bodies with their physical eyes.

You wrote:
Can we see our own Karana sharira (Causal body) and Sukshma sarira (Subtle body) through meditation?

As answered in other parts of this question, there is no individual causal body. You can see your own subtle body. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa describes this in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.

You wrote:
Why does the Life span of each of the bodies is different in different people?

Answer: Karma.

You wrote:
Why does Sukshma sharira (Subtle body) called as Linga Sharira?

Answer: They refer to two slightly different things. The Linga Shariras consist of seventeen component parts; the five organs of perception, the intellect, the mind, the five organs of action, and the five vital forces (Vedantasara 61-64.). These make up the parts of the three sheaths that compose the Sukshma Sharira (subtle body). The subtle body consists of three parts - the vijnanamayakosa, the manomayakosa, and the pranamayakosa. The vijnanamayakosa consists of the intellect (buddhi) and the five organs of perception. The manomayakosa consists of the mind (manas) and the organs of perception. The pranamayakosa consists of the five vital forces and the five organs of action. (Atmabodha and Vedantasara).

You wrote:
Can living beings other than human also consist of these 3 Bodies?

Answer: Yes. The Chhandogya Upanishad (V.x.5-6.) says yes. In these verses are outlined the jiva’s path to rebirth on earth. After falling as rainwater the jiva is born as rice, barley, plants, trees, etc. Then - “…whosoever [capable of begetting children] eats that food and injects semen, they become like him.” - What the verse is saying is that if a male cow eats the plant, you are born as a cow. If a human eats the plant you are born human. Now, plants and animals (especially plants) have a limited or non-existent physical brain. So, you do not have the same ‘awareness’ of the physical plane as you do as a human. Plant life is more akin to a dream world.

I think there needs to be clarification on two other points you write. You wrote:

Man must take birth again and again with the help of gross body till all the Samskaras are consumed. You can consume Samskara (karma-phala) only in human life with the help of conscious living and power of will. It is not possible in any other life and that is why human life is considered as extremely important from the liberation point of view.

Not exactly. First, you take birth until you achieve Liberation. When you achieve Liberation, the only karma remaining is the karma of the present birth, the prarabdha karma, the karma that has already started to bear fruit. The accumulated karma still remaining, the sanchita karma, is destroyed, not consumed. Second, human life is the only life where NEW karma is made - not consumed. You can consume prior karma in other than human lives. For example, if you have very good karma, you can go to one of the heavens until the good karma that got you there is consumed.

  • How can the soul leave the body when it was not there in the first place? The world is an illusion, when we wake up from the dream(Maya), everything else disappears.
    – Pinakin
    Mar 31, 2016 at 14:19
  • @ChinmaySarupria The illusion is real so long as you have not attained Realization - until then 'you' are subject to the laws of the illusion as you are part of it. If someone punches you in the stomach, do you say that was an illusion? When you are in the dream state, does not the 10 headed monster running after you frighten you? Do you ever stop and say to the monster that it is not real, that 10 headed monsters do not exist? It is only upon waking that you realize the illusion you were under. "Arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is reached!" Apr 1, 2016 at 6:18
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    Yeah okay, almost all the people say that at the time of death, a person mouth gets opened and his soul passes away. I read in Chandogya Upanishad that it is actually due to food that the person opens his mouth, there was no mention of soul leaving like that. Soul should be present everywhere, inside the body and outside the body. If we speak from a realized point of view, is it correct to say that soul cannot leave body because it was not there at all?
    – Pinakin
    Apr 1, 2016 at 10:33
  • @ChinmaySarupria Read Brahma Sutra 4.2.17 on how the soul depart the physical body. Available here - wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62753.html When the 'Soul" identifies through Maya with the individual body and thinks it is an individual soul, it follows the laws of Maya. Apr 3, 2016 at 13:47
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    @Elfinforest 1) Akashic records if I remember correctly is a theosophical concept - it is not a Hindu concept. 2) if it - the soul - is not active that is called death. Jan 28, 2018 at 5:30

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