Sharing My Knowlwdge on Vedanta – Karana Sarira

Definition of terms:

Susupti-avastha (Deep sleep state) is the unique state of experience enjoyed by the individual due to the identification with the karana-sarira.

The words Ajana and Avidya (both meaning ignorance) are also synonymously with the karana-sarira.

Vasanas shape the temperament-contours of the personality and determine the nature of the individual. We often say, ‘it is poorva janma vasana/karma’

This philosophical position wherein something cannot be described as either ‘sat’ or ‘asat’ is technically called anirvacya or anirvacaniya.

karana-sarira is described as ‘anadi’

Karana-sarira is the cause of sthula-saria & suksma-sarira.

Also, the karana-sarira is the collection of vasanas ( unfulfilled desires from the past and current births) and ignorance (ajana or absence of the knowledge of the ‘Self’) that is beyond the realm of mind.

Only in waking state anddream state we experience the time with the mind. In the deep sleep state, when the mind is absent, there is no concept of time. Since ‘karana-sarira’ is the cause of mind & beyond the concept of time, the representation as ‘origin’ or ‘beginning’ does not apply to it.

The word ‘anadi’ (an-adi) means ‘beginingless’- that which has no beginning. We cannot hypothesize when the ignorance started with respect to time, because karana-sarira is beyond the realm of time and has no likelihood of beginning, it is beginingless.

For ex: darkness. One cannot describe darkness but one can only experience darkness, which is nothing but the absence of light. So too, ignorance is the absence of knowledge and has no beginning and has an end.

Karana-sarira is called ‘nirvikalpa’ – Why?

‘Vikalpa’ means ‘thought.’ ‘nirvikalpa’ is ‘beyond thought’. The mind is a flow of thoughts. Avidya is the absence of knowledge (ignorance of the ‘Self’) & vasanas, which is beyond the realm of mind.

Vikalpa also means – differentiation or distinction. The sthula-sarira has various parts and each part is distinctively different from the other. Suksma-sarira also has different thoughts and each thought can be differentiated from the other but karana-sarira is one bundle of vasanas, cannot be differentiated within because they’re at the un-manifested level. The example is that of a seed, which has the potential to have the trunk, branches, stem, leaves, and flowers. All these can be seen at the gross level but not when it is a seed, subtle level.

Karana-sarira is therefore called ‘nirvikalpa rupam’, that which appears without distinction.

The three (sthula, suksma, karana) sariras are divided into five kosas.

The five kosas are:

  • Annamaya kosa
  • Pranamaya kosa
  • Manonmaya kosa
  • Vijanamaya kosa
  • Anadamaya kosa

Annamaya kosa refers to the Sthula-sarira (gross body), Pranamaya kosa, Manonmaya kosa and Vijanamaya kosas refers to the Suksma-sarira (subtle body). Anandamaya kosa refers to Karana-sarira (causal body), which is the cause of the other two bodies.

Karana-sarira described as anandamaya-kosa – Why?

Karana-sarira is described as Anandamaya-kosa (bliss) because although an individual is ignorant of the Self, she/he when identifies with Karana-sarira, experiences the bliss in deep-sleep state (Susupti-avastha).

Anandamaya kosa in truth is not blissful by itself; it borrows the bliss from the ‘Self’., just like the moon reflects the light of the Sun, Anandamaya kosa only reflects the bliss of the ‘Self’.

We also experience this state of bliss for temporary periods of time when we like an object, desire for it, and possess it. These are modifications of bliss state in the waking state and dream state. Therefore Karana-sarira is primarily referenced to Anandamaya kosa.

When we are in solitude, in front of water, mountains and nature, we experience this bliss even in wakeful state (Jagrud avastha) and dream state (Svapna-avastha) and those are just a glimpse of the Ananda, which we experience in the deep sleep state (Susupti-avastha).

Karana-sarira is described as ‘inexplicable’ (anirvacniya).

Inexplicable – means unfathomable, incomprehensible, mysterious

Karana-sarira or avidya is described as inexplicable because it has no shape, size, color or personality. One cannot describe it with any specific dimension.

In Vedanta ‘anirvacya’ has a deeper meaning and is a technical term in vedantic context. It cannot be explained as ‘sat’ or ‘asat’, ‘real’ or ‘unreal’. ‘Sat is something that exists in all three periods of time – past, present and future. Only Atman is Sat. Since Karana-sarira is ‘avidya’ (absence of the knowledge of the Self) and can be destroyed with the knowledge (on self realization), it is not in permanent existence. Therefore not ‘Sat’.

Karana-sarira (Avidya) cannot be considered as ‘asat'(one that does not exist) like the – ‘rabbit’s horn’ or ‘sky flower’. These two simply do not exist even though we can use them in words. But Karana-sarira or ignorance does exist, because, otherwise we would not have this cycle of birth & death. The very fact that we go through this samsara is an effect of the cause of the existence of ignorance. Therefore there is a cause, which is the karana-sarira/avidya. That proves it exists!

Since we can neither say it exists nor can we say it does not exists, therefore philosophically avidya is inexplicable – incomprehensible.

Comparison & distinction of the three states of experience

Jagrud-avastha (waking state),

Svapna-avastha (dream state) and

Susupti-avastha (deep sleep state).

In the waking state all three sariras are functioning and the individual identifies with all three sariras.

It is said that the waking state (jagrud avastha) is experienced when the identification with the Sthula-sarira, it does not deny the individual’s identification with Suksma-sarira or Karana-sarira but in the waking state / jagrud avastha, alone an individual identifies with the sthula-sarira. All three exists, both internal and external world are functioning.

Similarly, in the dream state, even though both suksma-sarira and karana sarira are functioning but in dream state / svapna- avastha alone an individual identifies with the suksma-sarira. Only suksma-sarira and karana-sarira alone exists, sthula-sarira does not exist in the dream state. Internal world alone is functioning.

In the deep sleep state, karana sarira alone exists and functional and in deep sleep state alone an individual identifies only with karana-sarira. In this deep sleep state, the sthula-sarira and suksma-sarira do not exist. Both internal world and external world is not functioning.

Source by Vijaya Jayaraman

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