Sanatan Dharma

Three bodies and Five Koshas in sanAtana dharma

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Part IV - Yoga and Subtle Bodies, Chapter 2/2 - Three bodies and Five Koshas in sanAtana dharma

This is Part IV - Yoga and Subtle Bodies, Chapter 2/ 2

Table of Contents

[Updated on: 04-Apr-2022 after 16th April 2016]

23. Three Bodies and Five koshas in sanAtana dharma

According to traditional scriptures, we have three subtle bodies or shariras and five koshas or sheaths. Let's have a brief overview of them.

In yogic life, they too are nourished along with physical body. Other 4 subtle bodies are of great importance. Bodies are called as kosha-s.

23.1. Gross, Subtle and casual bodies and panch koshas

Tatva bodha and Viveka ChuDAmaNi (in more detail then Tatva Bodha) describes five bodies (kosha-s are) annamaya kosha, prANamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, viGYAnamaya kosha and Anandamaya kosha. We can get some more information by stuying some of the 108 upanishads known as Yoga Upanishads. panch kosha vivaraNa is also found in ananda valli of Taitiriya Upanishad. Detailed explanation of panch koshas (5 bodies i.e. koshas), 9 chakras and 16 Adharas (energy points or centers) are mentioned by mahAyogi guru gorakhanAtha in siddha siddhAnta paddhati. Yoga YaGYavAlkya also explains these koshas in details. It gives a list of 10 vAyu-s and 15 nADi-s. This is covered in later section.

panch koshas or five sheaths or containers are grouped into three shariras (bodies). First, the three shariras are explained. Later five sheaths are explained.

Please remember that kosha = sheath or container and sharira means body.

Composition of three bodies and their characteristics is briefly explained. Then the components are explained. In case of sukshma sharira, there are 17 components which are explained in detail. Out of 17, the five GYAnendriyas and five karmendriyas each has their own functions and their presiding deities. They too are explained. The main reference is Tatva Bodha.

Let us begin with three bodies or shariras

  1. sthuLa sharira - physical gross body, composed of panchikRita panchmahAbhUtas. panchikRita means to undergo modification and transform into physical gross body.Made of tamasa. It is born due to satkarmas. It enjoys sukha-dukha. It has 6 characteristics or undergoes 6 types of modifications -

    1. asti (अस्ति) - अस्तित्व मे आना - To come into existence. To be formed in the womb (born but invisible). Birth happens immediately after conception.

    2. jAyate (जायते) - जन्म - is born. What we call birth date is actually date of delivery.

    3. vardhate (वर्धते) - बढ़ाना - growth - increase in body's weight, height maturity of senses and constant changes in different organs

    4. vipariNamate (विपरिणमते) - परिणाम - different stages of body - shaishava (newly born), bAlyAvasthA (childhood), yuvanI (youth), madhyAvasthA (middle age), vruddhatva (old age) - these changes are observed

    5. apakshiyate (अपक्षियते) - क्षय - slow process of old age and degeration of body parts, weakening of senses, etc.

    6. vinashyati (विनश्यति) - नाश - destruction due to death

  1. sukshma sharira - subtle body (prANamaya, manomaya and viGYAnamaya kosha). apanchikRita means to be in subtle form and not in physical form. The five elements earth, air, fire, water and earth are in tanmAtra avasthA or in subtle form. This sharira too is born due to satkarmas and enjoys sukh-dukha. It is composed of apanchkRita panchamahAbhUtas. It consists of total 17 ayaya (parts or components) - 5 GYAnendriyas, 5 karmendriyas, 5 prANa, mana (mind) and buddhi (intellect). 17 parts in details are -

    1. Five GYAnendriyas with their functions or vishayas and presiding deities (adhiShThAna devatAs) are (ref : Tatva Bodha by Swami Tadrupanand in Gujarati, Page 91)

      • ears - to hear -- devatA is dik or disha (god of directions)

      • skin - touch -- vAyu (god of air)

      • eyes - rUpa - form i.e. see forms -- sUrya (sun god),

      • tongue - to taste -- varuNa (God of ocean) and

      • nose - to smell -- ashvinikumaras (Twin Gods of medicine)

    1. Five karmendriyas with their functions or vishayas are - (ref : Tatva Bodha by Swami Tadrupanand in Gujarati, Page 97)

      • speech - bhashaNa - to speak -- Agni deva (God of Fire)

      • hands - grahaNa - to hold -- Indra deva

      • legs - gaman - to move -- viShNu

      • pAyu i.e. gudA (anus) - maLatyAga - excretion -- mRityu (God of death) and

      • upasthAni i.e. linga jananendriya (genital organ) - Ananda - enjoyment -- prajApati deva

    1. Five prANas - prANa, apAna, vyAna, udAna and samAna

    1. mana - mind - that which thinks - i.e. constant flow of thoughts is known as mind

    1. buddhi - intellect - the decisive power.

(5 karmendriyas + 5 GYAnendriyas + 5 prANas + mana + buddhi = 17)

sukshma sharira is identified with antakaraNa and it’s four sub-divisions, mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahaMkAra (ego, sense of individuality) and chitta (memory or recitation power).

  1. kAraNa sharira - causal body (Anandamaya kosha). That which is anirvachaniya (inexplainable / indescribable) i.e. which is neither sat, nor asat. It is unborn. It is not created due to sat karmas. It is of the nature of avidyA or aGYAna (ignorance) and that which is the cause of sthuLa and sukshma sharira. That in which there is absence of GYAna i.e. it nature is aGYAna and is vikapla rahita meaning unchanging is known as kAraNa sharira. It is said that ignorance is the main 'cause' i.e. kAraNa of not knowing one's true nature. It is due to this reason that Anandamaya kosha is known as kAraNa sharira. In other words, it is due to ignorance of one's true nature that one takes rebirth and is trapped in the cycle of birth and death. In order to enjoy or surref the merits of karma and to get a chance to know one's true nature, sthuLa and sukshma shariras are created. After Self Realisation, there is no rebirth and there is no cause of creating sthuLa and sukshma sharira. Hence it is said that Anandamaya kosha is the kAraNa or the cause of birth of sthuLa and sukshma sharira.

‘kAraNa’ means ‘cause’. This body does not die until moksha.

The five kosha-s are (ref : Tatva Bodha by Swami Tadrupanand in Gujarati, Page 124).

  1. annamaya kosha - Physical gross body. This is also known as sthuLa sharira.

  2. prANamaya kosha - Energy body or aura or bioplasmic body. This body is the bridge between annamaya kosha and manomaya kosha. It is the first of the three subtle bodies. It consists of 5 prANas, and 5 karmendriya-s. 5 prANas are prANa, apAna, vyAna, udAna and samAna.

  3. manomaya kosha - mental body. Some modern energy based techniques have split manomaya kosha into astral body and mental body. Astral body is emotional body, handling emotions and mental body handles thoughts. It has concrete thoughts. When one is deep into thinking, one is in tune with manomaya kosha.

  4. viGYAnamaya kosha - It is also mental body, but of abstract thoughts. It is said that it has thoughts without shapes i.e. thoughts of raw nature. There are also vAsanAs. viGYAnamaya kosha has all the impressions of past lives. It is said that ego is situated in this body. While other bodies have their own life, this body does not die until the ignorance of duality and sense of individuality is destroyed. In other words until one attains moksha, this body is not destroyed.

  5. Anandamaya kosha - Casual Body. buddhi body or body of Bliss. Anandamaya kosha is the body of intuition. A person living in this body i.e conscious of this body lives in intuitions. There is no need to think before doing anything. Mind is so pure that it can tap into cosmic mind or universal consciousness. This body is connected with deep sleep where all the 5 karmendriya-s, 5 GYAnendriyas and mind are absent. It is this kosha which has ananda but does not know it's source. It is the last veil, the veil of ignorance. Ignorance is known to be the reason for loss of knowledge of our true Self. It is due to this veil of ignorance as it's characteristic that it is known as kAraNa sharira

23.2. chakra-s

Each body has it’s own chakra-s. Not much is being said about chakra-s in higher bodies like manomaya kosha, etc. However Our shAstra-s say that we have seven major chakra-s. In gItA BG 5.13 it is said ‘navadvAra’ ‘नवद्वार’ meaning nine doors. bhAgavat purANa (canto 4, chapters 25-29) also describes city of nine gates. There is also description of nine doors in Guru Granth Sahib. There is also the mention of tenth door. A great yogi, a mahAsiddha, guru gorakshanAtha has described that there are nine chakra-s. If we take these doors in physical body then they are - 2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, 1 mouth, 1 anus, 1 genital. However, if we take literally take it beyond physical body, then we can count on nine chakra-s.

Seven chakra-s are

  1. mUlAdhAra chakra - root chakra or base chakra or basic chakra

  2. svAdhiSthAna chakra - sacral chakra

  3. manipura chakra - navel chakra

  4. anAhata chakra - heart chakra

  5. vishuddhi chakra - throat chakra

  6. AGYA chakra - 3rd eye, chakra of will power (sometimes spelled as ajna chakra)

  7. sahasrAra chakra - crown chakra

guru gorakshanAth in siddha siddhAnta paddhati mentions two more chakra-s:

8. tAlu chakra - Palette chakra (from where nectar flows)

9. AkAsha chakra - Inverted crown chakra (one chakra faces upwards and another sahasrAra downwards)

T. Krishnamacharya in his Yoga Makaranda has given the names and location of 10 chakra-s. This makes the total of chakra-s to be 12. The additional chakra-s are

10. sUrya chakra - about 5 angula-s below anAhat chakra

11. lalATa chakra - above AGYA chakra on forehead

12. manas chakra - exact location is not given, but this chakra is not on surface of prANamayakosha it is inside it.

prANamaya kosha of laymen starts from the center of body (from within) and protrudes outwards 8-9 angulA-s (5-6 inches approx). All chakra-s has stem starting from suShumNA nADI and the flower petals extend on the surface of prANamaya kosha i.e. 5-6 inches. manas chakra is inside prANamaya kosha and hence it’s stem and petels do not stretch upto 5-6 inches but extend only upto 3-4 inches (approx)

For detailed explanation about chakra-s by Paramhansa Prajnanananda, please visit here. For explanation of 10 chakra-s by T Krishnamacharya, please visit here.

Personal Note: The following extract is not extract from shastra-s, they are personal opinion, some details are extracted from Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati) as explained in the book - The Philosophy of Gorakhnath with Goraksha Vachana Sangrah by Akshaya Kumar Banerjea.

As one progresses spiritually in any path, be it bhakti, GYAna or yoga, prANamaya kosha gradually keeps expanding from 5-6 inches to 1 meter or even more. Same is the case with other subtle kosha-s. In rare cases, siddha yogI-s have developed this kosha so much that it may even expand to cover a few hundred kilometers. They are capable of bestowing spiritual energies to thousands of people thereby elevating their consciousness. This is one of the reason why when we enter any divine place, where a saint has meditated for many years, we immediately feel the divinity of place. One can easily enter into meditation almost effortlessly. Worldly thoughts do not disturb our meditation. This is the reason why it is said that one must visit saints as much as possible and be physically present in their vicinity. They may cover entire hall and though you may not grasp all of their discourse, their prANamaya kosha and other kosha-s influences all those present in the vicinity thereby embedding spiritual qualities in us and awakening the divinity within us.

However the size of petals of chakra-s do not expand in proportion to the increase in prANamaya kosha. Though they still expand on the surface of prANamaya kosha, the diameter of petals does not expand that much. A yogI who has a chakra with diameter of 1 meter is considered has a great yogI and acheiving this size is not possible for all.

Some texts mentions number of chakra-s to be 10, 12 or even 13. Traditionally only seven are given importance and are considered as ‘major chakra-s’. These seven chakra-s are also connected with other worlds like heaven of meher loka or tapa loka, etc. These chakra-s are considered as doors to these worlds where a yogI can travel into these worlds in their subtle bodies. Others are considered as minor chakra-s. Each body part like eyes, ears, glands like thymus gland, pancreas, etc have their own energy counterpart and a minor chakra. There are chakra-s in palm, sole (foot) and in fingers, but their size is smaller than major one. Since this science is very complicated and one needs to practice any kind of energy based meditative technique in presence of a master yogi, many things are kept private.

23.3. kuNDAlini, nADI-s, prANa-s and brahmaDanDa

kuNDalini shakti, nADI-s and brahmaDANDa are of great importance to yogi-s. yoga is very practical and meditative approach or control and master the mind and other subtle bodies so as to rise above them and unite with Siva (brahman). Lets discuss them in brief.

For better understanding, a picture will be helpful.

Kundalini and Chakras Hindu Dharma

Kundalini and Chakras Hindu Dharma

Source and Credits

23.3.1. kuNDalini shakti

yogi-s texts and yoga upanishads talks of kuNDalini shakti. It is located near the base of spine. Some say it is in the form of inverted triangle. yogi-s, specially those following tantra-s (energy based techniques) activate kuNDalini shakti and rise her until she touches sahasrahAra chakra (crown chakra). Of course, prior to activating and raising kunDalini prANamaya kosha and chakra-s are needed to be cleansed. Hence this process must be practised under the guidance of a master yogi.

kuNDalini shakti is highly revered. She is not just a shakti, but a devi. Yogi-s reverse her as mother, Adi shakti. She is associated with uMA, or pArvatI devI, the spiritual consort of bhagavAn Siva. Siva is situated at the crown. Hence a yogis process is to merge or unite shakti with Siva. Merging of Siva and shakti results in enlightenment.

23.3.2. nADI-s and vAyu-s

According to uttara gItA and Siva gItA, we have 72000 nADI-s. jIvAtmA or soul which resides in heart (chakra) spreads the consciousness through 72000 nADI-s. Some texxts like Siva samhitA mentions that we have 251000 nADI-s. Since prANamaya kosha (energy body) is connected with annamaya kosha (energy body), jIva becomes aware of physical body through them.

Out of 72000, 14 are important. Out of 14, 3 are important. Among 3, suShumNA is the most important. 3 nADI-s are iDA, pingalA and suShumNA nADI. iDA and pigalA are located in the center of energy body in the spine and start from kuNDAlini shakti, they touch sahasrahAra chakra and end in two nostrils. They end in center of each side of nose. suShumNA goes straight to sahasrahAra chakra. iDA and pingalA either spiral suShumNA or go parallel with suShumNA or are in the form of a bow i.e. curved bulging in center and converging at the two ends. Three different shapes of iDA and pingalA are found in yoga upanishad-s. They are related to the mental make-up of a person. It does not matter which form you see, seeing, feeling and experiencing them indicates a certain level of spiritual development. Such visions are taken as signs of spiritual progress.

iDA is related to moon, it cold in nature i.e. energy passing through iDA feels cool, while pingalA is related to sun and is warm in nature i.e. energy passing has warm feeling. These nADI-s are also connected with left and right side of brain and eyes.

As we are aware, only one nostril and hence only one nADI is open at a time. In order to activate kunDAlini, one must activate both IDA and pingalA so that kunDAlini may pass through both of them. Hence before starting meditation or any yogic kriyA (process), yogI-s make sure that they are breathing both nostrils. They do so by doing prANAyama and repeating some breathing patterns along with postures. When kunDAlini flows through suShumNA, the life force, which flows through all the 72000 nADI-s is pulled back and flows through suShumNA. The result is that a yogI does not feel his physical body. As the prANa is gradually pulled out of these nADI-s, a yogI feels the his / her body parts are getting paralyzed or become dysfunct and lifeless. You have no power to move them. Later even their existence cease to exist. As kuNDalini rises through each chakra through suShumNA and touches sahasrAra, mind is completely absorbed in this blissful state of enlightenment. kuNDalini has seven layers and it is said that each layer has 7 sub-layers (sources needed to confirm).

As per haTha yoga pradipikA, H.Y.P. 3.4, suShumNA is also called as other names such as Sunya Padavî, Brahma Randhra, Mahâ Patha, Śmaśâna, Śambhavî, Madhya Mârga, are names of one and the same thing.

As a result of kuNDalini touching sahasrAra, consciousness rises high and merges into cosmic consciousness and yogI is completely unaware of his / her body. Since AtmA (Atman) is the source of all and it empowers the body to function, when AtmA, the consciousness, leaves the body, breathing and so heartbeat stops. This breathless, pulseless state is the ultimate state of enlightenment.

During this process of ascension of kuNDalini and consciousness, a yogI undergoes divine experiences that indicate his spiritual development. These divine experiences are better kept within the circles of advanced yogI-s.

Please find names of different nADI-s, their location and their functions in tabular form. All credits to the translator of the book. Shri A. C. Mohan, a disciple of a great Yogi, T. Krishnamacharya. It was T. Krishnamacharya who has revived and popularized the ancient book of Yoga ‘Yoga Yajnavalkya’. Yoga Yajnavalkya (YY) is unique in it’s own way, as it does not stress on various bandha-s or mUdra-s though it mentions some mUdra-s. It stresses on prANAyama and says that prANayama is capable of purifying one’s body. YY also mentions different types of meditations, meditations on personal deity, on nirguNa brahman, and the vedAntic approach of ‘neti, neti’. This book is more clear than other books.

Fourteen nADi-s, their name

Note. Some details are not clear. Need to refer to other sources like yoga upanishads for better location.

Nadis Sanatan Dharma


Like nADI-s, each body has different types of vAyu-s responsible for carrying out different functions. Yoga Yajnavalkya (YY) mentions 10 different types of vAyu-s. YY 4.47-49 says Ten vayus viz prANa, apAna, samAna, udAna, vyAna, nAga, kurma, krkara, devadatta and dhananjaya. Among these, the five vAyu-s, beginning with prANa are considered important. Among those [five vAyu-s], these two - prANa and apAna are most important, [Gargi], best among women! And of these two, prANa is the most important in all living beings, always (YY 4.47-49).

Yoga YAjnavalkya chapter 4 describes different types of vAyu-s along with their locations and functions. Locations of five vAyu-s are not found clearly. Function of vyAna is said to be ‘taking in and taking out’. It is not clear what exactly does it mean. In general, all vAyu-s continuously undertake excretion of waste products, urine, etc in the entire body, through the roots of hairs and the nine openings. Hence vAyna vAyu would be generally connected with any type of ‘in’ our ‘out’ activity.

Please find names of different vAyu-s, their location and their functions in tabular form.

Vayus Sanatan Dharma

Note: Secondary vAyu-s are present in skin, bones, etc says verse YY 4.58. This verse is a one line verse and does not give location details of each secondary vAyu

23.3.3. brahmaDaNDa / meruDaNDa

When kuNDAlini is fully activated and reaches sahasrahAra, most yogi-s see the whole spine as a tube of bright light. This passage is called as brahmaDaNDa or meruDaNDa. Though physical spine is not straight, it is curved, yogi-s see only energy counterpart of spine. Generally energy counterpart found in energy body (prANamaya kosha) has similar shape as that of physical organ. However in case of passage of kuNDalini, which is said to rise through spine, I have not heard of any yogi having the vision of spine as having curved shape. It looks like a tube light filled with brilliant white light. As said earlier, these visions are taken as signs of spiritual progress. Hence difference in shape, form, colour, shade, type of energy are not taken too seriously.

23.4. Gauging spiritual progress

As a yogi or any spiritual aspirant progresses in spirituality, his / her prANamaya kosha it’s chakra-s and other subtle bodies also expand in size. The spiritual progress of a person is gauged by the activation of chakra-s, their size and the type of energy one has. As sattva guNa increases, the energies become very subtle and soft. Advanced meditator has a constant feeling of bliss and peace. Since bodies develop, subsequent change in nature is seen in yogi which a yogi himself may not be aware of as the change is so natural and smooth than one hardly recognizes when and how one has changed. One can only notice the ‘change’ but not the way in which he has changed. sAttvika (divine, spiritual) qualities like calmness, peace, feeling of bliss (happiness), humility are reflected on a yogi-s face, his actions, his deeds and form his body language. Similarly, not being aware of body conscious is also reflected in eyes as seen in case of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sri Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi