18 – Tattva Bodha: What is the Causal Body? — Beginningless Ignorance (Karana Sharira)


Discourse 18 answers what is the Causal Body (karana sharira), one response for rebirth.

Source: Tattva Bodha

Verse: (What is the Causal Body?)

kāraṇa śarīaṃ kim?
anirvācya anādi avidyā-rūpaṃ
śarīra-dvayasya kāraṇa-mātraṃ sat-svarūpā-jñānaṃ,
nirvikalpaka-rūpaṃ yadasti tat-kāraṇa-śarīram

That which is inexplicable, beginningless, in the form of ignorance, the sole cause of the two bodies (gross and subtle), the cause of ignorance of one’s own true nature, and is free from duality.


  • If Subtle/Gross have come in time, there must be a cause. Everything in universe is connected via cause-effect right to big bang.
  • Nirvikalpaka-rupam (unmanifest): It contains unmanifest causes (punya/papa) which bring to manifestation your physical/subtle body.
    1. Why Are The Unmanifest Causes Present In The Causal Body?
      • Due to Avidya (ignorance). Reason you're born is you have ignorance of your true nature, thus think “I am” good as body-mind > dissatisfaction > perform actions > 2 results: dṛṣṭa (seen) & adṛṣṭa-phala (unseen results). There are countless unseen results collected in Causal Body, which will manifest in the future.
    2. What Is Ignorance?
      • It's impossible understand “ignorance”, because ignorance is always of SOMETHING (EG: ignorance of atma). Ignorance of ___, causes problems until it's removed. It's opposed to knowledge, thus only knowledge can remove it. It's the cause of jiva, because jiva is product of ignorance.
    3. What Is Ontological Reality Of Ignorance?
      • If it's real (sat), then it can't go. But it does go in wake of knowledge. Is it non-existent (asat)? No, else wouldn't have any problems. Hence it's sat-asatbhyām-anirvacanīyam: can't say it's either sat or asat. In other words, ignorance is mithyā. Meaning it depends on Awareness. Ignorance is another object in Awareness. For example, “I'm am aware that my mind has ignorance of flying an airplane, or I am aware that I feel incomplete”
    4. When Did Ignorance Begin?
      • Anadi-avidya-rupam: The unmanifest causes that make up your Causal Body, didn't suddenly start once upon a time. They were there since time immemorial. This is true with anything in creation, as creation is cyclical; not linear. 
      • Logic why ignorance never began:
        1. If ignorance began at some point, that means before ignorance came, there was knowledge. But knowledge means “absence of ignorance”. Ignorance can't come from “absence of ignorance”. 
        2. If ignorance began at some point of time, it means before ignorance, there was nothing. However ignorance is always in reference to something. Since nothing and something are opposing, you can't have something come out of nothing.  
  • Logic to understand I am not Causal Body:
    1. Action is done by subtle/gross. Result is experienced by subtle/gross. How can result of action be Me when it wasn't done by “Me”?
    2. Ignorance is known to Me, thus can't be ignorance.


  • Brahman enjoys a creative power (māyā) capable of manifesting the universe. Both, brahman and maya are inseparable and without beginning — meaning both always were, are and will continue to be.  This creative power is all knowledge, and all power, from which all laws and forms manifest. Meaning each jiva (living entity) will have a miniscule portion of maya (the total Causal of the manifest universe). So naturally, no jiva will know everything, meaning jiva will have ignorance about self and world.
  • A simple analogy to help explain why your individual Causal Body is defined as “Ignorance”: Suppose you have the knowledge and power, and are given the right materials to put together a donkey, horse and a human being. This means you have knowledge of all three. In other words the creator must have knowledge of whatever is created. However, from standpoint of the “human being” you created — he or she naturally doesn't know the workings of his or her own body, nor the body of a donkey and a horse. So the human being you created, has to observe your creation — be it their own body or body of a donkey and horse, and make some conclusions as to how it works and what it's made of. The human being you created will remain ignorant of it's own body, including of the horse and donkey — until he or she goes on a pursuit of looking into the subject matter. Similarly, the jiva can remain eternally ignorant of it's own body, or nature of self — until he or she begins an investigation.
  • SUMMARY OF why Causal Body is called “Ignorance”: Because it causes Ignorance of Self. Why causes Ignorance? Because individual Causal Body is not the TOTAL Causal Body (defined as: all knowledge).  So from standpoint of TOTAL Causal Body, it is not called ignorance, but a creative power (māyā). Causal Body is only called ignorance when it's in reference to one individual. 
  • anādi: Causal Body is beginningless. Why? Because sat-cit and  maya are beginningless. Meaning individual is also beginningless.
  • śarīra-dvayasya kāraṇa-mātram: Individual Causal Body is cause of the Subtle & Gross Body. How so?
    • I never figured out I’m full/complete (ānanda) due to ignorance (not being given total knowledge of everything).
    • To fulfill myself, I engaged in actions, thus got enmeshed in worldly endeavors.
    • My endeavors, in form of actions, produced appropriate and inappropriate actions.
    • Appropriate and inappropriate actions had 2 kinds of results: drsta (immediate feedback) and adrsta (delayed consequences). 
    • The adrsta goes into the Causal Body.
    • Upon physical death, portion of adrsta is taken from the Causal Body, and determines the kind of personality, body and parentage the next jiva will have.
    • New gross and subtle body is born to continue enjoying or suffering the adrsta (results of jiva's past actions). And they will be mixture of punya (pleasant/welcoming experiences that produce happiness), and papa (unpleasant experiences that produce pain). 
  • What problem does Causal Body create? Sat-svarūpa-ajñānam: Veils my nature as sat (that which is ever true, invariable and eternal). 


  1. Demonstrate how you do not take on attributes of the gross-body, subtle-body and causal-body? One sentence for each.
    • EG: In class we gave one of dozens of ways to show you are not the gross body, such as: if a hand were to be cut, suddenly you'd experience “I AM” 10% less. If I was gross body, then I would have full awareness of my gross-body in the dream. Yet from standpoint of the dream, I (as the mind), am still available — but my gross body is not.



Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, and Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda.

Recorded 24 Sept, 2023

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