Chapter 9 of Prabodhasudhākara contains 8 couplets and defines gross, subtle, causal and super-causal bodies that cover jīvātman. Jīvātman is nothing but individual consciousness or individual soul. The difference between Supreme Soul (Self) and individual soul (self) is that the latter is converged by māyā or spiritual ignorance, which is different from worldly ignorance. In general, Scriptures like Tattvabodha speaks only about three bodies – gross, subtle and causal. This chapter explains subtle body.
Kaṭha Upaniṣad (II.i.13) says “aṅguṣṭhamātraḥ puruṣaḥ (अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषः) which means, Self exists in the form of a thumb. It is eternal and pure (śukraṁ and amṛtaṁ says Kaṭha Upaniṣad - II.iii.17). This thumb sized jīvātman is called the subtle body and the verse says ṣoḍaśamantaḥkaraṇaṁ (षोडशमन्तःकरणं) which means there are 16 organs of perception. Antaḥkaraṇa in general is explained as the internal organ, the seat of thought and feeling, the mind, the thinking faculty, the heart, the conscience, the soul. Sixteen organs of perception are five tanmātra-s (sound, touch, sight, taste and smell), five subtle prāṇa-s (prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, udāna and samāna), five organs of perception (ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose) and antaḥkaraṇa (mind, intellect and ego). But ṣoḍaśamantaḥkaraṇa explained here differs from 17 components, as described in Scriptures like Tattvabodha and this is explained in this chart.
Prabodhasudhākara takes antaḥkaraṇa as a single component instead of three as in the case of Śaivism or four in the case of Vedanta. Mind, intellect and ego as per Śaivism in the case of Vedanta, consciousness is also added. According to Śaivism, consciousness is the Self. As far as subtle body is concerned there are different interpretations. Some say 8, some say 16 and some others say it is 17. If we look at the following image, it will show that subtle body consists of sheaths of mind and intellect.
In general, subtle body is placed between gross and causal bodies and functions as the transmission agent between gross and causal bodies. Subtle body is more to do with the mind and it’s thought processes. It would be most appropriate to explain subtle body as the combination of antaḥkaraṇa and tanmātra-s, as they form the connecting link between gross and causal bodies. These eight work together on Consciousness and the purified form of Consciousness is devoid of māyā, which leads us to the causal body, the sheath of bliss. This is the place where māyā is annihilated. Once we are able to go past the subtle body, we reach the state of ānandamaya kośa, the causal body.
The creation begins from the causal body where soul is placed, proceeds to subtle body and finally the gross body is formed. The three types of bodies can be compared to a car tyre (tire). The outer rubber portion is the gross body, the inner tube is the subtle body and the air within the tube is the causal body. When the tube is deflated, the air inside escapes, as a result of which, the car cannot run. In the same way, if the soul escapes from the body, the body cannot function and death is caused. Like tube and tyre supporting the air within the tube, causal and gross bodies support the soul within.
The third one, the causal body also known as kāraṇa śarīra and is the inner most body, where soul and impressions of subconscious mind are placed. Causal body is the immediate sheath surrounding the soul and is full of ignorance. Pañcikaraṇa-Vārttikam (verse 41) explains causal body, “It, this Nescience is neither made up of parts, nor is it non-composite, not even both composite and non-composite. By virtue of its being unreal, it is destructible by knowledge of the identity of Brahman and Ātman.” At the time of death, when the soul leaves the body, causal body also leaves the body along with the soul and at the time of next birth, it enters the new body along with the soul. The causal body not only holds the soul within, but also holds the impressions of subconscious mind and karmic account. The impressions in the subconscious mind are also known as vāsanā-s. Karmic account and vāsanā-s together decide the quality of a person, good, bad, etc. Brahman or the Self is not the three types of bodies discussed here. The first of two negations is related to the three types of bodies.
Tattvabodha explains the gross body as “pañcīkṛta-pañcamahābhūtaiḥ” which means the modifications of the five great elements ether (ākāśa), air, fire, water and earth. This modification is called pañcīkaraṇa. The principle of pañcīkaraṇa is that the world comes into existence due to the transformation of five great elements. This happens only apparently in terms of advaita philosophy, as all that exists is nothing but the Brahman Himself. Pañcīkaraṇa, a miniature treatise of Śaṃkarācārya, says that virāṭ is the sum total of five elements and their effects. Virāṭ is the consciousness, which identifies with the gross body in the active state, in the case of an individual. Virāṭ at the macrocosmic level is fully developed universe that is realised from experiment rather than theory. Shape of a gross body is decided by karmic and subconscious imprints embedded in a soul.
When we move on from causal body, we enter into soul or jīvātman, which is also know as individual soul or individual consciousness. What is the difference between Paramātman and jīvātman? Assuming Paramātman is the sun, it’s reflection in the water bodies are jīvātman. As far as realization (Self-realization) is concerned first we realize the jīvātman, which is surrounded by māyā. When we realize jīvātman when māyā is ready to be unveiled, it is the state of saccidānanda (existence, consciousness and bliss). Māyā at the time of dissolution causes extreme bliss and often causing tears to roll down. When māyā is moving away, the Self is realized. There is no māyā here. This is not the state of saccidānanda, as ānanda (bliss) is caused by Śakti (māyā). When She moves away, we realize the Self. This is the stage of om-sat-cit-ekam-brahma, which means Brahman exists eternally as Consciousness. In other words, Brahman at this stage is devoid of upādhi (limitation or qualification), no limitations. In jīvātman limitations and qualifications are present in the form of māyā and in the case of Paramātman, it is always eternal and has no limiting adjuncts such as time, shape and forms. The cause of causal, subtle and gross bodies is always jīvātman.
As per Prabodhasudhākara, the super causal body is jīvātman, which is shown in the image as “soul”.