Sarira, also sometimes Sharira, is a term derived from a Sanskrit root-word which can best be translated as something close to "what is easily dissolved," that is, easily worn away; the idea being something transitory, foam-like, full of holes, as it were. A more general meaning is: a composite body or vehicle of impermanent character in and through which an ethereal entity lives and works. In such a translation the body is likened a sheath, a vehicle, a Upadhi for consciousness. Upadhi is like an appearance, a disguise. Derived from the Sanskrit verb-root dha plus the prepositional prefix upa, meaning in combination "to put on," as in a disguise. In Hindu philosophy an Upadhi is a 'vehicle' or 'base,' that which is the mere appearance of some unseen Reality or consciousness center.
- KARANA SARIRA: Vijnanamayakosha (Causal Body) for the upper levels of the Mental Plane; Manomayakosha (Mental Body) for the lower part of the Mental Plane; Anandamayakosha (Bliss Body) for the Buddhic Plane.
- SUKSHMA SARIRA: (Astral Body)(sometimes, Subtle Body) for the Astral Plane. Denotes the link between the nervous system and the cosmic reservoir.
- LINGA SARIRA: Pranamayakosha for the etheric levels of the Physical Plane, the Etheric Double also being a recepticle for the Vital Force(Prana).
- STHULA SARIRA: Annamayakosha (Gross Body) for the Dense Physical Plane.
An interesting point about the Sanskrit definition of a body “that is easily dissolved” is that it is also interpreted to mean “full of holes”. Science today is teaching that the building block parts of the atoms of which our bodies are composed are relatively more empty than they are full. We are, as bodies, essentially etheric. Our physical world is mostly so-called empty space.
THE CRAB NEBULA:
1054 AD Super Nova Remnant 
Another name for the principle of Sarira is "Astral Body" (star stuff body) called Sukshma Sarira which most translations interpret as "subtle body", but in reality carries a much deeper meaning. The interpretation subtle body refers to the Samsaric or mental manifestation of the understanding superimposed over the underlying principle --- NOT the behind behind the meaning. The Sixth Patriarch of Chinese Ch'an, Hui Neng is quoted as saying "From the first not a thing is." Dependent Origination (stated briefly for our purposes here) properly understood, denies that anything is absolutely singular. A thing is nothing more than the coming together of all its causes, and no thing has a single cause. So even though a thing may be perceived a single thing, reflection will always reveal that it is in fact a multiplicity of factors complexly arranged. So too, then the Universe including any matter, engergy, or plan.
So said, IN that multiplicity of factors complexly arranged we are in a sense, a universe in miniature, made up of or composed of star material --- from whence it came, how it was created, the BEFORE of the grounding source of creation. That which in the Universe that makes up the Universe is that which too, we are of, which if you dwelve into it both begs the question and infers the WHY. That is why for me personally a place like the Meteor Crater in Arizona carries such a fascination, and of which I wrote of in Meditation Along Meteor Crater Rim. True, if we and that which is all around us are all "star stuff" and nothing is more than the coming together of all its causes, one could say no specific place would matter, that is, one place is as good as another. And such a conceptual construct shadows the truth, especially so in things Zen. However, again, for me to somehow be teetering on the very edge of something that is so graphically livid in having been impacted from the far reaches of that star stuff Universe right there in front of me is something that touches a place deep within me, a reinforcement of sorts of our roots in the oneness of things. That exact same feeling is invariably given much more credence when I think of the Sinagua, a prehistoric Native American tribal group of the desert southwest that inhabited an area within about thirty-five miles of the crater. Most likely for the same or similar reasons, the Sinagua had secreted away in a special ritual one of the rarest of all meteorites found on Earth, now known as winonaite --- possibly after witnessing its fall --- in a hidden cist below the floor of one of their ancient pueblos. Interestingly enough, some winonaites are known to have originated from the highland regions of the Moon’s farside and from the surface of Mars. How the Sinagua discerned the significance is not known. For more, please see Roswell UFO as well as Roswell Incident Updated. See also The Drake Equation, the formula for estimating the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy as determined by famed astronomer Dr. Frank Drake.
Carlos Castaneda is a controversial author of a series of a dozen or so books, all in some respects following a Yaqui Indian spiritual elder named Don Juan Matus. According to Castaneda he had learned shamanistic powers apprenticed under Don Juan, who himself had studied under a Diablero, a shaman-sorcerer said to have evil powers and the ability to shape shift. In Castaneda's sixth book The Eagles Gift (1981) he discusses a process Don Juan called recapitulation, which is said to be the major key to freedom given to every living creature --- and striking similar to the concept of star stuff and Sarira as described above. Recapitulation is dependent on what Castaneda calls The Eagle, from which his 1981 book receives its title. According to Castaneda and Don Juan's Yaqui beliefs, the Eagle is the force in the universe from which everything emanates. Awareness is given to to us from the Eagle, and when we die we and our awareness returns to the source and "consumed."
Recapitulation as presented by Carlos Castaneda voicing the thoughts of Don Juan Matus is an exercise to recall, review, release, and recharge energy. Implementation is to rid a person of a myrid of assumptions and preconceptions, freeing up locked energy while restoring balance. According to Don Juan the body is a field of energy constantly affected by other fields of energy. All of our experiences have been stored inside our energy fields. Recapitulation is a process of remembering or reviving events and experiences. It happens naturally at the moment of death --- described it as your life passing before your eyes. To do it of or own volition, restores and strengthens your energy field.
In Castaneda's seventh book The Fire From Within (1984), there is a correlative for us to the Eagle, as well as for example, the Force as found in the Star Wars sagas, as described by Don Juan. The Eagle is the way that Don Juan chooses to explain that which is beyond description and is in no way, as sometimes some people think, suggested in a literal sense. See Power of the Shaman.
Interestingly enough, Castaneda, who uses the term man of knowledge and sorcerer interchangeably with the word Shaman, wrote in his first book THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge (1968), from information gathered in the field from his shaman-sorcerer Don Juan Matus in 1961:
The idea that a man of knowledge has an ally is the most important of theSeven Component Themes, for it is the only one that is indispensable to explaining what a man of knowledge is. In my classificatory scheme a man of knowledge has an ally, whereas the average man does not, and having an ally is what makes him different from ordinary men.
An ally is a power capable of transporting a man beyond the boundaries of himself; that is to say, an ally is a power which allows one to transcend the realm of ordinary reality. Consequently, to have an ally impies having power; and the fact that a man of knowledge has an ally is by itself proof that the operational goal of the teaching is being fulfilled.
Castaneda goes on to say in a copyrighted interview in Time Magazine (March 5, 1973):
"The full use of power can only be acquired with the help of an "ally", a spirit entity which attaches itself to the student as a guide. The ally challenges the apprentice when he learns to "see," as Castaneda did in the earlier books. The apprentice may duck this battle. For if he wrestles with the ally - like Jacob with the Angel - and loses, he will, in Don Juan's slightly enigmatic terms, "be snuffed out." But if he wins, his reward is "true power the final acquisition of sorcery membership, when all interpretation ceases."
Notice how over the intervening years Castaneda's verbal idea of an Ally takes on an entitiy quality, almost Mara-like in scope, nearly replicating verbatim the earlier definition of Sarira as presented at the top of the page: a composite body or vehicle of impermanent character in and through which an ethereal entity lives and works.
The last and lowest principle is our physical body and is thought of as an excreted gross body. Gross is Sthula and Sarira translates “body”, thus Sthula Sarira. These principles can be thought of as above or within us. They are not really like the steps on a ladder - but because we are communicating "with minds from matter" - we tend to communicate these ideas in material terms and symbols. One can visualize them in any way one likes.
The translation of the Sanskrit Sarira literally means 'body', BUT in Buddhist usage most often refers to the sacred relics found in the cremated remains of the Buddha or of a Buddhist monk. If we are indeed "star stuff" even before death we are cremated, that is, composed of the remains of cremated stars. Witness the Crab Nebula above as the material from the exploded star expands out to be reused somewhere by the Universe again and again. Rebirth in its purest form.
After the death of Prince Siddhartha Gautama aka The Buddha, Shakyamuni Gotama 2,600 years ago, following tradition, he was cremated. Followers searched through his ashes and found four teeth and some finger bones. His relics were distributed and later redistributed by Emperor Asoka, who built special stupas (Chinese: "pagoda") to house them for worship. Of the finger bones, only one, shown in the graphic above, is known to be in existence today.
Often in the cremated remains of monks who have led extremely pure lives are found Sarira of various colors and sizes that look like effulgent pearls.
Chan Master Hsu-Yun related this experience he had with a relic of the Buddha at Asoka Monastery:
". . . Everyday when visitors came to have a look at the Sarira, I always followed them. The visitors' opinions about the relic varied greatly. I had seen it many times; at first it looked to me as of the size of a green bean and of a dark purple color. In the middle of the tenth month, after I had paid reverence to the Mahayana and Hinayana tripitakas, I went again to look and it was the same size as before but like a brilliant red pearl. As I was impatient to see how it would transform itself, I again prostrated myself and felt pains all over my body; the Sarira was bigger than a yellow bean, half yellow and half white. I then realized that its size and color varied according to the visitors sense organ and its field. . . ." (Empty Cloud: the Autobiography of Hsu Yun)
Bones have played an important roll in various ways throughout Buddhist history. It is not known generally, but Aurispacy, the casting of bones, called divination, has a long, albeit, early, history in the Tao and the beginnings of Buddhism. The Chinese people believed that certain bones were able to answers man's questions and predict the future. Particularly in the Han Dynasty were fortune telling customs utilized by laymen and nobles to fortell everyday concerns as well as more substantial matters and aptly demonstrate numerous beliefs of the people.
SEE ALSO: Linga-Sarira; Sthula-Sarira; Obeah.
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
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