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Sthula-Sharira (devanāgarī: स्थूलशरीर sthūla-śarīra) is a compound Sanskrit word from sthūla ("dense, gross, solid"), and śarīra ("body"). This term is used to refer to the physical body, which can be perceived through our five senses.

General description

Since the early Theosophical classifications of the human constitution the sthula-sarira was listed as the densest and lower principle in human beings "composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form".[1] According to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky this Rupa, or Sthula-Sarira "is the vehicle of all the other "principles" during life".[2]

Although the body is a vehicle of consciousness, it has its own automatic elemental consciousness and activity which prevents the higher consciousness from manifesting on the physical plane:

Occultism tells us that every atom, like the monad of Leibnitz, is a little universe in itself; and that every organ and cell in the human body is endowed with a brain of its own, with memory, therefore, experience and discriminative powers. The idea of Universal Life composed of individual atomic lives is one of the oldest teachings of esoteric philosophy.[3]

We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our "spiritual Self" is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralyzed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or, again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane.[4]

Mme. Blavatsky, however, also talked about "the possibility of a complete control over the cells and atoms of his body by man",[5] an ability that is attained by means of the occult training.

Esoteric view

In a more esoteric classification of the human principles Mme. Blavatsky did not include the sthula-sarira as a principle in itself but as a vehicle of consciousness:

The Body is not a Principle in strict Esoteric parlance; it is an upadhi rather than a Principle. But it is a vehicle of consciousness, and therefore must be considered in studying Consciousness. Apart from this, it can be regarded as merely a denser aspect of the Linga-Śarîra, for the Body and the Linga-Śarîra are both on the same plane, and the Linga- Śarîra is molecular in its constitution, like the Body.[6]

Correlation between organs and principles

According to Besant

Annie Besant regarded the sthūla-śarīra as the dense counterpart of the physical body, which is also composed of a subtle counterpart, the liṅga-śarīra:

Under the term physical body must be included the two lower principles of man - called in our old terminology the Sthūla Sharīra and Linga Sharīra - since they both function on the physical plane, are composed of physical matter, are formed for the period of one physical life, are cast off by the man at death, and disintegrate together in the physical world when he passes on into the astral.[7]

Although in Theosophical literature there is a clear recognition that we are essentially spiritual beings and our embodiment is a temporary experience, the attitude regarding the body is one of appreciation and care, since it is an important instrument of expression on the physical plane. As she wrote:

We look on the body, of course, from our standpoint, as an instrument of the spiritual Intelligence which we regard as the man himself; that is, looking at ourselves, we regard the body as the coating, the garment, the instrument, used for work in the physical world, so that the efficacy of the work will very largely depend upon the integrity of the instrument. Just as no workman could perform a good piece of work if he were using, say a blunt chisel, a twisted screwdriver, or a hammer whose head fell off the moment he struck a blow with it; so cannot the real man, the inner man, the true man, do effective work on the physical plane, if the instrument whereby that work is to be performed is injured, spoilt, blunted, or stunted by any habit which injures physical life.[8]

Additional resources


  1. Fragments of Occult Truth No. 1 at Blavatsky Study Center
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 91.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 134.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, "The Key to Theosophy" (London: Theosophical Publishing House, [1987]), 29.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 134.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 694.
  7. Annie Besant, Man and His Bodies, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1983), 5.
  8. Annie Besant, The Influence of Alcohol, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1930), pp. 3-4.