Questioner: What is the astral body? And are such things as astral travel possible?
Sadhguru: There is a lot of talk going on about astral journeys nowadays. People lie down and just imagine that they are flying here and there; that is not it. That is just hallucination. Unfortunately, everything becomes ridiculous when all kinds of people start handling it.
There are five dimensions or sheaths of the body. The first sheath or the first layer of the body is called annamaya kosha or the food body, because what you call as physical is just a heap of food. The second is called manomaya kosha or the mental body. Today doctors are talking about psychosomatic diseases. If you have tension in the head, you can get an ulcer in the stomach. Whatever is happening to the mind is happening to the body because what you call as mind is not in any one place. Every cell in the body has its own intelligence. So there is a mental body – this is manomaya kosha.
Right now, the only things that are in your experience are your body, your mind, and your emotions. And you can infer that if these three things have to happen the way they are happening, there must be an energy that makes them happen. Without energy, all this cannot be happening. For example, a microphone amplifies sound. Even if you don’t know anything about the microphone, you can infer that there is a source that powers it. The third layer of the body is the energy body, or the pranamaya kosha.
The fourth is known as vignanamaya kosha or the etheric body, and the fifth as the anandamaya kosha or the bliss body. We are referring to everything as body in yoga so that you can understand it as a physical entity. Though the last two are not physical, still we are referring to them as “body” because yoga is a method, not a philosophy. We are seeing how to employ a specific method to make use of certain things.
What is being referred to as astral travel is, leaving the physical body, mental body, energy body and the bliss body intact, and just allowing the etheric body to float around. This means you can still conduct your physical activity in the world because your physical body, mental body and energy body are intact. That is a certain kind of mastery. Physical body, mental body and energy body are physical. Bliss body is totally beyond the physical. Etheric is a transitory energy, it is neither physical nor beyond – it is a transition. Etheric body is not something that you can touch unless you are in a certain level of sadhana and intensity within yourself. You cannot just psyche yourself into it. It needs enormous sadhana for a person to do that.
So, are such things possible? Yes, but it’s not for entertainment seekers. It takes a little more. But what is the significance? Why do you want to leave your body and travel? If someone shoots you in the head, anyway you will travel without your body! The time for that will anyway come, sometime. What is the hurry now? Unless there is a specific purpose, it is not worth exploring simply for entertainment because it takes an enormous effort to get mastery over those things, and in the end, what do you achieve? It is of no spiritual consequence.
There have been schools which have been fundamentally focused towards this in India – it’s called parakayapravesha. There are certain systems of yoga where they are completely focused towards astral travel and things like this. But all that mysticism is gone in most of these places. Nothing much is left there. All the astral travel going on in every street-corner these days is just hallucination.