Since childhood we exhibit very distinct habits and tastes, fears and phobias, aversions and obsessions. There seems to be no apparent reason for these choices but we are instinctively drawn towards certain persons, situations and things, and similarly, repelled by others.
So where do we acquire such distinct likes and dislikes from?
Man is made of the gross body (sthula sharira), which comprises the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the subtle body (sukshma sharira), which is made up of mind, intellect and ego, and the causal body (kaarana sharira), which is the storehouse of memories.
No matter how passionately we live our life, at the end of it all, it’s just a memory. Bitter or sweet – a memory nevertheless. As we live our life, we go through various experiences – some are favourable, some unfavourable. The emotions that these experiences evoke in us leaves an imprint on our mind. These imprints have no abiding entity except in our minds. The memory of our imprints – good or bad – leaves a residual impression (vasana).
These residual impressions (vasanaas) get stored in the causal body and are in fact responsible for our “instinctive” likes and dislikes.
The causal body stores the memory of the act and depending on the nature of the action and experience, produces an innate aversion or attachment to certain persons, situation and things. It also stores the habits that we acquire in our lifetime, which decides our inherent nature (svabhaava), which in turn is responsible for our innate mental tendencies (samskaras). The causal body (kaarana sharira) is in fact the reason why we are here. It is what links us to our future incarnation.
When we die, we shed the gross body, but the subtle body and the causal body transmigrate, carrying with it the residual impression (vasanaas) of all our actions and experiences.
And till the time we, the ego self (the subtle body) identify with our actions and experiences, there will be a reason (the causal body) for us to return (gross body) to this plane of existence with our baggage of attachments and aversions.