Tag Archives: Kosha

The Kleshas (afflictions of the mind)

The Kleshas

These 5 Kleshas (afflictions) affect (or color) each of the Koshas (sheaths). Kosha a Sanskrit word usually translated as “sheath”, of which there are also five, each one representing a covering of the Atman (“Self”, according to Vedantic philosophy). They range from gross to subtle and are often visualized like the layers of an onion. These Koshas, lie one within the other as a set of five sheaths.

This series of articles will address how each Kosha is affected (or colored) by these Kleshas. But first, for those who are unfamiliar with these 5 Kleshas, here’s a recap.

From the perspective of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras it is important to understand that emotional pain and all its varied expressions, such as depression, stem from the desire, attachment, fear and certain unconscious universal constructs (Kleshas) that exist in all un-liberated human minds. These constructs (referred to as “colorings”) form a basis on which all other more individualized neuroses are woven and re-woven through a complex association of desires, attachments, fears and other human experiences. Thus these Kleshas are basic motivational forces which underpin our ability to act, think, and feel. It is these Kleshas which are responsible for the fluctuations (modifications or agitations) of consciousness and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are primarily concerned with the elimination or stilling of these fluctuations.

If and when the Kleshas are removed through yoga practices, all of the individual neuroses which they support will crumble and fall away. These Kleshas (afflictions or colorings) are comprised of five basic constructs or crystallized thought-forms and are described by Patanjali at the beginning of Book 2 of the Yoga Sutras (1, 2, 3 & 4).

Once the Kleshas are seen in a clear light and recognized for what they are, they will disappear. The intellectual mind is not enough to bring about this recognition. Patanjali, insists the “8 limbs of yoga” are necessary to lead the mind toward the required purification and these are:

  • Yama (Sanskrit for "moral discipline")
  • Niyama (Sanskrit for "moral observance")
  • Asana (Sanskrit for "body posture")
  • Pranayama (Sanskrit for "breath control")
  • Prathyara (Sanskrit for "withdrawal of the senses")
  • Dharana (Sanskrit for "concentration")
  • Dhyana (Sanskrit for "meditation")

We all have heard that every journey starts with the first step. So it stands to reason that recognizing the Kleshas is a good way to quench the desire of the intellect. Here is a list of the 5 Kleshas and a brief summary of their attributes:

  • Avidya (Ignorance): This is the primal ignorance which pervades all of creation. This ignorance is experiential, not conceptual, in nature. This affliction results in our lack of awareness and disconnection from Truth.
  • Asmita (Ego): As individuals, we also have what is called ahamkara or "I-maker" (ego). It is a single vritti, (thought form), the idea of individualized existence. This single thought of a limited self is enormously convincing because it pervades the entire body-mind complex. It is the nature of this individual "I-am" sense, or ego, to identify with something and become attached to it.
  • Raga (Attachment): This klesha is all about desire. All of us have experienced this and we are all attached to something. Whether it’s a partner, a friend, a practice, an object, a pet, a food, even an iPhone; it’s okay to need or want things, but you know your desire has become an affliction when it creates suffering.  Raga creates in us a pattern of acquisition: we began to pursue human relationships, knowledge, wealth, status, power-anything which might be capable of enlarging and protecting our fragile individualized existence.
  • Dvesha (Aversion): Patanjali defines aversion as: “Identification with what we don’t like.” Attachments (Raga) arise from our previous experiences of pleasure and happiness. Aversions emerge from previous experiences of pain and suffering. This is the fourth Klesha, "the hate, fear or extreme dislike which follows after experiencing pain."
  • Abhinivesha (Clinging to Life): Because of raga and dvesha, a tremendous, continual, and habitual outflowing of our energy and attention through our senses to the objects of external world has been created. This outflow of all our attention and energy can only increase our identification with our physical existence, resulting in a fear of death and making it even harder for us to perceive or identify with our spiritual nature.

Stay tuned, next: Further exploration of each Klesha and how it colors each Kosha (Sheath), beginning with Annamaya kosha.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yoga Asana, Emotions & Our Internal Organs…

Are you, like many other people, under the impression that the benefits of yoga asana are limited to affecting mostly the muscles and joints? If so, you need to realize also that each and every pose has a specific effect on one or more of the internal organs. Yoga, like in traditional Chinese medicine, recognizes that emotions and physical health are intimately connected. And, most emotions have a specific attraction to particular organs.

Examples include:

  • *Fear can damage the kidneys and bladder.
  • *Anger can injure the liver and gall bladder.
  • *Grief and depression can harm the lungs.
  • *Worry and anxiety can afflict the spleen and stomach.
  • *Sadness negatively affects the brain.
  • *Joy (although positive), when in excess may wound the heart.

On the other hand, yoga recognizes that balanced feelings and equilibrium in the emotions will cause the body and its organ systems to work more efficiently.

There are asanas (poses) which affect the emotions in yoga, just as much as they affect the muscles and joints. For example, when practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), the shoulders, the spine, hamstrings, feet, and the Achilles tendons are deeply stretched, but this asana can also be used to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Simple postures such as cat-cow stretch with synchronized breathing can reduce fear. Suptaikapadaparivrttasana (supine twist) is an excellent posture for relieving back pain, but it is also an excellent pose for increasing our acceptance of life’s stresses plus it can eliminate feelings of being worried or overwhelmed.

One of the basic precepts in yoga is the need to approach our practice from where we are at, which means we can’t expect to jump right into an advanced asana. Some students come to yoga with chronically tight muscles, and the purpose of a sustained and regular yoga practice is to gradually and systematically relax the built up tension in the body, and at the same time release the emotions that are “bound up” within the body and that are responsible for this tension. As soon as we begin to let go of the stress “locked” within our bodies, emotions will likely arise. Ideally, we will simply observe these emotions without any judgment. Chances are, we may not even remember what prompted us to start holding these stresses within our bodies in the first place. This is why letting go of any further analysis of these feelings is of utmost importance. By just allowing the emotions to arise, they will pass naturally, like clouds in the sky.

Since each of us will probably have our own individual experience of asana practice, we can easily see how each of us may be affected differently, depending on what part of our bodies we store stress. According to yogic science, we have the ability to see the emotional body as its own kosha (sheath or layer). The Manomaya kosha (aka; the astral or the mind/emotional body) houses all our emotions. Whenever the emotions get stuck in this sheath they can cause energy to become trapped in the physical body, and oftentimes in the internal organs. While some people may manifest anxiety in the lungs (e.g., narrowing of the bronchial passages or shortness of breath) others might experience that same stress in their digestive organs (e.g., have a hard time digesting their feelings as in “I can’t stomach this” which may result in ulcers or IBS).

It is common for a feeling which was once previously unconscious (or subconscious) to the student to be triggered while practicing asana. Asanas function as a means to open energy gateways in much the same manner that reflexology or acupuncture points would. Quite often, a student will feel that their asana practice is affected by something that is currently happening in their life, when actually they are releasing emotions that were stored a long time ago. It is not necessary for us to intellectually “figure them out.” We can let the intelligence of the body do what it was meant to do to release our samskaras (impressions).

Although every student’s experience of yoga asana is different, some of the common emotions that may arise in varying poses are:

  • *Forward bends – These poses can unleash a host of egocentric feelings and attitudes. They may force us to face our fears as we turn our attention inward. Our tendency may be to turn around in the world, to look back at what is behind us. For some there may be a constant fear of attack from behind and this leads to tightness in the back which a forward bend works well to loosen. We have to surrender these fears if we are to relax in these asanas.
  • *Backward bends – These poses are useful when dealing with our attitudes of embracing all of life; of being completely open to receive “the good, bad and the ugly,” rising up to meet life’s various challenges. When practicing backward bends, we may have to deal with the possible emotions of feeling like a doormat to others (literally bending over backward to please them), we may be confronted with letting go of co-dependent patterns and improving our own self-esteem without unnecessarily relying on others to provide us with a positive self image. Backbends commonly bring up fears associated to these emotional patterns. On another level, one who has repeatedly had their heart broken or is very shy may typically hunch their shoulders, sometimes even covering their heart, particularly those who may have been teased in school or at an early age. Backward bends can be very confronting, but they can also help to change and remold the personality along with the conditionings of the mind.
  • *Balancing asanas – These poses are extremely powerful indicators of a student’s emotional state. Someone who feels un-easy emotionally, or whose mind is preoccupied with too many emotions, will find balancing poses very difficult. As they find a sense of balance in these poses, those emotions that are causing the mind to become agitated may temporarily increase before subsiding to a more peaceful place. With proper instruction and practice balancing poses will help to build a calm, resilient, steady mind.
  • *Twisting asanas – As you may have guessed, these poses have to do with untangling the “knots” of life. All twisting asanas initiate feelings of dealing with obstacles we face, and can enable us to develop the necessary strength to face whatever comes our way. Twists, along with backbends give us more confidence through regular, sustained practice, and help develop courage for those with overly introverted personalities.
  • *Inverted asanas – When we practice these poses, we are literally turning our world on its head; changing our perspective totally by turning our behavioral patterns upside down. Inversions help us to see ourselves and our world from a different point of view. It’s easy to imagine all the emotions that can arise from turning your whole perspective around. Inversions help to purify the mind when our worldview feels shaken, bringing greater peace and calmness.

In addition to the asanas outlined above, here are some specific poses that can be helpful in the release and removal of negative feelings and/or emotions…

  • *To increase your energy and give the courage to face life’s challenges – Surya namaskar (sun salutation), Bhujangasan (cobra), Dhanurasan (bow), and Veerasan (warrior).
  • *For calming the mind, releasing anger and surrendering the ego – Vajrasan yogamudra (childs pose), Paschimottanasan (forward bend), Karnapeedanasan (folding leg plough), Viparit karni (inverted pose).
  • *To release pent up emotions (when you feel like screaming) – Simhasan (roaring lions pose)
  • *To bring calmness, acceptance and relief from anxiety – Restorative poses such as Uttanpadasan (legs up the wall), Tadagasan (pond pose), Supta vajrasan (sleeping thunderbolt) Sputa baddha konasan (sleeping bound angle pose) and Koormasan (tortoise).

In conclusion, not all students of yoga will have emotions coming up and for many practitioners, they experience primarily positive emotions when practicing asanas, and this is both natural and normal. It doesn’t signify that one isn’t progressing or dealing with the self. We all have different ways of managing the mind, so we should continually remind ourselves that yoga is the practice of balancing the body, mind, emotions and spirit to bring unity, harmony, contentment and finally, bliss.

Yoga, Emotions & Our Internal Organs...

standing forward fold (Uttanasana)

The Five Koshas (Part 5 – Anandamaya Kosha: bliss sheath)

Anandamaya Kosha is the fifth and final of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is comprised of a Sanskrit term “Ananda” (bliss – pure joy), Maya, which means “composed of” and Kosha meaning sheath. So, Anandamaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of bliss.

Anandamaya Kosha is the innermost of the Koshas, the first of the Koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. It is also the most subtle body and without its existence life is impossible. It interacts with the other Koshas like the sun affecting our planet. This blissfull body beyond words is generally perceived in flashes of short duration as an undescribable experience where duality ends and “I AM” expresses its unity with the Divine.

This bliss however, is not the emotional bliss that’s experienced at the level of the sheath of mind (Manomaya Kosha). Ananda is a whole different order of reality from that of the mind, for it’s the peace, joy, and love that is underneath (or beyond) the mind, independent of any reason or external stimulus that may cause a happy mental reaction. It is simply “being”; resting in the eternal bliss called ananda.

Yet, even this bliss, however wonderful it seems, must still be recognized as a covering (a sheath); like a lampshade which covers the pure light of consciousness. In the silence of deep meditation, this too needs to be let go of, in order to move beyond the dualistic mind.

When we can transcend the other four sheaths described previously (see links below), we can begin to experience this sense of pure joy which does not need any sensory input or dependance on any of our past experiences or impressions. Anandamaya Kosha is the closest to our true “Self” which is ever pure and ever-unchanging. We can abide in this bliss only as a result of “samadhi”, the last of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy. Of course, to get there one has to practice the other seven limbs on a regular basis.  

To review the other four Koshas, click on the following…

  1. Annamaya Kosha, food (gross body)sheath
  2. Pranamaya Kosha, air (vital energy) sheath
  3. Manomaya Kosha, mind (mind-stuff) sheath
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha, wisdom (intellect/intuition) sheath

*Through discrimination and inquiry, may you all abandon your identification with all five of these illusory sheaths which has been established by Avidya (ignorance)!


The Five Koshas (Part 4 – Vijnanamaya Kosha: wisdom sheath)

Vijnanamaya Kosha is the fourth of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is a Sanskrit terms “jna” (to know), “vi” (apart), together they imply discernment. Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Vijnanamaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of the discerning intellect.

The Vijnanamaya Kosha is also known as the sheath of intuitive knowledge/wisdom. Our intellect gives us the discriminative capability that helps to differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong etc. The intellect can be looked upon as having two components:

  • One that is controlled by our ego and driven by our past memories and impressions (samskaras).
  • And the other which is controlled by our pure intuition.

The “ego-driven” intellect most often leads to actions which result in pain and suffering, while actions prompted by pure intuition and discriminative knowledge will give us satisfaction, peace and happiness.

When one practices meditation, their mind becomes purified and their intellect can then begin to depend more and more on this pure intuitive wisdom rather than being so influenced by the ego.

This is the sheath of wisdom that lies underneath the processing, thinking aspect of mind, or the sheath of mental activities (Manomaya Kosha). It knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between this and that, between all that is useful and not useful. A major part of Sadhana (spiritual practice) is gaining ever increasing access to this level of our being. It is the level that prompts our “higher wisdom” to seek Truth, to inquire within, in search of the true Self or eternal center of consciousness.

Vijnanamaya Kosha, as the conscious body, lies deeper than the previously described Koshas and it also remains interactive and dependant on them. This sheath is responsible for inner growth, for ethics and morals. It allows us to reach beyond mundane existence into wisdom and subtle knowledge as it actively seeks to move from the exoteric to the esoteric; from the world observed by the eyes to the inner space behind the eyes.

Independent of any specific religion, the studies of holy texts like the Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita and other texts from the great sages of antiquity, will lead us to the same realization because all religions are based on this same truth. In this sheath we recognize and return to the “real” life, the life that both preserved and outlasts the body.

By meditating on, and exploring the Vijnanamaya Kosha, and then going inward, to and through the remaining and final Kosha (Anandamaya Kosha), thus arriving at the “Self” (Atman).

Stay tuned, next we’ll explore the innermost and final sheath: The Five Koshas (Part 5 – Anandamaya Kosha: bliss sheath)

The Five Koshas (Part 3 – Manomaya Kosha: mind sheath)

Manomaya Kosha is the third of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of the mind”. Mano or Manas, in Sanskrit, means “mind”, Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Manomaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of the mind (or “mind-stuff”).

This “sheath of mental activities” is the receiver of all sense impressions and from these impressions it forms its own ideas, thereby giving rise to the idea of “I” and “mine”, in turn creating avidya (ignorance, delusion). The organs connected with sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, together with the mind, constitutes this Kosha. It enables the individual to identify various objects and perceptions and distinguish one from another. It is subtler than the second Kosha (Pranamaya – the sheath through which vital air, or Prana, circulates throughout the body) and permeates it, so it could be considered the inner self of the Pranamaya Kosha. Swami Sivananda likens it to “the bladder of a football”, in regard to the Pranamaya Kosha.

Manomaya Kosha (the “inner organ”) is also interactive with and dependant of the former two Koshas (Pranamaya & Annamaya). It governs all the faculties of perception and instinctual consciousness. It is the mind which can construct and destroy our apparent reality. It is our sub-consciousness that is formed by both negative and positive experiences and where our self has developed its behavior. Within this sheath actions happen automatically and it can dominate the other two outer shells. Vivekananda says of this Kosha: “Actions are mighty, thoughts are almighty”. To activate this Kosha the former two bodies (Pranayama & Annamaya) should be put at “rest” through a deep relaxation technique (i.e. Yoga Nidra). With this practice, the deep sheath of our mind can be penetrated and our negative types of programming can be replaced with positive and constructive ones, but to succeed, this process needs perseverance.

Manomaya Kosha  receives all sense impressions and from these impressions it forms its own ideas, thereby giving rise to the idea of ’I’ and ’Mine’, in turn creating avidya (ignorance, delusion). The organs connected with sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, together with the mind, constitutes this Kosha. It enables the individual to identify various objects and perceptions and distinguish one from another. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories are all a part of this Kosha, and since every thought has a great inherent power; it affects our physiology, moods, physical body, responses, work efficiency, relationships, wisdom and especially our breathing. The epidemic of stress in these modern days is basically a problem at the level of mind, where a sense of apprehensiveness prompting negative emotions is commonly allowed to build up without any opportunity for release, unless certain measures are taken.

When this sheath receives clear instructions from the deeper levels, it functions naturally and very well. However, whenever it is clouded over by its own self-constructed illusions, the deeper wisdom is obscured.

After taking care of the food (physical) body and training the energy (vital) body by regulating the flow of prana, the next important part to be trained (in a positive manner) is this level of mind. Through proper meditation, we may become aware of Manamaya Kosha, exploring it, and then going inward, to and through the remaining two Koshas.

As with the former two Koshas, the Manomaya Kosha is also transitory.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 4 – Vijnanamaya Kosha: wisdom sheath)

The Five Koshas (Part 2 – Pranamaya: air sheath)

Pranamaya Kosha is the second of the five Koshas (sheaths).

Pranamaya Kosha, is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of energy”. Prana, in Sanskrit, means vital energy, Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Pranamaya Kosha is the sheath of vital energy within each human being.

The Pranamaya Kosha is more subtle than the Annamaya Kosha (gross physical sheath). The whole of the physical body is pervaded by the Pranamaya sheath. The Pranamaya sheath contains the five Karma Indriyas (Vayus) or organs of action (brief summary below) and along with the mental and intellectual sheaths, forms the subtle body of Linga Sarira (the astral body).

The five Karma Indriyas (Vayus):

  1. 1. Prana: has an upward movement and is responsible for all things taken into the body (food, fluids, air, sensory inputs and mental impressions).
  2. 2. Apana: has a downward movement and is responsible for all forms of elimination and reproduction functions (stool and the urine, the expelling of semen, menstrual fluid and the fetus, and the elimination of carbon dioxide through the breath).
  3. 3. Udana: has an upward movement and is responsible for growth of the body (the ability to stand, speech, effort, enthusiasm and willpower).
  4. 4. Samana: has an inward movement (moving inward from the periphery, working in the gastrointestinal tract to digest food, in the lungs to process air, absorbing oxygen, and in the mind to homogenize and assimilate experiences; sensory, emotional and/or mental).
  5. 5. Vyana: moves from the center outward to the periphery. It governs circulation on all levels, moving food, water, blood and oxygen throughout the body, and keeping emotions and thoughts circulating in the mind. In doing this, Vyana assists all the other Pranas in their work.

In order for the first or outer Kosha (Annamaya) to function it needs to be energized and sustained by the vital Prana available via the Pranamaya Kosha, the energy sheath. If the energy sheath is absent the physical body will disintegrate and merge back into its five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether). The Pranamaya Kosha can be viewed as being responsible for all the physiological functions in the body (breathing, blood circulation, digestion, heartbeat, all hormonal functions, communication between the brain and the cells of the body etc.).

The primary Yoga practice that is used to energize and vitalize the Pranamaya Kosha is Pranayama (control of the breath).

The Pranamaya Kosha is the vital force that produces the subtle vibrations related to breath, and which are the driving force behind the physical aspect of the senses and the operation of the physical body. It allows the invisible indweller, our true “Self” to be able to animate through the body in the external world. Ironically, at the same time, it allows the eternally still, silent center of consciousness to be mistakenly identified as the moving, visible physical body.

Vedanta philosophy instructs us that for both a healthy life and the proper practice of meditation, it is very useful, even essential that this level of our being be trained, regulated, and directed, so that it flows smoothly and easily.

The Pranamaya Koshasurvives the physical body, but only momentarily, for it is also transitory.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 3 – Manomaya Kosha: mind (mind-stuff) sheath.

The Five Koshas (Part 1- Annamaya: food sheath)

Annamaya Kosha is the first and outer of the five Koshas (sheaths).

Annamaya Kosha, is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of food” (anna), more specifically, the physical (or gross) body, which is made of food. All of the physical aspects of life come and go (through the cycle of birth and death) and are continually consumed by some aspect of the external (or manifest) reality. Thus, the outermost of the Koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha.

In accordance with Vedanta philosophy and Yoga practice, we train this aspect of ourselves; we take care of it and nurture it so that we can enjoy our external lives and at the same time turn within without it being an obstacle during meditation. In meditation, we can become aware of Annamaya Kosha, exploring it, and going inward and beyond it, to and subsequently through the other Koshas.

Annamaya Kosha is the sheath that represents the physical body and it needs nourishment to survive. As humans being we are a part of the food chain the same as all other sentient beings. This sheath is the visible and recognizable part of our “Self” and therefore we tend to mistakenly identify ourselves with it. It is also the most vulnerable of the five Koshas due to its physical nature and the array of environmental influences it is subject to. It is strengthened and supported by proper alignment with our body type and age along with adequate hygiene. Moderate exercise is recommended to sufficiently activate and enliven this outer and transitory sheath. Asanas which require concentration and pranayama to establish a regular respiratory rhythm will maintain the health, flexibility and strength of this body, as will any type of sport which is not carried to extreme.

Since this Kosha represents our gross body (Sthula Sharira) which is the “touchy” and “feely” part of our being, it includes our musculature, bones, blood, all the fluids in the body etc. This sheath is a composite of the five great elements (or five “mahabhutas”); earth, water, fire, air and ether. Furthermore, it is the false identification of the “Self” with this sheath that has as its consequence “avidya” (ignorance), which results in our suffering. Some examples of this identification are simple statements like, “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly”, etc. If you just take a step back and replace statements like these with “this body is fat” and “this face is ugly”, you have taken an essential step in recognizing the distinction between the “Self” and the physical body. When saying “my body”, we are asserting that we have an enclosure called the body, but “Self” is not that body.

This Kosha, representing our gross physical body can be viewed as the first port of entry in respect to gaining access to all the deeper layers (sheaths), eventually leading us to the recognition of our very core, which is the Atman (Universal Self). It is our responsibility to care for this sheath, keeping it healthy, clean and free of impurities so the access to the inner (or deeper) sheaths is more easily gained. In addition to practicing yoga techniques of asana (and the moderate exercises mentioned above), cleansing kriyas, proper diet and relaxation on a regular basis will help us achieve this goal. It is important to remember that while practicing the asanas we need to be fully and consciously aware of the impact of each pose on every part of the body. This awareness during our practice will help prevent any undue strain or injury that we might provoke due to negligence, overzealousness or competitiveness, which often prompts us to strive for something beyond our body’s normal ability. The awareness of the entire body will also help us greatly in making the connection with the deeper Koshas that will be discussed in upcoming articles.

Final note: The Annamaya Kosha is totally dependent on the Pranamaya Kosha (Vital Energy Sheath), or life force, and will disintegrate as soon as life energy or prana has left the body. Yoga Philosophy teaches us that the real Self is not any of these bodies. In order to attain liberation one must put an end to identifying with these sheaths and identify with the true Self, which is beyond all the sheaths. Each Kosha can in turn, be transcended.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 2 – Pranamaya Kosha: vital energy sheath).

The Five Koshas (Sheaths)

Kosha a Sanskrit word usually translated as “sheath”, of which there are five, each one representing a covering of the Atman (“Self”, according to Vedantic philosophy). They range from gross to subtle and are often visualized like the layers of an onion. Just as there are layers of an onion or like the series of Russian wooden dolls pictured below, so also these Koshas, lie one within the other as a set of five sheaths.

The five sheaths (aka- Pancha-Koshas) are listed here (each of these individual Koshas will be elaborated upon in future blog articles). From gross to fine they are:

  1. Annamaya Kosha, food (gross body)sheath
  2. Pranamaya Kosha, air (vital energy) sheath
  3. Manomaya Kosha, mind (mind-stuff) sheath
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha, wisdom (intellect/intuition) sheath
  5. Anandamaya Kosha, bliss (pure joy) sheath

According to Vedanta the wise man should discriminate between the Self and the Koshas, which are non-self.

It is natural for one to identify themselves with the Koshas. But as their intellect becomes pure through meditation they develop the faculty of true discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent. As they acquire this faculty of true discrimination, they abandon the first Kosha and their focus approaches the next level or sheath. By meditation they can resolve each Kosha and go deeper to the one that is behind it, till thay reache the innermost Atman (Self) behind all five Koshas and then they hold on to that Atman alone. Step by step one abandons one Kosha after another dissolving all of them and eventually attaining knowledge of their unity with Brahman and become liberated from karma or the round of births and deaths.

The Koshas (along with the entire world of names and forms) vanishes entirely from the vision of a liberated sage. They are illusions (Maya) that can only be removed by true knowledge. A good analogy is how a rope is mistaken for a serpent, only because of ignorance, so it is only by ignorance (Avidya) alone that the Atman becomes mistaken to be the person of five Koshas, suffering each of them as a result.

When practicing Yoga, some sort of guide is needed, like a map that charts the territory of the self. The five Koshas make up such a map, established by yogic sages over 3,000 years ago. These Koshas are written about in the Upanishads, navigating an inner journey, starting from the outer boundary of the body and moving towards its core (the Self). So the Yogic path of Self-realization is one of progressively moving inward, recognizing and dissolving each of those Koshas, in order to experience the purity and unity of the eternal Divine Consciousness or Self (Atman), while at the same time allowing that Divinity to permeate our individuality. The Koshas have proven to be both a practical and profound contemplative tool that can help you deepen your Yoga practice and improve the quality of your life.

Check back soon for: The Five Koshas (Part 1- Annamaya: food sheath)