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The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Un-coloring Your Thoughts; Sutra 1.5)

Part 1 (*link below) in this series ended with the forth Yoga Sutra (1.4) – vritti sarupyam itaratra, which says: “At other times, when one is not in self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, thereby taking on the identity of those thought patterns.”

Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) referred to in (1.4) fall into five types, that block the realization of the true Self, of which some are colored (klishta) and
others are uncolored (aklishta). The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are:The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

  1. 1. Knowing correctly (pramana)
  2. 2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
  3. 3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
  4. 4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
  5. 5. Recollection or memory (smriti)

The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly, and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge (pramana):

1. Perception
2. Inference
3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.

Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.

Now on to the sutras…

Yoga Sutra (1.5)vrittayah pancatayah klishta aklishta. Vrittayah means “the vrittis are;” pancatayah means fivefold (and designates two kinds), panch means five;  klishta comes from the root klish (to cause trouble colored, painful, afflicted, impure); aklishta, the root “a” means without or in the absence of, therefore is the opposite of klishta, being uncolored, not painful, not afflicted, pure or absent of the coloring called klishta.

So the sutra basically says; “Those gross and subtle thought patterns (vrittis) fall into five types or varieties, some of which are colored (klishta) and others that are uncolored (aklishta).” Those that are colored (klishta) have to do with ignorance, ego-self, attachments, aversions, and fears. The simple witnessing of whether thought patterns are colored or not colored is an extremely useful part of the process of purifying, balancing, stabilizing and calming the mind so that meditation can deepen.

, and we may come to experience our true “Self” (Atman). The joys of deeper meditation come through uncoloring these mental obstacles (hindrances) that veil the true Self. This uncoloring process is an extremely important concept, and is further dealt with in chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is such an important concept that it is virtually impossible to properly practice Yoga without understanding it.

Thoughts that are colored (klishta) move away from enlightenment and result in bondage, whereas uncolored thoughts (akleshta) move towards enlightenment, resulting in freedom.

Further commentary on this sutra (1.5):

To observe the coloring of our thought patterns is one of the most useful practices of Yoga, and can be done throughout the day. This meditation in action, or mindfulness, can be of tremendous value in clearing the clouded mind, so that during your seated meditation time, that practice can go much deeper.

Witnessing the coloring of thoughts means that whenever a thought and its accompanying emotion arises, you simply identify it as, “This is colored,” or “This is not colored.” Similarly, when confronted with whether some decision or action is useful or not also brings great control over your of minds habits. Again, it is witnessing, and distinguishing between, “This is useful,” or “This is not useful.”

Stay tuned, this series will continue with: Part 3 (Un-coloring Your Thoughts, cont.) beginning with Yoga Sutra (1.6)

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

Of related interest, click on: The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: Defining – What is Yoga? (Concentration/Samadhi Pada; Yoga Sutras 1.1 thru 1.4)

The first Yoga Sutra (1.1)Atha yoga anushasanam. Atha is a most auspicious word. It is generally translated from the Sanskrit as “now.” Its purpose is to call our attention to the fact that a teaching of great importance is about to be given, right now, in this present moment, not “once upon a time” or in the past, or even some time in the future. Yoga is from the root yuj, meaning union; literally to “yoke,” which means to join together or to integrate. Anu is used as a prefix and it denotes after, or following tradition; implying being subsequent to something else, in this case, the students prior preparation. Shasanam is from the root word shas, which means “to instruct.”

“Now begins the scientific discipline of yoga.” In just a few simple words, Patanjali, the father of yoga, is subtly telling you that it’s about being present. But it also implies that without your preparation and full commitment, you won’t succeed. So in essence this introductory sutra suggests that after our many actions in life, including whatever preparatory practices we might have performed, now, we are finally ready to pursue the depths of self-exploration and the discovery of the true “Self” (Atman); our eternal and true identity.

The ancient sage Vyasa (organizer of the Vedas) elaborates on this sutra, naming five states of mind, of which the one-pointed state of mind (ekagra) is the desired state of mind for the actual practice of Yoga and is a prerequisite to meditation; it is also the primary skill for samadhi. These five states of mind range from the severely troubled mind through “ekagra” and finally lead to the most desired state of the completely mastered mind.

These five states are:The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

1.      Kshipta/disturbed

2.      Mudha/dull

3.      Vikshipta/distracted

4.      Ekagra/one-pointed

5.      Nirodhah/mastered

The first two may be qualified by today’s mental health practitioners as mental illness. The third is common but undesirable, and the last two are the most desirable. The Nirodhah state of mind is the desired state of mind for the realization of the true Self. It is extremely useful to be mindful of the five states of mind, so as to better understand their relationship to this most desired state of mind.

The second Yoga Sutra (1.2)Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha. Chitta, is derived from the root Chit, “To be conscious” and is the consciousness of the mind-field (mind “stuff”). Vritti is the activities, fluctuations, modifications, or various forms assumed by the mind-field. Nirodhah is control, regulation, mastery, stilling, quieting, and/or setting aside of Chitta Vritti.

A good interpretation of this sutra is; “Yoga is the control of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.”

The third Yoga Sutra (1.3)tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. Tada means “at that time.” Drashtuh is from the root drsh, which means “to see” (the soul or witness). Svarupe is from the roots sva “own” and rupa “form” and means in its own nature (or essence). Avasthanam is from the root the root stha which means “to stand” or “resting place.”

This sutra can be understood as; “Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.”

The forth Yoga Sutra (1.4)vritti sarupyam itaratra. Vritti is the activities, fluctuations, modifications, or various forms assumed by the mind-field. Sarupyam, the root sa means “with”, and rupa means “form” suggesting similarity, identification of form or nature, conformity. Itaratra means elsewhere, at other times or when (the seer is) not in that state of self-realization.

So this sutra means; “At other times, when one is not in self-realization, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind field, thereby taking on the identity of those thought patterns.”

Coming next, Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts (Yoga Sutras 1.5 thru 1.11)

Yoga Sutras 1.5-1.6: Witnessing 5 kinds of thoughts that are either colored or not-colored

Yoga Sutra 1.7: Three ways to obtain correct knowledge

Yoga Sutras 1.8-1.11: Incorrect knowledge, imagination, sleep, memory

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali &

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Advaita Vedanta

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Looking for a Guru?

Do you wonder where to start, where to look to find a guru? You’ll find there are all kinds and types of gurus; often “guru” indicates a title for a teacher or a guide in most any subject, such as music, dance, art and sculpture, but especially religion and spirituality. We may find gurus’ range from musicians and storytellers to those whose message is transmitted without ever speaking a word. But what they all have in common is the ability and appointed authority to unveil some truth. For all too many, that authority is self-appointed, but for others it is a result of a long lineage or it is divinely appointed, the latter two helping the ego/mind (self w/small “s”) merge with the divinity within. You may call this divinity within, the Soul, Self, Jiva, Atman or whatever, but nonetheless it is immortal. There was never a time that it didn’t exist. There will never be a time that it will not be. The ego/mind is not immortal and never will be. It ceases to be at the moment of death, and according to yoga philosophy there’s an essence of what this egoic self has learned and accumulated in regard to spiritual value that continues into the next life, even if that life doesn’t find embodiment for hundreds or even a thousand years.

Yet this ego/self can become immortal if it so chooses. Naturally, this choice involves a clear decision, commitment, discipline, and Divine Grace, which often manifests in the form of a guru. Once the decision is made, a succession of teachers generally begins to appear; helping, teaching and guiding the aspirant or student. The ongoing quality that matters most is sincerity. We can make mistakes, wander from the path, and make short-term and careless choices, but if this is all done within a consistent framework of sincerity, then we’ll continue to get the guidance we need. In the process of preparing the ego/self to merge with the Divine within, negative qualities are stripped away, but only at the rate the aspirant can tolerate. Our rescue, within the bounds of our karma, is commonly afforded to us as we struggle, and eventually, we will meet our true guru.

Once we start looking we’ll see all sorts of self-appointed individuals hanging out their “guru shingle”. Sadly, they are mostly “wanna-be’s,” who “think they are” or “wish they were” – would-be spiritual leaders who have made a decision that this is their calling, perhaps in spite of their immaturity. Some of them are sincere, but many more are not. A true guru is never self-appointed. They are selected and trained by those who are already established as true gurus and sadgurus or else they’re genuine celestial enlightened ones (Avatars) who appear here from time to time. In reality, there are very few true gurus.

A true guru is endowed with spiritual gifts to give, and they give them (sometimes lavishly), to students, disciples, spiritual aspirants and on occasion to complete strangers. A true guru genuinely knows the appropriateness of the gift and can “see” how it will be applied. Although only a sadguru has this ability to know all possible outcomes, true gurus may not. Even still, a clear direction is apparent to the true guru which points strongly to how the gift will be employed. This is how the appropriateness of the gift is determined. All the while, the gift increases the ability of the ego/self to eventually merge with the Soul or Self and that is the determining objective.

All spiritual teachers, even ones who have reached the state of an advanced adept, are not automatically gurus, unless and until some divinely oriented appointment for the function arrives. As is the case for many advanced adepts, this appointment to become a true guru may never arrive.

The Grace of The Supreme flows through each true guru in wonderful and different ways; they’ve been embraced by Love and realize with every facet of their being that Love is both the method and the destination. It is the means and the end. There is no way to achieve a state of Love other than by loving. For the Divine or Truth speaks directly to the heart; the mind cannot apprehend Truth or the Self in its entirety, as a matter of fact, it can’t come close. It would be like trying to put the ocean in a teacup. It is easy to see how you can pour the contents of a teacup into the ocean and it becomes one with the ocean. But it’s a bit harder to dissolve the mind in the heart.

It seems astounding that some of the Avatars of the East (Shankaracharya, Vyasa, Buddha) and others do not agree on the finer points of what establishes Truth, or Reality, or the nature of the Self, and so on. They all see the same light, but don’t have the capacity to see it all at once so they each expound on it somewhat differently. Dattatreya, when asked to comment on the differences between Dvaita (dualism) and Advaita (Non-dualism), between Saguna (Realization with form) or Nirguna (Realization without form), looked kindly at the questioner and said, “If you are still concerned with such things, you still have a ways to go.”

Both teachers and gurus will agree that Love will take you all the way to the utmost goal of human existence, but true gurus are blessed with a unique set of skills and tools to help the finite part of us merge with the infinite part of us; dissolving our identification with the ego/self, moving us as expeditiously as possible into that state of being where we realize unity because we have attained it.

Of related interest, click on: This entry was posted in GENERAL, RAE INDIGO, TEACHER TRAINING, YOGA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , on by .

The Ego According to Yoga Philosophy

Sooner or later everyone asks the question “what is the ego?”, and the general definition is usually something like this: “the ‘I’ or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.”

But yoga goes a little further and sees it as reflected consciousness; a part of the soul’s pure consciousness that reflects in the mind and functions as the subjective knower, establishing the dichotomy of the observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer. Therefore the ego is a fictitious character established by the mind, and the mind is simply a subtle form of energy (it has no consciousness of its own). The mind however, acts “as if” it’s a conscious entity, because of soul’s consciousness reflecting on it, or working within it.

Only a very small part of the sun’s light, when reflected from the moon’s surface, makes the moon appear as if it generates a light of its own. We may say “by the light of the moon”, but that light in reality is actually the sun’s light reflecting from the moon’s surface. Similarly, only a small part of soul’s pure consciousness, when working in the mind, identifies itself with the mind and its limitations, and thus feels itself limited. So then, the ego is not only reflected consciousness but also limited consciousness. Limited consciousness naturally equates to limited intelligence, limited understanding and limited ability of perception. Our eyes are not all-seeing and have a limited vision. From the eye’s limited perspective the earth seems flat; but the truth is, the earth is round. Since we see only a small portion of the earth’s circular surface (the horizon) it appears to us as flat, but when seen from a jetliner at 36,000 feet our perspective is expanded and we begin to appreciate the “roundness” of the earth’s horizon. This correlates to the ego’s limited ability to perceive things in the bigger perspective, so instead of seeing the whole (or undivided “oneness”) it sees everything in parts and falsely identifies each part as being separate and independent of the other parts.

The ego is the self or ‘I’ in our mind around which all our thoughts, feelings and experiences seem to revolve. The ego-self is the author, writing the script for all our thinking, feeling and desires. It is the subjective enjoyer and the “experiencer” of all our activities and the results of those activities. Whenever we say “I think, I feel, I see, I love, I enjoy, I hate, I fear, etc.” we are referring to our ego-self. This ‘I’ with which we are so familiar is our limited duplicate ‘I’ not our true ‘I’. It is this false (reflected or duplicated) ‘I’ that experiences all our pleasures and pain, all our joys and suffering. Our real ‘I’ – the Self (with a capital “S”) is the Soul in us that lies behind the ego. This limited ego-consciousness needs to be withdrawn from the mind and dissolved in the Self (like a baby salt doll thrown into the sea) or else have its effects annihilated by non-identification and non-attachment with the physical body and the thinking mind.

Yoga and meditation practice both teach us to slowly and steadily drop this identification and all its attachments. As the ego-self is gradually and progressively trained through yoga and meditation to drop its attachments, it becomes free and spontaneously withdraws inwards. Step-by-step, in deep prolonged meditation the ego-consciousness first withdraws from the body and then it withdraws from the mind. As it begins disconnecting itself from the activities of the mind and withdraws inwards it becomes aware of its original source and its oneness with that source. This process continues until the ego has expanded itself to the point of complete annihilation in the Soul (again, like the salt baby in the sea). Once the duplicate or reflected ‘I’ has merged with the real ‘I’ this is called Self-realization, samadhi or illumination, and this merging (union) is the object and true goal of all yoga and meditation practice.

“The I-ness or egoism (asmita), which arises from the ignorance, occurs due to the mistake of taking the intellect (buddhi, which knows, decides, judges, and discriminates) to itself be pure consciousness (purusha).”Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:6

And, we’ll end this article with a quote from Krishnananda “The ego is trying to practice yoga. Oh, what a pity! The ego cannot practice yoga, because the ego is to be destroyed in yoga. So how can it practice yoga? Here we have a strange difficulty, and it has to be overcome with a strange technique; that is yoga itself. Yoga is achieved by yoga itself; there is no other means.”

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

Measuring Spiritual Growth

Could you be a Saint, a Guru, a Yogi or a Zen Master?  Or maybe you’re just an ordinary decent, moral human being. How would you know for sure? Are there qualifications, or maybe some tests you can take to determine your spiritual growth?  Well, yes there are!  And “Life” is constantly giving you plenty of ways to test your spiritual development and plenty of circumstances to assist you in evaluating yourself, which will help you evolve spiritually.

Human beings are extremely complex, as is life, but with the right spiritual attitude, the right perspective, you can cut deep into your psyche and reveal those conditions under which you are currently operating.  This will help evaluate some aspects of your being that you may not presently be aware of, and that’s where the real test begins; at this point you must be cautious not to judge yourself or the world too harshly. Measuring one’s spiritual nature can be a tricky business. When it comes to internal processes, like accessing the growth of the mind or the spirit for example, there are no fancy growth charts to tack up on the wall.

But, there are also many ways to assess your spiritual maturity proactively. One of these ways is to observe how much time we actually spend serving others in comparison to the time focused on getting results in our own life. You may be seeing the world in an ego-centric way, full of separate people, instead of seeing the world in a non-dual light with all of creation being “one” and having nothing but an interconnected, unified Divine Nature.

Yogi Bhajan once said; “If you don’t see God in all, you don’t see God at all.” So, if we want to grow spiritually, the questions we must ask ourselves are, “Am I serving others?”, and if so, “How am I serving?” Serving begins with ourselves, extends to our immediate surroundings with family and at home and then spreads out to all around us. We realize that we live where we live for a reason and a purpose, to serve others and we need to start serving right there. We then realize just how much we have been blessed, not just for ourselves, but for our opportunity to serve others. When we serve the least, the last, the lost, and everyone in between, we realize that we actually are inherently one with the Divine.

Another way to measure your spiritual maturity is to take some time to determine what you are really passionate about. Are your passions based on the secular/materialistic world or the spiritual world? In today’s “worldly” society there is too much competition for a limited number of rewards, and this competition all too often breeds conflict. But enlightenment has no limits, and just because someone else appears to be enlightened, doesn’t mean you can’t be also.  We all have the innate ability recognize ourselves as enlightened beings and this is one of those things you can realize on your own, without worrying about having to wrestle it away from anyone else. So relax, there’s no need to compete, spiritual enlightenment is an infinite, inexhaustible resource. Beware of getting distracted and running around all over the place chasing useless, stupid things. Redirect yourself and get back to the business of pursuing that which is holds the highest purpose for mankind.

Summary: It’s apparent our world is presently being plagued by a number of problems. These problems are varied and can range personal types, such as drug/alcohol addictions and marital disharmony, to problems that society, countries and even international communities are faced with, such as urban violence, wars and man-made disasters. This reflects a state of the world that is primarily due to the fact that both the people and their leaders are predominantly at a lower spiritual level. It would naturally follow that the current state of the world can only be corrected if the average spiritual level of mankind is elevated, and this can only happen if people begin the process of spiritual assessment and practice on a regular basis.

Without evaluating our progress (or lack of it), and without making periodic and honest assessments of our spiritual progress it is unlikely that any real progress will be made. You will know you are advancing spiritually when you begin to see all others as connected to your own Self, and your sense of identity expands to include everything. This may be the best sign that one is maturing (or evolving) spiritually.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500 

Using Yoga to Deal With Those Persistent Samskaras

Using Yoga to Deal With Those Persistent Samskaras

The term “Samskara” is a Sanskrit word that literally means “impression” and this essentially refers to an individual’s habitual way of thinking, believing and acting. All actions, enjoyments, sorrows and experiences in general leave their mark in the subconscious and unconscious mind in the form of subtle impressions or residual potencies.

The ways we tend to act in our relationships and in the world are largely determined by impressions and our past is preserved, to the minutest detail, in the chitta (mind stuff), not the slightest bit is ever lost. The revival of samskaras induces smriti (memory). Memory cannot exist without samskaras.

In most cases our samskaras are based on our personal experiences and/or cultural backgrounds. These impressions (thoughts and beliefs) can also be influenced by the health of our brain chemistry. For example, when we suffer from depression or anxiety, our beliefs about what is possible or impossible for us will be clouded, a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness may predominate as a result of low levels of serotonin and dopamine.

The internal freedom for self-realization that regular yoga practice offers is founded on the ability to reveal and bring to conscious attention our thought patterns, beliefs and the actions that arise from those samskaras. Yogic breathing techniques and asana (postures) are very effective tools for easing anxiety, depression and balancing neurotransmitter signals in the brain. With a bit of patience and a committed yoga practice, a yoga student will be able to quickly identify the samskaras and resulting actions that continue to undermine their ability to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

Whenever a yoga practitioner identifies (or recognizes) their obscure and/or inhibiting samskaras, they will then be free to choose more life enhancing alternatives. All too often, we limit our own potential by assuming that we are not capable or skilled enough to create the life we dream of. Although some of these self-limiting thoughts may have some degree of truth to them, our ability to achieve the goals we’ve set is often far greater than we may ever imagined. When we start to gently direct our thinking along more positive lines, we will begin to truly realize that more is possible in our lives, and this will prompt us to act accordingly.

Understanding the concept of samskaras will be of great value when it comes to practicing “witnessing” of the various thoughts and emotions that inevitably arise during asana practice. According to traditional yogic philosophy, the most direct way to internal freedom is to witness these samskaras from a place of deep self-compassion and without unnecessarily identifying with them.

When unpleasant or painful emotions and restricting thoughts arise during a yoga session, strive to be more consciously aware, so that the credibility of you samskaras can be evaluated objectively. If there are negative thoughts or beliefs that are valid, some personal changes may be called for. For example; suppose you are a law student and you’ve failed the bar exam twice due to being unprepared, then studying harder for the exam would be in order. 

However, on the other hand, subscribing to the belief that you’re is inherently too unintelligent to pass the bar, even after getting your degree from law school is clearly unrealistic. As in most cases, this sort of limiting samskara is best invalidated in the light of your self-compassion, and then substituted with a more encouraging and accurate assessment of your own intelligence.

The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

Meditation (known as Dhyana in Sanskrit) was part of ancient yoga and remains one of the most essential features of yoga practice. Meditation is basically the most direct way to connect to supreme or essential “Self” (Atman) through developing deeper consciousness. And in addition to its spiritual significance, meditation and yoga are practiced together to establish and maintain optimal health and wellness.

In these modern times the practice of yoga training has become more estranged from meditation than in the past, with the primary focus often being on asana (poses), but nonetheless meditation still remains crucial to even the most fundamental understanding of the science of yoga. With the widespread attraction to yoga from today’s contemporary students, the question frequently arises as to whether meditation is really necessary to appreciate the full scope of what yoga practice has to offer.

This question will easily be answered once the student realizes that yoga and meditation are bound together as intimately as breathing and air. It is futile to attempt to practice one without the other. The very question of whether meditation is necessary to perform yoga properly indicates a general lack of understanding in regard to both subjects.

Yoga is meditation. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s fast or slow, hot or cold; all forms of yoga practice rely on the basic principles of meditation to occur. Yoga practice is a form of exercise as well, but it is exercise at its most highly evolved level, meaning yogic exercise is, in itself, a form of meditation.

Meditation brings consciousness to every action taken. In order to correctly perform yoga asana the mind needs to be active along with the body. This consciousness in action takes the form of counting breaths, holding poses, correcting alignment and smoothly sequencing from one position to the next. This activity takes place in accordance with a deliberate “mindfulness” that is the true essence of every yogic session.

Meditation recognizes that the mind is supervising this physical activity, but there is much more that the mind can be occupied with. The addition of Mantras, Mudras, introspective thoughts and even visualization will more fully occupy the mind so that the energies expended by the body are all working toward a single constructive purpose, to bring complete mindfulness and total awareness into every action.

Once these concepts are fully grasped it it becomes apparent that for people who chose to practice asana, meditation is absolutely required. Meditation cannot be some abstract idea that is separate from the whole of yogic science; meditation in fact, is the beginning and end of all yogic methods and techniques.

If you are among those who are confused (or even disturbed) by the concept of meditation, it may be helpful to think of it in a more straightforward manner. So consider this; meditation can be looked upon as a means of encouraging and hastening the attainment of the state of enlightenment through mental concentration, clarity of mind and self improvement.

Additionally, meditation is something that returns us to being in the present moment. It is a deep connection, through a heightened awareness of oneself, in relationship with the things and people all around. Meditation and yoga combined are known to be helpful in recovering from breathing problems, boosting the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels and increasing energy and stamina, resulting in an improvement of overall health and an enhanced sense of connection to the Divine Spirit within.

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)