Koshas: The Layers of Self

Discussion in 'Spiritual Forum' started by garry420, Sep 23, 2015.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    By energies of consciousness Brahman is massed; from that Matter is born and from Matter Life and Mind and the worlds. ~Mundaka Upanishad

    Human consciousness is folded into five layers, or sheaths, (koshas) around the central point, containing the self (chitta). The five koshas or "sheaths" are the evolutionary principles of the Inner or True Divine Self at each plane of existence. The Anandamaya Self is thus the individualised Divine Self that will emerge with the actualisation of the Plane of Ananda, following and even surpassing the Supramental stage of evolution.

    ✒ Annamaya kosha
    Anna means food. All of the physical aspects of life come and go, and are consumed by another aspect of external reality. Thus, the outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha.

    “Out of Brahman, who is the Self, came ether; out of ether, air; out of air, fire; out of fire, water; out of water, earth; out of earth, vegetation; out of vegetation, food; out of food, the body of man. The body of man, composed of the essence of food, is the physical sheath of the Self” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad 2:1:1b

    The Upanishads say a great deal about food because the mind is formed of the subtle essence of food. Vegetarian diet is a cornerstone of humanity, and a necessary factor in the aspiration to divinity. No serious aspirant can afford to ignore this or attempt to ignore it. So the upanishad continues:

    “From food are born all creatures, which live upon food and after death return to food. Food is the chief of all things. It is therefore said to be medicine for all diseases of the body. Those who worship food as Brahman gain all material objects. From food are born all beings which, being born, grow by food. All beings feed upon food, and, when they die, food feeds upon them” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad 2:2:1

    In Vedanta practice, we train this aspect of ourselves, take care of it, and nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.

    ✒ Pranamaya kosha (Energy)

    “Different from the physical sheath [annamaya kosha] is the vital sheath [pranamaya kosha]. This is encased in the physical sheath and has the same form. Through this the senses perform their office. From this men and beasts derive their life. This determines the length of life of all creatures. He who worships the vital sheath as Brahman lives to complete his span of life. This sheath is the living self of the physical sheath”.

    “Different from the vital sheath is the mental sheath [manomaya kosha]. This is encased in the vital sheath and has the same form” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad 2:3:1

    Inside the physical body is the pranic body, the body of life-force. Without the pranic body the physical body cannot live. The pranic body is also the most objective astral body, and when seen looks just like the physical body. Within the pranic body the currents of life-force move in subtle channels that correspond to the physical nerves. In Sanskrit both the physical and pranic nerves are called nadis.

    The pranic body draws its substance from food, sunlight, and air. This latter is one of the reasons yogis pay attention to both diet and breathing. Health of the pranic body can produce health of the material body. The pranic body does indeed determine both the health and the length of life of the physical body. Prana is the very Life of God in manifestation, so we live in and by the Divine Life.

    For both a healthy life and the practice of meditation, Vedanta says that it is very useful, or essential that this level of our being be trained, regulated, and directed, so that it flows smoothly. In meditation, we become aware of Pranamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.

    ✒ Manamaya kosha (Mental)

    “The mental sheath is the living self of the vital sheath” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:4:2).

    "Mana" means "mind" or "intellect. The mental sheath draws much of its power from the pranic sheath, but it greatly controls the pranic sheath and empowers it by directing it. For example, when the sensory mind sees attractive food, it stimulates the pranic sheath to begin the process of physical digestion. When it perceives something pleasant the two other bodies are likewise affected, and when it perceives something fearful or life-threatening its effects are sometimes cataclysmic. When it receives clear instructions from the deeper level, it functions quite well. However, when it is clouded over by its illusions, the deeper wisdom is clouded over.

    ✒ Wisdom jnanamaya kosha

    “Different from the mental sheath is the intellectual sheath. This is encased in the mental sheath and has the same form. All actions, sacrificial or otherwise, are performed through the intellect. All the senses pay homage to the intellectual sheath. He who worships intellect as Brahman does not err; he does not identify himself with the other sheaths, and does not yield to the passions of the body” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:1

    Now the upanishad speaks of the jnanamaya kosha, the intellectual sheath, that is also called the buddhi, the intellect. This controls the three lower sheaths through intelligent understanding. Light strikes the eye and imprints an image of a tree on the retina, the nerves, physical and pranic, convey impulses to the physical and astral brains, the intellect perceives it and says: “That is a tree–an apple tree.” Without this function of the buddhi, we would not be human beings at all.

    The intellectual sheath is not astral but causal. If we saw it, we would see light–usually formless, but on the lesser levels it could have the general outline of the human body. The senses are messengers to the intellect, its servants, actually. The wise yogi “does not identify himself with the other sheaths,” but centers his awareness in and directs his life mostly from the buddhi. As a result he “does not yield to the passions of the body.” Surely the buddhi is worthy of reverence. It is the level that has the higher wisdom to seek Truth, to go within, in search of the eternal center of consciousness.

    ✒ Anandamaya kosha (Bliss)

    “Different from the intellectual sheath is the sheath of the ego. This sheath is encased in the intellectual sheath and has the same form” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:2a).

    Anandamaya kosha is the most interior of the koshas, the first of the koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. Ananda means bliss that combines ego and intellect. Ego is the tool of consciousness which links all events in life together. Ego is the illusion that I exist as a separate individual being, it is false identification. Ego is the one which assumes the responsibility for the body. Ego says, "This body is mine". When the body breathes, he says, "I am breathing". Ego is very sensitive and the fear of death is always there.
    Intellect helps ego with advice and comments but the final decision comes from ego. Ego can say, "I like it" and although intellect may disapprove ego may decide "O.k., I don't believe that this is right, but I don´t want to follow all these rules and regulations, I'll break the law".

    Bliss is not a mere emotion experienced at the level of the sheath of mind or satisfying the ego. The bliss or Ananda will come once the self-ego amalgam with the universal ego that is the finite mix with the infinite. The anandamaya kosha is a reflection of the Atman which is bliss absolute. It is associated with the state of dreamless sleep and samadhi.

    ✒ Atman – Self:

    “Beyond all sheaths is the Self” (Taittiriya Upanishad 2:5:2b). Sometimes we have to speak inaccurately to get across at least a shadow of higher realities.

    Atman is the Self, the eternal center of consciousness, which was never born and never dies. In the metaphor of the lamp and the lampshades, Atman is the light itself, though to even describe it as that is incomplete and incorrect. The deepest light shines through the koshas, and takes on their colorings.

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