Our Five Koshas
Kosha is a layer or a sheath. One of the teachings of the Upanishads is that there are five sheaths/koshas surrounding the Self. Individual Consciousness. In the Tantric viewpoint, these layers are not Maya (illusion). They are another form of consciousness. That has taken to see itself in a different way. The koshas move from the gross physical plane to the most subtle plane. Each layer has its own qualities.
- Physical: Annamaya Kosha
- Energy: Pranamaya Kosha
- Mental: Manamaya Kosha
- Wisdom: Vijnanamaya Kosha
- Bliss: Anandamaya Kosha
- Self: Atman
Physical: Annamaya Kosha
Anna means food. In the first place, All the physical aspects of life come and go. They are consumed by another aspect of external reality. Therefore, the outermost Kosha is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya Kosha. Proper diet, asana practice, and rest. These all contribute to the optimal functioning of the physical body. Hence, The health which influences our ability to become sensitive enough to experience the deeper layers.
Energy: Pranamaya Kosha
Prana means energy. It is the vital force that produces subtle vibrations related to breathing. And it is the driving force behind the physical aspect of the senses. Also the operator of the physical body. For both a healthy life and practice its important to realize prana. Our prana needs to be regulated, utilizing the practice of Pranayama and asana (yoga).
Mental: Manamaya Kosha
Mana means mind. It is the level of processing thoughts and emotions. And in direct control of the operation. Through physical body and senses its the organization of ideas. It is dependent on the previous sheaths for well-regulated energy (prana) and a healthy physical body. And it functions clearly when connected to the deeper koshas that inform it.
Wisdom: Vijnanamaya Kosha
Vijnana means knowing. Hence, it is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the process. Thinking about the aspect of mind. So, it knows in a different way than manamaya kosha. Embodying wisdom rather than mental acuity.
Bliss: Anandamaya Kosha
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. However, it is not bliss as an emotion experienced at the level of the sheath of mind. Ananda is a different order of reality from that of the mind. The bliss experience here is said to be millions of times greater than our conditioned mind’s ability to grasp.
Atman is the Self, the eternal center of consciousness, which was never born and never dies. Like a pure light shining through various lampshades (koshas). Atman is the light itself, where subject and object (observed and observer) are seen as one.