ANANDA-MAYA KOSHA

UK_DSC3108Ananda-Maya Kosha is the innermost and finest of all the Koshas. Ananda means bliss. However, it is not bliss as a mere emotion experienced at the level of mind, Ananda is a whole different order of reality from that of the mind. It is peace, joy, and love that is beyond the mind, independent of any reason or stimulus to cause a happy mental reaction. It is simply being. 

In Western mysticism it is known as ‘The Causal Body”, the seed of our manifest Being and permeates all the other Koshas.  

In Ananda-Maya Kosha, intuitive knowledge is transcended and one experiences the transcedental dimension of the human being where time, space or individuality don’t exist. One can inhabit this sheath in deep sleep when there is no consciousnes of body (dense body) or mind (subtle body). It can also be accessed in deep states of meditation.

Those who have experienced this bliss say that knowing this kosha gives meaning to our life and existence.

The subtlest of the five Koshas, the Anandamaya Kosha may be seen as the Self in the silence of deep meditation. But this too is only illusion and not the Self. Although Anandamaya Kosha is a perfect reflection of Atman, it still remains a covering over the true Self.

‘According to yoga, the essential ‘I’ or the Self (Atman) lies beyond the five koshas which envelope our Essential Being. Therefore, if we want a deeper understanding of our own Being and the purpose of life, we should, without accepting any stereotyped answers, reflect deeply on the essential question: Who am I? We should not accept seemingly ‘obvious’ answers, but go deeper and deeper, until we find the answer.

The deepest purpose of yoga is to realise That which is beyond all five koshas – The Essential ‘I’. Then our life resonates with Joy and Meaning.’ Sw Nishchalananda.

VIGYANA-MAYA KOSHA – INSIGHTFULL SHEATH

GetAttachment-2.aspxThis fourth Kosha is the Intuitive Sheath, the Psychic Body.

The Mana-maya Kosha is the individual mind whereas  the Vigyana-maya Kosha  goes beyond the personality. Vigyana means knowing, and this sheath represents the higher mind, the faculty of wisdom, which lies underneath the thinking, reactive mind.

The Vijgyana-maya Kosha is the intelligence or wisdom body and refers to the reflective aspects of our consciousness when we experience a deeper insight into ourselves and the world.

Whilst in the previous koshas one lives identified with the physical body, impulses, emotions and thoughts; in Vigyana-maya kosha one experiences self-consciousness or conscience of I (I am conscious that I am conscious)

‘It is the realm of intuition, insight, creativity. A researcher, poet or musician is trying to open up (or re-open) channels (nadis) of knowledge, experience and expression, which already exist in dormant form in the cosmic mind, but which are currently inaccessible to us. Once a ‘new’ channel is opened up by one persona, it then becomes easier for the rest of us to access it. This is the realm of the transpersonal where all the personalities share with each other. All new ways of thinking, concepts and inventions are due to the opening up of these intuitive pathways in the Vigyana-maya Kosha.’ (Sw Nishchalanda)

In Western mysticism, this kosha is known as the ‘Higher Astral Body’, which is associated with going beyond the limitations of the individual mind and travelling in the different dimensions of the transpersonal mind.

In this body resides the higher faculties of the mind. When its potential awakens through the practice of meditation, intuition or direct knowledge and wisdom manifest.

To connect with this kosha we have to let go of our attachment to the thought patterns and accept that logical thought is limited. Then we can begin to observe them arising from an underlying spaciousness and so becoming more interested in this space than in the contents of the thoughts.

This is the level of our being that has the higher wisdom to guide us through life and lead us to higher and higher levels of truth and integration.

MANA-MAYA KOSHA – MIND-FUL or INDIVIDUAL MIND

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This third layer, the Mana-maya Kosha,  is known as the mental body and its nature is more subtle than the previous two. It expresses itself as waves of thought.

Patterns of thinking, attitudes and beliefs are all aspects of our personality and are all conditioned by family, social, cultural, national and religious stereotypes. We all think and we all know that we think. When we sit for meditation and we close our eyes it becomes apparent within that stillness. As soon as we try to concentrate on the sensation of the breath rising and falling, we start noticing how a thought-wave, or vritti, passes by.

Our thoughts usually pull us in different directions, sometimes obsessively. When that happens the breath becomes erratic and our sense of physical ease and balance wavers. The breath can serve as a bridge between body and mind.

After taking care of the physical body and training the energy flow of prana, the next part  is the level of mind.  We can develop greater understanding of the Mana-maya Kosha – our own mind – through all types of yoga practices, especially Mantra and Meditation.

Observing our thoughts and emotions helps us to not identify with them. We will still have emotions and thoughts but they tend to become less disruptive. We can see how the human mind is always changing but if we are aware we can become the witness of our experience.

With thanks to Sw Nishchalananda and Shiva Rea.

Photo: Teresa Zafón

PRANAMAYA KOSHA

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Prana is the vital energy that impregnates the universe and it adopts different forms according to its quality and vibratory frequency

The Pranamaya Kosha is the Energy Sheath in the human being and is the energetic counterpart of the physical. It feeds and sustains our bodies and is concerned with the network of vital energy which regulates the growth, shape and function of the physical body, together with the decay of cells, tissues and organs.

It surrounds and inter-penetrates our physical body and sensitive and perceptive people are able to see it as the aura.

In Western Mysticism it is known as the Etheric Body, the web of energies, which underlies our physical body.

The energy field of this kosha differs in healthy and unhealthy organisms, that is, a disease pattern can be seen in the energy body before it manifests in the physical body. It is influenced by the climate, machinery, cosmic radiation, human interaction and so on.

Every ‘thing’ in this universe, animate or inanimate, has an underlying energy field or prana-maya kosha. It is far more complex for a human being than for a stone.

Energy in this kosha is conducted through a system of pranic currents (nadis) or energy channels which are  perfectly organised.

A human being absorbs prana in different ways, the main one is through the respiratory process. When we inhale we absorb energy which is then stored and distributed.

On a physiological level, this kosha refers to your circulatory and respiratory systems—the rivers of life flowing in you—as well as to the flow of feelings in your body. Yogic texts state that breathing acts directly on the Pranamaya Kosha. Hence Pranayama (yogic breathing) is most important in improving the functioning and health of the prana-maya kosha.

Pranamaya kosha can be sometimes experienced during relaxation and meditation as a contraction and expansion sensation or as a displacement of the body. This is due to the fact that its structure is not affected by gravity and that its size can grow and become smaller according to circumstances.

With thanks to Sw Nishchalananda, Shiva Rea and Sw Digambarananda

Photo: Teresa Zafón

Annamaya Kosha

According to the map of the koshas we are composed of 5 layers, sheaths or bodies.

KOSHA (Sanskrit)                      Translation                         Equivalent in Western Mysticism

Anna-maya Kosha                     Food-ful                               Physical Body

Prana-maya Kosha                   Energy-ful                            Etheric Body

Mana-maya Kosha                    Mind-ful                               Lower Astral Body (Individual Body)

Vigyana-maya Kosha               Intuitive-ful                         Higher Astral Body

Ananda-maya Kosha               Bliss-ful                                  Causal Body

Annamaya Kosha is the first sheath and roughly translates as ‘the food body’.

Our physical body is made of bones, flesh, blood, organs, etc. It is the densest manifestation of the human being.

It feeds off prana (energy) in the form of food, water, air and heat and depends on the more subtle pranas or sheaths. It is the only kosha which includes all the others and without it, it would not be possible for human beings to manifest on the earth plane.

According to tantra and yoga, matter is made of 5 tattwas or elements: akasha (ether) vayu (air) agni (fire) apas (water) and prithvi (earth).

This first layer or Annamaya Kosha is always where we begin our journey. Being aware of the body helps us to be in the present moment.

Most people are concerned with the body when they begin yoga, they want to increase flexibility, stretch the body, tone up the muscles,  gain strength and learn to relax. In fact at the beginning much time is spent exploring the physical body and that’s the first step, becoming aware of the body from head to toe, learning to align it, experiencing body sensations, etc.

If we want to connect with the breath, the emotions, the mind… we need to pass through the gateway of the physical body. The physical is our receptor to all the other levels. We experience through our physical. We need, therefore to open to the receptor and then you can be drawn into higher levels but still be here in the body.

Yoga allows us to take care of the body and nurture it, so that we can enjoy both our external lives and yet go inward during meditation. In meditation, we become more deeply aware of Annamaya kosha, we explore it, and then go deeper still, to and through the other koshas.

Our physical bodies are in constant change but despite this, the sense of ‘I’ does not change.

With thanks to Swami Nishchalananda,  and Danilo Hernandez (Sw Digambarananda)