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Kosha

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Kosha

A Kosha (also Kosa; Sanskrit कोश, IAST: kośa), usually rendered "sheath",[1] one of five coverings of the Atman, or Self according to Vedantic philosophy. They are often visualised as the layers of an onion.

Origins

The five sheaths (pancha-kosas) are described in the Taittiriya Upanishad.[2] From gross to fine they are:

  1. Annamaya kosha, "foodstuff" sheath (Anna)
  2. Pranamaya kosha, "energy" sheath (Prana/apana)
  3. Manomaya kosha "mind-stuff" sheath (Manas)
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha, "wisdom" sheath (Vijnana)
  5. Anandamaya kosha, "bliss" sheath (Ananda)

According to Vedanta the wise person, being aware of the subtle influences of the five elements within each kosha, ever discerns the Self amidst appearances.

The five sheaths

Annamaya kosha

This is the sheath of the physical self, named from the fact that it is nourished by food. Living through this layer man identifies himself with a mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones, and filth, while the man of discrimination knows his own self, the only reality that there is, as distinct from the body.

Pranamaya kosha

Pranamaya means composed of vayu or air, it enters into and comes out of the body.

Manomaya kosha

Manomaya means composed of Sankara likens it to clouds that are brought in by the wind and again driven away by the same agency. Similarly, man’s bondage is caused by the mind, and liberation, too, is caused by that alone.

Vijnanamaya kosha

Vijnanamaya means composed of transmigration. This knowledge sheath, which seems to be followed by a reflection of the power of the cit, is a modification of prakrti. It is endowed with the function of knowledge and identifies itself with the body, organs etc.

This knowledge sheath cannot be the supreme self for the following reasons;

  • It is subject to change.
  • It is insentient.
  • It is a limited thing.
  • It is not constantly present.

Anandamaya kosha

Anandamaya means composed of ananda, or bliss. In the Upanishads the sheath is known also as the causal body. In deep sleep, when the mind and senses cease functioning, it still stands between the finite world and the self. Anandamaya, or that which is composed of Supreme bliss, is regarded as the innermost of all. The bliss sheath normally has its fullest play during deep sleep: while in the dreaming and wakeful states, it has only a partial manifestation. The blissful sheath (anandamaya kosha) is a reflection of the Atman which is truth, beauty, bliss absolute.

The following entry is for the utility of Hindu aspirants who are familiar with Panchakosha:

Just as each of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, aether) appear in corresponding subtlety among each of the five senses so too the intellect cognizes ever subtler causes and effects at play through each of the five sheaths.

For example, the annamayakosha, the coarsest sheath, is based in the earth element, which is guarded by Ganesha, while the very subtlest sheath Anandamaya is based in the quanta/ether element, and is guarded by a black disc of utter darkness over the sun, which can be removed only by Ganesha.

Awareness of that reflection of atman/self within the most subtle sheath, Anandamayakosha, however, is but the foundation for discerning that which the elements, energies, senses, and kosha serve. To that end, one re-examines the components of the five koshas in daily devotional meditation after recitation of twenty-one OM, viz, one OM per each of the five elements, the five pranas, the five indriyas, and the five kosa, equaling twenty OM, then a twenty-first OM is offered for the ineffable, such that a spiritual discernment of ever-increasing subtlety arises in the purified intellect, alaya nirvijnana, the womb of the tathagata, wherein silence ensues and clarity blossoms.

See also

References

  1. ^ Himalayan Academy Publications (2002). Hinduism's Online Lexicon. (accessed: March 30, 2008)
  2. ^ David Frawley, Yoga and the Sacred Fire: Self-Realization and Planetary Transformation, p.288

External links

  • Swami Adiswarananda explanation of kośas
  • ATMABODHA, by AdiSankara, translated by Swami Chinmayananda
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