Nov 182015
 

Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body

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Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Human beings consist of a material body made up from the food they eat; those who care for this body are nourished by the universe itself.”

This first dimension or kosha is called annamaya kosha, the physical body or Sthula Shareera.

Anna means food. Satvik meaning of anna is ‘the essence of earth’. Water, food grains, fruits and vegetables are all the products of earth; from this, milk, ghee and flesh is made and all of this is considered anna. Physical body is made up of anna and it grows and gets strengthened with anna and later, after the death of physical body, merges with the earth. This outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha. Annamaya kosha is the controller, cause, producer and consumer (sanchalaka, kaarana, utpadaka, and upbhokta) of physical body but is still different from physical body. Living at this level, man identifies himself with a mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones, and filth, whereas a man of viveka (discrimination) realizes his own Self as distinct from the physical body. Out of all koshas, annamaya kosha has the most dense and slow vibrational frequency. This body cannot exist without other koshas or bodies (the pranamaya, manomaya, vigyanamaya, and anandamaya koshas), yet for the most part, it remains barely activated in regards to its highest evolutionary potential. The physical body, the coarsest of sheaths in comparison to the faculties of the atma (the Self), is indispensable for evolution and Self Realization, because only within this can all chakras fully function.

This physical body is made up of the Panchmahabhutas – the five primordial elements, viz.,

  • Akash (vacuum),
  • Vayu (air),
  • Agni (fire),
  • Jal (water), and
  • Prithvi (earth)

This Annamaya Kosha passes through six stages:

  • birth,
  • subsistence,
  • growth,
  • maturity,
  • decay, and
  • death.

Gross body is simply the vehicle of all the other koshas during physical incarnation. Annamaya and physical manifestation of Pranamaya Kosh reside in Sthula Shareera or Gross (physical) body. Gross body needs gross food, drink and air which it gets from Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha. At death the physical body perishes and its five constituent elements dissolve with the Source.

In Hatha Yoga 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. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through other koshas.

Annamaya kosha can be sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. The word sattva means harmony, balance and tranquillity, where you create a balance between activity and peace. Rajas means dynamic, active, violent. Tamas means dull and inert. Through the hatha yoga shatkriyas, you develop a sattvic annamaya kosha and when annamaya kosha becomes sattvic, the emission of energy is much greater.

In modern science it is said that all the time, the whole day and night, physical bodies exchange energy with the surroundings. Of course, you cannot see it, but scientifically it has been seen that just like a pendulum swings, every body is emitting or throwing away atoms or sub-atomic particles, and receiving them. This activity gives rise to energy waves. The sattvic body creates longer-reaching waves, a tamasic body perhaps no waves at all, while a rajasic body has variable waves. 

When these atoms or sub-atomic particles leave your body and come back, there is a period of rest, just like when a pendulum when it goes to the left and then turns and goes to the right, there is a moment of rest. Similarly, when you do pranayama, between inhalation and exhalation there is a point of rest called kumbhak or shunyak, depending on when it comes. It is a very short period. In this short period, the body transmits energy which is sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. 

Refinement and Development of Annamaya Kosha

This is possible through the following methods:

  1. Proper diet: Sattvic foods, like a wholesome, lacto-vegetarian diet, provides nourishment for the body in an optimal way. The consumption of tamasic foods like meat, alcohol and drugs weakens our vitality and fills us with negative vibrations.
  2. Hatha Yoga Shatkriyas (The Six Procedures – Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Vasti, Kapaal Bhaati, Traatak)
  3. Upavas (Fasting)
  4. Asana (Postures)
  5. Tatvashudhi 
  6. Tapashcharya

Koshas – Yogis Sheaths of our Being

Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body

Pranamaya Kosha or Energy Body

Manomaya Kosha or Mental Body

Vigyanamaya Kosha or Intellectual or Wisdom Body

Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss

To delve deeper into this important topic in Yoga, please check different courses at SAVY. 

Contact Us

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

 

President and Director of Teaching

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Please contact us to learn more about Yoga. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments that you might have. Space is limited in courses and participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, respond early to participate in this exciting, life-transforming Yoga experience. 

Nov 172015
 

Koshas – Yogic Sheaths of Our Being

Koshas

Over thousands of years, yogis used various practices of Yoga to experientially understand the way we are, and function, vis a vis this whole universe. One of the important basic concepts which helps us understand this is that of Koshas. The Yoga path of Self-realization is one of progressively moving inward, through each of those five levels, so as to experience the purity at the eternal center of consciousness, while at the same time allowing that purity to animate through our individuality. These five levels are called koshas, which literally means sheaths. Yoga defines our being as having five layers or sheaths, each one contained within the other, like peels/ layers of an onion, or Russian Dolls. These sheaths cover every aspect of our being, from the grossest to the subtlest. 

Yoga tells us that you are not just the body you perceive with the eyes, nor are you just blood, bones, marrow, muscles, nerves and the different organs that keep you alive. You are much more than that. What you see of yourself with the eye is sustained by what you cannot see; if the unseen part of you ceased to exist, the seen part of you would wither and die. This seen and unseen part of you is composed of the five koshas. The aim of all the practices of yoga, without exception, is to energize and awaken these koshas until ultimately you experience awakening in vigyanamaya kosha. That alone is the purpose of yoga. When we practice yoga – whether it’s asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, or even karma yoga – we are having an impact on one or more of these layers of the body. The practices of yoga work to release blockages in the many layers of the body. Understanding these basic concepts helps us to figure out why sometimes we feel stuck in our practice, or feel that we are not making any progress.

Consciousness

Consciousness is the ultimate reality out of which mind and matter proceed. It is the state or quality of awareness, or, of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind. Many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is.

At one time consciousness was viewed with skepticism by many scientists, but in recent years it has become a significant topic of research in psychology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding and determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness. In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient’s arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli. 

In Yoga, individual consciousness is considered a partial expression of cosmic consciousness. Essentially, cosmic consciousness and individual consciousness are one; only subjectivity separates them. Consciousness exists at various levels from minerals to man. Of all existing organisms that express themselves through behaviour, the human organism is the most highly evolved. It is capable of self-expression and the realization of The Truth beyond the realm of sensory perception. With the help of memory, imagination, intuition and discrimination, the human organism can understand laws inherent in nature and use them for growth and development.

Expression of Consciousness

When consciousness desires expression as an organism, it needs tools to control and work with the physical body. In general, we have two major aspects:

  • changeable, the feminine, and,
  • unchangeable, the masculine.

This is illustrated by the Shiva and Shakti as a playing couple, representing the masculine and the feminine aspects respectively.

Shiva and Shakti

Shiva, the masculine, represents the divine lover, and, Shakti, the feminine, represents the energy and the beloved. She wants to play a game. She creates a world of her own and invites Shiva inside. Shiva says that he is never changing, so he cannot live in Shakti’s ever-changing world! Shakti suggests, “You can be the centre of everything, and the centre never changes, everything around it changes. You can stay in your eternal bliss in the centre, and around you, I will put a network of my shakti (power) which will be a conduit between you and the outside world. That way you will not have to do anything – you can remain never changing and I can remain ever changing and we can have fun!”

Shiva agrees and the game begins…!

Pancha-Koshas – The Five Sheaths

Taittiriya Upanishad says:

  • Human beings consist of a material body made up from the food they eat. Those who care for this body are nourished by the universe itself.
  • Inside this is another body made of life energy. It fills the physical body and takes its shape. Those who treat this vital force as divine experience excellent health and longevity because this energy is the source of physical life.
  • Within the vital force is yet another body, this one made of thought energy. It fills the two denser bodies and has the same shape. Those who understand and control the mental body are no longer afflicted by fear.
  • Deeper still lies another body comprised of intellect. It permeates the three denser bodies and takes up the same form. Those who establish their awareness here, free themselves from unhealthy thoughts and actions, and develop the self-control necessary to achieve their goals.
  • Hidden inside it is yet a subtler body, composed of pure joy. It pervades the other bodies and shares the same shape. It is experienced as happiness, delight, equanimity and bliss.

In Yoga philosophy, the body, mind and spirit are understood as one continuum. Indian philosophers spoke about consciousness: the bodies as described above in Taittiriya Upanishad are known as koshas (sheaths). These five koshas are:

  1. Annamaya Kosha or Physical Sheath,
  2. Pranamaya Kosha or Energy Sheath,
  3. Manomaya Kosha or Mental Sheath,
  4. Vigyanamaya Kosha or Wisdom Sheath, and
  5. Anandamaya Kosha or Equanimity or Bliss

In some systems there is a sixth sheath, the hiranyagarbha kosha. According to Vedanta, the wise man should discriminate between atman (the self) and the koshas, which are non-self.

Expansion of Consciousness, the path of Self-realization in Yoga, is the one of progressively moving inward, through each of those layers, so as to experience the purity at the center of consciousness, while at the same time allowing that purity to animate through individuality. 

Koshas - The Sheaths

Koshas and Shariras

These five koshas belong to or co-relate with three bodies that constitute your being. These Tri-Shareera or three bodies are:

  1. Physical Body or Gross Body or Sthula Shareera which has only one layer of Annamaya Kosha
  2. Astral Body or Linga Shareera or Sukshma Shareera. Subtle Body is Astral Body except a part of Pranic Sheath. Every living being has an astral body. This is connected to the physical body by a subtle thread along which vital energy flows. When this cord is cut, the astral body departs and the physical body dies. The astral body is composed of three layers:
    1. Layer one: Pranamaya Kosha or Pranic Sheath, much subtler than the food sheath, it is often spoken of as the etheric double. It is made up of 72,000 nadis, or astral tubes, through which prana, the vital energy, flows.
    2. Layer two: Manomaya Kosha or Mental Sheath, comprising the automatic mind, as well as the instinctive and subconscious regions. This is where we carry on the automatic functions of our daily lives; it is very jumpy by nature, as it is constantly bombarded by inputs from the five senses.
    3. Layer three: Vigyanamaya Kosha or Intellectual or Wisdom Sheath, the intellect controls and guides the automatic mind. Discrimination and decision making take place here and pass down to the grosser sheath.
  3. Causal Body or Karan Shareera which has only one layer of Anandamaya Kosha. This  stores all of our karmas, samskaras and impressions of many, many incarnations is the one we encounter when we speak about awakening in vigyanamaya kosha.

 

The experiences of evolution through different ‘yonis’, pleasant and unpleasant, are stored in the vigyanamaya kosha. In order to step into the arena of spiritual ecstasy, you have to pass through this zone and face what is stored there eye to eye. You simply cannot avoid it, just as you cannot avoid your thoughts or your feelings and dreams. The practices of yoga can accelerate this process and accomplish this in a systematic and graded manner. It is only when the awakening occurs in vigyanamaya and that experience is stabilized, that the transcendental experiences of ecstasy and bliss related to anandamaya kosha arise in the consciousness.

In modern psychology, the causal body or karana sharira is known as the realm of the unconscious;  it may also be termed as psyche’ of man. You cannot know what is stored there until there is awakening in vigyanamaya kosha. When you experience awakening in manomaya kosha, you are still within the realm of buddhi or intellect. Everything that you experience will be within the fold of logic and reason and thus there is a degree of control of the experiences and their outcome. It’s in vigyanamaya kosha that you go beyond the level of the mind.

 

Kosha Attibutes

Every day you have three types of experiences:

  • The waking experience in which you experience through your senses and mind.
  • Dream, in which you do not experience through the senses, but through your subconscious mind.
  • Sleep, in which there is no knowledge of time and space, no knowledge about yourself or about anything in sleep, but when you get up in the morning, you know that you slept well the night before.

So every day, the individual self undergoes these three experiences alternately. Each experience relates to a particular field. Whenever your individual self goes to one particular field, realm, dimension or kosha, it has one experience, and as your individual self changes the kosha, it has another experience.

Koshas and Lokas

The complete Gayatri mantra tells us about the relation of koshas and lokas:

Om Bhur  Om Bhuvah  Om Swaha  Om Mahah  Om Janah  Om Tapah  Om Satyam ||
Om bhur bhuvah swaha Tat suvitur varenyam  Bhargo devasya dhimahi  Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat || 

OM, the primordial sound, resides in all elements of the universe. It permeates the earth (bhuh), water (bhuvah), fire (swaha), air (mahah), ether (janah), intelligence (tapah)
and consciousness (satyam). We invoke and meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe, may He enlighten our minds.

Lokas are the planes of consciousness one experiences as the awareness gains ascent from annamaya to pranamaya to manomaya to vigyanamaya. The sapta or seven lokas, as given in the above mantra are:

  1. bhu – earth
  2. bhuvah – water
  3. swah – fire
  4. maha – air
  5. janah – ether
  6. tapah – intelligence/ intellect, and
  7. satyam – consciousness

While bhu, bhuvah and swah, the earthly, intermediate and divine planes, are related to annamaya, pranamaya and manomaya koshas, maha, the plane of siddhas, janah, the plane of rishis and munis, and tapah, the plane of liberated souls, relate to awakening, stabilization and illumination of vigyanamaya. Satymais the loka of ultimate bliss or consciousness.

 

Koshas – Yogis Sheaths of our Being

Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body

Pranamaya Kosha or Energy Body

Manomaya Kosha or Mental Body

Vigyanamaya Kosha or Intellectual or Wisdom Body

Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss

To delve deeper into this important topic in Yoga, please check different courses at SAVY. 

Contact Us

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

 

President and Director of Teaching

Please contact us to learn more about Yoga. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments that you might have. Space is limited in courses and participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, respond early to participate in this exciting, life-transforming Yoga experience. 

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