Anandamaya Kosha or Equanimity or Bliss
The fifth kosha is Anandamaya kosha. The Anandamaya kosha or ‘sheath made of bliss’, or ananda is in Yoga and Vedantic philosophy the most subtle or spiritual of the five levels of embodied self.
It is not possible to exactly translate the word ananda; its meaning is closer to equanimity than bliss. There is unified experience and that experience does not change. It is peace, joy, and love that is underneath, beyond the mind, independent of any reason or stimulus to cause a happy mental reaction.
Taittiriya Upanishad says:
Hidden inside it (Vigyanamaya Kosha) 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.
It further defines anandamaya kosha as having the shape or form of a person with love as its head, joy as its right wing and delight as its left wing, bliss as its trunk and Brahman as its support or foundation.
Anandamaya kosha is the most interior of the koshas, the first of the koshas surrounding the Atman, the eternal center of consciousness. It is the subtlest of the five koshas. In the silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, to experience the center.
This is a state of mind which does not change, despite anything that happens in life. With that state of mind you can live with all the conditions of life. You are where you are, firmly rooted in your own self, but at the same time you can interact with everyone. You can do anything, but still not be affected. Death cannot change that experience; birth cannot change it; love and hatred cannot make your experiences swing. When your mind becomes steady in experience and does not fluctuate under any condition, that is ananda. So, anandamaya kosha means the kosha which comprises homogenous experience.
Satyam Loka, the plane of ultimate bliss, corresponds to anandamaya kosha, which is none other than pure consciousness.
The anandamaya kosha is extremely important in yoga because it’s the final and thinnest veil standing between our ordinary awareness and our higher Self.
Moksha Gita says:
The Anandamaya Kosha or this bliss sheath is Avidya (ignorance), a modification of Prakriti (Nature). It is the effect of past deeds. It is endowed with changing attributes. It is Jada or insentient. Therefore you are not the Anandamaya Kosha. You are the witness of this sheath. Understand, therefore, that ‘I am not the Anandamaya sheath. I am Brahman.’
The Anandamaya Kosha is made of Mula-Agyana or the core-ignorance. It is the Karana Sharira or the causal body which is the substratum of all other sheaths which are external to it. Its three attributes or Dharmas are:
- Priya, or affection
- Moda, delight, and
- Pramoda, , or intense happiness.
It is the indescribable, beginningless Avidya or ignorance, the nescience of the Atma, and is composed of Malina Sattva, or that state of Prakriti in which Sattva is predominated and sullied by rajas and tamas. It is inanimate, beginningless, but has an end in Atma-Gyana.
Prakriti, the cause of ignorance, is made up of three Gunas, and carries with her the reflection of that transcendent Reality, Satchidananda. This Prakriti is divided into two aspects, called Maya and Avidya:
- Maya is Shuddha-Sattva-Pradhana or that state of Prakriti in which the principle of Purity or Sattva, predominates over the other two, Rajas and Tamas.
- Avidya is Malina-Sattva or that state of Prakriti in which Sattva is predominated and sullied by the other two – Rajas and Tamas.
When that pure Intelligence, Chit, is reflected through Maya or Shuddha-Sattva, the reflected Consciousness is called Ishvara. It is one only, and controls Maya.
When that Chit is reflected in Malina-Sattva or Avidya, the reflected Consciousness is called Jiva. Due to the multifarious nature of Avidya, Jivas are too many, and being individualised and separated from one another, they are swayed by Avidya or ignorance. And this ignorance leads them to identification with the five sheaths and the three bodies. Thus, there is activity, pain and suffering for the Jiva.
The aspirant should endeavour to rise above the five Koshas to realise the identity with Pure Consciousness.
From Vigyanamaya to Anandamaya Kosha
Ananda is steady state of being, no matter what circumstance arises. The state of wholeness, of integration with the moment and with yourself, encompasses the inner sheath of anandamaya. This bliss state is usually experienced in fleeting moments, but can remain for longer periods. Importantly, anandamaya is still a sheath, a layer that can be peeled back. When anandamaya is peeled away, we reach atman—our very center. Atman is our direct connection with the divine, with the essence of all that is. It is our pure consciousness.
Anandamaya pervades each of the previous outer sheaths, but is only experienced once we are able to peel the illusions of each sheath away to reveal our true nature. Anandamaya can be experienced in those moments when you are fully immersed in that which you are doing—when you no longer separate yourself from your experience.
The transition from Vigyanamaya to Anandamaya Kosha is such an important stage in the ascent of awareness that the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has devoted an entire section to this event, when the consciousness is able to perceive the four dimensions of time – past, present, future and eternity. Patanjali has termed this event when siddhis manifest as vibhooti. He calls it the accomplishment of yoga and has cautioned the aspirant against becoming distracted by this accomplishment. It is the state equivalent to paroksha anubhuti, or awareness of only one point without consciousness of one’s own self. Deepening awareness of paroksha anubhuti leads the practitioner to aparokshanubhuti, which correlates to the bliss of anandamaya kosha.
So, Vigyanamaya Kosha may be the conduit to Anandamaya Kosha. The experience of Vigyanamaya Kosha gives you a glimpse of what is in store for you as your awareness begins to experience equanimity, but the experience again drops due to the appearance and disappearance of vikshepa (distractions) and one-pointedness of mind. All siddhas and saints must pass through this stage before they attain enlightenment. The account of the forty days and forty nights when Christ encountered temptation before he experienced God, as well as tales of Buddha, where prior to nirvana he encountered the demons and bewitching damsels, indicate vikshepa.
When there is awakening in Vigyanamaya Kosha, siddhis begin to manifest. The practitioner becomes more intuitive and telepathic. He begins to know many things about people and events before they happen. He develops the power to read others’ thoughts or he may develop healing powers. A person exhibiting such powers could easily be mistaken for God, which perhaps many did who were unaware of the manifestation of siddhis through the power of yoga when there is awakening in Vigyanamaya Kosha.
Yoga clearly tells that you are not just the body you perceive with the eyes, nor are you just blood, bones, muscles, nerves, heart, brain and other organs that keep you alive. You are much more than that. In fact, what you see with the eye is sustained by what you do not see. This unseen part of you is composed of the five koshas as mentioned above.
In the tantric tradition, spirit is often symbolized as Shiva, the transcendent Lord who is ever immersed in divine consciousness. Matter or energy is called Shakti, the Supreme Goddess whose divine body is this entire universe. They love each other with unspeakable intensity. Their supreme love is experienced in the Anandamaya kosha, where spirit and matter embrace each other.
Reaching Anandamaya Kosha
Anandamaya Kosha is revealed when we have come through the outer sheaths and have released any form of mind control over it. Anandamaya is a deeper experience than that which can be contemplated. Striving to reach anandamaya kosha in any other way directly is a futile attempt.
We can help awaken Anandamaya Kosha through three practices:
- The first is seva, selfless service. This opens our heart to our innate unity with other beings.
- The second is bhakti yoga, devotion to God. This opens our heart to our unity with the all-pervading Divine Being.
- The third is samadhi, intensely focused meditation, which opens our heart to our own divine being.
When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realises the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.
Dr Jitender K Sahdev
D.Sc. (AM), Ph.D. (AM), M.D. (AM)
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