Vigyanamaya Kosha refers to the intellect or wisdom. Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Deeper still lies another body comprised of intellect – separate from the self comprised of mind, and self comprised of intuitive knowledge. It permeates the three denser bodies and takes up the same form. This one is also like the shape of a person like the preceding koshas. Those who establish their awareness here, free themselves from unhealthy thoughts and actions, and develop the self-control necessary to achieve their goals. Tasye shraddhaiva shiraha, Faith is its head; hritam dakshinah pakshaha satyamuttarah pakshaha, righteousness its right wing and truth its left wing; yoga atma, yoga is its soul, and maha puchham pratishtaha, maha its foundation.”
This fourth kosha is Vigyanamaya Kosha. Vigyana means psyche or knowing or intellect, the faculty which discriminates, determines or wills. Vigyana is a Sanskrit word from the prefix vi, meaning special, and gyana, meaning knowledge or awareness, inner perception or experience. Gyana means knowledge but vignana is a specific knowledge which is acquired by shraddha, dharana, manyata (beliefs) and anubhuti (experience). We know that atma is immortal, imperishable and is different than the body. It is a part and parcel of brahman who is a form of truth, mind and bliss. But we have no experience of this reality. Vigyanamaya is the determinative knowledge (Nishchaya). This determinative knowledge (Adhyavasaya) is an attribute (Dharma) of the intellect (Buddhi). It is the determinative faculty which guides the mind and comes to right conclusion or determination. Vigyanamaya kosha or pragya (wisdom) sheath is part of sukshma sharira (subtle body). It is the sheath composed of intellect, associated with the organs of perception. It is the vehicle of higher thought, vigyana — understanding, knowing, direct cognition, wisdom, intuition and creativity. During sleep it gets involution or Laya along with chidabhasa or the reflection of Pure Consciousness. During waking state it is the doer. It is an effect like a jar and is inanimate. It shines in borrowed feathers. It borrows its light temporarily from its source, just as the moon borrows its light from the sun. It is not the eternal Self. Vigyanamaya Kosha rides on the wings of vairagya and viveka, and requires ichha shakti, kriya shakti and gyana shakti to realize.
This knowledge sheath, which seems to be followed by a reflection of the power of the chitta (mind-stuff), is a modification of prakriti (nature). It is endowed with the function of knowledge and identifies itself with the body, organs etc. This knowledge sheath cannot be the Supreme Self because:
- it is subject to change
- it is insentient
- it is a limited thing
- it is not constantly present
Vigyana has two meanings: external science and also inner experience. It is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the processing, thinking aspect of mind. It knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between this and that, between useful and not useful. It is also the level of ego consciousness, meaning the powerful wave of ‘I-am-ness’. This ‘I-am-ness’ itself is a positive influence.
Maha loka, the plane of siddhas and saints, is the foundation or support of vigyanamaya kosha. It is from here onwards that the superstructure of heightened awareness is constructed. If the siddhis which begin to manifest become the object of focus or enjoyment, then the Yogi will surely fall back to lower planes of consciousness. However, if he does not allow them to distract the awareness, especially when he is in a state of samadhi, then ascent of awareness to higher lokas known as janah, the realm of rishis and munis, and tapah, the realm of liberated souls, the jivanmuktas and videhamuktas, is definitely assured.
When the Yogi is in the state of annamaya kosha; he considers himself based on sex, age, characteristics and others. When he reaches pranamaya kosha, his assessment is based on guna (qualities) like – I am a musician, scientist, writer, fool, intelligent, rich, poor etc. When he reaches manomaya kosha the criteria shifts to swabhava (nature) like greedy, arrogant, atheist, theist, selfish, generous etc. When our attention is focused on these, we are considered to be in the third stage of atma-unnati (spiritual progress). When the Yogi reaches the fourth level of vignanamaya kosha, he starts experiencing that he is different from the physical body; he is not what his properties and nature depict – he is a part of Ishvara and imperishable, indestructible, immortal atman.
An atma-gyani is one, who has strong vishwas (faith) and complete shraddha in his experience of being the atman. He knows for sure that he is vishudha atman and nothing else. This body is my vehicle, prana is my weapon and manas is my slave. The interests of atman are different than the interests of physical body.
A major part of sadhana, or spiritual practice, is gaining ever increasing access to this level of our being. It is the level that has the higher wisdom to seek The Truth, to go within, in search of the eternal center of consciousness.
Subjective experience is a consequence of vigyanamaya kosha. Whatever you are dreaming is a projection of vigyanamaya kosha. Vigyanamaya kosha is related to a very unknown part of the universe and it is a link or sutra between the conscious mind, the individual mind and the universal mind. Universal knowledge comes to the conscious mind through vigyanamaya kosha. Vigyanamaya kosha does not depend on time, space and causation factors.
Dimension of Intuition
Vijnanamaya kosha transcends intellect and enters into the dimension of intuition, where the mind does not work. Mind and intellect do not function in vigyanamaya kosha. Each one of us operates at the level of instinct, intelligence, intellect and intuition. Till the level of intellect you are under the influence and in the field of manomaya kosha. It is when you are able to transcend intellect that you will experience an intuitive flash about something or the other. All of us have at some time in our life experienced this intuition, which comes in flashes due to a sudden contact with the vigyanamaya kosha. But we are not able to hold on to that state of awareness and once again regress to the level of intellect and intelligence.
Focus of Yoga is to master howto connect with this level of intuition and to use it as a tools, just like intellect, mind or intelligence. The practices of yoga are designed to take you to this point.
Refinement and Development of Vigyanamaya Kosha
Like manomaya kosha, vigyanamaya kosha can be reached with regular yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation practices. Once there, we shall experience a deeper peace that comes by way of freedom from thoughts, actions, and speech. It is highly unlikely to maintain this awareness all the time. Rather, it should come in waves and flashes, gradually increasing over time until you are much less likely to get caught up in the daily dramas. As your yoga practice deepens, take notice of the subtle changes that occur and you will notice aspects of your awareness that exemplify the development of this kosha.
Mantra meditation helps tremendously. This soothes and balances, and helps release blocks of energy. Yogis who spend a great deal of time in meditation often have very little need for sleep, in part because their mental vehicles are functioning optimally. It is possible to develop Vigyanamaya Kosha through the following methods:
- Tantra is specifically related to vigyanamaya kosha and can be used to develop it. Vigyanamaya kosha is inherent within you but it is hidden like energy is hidden in matter. You have to separate it; you have to release your vigyanamaya kosha to experience it.
- Vigyanamaya Kosha rides on the wings of vairagya and viveka, and requires ichha shakti, kriya shakti and gyana shakti to realize.
- Harmonious and supportive environment is an ideal diet for this kosha.
- Take sattvic food. It helps keep all kosha healthy.
- Practice meditation. Pranayama, mudras, pratyahara will help tune it up for meditation.
- Mantra meditation has a positive influence on nadis. Chant or sing mantras suited to you. Beej mantras have a profound effect.
- Practice mauna (noble silence). Try making meals in silence, or while chanting or singing uplifting mantras.
- Releasing what you don’t need is as important as adding what you need; spend less time on the activities (or relationships) that are toxic.
- Practice good intention and repetition; you can change the energy of your inner and outer environment.
- Marma Therapy acts on marmas and can remove blocks.
- Traatak, dhyana, dharna are very useful.
When there is awakening in vigyanamaya kosha, siddhis (special powers/ skills) begin to manifest –
- the practitioner becomes clairvoyant and telepathic; he begins to know many things about people and events before they happen, which come to him in the form of dreams, thoughts or visions.
- he may be able to appear at many places to many people at the same time
- he develops the power to read others’ thoughts and also to influence them
- he may develop healing powers. His words, touch or glance can heal the deadliest of diseases which no doctor can cure.
- In some exceptional cases, depending on the extent of his advent into the level of vigyanamaya kosha, he may even be able to resurrect life or enter another person’s body. A person exhibiting such powers could easily be mistaken for God!
Dr Jitender K Sahdev
D.Sc. (AM), Ph.D. (AM), M.D. (AM)
E-RAP 2500, E-RYTh 2500, E-RWT 500, RYBT, RWSYT, RWPYT, RWCYT (Worldwide Yoga Alliance, Canada)
E-RYT 500, RCYT, RPYT (Yoga Alliance, USA)
Fc Surgery (SASMS)
Fc Surgical Oncology (SASMS)
President and Director of Teaching
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