Tattva Bodha - 3
In the previous blog “ Sareerathriam – Three bodies” we saw that each individual is constituted of three bodies, Sthula, Sukshma, and Karana sareeras. This division as three bodies was from matter angle; gross, subtle and causal that they were composed of. In this blog we shall see the same three bodies divided into five layers based on another functional angle. These layers are called Kosas. Kosa means a sheath and it is as if they were the sheaths encasing the Athma. I said as if because Athma is all-pervasive and it cannot be encased either by the three bodies or by the five kosas. The kosas are Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya in the increasing order of subtlety. Before going into the study of kosas let us see how they stand in relation to the three bodies.
Annamaya kosa the grossest corresponds to the Sthula sareera and the Anandamaya kosa, the subtlest to Karana sareera. So there is no difference between Annamaya kosa and gross body and also between Anandamaya kosa and causal body. It is as if each one of them is having two different names from different standpoints. The remaining three kosas Pranamaya kosa, Vijnanamaya kosa and Anandamaya kosa are the three functional sub-divisions of the remaining body, Karana sareera. Now we shall see each one of these kosas separately.
Maya means modification and annamaya means modification of food. Annamaya kosa as gross body is a product of annam, food. The foetus in the womb is sustained by the food mother takes. Moreover its origin itself is a result of the union between father’s sperm and mother’s egg, both products of food they have taken. After birth it is sustained by food it takes and after death it becomes one with the soil to become eventually the food for others. Being gross body, it is subject to the six modifications viz., existence, birth, growth, modification, decay and death. Anatomical organs of the human body are the parts of annamaya kosa. When one identifies oneself with annamaya kosa one says “ I am fair/dark, tall/short, thin/fat etc.”
This can be called as the energy sheath or vital air sheath as it contains the five pranas that are vital to the body and carry out the physiological functions of the human system. Besides the five pranas viz., Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udhana this kosa contains the five Karmendriyas viz., Tongue/Mouth, Hands, Legs, Anus/Excretory organ and Genitals. Pranas and Karmendriyas are described in the blog on Sareera Thriam. The five pranas function continuously all time all through life, naturally and involuntarily. They energise the body through their actions and the energy is expressed through the organs of action. So pranamaya kosa represents Kriya sakthi and so long as it functions efficiently, one remains healthy and active. Through Pranayama yogis try to control and regulate prana and through that the mind to progress in yoga to acquire Siddhis, supernatural powers. When one identifies oneself with pranamaya kosa one says “ I am hungry, thirsty etc.”
Manomaya kosa can also be called the mental sheath as it contains Manas of anthakaranam. This kosa is a combination of Jnanendriyas viz Eye, Ear, Tongue, Nose and Skin, and Manas, Chitham and Ahamkara of anthakaranam. Jnanendriyas as well as chitham and Ahamkara are common to this and Vijnanamaya kosa, which is to be discussed next. Jnanendriyas and anthakaranam are described in the blog on Sareera Thriam. This is the seat of emotions and this is where the desires arise irrespective of one’s resources and energy; and vacillations occur in choosing between alternatives. So manomaya kosa represents Iccha sakthi. Identifying with mental sheath one says “ I am happy or sad “or one feels “I want this/that etc.”
This can be also called the rational or knowledge sheath as it contains Buddhi of Anthakaranam, a faculty of cognition. This kosa is a combination of Jnanendriyas and Buddhi, Chitham and Ahamkara of Anthakaranam. This represents Jnana sakthi. For an action to take place, desire must be there. For desire to arise, knowledge must be there. For instance, if you have no knowledge of smart phone, you will not desire it. If you do not desire, there will be no action of purchase. Here also when Manas desires, it is evaluated by Buddhi with the help of the Chitham and a decision taken and relayed to Manas which transmits it to organs of action. Further all desires presuppose knowledge; but all desires may not result in action. It is Buddhi that discriminates between right and wrong, possible and not possible and decides on proper course of action. That is why in Kathopanishad it is said “बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि (Buddhim tu sarathim viddhi)”-Understand buddhi as the driver (of the body-chariot).
This kosa is also called Bliss sheath. We have seen that Anandamaya Kosa is another name for Karana Sareera and so this has also the properties of causal body. So it is in the form of undifferentiated ignorance and contains the other kosas in seed form. Deep sleep is a miniature version of pralayam for at that time the external world stands as though dissolved for the sleeper and all one’s faculties with the exception of pranas are also resolved for the time of deep sleep in this kosa. So as memory, mind, ego, and intellect stand resolved temporarily, one is free of past worries, present tensions and future anxieties in deep sleep state. In fact one is blissfully ignorant of everything around him and everything about himself and others. Even one is not aware that one is in sleep while sleeping. Only when one wakes up, one is aware that one has slept. One cannot say that one is sleeping in sleep and if one says “I am sleeping” then that one is not really sleeping. One enjoys in sleep the peace and quiet that comes of Athma Jnanam, but only here it is from total ignorance. So this bliss is "impure" bliss; born of ignorance and it is of temporary duration as it disappears when one wakes up and other kosas become active. Ignorance and "impure" bliss constitute the Anandamaya Kosa. The suffix maya used here is in the sense of saturation and not in the sense of modification as in other kosas.