Pancha Kosha

According to yoga, a human being is capable of experi-encing five dimensions of existence, which are called pancha kosha or five sheaths. These are the five spheres in which a human being lives at any given moment and they range from gross to subtle. The pancha kosha are: i) annamaya kosha, ii) pranamaya kosha, iii) manomaya kosha, iv) vijnanamaya kosha and v) anandamaya kosha.


i) Annamaya kosha:

The first sheath or level of experience is the physical body, or annamaya kosha. The word anna means ‘food’ and maya ‘comprised of’. This is the gross level of existence and is referred to as the food sheath due to its dependence on food, water and air. This sheath is also dependent on prana. While it is possible to live without food for up to six weeks, water for six days, and air for six minutes, life ceases immediately the moment prana is withdrawn from it.


ii) pranamaya kosha:

The second sheath is pranamaya kosha, the energy field of an individual. The level of experience here is more subtle than the physical body, which it pervades and supports. This sheath is supported in turn by the subtler koshas. Together, the physical and pranic bodies constitute the basic human structure, which is referred to as atmapuri, city of the soul. They form the vessel for the experience of the higher bodies. The pranamaya kosha is the basis for the practices of pranayama and prana vidya. It is also described as the pranic,
astral and etheric counterpart of the physical body. It has almost the same shape and dimensions as its flesh and blood vehicle, although it is capable of expansion and contraction. It has been said in the Taittiriya Upanishad (Brahmandavalli:2):
“Verily, besides this physical body, which is made of the essence of the food, there is another, inner self comprised of vital energy by which this physical self is filled. Just as the fleshly body is in the form of a person, accordingly this vital self is in the shape of a person.”


iii) Manomaya kosha:

The third sheath is manomaya kosha, the mental dimension. The level of experience is the conscious mind, which holds the two grosser koshas, annamaya and pranamaya, together as an integrated whole. It is the bridge between the outer and inner worlds, conveying the experiences and sensations of the external world to the intuitive body, and the influences of the causal and intuitive bodies to the gross body.


iv) vijnanamaya kosha:

The fourth sheath is vijnanamaya kosha, the psychic level of experience, which relates to the subconscious and un-conscious mind. This sphere pervades manomaya kosha, but is subtler than it. Vijnanamaya kosha is the link between (the individual and God. Inner knowledge comes to the conscious mind from this level. When this sheath is awakened, one begins to experience life at an intuitive level, to see the underlying reality behind outer appearances. This leads to wisdom.


v) anandamaya kosha:

The fifth sheath is anandamaya kosha, the level of bliss and beatitude.


Prana and the koshas:
All the five sheaths are pervaded by prana, which nourishes and sustains them and maintains their appropriate relation-ship. The movement from one kosha to another is also achieved with the help of prana. How prana operates in between the koshas can be understood by the example of a gearshift in a car. One moves in between the gears through the neutral. The car is also stopped and reversed by first putting it into neutral. Neutral is not a gear; the gears are first, second, third, fourth and reverse. However, without the neutral space in between, one cannot shift from one gear to another. The same principle applies to the koshas.

The pranamaya kosha acts as the neutral space, allowing one to move from annamaya to manomaya, manomaya to vijnanamaya, vijnanamaya to anandamaya, and so on. One must use the faculty of prana shakti in order to move from any one state to another. Therefore, the dimension of energy is like the neutral space in the gear box. With the activation of prana, one gains access to the physical, mental, psychic and spiritual dimensions.

 


By: Swami Niranjanananda: Taken  from the book Prana & Pranayama.

Note:

The books by Bihar School of Yoga are considered the best in the world on the topic of Asana , Pranayama, Kundalini etc. Any sadhaka of any traditional diksha line can benefit a lot by studying these books and perform their own sadhana in a better way.  There are two types of Goal:  Impersonal liberation / Becoming associate of Lord . Practice for attaining any of these two goals needs a steady mind and controlled prana in order to attain higher level of spirituality.  One is requested not to be deviated from his sadhana .

 

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