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Pancha Koshas are the five sheaths of the human body that envelopes Atman, the individual soul. The concept of Pancha Kosha is in the Brahmanandavalli section of Taittiriya Upanishad. In Indian Philosophy, the theory of Pancha Kosha holds great significance. It directly mentions the psychological layers that needed to be conquered before reaching the Atman. If a person understands these five koshas then the equation of Atman and Brahman becomes more clear. However, it is tough to understand the relation between Brahman and Atman theoretically. It is only possible through Yoga or Tantra and finding this relationship itself is one form of spiritual enlightenment/awakening.
A guru can suggest various techniques to feel the ‘Koshas’ within to decipher the Atman. These can be based on Chakras-based meditation. It is majorly the technique based on the ‘tantra’ where you understand the physical nature of the energy at first. This understanding comes in the form of a feeling of ‘vibration’ of the glands or the energy centers within a spiritual form of the body. These vibrations are cosmic in nature and enough to make a person feel mysticism. The experience of the whole universe within ourselves is what this form of enlightenment looks like.
The essence of the Yogic understanding of Atman always begins with the Prana. You can click here to read more about Prana. This is the life-sustaining force inside the human body. There are suitable methods to feel the prana through meditation, the link is given at the end of this Article.
The Five Koshas begins with Prana only if understood properly.
Let’s have a look at the five sheaths of the human body. The list of Pancha Koshas is as follows.
One: Annamaya Kosha in Pancha Kosha theory.
Annamaya Kosha is the layer of physicality within consciousness. We take food and it accumulates in the body to give a perfect shape to the body. Annamaya Kosha is just about the physical nature of the body and the shape that is formed through food. However, a person whose consciousness is only in the Annamaya Kosha cannot go beyond the other level of consciousness. Meaning; this kosha is all about the shape and size of the body, what makes the body in shape and size is not understood. Basically, in modern times only kids below 2-3 of age have this psychology.
We need another level to understand more, this is Pranamaya Kosha.
Two: Pranamaya Kosha of the Five Koshas
Pranamaya Kosha is the layer of breath and nerve currents in the body. The anna or the food gets burnt through Prana itself. This is the real reason why the human body has such a structure. There are five pranas in the human body. These Pranas not only give shape to the body but decides the shape of our consciousness also. The Prana and Apana balance the food in the body, Samana, is the balance itself. Udana shapes the mystical experiences followed by the pleasures of life. The Vyana shapes the expansion of consciousness itself.
Again, Pranamaya Kosha cannot justify why and how consciousness is shaped? It requires another Kosha. Many human beings live on this consciousness level. This is Manonmaya Kosha.
Three: Manonmaya Kosha of the Pancha Kosha.
Manonmaya Kosha is the sheath of ‘memories’. These memories are present in an accumulated form which we will see in the next section. The memories are in the form of Karma and Samskara. Karma is accumulated in various births however Samskara gets accumulated in this birth itself. These Karmas and Samskaras need to be taken care of before, so that, one understands the reality of Vijnanamaya Kosha. Human beings are called ‘Manushya’ because the consciousness of humans lies only in the memories. The Karmic memories and Samskaric memories are always hidden and manifest only when the proper time comes. Why? Let’s see below.
Four: Vijnanamaya Kosha, the intelligence unit of the five Koshas
The Vijnanamaya Kosha is the intelligence itself. This Kosha decides, on which time, where, and how the memories should manifest so that the Karma and Samskara get fulfilled. The intelligence however remains enveloped within the satisfaction only. Unless the person gets satisfied to do some work, he/she never does that. So bringing satisfaction is necessary to fulfill the Karma and Samskara. This itself requires another level in the Pancha Koshas Theory.
It is interesting to note that all the Koshas contain the word ‘Maya’. It is because the word Maya differentiates Atman and Anatman. All the Pancha Koshas are Anatman which simply means not Atman.
Five: Anandamaya Kosha, the satisfaction.
Anandamaya Kosha is often interpreted as the sheath of bliss. However, this is just a lack of clear understanding of the theory of Panch Koshas. The Anandamaya Kosha is satisfaction for sure but created through something. But who or what creates this satisfaction and what is that something? Why Satisfaction is required?
So, the concept of Pancha Koshas needs the ultimate layer. This controller is the Atman.
Atman is the supreme of all in an individual body. It is above the Maya, also called Sarvakarana Karanam, the cause of all the causes. The word ‘Atman’ is being frequently used for education in Indian Philosophy. This creates a dual vision of Atman and Brahman in the scholars.
Now, this incorporates fully into the Pancha Koshas theory. A maximum of the scholars are in the Vijnanamaya Kosha, so they will explain Atman and Brahman as different things. At that level, this cannot be treated as an invalid statement as per the level of consciousness in Pancha Koshas. It is all about where the level of consciousness lies. And, the psychology of scholars lies in Vijnanamaya Kosha.
So basically, the language itself is not enough to explain the relation between Atman and Brahman. There is a need for experiencing reality either mystically or through knowledge. Now we have reached the place where we started in this article. And, yes it’s complex unless you become perfect in meditation.
Meditation for Pancha Koshas
Any form of meditation seems easy at the beginning. It becomes tougher later on. However, you can explore the Himalayan method from below.
It is advised to understand the meaning of Reality before attempting any form of meditation. You can click here to know about Hiranyagarbha Yoga Darshana, the original principles of Yoga before Patanjali. The key to everything is understanding the rhythm of the breath. Hypothetically, this itself is the natural motion of bodies in the photons, electrons, planets, etc. conserved via the complex relationships within and outside the body. The breath is key to reaching Atman via the concept of Pancha Koshas.
You can also follow various scripts for meditation.