The Koshas: The Vital Sheaths
Each one of us has five different koshas or sheaths, which vibrate at different speeds. They interact and envelope one another, and together they form the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of life.
We have five dimensions of existence, referred to as the pancha koshas or the five sheaths.The five sheaths are spheres that envelope us, and are called:
- Annamaya Kosha, which refers to the physical body.
- Pranamaya Kosha, which refers to the energy field.
- Manomaya Kosha, which refers to the conscious mind.
- Vijanamaya Kosha, which refers to the subconscious and unconscious mind.
- Anandamaya Kosha, which refers to the field of spiritual bliss.
Annamaya Kosha, the first of the sheaths is the physical body, our foremost level of experience. The word “Anna” means food, and “Maya” means ‘comprised of’ and we refer to it as Annamaya due to its dependency on food, water and air. This kosha is also dependent on prana.
We are able to survive without food for several weeks, without water for a few days, without air for a few minutes; but the moment prana is withdrawn from our body our life ends.
The energy field, which is called Pranamaya Kosha is the second sheath, a subtler level of experience than the physical body. Pranamaya Kosha, permeates and supports Annamaya Kosha.
Its form and dimensions are similar to Annamaya Kosha, and it is capable of expansion and contraction.
The Pranamaya Kosha is the core of the practices of pranayama and prana vidya.
Manomaya Kosha or the mental dimension is the third sheath. Here the level of experience is the conscious mind, and it holds Annamaya and Pranamaya koshas together, as a whole.
Manomaya kosha is the bridge between the internal and external realities. It conveys the exterior experiences and sensations to the intuitive self, and the influences and experiences of the intuitive self to the body.
The fourth sheath, Vijnananmaya Kosha relates to the subconscious and the unconscious mind. It encompasses Manomaya Kosha, but it is far subtler than it. It is the bridge between the individual mind and the universal mind. When one is able to awaken this sheath, inner knowledge stored in the subconscious and unconscious mind, surfaces to the conscious mind.
Anandamaya Kosha is the fifth and last of the sheaths. It is known as the bliss body, the abode of the subtlest prana.