The Pancha Koshas form a very important part of early yoga teachings, they refer to the five layers of existence. By developing an understanding of the Koshas we are able to gain a deeper understanding of yoga and our own existence.
Pancha means five and Kosha means layer. The first two Koshas are associated with the physical body (Annamaya Kosha and Pranamaya Kosha), the second two are associated with the mind (Manomaya Kosha and Vijnanamaya Kosha) and the fifth kosha is associated with pure consciousness (Anandamaya Kosha).
Learn more about Annamaya Kosha and Pranamaya Kosha here.
It is useful to be aware that this information has been passed on over a very long time period, different schools and teachers might describe them slightly differently. I have been written these pieces to introduce the Koshas so you can explore and connect with them as you move through and deepen your own practices.
Manomaya Kosha is associated with the mind. Just as Annamaya Kosha is comprised of food stuff so Manomaya Kosha is comprised of mind stuff such as thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories etc.
It is known as the mental sheaf or the mental body. This Kosha allows us to experience different emotions and sensations through the five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. It is in this Kosha that we are able to experience how we feel within our current environment such as hot or cold, hungry or thirsty, nervous or happy etc.
It is believed that this sheaf is governed by time and space and that it is here that the ego resides. In Manomaya Kosha our attachment to ourselves develops, the concept of “I am” evolves within this Kosha.
This Kosha might respond to the following therapies aroma, music, colour, placebo therapy or shamanism.
Vijnanamaya Kosha is also associated with the mind, it is comprised of Vijnana which translates to mean knowledge or intellect. This Kosha provides us with the ability to discriminate and make choices. It gives us a sense of what is real and what is unreal, what is right and wrong, true and untrue. It is in this Kosha that spiritual progress occurs and intuition and creativity develops.
This Kosha is often regarded as the higher mind whereas Manomaya Kosha is often regarded as the lower mind.
This Kosha is not limited by time and space, past, present or future.
This Kosha becomes predominant when Manomaya becomes less active usually during deep sleep and meditation. As the Manomaya Kosha begins to still the Vijnanamaya Kosha becomes more active as we move deeper into meditation and sleep.
This Kosha allows us to determine how we really feel. Here is an example, the feeling of being tired, comes from Manomaya Kosha but the effects of the sleep that you have had will be determined by Vijnanamaya kosha, such as I feel relaxed and refreshed after that sleep.
Or in Manomaya Kosha we realise that we are hungry the decision to eat or wait will come from Vijnanamaya Kosha.
Meditation and psycho-therapy work in the Vijnanamaya Kosha.
Ananadamaya Kosha is known as the bliss sheaf. Ananda translates to mean bliss. Therefore, this sheaf is comprised of bliss.
We usually associate such feelings of bliss with happiness and expect fluctuations in the level of this good feeling. However the bliss that Ananda translates to represent is different, it does not fluctuate between different sensations or thoughts. Ananda is not the feeling of bliss, it is the experience of bliss. It is a steady state of being, no matter what circumstances arise. Ananda is a unified experience free from fluctuations and changes.
Contained within this sheaf is the Atman. Atman is the Sanskrit word for inner self or soul. It is the true self beyond the ego. The Atman is not subject to change, whatever happens it will fundamentally remain the same.