5 koshas or bodies, what does each one mean?
20th May 2021
According to the oldest yogic texts, the Vedas, each person has 5 koshas or bodies that perform different functions. Like an onion, the layers go from the outer to the inner and are highly interlinked: if one is wrong, they will all be wrong. The medieval Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara explains each one in his book Viveka Suda Mani..
What are 5 Koshas?
- Annamaya Kosha: is the external body, the one that can be perceived. It is measurable and quantifiable. It consists of skin, organs and bones. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika they mention a gentle diet to take care of this layer, with lots of cereals and honey that is easy to digest and they also recommend to stay away from very spicy, salty or acidic foods. Sri K. Pathabi Jois in his book "Yoga Mala" writes "Only half of the stomach should be filled with what we eat. One quarter of the remaining half should be filled with water and the last quarter should remain empty for the movement of air".
- Pranamaya Kosha: is the energy body. It gives life to Annamaya Kosha. Its tangible manifestation is the breath. It is composed of Chakras and Nadis, which are the channels that conduct energy throughout the body. The name Pranamaya is derived from Prana meaning energy, which we obtain through the breath. Pranayama exercises have effects on this Kosha.
- Manomaya Kosha: is the perceiving mind and is composed of the 5 senses, the organs of action and thoughts and is responsible for transmitting the information obtained from the external world to all the other Koshas.
- Vignanamaya Kosha: this is our ego, where our personality and our ability to classify and discriminate the elements of the environment is located. Vignanamaya is the generator of the concept of the "individual self" as unique and different from all others. It is, in turn, the one that reincarnates in other bodies after death.
- Anandnamaya Kosha: is the sheath of bliss. It is the layer closest to the Atman and reflects it, and is therefore characterised by the joy that comes from accumulated karmic actions. However, it should be noted that it is not the Atman either. The Atman is at the centre and all the Koshas are layers that overlay it to create the experience of life.
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