As we move into year three of a global pandemic it is the time to nourish our roots so we may rise again, stable, kind, connected, better than we started. We all have a vast reservoir of energy, wisdom and joy within. It is there, lying dormant until it is just the right time to emerge. When we tap into this potential then we move beyond our limitations, fears and worries and emerge closer to the person you know yourself capable to be.
Understanding yourself and others through the wisdom of the koshas, or layers of beingness, allows you the opportunity to see yourself from a more holistic perspective. To contemplate that you are more than your body, more than your mind. You are a multi-dimensional human being with a soul that shines through it all.
The Basics of the Koshas
As a basic overview, the koshas are five in number and surround the soul, our highest selves or the atman. Each layer contains the word "Maya" which means illusion, the illusion that makes us believe we are separate, and "Kosha" which means layer, sheath or body. The koshas represent how we relate to the different levels of reality and essentially conceal or contain our higher consciousness.
It is the job of each soul as it journeys through the world of humanness to see through the illusions of the koshas and remember it's divinity.
The Physical Body
The outer most layer is the physical body or Annamaya Kosha. This is literally translated as the food sheath and it makes up the physical aspect of who we are.
The Subtle Body
The next three layers make up the subtle body with the energy, mind and wisdom bodies or the Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha and Vinjanamaya Kosha respectively.
The Causal Body
The inner most part of this system is the Bliss layer or body, the Anandamaya Kosha. It is what is closest to the soul and makes up the Causal Body or the cause of all things in our lives.
Ananda literally means Bliss or Joy.
We begin at the center with the part of us that understands our greatness, the Anandamaya Kosha. It directly receives the inner light of consciousness and thus knows who we really are. At this level we recognize our essential qualities of love and joy, that happiness is our birthright. This sheath makes up our Causal Body, thus we find the root causes of all things in our lives here. It is a storehouse of the experiences we have brought into this life and new ones we develop in this life, the karmas (actions and reactions), samskaras (patterns of the body and mind, habits), and vasanas (deep desires and motivations).
Even though the root cause of all the “good” and “bad” originate from this level of our being, it also helps us have a positive outlook on life. Even when life is throwing everything at us and nothing feels as if it is going right, there is a part of you deep within that KNOWS that everything is going to be ok, you are strong enough to make it through these trials, and you are enough. You know that it’s “All Good”. Maybe you can’t explain why it’s all good. But something deep down knows it to be true.
Honestly, the part of you that thinks “It’s not all good” is your mind (the manomaya kosha). It is not your highest self.
It is through meeting and overcoming the experiences life gives us that we develop the desire to know who we really are. All of our experiences are important on this journey of self-realization.
Now, this is not to say that the Anandamaya Kosha is a matter of sugar coating your life and ignoring the experiences and emotions you are going through. Not at all. Again, the part of us that would do that is the mind layer not the bliss layer.
Everyone goes through hard times. Everyone has joyful experiences in their lives. The outer experiences are constantly in flux. The light of the soul shines through the Anandamaya Kosha to help us recognize our capacity. To activate the dormant energy and potential that exists within us all. So, you can be going through some seriously bad shit and it’s going to be ok. You are all right. Your wisdom body (vijnanamaya kosha) tells you that you will grow and be better because of all this crap.
In the end, you start to realize that you are whole and complete, you are joy and love and nothing that happens in your life can change that. You might forget these truths now and then, but you will come back to the knowingness that you are ALL GOOD.
While we are out in the world seeking happiness we can fail to realize that we are already that bliss we are seeking. All we need to do is uncover the truth we are one bit at a time. Don't look at all you need to get through. Just begin. One step at at time you will become more and more you!
For this moment in time, receive and be with the part of you that knows just how much of a goddess you are. Rest in the knowing that you have it all handled because this is what you came here for.
The koshas are an intriguing way to view yourself and others. They offer wisdom and insight into the nature of being human. In the next article, you'll learn about the second layer, the wisdom body and how you can activate it to improve your life.
Let me know if you have questions as you learn about the koshas and how to implement them. They are an important aspect of the way I coach my clients and they can help you through the toughest and brightest of times.
With great respect and love,
Here's an infographic I developed for my yoga students to understand the five koshas more easily. It also links the chakras with the koshas for another layer of wisdom connections! It mentions yoga nidra throughout because it is a meditation practice that can access each layer effortlessly. Enjoy!