Panchakosha – The Five Sheaths
There are five layers or sheaths around the soul. These five different energy sheaths are known as “Koshas” Panchkosha – five sheaths from root Pancha, “five” + kosha “sheaths” – is the five layers or sheaths of the human being. The koshas are known for their distinct characteristics such as
The first of the five sheaths or layers is our outer body, Annamaya Kosha, the kosha of matter which is basically the physical vehicle. This Kosha consists of the skin, muscles, connective tissues, bones, fat and organs. Annamaya kosha made of sapta dhatus, seven minerals. With proper diet and lifestyle, Annamaya kosha becomes healthy.
The second of the five sheaths or layers is our breath or Prana, Pranamaya Kosha. The connection between the gross body and the subtle body is Prana, which is the vital breath through which man lives. This layer includes the circulatory system for our physical body as well as our subtle body. The breath connects our outer body, Annamaya Kosha, with the inner Koshas. As we’ve seen this connection occurs via the Chakras and Nadis in our subtle body.
This Kosha refers to Manas, the mind. It contains the rationale, linear mind and our senses of perception. This is where our instincts and emotions exist and where we process our sensory input. Ahamkara, Ego, operates at this layer as it seeks to assert itself over our thoughts and memories. Our nervous system operates through this Kosha. This Kosha is associated with the Fire element with the light of fire illuminating the facts so we can make better choices.
This Kosha is derived from the word “Vijnana” or “intellect,” and is the sheath of the intuitive mind, wisdom, insight and higher intelligence. This Kosha corresponds with the Air Element with its characteristics of wisdom, curiosity, and wonderment. It is at this level of the mind that we become more open to the potency of each moment, freeing us from rote responses based on patterns of thought and behaviour, habits of reaction based on experience.
“Ananda” means “bliss” and this is the innermost layer or sheath of our subtle body, the place of pure joy. This is the carefree, peaceful, place where we touch the love that lies within each of us as we connect to our Divine essence. This is where the heart and soul become open and free, revealing a place of Paramananda, the highest state of love that is innately present within each of us.
Anandamaya Kosha is not something unattainable. Children at play frequently access this state of joy, as do others, such as musicians and dancers. We can also think of actors, athletes, and dancers as further examples.