Pancha means five and Kosha means sheath in English. Panchakosha is hence the system of five layers underneath which is our soul or the ‘atman’. The impurities of these five layers or panchakosha is what keeps us from seeing our true soul. Yoga can thus help in removing these impurities so that we can be re-introduced with our ‘atman’. With yoga we can gain control over these koshas so that our judgement is not clouded by them and hence we can clearly see our true self and our soul in order to be on our path of liberation or moksha. The panchakoshas are as follows:
1 Annamaya Kosha – This kosha is made up of food. Anna means food. This kosha is physical in nature as our body is made up of the food we consume. It is destructible in nature, visible to the eye and is also referred to as ‘Anatman’. ‘Anatman’ is absence of ‘atman’, thus this kosha is considered to be the opposite of ‘atman’ or everything that is not ‘atman’. Impurities in this kosha can cause physical pain and discomfort.
2 Pranamaya Kosha – This kosha as the name suggests is made up of prana or breath or the life force. This kosha is related to Annamaya kosha in the sense that it keeps the Annamaya kosha running, hence this kosha supports both body and mind. This kosha is also referred to as ‘Anatman’ as it does not have knowledge of its existence. Having impurities in this kosha can result in low energy, low stamina, overall weakness and shivering.
3 Manomaya Kosha – This kosha is made up of the five senses along with one’s mind, together it forms the manomaya kosha. This kosha cannot be seen with the bare eye and thus is also considered a part of “shukshma sharira”. It supports Pranamaya kosha and is part of your subconscious mind. This kosha is considered very difficult to control as it helds on to the bondages of the physical world which is very necessary to let go of in order to attain enlightenment.
4 Vijnamaya Kosha – This kosha is about one’s intelligence and knowledge. This kosha stores all the information about yourself and indicates your awareness when you are awake. Together Vijnamaya and Manomaya kosha governs our perception of reality, it’s what we think about our surroundings by gathering information about it and analysing it over time. When there is ego in our perception, it can create impurities in this kosha and makes it even more difficult for us to see our true nature.
5 Anandamaya kosha – This kosha is the reflection of our ‘atman’ or the image of our soul. Ananda means bliss in English. Our true bliss comes from within, from our ‘atman’ and without any external reasons. We can realise this happiness and bliss that comes from this kosha only by purifying the other four koshas first. This kosha is also unaware of the existence of our physical bodies or the outer world that we live in.
When all the impurities from these five koshas are removed only then we can have the knowledge of self or ‘Atma Gyaan’ which is very important in attaining enlightenment and thus the knowledge of five koshas and how to purify them is also very important for anyone on the spiritual journey of attaining moksha.
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