Pancha Kosha

The Three Bodies Doctrine

The Three Bodies Doctrine – is an essential doctrine in Indian philosophy and religion, especially in Yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Tantra. Our body-mind system is a complex structure, and the human body has got three bodies they are Gross body (Sthula Sharira), Subtle body or Astral Body (Linga Sharira) and Causal body (Karana Sharira).

  • Gross body or Sthula Sharira is the physical body.
  • Subtle or Astral body or Linga Sharira is the vital energy field, mental and intellectual state.
  • Causal body or Karana Sharira is the ego.

The astral body controls the gross body, and the causal body controls the astral body and the gross body and within the human body resides five Koshas called Pancha Kosha.

Karana Sharira or the causal body is merely the cause or seed of the astral body and the gross body. It has no other function than being the seed of the astral and the gross body. It is nirvikalpa rupam ‘undifferentiated form’. It originates with avidya, ‘ignorance’ or ‘nescience’ of the real identity of the atman, instead of giving birth to the notion of jiva-bhuta.

Sukshma sharira or the subtle body is the body of the mind and the vital energies, which keep the physical body alive. Together with the causal body, it is the transmigrating soul or jiva, separating from the gross body upon death.

Sthula sharira or the gross body is the material physical mortal body that eats, breathes and moves (acts). It is composed of many diverse components, produced by one’s karma (action) in past life out of the elements which have undergone panchakarma, i.e. combining of the five primordial subtle elements.

The Pancha Kosha – mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad. The Taittiriya Upanishad consists of the ‘five’ sheaths. They are ‘Annamaya’ (food sheath), ‘Pranamaya’ (vital air sheath), ‘Manomaya’ (mental sheath), ‘Vijnanamaya’ (intellectual sheath), and ‘Anandamaya’ (bliss sheath).

  • Annamaya Kosha – the sheath of food
  • Pranamaya Kosha – the sheath of breath
  • Manomaya Kosha – the sheath of mind
  • Vijnyanmaya Kosha – the sheath of intellect
  • Anandamaya Kosha – the sheath of bliss

Annamaya Kosha: The outer sheath of the body layer like muscles, bones, skin, organs. Anna means food. Different asana keeps this kosha healthy and can be used to treat problems that arise in this body.

Pranamaya Kosha: The next sheath is the life force/energy sheath. It is concerned with the breath and the flow of energy through the body. The practice of Pranayama will help to address the issue.

Manomaya Kosha: The next sheath is the mind or mental sheath. It has to do with constant changing thoughts and emotions. Different meditation techniques would help.

Vijnanamaya Kosha: The next sheath is the knowledge sheath. This kosha is include of wisdom, intuition, and perception. Different meditation techniques would help.

Anadamaya Kosha: The innermost sheath is the bliss sheath. It represents joy, compassion, love, peace, and complete happiness.

The Taittiriya Upanishad describes five Koshas, which are also often equated with the three bodies. The three-body – are often compared with the five koshas (sheaths):

  • Sthula sharira – the gross called the Annamaya Kosha (food)
  • Suksma sharira – the subtle body
  • Pranamaya Kosha (Vital breath or energy)
  • Manomaya Kosha (Mind)
  • Vijnanmaya Kosha (Intellect)
  • Karana sharira, the causal body, the Anandamaya Kosha (bliss)

The physical sheath is the gross body. The astral body contains Pranamaya Kosha (sheath of prana), the Manomaya Kosha (sheath of mind), and the Vigyanmaya Kosha (sheath of intellect). Anandmaya Kosh (sheath of bliss) resides in the Causal body (Karana Sharira). These sheaths are located one inside the other with the sheath of the physical body being the outermost and the sheath of bliss being the innermost. Karana Sharira or Causal body is the map template which is the sole cause for the gross and subtle bodies.

A person who resides in the Annamaya Kosha gives more importance to the physical body (deha), and he is more attached to the physical form. He is more attracted to material objects, and they are good at sports, they love good food, dress, comfort, etc.

A person who resides in Pranamaya Kosha gives importance to Meditation and Physical exercise they are very active and energetic. A person who is Manomaya Kosha has thoughts and desires which identity with form and name, position and qualities, and he would be emotional and lacks the cognitive abilities of reasoning, and is void of any discrimination. But may have a keen appreciation for fine arts, music and dance and drama.

The person residing in Vigyanamaya Kosha is knowledgeable and wise and loves literature, creative and are good orators. This fourth sheath is the wisdom that lies beneath the processing, thinking aspect of the mind. He knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between the information he processes and is innovative. Discovery, research and management are the areas where these people are involved. Persons experiencing Anandamaya Kosha are stable in behaviour and firm in the decision, are happy in every state of life and appreciate higher order of things and thinking like Nature, prayers, meditation connection with God etc. They are self-realized persons.

Benefits of Pancha Kosha Meditation:

  • Calms your mind and increases your efficiencys
  • Increases concentration and clarity
  • Better communication
  • Relaxes and rejuvenates your body
  • Increases creativity and awareness
  • Makes you aware of all the levels of existence
  • Expands your consciousness

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