Kosha

कोश - kośa

Sheath. That which encloses the pure consciousness of Spirit in its material manifestations. (1)

Kosha refers to coverings of the Spirit that must be stripped away through the process of evolution. In rocks and minerals, pure consciousness is so densely covered that it appears insensible and unconscious. In human beings, evolution refers not to an automatic process but the deliberate refinement of the heart’s feelings through devotion and willpower. Only a few koshas remain in human beings to uncover. (1)

Traditionally, Hindu philosophy describes five koshas of the human being. Annamaya kosha refers to the “food” body, or the physical body that must be fed and nurtured in the material world. Pranamaya kosha refers to the “energy” covering, or the vital force of breath that animates the annamaya kosha and allows the senses to function. Manomaya kosha refers to the “mental” body, or the level of processing thoughts and emotions that directly controls the energetic and physical bodies. Vigyanamaya kosha refers to the “wisdom” body, or the level of ego-consciousness that judges between this and that and exercises discrimination. Anandamaya kosha refers to the “bliss” body, or the most subtle and interior kosha that allows for simple being in bliss, peace, and love beyond any reason. Together, the five koshas cover the Atman or Self of pure, eternal consciousness. (2)

When the koshas are removed, no individuality remains. There is no more body, emotions, desires, thoughts, or attachments. This state of “nothingness,” known in Buddhist religion as nirvana, is a state of being rather than a non-state. Although it is not physical, pure consciousness may be described as satchidananda (“ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new bliss”). This state is the goal of all meditation practices, as taught by the leaders of the great religions. (1)

Through the gradual stripping away of koshas, function of the intuition improves. The emotions are refined to pure intuitive feeling, while the thoughts are processed to calm intuitive wisdom. Desires for sensual pleasures are absorbed into inner lights, sounds, and similar counterparts to outer sensations. (1) Thus, while the removal of the koshas may lead to “nothingness” in philosophy, in experience, it leads to the attainment of a new reality — absolute bliss and eternal love in the Self. (3)

References

  1. a b c d Awaken to Superconsciousness, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 8, “Locating Your Center.”
  2. “Koshas or Sheaths of Yoga,” by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. http://swamij.com/koshas.htm.
  3. Awaken to Superconsciousness, by Swami Kriyananda. Chapter 16, “The Higher Stages.”