July 21, 2024
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The Five Koshas

Eastern philosophy teaches the idea of the five koshas. A kosha, which literally means “sheath”, is a layer of an individual’s field, or a ‘body’. We may picture the configuration of the kosha bodies as similar to the Russian nesting dolls, with each body resting inside another, and another, and another. The outermost sheath is the Physical Body, and within this body are four more: the Energy Body, the Emotional Body, the Wisdom Body and the Bliss Body. Each of these Kosha bodies has its own needs according to its nature. Each has a form of nourishment and requires a certain kind of care or conditioning to maintain optimum health and balance among the other bodies. The five sheaths are not truly separate, for they are always interacting, and each affects all the others. Thus, let’s talk about the five koshas.


First Kosha: Annamaya, the Physical Body

Firstly, Annamaya, sometimes called the “food sheath”, is that flesh-and-blood body with which we are most familiar. This kosha body contains all the organs, and is responsible for all physical processes.

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The needs of this body are physical. Proper care of Annamaya involves a healthy diet, plenty of water, exercise and adequate rest. In order for this layer of our system to be thriving, we must nourish it with the organic nutrients it needs and the activity that keeps circulation, digestion and elimination optimally functioning.

Poor diet, insufficient exercise or rest will deteriorate the Physical sheath, and this impairs the function of all the other bodies as well.

Second Kosha: Pranamaya, the Energy Body

Secondly, the Energy Body is the sheath of the mind/body/spirit complex which many would call the aura. The energy body is actually the source of vitality for the physical body, an esoteric notion supported by the face that clairvoyants can see the beginnings of ailments and diseases within the Pranamaya even before physical symptoms have manifested. On this sheath we also find the appearance of chakras, meridians, and the colored thought-forms which indicate the flow of life force.

The nourishment of the Energy Body comes in the form of subtle energy.  Subtle energy, also known as magnetism, exists within everything. From the foods that we eat to the crystal on the shelf to the cat in our lap to the music playing on the radio, everything carries within it a vestige of “life force” in greater and lesser quantities which the Energy Body is absorbing. Living beings, including plants and animals, generally have more of this energy while inanimate objects have less; yet certain materials like pure metals, crystals and consecrated objects possess this magnetism in high amounts as well.

To support the Energy Body, we can surround ourselves with positive energy. We can eat food that is not only healthy on the physical level, but is imbued with the energy of some one who lovingly made the meal by hand. Bright colors feed the energy body, with each color stimulating a corresponding chakra, and magical objects like talismans amplify the voltage of the entire energy field. Uplifting music, art, scenery and activities replenish and nourish the energy body, as does keeping company with pets, plants, nature and loved ones.

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Third Kosha: Manomaya, Emotional Body

The Emotional Body is the layer of our energetic field that corresponds to emotional and mental patterns. Here we hold the conscious and subconscious beliefs which shape our reality.

This kosha body plays a tremendous role in creating our life experience. We may understand the Manomaya as our general mindset or approach to life. If we incline to look on the bright side, making an active effort to look for and find the best in others and in our circumstances, we create ourselves a positive personal atmosphere in which to live. The reality that is mirrored back to us from the projection of the Manomaya is full of delightful people, opportunities and experiences.

If we tend to be reactive, resentful or careless about our mindset, then the personal atmosphere we project from the Manomaya is chaotic, unpleasant and unstable. Life mirrors our complaining with more things to complain about, and provides evidence of our pessimistic perspectives.

We can support the Emotional Body by living mindfully and deliberately. We must pay attention to and honor the way that we feel, whether that is good or bad. Pain, sorrow and anger must be integrated and healed, and joy, serenity and fulfillment must be followed and prioritized. We must speak, act and think in ways that are constructive and conducive to our own well-being. We must also have the self-discipline and self-respect to release the patterns of thinking, speaking, relating and behaving which bring sorrow, grief, anger, self-sabotage or harm.

Fourth Kosha: Vijnanamaya, Wisdom Body

The Wisdom Body is the sheath associated with intuition, insight and pure awareness. We may think of this layer as an inner Observer who is watching each and every moment of your life, but who is not emotionally entangled or invested in the same way that the human ‘ego’ is. This Observer has a higher level of objectivity and is receptive to information beyond that which is coming in through the five senses.

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Proper care of this kosha body comes through meditation. Meditation helps us detach from the roller coaster of our emotionality. We become less reactive and instead more responsive. The health of this inner “wise one” is indispensable for meeting our goals; when the wisdom body is “in shape” we are able to keep our eyes on the prize and let the little things go. We can take rejection, obstruction, disappointment and stagnation in stride, ever turning our gaze upwards to the “bigger picture” of what is most important.


Fifth Kosha: Anandamaya, Bliss Body

Finally, the Bliss Body is the energetic sheath associated with the eternal self or Source energy. This layer is, essentially, Unconditional love.

You can support the Bliss Body by practicing unconditional love toward yourself and others. This means holding a state of total acceptance of what is, without needing anything to be other than what it is.

You can find these states most easily by practicing gratitude. Gratitude is radical or extreme acceptance. Start each day by listing what you are grateful for and naming the reasons why. You can enlarge this practice by extending gratitude to even those things which are causing you discomfort or pain in your life. What are the positive aspects of those people, events or situations? What are they teaching you? How are they causing you to become greater?

When you are able to see your life through these eyes, you are looking through the eyes of the bliss body— namely, the Creator.