panchakosa (Sanskrit: पञ्च कोश; "five sheaths") from root pancha, "five" + kosha, "body" — is the “five bodies,” or discernible “aspects” of man, arranged successively from the grosser to the increasingly more subtle. There is annamaya-kosha, the kosha of matter, the physical vehicle. There is the pranamaya-kosha, the kosha of prana, the "vital" vehicle. There is manomaya-kosha, the kosha of manas, the mental vehicle. There is the vijnanamaya-kosha, the kosha of vijnana, the vehicle of Higher Reason. There is the anandamaya-kosha, the kosha of anand (joy or Cosmic Consciousness). And when that vehicle is well developed there is that self-realization which involves ultimate experience of Unity with All.

The physical body (annamaya kosha) is also called sthula-sharira, "gross body." The soul body (anandamaya kosha) is also called karana-sharira, "causal body." The pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas together comprise the sukshma-sharira, "subtle body," with the pranamaya shell disintegrating at death.

Refined panchkosas leads to five material treasures: Health, Wealth, Vidya, intelligence, and Cooperation.

The Five Kosha

The pancha-kosha (five sheaths) are alluded to in the fourteen verse of the Atmabodha. From gross to fine they are:

The Five Koshas
annamaya kosha Matter Physical Physical body and senses
pranamaya kosha Vital Air Energy Driving force behind the physical aspect of the senses and the operation of the physical body.
manamaya kosha Mind Mental Processing, reason, logic and emotion.
vijnanamaya kosha Ego and Intellect Wisdom Faculty which discriminates
anandamaya kosha Center of Conciousness Bliss Independent of any reason or stimulus

In some systems there is a sixth sheath, the hiranyagarbha kosha.

These last three (pranamaya, manomaya, and vijnanamaya koshas) collectively comprise the realm of the subtle/astral body (sukshma sharira). This occurs when the evolutionary power has become awakened, the nadis are open, the pathways purified, and the chakras are activated and energized. In this realm instead of separating oneself from the entanglements in the fragmented existence of seemingly fragmented events, here a shift in consciousness occurs wherein the human being wakes up to the interconnected presence of spirit and conscious pervading all and everything (as Siva/Shakti).

According to Vedanta the wise man should discriminate between atman (the self) and the koshas, which are non-self.


A simple example follows. Our thoughts are transmitted to the body through the neuro-endocrine system. Scientists have found that these mental processes such as thoughts and emotions can not be separated from bodily mechanisms and function as all thought and emotions are involved in biochemical and neurological activities.

Here adhis (mental/emotional disturbances in the manomaya kosha or astral sheath) cause corresponding disturbances at the physical level (annamaya kosha). These disturbances are called vyadhi. This is transmitted through the intermediary of the pranamaya kosha (or energy body) causing disturbances in the prana. The good news is that we can consciously work with the body and/or pranamaya kosha to effect healing in the manomaya kosha and vice versa, we can consciously work in the manomaya kosha to effect positive healing changes in the pranamaya and annamaya koshas. It is believed that a lasting cure is only possible when the causal disturbance is completely remedied; i.e., the previously unhealthy tensions and conflicts between the bodies or sheaths have been harmonized and resolved.

Here the adhis which originate in the manomaya kosha are considered causal and primary which in turn cause physical ailments (vyadhi). These adhis can also occur in the vijnanamaya kosha and/or karmic sheath when our belief systems are out of synch with the inner wisdom karmic body and/or strong unresolved karmic forces are at play. Thus when the adhis are destroyed in the subtle or causal bodies, then the vyadhis are no longer generated or manifest. In addition there exist two kinds of adhis. One is ordinary or samaya (caused by the mind or emotions) and the other one is called, sara, which is intrinsic to a more causal spiritual malaise that can be successfully treated only through processes that affect the life style, belief system, self identification process, karma, or in general our energetic relationship that we cling to as "s(S)elf" in relationship to "Reality" i.e., through modalities which reach into the vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas. In either case, physical disease is caused by disturbances/corruption and/or obstruction of the nadis (psychic nerves) and energy patterns which have become disrupted, distorted, and patterned into corruptive patterns causing degeneration, dissipation, dis-ease, pain, suffering, stasis, and death. Thus effective therapy is aimed at removing the source of the disturbances, opening up these blocked pathways, and rechanneling and repatterning the energy flow.

The Connection between Breath, Prana, and the Three Bodies

As all five sheaths intertwine and are simultaneously present their energetic matrix and relationship itself (the energetics of their energetics) can be mapped out in the yogic practitioner with a non-classical model. In order to map out these common interactions utilizing we will draw a diagram of circles within circles ending at the inner most center which is the primal seed (bindu). In this evolutionary diagram the center most core (hridayam) found within the anandamaya kosha is the natural unconditioned all encompassing Mind which manifests as the union of form and emptiness (shakti/shiva). When it is obscured and defiled by old karma the center is black and the mind is disturbed. When the karma is cleared out, the individual mind and will has merged with Universal Source (Shakti's mate) and is naturally clear and undisturbed.

Assuming that the prana (energy) is reflected in the breath and that in turn the prana can be changed by the breath, we can draw the gross body as the outer most superficial layer. Going inward, the next layer is the breath. Then going even further inward the next layer is the harmonized/mature mind and emotional body, the next layer inward would be the wisdom body (the transmuted/mature vijnanamaya kosha), and the last innermost layer is the body purified from karma (the unconditioned eternal beginningless creative Source manifesting as Creativity (Shiva/Shakti).

1) So starting again at the most dense and coarse, the outer most circle can be represented by the annamaya kosha. Here we will call it simply the earthly body (sthula sharira). It's vibrations is most gross and slow. Again even here all other sheaths and bodies inter operate and are present to an extent. Their quality of interaction is reflected in the breath.

2) The next layer in, is the subtle body (sukshma sharira) or energy body which is comprised and shaped by the combined interactive dynamics of the pranamaya, manomaya, and vijnanamaya koshas. Again here all other sheaths and bodies inter operate and are present to an extent. The quality of interaction between the mind, emotions, physical body, and energy body are also reflected in the breath.

3) Next again is the causal body (karana sharira) in the center of the circles, which is normally obfuscated by karma which when not purified in turn imprisons the organism to duality and suffering. When the karma is dispelled and loosened, then this center represents unconditional reality — the natural unconditioned primal unspoiled pure citta or Siva consciousness (reflected in the world of form to the senses as shakti). This relationship is also reflected in the breath or its absence.

The value in this map is to lay out a conscious pathway for techniques that link harmoniously all three bodies. Here our platform will start at the energetic matrix of the all pervading causal matrix — the Mother of Creativity existing as an aspect of the causal body. This focus will thus focus on the pure undiluted instructor/teaching from the beginningless beginning. Next we will investigate how Pure Creativity interacts with the subtle body, and lastly to the gross body.

All three bodies are reflected by the breath and are accessed by it. So according to this map, it is the breath that intermediates between the subtle and the causal body as well as between the physical body and the subtle body. In the latter the breath reflects the qualitative interaction of the five prana vayus and the six sense organs (manas being the sixth). This connection is made through the cleansing of the network of subtle channels (nadis) and then the activation of the dormant evolutionary circuits (chakras).

In turn a yogi investigates thoroughly energetic components (prana) of the emotions/thoughts which were classically the province of the pranamaya and manomaya koshas. Through such inner explorations the yogi then discovers how the mental and emotional sheaths transmit energy to the physical body via the pranamaya kosha which in turn alters the breath, as well as to alter the breath to effect change in the mental/emotional states. The yogi discovers how concepts, belief systems, intellectual processes, and acts of individual will power that exist outside of his natural alliance with siva/shakti will distort the breath. In fact each thought and our attitude in general) as our stance in life that is ordered by any limited identification affect the breath and our energy levels. So through this map we can re-establish a natural connection with the innate Self — an innate intelligent and creative order and as such aligning to this regulator, we come into an authentic, evolved and fully functional type of self regulation

So here in this complete model we have identified the breath and consciousness as causal agents/methods in effecting and monitoring both the physical and the mental/emotional processes. As such this observation allows the yogi to alter such activities for health and spiritual function.

As the breath and prana affects consciousness, the mind and emotions, it also affects our beliefs and karma, just as our judgments, beliefs, and karma effect the mind, emotions, prana, breath, and physical body. Here the yogi one distinguishes between karmic breathing and the wisdom breath (jnana prana). here the nadis are purified and opened, then the subtle energetics that flow in the ida and pingala nadis are harmonized and synchronized activating the evolutionary potential (kundalini). Then the circuitries are further integrated and aligned with the primal source residing in the karana sharira Such a conscious relationship between mind, body, breath, emotions, creation (as manifest in all living systems in nature), and beginningless Source (Divine creativity) becomes a continuous conscious dynamic integrated in All our Relations.

So as a spiritual practice, wise yogis use these interactions to destroy karma and thus gain liberation. The above is a short outline of these processes.



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