By Andre Haralyi M.A, C-IAYT

“There are 5 sheaths (kośas) in which the Self is manifested as the ego (jīvātman)” 

Taittirīya Upaniṣad II. 1.1

The Pañca-Maya-Kośa model was first introduced in chapter 2 of the Taittirīya Upaniṣad. Yoga Therapy adopts this model and in its comprehensive approach, which takes into account all levels of the human existence. This model states that the physical body is not the only vehicle in which consciousness can express itself or in which the Self (ātman) manifests itself.

The first sheath is called Anna-Maya-Kośa, the sheath made of food (anna), and represents the gross body on the physical level. The second sheath is called Prāṇā-Maya-Kośa, the sheath made of life-force (prāṇa), and represents the vital body on the physiological level. The third sheath is called Mano-Maya-Kośa, the sheath made of the lower mind (manas), and represents the instrumental mind on the psychological level. The fourth sheath is called Vijñāna-Maya-Kośa, the sheath made of wisdom (vijñāna), and represents the discriminative consciousness and intelligence on the psychological level. The fifth sheath is called Ānanda-Maya-Kośa, the sheath made of bliss (ānanda), and represents fundamental disposition of Being on the spiritual level.

Modern psychology refers to three dimensions of consciousness, conscious state, subconscious state and unconscious state. In the Yoga and Vedanta traditions they are known as gross, subtle and causal dimensions. The Pañca-Maya-Kośa, which constitute the total expression of the embodied Self, are also divided and organized from the grossest to the most subtle dimensions of existence. The first sheath correlates with the gross dimension. The second, third and fourth sheaths correlate with the subtle dimension. The fifth sheath correlates with the casual dimension of the Self.

The Pañca-Kośa model is a map of the intrinsic relationship between the physical, physiological, psychological and spiritual dimensions and different states of awareness. All the different layers of existence (kośas) and its parts are interconnected and interdependent – whatever affects one will also affect the others.

“For the serious spiritual seeker, pañca-kośa may be seen as a contemplative roadmap wherewith the seeker may perhaps be more effectively led to a deeper, more profound and radical knowledge of her or his ultimate identity, ending in Self-realization.” 

John Casey Ph.D.

Anna-Maya-Kośa – Physical Level

The Anna-Maya-Kośa is the sheath made of food which corresponds to our grossest level of existence, the physical body. According to the Yoga tradition, the physical body is composed of 7 Dhātus or constituents (skin, blood, flesh, sinew, bone, marrow and semen). These constituents hold together the physical frame that is perceived by the senses. 

Prāṇa-Maya-Kośa – Physiological Level

The Prāṇa-Maya-Kośa is the sheath composed of life-force or energy (prāṇa), which correspond to a subtle level of existence, the physiological processes of the organism. Prāṇa has been thought to have five primary aspects, the five winds (vayus) known as Prāṇa, Apāna, Vyāna, Udāna and Samāna, each one, associated with one or more physiological functions of the body.

Mano-Maya-Kośa – Mental/Emotional Level

The Mano-Maya-Kośais the sheath composed of “mind” (manas) which corresponds to a more subtle level of existence, the mental processes of the organism. Manas according to the Yoga tradition represents the “lower mind” which deals with the organization of the information received from the five faculties (buddhi-indriyas) of touch, smell, taste, hearing, and sight, along with the coordination of the five faculties (karmendriyas) of expressing, grasping, moving, procreation, and excretion. 

At this level, we collect, process, store and express information about ourselves and the world around us, how we perceive reality and how we deal with our emotions. This sheath is at the psychological level and is composed of instinctive and perceptual consciousness (thought), object perception and deliberation.

Vijñāna-Maya-Kośa – Intellectual Level

The Vijñāna-Maya-Kośais the sheath composed of the higher intuitive mind (buddhi or Mahat), which is the source of higher understanding and wisdom, the intellectual processes of the organism. “Buddhi” is the highest or deepest aspect of the human psyche, the dimension of our higher cognitive function, discernment, understanding, comprehension, intelligence, personality, virtues and personal values.

Ananda-Maya-Kośa – Spiritual Level

The Ananda-Maya-Kośais is the sheath composed of “bliss” (ānanda). This is the dimension of human existence through which Self-realization occurs. At this level our pure consciousness (cit) abides in its true form, free from worldly dualities, mental fluctuations (vṛttis) and suffering (duḥkha). When the spiritual level of our existence is in balance we are able to experience complete harmony, plenitude and bliss.

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