The Five Layers
Have you ever asked yourself the question “What am I?” ?
You might wonder “Am I this physical body?”
Assume one of your arms fell off of your body and you would look at it. You would not say “Hey, that is me!”. You would say “Hey, that is my arm!”. So... “No, I am not this physical body. Therefore I am something else”.
Similarly, ancient scientists have searched for an answer to this question of “What am I?” by asking themselves yet another question, which is simpler to answer, “What am I not?”.
In this search, they identified five layers (‘Panchakosha’) that cover the ‘Self’. The layers (‘koshas’) ranging from the gross physical body to the most subtle layer are described below.
The first layer is the Annamaya Kosha, the physical body. ‘Anna’ literally means ‘food’. Our physical bodies are made out of food. More specifically, out of the five elements taken in by eating, drinking, breathing, etc. This layer is our vehicle to experience and act in the world. It is subject to birth, growth, change, decay and death.
The second layer is the Prānamaya Kosha, the energy body. ‘Prāna’ means “life force energy’. Electricity can make a machine work. Similarly, prāna is the fuel that makes the body work.
The third layer is Manomaya Kosha, the mind body. 'Manas' can be translated as 'mind'. The mind consists of thoughts and emotions. These thoughts and emotions have effect on our energy, the way we breathe and eventually our physical body.
The fourth layer is Vigyānamaya Kosha, the wisdom body. ‘Vigyāna’ can be translated as ‘wisdom’. This layer can be seen as the intellect. That which analyzes (judges, classifies, evaluates, objectifies and quantifies) thoughts and decides. Some even say that it controls the mind.
The last layer is Ānandamaya Kosha, the bliss body. ‘Ānanda’ can be translated as ‘bliss’. That joy, love and peace that does not depend on any mental stimulus. It is the wanting to reach this bliss, this contentment and fulfillment that is the internal motivation out of which the intellect decides.
Notice that the layers affect and depend on each other. Happy thoughts can make the energy flow upward, calm down the breath, make us feel good, let us smile, relax the muscles and cause our bodies to be healthy. Unhappy thoughts can have the opposite effect.
Becoming aware, experiencing and taking control of these different layers is what happens during practice of yoga. So, feel free to join one of our yoga sessions at our Happiness Centre.
This blog is the first in a series of yogic principles focused on the body. Keep checking out our YPHC facebook page and website for our monthly blogs.