5 Sheaths and Samosa Happiness
Did you watch the recent Ramayana Series on TV? Do you remember how the warriors carry their swords? They carry them in a case or ‘sheath’ strapped to their waist. Once the sword is placed within the sheath, it is covered by the sheath. So to, the Vedas (Upanishads) use this ‘sheath’ (Kosha) example to illustrate that my true Self (Atma) is seemingly covered by 5 sheaths (Pancha Kosha), just like a sword. What are these 5 Sheaths?
1) Food Sheath (Annamaya Kosha)
This is ‘sheath’ or ‘body’ is identical to your physical/gross body. Why is it called the ‘food’ sheath? Simple – because your physical body is nothing but a modification of the food you have eaten! Your flesh, blood and bones have been made from food your mother ate whilst you were in her womb. Your body is then sustained by the food you eat whilst you are alive (Yes, you are the rice and vegetables you just ate earlier today!). And your body will eventually resolve back into food (your ashes become part of the earth, the earth gives birth to plant food, so effectively we all resolve back into the earth at death). Sristhi, Sthithi, Laya – Creation, Preservation and Destruction all by food. Hence ‘Food Sheath’ is actually an ingenious and scientifically accurate name given to this Gross body by the Vedas.
2) Vital Air Sheath (Pranamaya Kosha)
This sheath is a part of the subtle body. It is made up of all the subtle components required for an individual to perform action – the 5 ‘organs of action’ (http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/organs-of-perception-action/) and the energy from the ‘5 pranas’ to power these organs into action (http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/the-mind-and-prana/). This is why when you run, you breathe more. This mixture of these subtle elements makes up the Vital Air (Prana) Sheath. This is also referred to as Kriya Shakti.
3) Mind Sheath (Manomaya Kosha)
This is part of the subtle body. It is made of the‘5 organs of perception’ (see above link) along with the Emotional function of the mind (Manas – see above link). Once a perception is received, the Manas may react with an emotion. Hence the organs of perception and emotional mind work together in the form of the Mind Sheath. This is also called Iccha Shakti. (Note: Chitta & Ahankara are implied by the Manas here)
4) Intellect Sheath (Vijnanamaya Kosha)
This is part of the subtle body. Vijnana = Intellect = buddhi. The intellect represents the mode of mind characterised by thinking, understanding, and decision making. But before being able to understand and decide things, you need the 5 organs of perception (Jnana Indriyas) to provide the intellect with information in the 1st place. Hence the combination of the Intellect and 5 organs of perception is collectively called the ‘Intellect Sheath’. This is also called Jnana Shakti. (Note: Chitta & Ahankara are implied by the Buddhi here. Also the 5 organs of perception are repeated in both (3) & (4) because they are need to provide information for both the Manas and Buddhi)
5) Happiness Sheath (Anandamaya Kosha)
This is identical to the Causal Body (http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/causal-body-and-seed-state/). The definition of the Causal Body is based on your experience of deep sleep. In deep sleep I only know 2 things: (a) I do not know anything in particular (Tamas); (b) I sleep happily (Sattva). This peculiar mixture of (a) and (b) is given a special technical name in tattva bodha: ‘impure (tamasic) sattva’.
Have you ever noticed how some people don’t wake up from deep sleep even after you shout at them. Whereas others wake up from a small sound in the house! What does this prove? It proves some people have deeper sleep than others. There are degrees of depth of sleep. And because sleep is ananda (happiness), there must be such a thing as degrees of happiness. The Upanishad elaborately details these degrees of happiness, and uses 3 words: Happy, Happier, Happiest = priya, moda, pramoda. These degrees of happiness can be easily understood when you go to a restaurant:
Level 1 (Happiness born of seeing) – You see your favourite Samosa on the food menu. Just seeing it on the menu alone makes you feel happy.
Level 2 (Happiness born of possessing) – The Samosa you ordered has now arrived on your plate from the waiter. You now possess the object of desire. You feel even happier than Level 1.
Level 3 (Happiness born of experiencing) – You eat the samosa and directly experience its flavour, fragrance and texture. You feel the happiest at this stage. It is much higher degree than levels 1 or 2. It is the culmination of levels 1 & 2.
All these levels are found in the Anandamaya Kosha.
These are the 5 Sheaths (Pancha Kosha) which make up every individual being. The above 5 sheaths are identical to the ‘3 bodies’ (Gross, Subtle, Causal) previously seen. These 5 are simply another way of dividing up the 3 bodies to help us understand the body from different angles. i.e. Gross Body = (1), Subtle Body = (2,3,4), Causal Body = (5). The point of this analysis is to prove that the true you, the Atma, is not these 5. You are free from the 5 sheaths. Atma is ever free from all limitations.