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Who Am I?

The wisdom of the five sheaths (Pancha Kosha) in Advaita Vedanta demonstrates the illusory nature of individuality. We become aware of the fundamental unity of the Atman, the genuine self, when we strip away the layers of our physical, vital, mental, and intellectual coverings. The deep realisation of non-duality that results from this insight allows the individual self to transcend all logical distinctions and experience oneness with Supreme Consciousness which is the Absolute.



 The opening sentence of Taittiriya Upanishad, Section-2 is “Satyam jnanam anantam Brahman” which literarily means the knower of Brahman attains the Supreme.

Let us know about the five sheaths that surround our true essence, our true nature as described in the traditional Advaita Vedanta which uses a model to illustrate the successive layers of identification which obscure our real nature.

 Our true nature is covered by the sheaths~[SHEATHE means KOSHA in Sanskrit ] known as “Pancha kosha”` The Five Sheaths.

 According to Taittiriya Upanishad, our true essence is covered by these sheathes in the same way that a scabbard encloses the blade of sword. Self is hidden behind the mask of the personality.
The second chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad “BrahmanandaValli” teaches about the five sheathes. Concept of whole of this Five Sheaths model is highly symbolic and metaphorical.
Five sheaths are as follows: –
1) AnnaMaya Kosha
2) Prana Maya Kosha
3) ManoMaya Kosha
4) VijnaMaya Kosha
5) AnandaMaya Kosha

PICTURE: Courtesy: #Debashree

The First Layer: “AnnaMaya Kosha” (অন্নময়কোষ):

From food (food= anna) arise all the creatures, which live on earth, and through food alone do they live, and finally they return to the food in the end.

 The first layer, the grossest one with which we first identify ourselves as the body, is made up of food and known as “AnnaMaya Kosha” (অন্নময়কোষ). The body takes birth, grows old, dies and decays back into the food from which it was produced. This has nothing to do with the real “Self”. This body alone is not the “Self”.

The Second layer: “Prana Maya Kosha” (প্রানময়কোষ)

This is vital life force for which the body is animated, and actions are performed. This layer is made of “Prana” the breath which known as “Prana Maya Kosha”(প্রানময়কোষ). We are multilayered being, composed of physical body, subtle body, and causal body. The first mentioned sheath, the AnnaMaya Kosha is permeated by four Koshas.
The next layer the Second layer is “Prana Maya Kosha”. The AnnaMaya Kosha is the effect of Prana. Prana Maya Kosha controls AnnaMaya Kosha.

"Prana" is vital energy and invisible to us. It is like Electric Power ,which gives life to the machines and machines run, animates.  Same way this vital energy "Prana" animates us, the live bodies.  It runs the 1st layer the Physical body. This prana is external to further subtler energy which is Mind. The mind is so subtle and transparent, that  mind can reflect consciousness. 

Prana (Breath) is verily the life of beings and hence it is called the Universal life. It is matter of common knowledge that life becomes possible only so long as the vital energy keeps the different organs of the organism alive.
” Though this vital life force makes the body animated and actions are performed but this is not the “Real Self“. This Prana Maya Kosha separates life from death once the “Prana” leaves the body. This sheath is composed of five Pranas (prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana, Apana). These pranas have their own importance to operate The Body perfectly. Through practice of Pranayama (pranayama is breathing exercise, part of Yoga as described in the ancient texts) , we can transcend to the next layer “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). But this is not the real Self.

The Third layer: – “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ)

This Self is embodied in the previous one (Prana) which is   the mental sheath consisting of the thinking mind.  This MIND (Manas” মন”) and the organs of perception is known as “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). This is the sheath which limits us and blocks us to go beyond.

Pancha Koshas(FIVE SHEATHS) can be divided into the three bodies: These three bodies are the objects of experience in deep sleep, dream and waking conditions, respectively. It is the causal body that is experienced in deep sleep. The subtle body in dream and the physical body in waking condition.

Three bodies are as follows:–
A) The gross body “Sthula sarira”=(~ Sanskrit word) consists of first layer AnandaMaya Kosha.  
B) The Subtle body “Suksma sarira”( ~ Sanskrit word) consists of Pranayama Kosha., ManoMaya Kosha and VijnaMaya Kosha. Also known as Astral body.
C) The causal body “Karana sarira”(~ Sanskrit word) consists of AnandaMaya Kosha.

This Self is embodied in the previous one (Prana) which is   the mental sheath consisting of the thinking mind.  This MIND (Manas” মন”) and the organs of perception is known as “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). This is the sheath which limits us and blocks us to go beyond.
This Kosha is powerful because bondage and liberation depends on the mind. It pervades the Prana Maya Kosha.
Basically, this body is consisting of Mind through which we perceive the world via five agents (sense organs).Mind functions in three levels.
 1. Conscious mind
 2. Subconscious mind
 3. Unconscious mind.
All the above three minds are subsets of Universal mind.
Human being is stuck in this sheath as always people are abducted by the mind (monkey mind).
In the Patanjali yoga sutras 1.2 ” yoga is the stilling of modifications of mind’~”yogass chitta vritti nirodaha”.
When the fluctuations of mind are stilled, our true nature is revealed.  We have then enough clarity to perceive the Self beyond the mind. Through pranayama and pratyahara (mental withdrawal of senses) we can pervade to the next layer. But this is not the real Self.

The Fourth layer:- VijnaMaya Kosha (বিজ্ঞানময় কোষ)

Beyond Mind (Manas~ Sanskrit word) there are higher levels of mind responsible for discriminations recognizing the truth and the false fruit real or unreal. In silence it knows without needing to think. This is intellect (buddhi~ Sanskrit word). This intellectual sheath is known as “VijnaMaya Kosha”.

VijnaMaya Kosha (~Buddhi) Sheath of wisdom. This is part of subtle body. When subtle body is disciplined, the physical body also becomes very healthy and strong. The mind which is ruler of the subtle body gets flattened by worldly affections, attachments, desires etc. Through practice mind comes under control by this sheath.
This self is embodied in the previous one that is ManoMaya Kosha. But this is not the real Self.

 I AM (the Real Self) the witness of this sheath.

Mind is mostly engaged with the first layer which is nothing but the body, the false identity with ego. It has a shape, size, name, fame everything.  Very much visible to self, to inner self, outer self and to others of this samsara (সংসার).
• The unwavering peace we seek is realized by experiencing the unlimited and eternal Peace that is our True Identity. Though obscured by ignorance, it exists within us, waiting to be revealed. This experience is enlightenment—Self-realization. {Experience to be gained with the help of 4th layer}
Self-realization can be attained by mastering the mind. Just as only a clean, undistorted mirror can reflect our face as it truly is, only a one-pointed and tranquil mind can part the veils of ignorance to reveal and reflect the Self.
The effort to free the mind from the limitations of ignorance is a drama that has been repeated since time immemorial.
But if the mind leads one towards the VijnaMaya Kosha by pervading itself, then what will happen? 
Let’s look beyond the mind.
Beyond the mind (Manas), there are higher levels of mind responsible for discriminations, recognizing the truth and the false, real, or unreal. In silence it knows without needing to think which is intellect (Buddhi~বুদ্ধি). This intellectual sheath is known as “VijnaMaya Kosha “~sheath of wisdom.
According to Vedanta, the study of scriptures helps in realization of truth, when one is equipped with necessary fourfold discipline:-
1. Discrimination between real (Nitya নিত্য~ eternal) and unreal (Anitya অনিত্য~transitory).
2. Renunciation of the unreal (Viraga~বৈরাগ্য)
3. Six-fold qualities.
4. Longing for liberation (Moksha ~মোক্ষ প্রাপ্তি : to escape from the cycle of births and deaths)

The word “Self” is generally meant to “Atman” (soul). But the Sanskrit word is “Atman”, which cannot be translated.  This Atman is deathless, birthless, eternal and real for every individual.  It is the unchanging reality (sat ~সৎ) behind the changing body, sense organs, mind, and ego. It is Spirit, which is Pure Consciousness (চিত্) and is unaffected by time-space causality. It is infinite and it is ONE without the second.
As the unchanging reality in the individual is known as Atman, same way the unchanging reality in the Universe is known as “BRAHMAN”. Vedanta says This BRAHMAN and ATMAN are one and the same.
VijnaMaya Kosha consists of the intellect in conjunction with the five organs of knowledge (জ্ঞানেন্দ্রিয়).

The Fifth layer:-  “AnandaMaya Kosha”

This Self is embodied in the previous one. The self-consisting of Bliss and is filled by it. Here is the presence of most profound peace and silence when mind becomes no mind.  This is State of Bliss 
Let us recall the first sloka (1ST verse) of “Taittiriya Upanishad” second chapter which is known as “Brahmananda Valli”.
Quoting the sentence again: —

“Satyam jnanam anantam Brahman” which means “The knower of “BRAHMAN” attains the Supreme”.  BRAHMAN is Truth, knowledge, and Infinity, which is our own very Self, the Atman.  Brahman is not an object of knowledge.  It is always witnessing subject. (দ্রষ্টা~The Seer).
In the second chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad, there is the definition of “Human JOY”. One unit of Human Joy. Will write that in my next blog very shortly.

The Self is infinite. There is in fact no multiplicity or plurality in that ONE, Homogeneous Being, the Supreme Being and the Ultimate. Because of superimposition and our ignorance, we have forgotten our true nature.  It alone
exists as the illuminator. This “Atman” the Real “Self” in its glorious existence, reveals its own Sat-Chit nature which is Anandamaya. That is why this Sheath is referred to “Anandamaya Kosha”. Actually, this Five Sheath model as mentioned in Taittiriya Upanishad is just an idea for understanding the different levels of the Self. The eternal nature of Self is Bliss only.

Through identification of five layers or sheaths the Self is revealed.  This reveals that:-

Then who I AM?

☆☆ I am The Witness of these five sheaths.

Our true nature is beginning less, endless, non-dual, unbounded, ever free, pure, aware, Supreme Bliss. Due to ignorance known as Maya (Avidya), we pass through cycles of births and deaths and that is the cause of pain, sufferings, and miseries. Maya is compared as veil in Vedanta.
The ignorance of the real nature of the Self constitutes this causal body or the seed-body. It projects the appearance of the whole Universe through the subtle sheath.
This Anandamaya Kosha or the causal body is impersonal, formless, Universal, a blissful space usually identified within deep sleep (sushupti~সুসূপ্তি) ★★
★★The Mandukya Upanishad explains about 4 states of Atman. There is one state the 3rd state, known as deep sleep. The second state is known as dream state (    ). The first state is known as Awaking state.
4th state is known as Turiya.

We have to rise above these five sheaths to realize the identity with Pure Consciousness. So, we need to strip off all the layers one after the other, to take out the innermost essence of the Atman from all objects of perception. When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realizes the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.

I am trying to project the concept through the figure drawn below: –

Notes: –

Maya (~ Sanskrit word): –

According to Vedanta, our real nature is divine, pure, perfect, eternal and free.  We do not have to become Brahman, because we are That. But Maya is the veil which covers our real nature. Maya is beginning less. Time arises only with Maya. It is unthinkable, indescribable (Anirvachaniya). The word illusion is often used as meaning of Maya, but scholars says it is improper. There is no equivalent word in English to mean it.
What is known to us, according to ancient sacred texts, that Maya disappears when we realize our true nature.

^^Atman & Brahman: –
According to Vedanta, the ultimate in us is ATMAN The ultimate in Cosmos is BRAHMAN. This is the Universal Reality. Total Substance is Brahman. The same substance, when conceived as the essence of particular being is Atman. The Universe has been manifested out of this Total Substance can be said as Brahman. This is Atman, the Self of the universe. This Brahman is without a prior or a posterior, without interior or exterior. This Atman is Brahman, the perceiver of everything.

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite. **
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. Mandukya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. BRRihadAraNyaka Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  7. Aitareya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  8. ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  9. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  10. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  11. A-U-M Awakening to Reality: By Dennis Waite***
  12. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya:
  13. Information available on internet.

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26 thoughts on “Pancha Kosha ~THE WISDOM OF THE FIVE SHEATHS”

  1. Sir,
    Read your blog.
    Truly an inspiring one. Congratulations for your first blogs. I know with your knowledge and wisdom you will keep us enlightened. Feeling blessed that I am able to read and understand the blog through your previous guidance and also watching the lectures of swami Sarvpriyananda. Thanks for your guidance. Reading ashtavakra Gita also truly an inspirational book.
    Once again congratulations

    1. Madam thank you for your support and motivation. I am following Swami Sarvapriyananda since last two years.
      Astavakra gitA is very high level advaita vedanta.
      i suppose by this time you have well understood non DUAL THEORY. ADVAITA VEDANTA.
      Thank you.

  2. You have explained such a difficult subject in a simple way…..
    Beautifull writing!
    One suggestion, I feel instead of using Bengali script in the bracket or any explanation, usage of Devnagari script would be good for better reach…

  3. Though you send me link early , but I took time to read for better concentration . It is not normal topics as some others . I don’t have much knowledge in this field. But your explanation with some technical terms and common experience by the human body it is really good. Use more common technical terms in reality with everyday day life , which will help to understand better , like us. CONGRATULATIONS .KEEP IT UP.
    THNAKS .

  4. Tapati Chakraborty

    At the first place let me congratulate you for your first blog. You are a sea of knowledge of which I happen to be a bubble, I have to read the article few more times as this is the insipience of my journey toAdvaita Vedanta.Your simplified explanation has helped me to get a basic knowledge of the body,mind and soul.
    Thank you sir for finding me worth .

    1. Thank you Madam.
      Please read more about Advaita Vedanta when ever you get time.
      We must know who we are.
      I will write more with explanation.

  5. Really excellent. I have read it attentively. Have understood to some extent as i have read Gita which liked a lot.You have really studied a lot & have used your potential to express ideas in such a critical topics. My best wishes always with you.

  6. Arun Sir,
    It felt so nice to speak to you after a very long time. I believe that us meeting coincidentally in 2015 after 14 long years was actually not a coincidence. Please keep sharing your writings.

  7. A thought provoking article indeed.

    The concepts are beyond the awareness of most in the western world but somewhat touch on what I have believed for many years.

    That the core of all living creatures, whether they know it or not, is a small part of the whole universal mind.

    We come from there and we go back there. When were are instructed to become one with everything it is really an instruction to become aware of being one with everything because we already are fully integrated, we just are not aware of that integration.

    Many hours of study ave gone into your learning and your writing shows it. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you for your inspirational comments. You understand the subject, so you commented and I got inspired. I am learning and practicing. Your mind, my mind and all other minds are elements of one Universal mind. Our source is one and only one. That’s what I understood. Regards 🙏
      Need your support in this way.
      Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you madam. I started my blog with this one. The image also been made in power point. I must share with you that THE Invisible Power is always with us to help. Your words, your lines will automatically come and write through your fingers or voice, as if some one is directing you. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.
      Regards. Namaskar.

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  10. Vey nice read indeed!! Although we all know a little about this which we have heard from our elders, but this insightful article is a real bliss to readers like me. I took time to read it as it’s a difficult subject and I wanted to understand it. You are right that we just do what HE wants us to do…let it be writing or anything else in our life. We all know that we are ONE and there is One Supreme power. But understanding the meaning and practically using this knowledge in our lives is important. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with people on this platform. Kudos to you.👏👍

    1. Thank you so much Anita Ji for your elaborated comments.
      You have understood the essence.
      We have to implement in our daily lives. That thought of Unification.
      My best regards 😊🙏

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