by Swami Sivananda
Extract from Atman is Distinct from the Pancha Koshas (five bodies) by Swami Sivananda
Just as the clouds which are generated by the rays of the sun, and which exist only on account of the sun cover the sun, just as the smoke which has its existence through fire conceals the fire, just as the snake in the rope which owes its existence to the rope hides the rope, just as the jar which exists on account of the clay conceals the clay, just as the ear-rings which owe their existence to the gold hide the gold, the five Koshas which owe their very existence to the Atman cover the very Atman.
The Atman transcends the five sheaths. It is entirely distinct from the five sheaths. You will have to pierce through these five sheaths if you want to get knowledge of the Self. These five sheaths form a cave (Guha) and the Atman is hidden in the cave. The self-effulgent Atman shines in the midst of Pranas within the heart.
1. Annamaya Kosha (food-sheath),
2. Pranamaya Kosha (vital sheath),
3. Manomaya Kosha (mental sheath),
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha (intellect-sheath)
5. and Anandamaya Kosha (blissful sheath).
'Maya' means full. 'Kosha' means sheath
Just as the scabbard hides the sword, the outer shell covers the tamarind fruit, the coat covers the body, so also these five sheaths hide the Atman. Hence the significant name Kosha. Just as the Kosakar worm gets itself bound in its nest, so also the Jiva gets himself bound within the Koshas.
- The Annamaya Kosha forms the gross body.
- The Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya Koshas go to constitute the subtle or astral body or Linga Sarira.
- The Anandamaya Kosha forms the causal body or Karana Sarira.
There is an illusory connection between the Koshas and Atman through Anyonya Adhyasa or mutual superimposition by which the Dharmas or attributes of the Koshas appear on the Atman and the Dharmas of the Atman on the Koshas.
It is the innate tendency of the human mind to identify the Self with the five Koshas. This is due to ignorance (Avidya) only. This is due to Adhyasa or superimposition.
The ignorant man of dull intellect identifies the Self with the physical body. Others identify the Self or Atman with Prana, mind, intellect, or the Karana Sarira according to their various grades of intelligence.
Ignorance and non-discrimination
All this illusion has arisen in men on account of ignorance and non-discrimination or absence of the faculty which discriminates between the eternal Atman and the illusory five sheaths which are falsely superimposed upon the Atman.
The five sheaths are creations by the mind on account of ignorance. The five sheaths cannot be the pure, self-existent, self-luminous Atman. Srutis emphatically declare that the Atman is bodiless. Just as the changes that take place in the cow such as growth, decay, etc., do not in the least affect the proprietor of the cow, the seer, so also the changes that occur in the five sheaths do not touch their proprietor and seer, the Atman.
The power of discrimination (viveka)
Just as you can clearly distinguish the sound of one man from another through the power of discrimination; just as you can clearly feel, this is soft, this is hard, this is hot, this is cold, by the power of discrimination; just as you can clearly understand by looking at a picture on a wall, this is black colour, this is red colour, this is wall, this is a picture, through the power of discrimination, although you are not able to separate the red colour from the black colour, the picture from the wall; just as you can clearly understand by tasting a drink, this is lemonade, this is orange, this is raspberry, through the power of discrimination, although you cannot separate the salt or sugar from the water; just as you can know the odour in a cloth by the organ of smell although you cannot separate the odour from the cloth; so also you can clearly differentiate Atman and the Koshas by understanding the essential nature of Atman and the five sheaths, by hearing Vedanta from a Guru. You can clearly understand that there is no connection between the Atman and the five sheaths.
Although it is impossible for ordinary people to separate water from milk, yet it is possible for a Hamsa (swan) to separate water from milk. Although it is impossible for people of gross intellect to differentiate Atman from the five sheaths, yet it is possible for a man of subtle intellect to differentiate between them.
The five sheaths are not really in Atman. Just as the snake is superimposed upon the rope, silver on the mother-of-pearl, thief on the post, water in the mirage, blueness in the sky, so also the five sheaths are superimposed on the Atman on account of ignorance. Just as the illusion of snake vanishes when the knowledge of rope is attained, so also the erroneous conception of the five sheaths disappears when one gets knowledge of the Self.
A detailed knowledge and comprehensive understanding of the five sheaths is an indispensable requisite, if you want to attain Self-realisation and practise the 'Neti-neti' doctrine of Vedanta.
READ THE ANALYSIS OF KOSHAS HERE:
A student who treads the path of Truth (especially the path of Jnana yoga y Vedanta) must first equip himself with Sadhana Chatushtaya - the "four means of salvation".
1. discrimination, (Viveka)
2. dispassion, (Vairagya)
3. the sixfold qualities of perfection, (Shad-Sampat )
4. and intense longing for liberation, (Mumukshutva)
Read also the related essays:
Read the book:Moksha Gita(.pdf) : an exhaustive treatise of the highest wisdom of the Advaita Vedanta.
A study of Moksha Gita alone is enough to guide a sincere aspirant in the path of Jnana-Yoga.
By practicing its teachings one gets liberated from all bondage and becomes Immortal