In the last post on the 12th Nakshatra, I briefly mentioned the Koshas of Vendanta and Yoga philosophy, which reminded me that I had prepped to write about them quite some time ago. Kosha, कोश, means cup, vessel, bucket, or covering. Usually they are referred to as sheaths or bodies. The Koshas are the five layers or coverings of Atman, our individual souls or the essence of who we are. It is the Atman that comes to awareness, enlightenment, transcendence, and liberation (moksha) that it is already one with Brahman, the One.
The Five Koshas: From the densest layer to the most subtle layer.
1) Annamaya Kosha: This is the physical body. Annamaya means consisting of food, thus being that part of us (the body) that is sustained by food.
2) Pranamaya Kosha: This is the vital sheath that pervades our entire organism: body and mind. Pranamaya means composed of Prana, and is our life force, breath, and energy.
3) Manomaya Kosha: This is the mental and emotional ego sheath. Manomaya means composed of the mind, which also includes that which comes in through the five senses: taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch. It is this sheath, the ego, that easily becomes entangled with attachments.
4) Vijnanamaya Kosha: This is the intellectual and wisdom sheath. Vijnanamaya means composed of discerning intellect. It is our knowledge and perceptions, which are however subject to change, limited, and impermanent.
5) Anandamaya Kosha: This is the sheath of bliss, and the Causal Body, the most subtle veil of our True Self. Anandamaya means composed of bliss. This sheath is likened to the state of deep sleep or meditation.