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What are PanchaKosas?

Discussion in 'Chitvish on Hindu Culture & Vedanta' started by Chitvish, Aug 30, 2007.

  1. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Literally the word Kosa means cover. It is another technical name used for the bodies themselves. The sariram is itself called kosa from another angle.
    The human being is composed of five material layers with the Self, Atman at the core.

    The three bodies (Sarirathrayam) are divided into five kosas from the standpoint of their function. This division is the functional division of the three bodies.
    The five kosas are:
    Annamaya-Kosa - Food Sheath
    The sthula sariram – gross body is known as annamaya-kosa because its function is to receive annam (food) and grow with the help of that. After its death, it becomes food for the next generation. This food sheath is the physical body constituted of the five organs of perception (ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose) and five organs of action (mouth, hands, legs, organs of excretion and organs of reproduction). It is so called because it is caused and maintained by the food we consume and ends up as food for other creatures.

    Pranamaya-Kosa - Vital air Sheath
    This is made up of the five physiological functions known as pranas. It is related to the air we breathe and hence called vital air sheath. The following faculties are the pranas:
    Prana - Perception
    The five ssenses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.
    Apana - Excretion
    That which throws out, discharge faeces, urine, sperm, sputum, perspiration etc
    Samana - Digestion
    Digests the food consumed
    Vyana - Circulation
    Distributes the digested food to different parts of the body
    Udana - reversal process and thought absorption
    Reversal process is vomiting, sneezing etc
    Thought process is taking in fresh knowledge.
    The vital air sheath is subtler and controls the food sheath. In young age, the pranas are in good shape and we are hale and healthy. As age advances, these faculties lose their power and vitality. As they slacken, the body is adversely affected.

    The sukshma sariram consisting of 19 organs is sub divided into three kosas based on three faculties:
    Kriya-sakthi - the power of activity
    Icha-sakthi - the power of desire
    Jnana-sakthi - the power of knowledge
    Our entire life is an expression of this three-fold faculty only.
    We read the scriptures and books to gain knowledge – jnana shakthi is functioning.
    We want to attend a discourse – icha shakthi is functioning
    We go to attend the discourse – kriya shakthi is functioning
    Desire is produced because of knowledge. The whole life is the combined functioning of these three faculties. They make the human being unique and different from animals.
    The five-fold pranas along with the five karmendriyas (sense organs of action) form the pranamaya-kosa.

    Manomaya-Kosa - Mental Sheath

    This comprises the mind and controls the above two sheaths.
    When the mind is calm and composed, the physiological functions take place smoothly and we are healthy.
    When the mind is disturbed, both the above sheaths get agitated and we fall sick.
    The mind is full of likes and dislikes. It is made up of impulses, feelings, passions and various emotions. If the mind gets its object of desire , we are happy. Otherwise we get turbulent in mind and like a strong wind uprooting trees, terrorism, genocide etc can be caused !
    If not properly controlled, the mind starts straying to past or furure. We worry and get anxious. We hardly think of the present. This causes stress and strain to everybody. Children do not worry and are free from this problem.

    Mental sheath represents Icha shakthi or the faculty of desire.
    This is represented by six organs – the five sense organs of knowledge and the mind.
    The sense organs gather information and desire arises. Also desire is needed to experience the external world through sense organs.

    Vijnanamaya-Kosa - Intellectual Sheath

    This sheath comprises of the intellect, the thinking faculty, also the faculty to reason, judge and decide the physical and mental activities. This controls the above three sheaths.
    The senses attract our physical body to indulge in sense-pleasures. When the mind gets attracted to instant pleasures, the intellect controls and regulates the mind and senses. This strength is gained only by a powerful intellect. Vedanta helps us here to study and reflect on the truths of life.
    But we must realise intelligence is different from a powerful, good intellect.
    Intelligence is gained by increasing our knowledge from outside sources like books, teachers etc. Inspite of intelligence, we are likely to get lured by sensual attractions.
    Even brilliant people fall prey to vices like alcohol. The intellect becomes weak because the mind overpowers it. The person thus invites stress and sorrow.
    It is intellect that helps us focus on our present action and concentrate, without slipping into the past or future. That is why people with more intelligence, but less intellectual strength find it difficult to concentrate.
    This sheath is represented by Jnana shakthi, the rational or intellectual faculty. The five sense organs of knowledge are called the jnanendriyas and buddhi. We must remember that intellect cannot gain knowledge unless there are sense organs to report from the external world.

    Anandamaya-Kosa - Bliss Sheath

    This sheath consists of vasanas , the very seed of our personality. This is the innate, inherent material, we are made up of. It is the most subtle.
    The karana sariram, which is left out so far, is called anandamaya kosa. Both waking and dream states do not guarantee happiness. In deep sleep state karana sariram plays a prominent role and we are in total relaxation. Our vasanas are unmanifest. Agitation ceases. I am not disturbed and everybody loves to sleep ! Sleep is a universally loved phenomenon and hence is ananda. The deep sleep gives happiness in a uniform manner. So karana sariram is called anandamaya kosa.
    But this bliss is relative and not the absolute bliss of Self-realisation.

    Anatma:
    Sarira thrayam, avastha thrayam and pancha kosa put together is called Anatma which can be roughly translated as matter. They are all matter at different levels.

    The scriptures talk about another entity called Atma which is the Self or Spirit, which we shall see later.

    Love,
    Chithra.
     
  2. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Chithra,

    You have done your work of writing about Pancha Kosas...impressive! But now it is up to me to understand its full significance. At the first read, it seems daunting :icon_frown: But with your beautifully explained posts, I will try to get it ! I plan to take a print out of sarira thrayam, avastha thrayam and pancha kosas and read them till I understand their full significance.
    Once again, even if I sound repetitive, I must say that you amaze me with your writings. You must have really put your pen to paper with a lot of thought and effort, wanting to make us IL'ites understand this piece of Vedanta. I will not disappoint you :)
    But right now, I am feeling a little fogged down. At the risk of sounding real thick, can you tell me why it is important to understand this before we proceed to Gita ?

    Love and regards,
    Sujata
     
  3. birraj

    birraj Senior IL'ite

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    Dear Mom,
    Beautifully explained. I read 5 times before I post this reply. Still I understood half of it.. I say. But got more involved in this Gita understanding day by day. Thanks for your writtings.

    Love
    Birundha
     
  4. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Kamla,
    I was expecting one of you to come out with this query - you have done it promptly.
    The second chaper of Gita fully deals with Atma, the Higher Self. To define Atma, the first perquisite is to understand that it is not Anatma, but far different from it. Sarirathrayam, avasthathrayam, panchakosas etc constitute the Anatma. So by learning all about Anatma only, we will understand that Atma is not any of them. Atma is understood by defining what it is not, but is very much in our body. It is the most subtle & has to be understood from a totally different perspective.
    Vasanas, satchitananda are all the terms which occur in the second chapter.
    If you think, Gita does not deal with or teach vedanta, you are mistaken. Gita is nothing but the essence of vedanta, infact the essence of Upanishads. So, unless we understand the basic introductory terms in vedanta, we cannot proceed deeper into Gita.
    I also realise, these posts are dry, difficult to understand etc. But these have to be "chewed & digested", if we want to learn Gita. Atleast the awareness of "what is what" is necessary.
    If you think Gita just deals with life situations, morals, do's & don'ts, it is not correct.
    Probably when asking me to write about Gita, you did'nt realise that you were "bargaining" for all these abstract topics, forming part of the "Gita package" !
    Please share your thoughts.
    Love,
    Chithra.
     
  5. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Chithra,

    Once again, it is just like you to give an immediate reply. Well, this is my last post for today before calling it a day:)

    You have time and again mentioned that these posts of yours on spirituality and religion as being dry. For me, they are anything but! I am just excited to access all this matter so easily, all read and understood and revealed to us, by you. What more can one ask? !

    I am simply pleased to read all the valuable lines and I do understand that these are necessary for our knowledge before we delve into Gita. You have already mentioned that. I just wondered as to how they relate and why. That was my question to which you have given an answer, thus relieving me of my curiosity. Thanks again.

    No Chithra, nothing you will write or introduce me to in this regard is going to daunt me, even if it is daunting :-D

    L, Kamla
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2007
  6. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Birundha,
    Thankyou for the F B.
    Please do not think, you have to memorise them or they must be in your finger tips. No, not at all.
    Whenever a reference arises, you can always refer back. Go through them on a regular basis so that the terms will not sound alien but familiar to you.
    Your determination & involvement to understand Gita is very encouraging to me !
    Love,
    Chithra.



     
  7. vidhi

    vidhi Senior IL'ite

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    Dear Chith
    I was expecting this post for a long time. I have to read it again and again to get an idea of it. As usual you have explained in a very simple way. Like you mentioned to Birundha we can use it as a reference guide. Even I was wondering what is the connection between pancha kosas and the second chapter of Gita.

    As for as we are concerned this is not at all a dry subject Chithra. We are really interested. May be it will take many years to understand it. Let it be. Atleast we are happy that we have started it. And as for I know I am very sure you will certainly complete this mission. We all know your determination.

    Love
    Vidhi
     
  8. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Vidhi,
    Thanks for your (as usual !) prompt feedback.
    Please use this as a reference guide, whenever necessary.
    Now that I have explained what is anatma (body-mind complex), next week we will go ahead with What is ATma - 2 parts.
    Love,
    Chith.
    More than dry, the subject is abstract, Vidhi !



     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2007
  9. asharao

    asharao Senior IL'ite

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    Hi! Chithra,

    Your explanation of the Pancha Kosa was really good.Had learnt all that in Philosophy but had taken a back seat.Thanx for helping me revise it again.Need a lot to practise that.

    Regards,

    Asha:clap
     
  10. mkthpavi

    mkthpavi Senior IL'ite

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    Dear Chithra,

    Yet another gem from you. Though it is slightly more philosophical and deeper compared to your other Shloka and Traditions posts, I am enjoying them. I do believe that understanding scriptures and their deeper meanings are invaluable life lessons more than just memorizing Shlokas etc. Honestly, I can sense small but noticeable change in my own outlook, after absorbing some of the essence of your posts on Gita. I am not disappointed as much as I would have been otherwise, when people dont respond / reciprocate things positively to me or my near and dear. I guess this is the starting point for "detached attachment", a term I learnt from one of your earlier posts - "Try to do the right things...but dont expect results at all times / immediately" :)

    Hope you are not stressing yourself too much, in your quest for imparting the Gita knowledge to your "students" on IL.

    Thanks and love
    Pavithra
     

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