The sequential appearance of the five koshas

A Speculation on how the Koshas form

 

All students of Yoga learn very early about the five sheaths in which our human form exists between birth and death, the ‘

panchakoshas’, namely

 

· annamaya kosha, consisting of the material body which our senses can sense and which is the first sheath of the self that is resident deep within it,

· praanamaya kosha, consisting of praana that can loosely be associated with breathing,

· manomaya kosha, associated with our thoughts,

· vijnaanamaya kosha, associated with intellectual activity and

· aanandamaya kosha, which is of the nature of pure bliss.

 

We are also taught how, immediately surrounding the first of these, namely the tangible body or annamaya kosha, the other four manifest as successive sheaths around the body in the sequence given above, so that praana is closest to it and aananda furthest from it.

 

Let us try to speculate on how, when and in what sequence the koshas are first formed.

 

  • The annamaya kosha is an entirely material sheath of the self and can not on its own produce a non-material sheath. The self, housed deep within it and full of bliss, waits till other faculties are developed by the body, before creating its own special, blissful sheath.
  • When a human egg gets fertilized by a human sperm, it can become a blastocyte, an undifferentiated human cell in an embryo. It can then multiply and differentiate and grow into a foetus, which along with other human organs also develops a primitive human brain. The foetus learns to turn about and make suitable movements for its survival, by instincts learned by its cells very much before thought develops. The foetus is pure annamaya kosha, housing deep within it, its soul or self, which has by now entered it, and of which it is totally unaware, unless prompted by encouraging activities of its mother and others..
  • Birth represents the transfer, of the foetus now grown fully into a baby, from the amniotic fluid to the atmosphere of the earth and from the darkness of the womb to the light available on earth. Praanas are available for the first time in free breathable quantities and the child starts breathing. Its lungs and hearts start functioning, naadis develop and praanas flow through the frail body.
  • Praanas, unlike the physical body, are non material and form the first additional, namely the second sheath or kosha for the self round the physical body. This is the praanamaya kosha, housing all the naadis, the praana-pathways..
  • The brain too gets fed by praanas and starts to think. The other senses of sight, sound, etc along with instinctively learnt pangs like hunger, thirst and physical pain, help along the thought processes.
  • The thoughts also are non-material and are able to produce the next sheath around the body. This is the manomaya kosha.
  • The infant starts making conscious responses based on its thinking, like searching for and finding its source of nourishment, snuggling for warmth and crying when troubled by its pangs, thus using its intellectual faculties nominally.
  • This intellectual activity behind the responses too is non-material and is able to create the next sheath, perhaps very thin in the beginning, representing acquisition of knowledge, namely the learning process. This is the vijnaanamaya kosha.
  • As soon as the capacity for reasoning arises in the child, however weekly, it becomes feebly aware of its identity. The self in it makes itself manifest to the child by enveloping the child with its final sheath. This is the aanandamaya kosha.
  • As the child grows in stages to a full human being, the size of the sheaths gets altered depending on the development of the corresponding faculties of the human being.
  • It is possible for the foetus to become aware of its self well before birth, if the mother aids it by positive thinking, prayers to the Infinite and loving conversation, while other supportive relatives surround its womb by joyful and divine lights and sounds. The awareness stays within the child as pure joy and becomes a sheath only after the praana-, mano- and vijnaana-maya sheaths are permitted to form.
  • Aananda in the form of the self is deep within the human being and the corresponding sheath is the outermost one enveloping his/her form. Thus the human being is Aanandamaya both within and without, in the extremes. When he/she realizes this, he/she can never be other than blissful.

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