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5 Layers of existance (5 Koshas)

The earliest mention of the 5 koshas can be traced back to one of the oldest Sanskrit texts, the Taittiriya Upanishad. The Taittiriya Upanishad teaches us that the goal of human life is to transcend these 5 koshas and realise the true nature of the Self, which is beyond all the layers of existence. 

So, what are koshas? The 5 koshas (also reffered to as 5 layers of existance) are located within the 3 bodies. The 5 koshas, or layers, act as a roadmap for our journey of self-discovery.

By understanding and working through each of these layers, we can gradually move towards a state of greater awareness, healing and self-realisation.

1. Annamaya Kosha: Food Sheath  

The first and outermost layer of the Self is Annamaya Kosha, which literally means food layer. It is the physical body made of matter, which includes the skin, bones, muscles, organs, and other tissues. This kosha is responsible for our basic survival needs, like food, water, and shelter. It is through the Annamaya Kosha that we experience the physical world and interact with the natural environment around us. 

To balance this layer, we use asanas (postures) - to remain strong, mobile and healthy. What we put inside the body is significant also - meaning the nutrition and quality of food is essential for our body to perform effortlessly. The sun exposure and good quality of sleep is also as important. To transcend the Annamaya Kosha means to understand that you are more than your body and can move beyond the physical body's limitations.

2. Pranamaya Kosha: Vital Sheath   

The Pranamaya Kosha is the energy layer of the body, helping flow life force energy throughout the body. As a result, Pranamaya Kosha plays an important part in the vital functions we need to stay alive, such as breathing, digestion, and circulation. 

To balance this layer we use pranayama, different breathing techniques, mudras and work on our chakras to release any energy blockage from the body's energy channels. How we take care of a Food layer, determines how efficient this layer is working. Through this practice you can develop greater awareness of the breath and the subtle energy of the body. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the connection between the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of your being.

It also helps to calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall health and well-being. 

3. Manomaya Kosha: Mental Sheath  

Manas means mind. This kosha is the mental sheath of the body, and consists of our feelings, thoughts, emotions, memory, and imagination. This kosha is responsible for our cognitive functions, like memory, perception, and reasoning, and is where we process our experiences and emotions. 

To work on and support this layer, use mindfulness practices, meditation, observance, concentration and mantra. By regulating our thoughts and emotions by using meditations, we begin to better comprehend what is happening inside of us.

To transcend through Manomaya Kosha means to understand that you are more than your mind.

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha: Intellectual Sheath  

Meaning knowledge or wisdom, Vijnanamaya is the sheath that sets human beings apart from animals. While we can both experience emotions and deep connections, only human beings have the intellectual ability to determine right from wrong and eternal from illusory.

Through self development, learning, experience, self reflection and introspection we can strengthen this layer and enables us to cultivate wisdom and understand the nature of reality and the purpose of existence.. And as we learn to separate from our ideas, ego, or sense of self, the vijnanamaya kosha aids in the development of clarity and more profound consciousness and recognise reality for what it is.

Meditation is also a powerful tool to quiet the intellect and travel beyond the limitations of the physical body and mind.

5. Anandamaya Kosha: Blissful Sheath  

Anandamaya Kosha is the bliss-filled sheath. It is the finest and thinnest veil covering the Self (atman) and is also known as the level of the soul. The blissful sheath is what allows us to feel joy, love, and happiness. It is also responsible for our spiritual contentment and liberation, and where we experience our interconnectedness with all things.

When we harmonalise all the layers and connect with the Blissful Sheath, our life can become peaceful, where ups and downs or life are no longer affecting our inner state of being.

Samadhi is an effective way to transcend the Anandamaya Kosha. Samadhi is a state of deep meditation in which you experience a state of pure consciousness. In this state, you can transcend the limitations of the maya (illusion).

It's important to note that the practice of Samadhi requires years of dedicated practice and guidance from an experienced teacher. It's not something that can be achieved overnight.

Final Thought 

The 3 bodies and 5 koshas are a path towards realising our true nature. By working through each layer of the koshas, we can gradually peel away the layers of illusion and come closer to experiencing the true essence of our being. Learning how to identify and transcend the 5 koshas in the 3 bodies demand years of practice and dedication, but if you can persevere on the path to self-discovery, you can unlock a deeper state of consciousness and discover the true nature of your being.

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