|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 283 ]
In yoga, man is conceived as a multi-bodied being. He has at least five bodies, which are referred to as the pancha kosha (pancha means "five"; kosha means "body"). As Swami Gitananda claims:
"The limiting concept of man as eka kosha (one body) has lead to all of the limitations of Western science, whether that science be medical or philosophical."
From this understanding of the multiplicity of the human being, yogic wisdom has the potential to rid man of his multitude of ailments -- an ambition that modern science still lacks the understanding and broadness of vision to achieve. Nor with the perspective of man as eka kosha will modern philosophy and religion lead mankind to ultimate peace and happiness either.
These five bodies, or 'discernable aspects of man', differ in their essential nature, composition and function, and are arranged successively from the grosser to the increasingly more subtle.
Annamaya kosha is the physical tissues or the cellular structure, the physical body itself, which the TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD refers to as the "sheath of food-cells," and is otherwise usually called the "physical sheath."
Enveloping this grossest dimension of man is a more subtle body, the pranamaya kosha, the "energy sheath," composed of the vital energy known as prana, that which gives life to the otherwise life-less material form. This sheath is also sometimes referred to as the "emotional body" or the "vital body." The pranamaya kosha is the vehicle of prana, the life-giving energy.
In this counterpart to the physical body, annamaya kosha, currents of prana run along specific channels, called prana nadis, supplying various organs and other parts of the body with the life-giving force. In different regions of the being prana becomes differentiated, according to its differing functions, into 5 principle forms known as the pancha prana vayus, or "five vital airs."
Encasing the annamaya and pranamaya koshas is yet another more subtle layer, that which is made up of conscious mind (manas) and memory (chitta), the 'mental sheath' or manomaya kosha.
Vijnanamaya kosha, "the sheath of intellect," encloses these lower bodies with what can be termed the "super conscious mind," or buddhi (higher intellect).
Containing and enveloping all the others is the anandamaya kosha, the body of "Cosmic Consciousness," which the TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD tells us "engulfs all of the lower bodies, permeating them with Bliss!"
Though all of these 'bodies' cannot be observed with the naked eye, nor registered through the current technological machinery of science, nor conceived of in a language that the modern scientist may accept as valid, one should in no way be doubtful about their existence. After all, the entire foundation of the material world is based upon the theoretical concept of the atom, which no human eye has ever seen!
For the true student of spirituality there is no question that the human being is substantially more than eka kosha. This truth is explained in various ways according to different spiritual traditions. The pancha kosha of yoga provides us with a practical structure for deeper understanding of the self and for pro-active growth along the yogic path...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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