According to Vedantic philosophy, the physical body is nested within a system of a total of five sheaths. Like the layers of an onion, these sheaths are likened to a cave in which the Atman, or Self, who is also Brahman, can be found.
The five sheaths go by the name of pancha-koshas (literally: five-sheaths). They are usually depicted with the physical body as the innermost sheath and the others radiating out in envelopes:
- annamaya kosha – the food sheath – anna – or physical body
- pranamaya kosha – the energy sheath – prana – energy body
- manomaya kosha – the mind sheath – manas – emotional body
- vijnanamaya kosha – the discernment sheath – wisdom body
- anandamaya kosha – the bliss sheath – ananda – bliss body
Another way of representing these five sheaths is like a set of Russian dolls, one nested within the other, with the bliss sheath as the innermost one. There’s no right, no wrong. Just a matter of perspective and the context you choose depends on your focus which in this case, the cave of the heart in which lies an un-opened lotus bud.
Deep within the bliss body
Right at the heart of the ‘onion’ layers of the five sheaths is a cave of the heart, and within it is an unopened lotus bud. Our job is to help this very bud to bloom, in other words, to transcend, transform and transmute our energies represented by these five sheaths and their interconnectedness with the chakras. This means our journey in search of the Self is really an inner one and what we hope to find is already within us except that we won’t realise this until we pierce through the veils of maya, delusion and ignorance.
Who am I
Once upon a time, our spiritual teacher in India gave us this clue to ponder. He said, “Just ask yourself this: What makes a pot a pot? When you take away the clay or metal or whatever substance the pot is made of and which makes us say it’s a pot, what’s left?” He also said, “The only way to the answer is in. It has to be realised beyond just intellectual understanding. Which is why you must meditate.”
More on the heart cave as in the Chandogya Upanishad 8.1.1-2: the heart-lotus.
~ ॐ ~