Kosha Consciousness: Revisited — From The Most Gross To The Most Subtle Perception Of "Reality".


 

In yoga, the highest form of exemplarship is to be fully present and aware of what’s within and who's in front. To demystify this seemingly-mystical understanding, we can take into account the apex of understanding with regards to all nature through the tradition of the yogic Koshas.

Koshas, or sheaths, are an eloquent way of understanding the various layers that make up both our physical and metaphysical realities.

To start, let's begin with the most-gross reality we have at our disposal; our physical bodies. 

Anamayakosha
Ana
- physical
Maya
- illusion
Kosha
- sheath

This is the first and most-gross layer to our understanding of reality. It comprises everything that makes up the tangible nature of all we experience. From our bones, to our tissues, to our blood, to our organs, to the wood on your desk, to the sand spread out across the beach; this layer is inescapable — if you are here to read this, you have a physical layer: your body.

Pranamayakosha
Prana - energy
Maya - illusion
Kosha - sheath

This is the second and lesser-gross layer to our understanding of reality. This layer comprises not only the breath (though most practitioners believe that prana comes solely from the breath), but also extends to our surroundings; the food we intake; the noises we hear; the people we surround ourselves with; to even the thoughts we manifest for ourselves. Energy comes in many different forms and in many different ways. If you’re breathing right now, had a good breakfast this morning, are on a constant supply of coffee, or just think of yourself as being awesome, you're taking in prana — you're taking in energy.

Monomayakosha
Mono - mind
Maya - illusion
Kosha - sheath

This is the third and even lesser-gross layer to our understanding of reality. As we venture more and more towards the subtler and subtler layers, you will begin to notice that everything becomes much less tangible and more so an experience. I mean, at least you could feel your body and rejuvenate yourself with energy, but how can you touch or see the mind? You can only ever become aware of it. If you're analytically trying to reason what it is I’m saying right now, you're using your mind.

Vijnanamayakosha
Vijnana - discernment / creativity / awareness
Maya - illusion
Kosha - sheath

The fourth and most "mystically-profound", subtle layer to our understanding of reality. This is the layer almost everyone gets hung up on, yet it is even more subtle than the last! If you could barely keep track of the mind to begin with, how hard, then, do you think it is to access this layer? Drugs, dreams and discussion — all avenues and ways of accessing or supercharging this layer. This is the layer that almost everyone gets lost in — why? Because it's highly attractive. It’s the flashing lights, the touch from god, the profoundly-mystical experience that one could only-ever hope to achieve just once throughout their lives. But, it is not the be-all-end-all. It is only ever a siddhi. Pause. Take a moment to scan how it is you’re truly feeling right now. Can you watch your emotions if you really tried? Can you observe your ever thought as it passes you by? Pause again. Now imagine a giant spider on your hand or really close beside you. You’ve been using vijnanamayakosha this whole time without even knowing it!

Anandamayakosha
Ananda - bliss
Maya - illusion
Kosha - sheath

The most coveted, though still not yet final, layer to our understanding of reality. The supernal knowing state that everything is what it is, just as it ever could or ever should be. No lesser or greater because you are fully here in this moment. Alive and kicking. Just straight chillin’. Not necessarily "happy", because that in itself is a duality. For, how could one ever truly know what happiness is without ever being sad? Bliss is beyond both happy and sad, it just is. When you are happy, you never want the experience to end — the key word being want. Bliss goes beyond all that, bliss has no desire, bliss just is. Very few will ever reach this state, for only through understanding and the rigour of loving practice can all your attachments ever just wash away. And yet, there are those divine moments of inspiration throughout our lives where it all comes together without ever even really trying. Moments of realization that it truly is  all good.

Atmamayakosha
Atma - the Self / the ego-less I / the I before the “I am”
Maya - illusion
Kosha - sheath

The final and most-subtle layer to our understanding of reality. Who is the one watching to have any experience at all? Even in bliss, who is there to be aware that there is someone there to have the experience of being blissful? If subject-and-object have truly become one, who is there to understand that they have, in fact, coalesced? Who are you? Only in states of deep sleep or deep meditation does one ever truly access this layer. For, who was there to have the experience of having no experience? How can you remember an experience no one was there to have in the first place? It is an illusive state of engaging in a dreamless sleep of awakened non-sleeping. And so, pushing beyond this layer, we can begin to ponder real truth.

What is death, but only ever the death of the I?
Why fear death if you’ve already experienced living without an I?

—To die before you die is the best way to truly know what it means to be alive.

All life is an illusion. All life is a sheath. Learn to let go of all that you think and feel; all that you are and are not; all that you have and have yet to experience; and just live knowing that this is it. Life happens only ever for just a moment — and that moment can feel both very close and very far away…