Finding Peace Through The 5 Koshas Of Self
Acknowledging we are multi-layered beings, we have five layers, also known as koshas. These koshas range from the physical, gross layer of self to the most subtle layer, that of pure blissful consciousness. Ultimate peace and joy lie within this most subtle kosha whether people realize it or not, for it is the deepest range of consciousness. In order to reach this most subtle layer, one must move through the consciousness at each layer the comes before it, the five koshas in total. The yogic model of the multi-layered self is valuable in life on and off the mat because it provides one a path to get to the ultimate peace.
It is easy to be conscious of our annamaya kosha, our food body and the first layer of self, as it is the most physical layer, we can feel it with our senses. This is why the West is more focused on this layer in the practice of yoga. There is more awareness of the physical body and its makeup in Western society in general, with reality being centered purely around our senses.
It is crucial to bring recognition to the other layers or koshas, the less physical and more subtle. By bringing awareness to your breath and making the decision to consciously breathe, you are bringing awareness to your pranamaya, the second kosha. This is something simple that each person has the power to do in their lives on and off the mat. Your pranamayakosha is key in transforming how your mind reacts to situations.
Once you learn the power of your pranamaya kosha, you are able to turn more inward awareness to your manomaya, your third kosha. Your manomaya plays a part in your automatic nervous system. If we can bring conscious awareness to our nervous system and observe how it reacts, then we can make the conscious decision to change the reactions that do not serve us. Together with our pranamaya kosha, we can change the way our mind reacts to external stimuli, and are able to rewire our brain in a positive manner in the manomaya kosha.
Once you observe your mind and see how thoughts constantly come and go, of all degrees, you are able to find the seat of witness to those thoughts and in turn emotions. This seat of witness, consciousness over thoughts and emotions, enters you into your vijnanamaya kosha, your wisdom body and fourth kosha. This is where you connect with your inner self, your soul. After you become aware of your vijnanamaya kosha and find connection with your soul self, you can then enter into a place of stillness, ease, and peace – your anandamaya kosha, pure consciousness, the fifth and final kosha.
Even if people do not reach a conscious state with this final kosha of anandamaya in this lifetime, the steps to getting there are important in themselves. Deepening our consciousness towards final realization of self is vital for our society. We need to transcend our survival mindset to a socially engaged mindset, which is congruent with opening up further layers of consciousness.
The multi-layered and interconnected model of the self provides us with a guided path to deepening our consciousness. Through each kosha, another layer of consciousness is pulled back until it reveals itself as the true self of pure consciousness. The importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of all things and beings is significant as well, which this model greatly supports as each layer is a door to the next and all are working together to reach enlightenment. We live in a society governed by separateness, we need to find the feeling of interconnectedness in order to progress as a species.
By starting at the most physical layer, the annamaya kosha, and moving through each layer until the anandamaya kosha is reached, there is a trust that is established in the self and at the same time, in the divine. As one moves through each layer, there will be learning that takes place and changes that occur. It is important for us as humans to start becoming more curious about ourselves and our true innate souls, the koshas provide us with a map to explore that curiosity and dive deeper into our consciousness.
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