What is the Panchakosha :The word “Panchakosha” is made up of two Sanskrit words, “Pancha” and “Kosha” where “Pancha” means “Five” and “Kosha” means “Sheath” or “Layers”. While studying Biology, you studied the layers of the musculoskeletal system as Bones, Cartilage, Ligaments, Tendons, and Muscles. Similarly, Skin and other parts of the body are made up of several layers. While studying Geology, 3 layers of the earth were discussed the crust, the mantle and the core. The atmosphere also has layers namely, troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere.
Like everything has several layers over there, in the same way, there are five layers or kosha over the atman or soul. According to spiritual science, the human body is made up of 5 dimensions which are responsible for the gross to subtle dimensions of the human body. These are called Pancha Koshas.
The Upanishad mentions Panchakosha as
अन्नमयः प्राणमयः मनोमयः विज्ञानमयःविज्ञानमयः आनन्दमयः पंचकोशाः।
Meaning: There are five types of Panchakoshas
1 Annamaya Kosha (the food sheath)
2 Pranamaya Kosha (the sheath of vital life force energy)
3 Manomaya Kosha (the mental or psychological sheath)
4 Vijnanamaya Kosha (the intellect sheath)
5 Anandamaya Kosha (the bliss sheath)
These Panchakoshas in the Theosophical belief are known as,
- Physical Body
- Etheric Double or Body
- Astral Body
- Mental Body
- Causal Body
Annamaya kosha is the first kosha of the physical body which means the one which is made of food. That is, it is formed due to food, water and air and it is present in the body, hence it is called Annamaya Kosha. This is the outermost covering. Our sleep cycle, diet and food, and regular yoga or exercises manages Annamaya Kosha.
It is more subtle than the physical body i.e. annamaya kosha. It resides in the entire physical body and stores it. This shell is created by more subtle cells than this. Described by the name, Pranamaya Kosha refers to “Prana”, i.e. life force or energy. So, it is highly managed by the practice of Pranayama.
Both the Annamaya kosha and the pranamaya kosha together form the human body. It brings into existence the infrastructure for the next cell.
Just as vital energy exists in the physical body and its shape is like that of a human, similarly, the shape of the pranic body is also like that of a subtle person. It is present throughout the body. Therefore, even after death, the energy remains present in the body.
Manomaya kosha is that which works as a mental bridge between the outer and inner worlds with annamaya and pranamaya koshas. The level of its perception is the conscious mind. The word “Mano” defines the mind of a human being and so Meditation is the best way to maintain Manomaya Kosha.
The one that connects the subconscious and the unconscious mind at the level of the mind is called Vigyanamaya or Vijnanamaya Kosha. It is subtler than manomaya. Inner knowledge enters the conscious mind from this level. Vigyanamaya Kosha is the link between the individual and the universal mind. The knowledge of the truth behind the world starts in this kosha, on awakening them, in the form of the experience of intuition. It is the link between the individual and the universal mind. By practicing yoga daily, it is possible to control Vijnanamaya Kosha.
The door level of bliss is called anandamaya kosha, in which the supersensuous body is the abode of the subtlest prana. On awakening it, all the knowledge of the world becomes available to man, he feels supreme bliss. Practicing Meditation daily is the best way to connect oneself with Anandamaya Kosha.