Pañcakośāḥ - the five sheaths

Pañcakośāḥ - The five sheaths or covers

Here is another method to present what is not my true nature. It is not a total different things from what we have presented before, but it is a presentation of the gross, subtle and causal body in the different angle.

The literal meaning of the sheath is a close-fitting cover of a knife or blade. Just like the sheath is the place where the knife can be found, in the same manner any of the sheath is where ātmā can be recognised. Therefore each of the definition below need to add on the word kośhāh-sheath to have the complete meaning.

Q: Pañcakōśāḥ kē?

What are the five sheaths?

A: Annamayaḥ prāṇamayaḥ manōmayaḥ vijñānamayaḥ ānandamayaścēti.

The food (modified) sheath, the vital air sheath (physiological functions), the mind sheath (mental states), the intellect sheath, and the sheath of happiness.

Q: Annamayaḥ kah? What is food sheath? A: Annarasennaiva bhūtvā annarasēnnaiva vṛddhiṁ prāpya annarūpapṛthivyāṁ yadvilīyatē tadannamayaḥ kōśaḥ sthūlaśarīram.

The gross body, having come into existence by the essence of food alone, having gained growth, and also which resolves in the earth that is in the form of food, is food (modified) sheath.

Annamayakośāh is the only layer out of five which is visible by our perception, therefore it is in the category of gross body-sthūlaśarīra - tadannamayaḥ kōśaḥ sthūlaśarīram. It is our physical body which is called as food sheath. It is called as food sheath because it is a product of food, even though not a direct product like flour become bread, but the physical body come in to being because of the essence of the food consumed by our parents convert in to the seeds form, and after body is born, it grows because of the nutrients of food alone, until the body perishes merge back in to the earth become the food for plants, all stage of this physical body are the modification of the food alone - annarasennaiva bhūtvā annarasēnnaiva vṛddhiṁ prāpya annarūpapṛthivyāṁ yadvilīyatē.

Physical body is the food modification sheath-annamayakośāh, where we can find the manifestation of ātmā, just like when we want to find the knife, we can find it in it's cover. But the physical body it self is not ātmā. Therefore any defect or excellent in our physical body is not my nature. I am not effected my physical body.

Q: Prāṇamayaḥ kaḥ? What is meant by the energy sheath?

A: Prāṇādhyāḥ pañcavāyavaḥ vāgādīndriyapañcakaṁ prāṇamayaḥ kōśaḥ.

The sheath that is a modification of air, is the five physiological functions beginning with respiration etc., and the five organs of action beginning with speech and so on.

From this sheath on ward till intellect sheath are in the category of subtle body-suksmaśarīra.

Pañcavāyavaḥ - five forms of energy, consist of:


1. Prāna respiratory system

2. Apāna excretory system

3. Vyāna circulatory system

4. Samāna digestive system

5. Udāna evacuatory system

Vāgādīndriyapañcakaṁ - five organs of actions , consist of:

1. Vāk organ of speach (mouth)

2. Pānih organ of grasp (hands)

3. Pādah organ of movement (legs)

4. Pāyuh organ of excretion

5. Upastah organs of reproduction

Our organs of actions is the biggest manifestation of energy. Here is the manifestation of power of action-kriyaśakti. Even though feeling of hungry, healthy, sick, weak, strong etc are felt by me, but I am not them.

Q: Manōmayaḥ kōśaḥ kaḥ? What is sheath which is the modification of the mind?

A: Manaśca jñānēndriya-pañcakaṁ militvā yō bhavati sa manōmayaḥ kōśaḥ.

The mind and the five organs of perception together is manomaya, which is the modification of the mind.

Jñānēndriyapañcakaṁ - five instruments of knowledge, consist of:


1. Śrōtram organ of hearing (ears)

2. Tvak organ of touch (skin)

3. Cakṣū organ of sight (eye)

4. Rasanā organ of taste (tongue)

5. Ghrāṇam organ of smell (nose)

Mind is the place for emotion and desire. Only through the data (knowledge) collected by the organs of perception, then mind can desire. When power of desiring-iccha śakti is there, then the power of action-kriyā śakti can be there.

In this sheath, we experience all the emotions, but these emotions are not me.

Q: Vijñānamayaḥ kaḥ? What is the sheath which is the modification of intellect? A: Buddhijñānēndriyapañcakaṁ militvā yō bhavati sa vijñānamaya kośaḥ.

The intellect together with the five organs of perception is the modification of intellect.

Here is the expression of power of knowledge-jñāna śakti, where the intellect need to discriminates, judges and decides based on the data collected from organs of perception. Because of knowing, then one can desire, and because of desire one is doing action. This is three fold power of the entire creation.

Q: Ānandamayaḥ kaḥ? What is ānandamayaḥ? A: Evamēva kāraṇa-śarīra-bhūtāvidhyāstha malinasattvaṁ

Priyādi-vṛtti-sahitaṁ sat ānandamayaḥ kōśaḥ. Etat kōśapancakam.

In the same manner, that which is abiding in avidyā, in the form of the causal body, of impure sattva, along with the thought modifications like pleasure etc., is ānandamaya sheath. This is the five-fold sheath.

Ānandamayaḥ is no other then kāraṇa-śarīra which is avidyā (mūla avidyā - the power of creation). It is called as impure sattva, since the there is any other projection of activities, but total ignorance was there caused by the veiling power. Because of no wrong projection about oneself, one is having pleasure experience here.

Even though this is called sheath of happiness, but this experiential happiness is also not my true nature because it is being limited by the absent of projections.

Madīyaṁ śarīraṁ madīyāḥ prāṇāḥ madīyaṁ manaśca madīyā

buddhirmadīyam ajñānamiti svēnaiva jñāyate tadhyathā madīyatvēna ñjātaṁkaṭakakuṇḍalagṛhādikaṁ svasmādbhinnam tathā pañcakōśādikaṁsvasmādbhinnaṁ madīyatvēna ñjātamātmā na bhavati.

Just as the bracelet, earring, house etc., known as mine, are different from oneself, so too that which is composed of five sheaths, different from oneself, known by oneself indeed, as “mine” , such as my body, my physiological functions, my mind, my intellect and my ignorance is not the I-Ātma.

From the explanations of three state and five sheath, we come to understand that all of them are just the medium for me to have the interaction with this world or to experience. In fact entire creation / manifestation was there because there were wish to experience. These medium are having very close relationship with me which I address as mine. But ācārya pointed out to us, that what ever is addressed as mine, is not me. This fact is clear to us, but often being missed.

Now is the most important of all the explanations about ātmā my true nature. Previous explanations are negation about what is not my true nature which I have been wrongly taken as me. But if all are being negated, what is left? Up to here, most people will misunderstood that our true nature is end up at nothing-ness. It is not like that. Therefore the crucial understanding about I-ātmā is here.

Q: Ātmā tarhi kaḥ? Then or in that case, what is ātmā?

A: Saccidānanda svarūpaḥ Its nature is existence, consciousness, fullness.

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