"Taitreya Upanishads" brings out that our pure consciousness is veiled under five layers or koshas.
The process of evolution and ascension is through mindful awareness of each stage. Panch kosahas are a way
to 'self realization' (chaitnayaswaroop aatman). The aim of life is to rediscover ourselves or get closer to the
Universal Consciousness. Five 'koshas' are there to unveil in order to achieve this aim.
(1) Physical Body or 'Annamaya Koshas'.
This is the first dimension of gross physical body. The body feeds on food or 'Anna'; in order to gain energy
and our ultimate aim is to serve humanity. Body is an instrument to serve Dharma (duty). 'Annamaya
Kosha' is made of Five Elements ('Panch Maha Bhoot'), Earth, Water, Air, Sky & Fire. This physical body
consists of flesh, blood, bone and tissues, organs, glands, nervous system, brain etc. It is called the food
sheath and is an object of perception. The Atman is the cognisor and the body is the cognised. Hence the Self is
different from the body. Existence, birth, growth, modification, decay and death are the six Vikaras or
substitution of the physical body. Atman is formless, changeless, birth-less, deathless. One should meditate on
this soul or the Atman or the Brahman to ascend up from body consciousness. Practicing Asana helps nourish
(2) The Vital or Energy sheath (Pranamaya Kosh):
Prana is the energizing force for all activities. The Pranmaya Kosh or the vital sheath is a product of Rajoguna having a beginning and an end. The Self is the know er, seer and witness of this sheath. A
pure-hearted man breaths rhythmically. An evil-minded persons's breath is disturbed. Controlling the mind
automatically controls the Prana. The Pranamaya Kosha is composed of the five pranas ( prana, udana,
vyana, samana and apana) as well as the five organs of action (karmendriyas -mouth , hands, feet, rectum &
genitals). Due to this cover the 'Atman' considers itself as Doer, sufferer which is in fact identification of self
with Pranamaya kosha. One should meditate on the Self- existent Atman as distinct from it. The pranamaya
kosha is nourished by fresh and nourishing food, sunlight and the breath . Practice of pranayama helps one
nourish this sheath.
(3) The Mental Sheath or the Manomaya Kosh:
The mental sheath is a product of Sattwa Guna. It comprises mind and five sense organs (Jnana Indriyas).
It is a storehouse of thoughts, emotions and 'willpower' which is an important aspects of personality. It is a
means of enjoying pleasure and pain. Mind is associated with the Vrittis or feelings of lust, anger etc. It
causes egoism and estrangement from true self which results is a sense of isolation and separation from
environment. It is this complex falsifying ego structure that is the root cause of all human sufferings. This
disintegration of this ego structure is considered an indispensable condition for spiritual liberation.
(4) State of Wisdom or Vigyanmaya Kosha:
The Vigyanmaya Kosha or the wisdom or this Buddhi sheath is a product of Sattwa Guna. Intellect or
wisdom regulates the affairs of this Kosha. In most of the human beings it is present only as a great
potential, which is never actualize, only a few thinkers achieve this. But here also the ego considers itself as
doer, know er and feels pride in intellectual achievements and creativity.
(5) State of bliss or Anandmaya Kosha:
Vigyanmaya Kosha seprates the other three Koshas from Anandmaya kosha. Vigyanmaya Kosha is related
to Intellect but Anandmaya Kosha is related to divinity. It is the highest form of "Savikalpa Samadhi."
A kind of defilement required to be eradicated in order to achieve highest Samadhi that is Nirvikalpa
Samadhi where the distinction between the doer and the deed is completely diminished. The theory of Panchkosh is a way transcendence from lower self to highest self i.e. aham brahmasmi a state of eternal peace, love and harmony. This transformation makes us videh i.e. free from body or detached from body.
This is a state of eternal bliss and our Atman is beyond all kind of attachment and cravings i.e. One is involved in the world but unattached to all. Just be the witness. One is only instrumental and not the doer of the deed. All work is an opportunity to serve the Almighty.