Pancha Koshas – The Happiness Vehicle

Our body can be divided into five parts – Pancha Koshas, say our scriptures. Most people focus on a small fraction of one or two of the five parts ignoring the rest. Let us see the role each of them play in helping us be happy…

The gross and most obvious part of these is Annamaya Kosha – The Physical Body. The physical body which we consider and identify as “I” is the Annamaya Kosha. (Think!!! What we identify as “I” is just one fifth of the body, the vehicle, that carries us through this life time). Balanced diet, regular optimal exercise and adequate rest is what keeps this physical body healthy. While keeping the physical body healthy, we should look beyond external beauty, presentable fitness and physique. It is this physical body that helps us do and achieve all that we need to achieve in this life time. Any discomfort at the physical level will have a direct bearing on our mental state and make us unhappy. Like we maintain external hygiene, we need to take care of internal hygiene and keep it clean and healthy. To keep the physical body healthy we need to keep in mind the following elements – put inside only that is healthy (No Junk Please! The body is not a dustbin), clean the inner parts regularly (eliminate waste completely).

Yoga (Asanas) can be practised regularly to provide exercise not only to the bones and muscles but also to the internal organs – lungs, heart, liver, glands, intestine, etc., There are also yogic practices (Kriyas) that can help us clean the inner parts of the body periodically like we clean the external body daily while bathing.

The next and subtler part of our body is the Pranamaya Kosha – The Pranic Body. This is the vital – life giving force. We cannot see it, but can feel. Prana is subtler than air and is taken inside along with the air that we breathe in. A healthy physical body will keep open all the minute channels inside letting this vital pranic energy reach each and every cell and enrich them with energy. This is another reason why we should keep our physical body clean and healthy.

Pranayama practices as described in Pathanjali Yoga Sutras is about enhancing this vital energy. Asana practices can be combined with Pranayama practices under expert guidance for maximum benefits. Such practices will keep us bubbling with energy and away from tiredness or other tamasic elements. Pranamaya Kosha is important because through this we can not only control the gross physical body but also the other subtler bodies described below. Pranic Healing is also about using this Pranic energy to cure our physical ailments. There are high-technology cameras developed to picture this Aura / Energy that surrounds us. Unlike physical body, which has a limited growth, by regular practice we can grow our Pranic Body throughout our life time.

More subtler than the Pranamaya Kosha is the Manomaya Kosha – the Mental Body. This body can neither be seen or felt. It is comprised of all our thoughts and emotions. We know what we are is because of our thoughts. Our thoughts and emotions decide the way we think and behave in different circumstances. A healthy Annamaya and Pranamaya kosha will enhance our awareness about the thoughts and emotions we undergo. This awareness is the first step in dealing with them in an appropriate way. There are no good or bad, desired or undesired emotions. All emotions are necessary for us to deal with different situations. What is important is for us to be aware of our thoughts/emotions and respond accordingly, instead of reacting based on our emotions due to lack of awareness. This state can be achieved over time with regular practice.

Apart from regular practice of Asanas and Pranayama with a state of awareness, pratyahara practices of Ashtanga Yoga helps us develop this ability over time and build a healthy Manomaya Kosha. So we start seeing the importance of regular practice of Asanas and Pranayama and keeping the physical and pranic body healthy for being happy even in pressing situations. Thousands of pages can be written describing this, however this is better appreciated only when experienced.

Many people have the habit of doing yoga practices – asana / pranayama / other practices by reading books or watching TVs and Videos. These tools can only be supplements and aids. But to get the actual benefit by doing appropriate practices, it is essential that one learns it from a guru directly.

The other two Koshas – Vijnanamaya Kosha (Knowledge body) and Anandamaya Kosha (State of Eternal Joy/Happiness) are much subtler. Knowledge or wisdom is the closest translation we can use for the sanskrit word Vijnanam. This is about the true knowledge that answers even those questions (about this existence and the world around us) which cannot be answered by our logical or scientific mind. Lord Krishna says in Gita that Ignorance of true knowledge is one of the causes for sorrow and worry.

Seekers are those who look out for answers to such questions that are unanswerable by normal scientific knowledge and logic. Swami Chinmayananda says in one of his lectures, spirituality is not about leaving the scientific and logical reasoning. It is about reaching the brim of scientific and logical reasoning and then going beyond them to seek further answers. This continuous quest by scientists have provided answers to lots of man’s sufferings. It is said that Einstein belonged to no formal religious group. To Quote from an article about Einstein…

“He once said “Ideas come from God” “God is subtle, but he is not malicious” – By this Einstein meant that scientists could expect to find their task difficult, but not hopeless: the Universe was a Universe of Law, and God was not confusing us with deliberate paradoxes and contradictions.”

Einstein and any great leader is known for their simplicity. This simplicity arises from a state of healthy physical, pranic and mental state. And at that peaceful state comes the answers from “God”… It is further said that when one works in that state one can experience a state of Eternal Bliss – Anandamaya Kosha. This is a state to be experienced through more advanced practices of Yoga and better explained by those who have actually traversed the path.

We just have to be aware that this Anandam (Joy), is not what we get by watching a movie or reading a joke or by enjoying other pleasures in the physical world. Taking one step at a time, all we need to do is work on the Physical, Pranic and Mental bodies with the help of Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara practices. By being in such a peaceful and simple state we can prepare ourselves for more advanced practices and states of being…

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