Vedantic Wednesday: Beyond Words

Very often etymological understanding of words and terms reveal the larger concept and the true intent behind.It helps to realise, the reason and the intent of the word better. And as a result a deeper understanding of the subject and appreciation of the thought process automatically sets in.

One such term that caught my attention was ‘Annamaya-kosa’, a term used as a synonym for ‘sthula-sarira’ (‘sthula’ – meaning gross, one that can be perceived by sense organs and ‘sarira’ – meaning one that disintegrates).  The term ‘Annamaya-kosa’ means literally food sheath. And this term conveys much more than being just another synonym for our human body.

‘Annamaya’ is used because the body is created from the generative liquids provided by the parents, which is a result of the food they have consumed; the body is then sustained by the food that is consumed during one’s life; and on death, the body becomes food for other beings. Since the body is created by, maintained and disintegrates as food, it is referred to as ‘annamaya’.

The word ‘kosa’ means sheath. It is significant because it reflects what the gross body actually does. It provides a sheath for the jiva or the self. Ignorance leads us to get attached to the ‘annamaya-kosa’. And in the preoccupation of this attachment we never look into the ‘jiva’ that is waiting to be discovered. Very much like those infants who attracted more by the colourful packaging, forget all about the actual gift that is inside.

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