Vedantic Wednesday: The Five Sheaths Around The SELF

Why is understanding and experiencing the SELF so difficult, while we can read and listen on it as much as we want to.This is 800px-Red_onion_rings_closeupbecause, the unchanging SELF is enveloped by not one but five sheaths. These five sheaths are constantly influencing our perceptions and hence experience. To reach to the SELF that resides as the core of our being, we need to penetrate these five sheaths. So the first step is to understand what are these five sheaths. Vedanta describes them as below:

1. Annamaya-kosa: The Food Sheath, which implies the physical body. That is maintained by food and returns as food. Its attributes are the height, weight, health, sickness, color etc

2. Pranamaya-kosa: Vital-air Sheath. Prana which represents the vital force that holds the mind and body together coupled with five organs of action forms the vital-air sheath. The attributes include attributes of prana (hunger, thirst, tiredness etc) and attributes of organs of action like speech.

3. Manomaya-kosa: This refers to the mental sheath, which is formed by the mind along with the five sensory organs. The attributes of this include worry, doubt, emotions, vision, smell etc

4. Vijnanamaya-kosa: This refers to the intellectual sheath, which is a combination of intellect and the five organs of perception. Its attributes include aspects of discrimination, doubt, doership, enjoyership (aspects associated with ego)

5. Anandamaya-kosa: This refers to the bliss sheath, and is composed of various vasanas or tendencies like joy of anticipation, thrill of attainment and happiness of enjoyment. This in Upanishads is referred to as the causal body. This is the sheath that still stands between the world and the atman, when the senses and mind cease to function.

To reaching our SELF it becomes necessary for us to peel away each of the layers one by one, like an onion. And just like peeling of an onion this too is not a pleasant task. It is one that seemingly brings pain and doubts as we work on each of the layers. However the efforts are rewarded manifold when we connect to the essence of our being – our SELF!

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