Vedānta series 17

Recap: After discussing briefly about the types of Vedānta, we procceded to discuss more about advaita philosophy. This series discusses advaita philosophy based on Tattvabodha. First, sādhanacatuṣṭayaṁ (discrimination, dispassion, six fold wealth and desire for liberation) was discussed. Then attainment of knowledge, three types of bodies and avasthātrayam were discussed. Now, Tattvabodha begins to discuss the five types of sheaths or coverings.

Let us take an orange as an example. In the orange fruit, first there is the outer pericarp, then inner pericarp, then pulp and ultimately we see the seeds embedded in the pulp. In order to see the seeds, we have to go past the pericarps and the pulp. In the same way, we have to go past these sheaths to realize the Brahman. Pañcadaśī (III.1) says, “It is possible to know the Brahman which is hidden in the cave by differentiating It from them. Hence the five sheaths are now being considered.” Chapter II of Taittirīya Upaniṣad also discusses about these sheaths.

Tattvabodha asks “pañca kośāḥ ke?” meaning what are the five sheaths? The five sheaths are annamaya, prāṇamaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya and ānandamaya kośa-s. These five sheaths are translated as sheaths of food, vital air, mind, intellect and bliss. These five sheaths are related to the three types of bodies – gross, subtle and casual.

Gross body à annamaya kośa, prāṇamaya kośa

Subtle body à manomaya kośa, vijñānamaya kośa

Casual body à ānandamaya kośa

The Self within can be realized only if all these sheaths are transcended, as the Self remains encased by these sheaths. These sheaths cause illusion by making a person to identify with these sheaths. The exterior annamaya kośa is grossest of the five and the interior ānandamaya kośa is the subtlest. The following diagram will explain the five kośa-s with relation to the three types of bodies.