“What is bondage? Bondage is identifying what is not Self as the Self. This is due to spiritual ignorance. A spiritually ignorant person nurtures and pampers his body without knowing that it is going to perish one day. Listen! When you consider non-real as real, you will be doomed. Soul or Ātma is without divisions and without comparison. It shines with knowledge, but remains veiled with tamo guṇa’s veiling power. As long as this veil is present, an ignorant person mistakenly thinks that his body is the self. This veiling power of rajo guṇa is known as vikṣepa shakti, which wrongly projects the body as the self. Vikṣepa shakti has two types of powers – power of concealment and power of wrong projection. The Self is concealed by the spiritual ignorance; not only this, it acts further by wrongly projecting the body as the Self. Because he is identifying the self with his body, he is affected by effects of rajo guṇa’s veiling power such as desire, anger, pride, etc. Thus, he is made to suffer in the material world. His buddhi is affected, which makes him to fall into the pains of transmigration. Because of vikṣepa shakti, ego becomes very powerful and projects his body as the Self, by concealing the true Self within. Ego originates from the Self and conceals the Self!! It is like clouds forming out of sun’s heat concealing the sun.

“Don’t think that only rajo guṇa causes vikṣepa. Tamo guṇa’s vikṣepa shakti also conceals (āvaraṇa śakti) the Self and projects the physical body as the Self.  Rajo guṇa changes his basic nature (vikṣepa shakti) and tamo guṇa conceals (āvaraṇa śakti) the Self. Because of this, an ignorant man sinks deep into the pains of saṁsāra, which is full of worldly afflictions. Śaṃkarācārya draws comparison between a tree and a man’s life. Spiritual ignorance or ajñāna is the seed of a tree, buddhi is the sprout, attachment is its tender leaves, his actions are its source of water, prāṇa-s are its branches, gross body is its trunk, organs of perception and action are its twigs, tanmātra-s are its flowers, results of actions are its fruits and the soul is the bird that takes these fruits. (This is often quoted as saṁsāra vṛṣa). This ajñāna is inherent in everyone. It has no beginning and no end and causes multiple miseries to men by causing birth, old age and death. This cannot be removed by any means, except with Divine Grace, which can be attained only through purity of the mind. (Kaṭha Upaniṣad (I.ii.20) says, “The one who has renounced all desires and has gained full control over mind and sense organs can see the greatness of the Self. He then becomes free from all worries.”)

“The Self is covered with five sheaths called panchakosha, like a pond covered with sedge. We can see pure water only after removing the sedge. Similarly we can realize the Self only after removing panchakosha. One can be freed from the pains of transmigration only by gaining spiritual wisdom. This spiritual wisdom or jñāna leads him to the state Sat-Cit-Ānanda (Saccidānanda) or Existence – Consciousness –Bliss or realizing the Self. This process is extremely difficult. It is like segregating the tender grass from its thick sheaths (like segregating rice grain from rice bran or husk. When the husk is carefully removed, we see the full white rice grain). panchakosha-s are like the husk and the Self is the rice.

“Now I will explain to you about panchakosha-s and they are annamaya, prāṇamaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya and ānandamaya kosha-s. The first one or the outermost sheath is annamaya kosha, which is known as the sheath of food (formed out of food). This is the gross or physical body by which we are identified. This contains impurities such as excretory matters. This is not pure and hence cannot be the Self, as the Self is the purest of all. This kośa was non-existent before birth and will not exist after death. This is only temporary during the tenure of this life. Physical body is the heap of flesh, blood, bones and filth. Spiritually ignorant people identify this body as the Self, as such a person lacks discrimination, which is an essential part of Self-realization. Moderately learned man considers both this gross body as well as Self as the Self. Only a learned man is able to discriminate and understand that Self is within these five sheaths and these sheaths have nothing to do with the Self. Even the one who is an exponent of Śāstra-s and Vedas will not be considered as a Self-realized person, as long as he identifies himself with the organs of action and perception. (This is the basis on which external rituals are always denounced while pursuing spiritual path; spiritual path is only seeking the Brahman within and nothing to do with any extraneous objects.) You should never be attached to shapes and forms and should not consider them as the Self. As a first step in the path of Self-realization, get rid of the thought that body is the Self. If you get rid of this thought, you will be liberated. Knowledge and ability to discriminate between the real (Brahman) and non-real (māyā) is important in Self-realization. The process of understanding is sādhana.

types of kosa


“Beneath annamaya kosha is prāṇamaya kosha, which is associated with karmendriya-s (organs of action). The air we breathe in and breathe out is the air that prevails around us. The air is pervading both inside the body and outside the body. Prāṇamaya kosha is insentient and does not know what is needed and what is not. It is under the control of something else (the Self) and cannot be construed as the Self. Beneath the prāṇamaya kosha is the manomaya kosha or mental sheath. This sheath plays a predominant role in wrongly identifying our body as the Self. Manomaya kosha is very powerful as it is made up of mind. This kośa is the reason for causing duality. The predominance of this kośa can be understood from the importance given to the mind in the path of Self-realization. Mind is considered as the source of avidyā and avidyā is the reason for saṁsāra sāgara (the ocean of birth and death). If the mind is destroyed saṁsāra sāgara is destroyed (freed from birth and death – liberation) and if the mind is active, everything else appears, causing duality. Mind is active both during active state and the dream state. Mind rests only in deep sleep state. Therefore, whatever we observe as real are only illusions caused by the mind. (Prāṇāyama is one of the ways to control mind, as mind is directly related to prāṇamaya kosha and manomaya kosha.) Wind brings in clouds and the same wind drives away the cloud. Similarly, mind causes bondage, etc. and the same mind destroys them too.

“Like a cow being tied with a rope, mind ties the Self with bondage and attachment. After sometime, mind is frustrated with bondage and attachment and releases the Self from bondage, etc. (Realization will happen only after the frustration point of the mind. There will be huge time gap between attachment and detachment and this time can be hastened only through spiritual sādhana such as meditation.) Mind is the cause for both bondage and liberation. As long as the mind is associated with rajo and tamo guṇa-s, liberation is not possible. Viveka and vairāgya (knowledge and aversion) play key role in liberation. If these two qualities are well developed, path to liberation will be easier. Mind is dangerous like a tiger and those who seek liberation should not fall prey to the mind. All types of differentiations are caused only by the mind. But the Self is not associated with any of these afflictions. Mind binds the Self with the help of sensory organs, prāṇa, etc.by causing duality (bondage is the source for all dualities) and wrongly projects “I” as the Self. This “I” is associated with physical body and sensory organs due to ego. Wrongly identifying our body as the Self is known as adhyāsa and is the reason for transmigration. (Adhyāsa is a Vedāntic term, which means understanding one thing for another (mistaken identity). It is explained as the memory of something perceived previously appears at this present moment. For example, identifying a rope as snake; rope is mistakenly identified as snake.) Mind is the reason for adhyāsa. Hence, learned men call the mind as avidyā (spiritual ignorance). If your goal is liberation, you have to purify your mind first. Listening to spiritual discourses will help you to purify your mind (spiritual practices).

“The manomaya kosha described so far cannot be the Self because, manomaya kosha has beginning and end, whereas the Self does not have beginning and end. Further, manomaya kosha is subjected to various changes (modifications happening in the mind), whereas the Self is beyond any changes and eternal. Because of manomaya kosha we see the material world; but the Self cannot be seen and It always remains as a witness.”

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