This is Part I of the series titled understanding our physical body. The human body is broadly divided into two categories, one is called gross or physical body or sthula sarira and another is subtle body called sukshma sarira. What appears to our eyes is the gross or physical body. The subtle body is not visible to our physical eyes. Our gross body is nourished by our food intake. The subtle body is again divided into four. They are called koshas which means sheaths or layers or coverings. They are pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. The self illuminating Atman inside our self is covered by these layers or coverings. A clear understanding of these coverings will enables us to go beyond these layers to realise the Atman inside. Identifying Atman with our self is self realisation. Our gross or physical or sthula body is visible to our eyes. Each one of the physical bodies that exists has a name like Krishna, Vincent, Mohamed, Sita, Lakshmi etc. With the help of these names we are able to find out who is who i.e. we are able to identify physical bodies with the help of these names. Our physical body needs nourishment for its growth, which is derived from the food and water we consume. Food is called annam in Sanskrit. Therefore our physical body is also called annamaya kosha. With this annamaya kosha there are five koshas or coverings for the Atman and understanding these koshas is called pancha kosha vidya. Knowledge and intellect are the basic criteria for self realisation. That is why we have now taken up the study to pancha kosha vidya.
Let us first take up our physical body or annamaya kosha. The physical body is made up of external layer of skin (twak), internal layer of skin (charmam), flesh, blood, bones and filth. Without these six, a physical body cannot exist. If this physical body is not provided with food, it perishes which is called death. Death is only for physical body, about which we will discuss later. If we do not have a healthy physical body, we cannot withstand the entry of powerful divine energy that we are seeking. The physical body always grows. When a baby is born, it requires only a minimal food. When the body reaches youth stage, maximum food is required and at the old age, the intake of food is gradually reduced and finally the body dies. When the physical body perishes, it perishes once for all. The physical body of a person named Krishna will be no more after its death. Therefore the physical body is not permanent in nature. The atman does not undergo change along with the aging process of the physical body and therefore, physical body cannot be called as atman. Since this is not atman, we should not attach importance to our physical body. But at the same time, the external portion of the physical body is to be kept neat and clean as we know that atman is inside this physical body. It is like keeping clean the places around sanctum sanctorum. Of course, we will discuss this later in detail. At the same time, the various external parts of the physical body are to be controlled. We have dealt with this subject in detail in our series on mind. Only with the help of mind, our sensory organs can be controlled.