“The fourth sheath or kosha is vijnanamaya kosha, also known as the sheath of knowledge. Buddhi in association with organs of knowledge form vijnanamaya kosha. This is the main reason for transmigration. Jīva is the reflection of the Self and with this jīva, vijñāna (the act of distinguishing or discerning, understanding, comprehending, recognizing, intelligence, knowledge, etc.) is closely associated. This is nothing but modification of prakṛti, which leads to “I am the knower” or “I am the doer”, etc. This causes attachment to the body and its indriya-s. This jīva is vijnanamaya kosha and is without beginning and is associated with ego. This carries karmas of previous births and makes us to good and bad actions and causes transmigration to undergo both pleasure and pain. The three stages of consciousness (active, dream and deep sleep) belong only to this jīva. vijnanamaya kosha is closer to the Self and therefore, it is illuminating. It is radiating the Light of the Self within. Those who identify this as the Self undergoes transmigration. (Jīva exists as vijnanamaya kosha associated with ego, etc. It shines because, it forms the immediate covering of the Self, which alone illumines).
“The self-effulgent Ātman or the Self shines in the midst of prāṇa-s. Though the Self is imperishable, due to superimposition of vijnanamaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha is wrongly identified as the Self (as the effulgence of the Self percolates through vijnanamaya kosha). Take for example an earthen pot. Though clay is the source of the pot, still the pot and clay are different. The Self though pure and eternal, but due to superimpositions (all the kośa-s), appears as limited. Fire does not have any form. But fire appears in a form when iron rod is kept in fire; fire appears in the form hot and red iron rod.”
Now the disciple asks his Guru, “The Self has considered itself as jīva due to delusion or superimpositions. Whatever be the reason, superimposition is without beginning or end. Therefore, jīva will not have any end and transmigration will continue forever. How then the jīva will attain liberation? Please enlighten me on this.”
Guru explains. “Listen. Imagination caused by delusion can never be accepted as real. The sky appears as blue, but in reality sky is colourless. But for this delusion, the Self is always pure, formless and unattached like the sky without colour. Self is beyond guṇa-s and actions. It is all alone and ever exists as intellectual and blissful. It always remains only as a witness (actions appear only if there are guṇa-s). It is superimposed by delusion, and once the delusion has gone, you realize the Self. What is preventing you from realization is only delusion in conjunction with buddhi. The Self is perceived as the self only because of oscillating buddhi. Once the wrong perception goes away, there remains only the reality. You mistake a rope for snake. When you understand that it is not snake and it is only rope, what remains there? Only the rope, which alone is real. Reality always remains and the unreal vanish. Self is always real and eternal. Avidyā or nescience is without beginning (both the Self and avidyā exist from the beginning; but Self is eternal and avidyā is not). When one attains spiritual knowledge (vidyā), avidyā goes away, (like darkness going away after sunrise). It is like dreams going away after waking up.
“Even though avidyā is without beginning, it has an end. The Self superimposed by buddhi is not the real. It may shine because, the Self within is self-illuminating (Self alone is self-illuminating), but that is not the Self. Considering vijnanamaya kosha as the Self is due to falsified knowledge (snake and rope). The Self can be realized only after gaining true knowledge. You must know that the Self, self, soul, jīva and ātaman are one and the same. There is no individual soul and Supreme Soul and both are same. Due to ignorance, a man without spiritual knowledge and influenced by illusion considers them differently. When these sheaths or kośa-s are removed by understanding the truth through spiritual knowledge, Self is realized. When impure water is filtered, you get pure water. Similarly, when impurities arising out of ignorance are removed, we realize the pure Self. When impurities such as ego and pride are removed, one will understand that the self and the Self are the same (before gaining knowledge, Self is covered by māyā and appears as the self or individual soul). Thus vijnanamaya kosha is not the Self because it is not eternal (disappears after gaining knowledge). That is which is not eternal cannot be the Self. Only the Self alone is eternal.
“Now we are going to discuss the last of the five sheaths known as anandamaya kosha or the sheath of bliss. This is also nescience and captures the reflection of ever illumining Self. anandamaya kosha makes us to experience bliss. The Self is always in Blissful state and anandamaya kosha is so close to the Self, it also makes us to undergo happiness when good karmic imprints are experienced without any efforts. This is experienced by all of us during deep sleep. We can also realize its presence during dream and active states too (during active state because of karmic imprints). Again blissful sheath is also not the Self because it changes and not eternal. It depends upon one’s karmic account. Only the Self alone is eternal and without changes.
“Thus when all the five kośa-s are eliminated, what remains is the Self. It always acts as only a witness. Know that is the Self you are seeking.”
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