Satsang on Koshas and Bodies

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

What is the relationship between the bodies and koshas of Samkhya philosophy?

In Samkhya there are five koshas. The first is known as annamaya kosha, the second is pranamaya kosha, followed by manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. They are all empirical worldly bodies.

Annamaya kosha is built by the food we eat. Pranamaya kosha is composed of pranas. These pranas are five in number, with five chief functions and five subsidiary functions of prana. Manomaya kosha is composed of four items: thinking, analysing, feeling and the ego. In Samkhya they are known as manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara. Manas means thinking and counter-thinking. Buddhi is analysis or comparison between different objects. It is an instrument of rationalization. Understanding the difference between hot water and cold water, is the action of buddhi. Chitta is the feeling of time, space and object. Remembering, dreaming and awareness is chitta. The fourth one is known as ahamkara. It is the knowledge of one’s own existence. ‘I know I am,’ is the action of ahamkara.

Vijnanamaya kosha is the psychic body, corresponding more or less to the subconscious mind. The word vijnana means special or detailed knowledge. Through the mind one knows objects, sounds, touch, one cognises the form, one feels the taste and understands the smell. This is known as sensory knowledge, which takes place in the mind. Vijnana is special knowledge, which means extrasensory perception. One becomes aware of unknown forms. One is able to perceive different colours, and to feel mental vibrations. When vijnanamaya kosha becomes active one no longer has to depend on the mind and senses for knowledge. Anandamaya kosha is the fifth dimension. Ananda means no vibration, no movement. There is absolute status quo, it is motionless.

These five koshas represent the five lower sides of the bodies. Finally, there are two more bodies, one belonging to the jivanmukta, the other to the videhamukta. The sixth body jivanmukta is one who has attained liberation or emancipation in this physical body. Jivan means life, living, mukta means emancipation or liberation. The person is in the body but has nothing to do with it, like the light of a star which has been destroyed, but the light is still traveling. Jivanmukta is a higher state of human evolution. When a coconut becomes ripe, it separates itself from the shell. In the same way, when one attains the state of jivanmukta, the self and the body are completely separated from each other.

The last body is known as videhamukta. Videha means disembodiment. When the final emancipation has taken place then the videhamukta, the spirit, does not live anymore in the body at all.

What are the seven bodies of a human being?

The seven bodies are known as invisible bodies. Out of these seven only one is visible to us. The pranic body, mental body, psychic body and the unconscious body are all invisible. Then there are two more higher spiritual bodies. The physical body is known to everyone. We have studied it in science.

The pranic body consists of vital energy, which is within the body and outside the body. In the same way as heat has radiation, or light has an aura, the pranic body is also within and outside. When we develop the pranic body its area becomes greater, just as a high powered heater has a greater area of effect.

The mental body is the third layer. It is much more powerful and more subtle than the pranic body and can be stretched even further. Sometimes the mental bodies of two individuals can join each other. Beyond this there is the fourth circle, the psychic body, which is much more powerful than the mental body. It can extend up to hundreds of miles. The fifth and most powerful one is the blissful body, known as the unconscious.

Finally there are two more realms, they are higher, divine or cosmic bodies. These seven bodies belong to everybody, but in most people they are undeveloped. The pranic body, the mental body and other bodies are very narrow. Through the practice of pranayama, the pranic body becomes wider and greater. Through the practice of meditation, it is the mental body which becomes greater. Although we use the word body, they are not actually bodies. They are an aura or radiation, in the same way that a candle radiates light. If we analyse this radiation, we will find many, many items.

In the physical body there is the shakti power, trying to express itself. The different bodies are the different spectrums of this shakti. When we try to remove the barrier, the light becomes greater. Animals live only in the physical body, but when we practise yoga or spiritual life, we transfer from the physical body to the higher bodies.

In our time it appears that man is living in the mental body. Although we have a body, we don’t live in the body, we live in the mind. Then there are many people, such as yogis, Christian saints, Muslim saints, many bhaktas and God-intoxicated people, who do not live in the body or mind; they live in the psychic body or higher bodies. Then there are even higher bodies where the liberated saints like Buddha and Christ live. They had a body like you and I, but they did not live in it. They lived in the higher bodies. These bodies are emanations of the spirit.

Please explain how the koshas relate to the different bodies.

In Samkhya philosophy three different bodies are elucidated: the physical, subtle and causal. Speaking and other physical activities belong to the physical body. The mind, intellect, subconscious and ego are the content of the subtle body. The causal body is homogeneous consciousness and nothing else. These three types of bodies have different layers. The physical body has two, annamaya and pranamaya kosha, the food and pranic body. The subtle body also has two, manomaya and vijnanamaya kosha, the mental and psychic body. The causal body has only one, the anandamaya kosha, bliss body.

How do the astral body and the emotional body function, if they exist?

The emotional, the astral, the causal, the psychic, pranic and physical bodies exist, but it is the physical body which we see. We experience the pranic body, we do not see it. It is the same with the mental body. The psychic body we experience in dream, but we do not see it, nor do we see the emotional body. These bodies should not be equated with this body.

We make a mistake when we think about a body as this frame of a human body. Our mind is conditioned. When we think about the emotional body, we think that we have also two feet, two hands, two eyes and a nose, we never see the emotional body like that of a horse or a donkey. All the different bodies we are talking about have a different shape.

Now, to give an example, the occult body, the unconscious body has a snake’s body. It is like a snake in three and half coils. In the same manner, all the bodies do exist and are forces. We have a light force, radioactive force and an electromagnetic force. These bodies have a different range of existence, beyond ordinary cognition.

In short, we can say that beyond this physical body there are powerful forms of radiation and these are the different bodies. Each body has its composition. The pranic body is composed of charged electrons, protons and other molecules. The emotional body is charged with thought waves of great currents. The occult body is composed of unconscious matter which is the base of our life. Nothing more needs to be said about it.

What are the granthis? It has been said that when the brahma granthi is opened, creativity is liberated. Please explain this.

The granthis are psychic knots which hold all of creation within them. Everything is contained within the embryo of these knots, even the acts of destruction and regeneration are embedded there. Brahma granthi is the seat, centre and source of creativity. When it is opened, all the powers of creativity are released with a great force. Although Brahma granthi is connected to every part of human existence, when it is closed it is completely insulated from everything and merely existing. If an electrical generating station has not been connected to a city, the city remains in darkness even though the generator is functioning. But if you connect the generator with the transformers and the main electrical stations, the whole city becomes illuminated. So the gross life is not connected to Brahma granthi, but insulated from it. However, when yogis practise and awaken this knot, it becomes associated and connected with the rest of the creative miracles of life.

The body is a vehicle of creation. Eyes, nose, ears, feet, hands, brain, thought, emotion, etc. are the tools of creation. However, they are incapable of creating anything in the common man, because they are operating on the instinctive level where they can express only as much as the animal nature can manage. However, when Brahma granthi is connected with the light, the eyes become creative, the brain becomes creative, the whole dimension of thought, intellect and emotion becomes creative.

What are siddhis?

Siddhis can be classified into eight categories. For example, there are people who have certain healing powers because of the development of their pranic body. It is a very preliminary stage. Then there are people who are telepathic, clairvoyant or clairaudient as a result of vijnanamaya kosha having developed. There are people who are able to materialize their bodies at different places, or who can materialize objects. This is possible when anandamaya kosha has become active.

The different siddhis are accomplishments of an individual at different stages of transition in the body. For example, if pranamaya kosha is developing you have the power of healing. If vijnanamaya kosha is developing you have extrasensory perceptions. So these eight siddhis belong to the development of the lower five bodies.

When you are nearer to the higher spirit, then you have nothing to do with these siddhis. Once you transcend these five bodies, and become a jivanmukta, you transcend the siddhis and move nearer to the divine.