According to yogic theory & philosophy, a human being is comprised of 5 layers. These layers are called koshas, or sheath. Each layer is more subtle than the other.
The first is annamaya kosha, or literally mean ‘food sheath’ – it is the physical body: the bones, muscles, tissues, organs, bloods, etc. The grossest of the layers. It is made of the elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. It is on this layer the gateway to the external world, the five receiving senses and the five action sense are located, so it is through this layer that one is experiencing life.
The second is pranamaya kosha, or the energy body, the prana layer. More subtle than the physical body, this layer not visible to the naked eye, but one can feel it. The chakras, or energy centers, are within this layer. Without prana, there is no life.
The third is manomaya kosha, the mind body. This is the mind that interacts with the inputs from the senses, carry out day to day operation of keeping oneself alive and well – eg if there’s a danger, move away – if there’s a reward, come closer. Manomaya kosha is full of emotions – a reaction to the input from the senses. It is key for survival.
The fourth is vijnanamaya kosha, sometimes called the higher mind. Also referred to as the ‘wisdom body’ – this is where awareness, insight, discernment, and consciousness located. Without awareness, one will be only reacting to whatever comes one’s way. With awareness, one can stop to only reacting and choose to response with intention.
The fifth is called anandamaya kosha, the bliss body. Sometimes also called the causal body. This is the innermost layer covering the essence – the soul, or spirit, or self, or atman. The unchanging eternal reality.
Using a computer as analogy, annamaya kosha is like the hardware. The receiving sense organs are keyboards, mouse, touchscreen, microphone. The action sense organs are the monitor, speaker, printer. Pranamaya kosha is like the electricity powering the computer – without plugging it into the electricity the computer can’t turn on. It’s the current that goes through the hardwares. Manomaya kosha is like the operating system – basic operation of the computer is controlled from here. Vijnanamaya kosha is like the more advanced software, with which the computer can interact in a more useful way, be productive, be of service. I can’t think yet of the parallel for anandamaya kosha in a computer… can you think of one? Although not yet complete, I think this computer analogy helps me understand more about the koshas.
Image source: iytyogatherapy.com