One of our most favorite movies ever is the 1999 Matrix.
It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.
We find the Matrix one of the best ways to explain the yogic concept of the Five Koshas (also known as Five Sheaths). The Five Koshas were first presented in the Vedic Scriptures about 3000 years ago. They talk about the multifaceted nature of life and health and they warn against polarization of the human being as either material, psychological or spiritual.
Any moment we overemphasize or deny aspects of ourselves, including our physical bodies, our senses, our emotions, our mind and our spirit, we develop an imbalanced map of the human life.
The overused, misused and least understood yogic term of “oneness” refers exactly to that harmony, that dynamic relationship between all aspects of our human existence.
A very favorite way of mine (Vie) to explain the dynamic balance between all aspects of our human existence is using the matryoshka or babushka doll, the wooden set of Russian nesting dolls. They decrease in size and you can place one inside another. They always maintaining their dynamic relationship. (I have owned a set of them since I was 12 years old. 🙂 )
The outermost sheath is our physical body, the Annamaya Kosha (Food Sheath). The food sheath relates to all the systems of the physical body, even the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space. The food sheath represents all the physiological systems of the physical body, our cells, tissues and organs. The food sheath is what we are most accustomed to.
Within the Food Sheath lies the Pranamaya Kosha (Energy Sheath). The energy sheath relates to the subtle energy systems of the body such as the chakras (energy vortexes) and the prana vayus (energy currents). It facilitates the intake and flow of Prana (life force) throughout our being. It is considered to be the home of the breath, the vehicle that connects the mind with the body. When our breath becomes chronically shallow or impaired, disease can occur.
Within the Energy Sheath lies the Manomaya Kosha (Psycho-emotional Body or Sheath). It houses our emotions and our senses. Among our strongest emotional responses are the “fight, flight or freeze” response, survival, reproduction, social roles and personality identification. When these emotional responses become un-examined repetitive patterns of behavior, they lead to stress and possibly physical and mental illness. Bipolar behavior is an example of the Manomaya Kosha gone wrong.
Within the Psycho-emotional body lies the Vijnanamaya Kosha (Intellectual Sheath or Wisdom Body). This sheath is where the process of self-inquiry starts. It is the area of intuition and wisdom. It gives us the insight and discrimination to recognize life patterns that are emotionally taxing and physically dangerous. This is the area where we become the observer of our self and are able to recognize our deep seated tendencies. From there we can start transforming our life-long patterns. It is actually what Ayurveda describes as “thinking with our heart”. Mid-life crisis is an example of us starting to access our Wisdom Body.
Within the Wisdom Body lies the Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Body). This is where the true Self sits and where the process of self-inquiry starting at the Intellectual Sheath leads. This is the area we refer to when we “dig deep down into the rabbit hole“. It is more real than our personality. This experience is rarely felt, it takes opening up each of the outer nested dolls… It requires a lot of courage and discipline. However, every time we get there, we experience, contentment, stillness and bliss, and a world where anything is possible.
I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it… Nobody can be told what the matrix is, you have to see it for yourself.
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Na’maste kala! Which in Greek means: May we all be well!