Tag Archives: Vedanta

Recording – Doctrine of Karma

Recently I conducted a Zoom meeting for an interesting topic – Doctrine of Karma. The meeting was well attended, and we had a very lively Q & A session (over 35 minutes). We covered the following topics for the Doctrine of Karma.

  • What is Karma?
  • Understanding Karma Phala (fruits)
  • Understanding Karma Yoga

Find below the link for the recording.

I do hope you will take the time to watch this recording. Also, it will be great if you can share this link with your family and friends.

Understanding Happiness

We all experience moments of happiness. If you think about it, it is not easy to define what is happiness. You feel it, but it is not that easy to express it. Some people define happiness as a type of emotion which gives joy or contentment or satisfaction. Usually, this emotion is in response to an experience. If you like the experience, you are happy, and if you dislike the experience, you are unhappy. Not only happiness but any emotion is usually a response to an experience. 

If you look around, you will find that there are a wide variety of reasons that give happiness. For some people, money gives happiness; for others, having a nice meal or meeting old friends gives happiness, and so on. The reasons and causes are numerous. It seems there is no single cause which gives happiness to all people. It varies from person to person.

External Objects and Happiness

We have five sense organs—eyes (for sight), ears (for sound), nose (for smell), tongue (for taste), and skin (for touch). These five senses are connected to the mind. All thoughts, perceptions, and emotions—all these happen in the mind. Each of these senses sends signals to the mind. The sense organs by themselves do not make any judgements; they just forward the signal of the external world to the mind. For example, the tongue forwards the sweetness or bitterness of objects to the mind. By itself it does not make any judgement. The mind decides if it likes the sweet taste or the bitter taste.

During the waking state the five senses do not rest. They are continuously sensing the external world and sending signals to the mind. The mind processes these input signals and sends them to the ego. The ego can handle only one experience or input at a time. Normally, it tries to select the experience which it finds agreeable and avoids any experience which will give unhappiness. The experience which is agreeable will give happiness and the experiences which are not agreeable will give misery.

Vedanta calls this process raga (like) and dvesha (dislike). When the ego interacts with sense objects, it adds like and dislike to these objects. It runs after objects it likes because they give it a sense of happiness. Sometimes it is not possible, but it always tries to run away from experiences which give unhappiness.  

Since the mind is continuously dealing with these external objects through the five senses, it is therefore looking for happiness from these external objects. The mind feels that happiness can be found only from these external objects. Do you think this is a successful strategy? Our experience will tell us that it is not. Happiness from these experiences is always momentary. It does not last long; it comes and goes. This happiness is always for a short duration. When this happiness disappears, you feel sad because you do not want it to end. In a way, misery always follows happiness. You want to repeat these moments of happiness. You want to repeat the same experience. You try to create the same conditions so that the moment of happiness can be repeated. You know it—this is not always possible.     

 The goal of every living being is to find an ultimate solution to achieve happiness and contentment. A solution which is permanent and everlasting. Right now, the effort is to find this never-ending happiness from external objects. This is happening because people think that external objects are the source of happiness. This is the fundamental error made by people. External objects are not and can never be a source of happiness. The following examples will highlight this issue.

1. People think that eating chocolate will give them happiness. They eat one piece; they enjoy it and find momentary happiness. The second piece will also give the same enjoyment. But if they continue eating chocolates, the happiness will start reducing. After a point, they will feel too sick to eat any more chocolates. As they eat more chocolates, the happiness keeps reducing. This means that happiness is never a part of the chocolates. If you study the ingredients of chocolate, happiness is not an ingredient. Milk, sugar, cocoa are some of the ingredients, but happiness is never part of the chocolate. So, how does happiness become part of the chocolate? It happens because the ego/mind likes chocolates, and it superimposes that happiness onto the chocolate. A chocolate by itself is a chocolate; the liking and disliking of chocolates is added by the mind.

2. Many people think that money is the source of happiness. The impression is that if you have lots of money, you can buy all sorts of objects and lead a life of unlimited happiness. This is not true. We all know that rich people are also unhappy. They may have many other problems which cause unhappiness. Also, if they have too much money, they are worried that they will lose their money, that people will cheat them, etc. Besides, they are too busy making money and have no time to enjoy life and be happy. In contrast, an ordinary person with limited money could be happier. There is no denying that money does have value; it is required to live in the world. But money being a source of happiness is once again a superimposition by the mind. Happiness is not an ingredient or part of money; it is the mind which adds that value.

Source of Happiness?

So, it seems that the mind is the source behind happiness. Is this correct? The mind is so fickle, it keeps changing. One day it will think this object is the source of happiness, the next day it could feel that the same object is a source of misery. There is nothing steady about the mind. It jumps from one thought to another. Many scriptures have compared the mind to a monkey, jumping around from one thought to another with no purpose. This erratic and unsteady mind can never be the source of happiness. If you follow Vedanta, you will realize that the mind is the only obstacle to finding everlasting happiness. Yes, it seems the mind does provide moments of happiness, but it can never provide the permanent happiness that we are seeking.    

So, what is the source of happiness? It is neither the external objects nor the mind. Then what is it? You will find the solution if you properly understand deep sleep. When you go to sleep, you usually undergo the following two states:

Dream Sleep: In dream sleep, you have dreams. You do not experience the external world but a dream world. Your sense organs are no longer active, but you view a dream world based on the past experiences stored in your subconscious mind. Sometimes the dreams are pleasant, and at other times they could be nightmares. So, the dream world is not the source of happiness. 

Deep Sleep: In this state, you do not have any dreams, nor do you experience the external world. You experience nothing. You have no perceptions, no thoughts, no feelings. There is no mind, there is no ego, no body, and no external world during deep sleep. There is nothing; but still, you are happy and content after a bout of deep sleep with no dreams. Ask anyone after deep sleep, and they will reply that they had a blissful sleep. Deep sleep is enjoyed by everyone.

Notice, there are no external objects, there is no mind, no ego during deep sleep, but you still experience bliss or happiness during it. This indicates that the source of happiness is not the external objects or the mind, but something within you. What is that source? If you are a student of Vedanta, you can answer this; the only thing present during deep sleep is you, the Real Self. Your innermost core is present in deep sleep. Nothing else. No, your ego is not present during deep sleep. Ego pops up during the waking state when you have a body. In deep sleep you do not have a body, no external world, no mind, no ego. The only thing present is your Real Self. Bliss and Happiness is the nature of this Real Self.

This Bliss and Happiness is always present within you and is the nature of the Real Self. Vedanta teaches us that your Real Self is SatChitAnanda.  

  • Sat = Real
  • Chit = Awareness
  • Ananda = Bliss or Happiness

Sat: Sat means Real. According to Vedanta, for anything to be Sat, it must exist and be present in all the three tenses—past, present, and future. If you investigate Nature, you will not find anything which is Sat. This universe was born 13.7 billion years ago, and therefore it did not exist before that, so it cannot be Sat. In the same way, there is nothing within the universe which is Sat. Everything comes and goes.

The only thing which is Sat is your inner core. This inner core is always present; it was present before your body was born and will remain even after you are rid of this body. This is not an easy concept to grasp but it is the only Truth. The Real Self or your inner core is the only Sat—it is uncreated, uncaused, and unchanging. It is always present.

Chit: Chit means Awareness. When the mind encounters Chit or Awareness, that mind becomes Conscious. That is the built-in power of Chit. We know the mind is full of thoughts, and these thoughts become conscious in the presence of Awareness. The mind/ego becomes aware of the thoughts because of the power of Awareness. If you look at Awareness more closely, you will realize that Awareness must always have two elements.

  1. If you are Aware, then there should be someone who is Aware. Awareness needs a subject.
  2. To be Aware, there must be some type of object of which you are Aware. Awareness needs an object.

Subject and object are needed to complete the Awareness process. Usually subject and object are separate, but in Chit there is no separate subject and object. Chit is always Self-Aware; it is Aware of its Awareness (it is witnessing its Awareness). It is both the subject and object rolled in one. Subject = Object, and Object = Subject. Chit is therefore self-sufficient and complete. 

Ananda: This term can be confusing because we do get momentary bliss in our day-to-day lives, but this is not the Ananda we are talking about. Ananda means your essential nature; your inner core is Ananda or Bliss. We saw earlier that the Chit is both the subject and the object. The Real Self is both the subject and the object. This means that the Real Self is complete and full; it is self-sufficient and does not need anything else. This condition of completeness and fullness gives the Real Self continuous and unbroken Ananda or Bliss.

Sat or the Real Self is like a bulb shining within us. The nature of this Sat or bulb is to radiate Chit (Awareness) and Ananda (Happiness). To understand this, you can compare it to the sun. Just like the sun is continuously shining light, in the same way your Real Self is shining Awareness and Happiness. If an object encounters Awareness, you (the ego) become aware of that object. In the same way, you (the ego) feel happiness or bliss when you come in touch with the light of happiness.   

A simple question can be asked: if our inner core is shining Happiness continuously, why don’t we feel it and why don’t we know it? There are two reasons for this.

1. Thoughts: Thoughts are the main culprit. The thoughts block the light of happiness and we (our ego) do not notice it or feel it. When we are awake, our mind is active with thoughts. Most times the thoughts are because of the perception through the five senses, and at other times we could be daydreaming, etc. The mind is usually full of thoughts. These thoughts keep stopping the light of happiness from reaching us. This is the main problem.

You have a desire to eat ice cream. This thought is active in your mind, and it is blocking the light of happiness. This desire will not allow you to do anything else. You want the ice cream. To satisfy this thought, you go to the fridge and eat the ice cream. Once you complete the eating, the thought wave of the ice cream is satisfied and therefore it subsides or disappears. When this thought subsides, the mind has no thoughts. This thoughtless mind allows the light of happiness to pass through. When this happens you (the ego) feel that happiness. Notice that happiness is not part of the ice cream, but it appears when the ice cream thought subsides and comes in contact with the light of happiness. The light of happiness penetrates through the mind when there are no thoughts. When we have no thoughts, we feel happy. Unfortunately, this happiness does not last very long, because another thought pops up and blocks the light of happiness. This process happens on a continuous basis. So, we see that thoughts are blocking the light of happiness and preventing it from reaching us.

If you analyze your thoughts, you will realize that there is a finite time gap between two thoughts. During this gap, the light of happiness does penetrate through, and you will have a feeling of happiness. However, the time gap between two thoughts is so small that we do not notice it. If you can increase the gap between two thoughts, the chances of feeling happiness will increase.   

A mind that is calm compared to an agitated mind will have fewer thoughts and the gap between the thoughts will be larger. This mind will be happier. So, the goal is to reduce the number of thoughts, to calm the mind. Any technique which can calm the mind is good. Prayers, meditation, breath control, and other similar techniques are proven to calm the mind. Since the mind is calm during prayers or meditation, we feel happiness then. This is a good solution, but it is usually temporary. When we complete our prayers or meditation, we are back in the real world and our mind is no longer calm and is full of thoughts. Once again, these thoughts block the source of happiness. We need a permanent solution.

2. Ignorance: We are born ignorant of our true nature. The source of happiness is within us, and we look for happiness in the external world. This is indeed a tragedy. Our ignorance of our Real Self is the root cause. This ignorance covers the true source of happiness within us. Ever since we are born, the mind is trained to deal with the external world. This is the only world we know. This is very deep-rooted within each of us. This ignorance is blocking the true source of happiness within us, and we are looking elsewhere.

How do we remove this ignorance? The antidote to ignorance is knowledge. The solution is to gain knowledge of the Real Self. This is the only way ignorance can be removed. This should be the ultimate goal for everyone —remove ignorance and gain knowledge of our inner core. By gaining this knowledge, we will discover the permanent source of happiness within us. So, how do we proceed to gain this knowledge? This is usually a two-step process. Find below a quick overview of this process.

Step 1—Gain Theoretical Knowledge

Step 2—Convert to Direct Experience

Step 1—Gain Theoretical Knowledge: Vedanta, the Upanishads, and the scriptures are the best resource to gain this knowledge. Studying these by yourself is not easy. This knowledge must be gained under the guidance of a qualified guru. As mentioned earlier, our inner core is SatChitAnanda. We have to learn the nature and powers of SatChitAnanda. We must purify our mind to be fully convinced that the source of happiness is within us and not in the external world.

Step 2—Convert to Direct Experience: Having theoretical knowledge is a good starting point. The next step is to assimilate this knowledge and discover the inner core within us. This is not easy; it requires a sustained and continuous effort. We have to direct our mind from the external world to look within us. We have to learn to internalize the mind. The scriptures guide us on how to proceed, but all the effort must be done by us. We must discover our inner core on our own. No one else can do it for us.

The scriptures teach us many ways to achieve this goal. You have multiple choices. I find the methodology taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi to be the most direct and logical way to achieve this goal. Self-enquiry and self-surrender are the two methods taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Self-enquiry is the path of jnana or knowledge. It is the path to discover “Who am I,” to discover your inner core. We have so many thoughts. You should ask the question, “To whom do these thoughts appear?” The correct and obvious answer is, “To me.” When you answer this, look for the feeling of me or “I” within you. Follow this feeling of “I,” and with repeated practice it will take you to your inner core, your Real Self.

Self-surrender is the path of bhakti or devotion. This bhakti or devotion must be toward your inner core. This usually does not happen; the devotion is directed toward an external God. This is helpful, but it does not take you inward toward your inner core. Devotion should be toward your inner core, toward the feeling of “I” within you. Self-surrender means that you must have complete, unquestioning love and devotion toward your Real Self.  

Once you discover and realize your inner core, you become part of the light of happiness. The source of happiness becomes part of you. There is no separation between you and happiness. This source is a permanent solution. Once you become part of this source of happiness, the misery which is experienced with external objects does not affect you in any way.

Self-Love and Happiness

Love and happiness are connected. You love something because it gives you happiness. We all love many different things. If you analyze this, you will conclude that you love these things because they give you happiness. You will not love an object if it does not give you happiness. This is a fact. A question can be asked: what do you love the most? The surprising answer is that you love yourself the most. This self-love is greater than the love for your parents, children, friends, etc. You love them because they provide you with happiness. You would not love anyone or any object if they did not provide you with happiness.

Most people will deny this because they think it is selfish and self-centered. Many people will say, “My love is not for myself; I am working for the happiness and welfare of others.”

Let us discuss some examples to show how this really works.   

1. Parents make a number of sacrifices to take care of their children’s education, wants, and needs. When the children grow up and when they prosper and are successful, the parents are happy and have a sense of satisfaction. So, you can see all the effort and sacrifices of the parents are for their own happiness and satisfaction. They want this happiness. It seems that self-satisfaction is the driving force of all the selfless work and sacrifice.

2.  Many people work selflessly for their country, community, religion, etc. Here again if you analyze, all the selfless work is done because it gives happiness to the person. The work they are doing makes them feel good. This self-happiness is the reason this type of selfless work is undertaken.

To support this, there is an interesting story about former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. He once jumped into a mire to rescue a stranded pig. In the process, he dirtied his clothes. People asked him why he undertook this action. His answer was that he got involved not so much to relieve the suffering of the pig but to relieve himself from the suffering he experienced at the sight of the pig. He did it only for his own peace of mind. So, you can see that it is only this self-satisfaction—one’s own happiness—that is the hidden motive behind all kinds of selfless acts.

The famous verse 2.4.5 from Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad explains this concept brilliantly. In this Upanishad, the sage Yājñavalkya is teaching his wife Maitreyi how to discover the inner core. As part of the teaching, he explains to his wife the true source of love or happiness. A part of this verse is summarized here:

“It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved.
It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one’s own sake that she is loved.
It is not for the sake of the sons, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved.”

You love your husband, wife, sons, etc. not for their sake, but because you love the happiness within you. You love these people because they give you happiness. You love the source of happiness within yourself. This is the only fact. Unfortunately, because of our ignorance, we feel and think that external objects are the true source of happiness. They are not. The true source of happiness is within us. We need to discover this to realize this happiness.

Understanding the Pancha Koshas

If you are a student of Vedanta, you probably know   that every living being is made up five (pancha) Koshas. Koshas is a Sanskrit word which means ‘sheath’ or ‘layers’.  Based on this, the 5 koshas can be defined as follows:  The word ‘maya’ in the names shown below means ‘made up of’.

  1. Annamaya Kosha – Sheath made of food – This is our physical body.
  2. Pranamaya Kosha – Sheath made of energy – to keep the physical body functional
  3. Manomaya Kosha – Sheath made up of mind stuff
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha – Sheath made of intelligence/knowledge
  5. Ananadamaya Kosha – Sheath made of bliss

The ‘made of’ used above is not some abstract term. It literally means that the koshas are  made of the things stated above.  For example, the Vijnanamaya kosha is made of intelligence. The substratrum of the kosha is intelligence. Just like material is made up of atoms and molecules, in the same way this kosha is made up of intelligence. Intelligence is its essence. This logic applies to other the koshas also and each kosha has its own building blocks.  Most books describing the 5 koshas use the above illustration. It may not be an accurate representation, but it does convey the idea quite well. Each outer sheath covers the inner sheath. If you peel off the outer sheath, you move to the inner sheath. The Food Sheath covers the Pranamaya Kosha, the Pranamaya Kosha covers the Manomaya Kosha and so on. It is like peeling the layers of an onion or unpacking the Russian dolls. If you peel all the 5 layers, the above image shows you will reach your inner core, which is Pure Consciousness. Instead of Pure Consciousness, the term we will use in this article is Self-Awareness. They mean the same.    

Pure Consciousness = Self-Awareness

The concept of the 5 Koshas was first revealed in the Taittiriya Upanishad, which was written around 600 BC. This Upanishad is the source material for a detailed analysis of the 5 koshas. The great sages closed their eyes and meditated, looking for their innermost core. During this process, they gained tremendous insights into a wide variety of subjects. The insight into the 5 Koshas is one of them.

The main purpose for discussing the 5 Koshas is to show the correct path to reach your inner core which is Self-Awareness. The strategy of neti, neti is described – not this, not this is suggested in this Upanishad. In this methodology, you start eliminating what is not you, till you discover your inner self. Each one of us thinks we are the physical body. You identify the physical body as yourself. The Taittiriya Upanishad explains that the physical body is only made up of food – Annamaya Kosha. It is born out of food; it lives on food and after dying it goes back as food. It is therefore impossible that your inner core, which is Self-Awareness, can be made up of food. The Upanishad suggests you meditate on this idea and when you are convinced that you are not the body, you peel away the Food sheath as not being yourself.

The next inner layer is the Pranamaya Kosha. It vitalizes the body and keeps the body and the inner organs functioning. Blood circulation, breathing and muscle toning etc. are some of the powers of this Kosha. Without this Kosha, the physical body is dead. The Upanishad explains that this layer is inert, it has no intelligence, it does its job like a robot. It is a slave doing its job faithfully. The Upanishad ask us to meditate on this idea and conclude that you are not the Pranamaya Kosha. This way you can eliminate this layer also.

The next sheath is the Manomaya Kosha or the mind stuff. The mind is continuously changing, it is changing with every thought. There is hardly a moment when there is no thought in the mind. We are taught that out inner core of Self-Awareness is unchanging. So, the ever-changing mind just cannot be our inner core. After meditating on this idea, you can peel away this sheath.

The next sheath you will encounter is the Vijnanamaya Kosha. This sheath is made up of intelligence. During deep sleep (sleep without dreams), this Kosha is no longer active, yet you still exist – even if you have no thoughts, feelings or emotions, and your mind is absent, YOU still exist.  Your inner core is always present. It cannot take a leave of absence. If the Vinanamaya Kosha is absent during deep sleep, it only means that you cannot be the Vijnanamaya Kosha. This way, you can negate this Kosha also.

The next kosha is the Ananadamaya Kosha. This is the innermost kosha and it is closest to the inner core. Ananda means bliss but this Kosha should not be translated as the “Bliss Sheath”. Ananda or bliss as it is commonly translated   occurs only in ideal conditions when there are no thoughts in the mind. This is impossible during the waking and dream states. During the waking and dream state, the mind full of activity. During these active states, this Kosha is the center of emotions or feeling. I am tired, I am sad and so on. This means that this kosha has many different such attributes We are taught that Self-Awareness is without attributes or qualities, therefore we cannot be this Kosha. By meditating on this Kosha, you can say, neti, neti to this Kosha also.

Once the identification with all the 5 koshas is removed, what remains is Self-Awareness. The Taittiriya Upanishad uses this teaching methodology of neti, neti for reaching your inner core. This does seem logical and powerful. To better implement this teaching, it is a good idea, that we have a more detailed understanding of the 5 Koshas.  We will now analyze the 5 koshas in the following ways:  

  • Self-Awareness and the 5 Koshas
  • 5 Koshas and the 3 bodies
  • Role of the different Koshas

Self-Awareness and the 5 Koshas

To start our discussion, it is important to understand Self-Awareness and Awareness. As mentioned, Self-Awareness is our inner core and Awareness is the nature of Self-Awareness. Please read my post ‘Analyzing Awareness’ for a detailed explanation. Here is a quick run-down.

If Awareness is analyzed, it will be found to have three things: Subject, Intelligence and Object. If any one of them is missing, there will be no Awareness.

  1. There must be a Subject, who is aware of the experience. The subject is the knower of Awareness
  2. There must be an Object, which must be experienced. This object is the known part of Awareness
  3. There must be Intelligence by which the subject gets to know the object. This is the knowing part of the Awareness

Awareness = Subject + Object + Intelligence

Power of Awareness = Power of Knower + Power of Knowing + Power of Known

Awareness is made up of Subject, Intelligence, and Object and it has three different powers – Knower, Knowing and Known. It must be understood that the Subject, Intelligence, and Object and the three powers are not something outside in the world, but they are within Awareness and they make up Awareness. Wherever there is awareness, Subject, Intelligence and Object are present with all the three powers. Right now, you are aware of reading this article, therefore Subject, Intelligence and Object are present within your Awareness of this article. 

What is Self-Awareness? There must be a Self who is Aware. Vedanta teaches us that this Self is our inner core, which is full, complete and it is stand alone. For Awareness to be full and complete, it must be Self-Aware. Self-Awareness means that ‘Awareness is aware of Awareness’. It is like saying ‘I am seeing a tree’. Here ‘I am’ is the subject and the tree is the object. Seeing is the intelligence connecting the object with the subject. Applying this to Self-Awareness, you will notice that the subject is Awareness, object is Awareness and the intelligence is Awareness. Awareness plays the role of subject and object. In other words, both the subject and object are the same. This is not easy to grasp, but there is only one entity in which subject and object are the same It is therefore non-dual. This complete, independent Self Awareness is our inner core. There is no separation between the subject and object. Self-Awareness is non-dual and homogenous. It is Self-Shining.

Awareness = Subject + Object + Intelligence

In Self-Awareness, Self = Subject = Object = Intelligence.

This Self-shining Awareness is like a Bulb of Awareness and it is our inner core. It is not dependent upon anything else and it generates its own light of Awareness. 

Pixel of Ignorance and Koshas: If our nature and inner core is Self-Awareness, why don’t we know it, why don’t we feel it? The simple answer is that we are ignorant of our inner core. Since we have forgotten our true nature, Ignorance covers up Self-Awareness. When we forget who we really are, Ignorance pops up and like a veil, covers Awareness.

This veil of Ignorance is made up of a countless number of pixels, each pixel representing a living being. Each living being thus has their own unique pixel of ignorance, depending upon their degree of ignorance. A self-realized person will have zero ignorance and at the other extreme there are living beings with 100% ignorance, who have no clue about their true nature. Each one of us falls somewhere in between these two extremes. You have a pixel of ignorance; I have one and every living being has a pixel of ignorance. You could say that the veil of ignorance with its countless pixels covers Self-Awareness.

The pixel of ignorance is a mix of ignorance and knowledge, unique for each living being. It also contains the personality traits (vasanas) accumulated over all past births of an individual. It’s like your passport, which all of your prior travel details. We will see that this pixel of ignorance is our seed body. Vedanta calls this pixel the spiritual heart or cave. One can also call this the soul of the human being.

Ignorance has a strange power; it can separate the subject and object from the non-dual Self-Awareness. Yes, it has that power! How does this happen? Because of ignorance, we forget we are both the subject and object, we do not know that both subject and object are one and non-dual. If we do not know that we are both Subject and Object, it means that the subject and object are no longer a single entity but are separate and independent entities. Non duality becomes duality by the simple fact of forgetting. This forgetting or not knowing is the power of Ignorance. 

Although Self Awareness is nondual, it does have the following 4 parts:

In Self-Awareness, Self = Subject = Object = Intelligence

When subject and object separation take place, the different Koshas are created. The process of separation of the subject and object is like refraction. Place a prism in front of light and we can see the 7 different colors on the other side. In the same way, the pixel of ignorance refracts the light of Self-Awareness into the following 3 different Koshas plus the Sakshi as witness.

  1. Manomaya Kosha – The home of the objects  
  2. Vijnanamaya Kosha – The home of the intelligence
  3. Ananadamaya Kosha – The home of the self
  4. Sakshi (Witness) – The home of the subject.

These homogenous and integrated parts of Self-Awareness become the 3 Koshas + Witness. Thus, we see that the above 3 Koshas are a mix of Self-Awareness and the pixel of Ignorance.

Koshas = Awareness + Ignorance

So, these 3 koshas evolve from a pixel of ignorance. What about the Annamaya Kosha and the Pranamaya Kosha? Their evolution is independent from the other 3 koshas. Let us this discuss this further:

Annamaya Kosha: This is the physical or gross body. We know the starting place for the physical body is the mother’s womb. It grows from a single cell to a complex physical body all in the womb. I recently found out that the Garbha Upanishad gives a detailed analysis of the growth of the fetus in the womb. It gives a comprehensive timetable as to when the different parts of the body show up. It is quite amazing. It would be nice if the medical community could verify the timetable mentioned in this Upanishad.

Pranamaya Kosha: The Garba Upanishad also indicates that in the 7 month of being in the womb, the pixel of ignorance or the soul (jivatman) enters and connects with the Annamaya Kosha. How is the connection made? The connection is made by the Pranamaya Kosha. The Pranamaya Kosha is made up vital energy, connects the soul with the Annamaya Kosha. The 5 senses – eyes, ear, tongue, nose, and skin in the Annamaya Kosha are connected to the Manomaya Kosha. Also, organs of action like hands, legs, speech etc. are interconnected between the 3 koshas and the Annamaya kosha. It is quite amazing how these connections are made seamlessly. So, the main role of Pranamaya kosha is to interconnect the 3 koshas from the pixel of ignorance with the Annamaya kosha

It is quite intriguing to learn from the Upanishad that the seed only enters the body in the 7th month. Before that, the fetus is just a piece of flesh like any other part of the body. So, the baby in the womb has a soul, a personality only after 7th month. Before that it is a body part within the womb. What is unknown and intriguing is how the selection is made. Which soul will enter which body? I am sure there must be a logical process which is controlled by some laws of nature.  

5 Koshas and 3 Body’s

To get a better understanding of the 5 Koshas, it is important to correlate this with the 3 bodies. Vedanta teaches us that every living being has the following 3 different bodies.

  1. Seed Body
  2. Subtle Body
  3. Gross/Physical Body

We saw earlier that due to the pixel of ignorance, the seed body is created. The seed body creates the subtle body. The subtle body creates the gross body.

What is the difference between a kosha/sheath and a body? A sheath is a layer within a body. A pastry or a cake is a body and this pastry/cake may have different layers like cream, chocolate, fruits etc. In the same way each of the 3 bodies has different layers or koshas. Let us see each one of them in little more detail:

1. Seed Body:

The seed body is like any seed from which a tree with branches, leaves and fruits are created. The seed already has the potential form of the tree already built in. You could say that the tree in an unmanifest condition is present in the seed. The seed body is also called a causal body because it is the cause for the tree. In the same way, an individual seed body will become a human being with all his or her tendencies – character/personality traits (called vasanas). This seed body will also contain the blueprint of one’s life including all the karmas that will be exhausted in this life. It is important to know that every object (living + nonliving) in the universe has a seed body. In fact, even the universe has a seed body. The seed body for the universe will be the total of all the seeds for individual objects.

Earlier, we discussed the pixel of ignorance. This pixel of ignorance is the same as the seed body. Vedanta teaches us that the seed body resides in the spiritual heart or cave. The spiritual heart is not the physical heart. It is subtle; it does not have a physical form, and it’s something we all have within us. According to Ramana Maharishi, the spiritual heart is two fingers to the right side of your chest.  

Seed Body = Pixel of Ignorance    

When the seed body with the power of the Pranamaya Kosha connects with the fetus or the Annamaya Kosha, magic happens. The light of Self-Awareness refracts through the pixel of ignorance (seed body) and creates the Anandmaya kosha, Vijanamaya Kosha and Manomaya Kosha. The fetus is no longer a fetus but a living being with a personality etc. When the refraction takes place and the 3 koshas are created, the integration is complete. At this moment, the seed body starts to germinate in the living being. The seed body blossoms to play out the blueprint of life.  

The Anandamaya Kosha is within the seed body. It is the main layer within the pixel of ignorance. The seed body operates through the Anandamaya Kosha. The Anandamaya kosha houses the feeling of ‘I-ness’, and creates the feeling of I within us. The feeling of ‘I’ is also called the Ahamkara or Ego. Ahamkara in Sanskrit means the ‘I Maker’.

2. Subtle Body

As mentioned, the Manomaya Kosha and Vijnanamaya Kosha are created by the refraction of Self-Awareness. After refraction, these two are housed in the Subtle body as two sheaths. A common name for the subtle body is the mind. From our experience, we know that the mind is located within the brain. So, when the refraction takes place in the pixel of ignorance, the 2 koshas are beamed as the mind within the brain.

We know the mind is rarely quiet, it is continually active. This means that the Manomaya kosha and Vijnanamaya koshas have a heavy load of activity. If you are a student of Vedanta, you will learn that the activity in the mind is made up of ‘vrittis’ or mental waveforms. These vrittis represent the different objects or combination of objects. The object waveforms are made up of mind stuff – they are made up of the 2 sheaths in the subtle body. Manomaya Kosha helps creates the material for the objects, while the Vijnanamaya Kosha adds intelligence to the mind stuff.

Subtle Body = Manomaya Kosha + Vijnanamaya Kosha

Manomaya Kosha is the home of objects. The power to become objects is within the Manomaya Kosha. The input side of the Manomaya Kosha is connected to the 5 organs of sense and 5 organs of action. The 5 organs of sense are – nose for smell, tongue for taste, ear for sound, eyes for vison and skin for touch. The 5 organs of action are – feet, hand, mouth for talking, organs for excretion and reproduction. The output side of Manomaya Kosha is connected to Vijnanamaya Kosha.    

Vijnanamaya Kosha is the home of intelligence. It is the storehouse of knowledge. The input side is connected to the Manomaya Kosha, while the outside is connected to the Anandamaya Kosha. We have seen earlier that the Anandamaya kosha is a layer within the seed body.

3. Gross Body

Annamaya Kosha is part of the Gross body. We have seen earlier that the gross body is created in the mother’s womb. It is connected to the other koshas through the Pranamaya Kosha.

In the 3 bodies, we have covered all the koshas except the Pranamaya Kosha. The question is where does the Pranamaya Kosha fit? Is it part of the seed, subtle or gross body? There is no clear-cut answer. Some believe it is part of the gross body and other think it is part of the subtle body. The Pranamaya Kosha comes into force, when the seed body connects with the fetus in the womb. According to the Garbha Upanishad, this happens in the 7th month. It is not really a sheath, but it is the interconnector between the seed body and the fetus in the womb. This fetus finally becomes the Annamaya Kosha. The Pranamaya Kosha sustains this Annamaya Kosha for the duration of its life.

Roles of the Different Koshas

Each Kosha plays a different and distinct role. Let us try to understand this.

Perceiving: The perceiving of objects takes place in the Manomaya Kosha. We mentioned earlier that the Manomaya Kosha is connected to the 5 organs of the senses. It must be understood that the input signals from the 5 sense organs does not come from the gross body, but it comes from the subtle version of the 5 sense organs. Every gross object (living + nonliving) in the universe has a subtle version. This means every part of your body has a subtle version. There is a subtle version of your ear, eye, nose and every cell and tissue and bone.  Each of the subtle objects is made of ‘vrittis’ or mental waveforms. Based on this reasoning, it is only logical to assume that there is a fully functional subtle universe made of waveforms. Everything that we experience really occurs in the subtle universe, the gross universe is only the manifestation of the subtle universe. This may seem radical, but it is the only truth. These object waveforms are the building block of the subtle universe. Science, with its string theory, is moving in the same direction.

It could be vision, sound, touch, smell and taste, the perception of these objects takes place in the Manomaya kosha. For example, when the input signal is for a tree, the Manomaya Kosha creates the required material which makes up the tree. This material is in the form of mental waveforms or vrittis. This mental waveform has the required ingredients for the tree. If the input is music; it creates the material which makes up the sound for the music. This way, it handles all the input signals coming from the outside world.

The perception does take place in the Manomaya Kosha, but the kosha has no clue what these objects are. It creates the source material, but it is clueless what it is. The Manomaya Kosha needs help, it therefore passes on the input signals to the Vijnanamaya Kosha for decoding.

Learning/Thinking: Vijnanamaya Kosha has intelligence. At the time of birth, the Vijnanamaya Kosha is a blank slate. With the power of intelligence, it learns continuously and acquires a great deal of knowledge. With this learning, it decodes the input signal. In the process of decoding, it adds intelligence to the object waveform. The object waveform is now made of knowledge. Knowledge is the substratum of the waveform. The object waveform has the knowledge of what the waveform represents. The object waveform has the knowledge, but there is no awareness. There is knowledge but no awareness within Vijnanamaya Kosha. There must be an ‘I’ or self who is aware. There is no ‘I’ or self within this kosha.

Vijnanamaya Kosha is powerful, it has the power of thinking, analyzing, and remembering. Some these powers are as follows

  • Power of Cognition or Sensation
  • Power of Imagination
  • Power of Logic
  • Power of Will:
  • Power of Memory

It like a CPU in a computer, crunching and analyzing all sorts of numbers. Intelligence seems to be there but no awareness.  In the same way, the Vinanamaya Kosha has all these powers, but there is no self who is aware of these activities.   

Feeling: Feeling and similar emotions takes place in the Anandamaya Kosha. The name ‘Anandamaya’ does not convey this idea. We have seen earlier that Anandamaya Kosha means maker of bliss. This bliss can only happen when there are no vrittis or mental waveforms in the mind. Is this possible? Yes, only during deep sleep. During deep sleep there are no vrittis, no mental waveforms in the mind. The mind is blank. When there are no vrittis in the mind, only during that state, Anandamaya kosha experiences bliss. During the waking and dream states, this is not possible. A continuous stream of object waveforms is being sent fromthe mind. The Anandamaya kosha must react to these incoming vrittis.

We have seen earlier that the Anandamaya Kosha is made up with of feeling of ‘I’. This feeling is nothing but the ego. The ego is looking for permanent peace and happiness in the world. We saw that the Vijnanamaya Kosha decodes objects (waveforms) coming in from the 5 sense organs in the Manomaya Kosha. These objects are presented to the Ahamkara or ego. What does the Ahamkara do with these object waveforms? The ego has a clear goal – it is looking for continuous happiness. It evaluates the object waveform against this key criterion. If the ego thinks this object can provide that happiness, it will like that object. If the ego thinks that it will not provide that happiness, it will dislike that object. In Vedanta this is called Raga(like)/Dvesha (dislike). The ego will run towards the object it likes and run away from objects which it dislikes. Ego undertakes this task for all the thoughts and objects which it encounters.  

This is how the ego interacts with the object waveform presented by Vijnanamaya Kosha and adds the sense of feeling to the object waveform with its likes/dislikes. This kosha starts to feel a range of emotions covering the entire spectrum. It feels, happiness, sadness, anger, jealously, attraction, repulsion and so on. This sense of feeling takes place in Anandamaya kosha.

Most living beings live within these 5 koshas. The ego operates within these 5 koshas. This does not help reaching your inner most core, which is Self-Awareness.

Knowing: Knowing is the ultimate level. This level is beyond the 5 koshas. It functions in our inner most core. It functions in the realm of Awareness. How to understand this? Let us start our discussion with the following statements, we make every day:

  • I am listening to music
  • I am reading this book
  • I am thinking to travel
  • I am talking on the phone
  • I am looking at a tree

All the above statements are happening within the 5 koshas. We all live our daily lives within the 5 koshas. We undertake such tasks every moment. If we take a step deeper into our inner core, we can make the same statements as follows:

  • I am knowing that I am listening to music
  • I am knowing that I am reading this book
  • I am knowing that I am thinking to travel
  • I am knowing that I am talking on the phone
  • I am knowing that I am seeing a movie

The above is not the right way to construct the sentence. We have done so to being the knowing part into the sentence. There is a tremendous change in these statements as compared to the earlier statements. ‘I am listening to music’, ‘I am reading this book’ etc., are no longer self-contained sentences, but they are the objects in the statement. It would seem that ‘I am’ in ‘I am knowing….’ is witnessing these objects. It could be listening to music, reading a book etc. Your Real Self is just witnessing, and not doing any action. The ‘I am’ in ‘I am knowing…’ is your Real Self.  Yes, it is a witness, but it is aware that it is a witness. This is important. It is an awareful witness. This is Self-Awareness.

The ‘I am’ in ‘I am listening….’ is not your Real Self. This ‘I am’ in ‘I am listening……’ is really your ego. The ego always thinks it is the real Self. Vedanta teaches that the ego masquerades as the real I, but when you make a proper inquiry, you will find that the ego is like any other object. Ego is just another thought in the mind.

Daily, as you apply the Knowing part to every sentence you say or think you will discover your Real Self within you. The ‘I am’ in ‘I am knowing….’ is your Real Self.

The ego and the 5 koshas are not part of your Real Self. Self-Awareness is your Real Self. Ignorance is hiding the Real Self. The goal is to discover the Real Self and stay within that Real Self.

Classical Physics vs. Quantum Physics

Physics, can be divided into 2 distinct divisions or phases

  • Classical Physics
  • Quantum Physics

Classical physics started with Newton, who made many different discoveries and formulated many different laws, which are relevant even today. Newton’s laws did not focus on atomic level objects but on macro objects we can see around us. Based on these laws, people believed that the universe was a giant machine, where one can easily predict the motion of the planets and the objects therein. This way they knew exactly what was happening in this universe and in some way could even predict all the future movements of celestial bodies. Physicists thought they knew everything in the universe and there was nothing new to discover. 

In the early 20th century, things took a dramatic turn. As physicists started understanding atoms etc., they found none of the classical laws were applicable to level. Classical physics became outdated at the atomic and sub-atomic levels. To understand and explain the happenings in the realm of the sub-atomic, quantum physics was born.

Things in the sub-atomic level, behave in unpredictable ways. Quantum physics is trying its best to provide a proper explanation which is rooted in science and supported by experiments.  Sometimes, a particle is a ‘wave’ and at some other times it is a ‘particle’. This discovery marked the starting point of quantum physics. Quantum physics has explored this contradiction over the past century. Many questions have been successfully answered, but with every answer new question come up. And so, the search for answers doesn’t seem to end. 

In many ways quantum physics is like Vedanta. Vedanta teaches us that the mind is made of waves or ‘vrittis’ and these ‘mind waves’ become the objects which we see around us in this physical universe. Are the ‘waves’ described by quantum physics the same as the ‘waves’ in the mind? I strongly believe both are the same and this may be the common ground between quantum physics and Vedanta.

What is Quantum Physics – A Brief Overview?

We’ll give a quick overview of quantum physics by highlighting some of the key developments that are relevant to this article.

Light is a Wave:

In 1805, Thomas Young demonstrated that Light was a wave. He used the famous double slit experiment. There was a light source and in front of it there was barrier and this barrier had two slits. On the other side of the barrier was a photographic plate to study the light’s propagation through the slits. The result on the photographic plate clearly showed that light

was not a particle but a wave? If it was a particle, there would be only 2 bands on the plate, but the plate showed multiple bands, proving that the light was a wave which passed through the two slits and then combined to from all the different bands. Watch the following video in YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc

Light is a Particle

In 1905 Einstein published a paper on ‘Photoelectric Effect’ phenomenon, which showed that the light is a particle. In 1921, Einstein got a Nobel Prize for this discovery. It is surprising that he got the Nobel Prize for this discovery and not for the ‘Theory of Relativity’, for which he is better known. In this experiment, you shine light (which is a wave) on a photoconductive metal and you get light reflected on the other side. On studying or observing this reflected light, Einstein found that the reflected light was not a wave, but it was made up of packets of energy. Each packet is a unit of fixed energy and this packet is known as a photon and has all the characteristics of a particle. 

Matter is both Wave and Particle

So, light exhibits properties both of a ‘wave’ and of a ‘particle’. In 1923, de Broglie, a French doctoral student made a bold assertion that not only light, but all matter must have both ‘wave’ and ‘particle’ properties. Here matter means matter, including, you, me, planets, cars, in fact any living or nonliving object in this universe. The tree in front of you is a particle and using the de Broglie formula; you can also calculate the wavelength of the tree based on its energy content. In 1927, the de Broglie hypothesis was proven experimentally – thus, all matter is both a wave and a particle. This is amazing, but people need to grasp that everything in this universe has both a ‘particle and ‘wave’ property. In 1929, de Broglie was awarded the Nobel Prize for his theory. He was the only one to ever receive a Nobel Prize based on his doctoral thesis.

We know ‘particle’ resides in the world out there (we see it everywhere), but where does the ‘wave’ reside? This is the million-dollar question which is still to be answered. What is the connection between the wave part and the particle part of matter?

Schrodinger’s Wave Function

Like Newton’s law of motion is the heart of the classical physics, Schrodinger’s wave function is the heart of quantum physics.  To understand the ‘wave’ part of the de Broglie theory, Schrodinger formulated a complex equation for the wave function. Schrodinger’s equation represents a physical system and this physical system always consists of:  

  • Observed system – The observed system is a wave function, and this wave function is the wave component of the wave/matter duality as postulated by de Broglie.
  • Observing system – When this observing system interacts with the observed system at any given time, the wave function of the observed system collapses to become a particle.

In other words, when the wave function comes in the presence of the observing system, the wave function collapses and become a particle. It would seem an observing system is necessary for the wave function to collapse to become a particle. Quantum physics never explains who and what is the observing system, which has the power to collapse a wavefunction and create a particle.

This is exactly what is taught by Vedanta. This connection between wave and particle is at the heart of Vedanta. Vedanta teaches us that there are 3 types of universes:

  1. Seed Universe
  2. Subtle Universe made up of mental waves or ‘Vrittis’
  3. Gross Universe – The world we see out there

Every object in the universe needs a ‘seed’. For a plant or a tree to grow, there must be a seed. In the same way this universe and all the objects therein must have a ‘seed’. Under the right conditions this seed germinates to become the subtle universe. The subtle universe is made up of mental waves or ‘vrittis’. Each object in this universe has a unique waveform.

If you think about it, the mental waveform taught by Vedanta is the same wave function which is explained by de Broglie and Schrodinger. When this mental waveform comes in the presence of the observing system which is our Atma or inner core, this waveform collapses to become the gross universe out there. This is exactly like the Schrodinger wave function. The observing system in Schrodinger wave function is nothing but Atma. Only Atma has the power and capacity to collapse any mental wave function. It is just impossible for matter out there to collapse any wave function.

In my article ‘Vedanta and Quantum Physics’, I have given a detailed explanation to show that the wave function mentioned in quantum physics is same as the mental waves or ‘vrittis’ which is taught by Vedanta.


Classical Physics vs. Quantum Physics

Science tells us that the laws which operate in the classical world do not work in the quantum world and laws which operate in the quantum world do not work in the classical world. From this statement, it would seem both are functioning in different worlds. Why does this happen? What is the difference between these two worlds? We have just seen that there is a fully functioning subtle universe and a fully functioning gross universe. The subtle universe is made up of ‘vrittis’ or waveforms which is operating within the individual mind and the cosmic mind. The gross universe is the universe which is made of objects out there.

Since the focus of quantum physics is on understanding the wave/particle duality. This would mean that the focus of quantum physics is on the subtle universe, while the focus of classical physics is on the gross universe. We know that the gross world is made up of gross objects only and laws of classical physics apply to this realm. The subtle universe is made up of mental waves and the laws of quantum physics apply to this realm. Therefore, the focus of quantum physics is on mental waves while the focus of classical physics is gross objects.

Mental waves and gross objects are very different. By studying the gross objects, there is no way classical physics can learn about mental waves. It is for this reason that the laws of quantum physics do not apply to the gross/physical world, only the classical laws will work in the physical world. The same reasoning will apply to the subtle universe; the classical laws will not be suitable, only the quantum laws will work in the subtle universe.

To conclude classical physics is concerned with the physical universe out there, while quantum physics is concerned with the subtle universe which is functioning within are minds. They operate in two mutually exclusive realms.