[Advaita-l] Advaita vEdAnta - Unit (29)

Krishnamurthy Ramakrishna puttakrishna at verizon.net
Wed May 9 13:45:30 CDT 2007

In Unit 25, we studied the nature of ajnyana and understood that ajnyAna is
abhAvarUpa; we understood how ajnyAna differs from mAya.
In Unit 26 and 27, we discussed the three states of the jIva. 
In Unit 28, we studied turIya; we will continue with it briefly in this unit
and then take up the study of the pancha kOsha - the five sheaths
surrounding the jIva.

chAndOgya upanishat (2-23.2 and 3) says as follows;
prajApati, the first born, meditated to understand the substance or
quintessence of the various worlds, from which the utterances of the three
words (vyAhritis) - bhUh, bhuvah, suvah - were cognized. These are the three
worlds or lOkas. He further meditated on these three utterances. He cognized
that the substance of these three utterances is OM; all this is OM. OM is
very close to paramAtman and He will be pleased by the utterance of OM. This
is also a symbol of paramAtman - just as shAlagrAma is a symbol of vishNu or
linga is a symbol of shiva. So OM is an upAsana mantra of paramAtman. 
OMkAra being Atman, the four segments of Atman are the four segments of
OMkAra. vaishvAnara is the first step in the path of AtmajnyAna and pervades
the jagat (gross body of Atman). The letter a-kAra (first letter of Sanskrit
script) is the first letter and pervades all letters. So vaishvAnara is
meditated as the first sound of OM - 'a' - meditating thus, the seeker
pervades or begets all desires. taijasa is a form derived from vaishvAnara
and is between the vishva and prAjnya. The Sanskrit vowel 'u' follows vowel
'a' and is in between 'a' and 'ma'. So meditating on 'u' representing
taijasa, the seeker grows knowledge. The prAjnya is beyond vishva and
taijasa and merges them in him. In OMkAra, the "ma' is beyond a' and 'u' and
merges 'a' and 'u' in it. The seeker who meditates on prAjnya represented by
'ma', crosses beyond jagat or will reach "Reality"; that means he realizes
Brahman or unites with Brahman.
So it is said that meditation on OM is the path to realization of Brahman.

pancha kOsha ( five sheaths)

The dwelling in the womb and all other vicissitudes of existence - the evil
samsara - belongs to the linga or sUkShma sharIra (subtle body). Though the
jIva , in reality, has nothing to do with those vicissitudes, by delusion,
by associating the real Self (jIva) with the two bodies (gross and subtle),
man thinks he himself is sbject to changes. Identifying himself with buddhi
(intellect), he regards himself as the cognizer and engages in the act of
cognizing. He regards himself as a thinker and associating with the manas,
engages in mental activity. Identifying himself with prANa and vital airs or
sight and other senses, he feels concerned in all bodily activities. By
avidyA, the jIva becomes attached to wealth etc. and thinks himself the
owner of these. By attachments he attributes to himself, the fondness of the
physical body and the subtle body, he thinks he is male/female, rich/poor,
householder / ascetic, and so on. The body, itself, is nothing but a product
of the various elements of matter, quite foreign to the real Self (jIva) of
man; he thus subjects himself to samsAra, due to delusion, by regarding the
human organism as 'I' and 'mine'.
It is this human, whom the shruti seeks to unite with Brahman, to his own
innermost self, by means of Brahmavidya. This Brahmavidya is communicated,
by guiding the jIva to look beyond the five sheaths. The five kOshas are
kind of landmarks, just as, if you want to show a stranger, a home in the
street, you may say some thing like this -  "look to the house next to the
house on the roof of which a crow is sitting"; the crow is only a temporary
landmark, that serves the purpose of drawing attention of the stranger to
the house beyond that (by the time the stranger approaches that place, the
crow may have flown out; but still he finds the house he wants to find -
meaning that when the five kOshas are crossed, the presence or absence of
kOshas are immaterial; Brahman is experienced). Similarly the shruti teaches
the nature of the five kOshas and leads the seeker to the Atman beyond the
five kOshas within him. 

So, while Atman is one, the anAtma (non-Atma) are many; therefore there are
many descriptions of anAtma, like the three bodies, three states etc. Yet
there is one other classification - pancha kOsha or five sheaths. In this
section how the jIva is associated with the five sheaths is described. The
five sheaths at the vyaShTI or segregate level are annamaya Atma, prANamaya
Atma, manOmaya Atma, vijnyAnamaya Atma and Anandamaya Atma. The association
of the Atma with these sheaths is the subject matter of the dvitIya and
tritIya prashna (second and third questions - Anandavalli and briguvalli) of
taiitrIya upanishat. How the jIva associates with these kOshas and what is
the make up of these sheaths is the subject of this section.

The svarUpa of jIva is Brahman, who is of the nature of knowledge. The jIva
has to look for Brahman in the intellect (buddhi) layer, since the intellect
is the closest to knowledge. From the visible physical body to the intellect
layer, five layers are identified. These are the gross body, vital airs,
mind, intellect and experiencer (bhOga vritti or bhOktrittva). The
experience is a result of karma ; so the desire for an experience is the
driver for karma, which drives the decision (sankalpa) to do a certain
activity. The mind propels the prANa to engage in karma, through the medium
of physical body. So the desire for experience, intellect, mind, the vital
airs and the physical body are the five sheaths from the deep inside to the
external physical body. The jIva located inside these five layers, is
experiencing the fruits of these transactions. The jIva associates (adhyAsa)
with physical body during the act of karma, associates with the prANa
during the preparation for karma, associates with the mind during the desire
process, associates with the intellect (buddhi) during decision (nischaya)
to do karma and associates with the enjoyer or experiencer (bhOktrittva)
during experiencing the fruits of action. The five associations are
respectively called annamaya kOsha, prANamaya kOsha, manOmaya kOsha,
vijnyAnamaya kOsha and Anandamaya kOsha. The jIva is respectively called
annamaya Atma, prANamaya Atma, manOmaya Atma, vijnyAnamaya Atma and
Anandamaya Atma, when he associates with respective sheath.
The jIva's adhyAsa (association) with these layers errs him at two levels -
(1) an error at the segregate (vyaShTi) level that he is limited by these
sheaths; (2) an error at the samaShTi  (aggregate or cosmic) level, denying
for himself the sarvAtmabhAva (limitlessness of Atman ). He fashions for
himself the asarvAtmabhAva (limited entity). 
In the following unit, we will understand the makeup of the five sheaths,
and how the jIva rejects these associations in reaching the Atman.

Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih 

( Om peace, peace, peace).

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