Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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What Is This 'Dress'?

Hari OM

'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

[You are reminded that reviewing the previous week's posts will become essential as the meanings of the Sanskrit terms may not be repeated. There may come additional or alternative meanings, but all should be noted. As study progresses, the technical terms must necessarily become 'second nature' to the student. When the Sanskrit is used, the translation will fall easily into place - or likewise, if the English is used, the Sanskrit term must easily come forwards.]

Please revisit THIS post and chant the mangala-charana. Please use the TattvabodaH label to access all posts relevant to this text.

Flow of Text; as we progress now, we enter a question-answer session between shishya and Guru which may appear to be a leap, for the newcomer to such method. At this stage let it be pointed out that there is a 'hierarchy' of aphorisms and verses. At the very head of the text comes the Mangala-charana, which ought to be recited at the start of any session of study on the text. Next comes a tract which is a form of 'introductory summary'. The pratijnaya vaakya - a statement of the nature of the text and what the student might expect to receive from its study. (We saw that on 12th March post.) This pratijnaya encouraged questioning as to desirable personal disciplines and what is the nature of this enquiry. The query on 'tattva-vivekaH kaH?' referred to the aatmaa and immediately sparked questioning on 'aatmaa kaH?' The Guru's response at that time gave a list of descriptive factors and this formation created what is known as the वस्तु सङ्ग्रः वाक्य /vastu sangraH vaakya' - the governing statement. The questioning from then has been in relation to each point (and subsequent points which arose) in order. Remember that the aatmaa is none of these things, but in order to get back to what aatmaa is, we must first understand our current state and find logic with which to negate this condition and return properly to aatmaa.  Thus we have covered the gross, the subtle, the causal as well as some introduction to the material aspects of the embodied aatmaa.  Having covered the body in its most obvious makeup, the next part of the vastu was in reference to 'the five sheaths'.

पञ्चअ-कोशाः /pancha-koshaaH - the five sheaths.
Note that here again, the Guru provides a number of items which will inevitably give rise to further questioning and thus this aphorism itself becomes a vastu sangraH vaakya.

पञ्च-कोशाः के
अन्नमयः प्राणमयः मनोमयः
विज्ञानमयः आनन्दमयश्चेति।

pa~ncha-koshaaH ke   ?
annamayaH praaNamayaH manomayaH
viGYaanamayaH aanandamayashceti.

"What are the five sheaths   ?"
"They are annamaya, praanamaya, manomaya, vijnaanamaya and aanandamaya."

Kosha means covering as in the manner in which a scabbard covers a sword; that is to say, the covering resembles the shape of that which it covers. By seeing the scabbard, we know it to contain a sword. The scabbard, though, is not the thing which it covers and ought not to be mistaken as such. Equally, the scabbard has no effect upon the sword - provided both are used as intended.

In such a manner, The Self has been wrapped in coverings of varying subtleness, as named here by the Guru. The fact that we can see, think, feel and so on, indicates the presence of an "I" who knows these things. The functions of the sheaths are proofs of the presence of Self, but at the same time they cover the True Nature of that Self.  Even though the "I" is essentially separate from them, it becomes attached to them - just as a sword left too long in the scabbard may rust and solidify with it. The rusted sword still is a sword, but it has lost its True Nature by having melded with the scabbard meant only for the carrying of it. Have we not all watched wonderful archaeological excavations, where a sword has been finally rediscovered and separated from its attachment?! With equal determination, care and skill, we must 'research' and 'excavate' to rediscover our True Self. To do this we must understand each of the sheaths.

What must be understood also, is that the more subtle the kosha, the more pervasive is its influence. (See last Monday's AUM-day post.) In Vedantic discussion, all explanations regarding the grosser existence is generally kept minimal, as the purpose is to raise the student's mind away from the body, up through the mental and intellectual bodies and through to the considerations upon the Highest. If we become too caught up on discussing the physical, we can still find that we remain ever in its thrall and never move forward in our spiritual quest. However, there has to be a point of reference, a place from which to start. Additionally, there are various levels of understanding which approach Vedanta and context has to be presented.

Thus the obvious question now is…

अन्नमयः कः
अन्नरसेनैव भूत्वा अन्नरसेनैव वृद्धिं प्राप्य
अन्नरूपपृथिव्यां यदिवलीयते तदन्नमयः

annamayaH kaH
annarasenaiva bhuutvaa annarasenaiva vR^iddhiM praapya
annaruupapR^ithivyaaM yadivalIyate tadannamayaH

"What is annamayaH   ?"
"That which is born from the essence of food, grows by the essence of food and merges into the earth, which is the natrue of food, is called the food sheath - or gross body."

The word 'maya' (NB not to be confused with 'Maayaa' the illusory principle) in annamaya indicates 'modifications'. Anna means 'food'. Thus, the body is the result of modification of food. The food eaten is digested. Its very essence becomes the sperm in man and the ovum in woman. They combine to form the seed from which the foetus is formed.  It is nourished in the womb by the food eaten by the mother. At birth the child emerges from the womb and is nourished by the mother's milk. It grows up and develops in strength and size due to the food eaten. We consume mountains of food in our lifetime. Finally we die to merge into food - the earth is nothing but organic matter which is itself food and helps to nourish the higher level food which returns the cycle. Food is that which is eaten by beings and which eats beings.

We eat food and food in turn eats us. Many die by lack of food, or indeed, from over-eating. Also, the body gets eaten by many viruses and bacteria… when we are returned to the soil we join it to be further shaped into food.

This thing which is nothing but food is that to which The Self becomes attached and says "this is MY body; "I" am tall; "I" am fair" and so on.

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Hari OM
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