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Doctrine Of Five Sheaths In Hinduism

The doctrine of five sheaths or five coats in Hinduism is found in the Taittiriya Upanishad. The Upanishad develops the doctrine of koshas (sheaths) which it identifies as five –

  • Annamaya Kosha (gross body made and nourished by food)
  • Pranamaya Kosha (the vital airs)
  • Manomaya Kosha (the mind)
  • Vijnanamaya Kosha (the intellect)
  • Anandamaya Kosha (the blissful)

The first is subject to birth and death and is the outermost coat. It is the sthoola sharira or gross body. The second is a little subtler and inward and is subject to the biological drives like hunger and thirst. This sheath along with mind and intellect, which act as the third and fourth sheaths respectively, constitutes the Sukshma Sharira (subtle body). It is the subtle body that transmigrates from birth to birth.

The fifth is the subtlest of the sheaths. It is the body of avidya (nescience) that constitutes the basis of all empirical existence. Hence it is called karanasarira (causal body) and continues to be active till it is destroyed by the true knowledge of Brahman – brahmatma aikya (individual self-identity). It is designated as anandamaya sharira (blissful body) because it is manifest in deep sleep wherein there is no specific experience whatever. This state of deep sleep is a state of happiness. This is evident by the reminiscent awareness of the person on waking from that sleep. That undisturbed sleep is a state of peace and happiness is thus a patent fact of experience.

Taittiriya Upanishad analyses in the above manner the psycho-physical complex of the individual into five sheaths up to the blissful and regroups them into three bodies – the gross, the subtle and the causal.

However, the reality is pure bliss. It transcends all states, sheaths and bodies.