The Koshas are the sheaths or layers of existence.
They are of the following types:
The physical level-this sheath is sustained by food. It learns and perceives through the senses. It is the gross body or physiological body. It exists in the material plane. When consciousness rests in this body, people are influenced by the three gunas and they oscillate between these three mindsets. Physical comforts and luxury are the inspirational values of this Kosha.
This is the sheath constructed of life force or Prana. It looks and feels as made of ether or possibly bio-magnetic energy. Being ethereal, it is not obsessed by physical aspirational values like brands, life style, social connections, cars, living accommodation, clothes, designations, etc.Its aspirational values are spiritual power or shakti (electromagnetic energy which is what it lives on). It is less capable of acquiring this shakti than its annamaya counterpart. After death a person is highly benefited, if the spirit is wealthy in shakti or electromagnetic energy. It is this that forms the strength of a spirit. The more shakti a spirit has, the higher its capabilities and more its strength.It aspires to attain speed or gati which helps it to traverse boundaries, which act as barriers to lesser capable spirits. It travels through the air like an airplane, putting Superman to shame.
It is the sheath or layer that creates, for each person, his individuality or identity. It is called the sheath or body of the mind. It is in this body where thoughts and emotions are dealt with. This layer is also propelled by the sense organs. Our attachments, cravings and duality of thinking, which are positive/negative, good/bad, right/wrong, are part of this body’s functioning.
Unfortunately, this body keeps a person oblivious of his/her oneness with the Supreme Consciousness, and creates false identification, of ‘I am this’, or ‘I am that’. It is in this body that aggressiveness and emotional attachments to material things or relationships happen with intensity. It creates a lot of confusion and sustains the egoistism of a person. And it’s slightly a villain in the generation of happiness, and with holding a person from unhappiness, in the plurality of thoughts and attachments. Transcending this body, is important.
However, at this stage, there is a hint or a semi-existence of will power, which is the subject, mainly of the next Kosha the Vigyanmaya Kosha. In the mental body, the person faces disturbances, due to sensory pleasures, and sense gratification, whether it be the sense of taste, touch or sense of aesthetics. Manomaya Kosha keeps long term memory stored- this includes the samskaras of several lifetimes. Erasing these is a necessity for spiritual advancement. The Vriti or whirlpool of thought, also happens at this level. Most decisions, made creative, and non- creative, happen at the level of the Manomaya Kosha. The mind is the seed of action. So one can say that all actions begin at this Kosha. It is the body that creates a karmic delusion.
When a person transcends to the vigyanamaya kosha he still remains in a state of delusion and a victim of maya, but the process of relief starts. Wisdom is an attribute of this Kosha. It is here that buddhi or intellect dominates a person’s existence. It makes a human being more focused towards keeping up the momentum of transcending to higher consciousness. It uses willpower to eliminate or constrict identification with sense pleasure. It inspires self-enlightenment at the cost of self- gratification and suppression of the senses. The person learns to transcend duality. It is a state of realization, intimation, philanthropy.The person however, is still within the preview of Maya and remains in the loop of ego identification. Transcending the feeling of doer-ship, realization of the oneness in everything, takes one to the next Kosha.
This is the final sutra or barrier. It is experienced only by certain people. It is not about thrill and joy. It is about the feeling of bliss and the realization of not being an identity or an individual, of not being a doer of having transcended from feelings of guilt and or pride. It is a state of knowing, which is achieved by the most evolved and enlightened beings. This level of consciousness of human beings, exists in the case of saints, who can do things to heal people by intent, and to shield against destiny, by neutralizing the rays of the stars and the planets. People who have been considered by the world as Gods or prophets have been able to attain this state. During this state the physical body becomes lifeless and one is fully conscious, but surrounded by a capsule of bliss and almost thoughtlessness.A person at the level of anandmaya kosha is capable of universal love and is able to identify with all forms of existence.
The person ceases to be an individual and exists purely as a Sakshi an observer or witness. The individual goes beyond the effects of karam yoga or the doctrine of sins and good deeds. People who die at this level of consciousness have access to the highest realms of existence and become ichha dhari, or people who can will their own destiny. At this level, a person has transcended the three Gunas of Tamas, Rajas and Satwa. A person looks like a human being but ceases to be one. “Allah Allah Kher Sallah” this is the kind of concept that flows out of this being at this time. This means, Allah be beneficial to all. When one transcends this body, then the person ceases to exist and attains moksha-the ultimate aim.