What is Dharma, Ego, Sin? / Intro to 5 Koshas (15)


Session 15 is revision of Bhagavad Gītā Chapter 2 keypoints in Q & A format – on Dharma, Māyā, Ego, purpose of Rituals, How to remain Pure, attainment of Yoga.

Then we begin teaching on 5 sheaths (kośas) whom Jīva falsely identifies itself with. Our purpose is to dis-identify from all 5 sheaths by first learning what they are.


  1. The Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas represent ___.

    They are symbols of Material and Spiritual nature in all beings. Confused by which one we are, by the fact that both yearn to be attended to and nourished.

    “I to enjoy pleasure, but at same time I feel guilty”, “I want to be rich, but it seems greedy”, “I want to look beautiful, but it has tone of superficiality”, “I want to be kind, while simultaneously I act selfishly”.

    Above are example of constant battle between Kauravas (material) and Pāṇḍavas (Spiritual) sides within all humans. Ongoing inner conflict.

    This battle is because of NOT KNOWING ABOUT the enternal Satya/Mithyā relationship.

    Consciousness (True Self / Satya) pervades material (Body-Mind complex / Mithyā).

    For this reason, Consciousness apparently (not actually) falsely mistakes that the Body-Mind (Kauravas) needs , are needs of Consciousness (Pāṇḍavas). In reality they're not, because they're two different orders of one same Reality.

    But ignorant person doesn't know this, that's why they have this inner tug-of-war, due to lack of education of Satya/Mithyā relationship.

  2. What is Dharma? (other then Righteousness/morality)

    The term “Dharma” is one of the most intractable terms in Hindu philosophy. Derived from the Sanskrit root ‘dhr‘ to uphold, sustain, support -it denotes ‘that which holds together the different aspects and qualities of an object into a whole'. 

    Ordinarily, Dharma has been translated as religious code, as righteousness, as a system of morality, as duty, as charity, etc.

    But the original Sanskrit term has a special connotation of it's own which is not captured by any one of these renderings. The best rendering of this term Dharma is “the Law of Being” meaning “that which makes a thing or being what it is”. 

    For example, is the Dharma of the fire to burn, of the sun to shine, etc.

    Dharma means, therefore, not merely righteousness or goodness; it indicates the essential nature of anything, without which it cannot retain it's independent existence. For example, a cold dark sun is impossible, as heat and light are the Dharmas of the sun.

    Similarly, if we are to live as truly dynamic men-woman in the world, we can only do so by being faithful to our true nature, and the Gītā explains “to me my Dharma”.

  3. What is śravana, manana, nididhyāsana?


    Suspending beliefs we picked up elsewhere, and listening to Vedānta teachings unravel. Also refusing to interpret what's heard according to one's present notions. Then discarding views that don’t correlate to light of teachings taught in Vedānta class.


    Removing any doubts in light of the teachings. Until you reach conclusion: “I have absolutely no doubt I am awareness. I know Satya/Mithyā with total certainty and it's profound implications“.

    At this stage, you no longer need Scriptures for sake of knowing “Who/what I am”. But only for sake of inspiration and reminders of living a harmonious life.

    If the fruit (permanent satisfaction with everything, self, world, people) of Self-Knowledge is denied, then one needs next stage…


    Performed if you're still not perfectly satisfied with body, mind, self, world.

    Meaning obstacles to the appreciation of fruit of Self-Knowledge/Īśvara (gained in manana) – has to be REMOVED.

    99% of these obstacles comes from childhood (parents, friends, media, bad role models, etc)

    This stage is performed for sake of Self-Actualization. Eventually, it's easy to understand “I am Brahman“, without doubt what it means to say this. But this isn't the end for most.

    Because in the background of their Subconscious Mind (Causal Body), remain familiar confidence issues, lack of general joy of Existence, bad manners, etc.

    Therefore this stage is to remove residual remaining obstacles that weren't cleaned out by Self-Knowledge.

  4. What are two expressions of Māyā everyone is under spell of?

    At the intellectual level, māyā expresses itself as a film of doubt and hesitation in our understanding or experience of the Self within us. This expression of māyā is the “veiling power” (āvaraṇa-śakti).

    Due to this mist of ignorance that envelops the intellect when it is unconscious of the Spiritual Reality behind it, the mind starts projecting forth the world of the “not-self” and creates two firm ideas that:

    (a) “The world is true!” (satyava), and

    (b) “I am nothing other then the projected world” (anātmabuddhi).

    This is māyā's expression as “projecting-power” (vikṣepa-śakti).

  5. What is ego?

    The Self, getting reflected in the intellect, the body and the senses is the ‘ego'. It is the ego which is a victim of the world of objects, feelings and ideas.

    To this ego belong all the sad destinies of life as well as it's fleeting thrills of acquisition and possession.

  6. Misapprehension (mistaking) of Reality takes place due to ___.

    Imagine you're taught 10 words in Spanish and their English meaning.

    But they're not the right meanings at all. The person who taught you didn't know themselves the correct meanings.

    Of course you don't know you were taught incorrectly (due to non-apprehension or “total lack of knowledge” of Spanish).

    Then a test is given. You happily complete the test and are absolutely convinced you got 100%.

    What you don't know is due to your non-apprehension, you ended up misapprehending the test.

    In other words, “lack of knowledge” (non-apprehension) CAUSES one to innocently project the false notions  (mis-apprehension) onto Reality.

  7. Ego rises when ___ is not recognized.

    Ego is contained in Subtle Body. And if person doesn't know “I am NOT my Subtle Body“, then whatever experiences occur to the Subtle Body, the Ego claims “This is happening to ME!“.

    Meaning, ego arises when True Self (Consciousness, Brahman, Ātman; all synonyms) are not known.

  8. What is sin?

    Sin is a mistake of the mind in which it acts contrary to it's essential nature of the Self.

    Any act of sensuousness which the mind craves in the world of objects,hoping to get thereby joy and satisfaction, creates necessarily within itself more and more agitations.

    This type of a mistake of the mind s called “sin”. – B.Gītā 2.33

  9. What is purpose of rituals (karma-kāṇḍa)?

    The practice of rituals (karma-kāṇḍa) makes the mind single-pointed when it is pursued without specific desires (niṣkāma); such a prepared mind alone is fit for steady contemplation over the Upaniṣadic declarations.

  10. How does one always remains established in purity (nitya-sattvashta)?

    ‘Sattva', the subtlest of the guṇas, often becomes impure by its contact with attachments and the consequent agitations (rajas) that attack the intellect with delusion and grief, and veil it from the right cognition of the real nature of things (tamas).

    To be always established in purity (sattva), would therefore mean keeping ourselves least agitated, and so, least deluded in our perceptions of things and beings, and in our estimation of their true nature.

  11. When is one said to have attained Yoga?

    When your intellect is perplexed by what you have heard, stands unmovable and stead in the Self, then you have attained true Self-Realization.

    Meaning: Self-realized person (jīvan-mukta) can read different convincing philosophical texts which all talking about the Supreme Reality in their own language, yet this doesn't cause jīvan-mukta to doubt or question themselves if they really “got it”.

    This is because jīvan-mukta knows that this confusion is occurring to Intellect/Mind, and not to Self (jīvan-mukta).

    The mind gets agitated mainly due to the flooding-in of the ever-new rush of stimuli from the outer world.

    Sense organs are the antennae through which the world's tickling signals creep in and disturb the mental-pool.

    One is considered as having attained Yoga only when one, even in the midst of enjoying sensuous pleasures, and even while the sense organs are letting in a flood of stimuli, does not get at all disturbed in one's inner serenity and equipoise.

  12. Introduction to 5 kośas (sheaths) covering Ātman (Awareness/True You).

    Image borrowed from Chinmaya International Foundation.

    Jīva is made up of 5 layers or sheaths or kośas. Each layer servers a function.

    Problem is Jīva's ignorance is solely due to identification with all or even just one of these kośas.

    In reality, YOU (Consciousness) are free of all kośas. Meaning you are free of the person who you think you are.

    Detailed Introduction to 5 kośas:

    Within the five-sheath structure of human beings lies pure Consciousness which is called Ātman. The Ātman (Consciousness, Brahman, Self, Awareness) veiled by the five sheaths may be compared to a person wearing five layers of clothes, each layer representing a sheath.

    Just as the wearer of the clothes lends life to the lifeless vestures when they are worn, the Ātman provides sentience to the five insentient material layers of the human personality.

    Each one of the five concentric layers of personality is described to be within its immediate outer layer. Thus, the vital-air sheath is said to be within the food sheath, the mental sheath within the vital-air sheath, the intellectual sheath within the mental sheath and the bliss sheath within the intellectual sheath.

    The Ātman is the innermost of all. This picture of concentric circles of matter with the Ātman residing deep within generally leaves a wrong impression in the minds of students that the Life Principle in human beings is an infinitesimal entity.

    Such a conception is opposed to the repeated declarations in the Upaniṣads that the Ātman is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. The term ‘within’ should not be taken literally. It is used here in a philosophical context and, therefore, its implied meaning should be understood.

    In the Vedāntic literature, when a sheath is described as being interior to another, it means that the inner one is subtler than the outer. The subtle controls, regulates, feeds and nourishes the gross.

    Hence, the Ātman (Consciousness, Brahman, Self, Awareness) which is the subtlest, being the controller and the nourisher of all layers of matter, is described as the ‘innermost’.

    Again, in this philosophy subtlety is measured by its pervasiveness. An object is said to be subtler than another if it is more pervasive.

    For example, when a piece of ice melts, the water formed spreads over a larger area than the ice.

    In philosophy, this phenomenon would be described as ‘water is subtler than ice’.

    Further, when water is boiled steam spreads in the entire atmosphere thereby filling a much greater space than it occupied in its condition as water. Steam, therefore, is considered to be subtler than water.

    Applying the same principle to the five sheaths of the human personality, the food sheath is considered to be the grossest by virtue of it being the least pervasive.

    The vital-air, mental and intellectual sheaths follow the ascending order of subtlety in that order and the bliss sheath, being the most pervasive, is the subtlest of sheaths.

    The Ātman (Self) is even subtler than the bliss sheath. The following reasoning helps to validate this theory of increasing gradation of subtlety right from the food sheath to the bliss sheath and then to the Ātman (Self).

    NOTE: So far in this course, you'll notice I'm using several different names for Consciousness. EG: Started using Ātman. This isn't to confuse you. They are all 100% synonymous words according to Vedānta. Hence it's to familiarize you, because Śruti (scriptures) use different names for the ONE SAME PRINCIPLE.

14 Aug


  1. Hi Andre,

    Just wanted to thank you for last nights class. I have found the contemplation on the five sheaths to be profound, especially during meditation. I would suggest that the focus is quite different to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in that this tends to rest on circumstantial attainment (good luck) rather than the Vedanta focus on practice and understanding.

    Cheers John.

  2. It’s worth mentioning that Maslow himself, by the end of his life, actualized his theory to now include “transcendence” as the highest and most inclusive level of human consciousness. He stated that “transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos”, which somehow relates to Moksha.

  3. Great presentation! My idea has always been that my Moksha will be quite boring and mundane, simple and down to earth with not much trancendance and fanfare at all. I like that “behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos”, which somehow relates to Moksha”. I agree it seems right. How relaxing would be behaving and relating as an ends rather than a means! There is So much “Means” now days its exausing!

  4. Hi Andre,

    Around 19 min mark around topic of Manana/Nididhyasana – you spoke about knowledge being fructified. What does this mean? Is the outcome of sravana and/or manana or nididhayasana a permanent state of samadhi? Does it result in permanent inner peace? How do we gauge ourselves to understand if we are reaping the fruit of Jnana? I know we are not chasing experiences, so what is the permanent fruit to bear and how is it known? Can we only describe this fruit by understanding how we act and know this world? If we come to this point, is it possible easy to get into samadhi at will or is there some sense of permanent samadhi at all times? I’m interested in learning what exactly is the outcome of Jnana yoga and qualities when one is not claiming ownership of BMI.


    1. Put away the word “samadhi”, as course is yet to talk about “samadhi”.

      Fructified means effortless/spontaneous (fully assimilated). One doesn’t need to actively discern Self and not-self (BMI).

      For example, right now, Rov may intellectually say “I am not BMI”, but slowly-slowly, as RoV contemplates more on what the lessons are expounding, the “I am not BMI” gains weight and meaning. The knowledge converts from SHALLOW to DEPTH.

      Hence fructifying of knowledge means: Intellectual/shallow understanding > Spontaneous/deep understanding. Nothing unique about this, as learning any subject matter goes through this progression.

  5. Hi Andre, at the end of the video you speak of bliss. Since brahman cannot be onjectified, then what exactly is bliss in the ananda part of satchit? Why not say satchit or chit instead of satchitananda? We all tend to think of bliss as something experiential but since that belong with the mind, what then is the true definition of Amanda as Brahman?

    On top of this, is “final” liberation (not moksha while living) without body/mind as a videhmukti beyond the three gunas? Similar to mahasamadhi?

    If you can answer these questions I will be extremely grateful.


    1. Mahasamādhi is from Yoga Philosophy, not from Uttara-Mimamsa (Advaita Vedanta). Neither is it from all 4 Vedas (source of Upanishads/non-duality).

      Vedas rejects and argues Mahasamādhi. Why would one leave the body consciously, if reality is non-dual. Why escape reality, when serving the Lord is wonderful. Thus Mahasamādhi is still a concept of duality (going from A to B). Yes, I’m well aware of Yogananda and the likes attaining mahasamādhi. But it doesn’t necessarily mean moksha.

      Therefore the word “mahāsamādhi” is inappropriate in this question, as it’s different school operating from dualistic view of reality. A healthy-intelligent person, will gladly live a full life to serve/contribute. Because true understanding of Reality is “I am only ever serving myself”.

      Regarding 3 words sat-cit-ānanda, too early to ask at video 12. They are all technical words. AT least another 50+ sessions.

  6. Thanks Andre. Can you help answer my next question. I will keep watching your videos as I am greatly benefiting from them and greatly appreciate the service you are doing for humanity.

    what do the vedas or Vedanta say about what happens to a jivanmukti when all vasanas are burned and there is no longer any?

    Assuming there are states of experiences that don’t have a physical body? So do we say that the superimposition is completely removed and there is zero ignorance left and one is forever none other than that which was always present?

    1. Dear RoV. Thank you for ongoing curiosity and willingness to ask. The qualifications are certainly there in you.

      what happens to a jivanmukti when all vasanas are burned and there is no longer any?

      Liberation (jivanmukti) is DISOWNING the vasanas. Direct statement is “I am free of the vasanas which is the cause of putting Me (the Self) inside another body-mind”.

      The vasanas don’t get burned (only in metaphorical sense as in “recognizing they belong to a different order of reality”).

      Second reason why vasanas don’t get burned is because nothing in universe can get destroyed (Where will they go; into another existence??).

      The vasanas are simply no longer “mine”.

      However the jivanmukta still has to bear the vasanas, which are sustained by prarabdha-karma which is still keeping their body alive, even though liberated.

      So in one sense, the vasanas officially get dropped TOTALLY only when jivanmukta’s body dies. However from jivamukta’s standpoint, even while alive, their direct understanding is “Even though these vasanas are clearly causing pain to this body-mind; they are NOT mine”. This knowledge serves as a shock-absorber to many hardships in life.

      While ignorant person takes ownership of their vasanas and takes it personally.

      SUMMARY TO QUESTION: what happens to a jivanmukti when all vasanas are burned and there is no longer any?

      Jivanmukti means vasanas are burned (but only in sense of DISOWNING them). Thus jivamukti simply enjoys a greater satisfaction in life. As buddha put: Enlightenment is cessation of suffering (disowning of vasanas; that which causes suffering by identification with them).

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