13 – Tattva Bodha: Where Identity Mistake is Committed – 3 Bodies & 5 Koshas


Discourse 13 points out where Self places it's identity, thereby committing an error. Also points out the problem with superficial, or pseudo-spiritual approach of saying “I am not body-mind”.

Source: Tattva Bodha

Verse: (Intro Verse to What Self is and is NOT)

ātmā kaḥ?
sthūla-sūkṣma-kāraṇa-śarīrād vyatiriktaḥ (distinct from the gross, subtle, causal bodies)
pañca-kośā atītaḥ (…and is beyond the 5 layers of experience).
san avasthā-traya-sākṣī (…is the witness of the 3 states of experience)
sat-cit-ānanda-svarūpaḥ san (whose nature is of Existence-Consciousness-Fullness)
yaḥ tiṣṭhati sa ātmā (…who abides in this way, he is the Self)

The one who is distinct from the gross, subtle and causal bodies, who is beyond the five levels of experience, being the witness of the three states (of experience), that which remains in the form of existence, consciousness and fullness — he (is) the self (atma).

  • In this session, we have revisited the following 2 green lines below to elaborate from previous session…
  • Sthūla-sūkṣma-kāraṇa-śarīrād vyatiriktaḥ: Self is distinct from gross, subtle, causal bodies.
    • Notice it says “Self is distinct from gross/subtle/causal body”. Doesn’t say “Gross/subtle/causal body is distinct from Self”.  Just like can’t say table is distinct from wood, because whole of table is wood alone. Wood is not the table. But table is the wood. So if table takes itself as just a table, ignorant of it’s content (satya-wood; the truth of itself) — then it remains small. Whereas wise table understands; despite the seeming table-ness form, I am not bound to this table-form. It's experiences, faults and successes don't define me.
    • Definition of 3 bodies:
      1. Sharira (Body):
        • Literal: body, container.
        • Technical: decaying.
      2. Sthula Sharira (Gross Body):
        • Gross, physical body.
        • That which is known through the senses. Can see our own gross body and  others.
        • Alive/dead body is also sthula-sharira. But what makes the living-body alive? It's blessed by subtle-body (sukshma-sharira). Thus anything that dies (like tree/animal/bug), has a subtle body. Rock doesn't die, as it never had a subtle-body.
        • Gross Body is most dominant in waking state.
      3. Sukshma Sharira (Subtle Body):
        • Invisible to gross body senses of (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin). Because it refers to emoting/cognitive capacity. It has no weight. It's often referred to as “Mind”.
          • EG:
            • One can’t physically smell thought of rose. Can’t see your emotions.
            • Person’s gross body is in the class. But subtle body is elsewhere.
        • Most dominant in dream state.
      4. Karana Sharira (Causal Body):
        • How Causal Body expresses in…
          1. DEEP SLEEP:
            • Causal Body is most dominant in deep sleep. It's experienced as “Awareness that there is nothing”.  Because there's no Subject to perceive anything, it means there is neither error of anything nor knowledge about anything. In other words, total ignorance/cover.
            • Point is, Awareness has not gone, while the Subject has gone. If you were the Subject, you'd be afraid to go to sleep, knowing you'd temporarily go out of existence, which is exactly what happens to the Subject in deep sleep. However everyone looks forward to sleep (in hopes to annihilate the Subject); indicating “I” isn't the Subject.
          2. WAKING STATE:
            • In waking state, it's experienced as, “In presence of Awareness, there is ignorance about __”.
            • The waking state shows us that Self is not the Causal Body (ignorance). How? If Self was ignorance (causal body), then you wouldn't be able to point out ignorance. In other words you would never say “I am aware that I have ignorance about ___”. Hence Atma is also free of ignorance (Causal Body).


    • Let’s connect 3 bodies to 3 states of experience (waking, dream, deep sleep):
      1. From standpoint of WAKING:
        • There is presence of all 3 bodies. But dominant presence is Gross Body.
        • Meaning you only experience waking state WHEN most identified with Gross Body.
      2. From standpoint of DREAMING:
        • There is no presence of Gross.
        • Little presence of Causal (because it’s responsible for supplying the Subtle with thoughts, which then fill up your dream world).
        • Dominant is Subtle.
      3. From standpoint of DEEP SLEEP:
        • Is there awareness of Gross/Subtle-Body? No.
        • Meaning, there is only Causal Body, because it is the Causal Body which holds your entire life in potential. And this potential will manifest at level of Subtle, either during dream for X-hours OR upon waking for X-hours.
    • Therefore what is ātman? That which is other then the 3 bodies.


  • Pañca-kośā atītaḥ: Atma transcends the 5 layers of experience:
    • 3-bodies can be known more intimately by using a (5-sheaths) model.
      • 5 levels of experience with which mistake is committed. Becomes a kosha (cover) when mistake “I” for them. They need not be removed. Only known. 
      • 3 bodies produces 5 types of experiences which we mixup with Self. For example experience of being tall, black, white. Experience of being hungry/thirsty/healthy/ill. Of being agitated. Of sense of “mine”. Of being knowledgeable/ignorant.
      • Kosha means a sheath. Sheath means that which covers something. Sheath doesn’t actually cover Self. But when Self is placed into one of the 5, then it, as though, covers.
        • EG: Is water covered by wave? No. But due wave's to constant attention on wave-ness, the water remains unknown, thus it’s as though covered by wave-ness.
        • If take Atma for prana/body/etc, then it becomes a kosha (cover). Thus kosha is only for ignorance. It's sharira for jnani.
    • 5-sheaths:
      1. Gross Body:
        • Food sheath (Annamaya kośa).
          • If “anna” means “food”, what does “maya“? 2 meanings…
            1. Saturation / full-of.
              • This is NOT the definition to apply because it's clear your body is not “full of” carrots/rice/etc.
            2. Modification.
              • This is proper definition to apply. In other words your physical body is nothing but food (anna) which is modified/converted (maya) into calcium, bone, blood, etc.
          • When Atma is identified with the physical body, then it becomes a kosha (cover). IE: The physical body offers itself as locus for committing a mistake. Thus Atma, as though, becomes body, and sub-identity of body (EG: Doctor).  
          • If not identify with, then it's not a kosha, but annamaya-sharira. Kosha is only true for the the ignorant person (ajnani).
      2. Subtle Body(Divided into 3 experiences. At each, a mistake is committed) 
        1. Prana sheath (pranamaya kosha):
          • Physiological functions such as respiration, digestion, circulation, excretion. Don't call prāṇa “Vital air” as sometimes irresponsibly translated.
          • How does prana become a locus for committing a mistake?  In statements like “I am hungry”, or one takes pride or disappointment in one's health. Therefore, if take “I” for prana, then it becomes a kosha for me.
          • Prāṇa is a Vedic model of looking at physiological activities. Can present physiological functions in hundreds of different models, such as: Ayurveda (3 humors; vata, pitta, kapha), Homeopathy, Medical Qigong, etc.
          • How do we know Prana is different from the mind?
            • If mind was unintelligent, then physiological functions would act unintelligently. EG: We can have a low IQ fella, whose prana (immune system) is 5x more resilient to common colds, better at digestion, etc. Whereas prana of scientist is average.
            • Prana is active even while mind is in coma.
            • Prana is active during deep sleep, when mind is absent. 
        2. Mind sheath (manomaya kosha):
          • Capacity of emoting.
          • Capacity of doubting: Like pendulum swinging Left-Right. Is it THIS way or THAT way? It swings, as long as doubt remains. When doubt becomes a concrete decision, then thought-form mind BECOMES intellect-sheath. That’s why we say to indecisive people “Make up your mind”. Meaning, give the doubting mind some Intellectual material so a firm decision can be made.
        3. Intellect sheath (buddhi or vijnanamaya kosha):
          • Produces sense of Doership. I become a walker/talker. Becomes kosha, because atma assumes actor (karta). 
          • Where data/knowledge/thinking/analysis occurs.
          • Thus all clarity about anything comes from Intellect-sheath.
      3. Causal Body:
        • Bliss Sheath (anandamaya kosha):
          • Anandamaya kosha expresses in different degrees of experiential happiness (either in waking or dream). Anandamaya kosha expresses as:
            • Priya: This is happiness when object is far away, but it's heading your way. EG: We get SMS that our Amazon delivery is on the way. Or idea of eating your favorite dish pops in the mind.
            • Moda: This is happiness when object is in proximity. EG: The food is on the plate. Or delivery man is handing you the package.
            • Pramoda: This is maximum happiness when you are experiencing the object directly. EG: Eating the favorite dish, or the long awaited Amazon package is unwrapped and in your hands.
          • When Self identifies with Anandamaya kosha (various forms of happiness or in gaining fruits of past actions), then Self becomes an enjoyer (bhokta). In other words, even happiness keeps Atma bound.
          • As we stated top of this page, your ananda (fullness) is never modified; it remains eternally full. What seems to modify it is inhibiting factors such as the mind and brain chemistry. That's why the wise person doesn't hoard after anandamaya (experiential happiness), cognitively knowing even if happiness is not present, “I am full”.
            • Example of what “cognitive appreciation of my fullness” means: Despite the clouds (inhibiting factors of the sun), I cognitively know the sun is behind them (else wouldn't see the clouds). I don't have to experience the sun directly to prove it's existence. Similarly, the mind is inhibiting factor of My ananda (fullness/limitlessness). I don't have to have happy experiences (which temporarily resolves the Wanter/Subject, thereby revealing Fullness) — in order to appreciate my Fullness. I can cognitively understand, even though I don't experience myself as Fullness, I am still fullness.
          • How do we know deep sleep is a pleasant experience? (a) Nobody would go to sleep if it was a painful experience. (b) Do you feel sad/annoyed when can’t get sleep? Yes. Meaning we all know that deep sleep is delightful. Else nobody would look forward to it.
    • atītaḥ: Means “transcend”. Implies I must forget body, like in sleep of meditation or some special state. The implied meaning of “transcend” is cognitive knowing that despite their presence, I remain free of their conditions. Just as actor knows the role is not “I”.


  1. The 5 layers of experience because a kosha (cover) only when ____.
  2. For the wise person (jnani), any one of the 5 layers of experience is not a kosha (cover), but a sharira (that which decays). What is your understanding of this? Why is is not a kosha for a jnani? What makes it a sharira for a jnani?


Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, and Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda.

Recorded 20 Aug, 2023


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *