Discourse 21 goes into technical detail regarding Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya and Vijnanamaya Kosha, explaining you are neither.
Source: Tattva Bodha
Verse: What are the 5 sheaths?
pañcakośāḥ ke? annamayaḥ prāṇamayaḥ manomayaḥ
vijñānamayaḥ ānandamayaḥ ca iti
What are the five ‘sheaths’? The food (modified) sheath, the vital air sheath (the physiological functions), the mind sheath (the mental states), the intellect sheath, and the sheath of happiness.
- The five sheaths/covers (koshas) become locus of error which, as though, cover Atma. They are only called kosha (sheath/cover) when “I” identifies with them. In other words, you (consciousness) don't have a kosha. But when commit mistake at any one level of experience, then one of the five becomes a kosha. For a wise person (jivanmukta), they are not a kosha, but a śarīra (container, or an incidental function of the body-mind-complex). Nothing can cover atma because nothing enjoys same order of reality as atma. For example, one can cover a scar on the body, but can’t cover knowledge that there is a scar under that make-up cover. If atma were to be covered, it would become an object like anything else, in which case it wasn't the real atma that was covered, but your idea of atma.
- The word “maya” has 2 meanings:  Saturation, or filled-with,  Modification.
- In this prakriya (teaching or method), the word “maya” refers to definition #2, and not #1.
- CAUTION: The word “maya” here has nothing to do with “māyā“; the power of brahman which manifests the universe. They are two different words.
- The pancha kosha prakriya shows 5 points of error “I” identify with. They are negated by recognizing they are not “I”. Until then, “I” take on the attributes of each, and becomes limited.
- Sheaths don’t actually hide “I”. Because it’s only in presence of a conscious being that sensing/thinking/emoting takes place. So problem is NOT with any of the these koshas. Your body-mind is not the problem. Problem is identifying with what I am NOT; thereby, as though, I become affected by the coverings.
Verse: Food Sheath
anna-rasena eva bhūtvā anna-rasena eva
vṛddhiṃ prāpya anna-rūpa-pṛthivyāṃ yat vilīyate
tat annamayaḥ kośaḥ sthūla-śarīram
What is the food sheath? That which is born from the essence of food, grows by the essence of food and merges into the earth, which is the nature of food is called the food sheath or the gross body.
- Again, the word “maya” means modification. So body is modification of food. For example, food is converted to nutrients, which is converted to proteins and fats, which makes up your physical body. Parents sperm/egg also from nutrients of food. Zygote/embryo/fetus nourished by food eaten by mom. Then food in form of milk. Then body is strengthened/grown with food. And finally merge back into earth's soil, becoming food for other creatures.
- Another way to look at it is, the physical body is made of 5 elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) — since the elements make up everything in the universe. The 5 elements modify themselves into food. Food modifies itself into your gross body. Furthermore, physical body (sthula-sharira) constantly needs food to maintain it's form. In fact, the whole chain is a satya-mithya relationship. For example: body from food > food from herbs > herbs from earth > earth from 5 elements.
- NOT-I: If broccoli/spinach is not I, how can it become I when it's suddenly eaten.
- Indicators of identification: I am tall/fat/slim.
Verse: Prana Sheath
prāṇa-ādyāḥ pañca-vāyavaḥ vāk-ādi-indriya-pañcakam
What is prāṇamaya? Prāṇamaya, the sheath that is a modification of five physiological functions beginning with respiration etc., and the five organs of action beginning with speech and so on.
- The word “pranamaya” means, 5 modifications of prana (physiological functions).
- Pranamaya-kosha includes:  5 pranas, and  5 action-organs (hand, leg, sex organ, evacuation, speech) — as they can’t work without being energized by prana.
- Important: In other texts, pranamaya EXCLUDES 5-action-organs. In Tattva Bodha it’s included to convey idea that without prana, action isn’t possible.
- What are the 5 pranas (physiological functions) that keep your body-mind functioning optimally?
- Apāna: Faculty that enables excretion (waste from body). Ayurveda analyses apāna, because irregular excretion (such as diarrhea or stool) shows imbalances in the body.
- Prāṇa: Faculty that governs Respiratory system (inhalation/exhalation).
- Samāna: Faculty for digestion and diffusing nutrients throughout body.
- Udāna: Faculty for reversing: burping, vomiting, sneezing, tears. Energizes the subtle body to disconnect it from gross body at time of death.
- Vyāna: Faculty for circulation of blood to necessary parts of body.
- Prana and Death: People can tell they are dying due to rapid degrading of prana throughout the physical body. For example, it's harder to breathe, prolonged fatigue, appetite decreases.
- Diseases/Illness: If prana is out of balance, it shows in: legs (such as swollen knees) / hands / speech / erectile dysfunction / uncomfortable excretion.
- I am not subject to prana, because you remain the invariable witness to their variable fluctuations.
- Indicators of identification:
- I’m hungry, thirsty, aroused, constipated.
- Fear of death, “I will stop breathing (prana)”.
Verse: Mind/Mental Sheath
manomayaḥ kaḥ? manaḥ ca jñānendriya-pañcakam
militvā yaḥ bhavati saḥ manomayaḥ kośaḥ
What is mental sheath? The mind and the five organs of perception together form the mental sheath.
- Looked at in 2 ways:
- Seat of emotions. Feeler of emotions, such as empathy, suspicious, empowerment, cheerfulness, anger.
- Doubting. Received data leads to sankalpa (I should) / vikalpa (I shouldn't).
- Manomaya is also what directs your 5 organs of action, after having first consulted with the intellect. If the intellect lacks the right right knowledge or experience, then 5 organs of actions will be backed by emotions/doubt.
- Tattva Bodha has decided to include 5 perception organs (sight, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting) in the manomaya-kosha. Other texts don't do this. Reason for doing so is external data picked up by 5 perception organs, directly feed into the central-place, the manomaya-kosha. For example…
- 5 Perception organs (jñāna-indriyāni) bring in external data of empirical world. The data is conglomerated in one place and converted to thought forms (vṛttis) in Mind. These vṛttis constantly shape your Mind. Mind can be compared to the round reel. And each frame inserted into the reel are the vrttis. Mind is a sequence of frames (vrttis), moving so fast, that it seems like one continuous movement.
- How to understand I am not the mind?
- One day has thousands of thoughts, each distinct from each other. Yet remains an equal presence to each.
- When we say “transcend the mind” — it’s knowledge-based-transcendence that despite the doubting/emoting of the mind, they are incidental functions; objects of my Awareness.
- Relationship of Mind & Awareness: Thought comes in my presence. I’m there in presence of thought. Thought goes, I’m there to witness it’s absence. I am invariable. Mind is object of my awareness. If I was good as thought, then in deep sleep, I’d cease to exist.
- Indicators of identification:
- I’m in doubt. I’m happy now. I’m grateful / annoyed.
- Mind has associative thinking; tendency to build on thoughts. EG: I’m down today > related thought > “I’m so lonely”. Even thought they’re independent, they’re connected due to association. Thus gives sense of continuity, “This is me!”. Then we disregard other thoughts, and selectively identify with couple hundred thoughts.
Verse: Intellect Sheath
vijñānamayaḥ kaḥ? buddhiḥ jñānendriya-pañcakam
militvā yaḥ bhavati saḥ vijñānamayaḥ kośaḥ
What is intellectual sheath? The intellect and the five organs of perception together, is the intellectual sheath.
- “Vijnanamaya” is more commonly called: buddhi (intellect).
- Vijnanamaya/Buddhi is responsible for:
- Guiding prior sheaths (based on buddhi's assimilated values/orientations/beliefs) — like a driver guiding the entire car made up of parts.
- Discrimination, decision making, innovation, visualization, analysis, research, comparison.
- It’s the locus of ignorance, but also of Knowledge.
- 3 definitions:
- Cognitive capacity – make sense of data, inferences.
- Decision maker, “This is what I will do”. EG: Identity with buddhi comes out even in prayers like Gayatri Mantra. Self-help people say from this mistake, “You are product of past decisions”.
- Kartrtvam, “I have to do something to get something”. Due to such strong identification of the “doer”, even in philosophers and yogis — a lot of Brahma Sutra's arguments are between, whether I have to DO something to gain Atma — or know Atma by knowledge. Reality is, kartrtvam (doer function) is just another function of the mind. It's incidental and impersonal. It's always going to act and can't be stopped.
- Why are you not 3 definitions?
- If your buddhi gains knowledge of something (vrtti accurately captures the conveyed information), that conveyed information doesn’t stick to “I”. Understanding has taken place, but “2 + 2” doesn’t stick as a constant narrative in your presence. I am available to some other understand to take place.
- In presence of Awareness — buddhi knows, or doesn’t know no. Showing us, Awareness is different from buddhi.
- Doer changes in dream, resolves in sleep.
- Atma identified with the buddhi, becomes the SUBJECT (Knower/Pramāta / doer — such as the talker, thinker, innovator, teacher, listener).
- Tattva Bodha has also includes 5-perception-organs in vijnanamaya. Other texts don't do this. However, it makes perfect sense since manomaya-kosha has also included in it the 5-perception-organs. For example, the false snake is perceived while identified with manomaya (doubting/uncertain). However, once the traveler's doubt is cleared (identified with vijnanamaya) — the perception of rope continues. In short, vijnanamaya is also connected to 5 perception organs, just like manomaya. Because you continue to perceive the rope, after doubt of snake is gone. Mind perceives. Intellect perceives.
- Indicators of identification:
- I am the doer who has to decide, deal with my emotions. I am making the decisions.
- What happens when ‘I' identifies with one of the five sheaths?
- How does awareness differ from intellect (buddhi/vijnanamaya)?
- How are the five sheaths negated?
Credit for help in Tattva Bodha to Chinmaya Mission's Swami Advayananda, and Arsha Vidya's Swami Dayananda.
Recorded 15 Oct, 2023