After practicing for a while, yoga students learn that we are far more than our physical body. We are each a unique and beautiful expression of our mind, body, and spirit. Our pranic body, or “energy body” is one way to describe the different parts of ourselves. The koshas are part of our energetic anatomy. They offer us another way of understanding our individual human experience.
There are five koshas. Our physical body is annamaya kosha, which literally means “food sheath”. Our astral body consists of the next three koshas: pranamaya, manomaya, and vijnanamaya kosha. At the core of our being is anandamaya kosha, or the “bliss body”.
Anandamaya kosha: the core of our being.
Anandamaya kosha is our most divine self. Disconnection diminishes anandamaya kosha. Anandamaya kosha is like a lamp. In order for our lightbulb to be lit we must be plugged in to a power source. Our spiritual practice is how we “plug-in” to our Source, whatever that means to us. When we are connected to Source, our bulb burns brightly. We are a light unto ourselves, and for others as well!
Just like we care for our physical body (annamaya kosha), it is important that we care for our “bliss body” as well. One way to nurture our bliss body is to spend time in, well, bliss! Samadhi is the eighth of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga as outlined in The Yoga Sutras. It means complete absorption with that which one meditates upon.
Nourishing the Bliss Body.
Samadhi is both a practice and a state of being. We cannot simply decide, “You know what would be great? Practicing samadhi. I think I’ll do that after breakfast.” However, we can realize samadhi through our engagement in all of the practices Patanjali outlines before it. The Yoga Sutras encourage us to do our practice without attaching ourselves to the outcome. Trust the process.
Karma yoga is another way to care for anandamaya kosha. Karma yoga is the practice of selfless service. It isn’t just that doing good for others makes us feel good. Sometimes doing good for others is difficult or challenging. I was doing some letter-writing for Amnesty International the other day. Reading about the stories of the people on whose behalf I was writing certainly didn’t make me feel happy, much less blissful!
Karma yoga feeds anandamaya kosha because when we serve others, we are stepping out of our egoic state of disconnection and into one of union. When we practice karma yoga, we give an affirmative yes to living a life of meaning and purpose. We live in accordance with our highest self. Our life becomes a prayer.
What makes the Greatest Bhakti great?
Finally, bhakti yoga nourishes anandamaya kosha. Bhakti yoga is union through devotion to the Divine according to one’s understanding. Due to his devotion to Rama, Hanuman, the Lord of the Monkeys and an incarnation of the god Shiva, is known as the “Greatest Bhakti”.
Before he became Rama’s most devoted disciple and loving friend, Hanuman was quite the scalawag! Imagine the sort of trouble in which an adolescent boy with superpowers might find himself. That is exactly the sort of mischief Hanuman was up to! He would even steal the rishis’ meditation cushions!
Hanuman’s mother and the rishis devised a plan to “humble him up” a bit by making him forget his divine powers. Humility taught Hanuman kindness, compassion, and deepened his devotion to Rama. Eventually, Hanuman grew into the demigod who rescued Sita, Rama’s beloved, in the Ramayana. Through his devotion to Rama and Sita, Hanuman discovered the Divine within himself. That is what makes him the Greatest Bhakti!
Hanuman’s energy lives within each of us. Through practice, non-attachment, sacred service, and devotion, we are most connected to Source. This connection inspires and nourishes us, allowing us to live with a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and enthusiasm. What makes you feel most connected? Share below!