Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Layers of Being - The Five Koshas - Part V Ananda kosha

The five koshas, or layers of being, are an ancient way of thinking about the human condition, first elucidated in the Taittirya Upanishad (5/6th C BC).  The fifth and most profound layer is ananda kosha. 

ANANDA KOSHA
Ananda kosha is the most subtle core of our being.  Ananda means absolute bliss, complete joy, delight. 

There are moments in life when you feel yourself transformed into something much greater and more insignificant than your own self.  That sounds like a contradiction, but it is not: it is possible to feel both utterly unique (in the entire existence of life on earth, there is only and only ever will be one of you in the whole world) and entirely commonplace (it is true that you are one tiny element in the scheme of life and time).  As the poet Mary Oliver would have it: "I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular"

There are moments when you feel yourself to blend into that which is much bigger than you are.  When you are alive to the wonder of life and to its possibility; when you understand instinctively the undeniable connection between yourself and everything else that lives, moves, exists.

There are moments when you feel yourself unequivocally in the right place at the right time; there is no division within you, you have arrived in a perfect moment and you know with absolute certainty that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Who knows when these moments might rise?  You might be sitting on a park bench watching your child at play; or standing before something awesome in nature, a waterfall, a mountain, the sea.  You might be walking in the woods on a crisp autumn day, or standing at your own sink doing the washing up.  You might be on your yoga mat.

This is ananda kosha, the deepest and most subtle level layer of being and one which, as yogis, we seek to uncover more and more readily.  I write uncover deliberately, because all yoga philosophy is very clear in asserting that this state is constantly within you; your task is not to get anywhere, or to find anything, rather it is to remove all that stands between you and ananda kosha (bliss, peace, contentment), so that you can know it and feel it more of the time.

Tantra yogis call this transcendence; the Yoga Sutras describe how avidya (our mistaken belief that our minds and bodies are what we are) obfuscates the bliss that is constantly within us and gives us methods to remove the misunderstanding in order to reach the bliss; Richard Dawkins explains, "Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you.  Whatever you are therefore, you are not stuff of which you are made"; the Bhagavad Gita tells us "He lives in wisdom who sees himself in all and all in him"; Christians might call it the Holy Spirit. 

The experience is not specific to yoga; the yogis of old simply observed the subtleties of the human condition and found beautiful ways of explaining it.  Everywhere we are told (indeed I believe that we each already know): there is something more; there is absolute peace and profound and humble understanding, there is unity and a sense of rightness to your experience of life and the circumstances in which you find yourself.  All you have to do is uncover it, reveal it, live it and be at peace with it.  It's the work of a lifetime; but what else are you going to spend your time doing?

"Your task is not seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the
barriers within yourself that you have built."   
Rumi