Note: This is part 6 of 7. For the full series on the 5 koshas click here.
Beyond the sense of self-identity, past the realm of intuitive wisdom, rests the thin layer of cosmic particles separating you from the nakedness of Self. This field is your bliss body, anandamaya kosha.
When you embody anandamaya kosha, you merge with the experience of bliss and enter a yogic state of samadhi. This rapture, no matter how intensely enjoyable, is not yet the highest of samadhis — that resides outside the realm of all experience. The samadhi you encounter here sparkles with subtle perceptions and streams of ecstasy.
Everyday Experiences of Anandamaya Kosha
Ever been so absorbed in an activity that there was no thought of yourself or the action? A joyous levity and freedom of movement often accompanies this state of immersion.
That is anandamaya kosha. A child at play, without a sense of time or space, naturally embodies it.
Even if joyous action and spontaneous play elude you, you still experience this kosha regularly. You hang out in your bliss body every night when you enter deep sleep.
The closer you get to the Self, the harder it becomes to describe your experience. This is because language, being dualistic by nature, defines things in terms of their opposites.
But the Self has no opposite. Beyond all things, it arises as all things, and contains them all within its expanseless expanse.
Anandamaya Kosha and Pleasure
Those who fully integrate anandamaya kosha move freely through the world. They are in it, but not of it.
The spiritually advanced tell us that the closer they get to the source, the sweeter the experience. Life is — at its core — good. All is well.
Each layer of our being interacts with each of the other fields. All interpenetrate and influence each other.
When the field of bliss brushes against the mind, happiness bubbles up. When it touches the pranic field, there’s a buzz or hum of feeling as the lifeforce ascends. When it taps on the physical, pleasure arises.
The pleasure within the physical can be experienced through all the senses. The touch of a lover, the taste of dark chocolate, the smell of fresh cut grass — we all have those things which transport us. And when one takes us to our “bliss-point”, we tingle from the charge sent through our nervous system.
Many religious teachings, especially the more fundamentalist ones, warn us of the danger of desire. And to be clear, pleasure can be a trap.
Intense attachment to the pleasures of the senses can lead to much suffering. But this doesn’t mean you have to lead a life of puritanical renunciation.
Fire can burn. That doesn’t make it evil. Or something to avoid.
The tantras tell us everything exists as a vibration of Awareness — the pulsation of Shiva/Shakti. Because everything has its source in Awareness, everything can be traced back to that source.
Tracing an object of the senses back to its source is like surfing the waves of your sensations as they swell up. In this way, rather than avoiding pleasure, you go deeper into it. For example, you bring your full attention to the taste of a strawberry and ride the waves back toward the shore of Awareness.
In this way, any experience you have can be a vehicle into Self. Any thought, mood, or sensation can transport you into a deeper recognition of Spirit.
You may choose to catch the choppy wave of pain. Or the turbulent rush of anger. Maybe even the slow moving line of depression. It can be anything which naturally draws your attention.
But pleasure provides the easiest path, and the smoothest ride, because it’s connected with the deeper aspect of itself which is bliss. Transform pleasure into bliss and you arrive at anandamaya kosha. Trace that bliss back even further, and you merge with the Self.
The caveat to this approach is that it requires a certain level of discipline and training. You want to absorb yourself in pleasure without becoming attached to it. It’s a subtle art.
A few examples to try:
- When eating chocolate… bring your full attention to the sensation of sweetness as it spreads across your palate. Watch it rise up, linger for a moment, and then begin to fade. Keep observing as the waves turn into ripples and the ripples merge with stillness. Notice what is present once all the sensations have subsided.
- When hugging a loved one you’ve been apart from for a prolonged period of time… bring your full attention into the feeling of joy that arises. Merge with that joy as it bubbles up from within. Become aware of the Awareness beneath that joy.
- While lying on a white sand beach… feel the warmth of the sand beneath you and the warmth of the sun above. Notice the cool, ocean breeze as it brushes across your skin and through your hair. Listen to the rhythmic sound of the waves. Feel a deep sense of gratitude for the day. Let go fully into the sensations and allow them to take you deeper into the expansive Awareness in which they all arise.
Anandamaya Kosha & The Pain Body
If you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s work you are probably familiar with his concept of “the pain body”. He describes this as old emotional pain we carry around inside us. When triggered, the pain body influences our thoughts and emotions in limiting ways. Tolle is describing the yogic concept of vasanas.
Vasanas, whether dormant (samskaras) or active (vrittis), are blockages in our flow of energy. They contract consciousness and drive us down into the lower koshas, leaving the higher ones out of reach. Because we feel disconnected from the world around us, and cut off from our Source, we experience pain.
The stagnant, toxic state is anandamaya kosha’s doppelganger. Instead of aligning ourselves with Shakti and dancing freely in her embrace, we move like a stilted robot with two left feet. Fears and inhibitions overcome us. They block us from creative flow.
The tragedy is that many people become identified with this level of consciousness. And so it hardens around them and becomes their default state.
The good news is there’s a way out. It’s called yoga. The five koshas are a map that will lead you into higher states of being and beyond them into the Awareness Itself.
You have the power to choose pleasure over pain. You have within yourself the ability to rise above all duality and live free. And you can do this while living in the world and fully embodying all the levels and layers of your being.