Note: This is part 5 of 7. For the full series on the 5 koshas click here.
Beyond the mind lies vijnanamaya kosha, the expansive field of intuitive wisdom. It contains the higher intellect (buddhi), and the sense of “I”ness (ahamkara).
Vijnanamaya kosha is the seat of our conscience, our ability to discriminate right from wrong, truth from illusion. It has the ability to guide us through the most difficult terrains — if only we would become still enough inside to hear its whispers.
The Sword of Truth
The vrittis within the manomaya kosha create a cloud cover that blocks the light of wisdom. This leaves the unstable mind at the controls, driving us blindly through the dark backroads of life.
The yogini works to still the vrittis and restore the power of discriminative knowledge — vivek. Vivek has been described as the sword of truth. With sword-in-hand, the yogini goes to battle with her inner demons, slicing through all her illusions until the light of Truth pours in.
She sees with crystal clarity that there is only one power — Awareness Itself. Knowing this, she casts out the demons of fear and attachment, all the energy-sucking, dream-killing trolls and goblins.
The yogini becomes re-empowered. She regains her spiritual strength. Abiding in vijnanamaya kosha, she perceives the light of Awareness reflected in her consciousness and contacts her field of bliss (anandamaya kosha).
We are all journeying toward this more liberated state of being. When we consciously embody vijnanamaya kosha, we open to and enter the flow of higher creative energy.
If we’re a musician, the music pours through. If we’re a scientist, insights into our work come forth. If we’re a writer, the words stream through us onto the page. We read them later, wondering where they came from.
If we get quiet enough inside, we can hear the “still, small voice” speak. This internal GPS system helps us navigate the hectic roads of Babylon.
Some people experience something akin to the booming VOICE Moses heard on Mount Sinai. But most commonly wisdom whispers to us as our own conscious thoughts, or manifests as a slight tension or relaxation in the area of the heart.
Tension = Stop
Relaxation = Go
However the voice of wisdom speaks to us we can either choose to listen to or ignore it. When we listen, we take power back from the demons. When we dismiss it, we cut ourselves off from flow.
Sharpening the Sword of Truth
Most of our sadhana involves practices that work to strengthen our two higher bodies — vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. And then to ultimately transcend our identification with those bodies and abide as the Self.
Much of sadhana can include the practice of meditation, conscious living, and the contemplation of metaphysical principles. Another highly effective method is Self-inquiry, or atman-vikara.
Self-inquiry drills straight down into the nature of the Self. It places our attention on the heart of what we really are by helping us see through what we are not.
Ramana Maharshi, the Indian sage who popularized this method in our age, teaches to do this by asking the simple question:
Who am I?
This process transports us directly into vijnanamaya kosha, then beyond it into pure Awareness. This is because vijnanamaya kosha is the field in which both our higher intellect and sense of “I am-ness” reside. By asking, “Who am I?”, we focus on this primal feeling of I am, I exist.
At the root of all our experience lies the idea of “I”. Everything we think and sense relates back to this thought.
- I feel happy.
- I am angry.
- I am a woman.
- I am a Christian.
- I am intelligent.
- I am ugly.
Whatever we identify with connects back to this sense of I.
So, you go deep into this feeling of I. You go inside and ask “Who — or what — am I?” You dismiss any answer that arises from the field of mind.
The mind produces labels and descriptions. You are beyond them all. You’re looking for a response from the higher mind, from the field of vijnanamaya kosha.
After a while you can drop the question and just focus on the sense of I-ness. The I-I as Ramana calls it. This is the door.
The I-I is ahamkara or aham-vritti. Ahamkara translates as “the I maker”. This primal sense of being a self is one of the tattvas (principles of Nature). It’s an extremely fine vibration of Awareness.
By tracing your energy and attention back to this I-vibration, this aham-vritti, you can then dissolve it in Awareness Itself.
For this to work, you have to recruit the higher intellect (buddhi). Otherwise, you’re just going through an intellectual exercise.
The buddhi is the sword of truth that slices through everything you are not so that only That which you are remains. But, in the end, even the sword itself must be destroyed.
Gateways to Wisdom
Another way we can enter the field of vijnanamaya kosha is through the energetic gateways of the subtle body. For many people, the heart center is the easiest to feel.
In Rudra Meditation, we take a deep breath into the heart and ask for help to surrender. Our intent is to let go of the ego-mind so the wisdom of our higher mind can come through. In this way manomaya kosha gives way to vijnanamaya kosha and we see with greater clarity.
We can’t force this to happen. We can’t pry a closed heart open with the strength of the ego’s will. We must open to higher dimensions of being in the same gentle way a flower opens to the sun.
Both the light of the sun and the light of Spirit are equally present to all. The flower follows its innate wisdom and opens to light. This same innate wisdom is available to us and will guide us toward illumination.
The problem, again, is the dark cloud of the restless ego-mind. The solution is to dissolve the cloud with the warm glow of devotion and gratitude.
Reverent devotion and a deep gratitude create an opening within the heart center and throughout the rest of the chakra system. They prepare us to receive the downpouring of grace.
One aspect of the experience of grace is having access to the field of wisdom that will guide us toward right actions. Being in the flow of grace is being in alignment with our higher Self.
As we follow the light reflected in vijnanamaya kosha we are led into the ecstatic field of anandamaya kosha.
Anandamaya kosha is the final covering of the soul, and the subject of our next article.