|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Module - A
Unit - A06
Lesson - A0623: Understanding Five Sheaths
By Raja Subramaniyan
Our three bodies can be reclassified as five sheaths (five layers of our personality) as follows,
Gross body is the Physical Sheath.
This layer consists of all the internal and external parts of our physical body, which is created using the Matter strand of the Inert Matter.
On death, we discard this layer and on birth, we take a new physical layer just like changing a car when it becomes old.
The gross body is created from the amalgamation of five gross elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth).
Subtle Body is classified as the next three layers.
Physiological Sheath includes the Life Forces and the five subtle organs of actions, which are created using the Energy strand of the Inert Matter. This sheath gives us the power to act.
Psychological Sheath includes the five subtle sense organs, Mind and the Memory, which are created using a mixture of the Energy strand and the Aura strand of Inert Matter. It gives us the power to desire.
Intelligence Sheath includes Intelligence and Ego, which are created using the Aura strand of the Inert Matter. It gives us the power to know.
Causal Body is the Happiness Sheath.
Happiness sheath is the innermost layer. It is made up of the Delusion medium. It is eternally present and therefore, not created in time. It contains the impressions (good or bad results) of all our past actions.
We experience the causal body, when we are happy. There are three gradations in happiness.
Happiness when we come to know about an object of desire
Happiness when we own / possess the object of desire
Happiness when we enjoy / experience the object of desire
Whenever we are experiencing these three types of happiness, it can be said that we have identified ourselves with the causal body. The other time when we are with the causal body is while we are in deep sleep.
All these five layers shield the true nature of self. Therefore, they are referred as sheaths. We think we are the part, product or property of these five layers forgetting that we are the immortal, invisible, inner essence, which enlivens these five sheaths and survives the death of the physical body.
The five sheaths do not cover the self by hiding it away from our sight. We do continue to perceive the self but the five sheaths draw our attention away from it.
Example: Just as the characters in the movie shield the movie screen, these five layers of our personality are shielding the true self. Self is the ONLY reality just like the screen.
All the five layers are not real but appear to be real just like the characters in the movie. We are so involved with the 'real' life of the movie characters we forget our real life. Similarly, we are so concerned with and carried away by our life that we assume it is real and do not see our real self, the Ever Witnessing Joy. Due to this Delusion, we are caught in the Eternal Cycle.
The movie screen supports the movie characters but never draws our attention to it. Similarly, SELF supports the five layers but does not attract our attention to it.
Example: We cry along with a character when the character suffers in the story. Similarly, we cry when any of our five layers of personality suffer!
The movie screen is not contaminated or polluted by the actions (a blood shed in the movie will not leave a stain on the screen) of the characters. Similarly, the Self in all of us is not affected by the inadequacies of the body/mind complex.
The screen does not differentiate between the hero and the villain. Similarly, the self remains the same Ever Witnessing Joy for both a good (innocent, wise, strong, humble, honest etc) person and a bad (wicked, stupid, weak, arrogant, dishonest etc) person.
When the movie is over the screen continues to exist and it is not any different. Similarly, on death, the physical body is discarded but the Self continue to be eternally present without any changes.
In the example, both the screen and the images are inert objects. Screen is relatively more real than the images. In contrast, the five layers of our personality are inert and unreal in nature but the self that supports them, is conscious and real.
It is easier to see the Physical Sheath as inert. The mind appears to be alive. Nevertheless, it is also inert. It just reflects the sentiency that is borrowed from self.
Example: A mirror is not a source of light, even though it reflects sunlight.