Throughout the world, people have realms of mind that remain constant regardless of sectisms -- whether physiological, social, geographic or other forms of groupism. As you journey through each realm of mind listed here, you'll see them conspicuous in your life experience. For people true in their spiritual endeavors they will find learning of these kosas to be very beneficial in furthering their unfoldment and accelerate their excellence through the eight methods listed below. All forms of shamanism operate with these faculties, though may use different names. These items are among core ingredients in the architecture of shamanism everywhere in the world and across the Universe.
Realms of the Mind (Kosas)
In Sanskrit, Kosa means "layer of mind." There are five layers of the human mind, in addition to the physical body, which – although technically not a kosa itself – is given the name Annamaya ("food") Kosa. Its natural means of development is through diet and physical exercise. In Tantrika practice it is also developed through asanas, Tandava and Kaoshikii.
1. The Crude Mind is called the Kamamaya Kosa. Kama means "desire." It is this most superficial layer of mind that is responsible for attraction and aversion to sensory stimuli, and the physical reactions to those stimuli. It is developed naturally through physical clash, and for sadhakas (spiritual practitioners) by following Yama and Niyama.
2. The Subtle Mind is called the Manomaya Kosa. Man means "to think", and it is this layer of mind which gives the experience of pleasure and pain through thought, memory and dreams. This kosa is developed naturally through physical clash, trial and error of applying theory to practice in the mundane world, and in Tantra sadhana by pranayama with cosmic ideation.
This is the realm where religious theories are formulated. In many parts of the world religious ideologies claim this to be the subtlest realm of mind, or the subtlest realm their religious leaders will permit the masses to utilize.
The next three deeper layers of mind are collectively known as the Causal Mind. Causal signifies that these layers are in the most direct contact with the Causal Consciousness from which the mind has evolved and within which it exists. This is the intuitive layer, which gives the capacity for such phenomena as intuitive dreams, clairvoyance, telepathy and creative insight.
3. The first layer of the Causal Mind is the Atimanasa Kosa – the Supramental Mind. Its natural means of development is through psychic churning, and in Tantra sadhana by methods of pratyahara (withdrawal) such as shuddhis and Guru Puja.
The human mind is propelled by its Sam'ska'ras to undergo the reactions of its actions. [note: The misapporiate use of the term "karma" applies here, "sam'ska'ra" is the appropriate term instead of karma. Karma is the performance of action, though does not necessitate creating sam'ska'ras in the process of performing actions]. Sam'ska'ras ripe for manifesting reside in this kosa, whereas Sam'ska'ras unripened awaiting expression reside in the Vijinanamaya Kosa. Atimanasa kosa has little muscle or dynamism of its own.
4. The second layer of the Causal Mind is the Vijinanamaya Kosa, or Subliminal Mind. Vijinana means "special knowledge," and includes many higher qualities of mind such as viveka (conscience, or discrimination – the ability to determine right from wrong) and vaeragya (non-attachment – the realization that it is unwise to be attached to any limited entity). The natural development of this kosa is through psychic challenges, and its development is accelerated by the process of dharana.
True knowledge, wisdom and renunciation dominate in this sphere. These attributes are sometimes conspicuous even in pleasure-seeking persons, but there are obstacles on the way due to influence in the realms of body, mind, etc.
Subtler realms of human evolution, vast expanses of greater understanding, and subtle guidance in most any realm of life operate within this kosa. Most of the talents ascribed as "paranormal" or "extrasensory perception" involve this realm called Vijinanamaya Kosa.
5. The most subtle layer of the Causal Mind is the Hiranyamaya ("golden") Kosa, the Subtle Causal Mind. Here the awareness of mind is very close to the direct experience of Supreme Consciousness. There is only the separation of a thin veil of ignorance. Its natural development is through attraction for the Great, and dhyana which accelerates this process for sadhakas.
In this kosa love is ubiquitous, and the feeling of unity of self and all things throughout the Universe are paramount. People who have this kosa more conspicuous in their lives would include those who have lived long within each others embrace, such as older married people within whose company you feel awesomely at peace and witness the resplendency of love demonstrated in the lives, even their countenance. Their hearts are aglow and you can witness great effulgences of furtive splendors emmanate from their uper bodies as you remark about the charms and virtues of their loving partner.
The lessons of Tantra Psychology meditation develop all layers of the mind in a balanced manner.
Ashtaunga Yoga ~ the Eight-Fold Path
Yama & Niyama
The yamas and niyamas help in managing our energy in an integrative manner, complementing our outer life to our inner development. They help us view ourselves with compassion and awareness. They help in respecting the values of this life, in balancing our inner growth with outer restraint. In short they help us to lead a conscious life.
Yamas and niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with the true Self. Living according to these principles are about living our lives in a better way, about moving towards an understanding, about making it possible to 'connect' with the Divine.
Yoga is more popular now than it has ever been. Famous entertainers and other celebrities practice it and thousands or perhaps millions of other people are also doing yoga exercises in one form or another. Yet, despite this widespread popularity, yoga is still misunderstood. Many people think that yoga is primarily a physical activity, something that they can use to get their body in shape. While it is true that yoga has a great role to play in the physical realm, yoga is much more than this.
Yoga, in its true sense, is the ultimate attainment of any and all life, remergence into the singularity from which all originates, are maintained within as unique entities and merge back into in satiation of fulfillment.
Tantra is, in its deepest sense, the science of human perfection. It is the means by which a person can attain their fullest development: physical, mental and spiritual.
Human perfection? This is a tall order. It does not come with just a few stretches of your thighs. While yoga has its external practices and exercises, its true foundation is proper conduct. Proper conduct means living a life that will put you in harmony with the society around you and with your own inner self.
In many yoga books Yama is sometimes defined as abstinences, meaning things that you shouldnt do. Niyama is sometimes translated as observances, referring to things that you should do. These rough translations are not quite correct.
A better way to understand Yama is to think of it as a discipline that will help you to find harmony with your external environment. Niyama, on the other hand, are those practices that will help you to attain internal harmony. Lets look briefly at the various parts of Yama and Niyama.
Yama has five parts.
1. Ahimsa means to refrain from harming others with your thoughts, words or actions. Consciously we should not do anything that will harm others or block their physical, mental or spiritual progress. If you want a two or three-word English definition of this Sanskrit word just remember non injury or non-harming. But there is more to Ahimsa than just two words. What about self-defense? What about our relations to other living beings? Ahimsa includes self-defense. In some parts of the world and within some cultures and religions, ahimsa is intepreted as doing nothing even when attacked. The fear of hurting another is trumped by someone hurting oneself -- that just doesnt' make sense at all.
2. Satya is generally referred to as truthfulness. A better definition is action of mind and right use of words with the spirit of welfare. Whatever we think or say should be done with the spirit of helping others. It generally means to tell the truth, but if the exact truth will create harm to someone, then we have to choose our words carefully. That is why a good two-word definition would be discriminating truthfulness.
3. Asteya means non-stealing. We should not take possession of something that is owned by another. We should not even think of stealing something and we should also refrain from depriving others of what they are due. More than a concern about material propriety, we should also participate in furthering that no one should suffer from being stolen from, including their dignity. Asteya also applies to stealing or destroying the sanctity of the wellbeing of others, including their peace of mind and their dignity.
4. Brahmacarya literally means to experience all things as Brahma (the Supreme Consciousness). The idea of this practice is to treat every living and non-living entity as an expression of the Supreme Consciousness. By doing so all actions are performed by it in whole, rather than the responsibility and reactions to an action being the burden of the doer of such acitons.
In the past and present, many misconstrue brahmacarya as meaning celibacy. Nothing in the term has anything to do with celibacy. A person who experiences the ecstasy of the Universe in all beings and objects relinquishes most, if not all, biases of one thing over another -- an internal experience -- of which some may transcend even their propensity of having one or more intimate partners or have an affinity for one person over any others. The equilibrium of and consequential from the enormous ecstasy of intuitional science can bring one to relinquish such bonding venues or it can make such natural bonding affinities far far greater and lay the foundation for more sublime people to born into families of such evolved and evolving people.
5. Aparigraha is defined as non-accumulation of physical objects or circumstances that are superfluous to our needs. According to your circumstances you should acquire what you need to live your life, but you should not accumulate luxuries that go beyond your real needs.
Niyama is also composed of five principles. Practice these and you will achieve inner harmony.
1. Shaoca (pronounced: Sha-o-cha) means cleanliness and purity. Keep your environment clean and your thoughts pure. The old proverb says Cleanliness is next to Godliness and it is true.
2. Santosha is contentment of mind. Work hard, do the best you can, and then remain contented with what you have.
3. Tapah signifies the practice of penance to reach the goal. It doesnt mean suffering for the sake of suffering. Rather, look around and you will find people with difficulties. Take on some of the burdens of others and you will not only help society but your own inner self will be purified.
4. Svadhyaya is the study and true understanding of uplifting literature. Whenever possible seek out the company of spiritually minded people. When that is not possible read and absorb the teachings contained in books written by enlightened teachers.
5. Iishvara Pranidhana literally means to take shelter in the controller of the Universe. It is practiced through daily meditation on the desideratum of life.
The influences and peculiarities of these practices nuance the root of all life within us, are greatly facilitated by the above practices.
A yogasana is a posture comfortably held. The primary aim of asanas is to affect the glands and massage the organs, and sustain a comfortable sitting posture to facilitate meditation. Asanas also help in balancing and harmonizing the basic structure of the human body, which is why they have a range of therapeutic uses too.
'Pranayama' is a compound term ('prana' and 'yama') meaning the maintenance of prana in a healthy throughout one's life. More than a breath-control exercise, pranayama is all about controlling the life force or prana. Ancient yogis, who understood the essence of prana, studied it and devised methods and practices to master it. These practices are better known as pranayama. Since breath or prana is basic to life, the practice of pranayama helps in harnessing the prana in and around us, and by deepening and extending it, pranayama leads to a state of inner peace.
Pratyahara involves rightly managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply closing and suppressing them. It involves reining in the senses for increased attention rather than distraction. Pratyahara may be practiced with mantra meditation and visualization techniques.
Benefits of Pratyahara
It is essential to practice pratyahara for achieving the three meditative stages of dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Perfecting this technique of yoga is also essential in order to break out from the eternal cycle of rebirths.
The last three limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are the three essential stages of meditation. Dharana involves developing and extending our powers of concentration. This consists of various ways of directing and controlling our attention and mind-fixing skills, such as concentrating on the chakras or turning inwards.
Dhyana is the state of meditation, when the mind attains the ability to sustain its attention without getting distracted. Strictly speaking, unlike the other six limbs of yoga, this is not a technique but rather a state of mind, a delicate state of awareness. This state rightfully precedes the final state of samadhi.
Samadhi, or total absorption, is the ability to become one with the True Self and merge into the object of concentration. In this state of mind, the perceiver and the object of perception unite through the very act of perception — a true unity of all thought and action. This is the acme of all yogic endeavors — the ultimate 'yoga' or connection between the individual and the universal Soul!