What are the five koshas? What is their spiritual significance?
Kosha means sheath, covering.
The first sheath is the environment. If the atmosphere is filled with poisonous gas, can your body exist? No! Because there is air, your body can exist. So, the environment is your first body. Annarasamaya kosha, anna means food, and rasa means juicy. The outer environment is juicy; it attracts your eyes, captures your nose by fragrance, and enthralls you with sound. All this is rasa, means juicy. The environment is full of juice and food. They are also food for the body; for example, sight is food for eyes.
So, our environment, annarasamaya kosha, is the first kosha. Some people think it is the physical body, but I think it is the environment that is the first kosha.
The second sheath is the physical body, Pranamaya kosha.
The third sheath is Manomaya kosha, which is the mind, thoughts, and emotions.
The fourth sheath is Vignyanmaya kosha, which is subtler than the mind, the intuitive feelings. It is something that is beyond thought, beyond reason. There is a body inside you, from where all innovation and creativity comes from. It is from the Vignyanmaya kosha that every discovery, innovation, new art, poems, come from, and not from the Manomaya kosha.
The fifth sheath is Anandamaya kosha, the blissful body. Actually, the blissful body is much bigger than the physical body, which is why whenever you are happy you feel a sense of expansion. Isn’t it? When you are unhappy, what do you feel? You feel like you are being crushed.