While all this energy moves about in subtle and gross channels, it creates what we think of as our “body”. But there is also what one might call field effects that interact with the chakra energies, producing what some call subtle “bodies”. Best way to think about it is that chakras are the roots of the divine in us and the bodies are those roots working at different resolutions. (I avoid using frequencies as that’s misleading)
The bodies are not the bodies of each chakra but bodies of a general resolution or level of density. The chakra energies work at all resolutions, although lower ones are more prominent at the denser energies and vice versa.
The Upanishads refer to these bodies or fields as the 7 purushas. The lower ones are sometimes called koshas or sheaths. Purusha is sometimes a term used to describe the one cosmic being or the soul or consciousness. In fact, there is only one purusha. But at different resolutions, it appears to be separate people with separate energy bodies. Simply put, the more consciousness is focused, the more localized it seems to be.
|Annamaya||food||etheric, physical||Hatha yoga|
|5 elements: earth, water, fire, air, space|
|Pranamaya||prana||vital, emotional, sub-con.||Pranayama|
|5 pranas: breath, elimination, voice, metabolism, circulation|
|Manonmaya||lower mind||ideas, mental forms, vital mind||Meditation|
|5 Indriyas or sense impressions (subtle senses)|
|Vijnanamaya||higher mind||illumined, intuitive, intellect||Study|
|Chaitya||soul||witness in the heart||(heart)|
|Sat||one||the one, consciousness||(oneness)|
Sat leads to Sat Chit Ananda, full Self realization.
Don’t get the idea that the bodies are separate. They are more like a rainbow of light, gradually shifting energies but with certain distinct qualities like the colour bands. Each layer can be sub-divided into sub-layers in various ways, like a vital-mind overlapping mind with emotions. They also interpenetrate, so models calling for things like a physical-mental level as an awareness of the body is unnecessary as the mental body interpenetrates the physical.
[Update: recently ran into a reference to Chittamaya kosha and Atmamaya Kosha. These would not be recognized by some as they are typically seen as infinite, for example. However, in higher stages, even Atman is recognized as a kosha. ]
You’ll notice that ideas like “thoughts” and “emotions” occur at several resolutions. If you’ve had much meditation experience, you’ll recognize thoughts can be subtle or gross, as can feelings. What we call “mind” is a blend of energies.
There are a lot of other names for the subtle bodies, some I’ve used on this blog. A typical model is:
Vital or emotional, sometimes called astral (widely abused term)
Mental or causal
In the above model, Annamaya includes the Physical and Etheric. Pranamaya is the vital/ emotional, and the higher mind would be the causal. There is clearly a strong relationship between the chakras and purushas, even if it isn’t directly 1:1. The Purushas are the divine flowing into form.
It’s less useful to call what’s above Anandamaya as a “body” as they’re not local. Bliss is on the edge of the “gap” or transcendent, placing anything beyond that pre-manifest. However, the soul body can be said to be the purusha of the universe, sometimes called Hiranya Garbha or golden egg.
Pranas or Energies
Prana, life force or chi is another concept that’s almost universal. It is pneuma in Greek, ruah in Hebrew, mana in Polynesian.
Like the the organs of action, pranas arise from the rajas guna of Prakriti. Yet prana itself is the energy that causes the gunas to move. Prana is the movement of Prakriti or nature. Prana is one but subdivides into 5 types. Prakriti itself is Shakti, the feminine aspect of God. Shakti might be defined as divine intention. We could also say prana is stirred by observation of Prakriti by Purusha. Purusha is Shiva, the male aspect of God.
Thus we can see pranas arise on the observed side whereas the purushas & chakras arise from the observer side. This is not a real difference but is perceived as such until well into unity.
Pranas are most dense in the Annamaya Purusha but most obvious in the vital body. Yet they operate in more subtle forms through the emotions and mind too. By the bliss body, it’s falling back into source. It has the quality of air (movement) but can be seen to associate with other elements. Different pranas are also associated with general areas of the body and generally associated to a chakra. When they flow freely enough, they rise in volume up the sushumna, and one has “kundalini experiences”.
|Prana||breathing||assimilation, primary life force||forward, inward||air||heart|
|Apana||elimination||excretory, exhalation, reproduction||downward||earth||root|
|Udana||voice||evolutionary, will, mind||upward||space||throat|
|Samana||metabolism||digestion, growth, discrimination||balancing||fire||navel|
|Vyana||circulation||nutrients, thoughts||outward||water||nadis, 2nd|
The different pranas create the different organs and aspects of the physical body. There is an association in the table with the mentioned elements and chakras, but this is generalized. Some further differentiate sub-types, such as 7 pranas in the head.
Some people can see the the flow of prana as auras, especially the Samana prana. These are typically aspects of the etheric and vital bodies. Some people can see or “sense” deeper purushas although I’ve not corroborated which sorts of glows (golden, white, etc.) correspond with which purushas.
“A yogi, perfectly understanding Prana, and who can control it, would have control of the universe. All nature would be under his control.”
— Charlie Lutes
We’re built of energy and divine bodies, flowing through a point of observation. Next we’ll explore how Myths and Resistance fit in.