On Easter Sunday my daughter Leela sat contemplating the pile of Easter goodies that lay in front of her. She closed her eyes, brought her palms together to pray, and said with great solemnity, “Thank you Jesus for coming back to life so we can all have chocolate.” Earlier in the day she was persuaded to go to church by her mother and grandmother. I was happy to see what a profound impact it had on her spiritual education.
The Easter season has always seemed a time when a window opens into a deeper dimension of being, a time to reconnect with our spiritual essence. This year it was particularly powerful to have Good Friday coincide with Hanuman Jayanti. After the Hanuman puja on Friday morning I was reading Marga Laube’s (a Vedic astrologer) Cosmic Almanac for the month of April. There was a link to a YouTube video called The Guardians, which presents some beautiful images to contemplate. On the same page was a link to a video called, “Fall into the arms that you cannot see.” The title intrigued me so I clicked on it. The clip was some spontaneous satsang from a teacher who refers to himself as “Mooji.” Mooji was speaking about the all too common pitfall of doing a lot of spiritual practice without receiving much in the way of the desired fruits of the practice, how we often come right to the brink of a breakthrough only to tighten up with fear and be unable to take the next step due to our attachment and conditioning. He spoke of the yogic idea of the Pancha Koshas (the five bodies) nestled inside one another like Russian dolls. B, K, S, Iyengar uses the same analogy describing the koshas in his book, Light on Life.
Our tendency is to identify most strongly with the outermost doll, the annamaya kosha, or physical body. This, of course, is the most obvious body, the most tangible and the noisiest. Within this doll lies the pranamaya kosha, or energy body. This doll is less perceptible, composed of the elemental forces of Earth, Water, Fire, Water, Ether, Mind, and Spirit. Within this doll lies an even more subtle body, the manomaya kosha—the sheath of mental and emotional impressions. This is the layer where much of our unconscious conditioning is found—the patterns that make us behave in sometimes bizarre, inexplicable, and dysfunctional ways. It is this layer that we explore in psychotherapy or sometimes through a kind of detached and critical self-analysis called vichara. The manomaya kosha is the middle doll and probably the most difficult one to penetrate because so much of our identity is tied up in its content--our likes and dislikes, our evaluations of ourselves and others, etc. With practice we can begin to achieve some sense of detachment from the mental/emotional body and enter the fourth doll, the vijnanamaya kosha, or body of knowing. Operating in this sheath is the Buddhi, or awakened mind, which allows us to see things clearly and grasp things intuitively. The Buddhi is sometimes referred to as the power of seeing. It is an essential quality to cultivate in order to continue to evolve spiritually, because without it we will continue to backslide into the morass of our mental and emotional conditioning. The Buddhi allows us to see these things without identifying with them, to cultivate vairaghya (nonattachment). The final doll is called the anandamaya kosha, the body of bliss. This is the place of the Atman, or soul, the place of joy, peace, understanding, and union—the Seer itself. When we reach this doll we have fallen “into the arms you cannot see.”