The human body is made of five energy enclosures called the Panch-Kosh. These are the Anna-mai-kosh, Praan-mai-kosh, Mano-mai-kosh, Vidnyan-mai-kosh and the Anand-mai-kosh. These 5 sheaths create Conscious Intelligence, humans are the most conscious of the living forms on earth because all five of these sheaths are complete and present enclosing the jivatma/individual soul. Only when you are aware of these sheaths can you consciously and intelligently dissolve them and re-experience your Reality/Parabrahma.
Everything on earth is alive, from the mountains, rivers, plants, animals and of course us humans, but the degree of life consciousness in each of these forms is different and the difference lies in these Kosh/sheaths.
Anna-mai-kosh – The sheath of ‘Matter. This is the sheath of the lowest possible consciousness. It is also called the Sthool Sharir. Sthool means physical, dense, dull, dim etc. Sharir means body or manifestation. Energy slowed down to such an extent that it becomes ‘matter’. The rocks, soil, metals, mountains are just matter, they are alive but the intelligence is extremely dim. These forms of life have just this one layer thus appear to be ‘non-living’ and ‘non-conscious’. They do not have ‘karma‘ operating at this lowest level of intelligence. You can ‘wake’ stones using your own energy, programme them and use them.
Sthool sharir is the function of the Ascendant lord. This planet primarily decides how your physical material body is going to be like.
Praan-mai-kosh – The dimension of ‘vital energy‘. This is the next higher level of intelligence and consciousness. Vital energy/pran is active in this layer. Plants and the ‘mindless’ animals like worms etc have 2 conscious layers, the Anna-mai and the Praan-mai. They are alive and grow and do some activities related to ‘movements‘ of the material body. They have no mind. Karma starts operating from this layer, but this is a life form where the soul endures (bhog yoni). No new karma is created but the karma created earlier is rebalanced here. You keep a garden and take care of your plants, here too karma is operating!
Mano-mai-kosh – The dimension of the ‘Mind’. In the next stage of evolution this third layer of the mental processes adds to the material and vital bodies. Animals. Conscious animals which reproduce by producing shukla/sperm and shonita/ova have a ‘mind’/Mann. The praan/vital energy from the universe is used to animate and move the material body, the vital body and the processes of the mind. This mind is however at the very basic stages of evolution and works at the survival levels. In this layer too, the soul endures under situations which rebalance the karma and cannot actively work to create new karma. Nature/Prakruti’s laws operate. You love your pet, that is also a karma which is being resolved.
Vidnyan-mai-kosh – The dimension of ‘Discrimination’. The fourth stage of evolution is the addition of the power of discrimination/Vidnyan. The power to differentiate between two things, between desirable/non-desirable, good/bad, (Yukta aayukta vishishtha gnyan) is called Vidnyan. Normal humans have this power of mental discrimination and have reached the 4th stage of intelligence. They have access to the 4 layers/ kosh of consciousness. Here self-ego makes its first appearance. The human soul thinks that it is different from other persons, and also different from the Parabrahma. Here now with this intelligence of discrimination, the jivatma can create new karma if it acts with a sense of self.
These three layers, Praan-mai-kosh, Mano-mai-kosh and Vidnyan-mai-kosh together form the ‘subtle body’/Sookshma Sharir. Organisms like plants, animals and common humans are bound by the rules of karma, but they do not have an understanding of it. They are bound to rebalance karma by actively going through the associated experience. When the soul leaves the body it takes with it this Sookshma sharir, the baggage of Karma. When you travel astrally in your dream/swapna states you are travelling in your sookshma sharir. Sookshma means intangible, precise, accurate, subtle, strict, acute which it has to be as it maintains a record of karma among other things.
Sookshma sharir is the domain of the Moon. The power and position of your birth Moon, the sign he occupies and the results he is capable of giving. This ‘astral body’ is your Moon. In Indian /Vedic Jyotish the Moon is given importance just for this reason.
Anand-mai-kosh – The dimension of ‘Happiness when the knowledge of the End of the Drama is known’. Now this is the final layer which tightly wraps the individual soul. The consciousness of this layer is available to those humans who begin enquiring into the spiritual. If you start reading about the inner self, thinking about Divinity, contemplating about Reality, practicing Dhyan etc. you will be granted access to this highest possible intelligence. This is the subtlest consciousness called the Kaaran Sharir. Kaaran in a Sanskrit word which means the ‘reasoning’ or ’cause’. Once you are conscious of this inner most layer you understand the workings of Karma. You can actively ‘burn’ your unresolved karma in the internal fires of your spiritual practice. This complete rebalancing of karma requires time, dedication and regular practice. Soon a time will come when you will gain a complete understanding of this final Kosh and be granted access to your Jivatma. But by now, as you have completed your karmic debts, your Jivatma/individual soul is not longer an ‘individual’. It has experienced and thus become the Paramatma/the Ultimate Reality i.e. Moksh.
This tightest dimension, the karan sharir is a function of your birth Sun. His position in your horoscope will determine if you will be able to access its Intelligence or not. As most humans are not concerned with spiritual growth the Sun need not be analysed on priority. But if in the off-chance you get a spiritually oriented client, do analyse his birth Sun and the results he is capable of giving. For realisation of Moksh, the ascendant lord, Moon and the Sun are required to work together so that all the enclosing dimensions are successfully unlocked.
And then there is a class of beings who do not have the material body layer. Their bodies are composed of the non-material higher layers. You must have seen them sometime or the other. Astral beings or the beings whom you meet when you travel astrally or the individual souls who have left their physical body or ghosts or the departed loved ones who reside in Pitrulok but come to this Martyalok occasionally or the residents of the other dimensions (Yaksha, Gandharva, Pishachya, Vetal etc). These beings do not have the material dimension i.e. the Anna-mai-kosh thus are residents of the ‘astral realms’.
So the Panch-kosh is how your consciousness has evolved over countless births. Your soul has gone through this process too! You have been a mountain, a tree, a crab, a dolphin, an elephant and now you are a human. If you do your spiritual practice you will further evolve. The Panch-Kosh, the five Conscious dimensions are created and then they ultimately dissolve into the Ultimate Intelligence. The final step is thus Self-realization/Moksh.