Vijnanamaya Kosha: The Discernment Body

In the previous months we explored our more gross levels of existence in annamaya kosha, our physical or food body, pranamaya kosha, our vital energy body, and manomaya kosha, our psycho-emotional body that makes up our personality. This month we are traveling to a more subtle level of existence called vijnanamaya kosha.

Vijnana means “higher wisdom” and is the dimension of our being that allows for discernment and spiritual transformation. How do I know that I am thinking and what I am thinking? How do I know what my beliefs and values are? How do I start to understand what my limiting beliefs and habitual patterns are? Who am I? These questions can all begin to be answered by this kosha’s ability to witness with healthy detachment. The Taittiriya Upanishad describes wisdom as being cultivated and attained through meditation, detachment, and trust. One of the main goals of yoga is to discern between our True Self, also known as Atman, purusha or pure awareness and prakriti which is ever fluctuating nature and includes the fluctuating nature of our minds. It is easy to get stuck in the previous koshas, especially manomaya, but when we can learn to sit in truthful awareness of our present state without resistance or judgment of what is and with open inquiry and curiosity into the self, we can start to free ourselves of our limiting beliefs and grow in our spiritual journey. In other words, we can start to let stuff go! We can feel lighter, clearer, and happier with a greater sense of control, or agency, over ourselves instead of feeling like our mind and body are controlling us. 

Like the Upanishads say, meditation is the best way to strengthen this sheath. Mindfulness practices are also extremely beneficial. If you are new to meditation, take it slow and do what feels doable. Mindfulness can be practiced all day, every day. Bringing awareness to your breath, your bodily sensations, naming emotions, noticing thoughts…all without judgment or resistance. If you’re ready to start meditation, maybe start by sitting for 5 minutes a day and building up from there. There are a few guided meditations here on this site, and there are also apps like “insight timer” where you can listen to guided meditations. Another recommendation is getting out in nature regularly and taking in the surroundings, sounds, and colors. Give yourself time to just be. To be with yourself, learning yourself. A favorite line from the Bhagavad Gita is: “yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” We have to give ourselves time and space to find the true self and in this we are attaining the higher wisdom of vijnanamaya kosha. 

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