Understanding The Koshas in Yoga (Part Three): Manomaya Kosha (The Mind and Emotions)

May 8, 2023 |

Manomaya Kosha

In the previous two articles we learned about the koshas as a system and looked at the first two koshas, annamaya kosha and pranamaya kosha. If you haven’t had a chance to explore them yet, click here for the first article and here for the second.

Manomaya kosha (the mind and emotions)

From here we move inwards to manomaya kosha, which consists of the mind and heart and all of the experiences we associate with thought and emotion. Remember, though, that manomaya kosha is connected to pranamaya kosha and annamaya kosha because the koshas have permeable boundaries.

For example, the more erratic our breathing is (pranamaya kosha) the more agitated our thought waves become (manomaya kosha) and the more tense our body becomes (annamaya kosha). Equally, if we calm our breath, our mind and body (manomaya kosha and annamaya kosha) relax too.

Manomaya kosha is where our thoughts and emotions live. If you’ve ever encountered the yogic model of the mind – inclusive of manas, chitta, ahamkara and buddhi – this is where those structures live. Manas is sometimes referred to as the lower mind. It’s the part of the mind that receives input from the outside world and works in tandem with our five senses to collect sense impressions, coordinating those impressions with our motor responses. This means it’s constantly receiving a stream of incoming data, the result of which is that it’s constantly fluctuating, even unstable.

Manas can’t sort through this information on its own, so it recruits ahamkara and buddhi. Ahamkara (our sense of I-ness) turns the sensory impressions received by manas into an experience that seems more personal. The way it does this is by giving them meaning in terms of our individual identity. So, for example, with manas, ‘a car is seen’, but with ahamkara, ‘I see a car’.

Once sensory impressions have been flashed onto the screen of manas, and related to our I-ness, a decision has to be made about what to do. The part of the mind that evaluates the appropriate course of action is buddhi, our higher intelligence or reasoning ability. The way it does this by drawing on chitta – our memory bank – which generally lies just outside of our awareness and which stores our past experiences and the impressions those experiences made on us.

As memories bubble up from chitta, they appear on the screen of manas, influencing our sense of I-ness and impacting the decisions that buddhi is most likely to make. What makes this interesting in relation to manomaya kosha is that, from yoga’s perspective, this kosha is the only kosha that experiences suffering because our stories (created in our mind) are the source of all our suffering. The degree to which this is true depends on the level of refinement buddhi has.

As it so happens, buddhi sits at the juncture between manomaya kosha and vijnanamaya kosha and it’s to vijnanamaya kosha that we turn to next.

Keep an eye out for next week’s blog post which will be published on May 15th.

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