In the following text I would like to present the five stages of the Vedic Way in a manner easy to understand.
This text is the first of many consecutive ones in which I would like to give you a taste of the kinds of knowledge and experiences taught in our courses.
It is important to me to give practical tips, already in these introductory texts, that can help you live a fulfilled, spiritual life.
All the best, love and lots of spiritual strength,
The Five Stages of the Vedic Way
According to ancient Indian literature we human beings lead our lives on five different levels or stages of consciousness.
Each stage has its needs. To lead a fulfilled life, spiritually speaking, means to address the particular needs of each stage in a way conducive for spiritual development. In this way we can ultimately pursue the higher goals of spiritual realization without disturbances.
The five stages correspond to the koshas, or coverings, of the human being; coverings, because they cover the spiritual self, the shining jewel within. Our life is decisively influenced by the particular covering we identify with:
1. Anna-maya kosha – the bodily stage;
2. prana-maya kosha – the vitality stage;
3. mana-maya kosha – the stage of thinking and feeling;
4. vijnana-maya kosha – the stage of spiritual discrimination and wisdom; and
5. ananda-maya kosha – the stage of pure consciousness, where spiritual bliss is located.
Although it is a little too simplified, for ease of comprehension, I would like to assign types of persons to each of these stages (see Table 1).
At the first stage would be the eat-drink-and-be-merry person. At the second we find someone who wants more out of life. Let’s call him the vitality-seeker. At the third stage is a person who is mentally and emotionally oriented, drawn towards logical thinking but also rich in feelings. Let’s call him the philosopher. At the fourth stage is one who has refined his sense of spiritual discrimination and is therefore often in touch with his intuition. We'll call him the sage. And at the fifth stage is the self- and God-realized person.
|vitality||prana-maya kosha||vitality seeker|
|thoughts and feelings||mana-maya kosha||philosopher|
|spiritual discrimination and wisdom||vigyana-maya kosha||sage|
|pure consciousness||ananda-maya kosha||self- and God-realized|
Table 1: An Overview of the Five Koshas
It is important to note that, while a person predominantly operates at one of these stages, he can certainly shift to others. We have experience of this in our own lives. Sometimes we have to meet the needs of our body, such as eating, drinking and sleeping, and therefore operate at the stage of anna-maya for a short while. Seen in this way, the five stages can be compared to living spaces. The distinguishing feature of the Vedic Way is that it encompasses these five living spaces and teaches us how to design each in such a way that whatever we do within them is conducive for our spiritual development. I would like to illustrate this.
1. The first living space can be transformed by healthy and pure food.
2. The vitality space can be maintained by a healthy lifestyle. This includes (surprisingly) steady and deep breathing, regular yoga exercise, or just well-balanced movements and activities.
3. The space of thoughts and feelings of our mental body can be purified by a balanced temper and, above all, by transforming negative emotions. To this end, it is very useful to know one’s dharma, or purpose, and to live accordingly. Reading about spiritual topics can also help us detach from the material stage and its influence on our consciousness and turn instead towards a spiritual reality. Additionally, by adopting spiritual practices we can become receptive to inspiration from our intuition (fourth stage).
4. Having balanced our thoughts and feelings in the third kosha, we become open to receiving higher spiritual guidance or intuition. In this space, meditation helps us detach from material influences and penetrate spiritual reality.
5. To reach the stage of pure consciousness ultimately requires the influence of a spiritual power, as self-realization is always a gift of mercy. However, by spiritual practices it is possible to create suitable conditions to attract this mercy, and, when it comes, to give it a vessel. The chanting of mantras, good association, studying sacred scriptures, worshiping God, and going on pilgrimages to holy places are helpful here.
As we have seen, the five koshas are coverings, but also living spaces, each presenting different possibilities for our development.
The Five Simple Wisdoms
The Vedic Way teaches us five important wisdoms corresponding to each of these living spaces, or koshas, which help replenish our energy and strength so that, little by little, all of our obstacles and difficulties fade away (see Table 2). In our courses we teach these wisdoms elaborately and, above all, practically. These insights include:
1. Sattva – living in balance,
2. Dharma – living your purpose,
3. Atma – living in the self,
4. Paramatma – living with a higher connection, and
5. Bhakti – living in love.
|anna-maya kosha||sattva||living in balance|
|prana-maya kosha||dharma||living your purpose|
|mana-maya kosha||atma||living in the self|
|vigyana-maya kosha||paramatma||living with a higher connection|
|ananda-maya kosha||bhakti||living in love|
Table 2: The Wisdoms for the Living Spaces
In summary, according to the view of the Vedic civilization the spirit soul, the core of the human being, is covered by five koshas or coverings. We lead our life according to the koshas we identify with. By filling these koshas with positive energy we can regain our health on all levels and pursue our spiritual development without disturbances, up to complete self- and God-realization.
To illustrate these topics somewhat, I would like to tell an old wisdom story about the Vedic Way.
Once there was a self-realized guru who had a very close and practice-oriented disciple. To impart Vedic knowledge to him in a graphic way, at the end of his training period, the guru gave him a pencil and said, “The entire knowledge of the Vedas can be summed up in the lessons from this pencil. Just remember these five rules:
1. In life you have to regularly take care of your body and mind to keep yourself fit for fulfilling your purpose. Just as the pencil needs to be sharpened again and again, you also have to provide energy for the body and mind. Live in sattva.
2. Everyone has his dharma in life, that means his purpose. Just as the pencil always draws a line, you should hold on to your “line” (purpose) without deviating. Live in dharma.
3. Always remember that ultimately your are an eternal soul, an atma. Just as there is graphite hidden in the wood of the pencil, the eternal soul lives within your body. I ask you, what is more important, the wood or the graphite? Therefore, live in atma.
4. and 5. Everything may be right: the place, the time, your abilities, and so forth, but in the end you can only be successful if you are living with a higher connection and your actions are blessed. Therefore, always remember that you are not the doer, just like the pencil never writes the book or the essay, but is always guided by the hand. Remember the higher self, paramatma, and live in love, bhakti.”
It is said that, after following this path, the Vedic Way, for only one year, the disciple became overwhelmed with bhakti, divine love.
These five lessons comprise the deep wisdom of the ancient Indian culture in a format that makes it easy to apply this theoretical wisdom and achieve immediate results. In summary, here are the five lessons from the pencil again:
Lesson 1: Regenerate yourself regularly - physically, mentally and spiritually. Live in sattva.
Lesson 2: Discover your unique purpose in life and execute it. Live your dharma.
Lesson 3: Always stay connected with your innermost self - the soul. Live in atma.
Lesson 4: Listen to your conscience and correct mistakes. Stay in the higher connection, guided by the paramatma, the higher self.
Lesson 5: Develop your love – love for God. Live in bhakti.
If I was able to offer you some helpful suggestions with this short text, I would be happy if you would continue to visit the Vedicway.org website to follow the latest developments.
Questions, comments, or suggestions?
Please feel free to correspond with Sacinandana Swami and the Vedic Way team. We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.
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