A month or so ago, Sarah asked if I would submit something from a geology class or something about my yoga practice. Now, I’m as nerdy as the next geologist when it comes to rocks and being a nerd, but the opportunity to share some of my yoga practice with the W&L community is a little more unique and exciting. I can talk yoga and meditation anywhere, anytime. I love the philosophical backbone and the practice even more. Though I only began practicing consistently four years ago, in that short time I have realized that this ancient science radically enhances my life. It is a means to investigate the essential question, “Who am I?” That may be the most important question of my life, if we neglect “are we there yet?” and “what’s for dinner?” So, it is with great gratitude and honor that I share some of my yoga practice with this community that has given me so much.
I originally wrote a philosophical, abstract piece about consciousness and the cosmology of Ananda Marga Tantra Sádhaná (sádhaná is the Sanskrit word for meditation). It was hard to grasp and digest; even I struggled to connect words in a sentence to elucidate my thoughts. So, in light of practicality, I chose to rewrite my piece and do something that may be more accessible and relevant to you as you move through your day-to-day experiences.
The other day I was listening to a YouTube video of Sadhguru (YouTube his 2009 Ted Talk if you want to hear an extraordinary story). In this talk, one attendee asked Sadhguru how to quiet the mind (maybe he used the word stop instead of quiet). Sadhguru, in his typically light-hearted and comical fashion, told him not to worry, the mind will stop after his heart and lungs and kidneys have stopped. No need for it to stop before then. After his humorous matter-of-fact response, Sadhguru goes on to say that the only reason you want to quiet or stop the mind is because it has undesirable thinking or desires; if your mind had only beautiful, uplifting thoughts and desires you would be filled with joy because of it. Then there would be no want to quiet the mind for it would be a source of joy. So, if you become fully aware of your own mind, then you will be filled with joy. Understanding the structure of your mind will help you become more aware of it and thus more able to use it properly.
The mind is made up of different layers that engage in various acts from physical longings to creative expressions. The layers, called kośas in yoga parlance, can be considered similar to the different regions of the brain that support different functions. The brain is the physical base of the mind after all, so it is appropriate that the mind would also have different regions similar to the brain. The regions of the mind, however, are separated by degrees of subtlety and not three-dimensional space like regions of the brain; hence it is more appropriate to think of the regions of the mind as layers ranging from crude (physical body) to subtle (pure consciousness).
The first layer of the mind is the physical body. It is called the annamaya kośa (anna means food in Sanskrit) because it is made from the food we ingest. Some may not consider the physical body part of the mind, but the physical body is the vehicle for the mind. It is the crudest and outermost layer of the mind because it is the material base of the mind.
The second layer of the mind is the kámamaya kośa. The word kama means desire in Sanskrit, thus this layer includes the external longings of the individual. This layer is considered the “crude mind” or “conscious mind” because it deals with physical preservation (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.). It does not engage in more subtle pursuits like contemplation and creative expression. When you feel the urge to eat, to sleep, or to have sex, you are operating in the realm of the kámamaya kośa. The next layer of the mind is the manomaya kośa and it is more subtle that the kámamaya kośa in that it has the capacity of recollection and contemplation. It is called the “subtle mind” or the “subconscious mind” because it is responsible for more introspective faculties of the mind.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth layers of the mind are termed the causal mind because they are more subtle still and are not different than the causal mind of the Cosmic Mind (the universal “collective consciousness”). The fifth layer, called the vijiṋánamaya kośa is the realm of discrimination and renunciation (renunciation representing the dismantling of attraction to worldly objects). In this fifth layer, the desire to practice meditation also arises. In the final layer of the mind, called the hirańmaya kośa, nearly loses identification with the existential “I” feeling because of its close proximity to the unit consciousness (“Soul” or “Spirit” in common parlance), which only supports the feeling “I am” without identification to worldly objects.
The various layers of the mind represent different degrees of subtlety in the actions of the mind. As you move throughout your day, observe your mind and how it feels. When you’re hungry and looking for food, be aware of your mind and how it feels, and then compare it to another time when you’re engaged in music or arts. Becoming aware of the mind and how it operates creates tremendous opportunities because it allows one to act consciously rather than reactively to the desires and fluctuations of the mind.
If you want to know more about yoga and meditation, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find me on campus and we can chat. As I said, I love to talk yoga philosophy and practice anytime, anywhere.
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