Food, Anna is the primary source of energy that supports our life. A living being is comprised of 5 sheaths which are methodically layered, progressively from gross, physical constituents to subtler constituents.
The Upanishad goes on to discuss the 5 sheaths or layers called Panchakosha. Pancha means 5 and Kosha means sheath, layer and even a treasure chest or container.
Existence in Indian Thought
It is a systematic description of the composition of a being, its existence, its functioning, as well as its place in the entire Creation.
According to the Panchakosha definition, each sheath nurtures the being appropriately and also maintains equilibrium with its respective likeness in the cosmos. Hence each of the 5 sheaths, the Kosha, was named based on what it is centered about, denoted by the suffix aya.
Of these 5 sheaths, Panchakosha, the very first Kosha is the sheath of Food.
Anna means food. This is that sheath of a being which is centered about Physical Matter / Energy and is nurtured mainly by food and also by air, water, light etc. This then maps to the gross, physical body which is made of the 5 elements, Panchabhuta – Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. We know this sheath quite well from knowledge of our own body as well as what we have learnt about it from our elders and further in detail from modern Science.
In short, this Kosha denotes the physical needs of mankind that contribute towards the physical growth of the matter based body. It is that which gives mankind a physical form of a particular kind that allows him to perform certain physical motions and activities.
This sheath which consists of our physical existence, has its basis on the food that we eat, and without which we cannot survive.
More on Annamaya Kosha and Panchakosha, Autobiography Of India – Brand Bharat – Future From India.
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