Bliss Bubbles from the Beyond - 6th Week of the Katha Upanishads

Throughout the study of the Katha Upanishads, we’ve been receiving the teachings through Yama, the Lord of Death, via the story of his encounter with the young boy Nachiketa. Nachiketa and ourselves have essentially (and bravely!) chosen to make Death our Guru, as we boldly begin to delve into it’s deep mysteries. However along this journey, we are also starting to recognise the wonderful paradox that Yama – Death himself, truly and totally believes in our capacity for LIFEIn our complete entitlement to freedom. It turns out that Yama is actually 100% life-affirming, utterly pro-life and absolutely life LOVING.
This week, Yama brings us deeper into the untouchable – the unshakeable place within us all that even Death cannot reach. For this, he gives us the gift of one word.

“I will give you the word all scriptures glorify,
All spiritual disciplines express,
To attain which aspirants lead a life of sense-restraint and self-naughting.
It is OM. This symbol of the Godhead is the highest.
Realising it one finds complete fulfilment of all one’s longings.
It is of the greatest support to all seekers.
Those in whose hearts OM reverberates unceasingly
Are indeed blessed and deeply loved
As one who is the Self.”

He uses OM to highlight the true Self, or Atman, which resides beyond the layers of all else. Almost like an onion, we are layered – and to experience what lies beneath, we must begin to peel these layers back to believe in beyond the surface. The great Yogic scriptures describes the understanding of these layers as Pancha Kosha – the 5 ‘bodies’ or Sheaths. (And there we are thinking we just have one body!)
So we begin with OM, the behind-the-scenes ultimate Self with a capital S – the essence of creation, unity, oneness and ultimate consciousness. Sounds great, to know that is our true nature, but it seems that it is not always so plain-as-day to see that. And it doesn’t seem like we can force it to come about either. We cannot grit our teeth and ‘try’ our way into universal consciousness. Rather, it is just always there, and actually has not much to do with ‘us’ making it happen at all. Instead, what we can do is clear some of the layers to allow this natural place to be experienced.

On top of OM, our true self, we have our Bliss Body or our Anandamaya Kosha. It is the thinnest and most subtle body between our ordinary awareness and our highest self. This is our closest connection to our natural self which is complete, whole and utterly, naturally, blissful. We know that this one definitely exists, as we can hopefully all recognise some moments of pure bliss in our lives that perhaps even happened for no reason at all. They don’t come from an external circumstance – they come from within….they are like little bliss bubbles that have managed to make their way through the other layers or bodies and come to the surface. But a lot of the time, those poor bubbles get burst for whatever reason. Of course, we all naturally have the desire to be happy, to be blissful, and in fact, it is our innate right to be living in our natural state of joy. Children are pretty much 24-7 in their bliss bodies! The pure existence of our Bliss Body means that the experience of bliss and those bliss bubbles are already there. We don’t have to try to become more blissful, we just have to clear the way to allow those bubbles to come to the surface.

Our next body, is the Wisdom Body or the Vijnanamaya Kosha.  As we travel through the 5 bodies, they move from the very subtle to the more physical. The Vijnamaya Kosha is a slightly thicker field than the Bliss Body. It is a place where our creative inspiration and intuitive knowledge comes from. This is a place of knowing, but beyond our thinking minds.  This is not the knowledge that we can gather from books or learn at school, it is not borrowed – it is inherent and again, already there. We don’t need to “become” more intuitive or more creative, we can just assist in letting it shine out through us by tapping into it.

Thicker still, on top of the Wisdom body, is the Thought Body or the Manomaya Kosha.
This body is to do with our thinking minds – our thoughts, emotions and memories. Now this one can be helpful – to plan, to sort things out. It is totally necessary. But it can also be not the most beautiful. It is mostly very self-concerned and self-believing and also sometimes quite draining. It spends most of its time making up stories and trying to lead us on. And we tend to spend a lot of our time up there. It’s the one we might yell “Shut up!” at whilst we’re alone, or the one we sometimes wish we could just turn off with a switch for a while.  This mental body feeds off the things we feed it from the outer, physical world and because it takes in so much it actually needs to shut itself off for approximately 8 hours per night to rejuvenate itself! But we mustn’t go to war with it – again, it can totally be a friend if we learn to look after it well. (And also stop believing in all of its chatter from time to time).
Covering this, and even denser still, is our Energy Body or our Pranamaya Kosha.
This is the blueprint of our physical body, the energy or ‘life-force’ that holds your physical body together. If this were to cease to function, your physical body would also cease to exist. This is the sheath that the Chakras or Energy centres are held in. And the Energy Body is totally so – it is not just for “Super Yogis” or “The Spiritual” – Prana is the vital force that makes life happen – it runs through you as it runs through the world around you. In Yoga, we devote our time to cleaning up this Energy body with the physical practice and Pranayama with our breath. 
Our last body of course, you’re completely familiar with. It is the Physical Body or the Annamaya Kosha. ‘Anna’ meaning food – the body that is made up of the food that we eat. Here, energy is solidified into matter and it is made of the five elements, of which the earth element is the dominant one. The physical body is the doorway to the inner bodies, and although it is the most outer shell, it is the one we have to start cleaning and taking care of the most so that the layers beyond can start to clear. When we begin to start clearing the first 3 layers, the Wisdom body, Bliss body and true Self can more easily come through.
Our true self is always speaking out to us, and always has a bigger plan for us (usually one much better than our own ideas!). In order to be able to listen to this, we must first let the other layers become more fluid, more responsive, and as clear as possible. The layers can act like walls – for example, things on the outside physical world can get through the cracks and break into the bliss body. For instance, perhaps when we see a newborn baby and are suddenly infused with a deep sense of love and bliss (even if we are changing stinky nappies!). And it can also go the other way –  we can allow our own innate intuition or bliss to flow through the walls and embody it on the surface. The clearer and cleaner the layers get, the more and more we have access to these more subtle bodies and experiences. And of course, this is why we use our Yoga practice to help us to do the inner cleaning and get closer to the nature of the True self – the place of universal consciousness…that which cannot die.
And so, we end this week’s teaching with a few wise words from Yama himself on the nature of The True Self…..
“The supreme Self is beyond name and form,
Beyond the senses, inexhaustible,
Without beginning, without end, beyond
Time, space and causality, eternal,
Immutable. Those who realise the Self
Are forever free from the jaws of death.”

With love
Adéle x


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