Five vital sheaths

Today, let us understand how is it possible for us to commit sins or incur bad karma when God exists in each one of us as the soul. For this, we must first become aware of the five sheaths that envelop our soul. Our soul is protected by the filtering system of the pancha koshas or five sheaths just like an engine or any other gadget is fitted with an efficient filtering system.

What are these sheaths? It is our physical body, sheath of vital airs, sheath of mind, sheath of intellect and sheath of bliss. How do these sheaths function as a comprehensive filter to protect the soul? When we generate karmic reactions pertaining to the food we eat, this is stored in the physical body. For instance, if we eat food without first offering it mentally to God and praying for the welfare of all the beings and agencies that have worked hard to bring it to us, we incur the sin of ingratitude. This enters and establishes itself in the physical sheath. If we contribute to the breathing problems of others by unnecessarily polluting the air, or if we help someone to increase their vitality or breathe better, this karmic residue is accordingly stored in the sheath of vital airs as negative or positive energy.

Next comes the sheath of mind. The karma generated by the negative or positive thoughts and feelings of the mind is deposited here. The beneficial and harmful ideas or decisions of the intellect produce their own karmic reactions, which enter the sheath of intellect. When we perform acts that bring great joy to others, this karma is stored in the sheath of bliss.

When the karmic residues we generate are not periodically cleared up, it completely clogs the filter, filling our life with problems. However, because of this wonderful filtering system, our soul always retains its pristine purity. It can never be tainted by anything we think, feel, say or do. Neither can it be contaminated by the good or bad karma that we generate.

Now, we come to the most important aspect of all. How do we keep our filtering system clean so that it does not get clogged? When we take our car for servicing, the mechanic cleans the filter thoroughly by removing all the carbon that is deposited there. Similarly, the karmic residue in the five sheaths are washed away when we go on pilgrimages to various holy centres. Our Vedas, Upanishads and Tantric treatises emphasise this again and again. That is why all of us should periodically undertake pilgrimages to purify our five sheaths and wash away all our negative karma. This is extremely crucial if we want to reap peace, happiness and success in all our endeavours.

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