It made me very happy when I received an email about 5 years ago in which a friend wrote: “One thing is crystal clear: the Annamaya Kośa is all about decay and death.” How very true!
It is a truth that escapes our attention most of the time. When we do become aware of it, it makes us so uncomfortable that we immediately shift gears and try to think of something else. But ignoring a problem is not the same as solving it. Pretending that the problem does not exist does not make it go away.
When we realize that the Annamaya Kośa is “all about decay and death,” we may find ourselves exploring the other Kośas. We may discover that the Prāṇamaya Kośa is all about waxing and waning of the life-energies, the Manomaya Kośa is all about the ups and downs of the emotional energies, the Vijñānamaya Kośa is all about the ego as the agent (kartā) of actions, and the Ānandamaya Kośa is all about the ego as the experiencer (bhoktā) of joy and sorrow.
Every Kośa aspires to be the self (ātman), and acts as if it is the self until its true nature as a “covering” is discovered. The pseudo Annamaya-ātman is found to be the Annamaya Kośa when we discover that it is “all about decay and death.” We then discover what seems to be the true self—the Prāṇamaya-ātman. When we find that it too waxes and wanes, it loses its ātman pretension and is found to be merely a Prāṇamaya Kośa. In this way, one after the other, the other “ātmans” are discovered and get rejected as Kośas.
When at long last, the final and the greatest barrier called the ego, the one that seems most Ātman-like, is rejected as mere Vijñānamaya and Ānandamaya Kośas, the true Ātman stands revealed.
The Ātman is all about eternal life, perfect purity, boundless bliss, and absolute freedom. To know the Ātman is to be the Ātman--which means being one with life, purity, bliss and freedom.