Understanding the Nature of Self as the Strength of the Container


4.7: The Self, pure awareness, shines as the light within the heart, surrounded by the senses. Only seeming to think, seeming to move, the Self neither sleeps nor wakes nor dreams. When the Self takes on a body, he seems to assume the body’s frailties and limitations, but when he sheds the body at the time of death, the Self leaves all these behind.


2.2.1-2: Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart. Everything that moves, breathes, opens and closes lives in the Self.  He is the source of Love and may be known through love, but not through thought. He is the goal of life. Attain this Goal!  The shining self dwells hidden in the heart. Everything in the cosmos great and small, lives in the Self. He is the source of life,


2.1.1: They have attained the goal who realize Brahman as the supreme reality, the source of truth, wisdom and boundless joy. They see the Lord in the cave of the heart and are granted all the blessings of life.

2.7.1: the self is the source of abiding joy. Our hearts are filled with joy in seeing him enshrined in the depths of our consciousness. If he were not there, who would breathe, who live? He it is who fills every heart with joy. When one realizes the Self, in whom all life is one, changeless, nameless, formless, then one fears no more. Until we realize the unity of life, we live in fear.


These passages from the Upanishads express the nature of Self in such a beautiful and profound way.  They speak of the Self as Pure awareness, it is within the heart, the source of love, known through love and not through thought, the source of truth, wisdom and boundless joy.

The Koshas are a model of understanding the path of yoga as well as a model to understand our own selves that tells us we are made of 5 sheaths- body, energy, mind, wisdom and bliss ( Anna Maya, Prana Maya, Mano Maya, Vijnana Maya and Ananda Maya respectively).  The state of being that these Upanishads speak of is the state of bliss, of Ananda Maya Kosha. This Sheath of Ananda Maya Kosha  forms the foundation of our being, our unchanging essence as love and boundless joy.  In the path of yoga we develop the Wisdom Sheath- discriminative awareness so that we can pierce through the obstacles of thought, belief and experience that comes from the body, energy and mind so that we can come into contact with the foundation of our being- Ananda Maya Kosha.  The experience of Ananda Maya Kosha allows us to see the light within, to understand our nature beyond our limited experience in the body and mind.

In my studies, I have often come across the idea of creating mindfulness, discrimination, the capacity to witness all that arises without judgment and had considered that to be the strength of the container. I was taught that developing this would help me see my patterns and to help release the experience of suffering.  As I practiced this- in my own practice as well as with clients- I began to see and experience a limitation of this idea. Just seeing the patterns, habits and stories of my body and mind were not enough to undo the knots that kept me and my clients in pain and suffering.  As I studied and contemplated the Upanishads I began to understand that the strength of the container may be something else. When we touch on Ananda Maya Kosha and begin to grow in our understanding of the nature of the Self underneath and beyond as this source of love and joy we change. The beliefs, thoughts and emotions that keep us in pain, worried, anxious, and in fear begin to lose their hold on us as we look at them side by side with the experience of Ananda Maya Kosa.  The strength of the container seems to be something else- the stronger my experience of Ananda Maya Kosha, the more able I am to come outside of patterns that keep me in pain and suffering. The more I realize and understand my capacity for love, kindness, goodness, wisdom and joy, the more I am able to see my suffering and create a change in the relationship and reaction to thoughts, emotions, beliefs and interactions with others.

In many traditions in yoga and in Buddhism it is important to first understand and  find this space of being before we dive into the darkness of our beliefs, emotions, and conditioning. When we are not situated strongly in the experience of our own goodness, love and joy, we can often become lost in our habitual reactions and beliefs in the mind and body.  It is through the cultivation and strengthening of experiencing our own basic goodness that we can sit with our patterns of mind, energy and body and cultivate change. We notice we are something else besides these patterns, that there is an option and another way of being in relationship to our own body, mind and energy as well as with others.





2 replies
  1. Bob
    Bob says:

    Its me again. I wonder about the statement, “The experience of Ananda Maya Kosha allows us to see the light within, to understand our nature beyond our limited experience in the body and mind.” I agree that as we get closer to contact with the foundation of our being (Self) that we might see the light within, but I’m not sure about ever “understanding our nature…” For me, when I get closer to Self, the idea of “understanding” goes away and my consciousness melts into a more pure awareness or presence – without understanding.

  2. Hank Margeson
    Hank Margeson says:

    This is difficult to take in. Understanding the bliss of Ananda Maya Kosha as intuitive manifestation of the cosmic Self seems to be an attainment that can only come after developing the discriminating witness of our ego & collective cultural indoctrination. Self awareness becomes challenging and frightening when the ego faces mortality or even irrelevance. Of course I’m hoping you will clear all this up during your Meditation Series


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