Divine Sheaths of the subtle human body

he trend of 5-faced photographs and images of Gayatri is seen, so that those who take recourse to the spiritual practice of this MahaMantra, ask a pertinent question as to what we should do in future? Mantra chanting, meditation, eulogies to God, reading religious texts, sacrificial fire rites etc. are preliminary practices. As a result of this, the preliminary goal of purification of the body and concentration of the mind is achieved. Yet there are more milestones to be reached. For its attainment spiritual seekers should look out for necessary information and then imbibe alertness, steadfastness and capability, to walk on that path. If a spiritual seeker remembers all this always, then know for sure that the aim behind creating photos/images of a 5-faced Gayatri has been duly achieved.

In reality Gayatri is the worldwide Super Power of the Almighty Lord. It has no particular form. If one desires to have a glimpse of God’s form, it can be in the form of light only. Wisdom is compared to light. The god of Gayatri is Savita. Savita means the sun – a gigantic ball of brilliant light. When Gayatri Super Power manifests in a spiritual seeker, he gets a glimpse of a pinpoint of light, when he meditates. A spiritual seeker sees a small/ big ball of light either in his heart, head, navel or eyes. Sometimes it augments and at other times it diminishes. Many types of shapes, colors of light rays are seen in it. In the beginning stages it keeps oscillating, sometimes it is visible and at other times it disappears. But slowly a state comes, when all the different shapes, movement and colors are warded off and only a point of light remains. In the initial stages, this light is of a small shape and with lesser radiance but when one’s soul state advances, this point of light starts enlarging, becomes more dazzling and manifests a lot of bliss. Just as a lotus blooms forth when the early morning sunlight caresses its bud, so too when our inner soul is touched by this divine light, it experiences bliss of Brahman, absolute bliss and bliss of one’s very existence and consciousness. Just as the Indian red-legged partridge (bird) keeps gazing at the moon for the whole night, in the same way a spiritual seeker yearns to experience untold bliss by gazing at this inner light. Sometimes one desires that just as a moth lays down his life for the flame lamp i.e. it gives up its ordinary existence for the glorious flame, so too I must merge my lowly individual ego into this cosmic light of God.

This is a minor glimpse of meditation on the formless Brahman (God). From the standpoint of experience, a spiritual seeker feels he is experiencing Brahman and spiritual wisdom. The gift of wisdom i.e. imbibing great idealistic activities in our daily lives should awaken within us, inspirations and yearnings. Not only awakening but that it is taking the form of a firm resolve, inner state and as truth. This is the symbol of experience of divine light. Because when the ignorance of power of illusion (Maya) and selfishness is overcome, man starts thinking with a generous viewpoint and imbibes acts of great men. Such a person never hesitates to step daringly on the path of spirituality, unlike people full of avarice, selfishness, delusion and narrow worldly attachments. In order to execute appropriate acts, he marches ahead speedily on the path of spiritual well-being with great valor and enterprise.

So far we have dealt with the nature of high stature wisdom and meditation on the divine power in the form of ‘Gayatri’. In the preliminary stages, it is not possible to get such high stature experiences. One must first imbibe preliminary, spiritual practices like Mantra chanting, worship, meditation, eulogies, fire sacrifices etc. At such times it is a must that one takes help of photographs and images. Meditation in the preliminary stages is possible only via name and form. The stage of formless meditation is very much higher up on the scale. Even in that state there is no need to give up image worship and instead by including it in one’s daily chores, one controls one’s accumulated psychic imprints. When a huge building is constructed, its foundation is in the form of pebbles and stones. Once a firm foundation is laid down, one can build a building of various hues and designs. Later one fails to notice the pebbles / stones in the foundation, yet there is no need to renounce or mock at them. One should realize that the basis and firm foundation of that gigantic building are these pebbles, stones etc. The spiritual progress of meditation with form too can be called a foundation stone. In the preliminary stages its requirement is a must. Thus the commencement of spirituality right from ancient times has taken place with the help of image worship and steadily it marches ahead. It is with reference to this that the shape of Gayatri Super Power has been molded. Just like other images of God, its image too right from ancient times has been used in mediation and worship of God.

Ordinarily only the image of a human face with one face and 2 arms are apt. This is the best from for meditation and worship. Gayatri too should have those kinds of hands and legs just like a spiritual seeker’s beloved mother has. Hence in meditation and worship, one uses the image of Gayatri Mother having 2 arms and one face seated on a white swan and having a book and water pot in her hands. But in some regions one sees images with 5 faces. Maybe its meditation and worship is not apt, yet it has one important message and direction in it. We must see that minutely.

The five faces of Gayatri are the 5 sheaths covering a Jeeva (living being). They are the 5 manifestations and the ten arms of the 10 Sidhis (divine powers) and experiences. Five arms are on the left hand side and the other 5 are on the right hand side. It points out to the 5 material and 5 spiritual powers and Sidhis that are conjoined to Gayatri Super Power. Whenever this Super Power manifests, there one will definitely see the 10 experiences, special qualities and wealth. The meaning of executing spiritual practices is not merely sitting in one particular spot daily so as to perform some scientific rite. In fact it means that by making our entire life a form of spiritual endeavour one should raise the stature of one’s qualities, actions and nature so high, that one sees those divine glories in them, which are found in a symbolic form in the image of the 5-faced Gayatri. The aim of spiritual practices is to generate divine energy. When 10 energies and 10 Sidhis are attained, know for sure that some spiritual seeker is successfully marching ahead on the path of high leveled spiritual practices.

The 5 faces of Gayatri tell us that the 5 demi gods of a living being’s very existence are conjoined to it, so as to fulfill its goal. Because they are under the influence of sleep, they look dead and hence are of no use. As a result a living being exists like a weakling. But if these powerful aides are activated, if their power is aptly utilized, then man instead of leading an ordinary run-of-the-mill life actually attains extraordinary material and spiritual heights. Man will get a golden chance of renouncing his demeaned state and in its place, lead a life of exalted glory. The 5 elements of the body have been depicted as the 5 demi-gods as follows –

The Lord of space is Vishnu. The goddess of fire is Maheshwari power. The Lord of wind is Sun. The Lord of earth is Shiva and the Lord of water is Ganapati Ganesh. In this manner the 5 gods of our body are the Lords (existence) of the 5 elements (KAPILTANTRA). The 5 Pranas (vital force) too are called 5 demi-gods.

All living beings have 5 demi-gods. Because they are imbibed with vital force, they are Shiva. This group manifests Kundalini Shakti (Divine Serpent Power). Its shape is like that of dazzling lightning. (TANTRARNAV)

Kundalini is awakened when the 5 sheaths of our body are activated. When the Kundalini is activated the 5 sheaths of the body of a spiritual seeker radiates brilliance (MAHAYOG-VIGNAN)

The human body is made up of 5 elements. Its Sattva Guna is seen as the 5 radiations of consciousness. (1) Mind (2) Intellect (3) Will (4) Mind stuff or psyche (5) Ego.

From the Rajas principle of the 5 elements arise the 5 Pranas or Vital Forces. On this basis the 5 sense organs carry out the functions of the 5 sense objects.

From the Tamas principle of the 5 elements is created the gross/physical body. They form 1) Juice 2) Blood 3) Flesh 4) Bones 5) Marrow. The 5 special organs viz. brain, heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and the 5 sense organs of action are a creation of this area.

The 5 demi-gods given to us, in order to help the living body, are also called the 5 sheaths. Superficially the body looks single yet its power augments more and more. Despite being invisible, it is so powerful that if it is activated, man can become great from lowly and also the cosmic soul (God) from his present status of an individual soul. These 5 coverings of a living being are called the 5 sheaths 1) Food Sheath 2) Vital Force Sheath 3) Mental Sheath 4) Intellectual Sheath 5) Bliss Sheath.

Taitariya Unpanishad proclaims that the Vital Force Sheath is in the Food Sheath, the Mental Sheath is in the Vital Force Sheath, the Intellectual Sheath is in the Mental Sheath and that the Bliss Sheath is in the Intellectual Sheath. Over here there is some parity and at some places there are differences. Its discussion is as follows –

Man is full of food and juice. This is its head. This is its southern aspect. This is its northern aspect. It is the soul. The hind tail is situated on the Merudand (subtle spine).


The soul which is within the Food Sheath made up of food, juice etc. is yet separate from it and is the vital force. It is omnipotent. It is of the same shape. Its activities too are similar. The vital force of the Vital Force Sheath is the head. Its Vyan vital force is the Southern aspect and the Apan vital force is the northern aspect. Space is its soul. Its status in earth is tail-like.


Separate from the Vital Force Sheath is the Mental Sheath. The Vital Force Sheath overflows with the Mental Sheath. It is very similar to it. The Vital Force Sheath is very similar to the Mental Sheath. Yaju is its head. Rig is the southern aspect and Sam is its northern aspect. Its soul is command.


Why are the Vedas correlated to the Mental Sheath? This answer is given in the Shankar Bhashya (commentary) in SankalpaManthan and the sentiments are depicted in the form of Yaju, Rig, Sama Vedas.

Different from the Mental Sheath is the Intellectual Sheath. The Mental Sheath is covered by the Intellectual Sheath. This is the Intellectual Sheath and is similar to Purusha. It is like the Mental Sheath. Faith is its head. Relative truth is its southern aspect and divine truth its northern aspect. Yoga is its soul. Its hind status is in importance.


The Bliss Sheath despite dwelling within the Intellectual Sheath is separate from it. The Intellectual Sheath overflows with Bliss Sheath. This too is similar to Purusha (God). It is like the Intellectual Sheath. Beloved is its head. Inner bliss is its southern aspect and external joy is its northern aspect. Bliss is its soul. Its hind status is in Brahman.


In the PANCHDASHI religious text the verses 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 of chapter three, depict the 5 sheaths as follows:

The body of a creation of the father’s sperm, which in turn is made from the food that he partakes, is situated in the Food Sheath. Because the body undergoes birth and death, it cannot be the soul. The conscious soul is different from it.


The Vital Force Sheath which is an inspirer of the senses which give power, abound within the body. But this too being unconscious like the body, cannot be the soul. It is separate.


What exactly are the 5 sheaths? The Upanishads while describing them say –

The group of sheaths created by food; this visible body is called the Food Sheath. The group of 14 elements along with the vital force (Prana) is called the Vital Force Sheath. The group of sense organs and mind, embedded in these 2 sheaths, is called the Mental Sheath. The Intellectual Sheath plays the roles of discrimination (Viveka) and intellect. The natural form and place of the soul, present within these bodies is called the Bliss Sheath.

In this manner human consciousness has been partitioned in 5 ways. This partitioning is called 5 sheaths. The Food Sheath means sense organ consciousness. The Vital Force Sheath means our very life force. The Mental Sheath means thought process. The Intellectual Sheath means the unconscious center and flow of sentiments. The Bliss Sheath means soul wisdom and activation of the soul.

The state of living beings evolves on the basis of these conscious layers.

The high stature spiritual practice of Gayatri is carried out so as to unveil the 5 sheaths and activate them. In order to point at this high stature spiritual practice, the symbolic form of the 5-faced Gayatri is depicted. This depiction points at the activation of this chief potential of the 5 sheaths of the subtle body and thus attains supreme benefits of this great science.

Via these sheaths one can attain that divine potential which can decorate our personality with and glory. The conscious arena can be made as y as the Lord of Wealth called Kubera. Sheath means a veil or a covering. When these veils are removed one after another, you ultimately come face to face with the absolute truth / reality. Those obstructions in the form of mental taints are removed due to activation / unveiling of the 5 sheaths which are the root cause of the living being failing to attain those powers given by the Lord and as a result of which, he leads a demeaned life.

The partitioning of the 5 sheaths has been presented in the categorization of the three bodies. These 3 are the gross, subtle and casual bodies. It is called Tripada Gayatri (3-legged). The gross body is made up of the food and Vital Force Sheath. The 5 elements and 5 Vital Forces ( Pranas) are embedded in it. The subtle body is made up of the mental and Intellectual Sheath. These 2 can be called conscious intellect and unconscious mind. The casual body is made up of the Bliss Sheath. Certain scholars differ on this subject, yet the reality is this only.