Written by S SRIDHARAN, TRUSTEE, KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM, CHENNAI — from KYM Newsletter, April 2012
The ancient Indian model of human beings. “Personality”, given in the Upanishads, consists of the ‘five’ sheaths. They are ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Manomaya’, ‘Vijnanamaya’, and ‘Anandamaya’. ‘Annamaya’ represents that segment of the human system which is nourished by ‘anna’, i.e. food. ‘Pranamaya’ is that segment which is nourished by ‘prana’, i.e. ‘bio-energy’. ‘Manomaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘education’. ‘Vijnanamaya’ is nourished by ‘ego’ and ‘Anandamaya’ is the segment nourished by ‘emotions’.
[NOTE: THE WORD “KOSHAS” IS NOT USED TO REFERENCE TO THE SHEATHS BECAUSE KRISHNAMACHARYA DID NOT BELIEVE THAT THE BODY COULD BE REPRESENTED AS “BAGS”, WHICH IS WHAT KOSHAS MEANS]
Each of these five segments has a head, two wings, a body and a tail. ‘Vijnanamaya’ which represent our ‘individual personality’ has ‘shraddha (faith)’ as head, ‘rtham (righteousness)’ as right wing, ‘satyam (truth)’ as left wing, ‘yoga (meditation)’ as body, and ‘mahat (source of all knowledge)’ as the tail. “Vijnanamaya” represents ‘Buddhi’ which is the ‘determinative knowledge’ or ‘intelligence’ of what has been learnt through the ‘Manomaya’.
This ‘Vijnanamaya’ is different from one person to another and that is why the textual knowledge learnt is interpreted and practiced differently by different people. However, for the ‘Vijnanamaya’ to lead towards the right path, the most important factor is ‘Shraddha’, the faith in what one has learnt. It should be backed up with righteousness and truth in practice. For these to be firmly imbibed one should take to ‘Yoga’.
While the words ‘Development’ and ‘Evolution’ are considered as one, there are differences. Upanishads talk of ‘Evolution’ rather than simple ‘Development’. Evolution involves ‘discovery of the divine’ in us and everyone. While ‘Development’ calls for sharpening skills and adding certain traits, etc., ‘Evolution’ calls for removal of impediments in the ‘realisation of Self’. The major impediment in ‘Evolution’ is the ‘Klesas’ which consist of ‘Avidya’ (Wrong knowledge), ‘Asmita’ (Ego). ‘Raaga’ (Lust). ‘Dvesha’ (Hatred). and ‘Abhinivasa” (Fear). ‘Evolution’ is continuous process till the goal is reached. It does not stop with simple ‘recognitions’ by Society or Institutions.
Modern day ills
In the modern day context, Personality Development is the sum total of the achievements of the individual in academic, art, sports, business or other areas. Often a successful person is considered to be a totally developed person. However, the moral and ethical aspects of life are not given importance. Today’s ills are on account of the fact that textual knowledge is segregated from the practice of ‘truth’. The university education lacks ‘Shraddha’ and that causes the mind to act in ‘sinful’ ways. It has become a common scene to see how highly educated individuals take to violence and deceitful ways. To put it in terms of the ancient Indian model, the development is just up to the “Manomaya” level.
A holistic approach in personality development, in this context, therefore, would mean a proper development in all the five maya-s. Any practice should aim at developing the maya-s simultaneously well and work in harmony. “Personality Development” is “Evolution” towards reaching the ‘Divine’ in the individual which is at the ‘Anandamaya’ level.
Message from Bhagavad Gita
The first and foremost message of Bhagavad Gita in the context of Personality Development is that even the most learned, highly successful and fearless can suddenly enter into a state of ‘despondency’ leading to ‘inaction’. Arjuna represents the state of normal human beings, even though achieving greater heights have a chance to ‘fall’ if they don’t take to the path of ‘divinity’ and achieve the goal.
The ‘Divine’ qualities one should aim to possess are given in the Sixteenth Chapter and are as follows:
Sattva samsuddhi: Purity of Mind
Jnanayogavyavasthitam: Practice of Yoga for Self-realisation
Damam: Control of Senses
Yajnam: Performance of Sacrifice
Svadhyayam: Study of texts for ‘Self-realisation’
Akrodham: Absence of anger
Apaishunam: Aversion to faultfinding
Bhuteshvaloluptvam: Freedom from covetousness
Hri: Shame in doing unrighteous deeds
Achapalam: Absence of craving
Adroham: Freedom from envy
Natimanita: Absence of self esteem
The ‘demonic’ qualities one should aim to get rid of are:
Yoga the best tool for Personality Deveopment
Yoga is aptly fitted, for holistic personality development, because its tools are varied and integrated. ‘Asana’ practice for ‘Annamaya’, ‘Pranayama’ for ‘Pranamaya’, ‘Svadhyaya’ or Study of scriptures for ‘Manomaya’, and ‘Vigyanamaya’ and ‘Isvarapranidhana’ for ‘Anandamaya’.
While the practice for everyone could differ from one to another, there are some ancient methods which have been handed over from time immemorial. One such practice, which aims at ‘holistic personality development’, is the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, the prayer to Sun.
The word ‘Sandhyavandanam’ is split as ‘sandhya+vandanam’. ‘Sandhya” is the name of ‘Sun God’ and ‘Vandanam’ means to ‘prostrate’. There are at least 22 steps, which has ‘asana’, ‘pranayama’, ‘nyasa’. ‘mudra’, and ‘japa’.
There are a number of vedic mantras used in the ‘Sandhyavandanam’, but the main mantra which is used for ‘japa’ is ‘Gayatri Mantra’.
The ‘Gayatri Mantra’ is:
“Om hurbhuvassuvah tatsaviturvareniyam bhargodevasyadeemahi dhiyoyonapprachodayat”
The brief meaning is:
“Let me meditate on the effulgence of the Supreme Being in the Sun, which kindles our intellect.”
The concept behind this Mantra meaning is that all our actions lead us to happiness or sorrow and behind the actions is the intellect. If the intellect is clear and is bereft of the impurities of selfishness, greed and lust, our actions will always lead us to happiness.
Sun is considered as the ‘visible God’ (pratyaksha devata) the provider of life to the Universe. Sun is responsible for all the development in the Universe.
The highest knowledge is that which takes one towards the Supreme Being and that is ‘Brahma Vidya’. The best form of meditation which qualifies one for enquiry into the Supreme Being is Sandhyavandanam.
The holistic development should aim at making human being divine. Such a development will make one realize divinity in the ‘self’ and in every aspect of the Universe at large. There is total love and that brings the eternal peace.
4 thoughts on ““Personality According to Ancient Indian Teachings””
You are a fabulous writer. You bring so much to all who enjoy your blogs!
thanks! but I did not write this one! from KYM Newsletter….written by someone whom Desikachar calls “The Boss”…..
Wonderful! Thanks for taking the time to share these bits from KYM.
Right! The focus on the development of personality and individuality are the main reason why the west is so terribly unwell from a spiritual perspective. Truth is by all means, the biggest casualty…