Pancha Kosha Philosophy, Thai Massage and The Circle of Life in Thailand

Published | Updated September 29, 2019

Pancha Kosha Philosophy versus The Circle of Life Concept in Thailand
In this article we briefly explain the meaning of the Indian oriental philosophy of Pancha Kosha, because Pancha Kosha concepts often appear in relation to Thai Traditional Medicine in general and Thai Traditional Massage in particular.

Pancha Kosha is the theory of five layers/sheets of human nature, which is of Indian Vedanta Upanishadic origin. At the surface the Thai philosophy of The Circle of Life (which consists of the interaction between body, citta and energy) seems to be different from the idea of Pancha Kosha. Nevertheless, when we take a closer look, we observe that Thai Medicine in fact uses the same ideas, although maybe in a more condensed and practical way.

Moreover, Traditional Thai Medicine concepts and applications historically rely heavily on the Traditional Indian Medicine concepts  of Ayurveda, the Science of Life. So, what exactly is Pancha Kosha?

According to ancient Indian spiritual concepts, the human being consists of five (energetic) bodies, called Koshas. Kosha means something like “layer” or “sheet,” and it’s often designated as the “generator of consciousness.” In any case, the five Koshas recognized are:

  • 1. Anna Maya-Kosha
    the gross layer, also said to be the physical layer;
  • 2. Prana Maya-Kosha
    the bioenergetic, pranic life force, energy or breath layer;
  • 3. Mano Maya-Kosha
    the mental layer of thoughts and emotions;
  • 4. Vijnana Maya-Kosha
    the consciousness, intellectual and spiritual layer;
  • 5. Ananda Maya-Kosha
    the most subtle layer, which is related to states of insight, bliss, enlightenment;

The five Koshas should not be considered independent entities: they support, depend and influence each other, and changes in one of the bodies automatically means that changes will take place in all other bodies. The Koshas are merely differect aspects/interlaced functions of what we call a human being.

As for Thai Massage, the (invisible) Sib Sen or Ten Energy Lines, the Life Energy Channels the therapists manipulates or unblocks, are said to be located in the Prana Maya-Kosha (Pranamaya Kosha) and that’s why it’s generally acknowledged that Traditional Thai Massage is not Bodywork but Energywork. It’s also the reason why proper breathing during a Thai Massage session (both for practitioner and receiver) is considered of importance.

So finally, when we compare Pancha Kosha with the Thai Circle of life we can easily see that Annamaya Kosha = Body, Pranamaya Kosha = Energy and the Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Vnandamaya Kosha together = Citta.

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