Beyond the Mind: Vijnanamaya Kosha



In the last installment, we focused on exploring the Manomaya Kosha, or layer of thought processes. The fourth layer, Vijnanamaya Kosha, is less concrete than thought or thinking. This is the layer that allows us to observe and be the witness of our own lives. This layer is sometimes called the “wisdom body”. It is literally translated as “the power of judgment or discernment”. This is the layer that gives us the ability to forgive, love, choose, learn and evolve while we are in this body.

Without this layer, we are a breathing physical machine reacting to stimuli from the outside world. When we add this layer in, we wake up and take the wheel. The energy of this layer may be more subtle than the three preceding layers, but its influence on our wellbeing is fierce.

This layer is nourished through the very building blocks of what we know as Yoga: The Yamas and Niyamas. If you need a refresher on these important parts of the Yoga Practice, head over to our blog article here! The Yamas and Niyamas are the Yogi’s moral code of discipline. They include the highest of all practices: Ahimsa, or non-harming. It is with our Vijnanamaya Kosha that we are able to recognize our own ability to hurt or help others and observe the impact we have on the world. This layer allows us to zoom out and see the web of time and connection that is far more vast than our personal mental computer.

When you find yourself thinking or saying “There isn’t enough time”, it is usually a big red flag indicating a need to enter this layer and ‘see’ from a broader perspective. Time is constructed by our Manomaya Kosha, and in order to truly see it, we have to step into Vjnanamaya. When we zoom out, we see shortcuts, roadblocks, and eventualities that were not visible from the street view, and we can map out a path that is functional, direct and in alignment with our inner values.

When this layer is ignored, we are left always reacting to stimulus and seeing only a small slice of a much larger truth. Symptoms of lack of connection here are all too common in today’s society that often values speed over accuracy, snaps over speeches and performance over patience. We have to slow down to notice where we are on autopilot and how that autopilot has caused us, or others, to suffer. From here, we can also begin to evolve and reprogram our autopilot so that it becomes a more adaptable, effective and user-friendly machine.

Just like a computer without a user, a mind without discernment is a mess of action and reaction, and cannot learn but only perform what it has already been taught. Attention to this Kosha is becoming more and more crucial in our modern world. As machines and computers get smarter and smarter, we must get better and better at using them with morality and wisdom. Rather than trying to stay as smart as what we’ve created, we’ve got to slow down, step back, and give it purpose.

To build awareness in and become comfortable in this layer, we can set aside time to practice self-study and contemplate the spiritual truths that form the basis of what we believe and how we act on this planet. Through a deep exploration of our spiritual path (no matter what that path might be named), we can begin to use and refine our moral compass. As we use this compass, it gets more and more accurate and works more and more quickly. It becomes easier and easier to put down our studying and walk in the world with wisdom, responding to the present with kindness and love. Through looking deeply at our own spiritual processes, beliefs, and resources, we can become clear on the gifts that we bring to the world and how to deliver them. Through awareness and power in this layer, we become more than just a thinking body. We become a vehicle for evolution!

About the Author


Inanna Jessup

Inanna Jessup is a Yoga teacher, traveler and writer originally from Colorado. Ever since she quit her corporate job managing Yoga studios in 2017, she’s being roaming the planet searching for experience, wisdom and connection. She works remotely and enjoys the freedom and constant learning that come with her lifestyle. She believes deeply in the awareness, humility, tolerance and compassion that can be developed through the practice of yoga and meditation and through the experience of travel.