I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road. – Stephen Hawking
What is it that separates you from the animals? Free will. The fourth sheath is the intellectual body. The Vijnanamaya Kosha. Vijnana translates into wisdom or intellect. This Kosha allows you to move beyond instinct to operate from a sense of morality or higher good.
This sheath connects you to your higher self. The Eight Limb Path places the Yamas (codes of conducts) and Niyamas (self-restraints) above all other limbs. The goal of Yoga is to get to oneness. The Pancha Koshas or 5 Sheaths explain the subtleties of existence, and each one serves a purpose to get you closer to the true self. The Yamas Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (nonstealing), Brahmacharya (conservation), and Aparigraha (non-grasping attachment) serve the purpose of realizing there is more beyond sensation and to operate from your highest good. The Niyamas Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contended optimism), Tapas (self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion) give us ways to clear the obstacles that are in our path so that we are able to do inner inquiry and ultimately set ourselves up for depth in meditation.
The interesting thing about the Koshas is each one is more subtle than the last. More nuanced. The Annamaya Kosha is your meat suit, and it’s there from gestation to decomposition. The Pranamaya Kosha is your life force, it begins upon your first inhale and is extinguished on the last exhale. The Manomaya Kosha, your mental body, is on when you are awake and turns off when you are sleeping or deep in meditation. The Vijnanamaya Kosha can be turned off and on at will or if it is underdeveloped or weak it may never have been on.
Someone with a weak Vijnanamaya Kosha may rely heavily on sensations. Seeking the next thrill, high, or compulsion. Self-sabotaging behavior, being victim to their vice. Another example is someone who may appear to be the ideal worker, that follows all the rules and regulations of the company, and maybe even tells on those who fall short. They Feel morally superior, but in a moment when they can benefit selfishly, all of that sense of righteousness doesn’t apply. Their conscience is just for show, and not connected to their idea of what’s right and wrong.
We can see by these examples why the sages recommended the Yamas and the Niyamas to be of the utmost importance when trying to gain enlightenment. Have you taken your practice deeper into the zone of self inquiry?