|The word "Samkhya" literally means "counting" or "enumeration". A secondary meaning from that is categorization. The classifications are in 3 parts such as the "gunas", or "energy levels" of things or people. Other categories from there are the classical 50 categories. There are links to Yoga and to Meditation from Samkhya, but I will not go into those in depth in this page.|
They are ennumerated as three: Light, Middling, and Heavy, or Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Popularly, Sattva is viewed as "Good", and Tamas as "Bad". That is not the case though. These each have their function and their ways of being used.
Sattvic things are "light" or "airy". A person with a Sattvic physiology would be thin and light-boned. Sattvic foods are fresh, raw foods which generally have a sweet taste. Fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, and ginger are examples of Sattvic foods. A person with a Sattvic disposition is content, smiling, and generally easy-going and centered. Meditation is a very Sattvic activity.
Rajavic things are in the middle, and are energetic. A person with a Rajavic physiology is neither fat nor thin, but is likely to have an athletic build and a predisposition for sports. The nature is very energetic, and there would be a tendency to be drawn to things which are quite exciting, although possibly risky. These people are the adrenaline junkies of the world. There is a lot of activity, but the movement is willy-nilly. Rajavic foods tend to be things which are spicy, or contain things to give more energy, such as refined sugar and caffeine.
Tamasic things are heavy. The movement is slow, or not at all. They may be viewed as thoughtful or lazy. However, once a decision is reached to move some particular direction, through the addition of Sattva, there is no stopping it! It would be as futile for an outside force to try to stop a mighty river. The river too moves slowly in general, but may speed up or slow down at times. Due to the quantity and weight, the inertia is enormous! Tamasic foods tend to be heavy foods - heavy starches such as potatoes, fats, meats, spoiled or fermenting foods.
To further complicate this, by combining any two of these gunas, you produce the third. Tamas given energy becomes Sattva. Rajas with Satva added becomes Tamas. This is one explanation why for a very energetic person to learn meditation, there are seldom any results - Tamas alone is stagnation.
All of these gunas, or vibrational levels are useful. In my opinion, it is better and easier to try to make the best use of the energy you have than it is to make an attempt to fundamentally change it. It is similar to a vocal ensemble. There are bass, tenor, alto, and soprano parts. For the music group to sound good, all of those parts have to be there, and have to sing their own parts. It is futile to try to change an excellent bass into a soprano! It would be foolish to remove everyone from the music group except the sopranos! Like the music group, all of life needs all of the parts to operate in harmony.
In another way, gunas can be ennumerated as 24 in number. Those are:
My interpretation of the first one being "food" is that it's a realization that you are more than just an element of the food chain, and are more than merely a composition of what you consume. There is a meaning of "nourishment" or "sustenance" there too. Annomaya Kosha can give one the nourishment it takes to get through to the next sheath. Very little is written about this sheath. It is believed this is merely a mathematical placeholder where a sheath should be at the very beginning of a spiritual journey. The element is fire.
Pranamaya kosha is of experiencing that you are not your body. Your body is merely a vehicle for you to use to accomplish your goals for a time. When people cross this sheath through the meditational methods available within Samkhya, they invariably get a vision of seeing their body as made of clay, mud, sand, or stone. Clearly, the element is earth.
Manomaya kosha is of experiencing an existence beyond your emotions. Your emotions are your own, and they serve you. They give you an idea of what is the right or wrong thing for you to be doing or accepting. Yet, you drive them. They do not drive you. When people cross this kosha through the meditational methods available within Samkhya, they have visions involving water. Clearly, the element here is water.
Jnanamaya kosha is of experiencing an existence beyond your intellect. These also serve you, and give you a basis to make decisions. Yet, these are not YOU either. They are a basis of knowledge of spiritual and mundane matters. You are the one who decides what to do with these thoughts, or what sorts of thoughts or knowledge to have or to learn. When people cross this kosha, the visions involve air and often thoughts as breezes. The element of this kosha is air.
Anandamaya kosha is the sheath of joy. You are not any of the previous 4 things, but you are a spiritual being who is for now living in a mundane way for some purpose. No two individuals have the same purpose to any of this. The element is ether.
As these Koshas are pierced, one by one, one goes through the boundary of the one element, perhaps from or to a different element. The experiences everyone has of piercing a Kosha may be similar to light refracting different elements, such as watching an object on the other side of a fire as the light passes through air to fire and back or viewing waves upon water as water and air meet.
Attainment of any of these is not dependent upon anything external. It does not matter what kind of a person you are. This is not bestowed "by divine grace" for "goodness" under any definition. Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler could start on the same day and attain Kaivalya, or Divine Emancipation on the same day. Likewise, stopping the practice or engaging in any "sin" does not make Kaivalya go away. It is permanent. It cannot be "taken" away or "lost" for any reason.
The one consideration though is that Karma, or the law of cause and effect or action and reaction still applies. I would not want to be eternal with the Karma of Adolf Hitler. As such, it pays to be benevolent, if not outright good.
If, on the other hand, you do cross koshas, you will be immortal as an individual. As one who has experienced Pranamaya kosha, you also have full realization that you are not your body. Your body will certainly age and die, while your spirit lives on eternally, as a discreet, individual, separate entity. You will have time to experience all of the repercussions, both good and bad, for everything that you do. This is not a judgment of you or your actions. It's merely cause and effect or action and reaction.
For one who has crossed the koshas far enough to have gained an individual afterlife, the balance will happen to you, personally. If you had lived a saintly life, and continue to live that way in the afterlife, a great many pleasures, joys, and contentments will await you. If you lived the life of an evil tyrant, you will receive a great many pains, torments, and unpleasant things in the afterlife as well as possibly later in this life.
The basis for any action, therefore, is self-interest. Anyone who is doing evil deeds is looking for some sort of gain or pleasure immediately. Anything done to either minimize negative impact or to outright improve some situation for someone or something is also for the self-interest of repayment. Most of us do not live exemplary lives. We do not have to, since there are no previous "karmic debts" to repay. Most people, when you get down to it, are acting in whatever way as a form of benevolent selfishness. If you are known to behave badly, others will stop giving you a chance to do bad things to them. If you are known to do various good things, people will let you near them to let you do more good things. In a more objective sense, this is similar to one's credit rating. Obviously, it is in your short-term interest to take as much money as you can and not pay it back. If you do this, longer term, you will get annoying phone calls and legal actions which will force you to repay the money owed. Also, anyone else is unlikely to lend you money or give you a place to live, or if they do, you will have to pay higher interest, higher rent, higher collateral and higher security deposits. If though, you borrow money and do pay it back BEFORE it is due, others will be happy to lend you more money and have you pay it back.
If you do believe in discrete, intact reincarnation, you did come into this life with some amounts of karma, both good and bad from a previous lifetime. Still, you've got a choice on whether to improve things or make them worse. Again, benevolent self-interest is the most probably way anyone will behave.
After I had been performing Raja Meditation as outlined in the Samkhya scriptures, especially the Yoga Sutras, for exactly 108 days, I had an interesting experience one day. I looked at my arms, and I saw this drying, crusty clay covering them. I looked around the house and I saw clay everywhere! I made food that appeared to be clay as I made it, and it tasted like clay. I was even reluctant to pet my cat for fear of getting clay all over his beautiful fur. I laughed and saw how ridiculous my fears were, and pet him anyway. This was a very moving experience for me, and one I have never forgotten.
108 days later, I had to face all of my emotions. This included both the positive and negative emotions I had ever felt about anyone or anything! This was difficult to get through. I needed someone to talk to in order to continue to face all of these things, but I did. I saw them as dripping through an aquatic system. This vision lasted most of an hour. After that though, I was free of turmoil of emotion, or should I say a state that transcended emotion. Sure, I could look back or around and appreciate the positive emotions, or I could feel the negative emotions, but they've never effected me the same way unless I wanted them to. Thus, my emotions came under my control rather than me being under their control. Sure, I can choose at any time to become engrossed in any emotion - positive or negative - but it is still my own choice.
108 days after that, there was something of a very subtle crossing. There were thoughts on breezes. I felt a cool wind passing over me, and with that wind there seemed to be all knowledge of everything.
108 days after that was a metamorphosis! As I lie down to do a meditation, I felt that "I" would never get back up from that meditation. I continued it anyway. The meditation itself was very very deep. After a mere 20 minutes, I was abruptly jarred out of this meditation by a thunder clap, rain on the awning. I jumped up rather than gently came out of my meditation. Everything was different! I was FREE! I have never again looked at the world in the same way that I did before this happened.
For about a month, I was always smiling and happy. After this "honeymoon period" was over, it was back to reality. Sure, there are things I have to do to maintain my life. There are things I must do for myself and for others. But, I am none of those things. I can always "look" around and see the Divine Presence that surrounds me.
It has been many years since that happened. There are some other things that have resulted from this full knowledge. I will have no end. My body will certainly give out and die at some point, but I will live on. As such, I do not look at things the same way. I used to look at a majestic mountain and think that it would always be there. I look at them now with internal knowledge that I will outlive the mountain. Same with a seashore, or with a star. As I will have no end, it follows that I had no beginning. The date I see printed on my driver's license seems arbitrary to me.
Although I no longer have the goal of Kaivalya, I still maintain this practice on a daily basis for some of its other "secondary" benefits. Those benefits involve focus, relaxation, better sleep, better control of all aspects of myself, and continued focus on the Self.
If you simply wish to try meditation and do not wish any of these spiritual goals, you can do that. There are any number of meditations which will in various ways modify the direction of your consciousness. However, Raja Yoga or Samkhya Meditation is the only method of which I am aware that will modify the amount of consciousness.
However, if you are new to all of this, and perhaps to an independent spiritual journey altogether, you could try this Simple Meditation. I will assure you that this method, or others you may find in meditation books, articles, tapes, and other such sources will not get you to cross any koshas or get you to Kaivalya. It will get you other typical meditation goals such as deeper relaxation, better sleep, less tension, and better focus.
The path of devotion is simple. Devote yourself totally to some deity or deities. Worship Him/Her/It/Them, love Him/Her/It/Them, and follow the teachings of the associated religion or philosophy.
The path of Jnana is of knowledge. This is spiritual knowledge, not knowledge you can learn in a book or from any person. This sort of knowledge is only available from the divine directly. No human being can directly impart such knowledge. The best they can do is tell you how to open yourself to obtaining it for yourself.
The third way is through Karma, or action. I use the eastern meaning of the word Karma, which simply means action/reaction. Quite simply, if you put your hand on a hot stove, you will get a burn. It's nothing doing anything to you. There's no forgiveness involved. I can forgive you for putting your hand on the stove, but you'll still have to recover from the burn. Likewise, everything you do has a ripple effect to you and others around you. If you do good things, you will receive good things. Do bad ones, and you will receive bad things. Some things are not really obvious though. For instance, if you try to heal someone who really does NOT want healing, you have done a bad thing. Discerning what is good and bad, or the best, is not always easy to do.
These work better together than any one of them does individually. This is one definition of Raja Yoga, but this definition must not be confused with the other definition used to refer to the meditation.
Another possible destination is wealth - and comfort. If you do all of the right things for God, God will reward you with the good things of life. This is typically what people mean when they think that having good things is because of "living right" or getting bad things to happen is a result of "living wrong".
Another possible destination is to obtain your pleasures. These are different than wants - they are your wildest dreams! There is often an element of sexuality involved in these goals or desires.
Another destination is to God under some definition in some way. There are 5 different types of this sort of "Salvation" or "Liberation". You can be in the same realm as your God, you can be near your God, you can possess the same attributes or abilities as your God, or you can become one with your God. These are all worthwhile, depending upon how you envision your God and your mode of worshipping. None of these are necessarily permanent. If you decide you want out or away, you're back "out" and "away" from God.
The real "Liberation" or "Salvation" is none other than Kaivalya also known as MahaNirvana. This is permanent. It is not dependent upon your continuing the meditation, devotion, good works, or much of anything else. This is not a future condition of the afterlife. You can have liberation and still be alive.
Thus, with 3 possible paths, which may be mixed in various ways, and 5 possible destinations, it should not be surprising that everyone has a different path. None of these paths, if oriented toward "goodness", is any more right or wrong than any of the others.