Who is Shakti?

Many people in India observe fasts during navaratras for nine days and mother goddess Shakti is worshipped in a deity form with magnificent colorful display in many parts of the country. The word Shakti means Power. In general, power is a means to an end–something which fuels various processes is known as power. Power is what gets work done. The goddess who is worshiped is source of all power in universe. She is creatrix, nurturer and destroyer. She acts as Avidya until you’re supposed to sleep and when you need to wake-up she acts as Vidya. She is the one who puts you to sleep until she wants you to wake-up. She is the shock-absorber and shocker. She is alpha and omega. When you wake up she is nowhere to be found. The great spectacle is seen because of her but she is not different from you!

Shakti
Shakti

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Kundali and Kundalini!

Today a friend started discussing in words what I had perceived a while ago-that there should be some relation between terms Kundali and Kundalini because they sound so similar. I concurred and then tried to express my views on the same:

Kundali in general means anything with a circular shape . Kundala is the word used for circular ornaments which are generally earrings but might also be used for rings worn on wrists like bands. In Mahabharata epic there is a popular story in which Karna has powerful earrings which he had since birth because he was immaculately conceived from Sun  by Kunti.

Kundala

Kundalini is not very different from Kundali in meaning. It also means something which has a circular shape. But two terms have been traditionally used for different concepts. Kundali is used for horoscope whereas Kundalini is used for serpentine force  which usually rests at the base of spine.

Are these two related?

I feel they’re deeply related because they’re one and the same thing!

Kundali or horoscope is basically karmic map. At a deeper level horoscope represents Time. Karma or great serpentine Ouroboros is the great devourer Time which has been compared to a dragon or snake eating its own tail because it’s cyclic in nature and infinite.

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Kundali

 

Ouroboros: Time
Ouroboros: Time

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Maya: Buffer, Shocker and Self!

In the eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagvatam, Lord Krishna tells his friend and disciple Uddhava about the true nature of bondage and liberation. He tells that there is one Self alone and it’s because of difference among various mental tendencies –we observe so many beings. There exists neither bondage nor liberation. The imagination of bondage as well as liberation is because of Maya(Kundalini). Avidya(illusory potency) and Vidya(liberating potency) are both forms of Kundalini or Shakti.

Until there’s lack of ripeness the Self considers itself to be a limited being. The force which ensures this sleep is called Avidya. The prefix ‘A’ before Vidya suggests that the word is exactly opposite of Vidya. Vidya is the knowledge or force which liberates one from suffering, hence Avidya is the false knowledge which keeps one in bondage.

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The humor lies in realizing that both Vidya and Avidya are AVIDYA because they’re parts of the dream. After awakening there is neither bondage nor liberation. They’re like dreams seen last night. It doesn’t matter whether you were running after materialistic pursuits or after some very peaceful heavenly state in your dream. Once dream is over you know that it never was reality. All the attempts to wake-up were in the dream therefore they were also as illusory as the things which kept you sleeping. It might seem paradoxical–because we think our attempts to wake up were really necessary to wake up. Actually we are always awakened–completely enlightened. The belief that we are not is what leads us towards spiritual pursuits and austerity. The tapas merely burns away the notion that we are bound. How dramatic that Vidya which is also AVIDYA has to first come in to make you believe that you are in bondage. Before Vidya comes into play you firmly believe that you need various forms to be at peace. You don’t even imagine that unity exists. But once Vidya starts functioning you start imagining a state which is free from duality and struggle of running after pleasure. Then it makes you so sensitive that you shun all material pleasures as false. Vidya burns away the notion of any separation from peace. Only after realization you firmly get established into the eternal state. It’s your ever present peace behind all movements. Vidya turns extraverted mind inwards. As it becomes introverted and one pointed the stillness increases and gradually becomes firmly established. Continue reading “Maya: Buffer, Shocker and Self!”

Urdhvaretas: The WordY FrYdaY NerdY!

Celibacy is one of the cornerstones of many spiritual disciplines. Gandhi practiced celibacy beginning at an age of 36 till he lived. Monks practice celibacy. What is it, spiritually and physically? Is it simply not getting married or abstaining from sex? In english language a celibate is someone who hasn’t married. But in Yoga, a celibate is someone who is Urdhvaretas.

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Peace-of-Mind

Awakening, Kundalini and Purity of Heart

Question: What is Shaktipaat? Can a master awaken his disciples?

Answer: Shaktipaat literally means falling(paat) of energy(shakti)–it gives a sense that power is falling from a higher plane to a lower one. It is transmission of energy from the Guru who is external manifestation of supreme Self to a sincere disciple. The transmission is helpful in awakening instead of being a direct enforcer of awakening it’s a catalyst. Presence of an enlightened master is needed to help accelerate your own progress. But truly speaking you come in presence of such a master only when you’re ripe. Then you’re ready to accept his grace only when you’re ready enough, because this grace is always available to you and to everyone else. Your own self is the highest Guru. It manifests in form of an external Guru when you need it–when you’re earnest in your practices but still not enough ripe to get tuned to your inner guide.

The answer is–no master can’t awaken disciples. Disciples have to wake themselves up–by becoming more and more aware of their sleep. Presence of a master can act merely as a catalyst in chemical reaction–nothing more–but sometimes a catalyst is all that’s missing from a chemical reaction–but some other times presence of a master would not help in any way–it might even harm you–if you start using Guru as a crutch–stop working on your own thinking that Guru would do all. Surrender is not to be confused with inaction. Surrender is the absence of egoistic pursuits but Sadhana still needs some action. You will find many people in history who awakened without any enlightened master’s help and you would also find many who awakened with help. You would also find many who didn’t awaken even when they stayed in company of an enlightened master–why? Because they were not ripe enough–it wasn’t their destiny.

Question: So all we need to have is a pure heart and there’s no need to awaken kundalini?

Answer: No. There’s no need to awaken Kundalini. I was strictly opposed to the idea of Kundalini because of its negative connotations–association with Tantra. I had mostly negative impressions about Tantra. But I wanted liberation. This earnest desire created Kundalini awakening. But you might read that many masters didn’t feel Kundalini’s need in awakening. Not at all. There are also some who even consider it a hindrance on path of awakening. Since awakening of Kundalini generates immense power inside body–it might be possible that a person who is not enlightened and not careful with his practices starts using these powers to earn money, fame and luxuries for himself. In time there would be fall from height and he wouldn’t get liberated. George Gurdjieff- the Armenian mystic was opposed to the idea of Kundalini and he called it Kundabuffer–something which absorbs shocks–shocks which might have helped awakening. The Maya is the illusory potency of supreme. When it’s dormant it acts as Avidya–somethings which keeps you sleeping–so your energy is spent in trivial pursuits. When you start awakening it’s called Atma-Vidya or Vidya(Vidya is one which liberates)–it’s Kundalini energy which helps you wake-up. Immense energy is needed to stay alert and awake–Kundalini provides this energy. This intelligent and affectionate energy in your body is actually the cosmic energy behind creation. It’s subtle and it’s not different from Self. Shakti and Shiva are one and the same. There’s separation as long as there’s duality. It’s a beautiful phenomenon: The Self working on itself. Waking itself up. It’s beautiful and tremendous! This energy heals the body-mind and guides them.

Purity of heart is the first and last requirement for awakening. All saints on the path of devotion have clearly advocated this. Even when you have awakened Kundalini–if your heart is not totally free from guilt, hatred and desires–you would suffer a lot. This energy works to cleanse impurities and past impressions and it can be violent. Unlike our civil society–where non-violence is a virtue every good member practices–Kundalini might be extremely violent at times. Self can be violent. If you’re not ready to surrender it might present accidents and unpleasant events before you as a shock. These shocks awaken you and then you surrender. Then if you’re ripe there might manifest external guru(s) to guide you through. External guru is usually humble and not violent. Though Zen gurus are violent I’ve heard. The self can manifest whatever is needed to wake you up–violence or nonviolence don’t apply as a rule there. Impurity of heart is what is causing reflection of self to become distorted and disoriented. In pure heart the self reflects clearly. The purity of heart is the alpha and omega of any spiritual practice.

image source: here and here

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Coping With Excessive Heat in Yoga Practices

While performing Yoga practices you might feel excessive heat in body. It mostly gets generated in the solar plexus (Manipura Chakra) region. But then it starts affecting your entire system adversely. You will feel excessive gas. You would feel painful gases and juices in your throat. You would find headache is unbearable. In some advanced practitioners the head starts burning. With such heat complications you would feel as if you’re perpetually hungry–but it’s not hunger. Even if you eat enough food, it would suppress the heat only for a while and then it resurfaces. In turn, you would eat even more and this would turn into a vicious cycle making you obese–defeating the purpose of Yoga practices.

These complications are mostly felt when you extensively practices certain Kriyas. For example–Kapalbhati Kriya. You might start believing that you’re suffering because of your Yoga practices–you can’t be further from the Truth.  Upanishads and classical treatises on Yoga say that the first obstacle in Yoga-Sadhana is to believe that it has caused some disease or painful complication as a result of practice. The faith in the efficacy of practices is an indispensable ingredient in their success. But what should a practitioner do when he is writhing in pain caused by excessive heat in the body?

In advanced stages when awakening of Kundalini has started happening–the problem of heat becomes even more acute. If you give  Yoga practices up altogether–you not only run the risk of becoming ill but also hit a hiatus in path of the spiritual realization. And if you engage even in the slightest practice–you run the risk of undergoing immense burning pain. Then how to cope with this problem of heat?

Understanding The Cause

Understanding clearly that it’s not Yoga practice which is causing heat but rather impurities which were hidden inside body prior to Yoga practice is the key to solve the problem. Heat is mainly caused because of the impurities in the Gastrointestinal Tract. Most of us don’t have clean bowels between two meals. For advanced Yoga practitioners when the energy is rising upwards it faces obstacles in GI tract because of the impurities. It’s not to suggest that there aren’t other areas where impurities might be present but the scope of this article is to address mainly the problem of heat. This is the main cause of heat but some other precautions must be exercised. Based on my own experience and guidance of learned ones–I’ve come up with following easy natural remedies. I don’t endorse treating heat problems with medications–they would just address the symptoms mostly–it’s better to use natural remedies.

Remedies

1. Hydrotherapy

It’s a simple but effective natural treatment for many problems like Diabetes, Hypertension, Constipation and many other diseases. But as per the scope of this article–we are discussing how it should be used for treating overheating of body.

You need to drink 1 litre (4 glasses) or more of water early in the morning as soon as you wake up, before brushing your teeth. Our mouth has many secretions during night and those ingredients are useful inside body–they act as the cleansing agents inside stomach. Find out your body weight. If it’s 60 kg–then 1 litre (about 4 glasses) and If it’s 70 kg–then you need to drink 5 glasses–adjust the quantity of water according to your body weight.

Don’t eat or drink anything for next 45 minutes after doing this. It’s good if you can drink the entire quantity of water in one go. But if you can’t then try drinking it gradually and gradually after a few days you would be able to drink the entire quantity in one go.

You can either lie down for a while or do mild walking–you might find that there’s an urge to go to toilet frequently for a few days–but after a few days the body would get habitual to this practice. This practice helps a great deal in getting rid of excessive body heat. Since scope of this therapy here is primarily to address body heat–the water used should be moderately cold.

Other than this practice you should increase water intake in course of day. When you feel that it has been more than 3-4 hours since you had your lunch–you can again try the similar routine. If you don’t want to follow the routine similar to the morning just keep drinking plenty of water. Don’t wait for hard thirst signal–keep drinking plenty of water. Also since excessive water intake is very likely to wipe salt out of your body–don’t forget to add a decent quantity of salt in your water after every few hours. For example: Suppose you’ve taken 8 glasses of water then you should add a teaspoonful of salt in the 9th glass of water. People who are undergoing awakening need an extraordinarily high amount of water because it’s the primary source of energy in body–contrary to what most of us believe hydroelectric energy is what keeps it all running for the most part. I found this article very useful while trying to cope with my own heat problems : Fire and Water.

2.  Diet

You might be aware of the general nature of foodstuffs. I mean whether a vegetable is hot or cold in nature. Ayurveda has given a clear-cut guidance about nature of herbs and vegetables. For example: Garlic is hot by nature it removes cough from the body but causes gas too. Ginger is also hot. Cardamom is cold and Turmeric is hot in nature. Brinjal causes gas. These are just a few examples. We consume scores of products as diet in our day-to-day lives. If you’re aware of the nature of the food and vegetables–then you would be aware of consuming only those stuffs which are cold in nature–as long as you’re suffering from heat. Yogic practitioners and advanced yogis almost always remain hot–therefore they can choose to consume hot stuffs mostly.

Avoid tea and coffee and alcoholic beverages as they’re very likely to increase heat and cause more impurities in path of rising energy.

3. Practice Schedule

It’s best to practice Yoga early in the morning between 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM. This period is known as Bramh Muhurta. There are is ozone in the atmosphere during this period and air is fresh. If you can’t practice during this period then try practicing around twilight. Sushumna path is clearer doing twilight. There are three main channels for the flow of life force energy. The Sushumna is the path which is conducive for the self-realization.

It’s important that you take a bath with cold water before starting Yoga practices. You should preferably practice Yoga on an empty stomach and you can also practice it after 4-5 hours after meal. Try to practice Yoga in a clean atmosphere where mechanical and human noises are least present.

4. Ida Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing are exercises which help clean impurities from passages through which energy flows. If these channels have impurities–you are very likely to feel heat and other complications. Therefore, before starting other breathing practices it’s a must to practice cleansing of Naadis. It’s simple to practice.

Sit comfortably–closing your right nostril with help of your thumb of the right hand–inhale through the left nostril fully. Hold the breath for two seconds–then using two of your right hand fingers close your left nostril gently and exhale through your right nostril. This is one cycle. You can perform 100 such cycles before going into other practices. If you find that it’s difficult to perform this practice–you know that there are blockages.

Alternatively this procedure can be performed with inhalation through right nostril and exhalation through the left but it’s not advised for those who are suffering from heat. It must be remembered that Ida or left nostril channel is the cold channel and Pingala or right nostril channel is the hot channel. If you simply keep inhaling and exhaling through Ida or cold channel–it would also help getting rid of excessive heat.

The Kapalbhati is a very useful practice and it cures you from many diseases but it’s important to practice it in moderation or stop practicing it altogether while you’re coping with excessive heat. Kapaal Bhati activates the solar plexus which generates heat.

Thanks for reading this article. I am hopeful that those who are suffering from excessive heat while practicing Yoga might find solace in these simple remedies. May God bless us all.

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih!

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