Union of Shiva and Shakti in Tantra

Tantra evolved in ancient times from a desire of the people to understand the psychic behavior of the mind. For example, certain individuals entered trances and performed miracles that they could not have accomplished in an ordinary state. They made prophesies and predictions which later came true. How could the mind have this knowledge, this greater capacity? These unexplainable phenomena were actually what lead the people to discover tantra.
Tantra is the oldest and most scientific system of self - awakening, which originated even before the Vedas. For a long time, this powerful science has remained in oblivion, so much so, that even now those who are supposed to be practicing tantra are social untouchables. People have always regarded tantra as a type of witchcraft or sorcery, so they have a very peculiar notion of what a tantric is. It is, therefore, necessary to analyze and understand the science of tantra.

In fact, this is what has been happening in our times as well. During the first half of this century, psychic phenomena were not at all acceptable, and it was considered that anyone who experienced them belonged in the mental hospital. It wasn't until the second half of this century that research centers were set up in New York, Geneva, Tokyo and many other places around the world to investigate and explore the psychic faculties of the mind. Gradually they came to the conclusion that the unconscious mind of man is something very tenable and mysterious.

To augment these researches, many books were written on the possibility of manifesting a super-mind by such eminent scholars as Aldous Huxley, H. G. Wells, Annie Besant, Bertrand Russell, Carl Jung, and others. The greatest inspiration came from Sri Aurobindo, who made a clear cut declaration that the super man is going to descend. Finally, Timothy Leary, the father of LSD, completely exploded the myth of a normal mind. His experiments were widely publicized and resulted in a new definition of what we call 'expanded consciousness'. Today, although most people have not yet experienced the super-mind, they believe that the possibility exists. Man is convinced by and large, that beyond this mind is a greater mind.

Throughout the world, a great awakening is taking place. When I see this awakening, a picture flashes into my mind of ferocious Kali standing on the body of Shiva. Decades ago, when 1 first saw that picture, I didn't think I would ever understand or admire it. But since then, scientists have split the atom, releasing energy from the bosom of matter. This made the significance of that picture very clear to me. Energy has dominion over matter; the body is capable, but the mind is more capable than the body. Tantra has taken this principle even one step further and separated the mind from its modifications, thereby releasing an even greater force of energy.

Expansion of the mind

Tantra is the founding philosophy of yoga and all the spiritual sciences. The etymological meaning of tantra is the expansion of the mind and liberation of energy. In tantra, the expansion and liberation take place in the realm of the mind. In order to liberate energy, the first thing is to expand the mind. What is the expansion of the mind? Our mind is limited by our conditioning. Due to the society, culture, customs, political ideology and so many personal desires, our mind is very conditioned and unable to move outside of its habitual areas.

The ordinary mind is dependent on the senses for knowledge, and if they do not co-operate, it cannot function, cognize or perceive. Even if you dissociate the senses, you still think about the limited things like lunch, dinner, business, house, kitchen, husband, wife, lover, divorce, chocolate. This is the boundary of the mind. Our perceptions form the limit and the senses can't go beyond that. At the most, you dream and have perceptions.

There are other levels of experience, but the mind is not capable of perceiving them. You are not able to expand the mental faculty beyond a given range. In order to see beyond a certain distance, you must be able to increase and refine the capacities of your perception, or you must have a telescope. You cannot see virus and bacteria with the naked eye. If you want to see such minute entities you'll have to increase or magnify the capacity of your perception or you'll have to use a microscope.

Mind works within a definite area and not outside of that, but it can expand. Mind has no limitations. It can travel into the past or future; it is very powerful. It is not just a bundle of habits, a process of thinking or emotions. These are only the modifications of the mind and not the mind. These are the vrittis of the mind, the outer manifestations of the mind. The heat is not the sun, it is the modification of the sun. In the same way, mind is a different matter.

Mind is Chitta, meaning consciousness. You should be able to expand your consciousness beyond the sense objects. Can you visualize those things that are not subject to the sense organs? No! You cannot perceive the sound beyond and below a certain range because you're limited. According to the Yoga Sutras, the mind has five model reactions. That is to say, the mind acquires knowledge in five different ways, and this is the limit of the mind. When that boundary is broken and the mind is able to function beyond the five senses, then we say the mind has transcended the barrier.

This mind, which has been realized as a very powerful source of knowledge and energy, is arrested by the limitations of the human senses. The five karmendriyas (motor organs) and five gyanendriyas (sensory organs) impose limitations upon the mind. If you withdraw the senses, block them by the practice of pratyahara, the mind won't respond at all. Senses are the leading factors. If you are able to withdraw the senses and operate on the mental level, you can imagine how powerful the mind would be. Great men who are powerful in every field have always operated through the mind. I'm talking of such great men as Alexander, Napoleon, Shivaji, Einstein, Newton, Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore. They all operated on the mental level, beyond the senses.

Besides the senses, there are other things that arrest the mind and what are they? They are the samskaras, the archetypes that are barring the gate. They won't allow the mental energy to be released. You have no control over the karma or the samskaras, because you are not aware of them. These archetypes, these unseen karmas, this storehouse of man's total accumulation, acquisition and inheritance is unknown to you. Every time you want to release the mind, the samskaras come and grasp it, they don't allow the mind to get out.

When you take ganja or LSD, what happens? Some of the sensual, karmic barriers are temporarily removed and you experience the mind that is usually kept isolated. I receive many telephone calls because I'm connected to all the telephones. But, if you disconnect them, I am isolated and receive no calls. Similarly, you have to isolate the brain. The mind and the nervous system, which carries the essential impulses, have to be blocked. That happens when you take ganja, or when you practice pranayama or mantra. Sometimes it happens by itself. This is called expansion and what happens is that you experience these things which cannot otherwise be experienced through the senses. Sometimes you can hear sounds or see colors. The visions which you see in meditation are also expansions of the mind.

Once I met an artist who said to me that he had seen a color in his mind, but in trying to duplicate it he had wasted twenty tubes of paint. He visualized a color which the senses could not experience. Another person may hear a tune inside which the senses cannot. This expansion can be carried on to any length.

Expansion is achieved by increasing the powers of perception. By allowing your mind to think of things which you do not already know, see things you have never seen, hear things you have never heard, and experience things that are absolutely novel and A-1. When the mind expands, you see things in an altogether new dimension; this is what the youth of our generation call 'a trip'.

Once in Kathmandu, I saw some boys smoking a chillum. I asked them what they were doing, and they replied that they were breaking the boundaries, expanding the mind. So I asked them what happens when they take it, and they said they have a 'mind-blowing trip'. I am not suggesting here that you should smoke a chillum, rather I am trying to convey what the expansion of mind means. It is an experience that supersedes the normal perception.

Liberation of energy
When the mind has expanded, a process of separation begins. At one point the energy is liberated. Now, what is the liberation of energy? In physics, the energy contained in the matter is liberated. When you hold the matter in your hand, you don't see the energy. But in the scientific process of fission and fusion, the energy is freed from the hold of the matter. So within the hold of the mind, there is another energy that has to be released. That is called the liberation of energy.

Therefore, in tantra, we have two important elements, one is Shiva and the other is Shakti. Shiva represents consciousness and Shakti energy. Shiva is the non-doer, the non-enjoyer. It is only a seer, a witness; it does not involve itself in karma or destiny. This consciousness or Purusha is unaffected; it is the same always and everywhere, and it does not matter whether it is dormant in the matter or without matter.

Shakti is the ultimate deity in tantra, conceived as the power of creativity. The aim of tantra is the liberation of Shakti. In tantra, there are nine great shaktis known as Nava Durga, the different forms of Shakti. In order to develop these Shaktis, there are sixteen systems known as maha vidya. In this science, we are not concerned with natural energy, but with non-material energy. All the practices of tantra are meant to extract this energy from the body of matter.

Shakti is twofold - the material aspect is known as Prakriti and the active aspect as shakti. In tantra, what happens is that shakti, the active energy, has to be liberated from Purusha, consciousness, and also from Prakriti, matter. Imagine that within you is the Purusha, Atma or Shiva. Inside you also is the nature of Prakriti, playing through the body, mind, and senses. Within Prakriti, the shakti is hidden. This shakti has to be separated from Purusha and also from Prakriti. This concept is very difficult to grasp. The whole of humanity and creation is an interaction between Purusha and Prakriti only; not between Purusha and shakti. Only in a great yogi does the interaction take place between Purusha and shakti, which is called the union of Shiva and Shakti.

Union of Shiva and Shakti

For us, Shiva is male and Shakti is female, but in tantra, Shiva is the positive pole of energy and Shakti the negative. When these positive and negative poles of energy come together, an explosion takes place and awakening of energy occurs.

There is a deity in the Hindu pantheon, known as Brahma, the creator, who represents the universal mind. What is the scientific concept of the universal mind? The universal mind is something which we cannot see but which nevertheless exists. It is egg-shaped. At the lower end of the egg is the minus or negative energy pole, and at the upper end is the plus or positive energy pole.

These two poles of energy are known in tantra as Shiva and Shakti. Plus represents time and minus represents space. Shiva represents time and Shakti represents space. Ordinarily, Shiva and Shakti stand apart. But through the practices of concentration and meditation, they move towards the central point, or nucleus of the universal mind. That nucleus, known as Bindu, is called the seed of creation. When Shiva and Shakti come close to one another, an explosion takes place in the seed of creation, then creation begins, outside on the material plane and inside on the mental plane. You have seen Shiva and Shakti embracing each other. Now, you will understand it.

In tantra, the union between Shiva and Shakti is known as maithuna. In tantric practices, the most important thing is that these two forces have to join somewhere at one point of time. In the universal world, I don't think anyone knows how this union takes place, although a lot has been written about it in the Puranas. But in the individual world, we know that Ida and Pingala, which originate from the Muladhara chakra and finally unite in Ajna chakra, represent Shiva and Shakti.

Why do men and women live together? Is it because of social or religious compulsion or a desire to become cultivated? Animals don't live together, but still, they manage to have children; they have sexual possibilities. The purpose of all union is threefold: progeny, pleasure or samadhi. Progeny and pleasure are sufficient for the lower life forms, but the union of Shiva and Shakti is solely for the discovery of that higher energy. Tantra is very explicit in this sense.

Religions have always misunderstood the union of Shiva and Shakti, and this has caused a lot of mental problems. Of course, Shiva and Shakti still unite, but this is not a divine act. It is a sin and you are born in sin. Tantra has no such concept; the union of Shiva and Shakti is the centrifugal point.

The tantric ritual

In order to utilize the positive and negative forces inherent within us to explore the deeper regions of consciousness, the practices of tantra were evolved. In the esoteric sense, the tantric ritual involved the partaking of five tattvas or elements, which were commonly used in daily life. However, these were not interpreted in the same way by everyone, because the sadhakas belonged to different categories: (i) pashu or instinctive, (ii) vira or hero, (iii) deva or divine. Therefore, some performed the tantric ritual exactly as it was written. For them wine was wine and flesh was flesh. However, those sadhakas who were more evolved experienced wine as the nectar which emanates from Bindu. By the practice of khechari mudra they were able to extract this nectar and circulate it through the physical body. Then unmani, the threshold state in between extroversion and introversion was attained. So, for them wine became the blissful nectar experienced through khechari.

Similarly, maithuna is understood only in relation to sexual interaction by the tamasic or rajasic aspirant. But for a sattvic aspirant, maithuna means the union of ida and pingala in ajna chakra. When these two connect, the union of Shiva and Shakti occurs on the subtle plane.

In the same way, we can talk about flesh also. For a person who is of tamasic or rajasic temperament, flesh means meat-eating. But for the person of sattvic tendency, flesh refers to body consciousness and when you transcend the body, you transcend the flesh.

Therefore, it is said in the path of tantra, that those people who want to practice the tantric ritual in its gross form must prepare themselves first. What is the use of taking wine if you lose your senses, or in having sexual interaction if you lose your semen? What is the use of eating flesh if you take it only for the taste? It is necessary that the sadhaka who is practicing tantra should do a lot of preparation in order to utilise the practices for obtaining the highest experience.

This is why the path of tantra does not begin with the tantric ritual. It begins with mantra, yantra and hatha yoga. If the sadhaka who is practising tantra does not know what he is doing and is not adept in vajroli mudra, he can kill himself. One can practise tantra with a number of people, but he must be an adept in vajroli mudra and the female must also be an adept in sahajoli mudra. Besides this, one should be able to localise his consciousness in bhrumadhya or ajna chakra and see the bindu or focal point of light there. Unless this is perfected, the sadhaka must continue to prepare himself. In every science preparation is necessary. In tantra, there is also preparation. If anyone who wants to practise tantra takes a bottle and a woman and goes off somewhere, that is not enough. That is just an excuse to gratify the senses, no more.

The practice of tantra should not be confined only to the ritual of the five tattvas. Tantra is a system whereby you expand the mind and liberate the energy. When you practice tantra, life is experienced within you, not apart from you. Tantra is all-inclusive, not exclusive. All the religions of the world have been excluding things, but tantra does not exclude anything. Tantra is, therefore, the dharma of our times

Tips: How, Where and When to Practicing Yoga Mudras

It is very easy to practice a yoga mudra, provided you know what the mudra is [hint: the mudra list below will help]

All you have to do is place your hands and finger into the right formation.

For instance, to make the Karana Mudra you simply extend your fifth and second fingers and curl your remaining fingers inwards so that your thumb touches your third finger.

  1. When you practice a yoga mudra you should have only minimal pressure in your fingers and your hands should feel relaxed and with no tension. At times this might be a challenge. Some mudras are quite complex. For instance, the Shakti mudra requires that you make a fist while extending your fourth finger upwards and your fifth finger outwards. The Shakti mudra is fine for young yogis, no doubt, but a challenge for older people and especially for people with arthritis. But thankfully, not all mudras are as complicated as the Shakti mudra.
  2. You may notice that you struggle to make certain mudras.  Perhaps you can do a mudra with one hand but not with the other, or you need to use one hand to support the other before you can do the mudra.  In that instance, simply do what you need to do to perform the mudra comfortably. If you can only make a mudra with one hand while using the other for support, that is fine.
  3. The more you practice the mudras the more comfortable you will be with them and the less pain you will have in corresponding parts of your body.
  4. But bear in mind, mudras do not need to be performed perfectly to have an effect. Do your best, and trust that the more you practice the easier it will become.
  5. You can do a mudra in any of the meditation positions. Lying down, sitting up, standing, all are fine. The only exception to this is when the mudra involves specific body positions.
  6. As with meditation, when you practice a mudra you should have good posture. Make sure your spine is in good alignment and that your entire body is relaxed with no tension (except for some specific yoga mudras, like the Maha mudra above, that intentionally use tension in the body).
  7. Relaxation is important to the flow of energy around the body, whether that’s Kundalini energy, prana, chi, or any other kind of energy, the more relaxed you are the better your energy will flow.
  8. You might also like to use pranayama (rhythmic breathing used in Yoga) to get more into the mudra.

When you use a hand mudra/hasta you can meditate in one of the many different types of meditation. Or you might choose to think about something.

Unlike in meditation, when you practice a yoga mudra you can think about something else if you wish. However, in my experience, for the best effect, you should meditate. The choice is entirely yours. Thinking about something will not prevent the mudra from working.

If you are meditating, the best type of meditation to use are basic breathing meditations.

Be mindful of pranayama, of the rhythmic flow of your breath through your body. And for the best effect with many mudras, you will want to adopt a certain position while visualizing a certain thing while using the mudra. The complete combination of these elements can lead to profound changes in your mind and body.

Where And When To Practice?

It is entirely up to you when and where you practice mudras. Just make sure you are relaxed and focused. Some yogis even practice mudras while stuck in traffic, though there are of course inherent dangers to that.

Some of the best times to use mudras are in the morning, during lunch break, after work, and before bed. As I mentioned, it is entirely up to you when you practice the mudras. Try to be relaxed and focused. If you truly want a profound transformational experience, go to a relaxing and beautiful nature spot and try practicing mudras there. You’ll love it.

You can just do mudras at home if you like.  Then, once you have grown accustomed to the different mudras you will be able to use them more easily and more quickly wherever you happen to be.  For instance, if you’re stuck with a bad customer on the phone at work you can use the Gyan mudra (palms up with index finger touching thumb). The Gyan mudra is a very relaxing mudra. So in stressful moments, you can use the mudra for a quick spot of relaxation.

Which Yoga Mudra Or Meditation Mudra Should You Use?

When you practice yoga hand mudras, you should not hop from one mudra to the next. This is a mistake lots of beginners make. And it is understandable. When you’re doing something new it’s fun to try out different things. But this will not work for mudras.

It takes a period of time for a yoga mudra to be effective.

If you are a beginner you will need to use a mudra for at least ten minutes before it has an effect on your mind. If you switch from one mudra to the next you won’t experience any heightened mental, you’ll just get a vague impression of one state, and then another and so on. It is much better to stay with one mudra and to truly get into that mudra so you can experience it fully.

Choose one mudra and stick to it for at least ten minutes before moving on.

You might also like to leave a gap between different mudras.

When you use a mudra you will change your mental state and you will change your world. Every change of mind brings with it a change in the world. So, when you use a mudra you change your mind and change your world. But it will take a short while to truly experience those changes. So, when you are starting out, leave a few hours between different mudras.

How Long Should You Hold A Hand Mudra For?
There is a lot of discussion about how long you should hold a mudra for.

The great masters do not agree on a set amount of time. Keshav Dev, an Indian mudra researcher, says that you should hold one mudra for 45 minutes a day. However, if you are new to mudras you will struggle with this and you may end up with pain in your fingers. That’s why it is best to use one mudra three times a day for 15 minutes at a time with a break of at least a few hours between each session.

Kinesiologist Kim da Silva, a recognized mudra expert, recommends that you choose how long you will hold the mudra before you begin. This helps to stop distractions. If you don’t set a time you will be checking the clock, and that is not conducive to heightened mental states.

If you are using mudras to cure a specific problem, or if you have a health condition, you should ask a healthcare professional for advice on which mudras you can use and how long you can use them for. If you have arthritis in your fingers, for instance, holding a mudra for too long will lead to pain and perhaps even injury.

Some mudras are used for health conditions. For instance, Linga mudra can be used for lung complications. Mudras like this should only be used for as long as necessary. When you notice the health benefits you are looking for you should stop.

When you finish a mudra, you might like to be still and silent for ten minutes and meditate on your breath. This is a great way to finish your mudra session.

Enhancing Yoga Mudras Through Breathing, Affirmations, And Visualisation
Holding the actual hand position of a mudra is the basic foundation of the experience. If you would like to enhance the experience, you use visualizations, affirmations, and breathing techniques.

The first and most important of these enhancements is the breath and pranayama.

Here is what you need to know:

  1. You should make sure that you have good posture anytime you use a mudra. Your spine should be in good alignment and your arms should be relaxed about one inch to the side of your body. You will know when you have the right position because you will feel more solid and more stable with less tension in your body.
  2. Before you begin a mudra session you should make sure that you are breathing deeply (diaphragmatically). The easiest way to do this is by using breathing meditations for a few minutes.  
  3. If you are using a mudra for relaxation you should breathe deeply and in a slow and relaxed fashion.
  4. If you are using a mudra to produce energy or to refresh yourself, breathe out more vigorously.
  5. Overall, breathing should be flowing, energized, deep, and slow.
  6. When you inhale, you can apply a little more pressure in the hands and fingers.
  7. When you exhale, relax the hands and fingers (while still maintaining the mudra).
  8. As well as using these breathing tips, you can add visualizations and affirmations to your mudras. Though, the exact visualization and affirmation will depend on the mudra you are using.

Enhancing Though Music, Colours, And More

There are many more ways that you can enhance your mudra practice. Essentially, anyway in which you can influence your mood can also be used to enhance your meditation practice.

For instance, consider music.
If you visit a meditation retreat, a rehabilitation center, a luxury spa, or anywhere else that is designed to get you feeling a certain way, you will hear relaxing and uplifting music.

You already know the beneficial effects music can have. And you can use music to enhance your mudra practice too.

Music that creates the right mental state can be used during your mudra practice. For instance, if you are practicing the Apan mudra to relax, you might like to put on some relaxing classical music. Or if you are using the Ksepana mudra, which produces happiness and positivity, you might like to put some uplifting music on.

Just as you can match music to mood, you can do the same thing with colors.

Color psychology can be used to help create the right mood in the room you are practicing your mudras in.

There are many more ways in which you can enhance your practice. Try a variety of ways to produce the right mood for you.

There are many mudras that can help with physical health problems (for example, these mudras for weight loss). The majority of these mudras come from Chinese medicine and are based on the Five Element Theory.  It can seem quite bizarre that putting your hands into a specific position can help with a health problem in, for instance, your lungs. But once you actually try the mudras you can feel the difference for yourself.

It is worth noting that the mudras should not be used by themselves to cure health problems.
If you are suffering from a health problem you shouldn’t look at mudras as the be-all-end-all answer to your problems. Instead, they offer additional support.
The best health system is a holistic one like Ayurveda, that includes mudras alongside diet and exercise.

When you use a mudra for a specific health problem you will usually use one specific mudra every day for a number of weeks or even months. It takes many months or years for most diseases to form, so it takes quite a long time for a mudra to heal the problem.

Cosmology in Philosophy of Yoga

Yoga holds that the universe is a complete organism, a wholeness by itself. The so-called parts and isolated units in this universe are, to an extent, comparable to the parts or limbs of the human body, constituting a wholeness never independent of one another. We see varieties in this world making us believe that everything is different from everything else, in the same way as, with a narrow vision of certain parts of the body, we may think that the feet have no connection with the head if our thought is limited only to the area of the feet and does not extend to the region of the head. If you see the body only through some blinkers, the whole organism of the body cannot become an object of perception.
Then, naturally, we cannot see the connection between the legs and the head, for example, and if anyone instructs this narrow-minded individual on there being such a thing called relevance from the feet to the head, that would be a 'philosophy' for him, something which he cannot comprehend. He is instructed about that which he cannot see, and only told theoretically of there being a larger relevance inherent in the visible parts which are the immediate objects of perception.

According to the philosophy of Yoga, the universe is not made up of discrete particles, as material science may make out. Even science has now started thinking thrice before pronouncing any judgment on the nature of the universe ultimately.

The universe is not constituted of atoms, molecules, etc. It is not connected with a 'transcendent' meaning in the sense of a creator extending beyond the universe of creation. There is no transcendence in the universe; the so-called transcendence is only a word that we use in respect of that which we cannot comprehend or that which has not yet become the object of our consciousness. If our understanding can expand itself adequately, it can visualize the cosmos as completeness.

Cosmology is the doctrine of creation. How is it that you appear to be different from me and everyone appears to be different from everyone else, in spite of the fact that there is an inward structure of the whole of the universe?

The center of the universe pulses itself outwardly in a centrifugal manner. There is an urge towards externalization in space and time. This urge that arises in the center of the cosmos is usually known as the creative will. Everything is pushed from the center outwardly to such an extent that the one complete whole gets distracted into particular individualities, as it were, even as our coherent complete waking mind divides itself into many particulars in the dream world that we sometimes experience.

The center of our mind is externalized in a dream. We see a world of shape, space and time, and we are the cognizers or the observers of this dream world. The vast space-time and cosmos that you see in a dream are not outside your mind. The externalization is only apparent, but the apparent externalization is so intense that you have desires, loves and hatred even in a dream.
You can have hunger and thirst and everything that you see in the waking world even in a dream. So, merely because it is an appearance, the experience of its being a reality is not precluded at that time. Likewise, says the Yoga system, this universe of creation is to be explained. What has happened to us today, is precisely what happens to the waking mind in a dream.
It has dissociated itself into the various objects and then retains itself as the subject of these visible. The waking mind cuts itself off into the realm of objectivity and subjectivity.

This centrifugal impulse of the universe moves onward and onward until it reaches the climax of creation to an utter particularity and externality, where one becomes totally conscious of the objects only, completely oblivious of the subjective element in such experience. What are we doing in this world? We always look outside, gaze at things externally and judge outward objects and never pass judgment on our own selves.

We are convinced that there is nothing to say about our own selves. Everything is 'okay' with us. The subject has lost consciousness of itself and has transferred all its values to the objects so that we live in an object-world. And all evaluation that we make in life in any field of activity is objective, not in the sense of impartiality which also goes by the name of objectivity, but in the sense of a total transference of value from the conscious subject to the externalized name-and-form-complex, which is known as the object.

Creation does not end merely here. The propulsion to create ends in the manifestation of lifeless material things like stones, bricks, granite, etc. Their creation is said to end. When there is a total unconsciousness of everything, creation has achieved its purpose. In the beginning, you have the consciousness of all things, and in the end, it is an absence of the consciousness of everything. Now, we are in a transitional period. We are individuals being pushed forward, onward, inwardly by the center of the cosmos, through the impulsion of centrifugally and individualization.

The universe is not an individual, because it comprehends within itself all individuals, just as you cannot call the human body as a cell because all the cells are included within this completeness called the body. But if a particular cell in the physical body were to be capable of asserting its isolation from the other cells of the body, which also go to make up the whole constitution of the body, that would be the predicament in which we are today. We constitute parts of this cosmos, and we are inseparable parts thereof, originally connected with everything. Now your incapacity to see your connection with me or my incapacity to see my relationship with anything else outside is due to the interference of space and time in the middle.
Space and time are not something existent materially or substantially. They are only conditions of externalization. Peculiar magic, as it were, has been cast upon us, by which the universal completeness of the universe, to which we originally belonged, is totally lost sight of and we are aware only of the segmentation of the body from the universe of totality. We cannot feel that we have anything within the brick walls, for instance, notwithstanding the fact that there is some connection there if you go deep into the physics of the objects.

Now, this propulsion to create this centrifugal impulse of creation, which disconnects parts from one another, does its work in a very gradual manner. It is not a sudden severing of limbs, but a slow process of self-alienation. There is a cosmical awareness originally in the system of things when the parts were not separated from the whole. Thus, the first thing that is to be done in order to make us forget our oneness with the universe is to make us unconscious; this is what they call 'brainwashing' in modern language. Some mysterious power, you may call it by any name, the power of externalization, brainwashes the parts of their conscious connection with the whole.

This unconscious seed of externality is called the causal body in our personality. We have five layers of personality. The causal one is the deeper most, the inward most, the unconscious layer into which we revert when we are fast asleep. This is what they call the unconscious psyche in psychoanalytical language. More outward and external to this causal region or level of our individuality is the rational or the intellectual level. The intellect tells us that everything is outside, and that which compels us to see things only in space and time outside is the unconsciousness that is behind the unconsciousness of our connection with the universal completeness. The intellect follows suit here. Lower than the intellect or reason is the mind which is the instrument of thinking. Our judgment, which is the function of the reason, employs the thinking faculty as the means or the instrument to goad us on into activity in social life.
The mind does not directly act upon objects. It moves through the vital energy and the nervous system that pervades throughout the body like electricity. The energy is known as the Prana. The vital force in us which permeates the entire body, the energy as you call it, is the Prana-Sakti which is the externalized form of the mind connecting itself with the physical body.

Now, we have come to the level of the physical body. Here you are at the level of the Yoga-Asanas. You may now know how far you have come down from the original reality of things. And the physical exercises that you perform become a 'Yoga' when you understand the history of your descent from the cosmic total.
These physical exercises are a systematization and organization of the functions of the body in such a way that the energy pervading the body is inwards and the centrifugal impulse is forced to move back towards the centripetal aspiration for the higher realization of realities beyond us. The centripetal is the inward urge moving towards the center, and the centrifugal is the opposite, moving away from the center towards the circumference.

Now, from this little introduction of the cosmological basis of the Yoga system, you will know why these exercises become a Yoga. They are not like football and tennis, or some such games, for they are a wholeness by themselves. Though these Asanas appear to be different from one another, they have a common purpose, just as the various dishes or items of food that you eat may be variegated and different one from another, yet the purpose of eating is common, which is the appeasement of hunger, and it is the same in every person.

The satisfaction that comes out of the consumption of food is the same, notwithstanding the fact that the items of food are different, one from the other. Likewise are these Yoga Asanas. There is the Padmasana, there is the Sirshasana and there is every other kind of Asana. All these are like items of dishes served before you but aiming at a common purpose of uniting the powers of the body into a focus of concentration and attention so that they are forced to go inward into the Prana level from the merely physical, the intention finally being to go further on from the Prana level to the mental level, from the mental level to the rational or the intellectual level, and then pierce through this dark curtain of oblivion, ignorance, which has made us forget our connection with our Parent, which is the universe.

The purpose of Yoga is to make you complete beings, to make you hale and healthy in your personality, to make you total individuals and not distracted psyches, not persons harassed by worries and feelings of insecurity and annoyance, but persons who can stand on their own legs with a power that comes not merely from the meal that you take, the food that you consume, but from the power that descends from the universe. Wherefrom is the strength of the legs that walk? They do not eat any food, you do not give them tea and coffee, the feet eat nothing, but how are they so strong? The strength comes from their organic connection with the total system of the body. Just imagine, the feet which do not consume any diet are strengthened merely by their organic relatedness to the whole system of the body. Likewise, your strength does not merely depend upon the food that you eat, the money that you have, the social status that you may occupy – nothing of these. None of these things is the source of your power. Your strength lies in your inward relationship with the power that is transcendence and that is universal.

The more you are able to feel your relationship with the wider creation outside, the more are you also able to approximate your individual existence with the larger dimension of the universe; then the more is your strength.
This fixing of the consciousness upon the larger dimensions of the Reality beyond the mere physical location of the body is the art of meditation that people speak of so much. You must have heard that there is such a thing called meditation which gives energy, strength, power, etc. How does it bring energy?
It brings energy because you draw sustenance from the five elements, – from the earth, water, fire, air, ether; from even the trees; from the solar system. The solar system is full of energy and we do not feel its presence on account of our isolatedness from it even as the law of the government cannot sustain a person, protect him or guard him when he becomes a renegade and cuts himself off from the organization.

So does this universe of force, including solar energy, etc., not appear to help us in any manner whatsoever, because we have deliberately isolated ourselves from the whole. We have become what they call 'prodigal sons', who have run away from their parents with the false notion that they can live independently by themselves.

And you know when any limb of the body assumes independence, it is called a paralytic stroke, and the limb cannot function afterward. It is strengthened and vitalized only when it is organically related to the body. The moment it assumes independence, it is there no more. We are weaklings, so-called, psychically, physically and socially on account of an inward severing of the values from the Cosmic Value. These physical exercises or the Asanas are the beginning, the initial stages of your movement towards the larger realities that are ahead of you, finally, your aim being to unite your being to become as vast as possible in your comprehension.

This inclusion of the larger dimensions within your vision and field of activity is what is called human consideration, love, affection, sympathy, and the like. Your feeling for others is an outer indication of your inward connection with things.

Do you not work for human solidarity?
Do you not feel that there should be one humanity, that mankind should be in peace?
How does this idea arise in your head, if you have no inward relation with mankind as a whole?
Don't you wish that the whole universe should be in peace?
Why should this idea occur to your mind at all, if you are not going to be inwardly related to the whole cosmical setup of things?

Your wish for immortal existence and long life and your desire for infinite possessions are indications of your being something more than what you are today in this little body. Your originality, the archetypal existence of yours, is in the heavens, as the philosophers like Plato tell us. You are like reflections of these originals.

The originals are in the higher realms of existence which are deeper than the physical. We have spoken about various levels or planes of existence. They say there are seven planes at least, the physical being the lowermost. There is then the astral, the causal and the universal.

We have descended too low to the physical, materially isolated bodily level, from which we have to rise up to the original Reality which is our true stature. This art of unifying your being with the Being of the universe by graduated stages begins with the performance of these physical exercises called the Asanas and ends in cosmic Meditation.

Then you become a source of Power and competency in every work that you perform. You are administrators, and you become master-administrators because of the knowledge that you have of the set-up of things in their organic connectedness. You do not then treat people as if they are objects or tools or implements who have to be utilized for ulterior purposes. You treat them as brothers, and there lies your success – when you treat people as you treat yourselves.

Here is the way to success. If you look down on people as nobodies and if there is even a little inkling of exploitation of any sort, in respect of others, then the law of the universe will react and tell upon your system. The law of the universe is cooperation and not competition. It is not warfare. That is the law of the universe, the total solidarity for which the prayers of the ancient sages were directed in such scriptures as the Vedas, the Rigveda concluding with a prayer for universal cooperation, collaboration not merely in a social manner, but even in the field of thinking, in collective aspiration and all activity.

Yoga, therefore, is not a system of religious thinking, it is a science of living in a manner that shall make you perfect in every way. Perfection is the watchword of Yoga, it is neither an 'ism', nor a religion, a cult, a creed, nor a faith – nothing of the type. It has no difference of caste, creed or color, East, West, North, South, etc. It is perfectly scientific and impersonal as the law of gravitation, as the laws that operate in mathematics or logic. I have tried to place before you, in outline, the tremendous significance that is behind the performance of Yoga exercises, placing you in a universal context of things and making you feel satisfaction that belongs to the whole cosmos, and whoever the Creator of this cosmos be, He shall protect you.

Spiritual Personality Development

In addition to external relationships, it is also possible to draw the spiritual nature of a particular personality by focusing deeply on that personality. For example, by deeply and continuously pondering the photo of a saint, we will be able to become like him. Likewise, by thinking regularly about God and the saints, we can develop a spiritual personality. We will develop sattvic personality more quickly if we do not meditate deeply on God; with meditation, in prayer asking for His enlightenment in order to change our personality.

However, always remember that if our whole heart is with someone, we will not only attract good qualities from that person but also their defects. That is a very important reason why we should only think of good people or even holy people. If we concentrate on the thoughts of evil people, unless we are stronger than them, if not we will attract their evil qualities.

Awareness of the true Personality

The ego, which is focused on one body of personality is a mistake that seems to separate individuality from its true self. In fact, our being is far greater than that. The soul was created to return to God. By meditating and going inside, we can experience happiness from the nature of our souls. The more we are able to maintain that awareness beyond meditation, our personality will increasingly reflect His love, harmony, and goodness. That is the true personality of the Self. Human imperfection is just a transplant to the inner divine nature.

In the soul, we are eternal, but in our personality, we cannot regain awareness of that immortality until all human imperfections are erased. Working on ourselves is like carving stone for a statue; gradually the image will be formed in all its perfection.

The lesson of reincarnation is to neutralize waves of joy and sorrow, desires and hatred, with expressions of kindness, forgiveness, and compassion for all people, and with firm satisfaction from within. We must learn to love others, not because of their personalities, but because they are manifestations of God, who dwells equally in all beings.

To find out who we really are in eternity we must draw our awareness from the identification of the senses that have determined our ego-consciousness. Even when living in ego-consciousness, we must consider ourselves to be infinite heirs. The better we are able to identify ourselves with the soul rather than with this small body and personality, the more real we will become the words Tat-tvam-asi "(I am that or I am Brahman).

Soul Potential

Self-realization is the development of the personality of the Self to the highest potential. Self-realization is the potential of the Soul, not human potential. This means not because of ego personality but as a soul, the soul within is part of God. Self-awareness means realizing the Oneness of God within oneself with God and free of any identification with the body or external personality.

By developing individuality which is an expression of God's presence within us, our increasingly sharp personalities also become strong and attractive. With the development of our divine nature, through meditation, we gradually eliminate the limits of a lifetime. We become detached from the body; we no longer feel identified with it. The more we experience our true Self-awareness, our Oneness with the Divine is realized.

Striving to always develop personalities that come from living in God's ongoing awareness. Any other personality will cause disappointment because all human expressions have limitations.

Vedanta vision for Modern Psychology

We live in an age of psychoanalysis. We have been taught the importance of examining our personal psychology, emotions, and memories for understanding ourselves and finding happiness in life. A variety of authorities in modern psychology today evaluate not just individuals but cultures, even religions by their proposed psychological understanding of the human mind.

Yet, in spite of the proliferation of psychological treatment, we find more people taking pharmaceutical drugs and epidemics of depression occurring in the affluent Western world.

Are we missing something about understanding ourselves and can the ancient Vedic teachings provide us a deeper insight?

Modern psychology reflects a view of the self that is based upon the physical body and outer social interactions. It seeks happiness at a physical level in the material world. Its view of the mind is limited to the brain and our biological compulsions, starting with sexuality. When it asks us to develop ourselves it is a seeking of outer power and prestige, not inner awareness. Its idea of self reflects external factors only, not any consciousness that endures beyond death.

Here, let us remember the profound teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Our true Self, called Atman or Purusha, consists of the boundless light of consciousness. It has no birth or death, no pleasure or pain, no past or future. It has no qualities as defined by the five elements. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot make it wet. It does not perish along with the body. It does not change along with the fluctuations of the mind. It is permanent, immutable and beyond sorrow. Abiding in it is ultimate peace, bliss, and fulfillment. Yet, we find that modern psychology doesn’t recognize such a higher Self, much less teach us how to connect to it.

Our inner identity cannot be reduced to a name, job, title or circumstance. No one and nothing can own, define, limit, or control the deeper reality within us. We are not simply a physical organism or a complex set of chemical reactions in the brain, but the inner consciousness through which these operate and which transcends their fluctuations. We contain the potentials and formations of all existence, extending beyond time and space to the infinite and eternal.

The importance of Vedanta

Vedantic philosophy contains profound psychology of Self-realization, not merely a psychology of physical or social identity. Vedanta teaches that you are the entire universe. You are not limited to the body. You have many bodies in many incarnations in different worlds or lokas. Our-Self nature is cosmic.

Similarly, we need not seek happiness or fulfillment outside our true Self. On the contrary, your inner Self is full of light and your role in the world should be to bring light, compassion, and wisdom to all. Everything you see in the world of nature represents some portion of your true Self, some aspect of your cosmic identity. All creatures are different expressions of our deeper Self that pervades the entire existence.

Only such a deeper vision of Self can bring us true happiness. Otherwise, we remain trapped in outer ego identities, in how we appear or what we do, rather than who we truly are. This means that the best practices for psychological wellbeing are mantra and meditation based upon an inner search for our true nature in consciousness. The mind easily falls into dependence, compulsion or addiction if we do not have an enduring connection with our inner being.

If you aspire to enduring mental peace and emotional wellbeing start by taking a course in Vedanta and learn how the human being and the universe, the Divine and our inner essence are one. Step out of the isolation of the ego and mere outer social definitions to your ultimate identity as the Self of all. Open your awareness to infinite space, not just to outer forms.

Naturally, this greater Self-Realization cannot be accomplished quickly and requires a lifelong sadhana, but if we sincerely pursue it we can progress every day in consciousness and deathless awareness, not merely in outer achievements and acquisitions.

The sages have preserved the legacy of Self-knowledge for all humanity, but it must be shared and practiced, and honored in our educational systems as well. Without knowing ourselves, all other knowledge is limited and cannot take us beyond sorrow.
Let us not forget this simple eternal wisdom of Self-awareness that easily gets lost in all the information that we are deluged with every day.

Karma Yoga practice in the workplace

Karma is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction. Karma Yoga is an action performed with detachment, with meditative awareness. The Bhagavad Gita states that the Karma of one's own actions is inherent, but not the results; stability in success and failure, this balance is called Yoga.

Mahatma Gandhi, the great Karma yogi of the twentieth century, was a motivator, a leader, a 'general manager' of the independence campaign in India. In The Story of My Experiments with Truth, he understated his mission in these words: 'I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.' Gandhi's life was a straight line of work and prayer. When he was assassinated he went into maha samadhi with God's words on his lips, Ram, Ram.

What is Karma ? There is a very clear concept that karma arises due to the attractions and desires in life. Experiences that may have happened thirty years ago are remembered by us due to this karmic link. The event which gave birth to Karma took place a long time back, but the influence of that event has carried on. Therefore, the experience of that karma continues for an extended period until it reduces its intensity.' In philosophical terms, karma means the primal seed of desire which guides the destiny, thoughts, actions and behavior of every individual. Karma, by the nature of the action, is physical or mental and originates on different planes of our being, including inherent primal seeds as well as samskaras. Through yogic practices, karma can be reduced in intensity or positively transformed to achieve a balanced mind and personality.

What is Karma Yoga? In her book of Yoga Darshana, Pradnyamita states that it can be classified as the true psychological aspect of Yoga because in the process of dynamic meditation we have to become aware of the subtle areas of our personality, which involves the awakening of latent mental faculties and new dimensions of awareness. Actions must be performed consciously and one's attitude towards the actions observed. We act on the levels of speech, minds intellect, samskara and experiential realization.

In Karma Yoga it is not the actions themselves which are considered to be important, but the frame of mind in which they are performed. Paramahamsa Niranjanananda lists the attributes of Karma Yoga as efficiency, equanimity, absence of expectation, egoless-ness, renunciation of limited desires, positive thinking, and duty or dharma. These attributes fit nicely into the profile of a good manager.

What are the duties of a manager? 
A general manager has full responsibility for his operational unit. He sets targets within the framework of a long term strategic plan. He makes use of manpower and assets in the most economical way to achieve or exceed expected results. Assets are static in nature. To generate profit or growth with assets, a transformation is necessary, a process that requires imagination and creativity. Productivity and motivation of the labor force go hand in hand, and the best motivator is the example of a motivated boss.

A manager is also responsible for planning the future direction and goals of the long term enterprise, a process that requires intuition, imagination, courage and common sense. Ideally, a skilled manager will have qualities of efficiency, perceptivity, creativity, good human relations, intelligence and a healthy mind and body, as well as endurance, dedication, discipline and balance in success and failure. First and foremost will be service: love for his work and love for his people.

This super-person does not exist. We are all human beings with deficiencies which is exactly where yogic practices can help us to improve. A balanced mind will mean improvement in speaking, listening, commanding attention, understanding, retaining information, formulating ideas, doing the right thing at the right time in the right place, communicating and problem-solving. Therefore, Karma Yoga is the ideal time-saving practice for the manager in his workplace.

One cannot become a karma yogi overnight. It is a long term process of self-discipline, maturing and expanding awareness. I was made a personal commitment to take up the path of Karma Yoga. I began by becoming consciously aware of my positive and negative qualities. Initially, it took some courage in the office to change patterns, for example, to counter aggression with non-violence. But the results were positive and as respect from subordinates, superiors and customers began to rise slowly but steadily, some people began to copy me. This defusing of tension resulted in a more balanced and relaxed office atmosphere and better teamwork, and I began to introduce another positive experience. The key to success is detachment, regularity, discipline, and endurance. Karma Yoga is not without setbacks but a balanced mind makes it easier to handle frustrations.

In any organization, meetings are necessary to inform, motivate, coordinate, plan, budget, etc., and follow-up; they are also an excellent tool for the manager to influence and motivate people, as well as tapping their ideas and creativity. However, in many large corporate structures, meetings are often too frequent, too long and badly prepared. The manager's personal problems may also constitute a 'hidden' agenda. In my experience, careful preparation of meetings with a proper agenda increases interest reduces meeting time substantially and improves efficiency.

One 'noble' duty of a manager is to give orders to subordinates. In strong, hierarchical organizations, orders are given by the power of authority, for example, by posting a notice on a notice board, a procedure which creates a distance between the manager and subordinates. It involves the delegation of authority, motivating and ensuring that the job is understood and within the capabilities of the subordinate. To give a proper order is a process of thinking, communication and teamwork. The caring manager will also follow-up and will not criticize.

Sooner or later, a manager's heart will request him to disobey the orders, rules and regulations of his superior, for example, when human rights would be violated or life endangered. This requires courage and the ability to face the consequences which are virtues of a mature karma yogi.

In conclusion, while performing the daily life duties of a manager I have experienced fruitful developments by practicing Karma Yoga. The key to success is a regular practice, discipline and endurance. Make work fun - collaborators will appreciate a happy and charismatic boss. Sankalpa and Diksha will definitely support the process. Conviction arid good cars to listen to the 'Guru in the heart' are important as well.

In a much broader sense, Yoga is the path for developing a healthier and better human society. Managers of all ranks are key people in worldly society, and to convince them to take up the path of Karma Yoga in the workplace would speed up the process of self-realization significantly.

One idea is to provide the essence of Karma Yoga and other yogic practices in the form of training packages, for example, Imagination and Creativity Training, a General Management Training Kit, in the same way as management consultants market their own products. Since I have had beneficial experiences practicing Karma Yoga in the workplace, I think it would be worthwhile in the future giving thought to the presentation of yogic practices in an adapted form applicable in management education.

SadhGuru (Jaggi Vasudev) about Food

Food is life-giving away its own life to make your life. If only you were aware that so many lives are giving up their own lives to sustain your own, you would eat with enormous gratitude. If you eat with that kind of gratitude, you will naturally eat only to the extent that it is necessary.

The food will behave in a completely different way in your system; the way you treat it is the way it treats you.
Your consciousness is very important in determining how a certain food behaves in your system. Let us say two people are eating food with exactly the same levels of nourishment and their health and absorption rates are about equal. One person eats the food with joy while the other simply eat it as nourishment. The one who eats with joy will need much less food and will get better nourishment than the other person. There is scientifi c evidence to prove this. Every human being who is a little sensitive to life always knows this. If you eat with gratitude and reverence, you will see whatever you eat will work wonderfully for you.

The true joy of eating is that you are conscious of some other life willing to become a part of you, to merge and mingle with your own life and become you. This is the greatest pleasure a human being knows – in some way something that is not him is willing to become a part of him. This is what you call love. This is what people call devotion. This is the ultimate goal of the spiritual process. Whether it is lust, passion, devotion or the ultimate enlightenment, it is all the same – it is just the scale.

If it happens between two people we call it passion; if it happens with a larger group we call it love; if it happens much more indiscriminately we call it compassion; if it happens without even a form around you, it is called devotion; if it happens in its ultimate scale, we call it Enlightenment.
This beautiful process of constant demonstration of the oneness of existence is happening at your mealtime every day. Food, eating, is a demonstration of the oneness of existence. Something that was a plant, something that was a seed, something that was an animal or a fi sh or a bird, just merging and becoming a human being, is a clear demonstration of the oneness of existence, of the hand of the Creator in everything that is. Make the simple act of eating into fulfilling the will of Creation and the tremendous experience of knowing the joy of Union.

Just a few decades ago, the way humans looked at food was largely influenced by local culture, tradition and seasons. Local produce, fast becoming a rare and expensive commodity, was once the natural diet of millions.
Food products labeled ‘healthy’ one day are abruptly dismissed as ‘lethal’ the very next. Foods touted as nutritious and life-enhancing by one study are declared carcinogenic by another. The latest ‘celebrity diet’ is always around the corner, waiting to be trashed by nutritionists.

So taking all this into consideration, what is the correct, balanced diet for our bodies in the long run? How is one supposed to differentiate between good foods and bad foods? How does one find the best diet?

The answer, simply enough, lies within.
When it comes to food, don’t ask anyone. You must learn to ask the body and listen to it. You should eat what your body is most happy with.
– Sadhguru
In the Yogic tradition, the way food is perceived goes beyond biology and chemistry. Food is alive, with a quality and prana (life energy) of its own. When consumed, the quality of the food influences the qualities of our body and mind.
The line ‘you are what you eat’ takes on a whole new meaning. If we pay sufficient attention and become aware of the subtle connection shared between food and the body, we will effortlessly know from within what we need to eat and how much.
We will not need to seek external sources of information. Armed with this awareness, what is merely a daily intake of food can be transformed into a beautiful process of nourishment and union.

The true joy of eating is that you are conscious of another life willing to become a part of you, to merge and mingle with your own life. This is the greatest pleasure that a human being knows; in some way something that is not him is willing to become a part of him. This is what you call ‘love’. This is what people call ‘devotion’. This is the ultimate goal of the spiritual process

Source: SadhGuru (Jaggi Vasudev), Isha Foundation