Buddhism, love, yoga, yoga in politics, yoga politics

Voting As a Yogi

Yogis (practitioners of yoga) believe in (and live by) a few principles, if they truly follow the path of yoga (as more than just a different type of workout). We base our practices first on non-violence, which simplifies candidate choice immensely. In fact, it eliminates the ‘Big Two’ (Democrats and Republicans), whose platforms obviously and loudly promote war and militarism.

It’s quite simple…either we are for peace and non-violence, or not. It is impossible to vote for candidates who start or promote wars in sovereign countries and still tell ourselves we support non-violence and non-harming.

yoga journey

As yogis, we also believe in the unity of people, the inclusion and consideration of others in our thoughts and actions (and voting decisions). Thus, parties who exclude others are easily removed from our consideration. This effectively eliminates the Libertarian, Constitution Party, and the ‘Independent’ parties.

That is quite simple as well. Any party or group that does not allow the rights and privileges we claim for ourselves to others is beyond the pale of humanity, beyond what we as people aspiring toward decency (if not divinity) could accept.

What is left? What choices do our yogic values leave us? They leave us only with minority, mostly progressive parties. These are parties people say are for the dreamers, for those who look at the world through rose-colored glasses. These are the parties with few votes or seemingly few chances of winning.

black sheep

Do we care? No, we are dreamers, in a world that seems bent on killing each other. Yes, we look at the best in the world, try to see (and invoke) the best in ourselves and others. Call us stupid and naive, but we follow the Higher Path, one pointed out by sages throughout the ages, and by our own hearts.

Do we stick to our beliefs? Yes, if we are truly yogis and not just people out copying the latest fad. Our confidence comes from knowing that some things are indubitably right, such as consideration, compassion, and understanding (and the political parties that promote -and act out- these values).

Yogis ascribe to other values, values I suggest we all could benefit from using as a compass or guideline when dealing with each other (and politics is all about dealing with each other). These observances and prescriptions (yama and niyama) are our basic ‘Bible’ (and as we can see, they do not interfere with the sacred literature or beliefs of any truly non-violent and peaceful belief system. They are:

yoga sutra


Restraint, observance, posture, breath-control, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation-absorption and enstasy.

These are mostly internal observances, and merely help us to discern clearly between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, to help us see beyond the unreal to what is Real. They are not directly related to politics, but help us to discern clearly (as reasonable and peaceful political decisions require).


Non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity (in ways different than you think), and greedlessness (or non-coveting).

These restraints can and do help us in choosing political candidates and parties.

Violence: How can we support people who advocate violent means to solve problems? How could we possibly support candidates who espouse these (violence-begetting) solutions? Wars on drugs, wars on terrorism, wars on crime have all proven to be futile, and have caused (and do cause) more problems than they solve. How could a yogi who believes in non-violence support such things? The clear and easy fact is…they cannot.

Honesty: How can we vote for candidates that knowingly and willfully lie to us, those they are supposed to represent? How can they engage in ‘shady’ affairs and still hope to get our support? How could we support candidates who play semantical games with the truth? How could we support them when they do such things?

Non-stealing: When we invade sovereign countries, when we use power to force others to do our bidding, we attempt to steal their liberty and freedom. When we live richly, a nation of fat people while others starve (or promote policies that seek to continue this madness) we effectively take food out of the mouths of others to feed our own gluttony. How could any yogi support such things? How could any Buddhist or reasonable person?

Chastity: How could we support candidates who speak in sexual terms, award or seek outward appearances more than substantial realities? How could we support a empire-building paradigm that seeks to impose our own vices and lack of modesty and respect on other cultures?

Greedlessness: How could we support policies that put people out of their homes, result in massive numbers of refugees, or otherwise marginalize others, policies which seek to gain ascendancy over them to support our own greed?

These basic guidelines of yoga (and I contend of all reasonable people worldwide) can definitely help us in discerning who (and who not) to vote for. ‘Pragmatic’ considerations, and other justifications cannot be used to dilute the undeniable truth of these core principles we believe in. If it is wrong to harm others, then it is always wrong. Saying we need to put aside what our hearts and consciences tell us to gain some ‘practical’ or ‘tactical’ (or even ‘strategic’) goal are nothing but situational morality…essentially immorality, as convenience dictates.

The idea of ‘preemptive strikes’, ‘collateral damage’, and ‘justified war’ are insanity to us, the mere justifications of madmen and warmongers. The idea of imposing our might on others, loss of civil rights for our own ‘security’, and many of the other things promoted by the Big Two parties has proven to be pure and unadulterated madness.

Earth burning

Choices are simplified by yogic guidelines, and obviously inappropriate candidates can be eliminated, but still hard choices remain. We might ask ourselves ‘would one of the sages vote for one type of madness to avoid another?’ Would they accept a little bit of war, but merely because we just had to? We must ask ourselves these questions, and decide if we truly believe and live by yogic principles, or if they are just ‘guidelines’, to be conveniently altered at our convenience.

Only yogis can ask these questions, each individual yogi, in the confines of their hearts. Only they can ask…does this candidate or platform reflect my yogic values? Only the individual yogi can know the truth of their own heart, and the answers that come naturally from them.

We must decide if we want to use our votes to reflect our consciences and beliefs, or to achieve the political goals of someone else. We must decide if our votes are commodities, to be bought by the highest bidder, or if they are reflection of our vision for ourselves and our nation. In the case of the latter, we vote not to win, but to be right…according to our own hearts and convictions, to our own ideals. It doesn’t matter if our votes serve to make someone else win or lose, for we know what our own truth and thus duty in this matter is.


It’s like the tales of the Great Epic: the warrior (Arjuna) had to simply perform his own duty, as he saw it, without regard to imagined consequences. He had to do only what was right by his lights, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all we as yogis (and humans) can hope to do. We vote what we believe, and let the chips fall where they may. Dang the durn torpedoes and straight ahead, as they say.

So our beliefs can undoubtedly help us in our political decisions, but even so, many good options exist. Among the choices, a yogi can hope to discern, take action to help them discern more clearly. Read the platforms of the remaining parties. Feel the truth of what they stand for in your heart, and pick the one which resonates best. Does Green seem a bit more humane and conscientious than socialist? Do their voting records seems so? Or does the opposite seem true to you, feel true to you? Then vote that way, in confidence that you have evaluated the candidates and platforms, given thought, consideration (and heart) to the issue, and done your best as you know it.

This will relieve us from political arguments, concerns, or divisive ‘debates’, and allow us to focus on the things that matter, the things dear to us: life, our practices, those we love, the things we can do to help make this a better planet, to help make us better people. If we vote by these guidelines, we can’t go wrong.

heart om2

peace earth

Yogi brothers and sisters, friends, New Romans, fellow countrymen (the three who might read these words), lend me your ears and hearts, give me the boon of your true consideration. If you feel my words resonate, or are merely worth considering, please share them with your friends.

(c) 2016 Mark Francis Mullen. Please do not reproduce without permission. Publication on Facebook or other social media are not intended to (or able to) assign any rights to the same.


Buddhism, chakra science, life, love, miscellaneous maunderings, spiritual consumers, western yoga, yoga, yoga science, yoga transformation

Selling me Enlightenment

In the western world, yoga is a ‘growth industry’. So I am not surprised when people try to sell me yoga spin-offs…or yoga itself. In their exuberance and desire to share, they might forget that they can’t sell me what I already own. Yet I get it, and am glad they are excited enough to even try.

I’d take a pair of PF Flyers. Sometimes I do. I like them and am glad to be sold a pair. Oh, hold it…you don’t need to sell PF Flyers…they sell themselves…kinda like yoga does. They could sell me a chance to dance under the summer sky as well – but I already do.

unicorn stars

I know a woman who is the perfect enlightenment consumer. She travels all over the world, attending classes and course and seminars on stuff like tantric massage, non-dualism, whatever seems to interest her. She buys beads and yoga classes and Esalen courses like they are going out of style. She could probably feed an entire African village on the money she spends yearly on this stuff.

Still, I’m down. It’s her money and she earned it. I might do the same if I was as monetarily ‘rich’ as she was (is). Might. I might buy me some new mala beads, or pay to go to one of those groovy juice cleanses, or take a course on manifesting the Divine through my eyes and smile. Maybe. Or maybe I’d just buy an apple or some PF Flyers.


It used to kind of freak me out how our Noble Path has become littered with billboards selling hints on how to get further down the path. Sometimes those commercial come-ons are planted right in the middle of the path. Yeah, it used to freak me out, kind of like selling sex does. I found it slightly abhorrent, a bit tawdry, and generally in poor taste.

See, the merchants trying to sell me these beads and trinkets were…merchants. When I considered their words, I also observed their eyes. Did the products they tried to sell me work for them? Were their lives visibly improved by the products they were selling?  Quite often they had that same look all salesmen have, no matter what they are selling.


These days, I am quite a bit more open to what they are selling, and the fact they are selling it. After all, they have to eat too. I remain less enthusiastic about being sold something. Once again, a caveat – I get it. Selling something of real value (like yoga or associated ‘products’) is perhaps even helpful. I am quite sure I would benefit from these offerings. Yet in the end, I see the money I might spend as a new set of drums for a young drummer, or as broccoli when I most need it, or maybe a new pair of PF Flyers.

From my words above, I can see that while those merchants might be sellers, I am somewhat of a consumer; I evaluate products and their worth, look for the best buy, for the ‘most bang for my buck’ (even though I don’t want bangs and have few bucks to spend on anything superfluous). So I find when I ‘point a finger’ at merchants, I am also pointing at myself; when I look askance at those sellers, I am pointing my skepticism at myself.

Some of the people ostensibly ‘selling’ to me are merely offering products they found helpful themselves, and they have a desire to share that with others. Some work on a ‘commission’ of helpfulness, of spreading knowledge and healing. They may get some money as an epiphenomenon (sort of a residual result of their actions). They may use money to signify the exchange of energy. In those cases, unabashed mercantilism is a bit more palatable, makes quite a bit more sense.

They know I am a ‘poor’ yogi, somewhat of a renunciate…but still they try. Kundalini classes, cleanses, ecstatic dance (as if I need to be sold that, which to me is natural). They do it in good faith and with an open heart. They never ‘hard sell’…and on consideration, most of them don’t really sell at all. They simply offer, offer what is indubitably a good deal.

So where does the ‘problem’ lie…in their innocent (and perhaps ingrained) commercialism, or in my (quite possibly unreasonable) resistance to that perceived commercialism? Who knows? As an author, I can rarely give concrete answers, just ask questions…or simply state my viewpoint of the moment, allow the thought-clouds to drift away through the world, released from the expansive confines of my mind.


I wrote a blog about ‘Selling Yoga’ a few years back. Since, I may have refined my views on the subject (as I may later on this one). It’s an ongoing process, revising and refining my perspective. What seems true today may seem like horse dung tomorrow; it’s the way of the world, dontcha know? So I just blab these thoughts out in words, and later read and consider them. Sometimes it seems like someone else wrote those words, someone slightly (or totally) ridiculous. Sometimes it seems like someone fairly wise wrote them.


To paraphrase a famous quote (whose author I forget at the moment), how will I know what I think unless I say it? How can I examine what I ostensibly think unless I put it out there for later consideration and assessment? Sort of an odd logic, but somehow relevant despite that. So I say stuff, any crazy old thing that pops into my head, or piques my attention and demands my consideration. Then I regard what I have said..does it ring true? What are other valid viewpoints on this subject? Are any viewpoints or insights more valuable than another? I don’t know, but still I do it.

So here I am, about to embark on another great day, full of play and laughter, full of fun. Along the way, I may get a glimpse of enlightenment. Most likely I will not buy or rent it from others. I don’t want their brand of enlightenment, but my own (even if it is a poor facsimilie for the real thing).


Give me something, freely offered, and I will gladly accept (assuming it is worth having). Share ideas, concepts, or action that may be helpful to me, and I’m down. Try to sell me something, and I will most likely RUN. Or resist. It’s just me..being the current version of me.

me 4

Buddhism, chakra science, hot yoga, life, love, meditation, miscellaneous maunderings, Uncategorized, vinyasa yoga, western yoga, yoga, yoga science, yoga transformation

‘Hot’ Yogis and ‘Vinyasa’ Yogis

I spent about six years doing daily classes of Vinyasa yoga (well, Ashtanga to be more specific). Sometimes before my morning flow(s), I’d take a hot class. Recently (the last two years) I have been taking ‘hot’ (what used to be called ‘Bikram’) yoga classes almost exclusively. The differences between the two (and the people who gravitate to one or the other) seem at first glance substantial, but let’s explore this further…

During this time (mentioned above), I noticed some ostensible differences between those who regularly attend hot classes and those who attend ‘flow’ classes. Before I get into those perceived differences, let me first share my own experience, and then let’s focus on the commonalities between the two.

In my initial experience, I first found ‘hot’ yoga to be, well…too hot. It also seemed far too regimented to me, with a defined and basically never-changing sequence. How was one to find and express bhakti or samadhi under these conditions? Contributing to my initial reservations, Bikram Choudry had ‘patented’ this ancient warm-up sequence, and even the dialog associated with it. The fact he was later accused of violating the sexual spaces of his students somehow added (illogically or not) to my growing aversion.

After six or so years of Vinyasa, I sort of ‘forced’ myself to go and see what was up with this almost cultish group of people. I sensed that in avoiding these types of classes, or in my nascent ‘aversion’ to them, I was missing a key yogic lesson. So I decided to immerse in it, see what I could learn, what I could experience, what ‘truths’ (or insights) might reveal themselves to me in the course of this journey.

What I discovered was (as with almost all life)  not what I had expected or perceived from the outside looking in. At first, it seemed incredibly hard. Not the postures (essentially basic), but the durn old heat…the sweat dripping into my face and nostrils, pressing on me palpably, like a closely fitting (smothering?) hot air suit, or the embrace of the mythical Satan (or Looficer, as I prefer to call this idea, as the dyslexic satanists do). It was just so darn triggering…it reminded me of Djibouti, Somalia, Iraq, Kuwait, Quatar…super hot places (in the now common parlance of P.T.S.D. and ‘veterans issues’, it ‘triggered’ me…or tried to). I could feel my H.P.A. (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis fire up, giving me P.T.S.D.-like symptoms. I could feel my mind and memories (or my amygdala and hippocampus, to be more precise) trying to ‘go back’ to those memories, not all good.

It was hard to find time or ‘head-space’ (heart space) to be filled with gratitude, with devotion in the midst of all that heat and potential triggering. It was hard enough to stay focused, maintain my calm breath (and thus mind) and ‘do the drill.’ I was much more soothed by my home Kundalini or Yin practices. What was so good about this nonsense? Why was I even here?

The people seemed super-focused, almost grim in their concentration, determination, and almost religious attendance (and adherence to rituality). We didn’t ‘OM’ or talk about ‘spiritual stuff’ much, as we typically did in Vinyasa classes. The people seemed more there to ‘sweat it out’, more focused on using outer strength or Yang energy to get there, when Vinyasa is implemented by inner strength, by Yin, by allowing, not forcing or striving for some goal. They seemed to feel secure in the predictability of the sequence, in the ‘rules’ of hot. Nobody seemed to hug each other, or hang out sharing the bliss afterward, as they were apt to do in Vinyasa classes. They rushed in at the last minute, looking like someone who was grimly setting out to do an unpleasant job. They got the heck out of that oven the minute they could, as soon as class was over. It was a like a ‘fast food’ gym, done on a yoga mat. No enlightenment please, just here to lose twenty pounds or get in better shape (or maintain a good shape). It could have been hamsters on a yoga treadmill of effort without goals (or without meaningful ones)…or so it seemed at first glance.

Now bear in mind, these were my perceptions, and may not have reflected the actual reality. After all, I didn’t know these people, had no idea what their actual experience was. So I decided to have an experience of my own, find out what the deal was, come to know in the only way truly possible…through my own experience, and through sharing the experiences of others.

Soon the heat didn’t seem quite as bad…or at least it didn’t affect me as much. The pesky sweat coming off me no longer seemed like unwelcome and salty extrusions, but like holy rain. I had figured if I really had joy and peace in my yoga, I should be able to find it anywhere (or in any type of yoga ‘class’)…and did. Soon, the seemingly regimented sequence stopped becoming a limiting box, and became instead a expansive space from which I could find expression and personal growth and movement….while moving in the ‘constraints’ of the practice. Soon, laying in Savasana for fifteen minutes after class was not an ordeal, but a treat, as the room slowly cooled and wisps of cool, fresh air caressed my body as people left the room (and let cool air in).

Soon I found a lovely set of teachers who managed to bring a bit of joy, devotion , introspection, focus, or detachment  into what on the face of it may seem an unimaginative and uninspired sequence/paradigm. Really, they helped (guided) me to bring that bit of joy into it myself, inspired me to bring it, or gave good examples by bringing it themselves. Soon, I was finding as much focus, joy, and peace in hot sequences as I had previously in vinyasa sequences, or in my home practice.

It became really cathartic. Laying in a pool of sweat at the end, I felt drained…of impurities. I had sweated a gallon in an hour (or close, it appeared). I was getting ready to fill myself up with clean, pure water – like a little oil change for my body. Keep those cells filled with fresh water, dontcha know?

So I continued that way for a while until one summer day recently I walked into the studio and my body, mind, and spirit (and thus what seemed like the entire universe) told me it was too hot to do a ‘hot’ at 9AM on what looked to be a blistering day. Thus, I returned once again to my core vinyasa practice.

So there it is…my meager experience of a decade. Hardly much to base any firm judgments on, or reach meaningful conclusions. It was barely enough to skim the surface, to teach me that I truly don’t know, and that there are as many answers and paths as there are (or were ever) people. Still, I like to make observations and comparisons, if nothing else for the pure ‘fun’ of it, or maybe because as a writer and observer, these things come to the surface naturally, like little checkpoints of where I am at the time, like little rough maps of the world I constantly update and refine (and sometimes throw away and start over).

This brings us to the commonalities between hot yoga and Vinyasa yoga (and their adherents, insomuch as they stick to one or the other, which many do). Examining the commonalities is always a pertinent first step before trying to define apparent differences.

Both are a type of yoga, which is aimed at union…union of body, mind, and spirit, and union of individuals with a higher Self within (and which possibly permeates the universe). Union of thought, word, and deed.

Yogis see yoga like a lotus flower, with many petals. The physical practice (at its core defined as hatha yoga) is just one petal. Within this petal are the many fibers of the various physical practices; hot, Vinyasa, Kundalini, yin, traditional hatha, etc. Other petals of yoga are bhakti (devotion, praise, and gratitude), seva (service to others), among many others.

In our commercial-based western society, we perceive these as separate and distinct. We try to find the best petal, and throw the rest of the flower away. Many argue that only devotion, or service, or praise, or meditation, or physical practice is the real yoga. Each tries to create ‘product differentiators’ to show how their brand of yoga is better religion, theology, or exercise. Each tries to develop new ‘products’ (types of or interpretations of …or focus on one of the petals as the best one…to the exclusion of all others. Each yoga ‘product’ is tailored to meet the desires of untapped segments of the ‘market.’ It’s taken a path toward enlightenment (or at least improved control over/acceptance of/union of) body, heart, and mind and turned it into the business of yoga, the marketplace of yoga, a growth industry, a financial cash cow for the merchants who peddle it.

In reality, it is just petals on a flower. Each has something beautiful to offer, each is needed for a complete understand or practice of yoga, each has meaning and value only when taken in context of (and conjunction with) the other petals of the flower. With that said, I will nevertheless try to ‘differentiate’ between ‘products’ as an entertaining and possibly instructive game, or as a way to document my thoughts of today for later review and consideration. Here goes…

First, back to the commonalities. Hot and Vinyasa are both types of physical practice, and thus parts of the same single petal on the flower of yoga. Both rely on the breath to calm and still the mind, to control, relax, and energize the body/mind/spirit complex at various appropriate times. Both help increase physical and neurological well-being. Both bring us together not as athletes or people with some low goal, but as brothers and sisters, as aspirants in a lifelong practice with no definite or even achievable goal. We just point to the light and start walking…or dancing.

Both practices rely on the drishti (calm focus of attention, concentration, consciousness) to facilitate the physical and mental changes going on underneath the surface. In the ‘western world’, both are mostly taught by super-fit young twenty-somethings in tight, fashionable, and expensive yoga clothes.

Both are often praised (or feared) as a sort of cult, religion, tribe apart from the desire-filled, greed-based majority of the world. Both are greatly misunderstood – by yogis and non-yogis alike. Both can better be implemented (acted out or manifested, if you prefer) with gentleness and allowing than with effort or trying. There are so many commonalities, it would take a tome (and has) to begin to describe them all.

The differences is what we Americans generally like, though, what we focus on. Which is better for us? Which will fit our ideas or images of ourselves better, help us lose more weight or get closer to the Divine? I get it, and will play along.

In general, hot yogis seem to love (take sanctuary in) the predictability, in the ostensible regimentation. They seem to like the heat, the sweat, the effort as cathartic, as undeniable indications that they are doing something, going somewhere. They want and get results…now; a pile of sweat and five pounds of water weight (and associated toxins) lost.

Hot yogis seem to be more pragmatic and determined. The might even seem a bit more grim in their seriousness about their practices. They are almost definitely more perfunctory; they show up early, generally stay (and sweat) in the same place day after day, if they can. They take class at the same hour(s) each day, and want the same instructor on that day. Their routines seem to vary little…and they like it that way.

Hot yogis often seem to eschew the potential religious, theological, spiritual aspects of yoga, preferring instead the tangible efforts and rewards of the physical realm. To many, it is just exercise, and they like it like that. They don’t want to be pestered with pesky OMs and spiritual ramblings. They have to get to work soon, and they only have one hour to get down and sweat it out, get their workout in. They don’t want to trouble their mind with new concepts that may conflict with their world views, religious preferences (or lack of them), or whatever. They want it like they want it, and that’s that.

Now of course, trying to generalize people and categorize them is a fool’s errand, one which we authors seem to love engaging in, even though we know it for what it is. Maybe it’s simply fun and passes the time between yoga classes, hikes, and pedaling (or skiing or snowboarding or climbing or riding). But (feeling like the old prejudiced ignoramus who said -back in the bad old days- that all African Americans were lazy, or all Native Americans were drunks), I’ll continue, since I took this thread this far.

Vinyasa yogis seem more about the devotional aspects of the physical practice. They like to invoke the pranavah; to AUM (OM) together, or sing kirtan (songs of praise, often in Sanskrit) and mantras (healing or focusing sounds and vibrations). They seem to dig the variability of various vinyasa flows (sequences). They most definitely seem to like the fact they can flow and they (nor I next to them) gets covered in icky, unsightly (and possibly stinky) sweat.

Yet we yogis are about union. Yoga means union. We are not about division or distinction, not about discrimination or determination. We are about experience, the special intimate inner experience and transformation that only the individual aspirant can know (through their own direct experience, and shared with the experiences of others, without judgment).

While the two ‘types’ of yogis may seem different, in the end they are the same. In the end, their eyes shine and they hug me…and the world. In the end, they experience the almost magical transformation a continued yoga practice eventually brings. And funnt enough, those same dedicated Vinyasa yogis you see at 9AM every day may also be the dedicated ‘hot’ yogis you see at 6AM (or whenever) every day as well. Surprise, surprise.

Maybe we’re all just yogis after all, each on different parts of our personal paths. Maybe you are a yogi as well, even if you don’t practice (for the beginning and pre-beginning are also parts of the path). Maybe we’re all yogis of the sort, inextricably united by the primary engine of yoga…the breath, which we cannot escape sharing with the entire planet. Maybe we are not just 7 billion shipmates on a rock hurtling through space, bnut seven billion yogi shipmates, untied by breath, despite our apparent or ostensible differences, united in spite of them. United. Yoga. Mmmm. AUMmmmmm


‘…and the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine…’

-The Indigo Girls

(c) 2016, Mark Francis Mullen. All rights reserved. Facebook or no other entity owns or is entitled to unassigned rights to this document. It may be shared for free (with credit given to the author), as defined in applicable international copyright laws. I in no way allow rights to this document by virtue of publishing it on the original ‘blogging website’ or subsequent ‘posts’ or ‘shares’ on Facebook or other social media.
Photo credit Radiance Power Yoga (I’m pretty sure)


life, meditation, yoga

Yoga – The Next Level

Whether in active yoga practice or ordinary’ life, we all eventually reach a point where we plateau, reach a sort of homeostasis or acceptance of our state of development…and possibly stagnate there. Satisfied with our development to this point, we may ‘rest on our laurels’ and stop the ongoing growth that is the essence of life. If this goes on long enough, the trend can change from growth and anabolism to decay and catabolism – physical, mental, and spiritual.

Like strings of a guitar or harp, we need to be tuned regularly, kept in a state of alignment and balance conducive to growth. Like plants, we need the right environment for continued growth. Like humans, we need to be actively interested and participating in life, consciously moving forward on all fronts, or we tend to slowly disengage and begin an inevitable decline, in both will, dreams, and ability.

This is in keeping with the laws of physics and science; bodies at rest tend to stay at rest, and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Homeostasis is naturally sought on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Yet without practice (and the resultant growth), we tend towards entropy, towards dissolution, decay, and chaos. This is the second law of thermodynamics, and a law of yoga and life. Through our practice, through constant mindfulness and growth, we prevent this trend, harness the physical (and other layer) laws that tend to support our growth and practice.

In yoga, this tendency for unconscious self-limitation can be seen on the physical level as placidity in practice, of an acceptance of current, perceived limitations and/or of state of development. I can do a good crow pose, so I make a check in the box in my mind marked ‘crow.’ I then begin to automatically perform the posture, failing to continue to strive for a fuller and more engaged manifestation of the pose. Refinements to the pose (such as one-legged crow, etc.) fall from my mind, as in it I think I already can ‘do’ crow, and there is nothing left to do.

On the mental level, this is also manifest in a similar type of entropy; I meditate regularly, and find content and peace therein. I then fall into the trap of not being present in my meditation, but only in the way I typically ‘perform’ meditation. I am ‘done,’ a successful meditator who can no longer learn anything from the practice. At best, I think I can maintain my state. The idea that there may be new, undiscovered levels of practice eludes me.

The same occurs on the spiritual level. I might believe that I see God in all things and that I maintain an active and harmonious relationship with the Divine, staying tuned in to and constantly practicing Ishvara Pranidhana, gratitude, presence, and non-duality. Once I have manifested all the virtues, my ego tells me that the list is complete, the check marks are all filled in, and there is nothing left to do. In my social life, I may think that I embody compassion and service, and thus limit myself from new potential levels of compassion and service.

An empty cup does not mean only an open mind and heart; it means a continuously new ‘beginner’s mind,’ open to new experience and new levels of growth, understanding, presence, and manifestation.That is the great secret of both yoga practice and life; the journey is never over. We never arrive, never ‘get there.’ There are always new levels of growth, development, and integration possible – if we remain open to them.

The gross is an indication of the subtle. My physical state is a metaphor for the state of my overall being. The lessons I learn on the physical level apply in the mental, spiritual, and social levels. As I limit myself in the physical expression of yoga (‘I could never do lotus pose, or peacock), I express a limitation in my mental self (the perception that those levels of strength, endurance, flexibility, and presence are unavailable to me or inaccessible (or undesirable) to me, due to age, physical limitations, or whatever reason my mind comes up with).

One thing is sure – if I believe these states of being (for yoga postures are more than mere physical attitudes or poses, they represent states of being) are impossible, I will indeed never be able to achieve them. In the wise words of the fictional sage:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours.”

        -Don Shimoda

So while the gross (my present physical state) may manifest the subtle (my inner state), the subtle also precedes the gross. An idea or possibility must first be born in my mind before it can become manifested in outward ‘reality.’ Yet the mere knowledge that the possibility exists (say of performing peacock posture) is worthless without the practice: the actions necessary to actually manifest this state, to slowly move towards (and perhaps eventually achieve) the state. Without desire and will, no practice is possible. First the possibility must exist, and then the motivation to make that possibility into a reality (or at least proceed towards the goal in a dedicated fashion).

This is where yogic wisdom helps us…in the concept of acting without regard to the fruits of our actions, without attachment to them. We perform the practice faced in the direction of a theoretical goal, yet have no expectations of an end result or specific achievement. The fruits of practice are found along the way, not at some mythical endpoint or destination. You never arrive at the destination. The journey is the destination, and if you are focused on a goal in the future, you will miss the actual journey.

Yet some general goal must be held in mind, some inner compass or direction for our simultaneous and integrated physical, mental, and spiritual development. We all find, or attempt to find this in various ways.

Instead of looking for areas in our lives where we can find new growth, development, or change, perhaps we can look for areas that we think we are ‘done with,’ and look closely to see if we are missing opportunities for new growth and expansion in these areas. Who can truly ever manifest enough kindness, love, and compassion? When do we reach a limit on the amount of service we can give to ourselves and others? Is there and endpoint goal of gratitude or presence, where we are at a state where no more is possible? Can you ever be too strong or flexible, physically or mentally?

Just the idea of such untapped growth potential is exciting and reassuring. The mere idea of so much unexplored and undeveloped space within our physical, mental, and spiritual selves is cause for celebration. For the final frontier is within us, a vast, uncharted region ripe for exploration.  

So the next level of yoga is always before us…and behind us. It is all around us. We proceed not only in one direction along a single plane of reality, but shine and expand outwards, in all possible directions and planes. Growth is possible in all areas of our lives; improvement is possible is all facets of being. Yet this expansion and growth is accomplished more with mindful acceptance than it is with striving. Motivation, effort, and practice are surely needed, general goals are essential. Yet without allowing, performing the actions more out of love than of obligation or seeking, do we find the possibility of continued manifestation and growth.

This growth is not linear and sequential, but flies upward on a curve, like a snowball gaining momentum as it rolls downhill, or a feather as it is borne upward on the wind. As we practice, we are truly borne on these divine winds. As we practice, we develop our wings, that we may be borne more surely on them.

We may fly, but must also flap our wings sometimes to do so. Sometimes we may soar and glide, almost effortlessly. We move between the state, in and out of balance, flying, moving, soaring forward…into the present, into the future, borne on the divine winds of change and the wings of our practice.

AUM, Shanti


: )


Yogasana – Holy Bird Pose

Garuda is a holy bird, in Vedic mythology. It is the bird on which Vishnu and Lakshmi rode, an enormous being whose size blotted out the sun. It is the ancient ancestor of the Phoenix.


The garuda is also part of Buddhist mythology. It is the national symbol of Indonesia. Garuda bears us to heights unimaginable, if we are worthy. Garuda has many names: Chirada, Gaganeshvara, Kamayusha, Kashyapi, Khageshvara, Nagantaka, Sitanana, Sudhahara, Suparna, Tarkshya, Vainateya, Vishnuratha and others.

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Garuda is honored in mantra (Garudi Vidya), and an Upanishad is dedicated to it (Garudopanishad) as well as a purana (Garuda Purana). The Garuda is more than just a vahana (mount) for Vishnu. The garuda is honored (and manifested as well) in the yoga asana (posture) Garudasana, called Eagle Pose in the vulgar.

Holy Bird posture evokes Garuda, the aspects of strength and gentleness, and much more. It invokes so much more in us than simple Eagle posture. In Eagle, we may wonder what this twisting contortion has to do with an eagle. In Holy Bird, the meaning is clear.

English: The garuda (phoenix-like bird in hind...

English: The garuda (phoenix-like bird in hindu/buddhist mythology) on the top of Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan Français : Le garuda sur le toit du Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, préfecture de Kyoto, Japon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Garuda is so much more than an eagle.

We experience this in Garudasana, the coiled energy, waiting to be released, the stillness and ease to be found at that point of maximum compression.

Garudasana is a cathartic pose, releasing toxins and mental stress in the midst of apparent effort. Garudasana is a paradox. It is one of those poses that seem impossible to ever achieve, especially to a beginner. I recall thinking it was physically impossible to ever get the wrap of arms and wrists, knees and elbows. There just didn’t seem to be enough room to fit into the pose. It wasn’t until I allowed the possibility of never achieving full expression of the pose that I had a hope of ever getting there. It wasn’t until I manifested allowing in my life that I started to allow myself to finally wrap my legs into that impossible, impossibly joyous wrap.

English: Rája Garudasana Português: Rája Garud...

English: Rája Garudasana Português: Rája Garudásana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With all our energy focused on the centerline, we force the energy upwards, towards the sahasrara. In this compression, we find expansion. In this constriction, we find release. In this diamond-point focus, we find balance.

Garudasana is the vehicle to evoke the Phoenix in me, the Holy Bird rising in flames, out of the ashes of old. It is my detox, my Viagra, my cup of coffee. In Garudasana, I enter the holy temple, the sacred shrine, the infinite cathedral found in the mortal. Garudasana transports us, as legend has it bearing Vishnu.

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In Hindu mythology, Vishnu is the sustaining aspect of Divinity. Garuda also transports Lakshmi, goddess of love, of bhakti (devotion and praise). She is Durga, Earth Mother, and goddess of prosperity. She is the female incarnation of Vishnu.


Garudasana transports the sustaining and nurturing power within us. It is the lovers’ pose.

Through Garuda, we contact the sustaining energy within ourselves, the sustaining principle of Divinity. Through Garudasana, we approach Vishnu. Yes, this unlikely pose is like a diamond in the rough. It bears many hidden secrets for those willing to endure the rigors.

So the next time you find yourself trying to ‘live through’ stupid ole eagle pose, remember what Garudasana really is. The next time a yoga teacher tells you to do Eagle pose, you know what they mean…let your Holy Bird fly!


chakra science, meditation, yoga

Taiitriya Upanishad

Lessons on the Upanishads

by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: The Taittiriya Upanishad

Until now, we have been passing through the foundational doctrine of the Upanishads – namely, the nature of the Ultimate Reality. What is there, finally? In several ways we have been told that whatever is there, finally, can be only a single Reality and it cannot be more than one. This concept was corroborated by a famous mantra that I quoted from the Rig Veda Samhita – ekam sat: “Existence is one only.” The Ultimate Being is Existence. Being and Existence mean the same thing. That which exists cannot be more than one.

Everything has to exist, in some form or the other. Trees exist, stones exist, you exist, I exist, mountains exist, stars exist – all things exist. Existence is a common factor underlying every modification thereof as name and form. Whatever be the variety that is perceivable, all this variety is, at its root, an existence of something. Something has to exist, whatever that something be. The Real cannot be non-existent, because even the concept of non-existence would be impossible unless it is related to the existence of the concept itself. So the Upanishads say: “This Existence is supreme, complete, universal, all-pervading, the only Being.” Because It is all-pervading and filling all space, very large in its extent, it is called Brahman. That which fills, That which swells, That which expands, That which is everywhere and is all things – That is the plenum, the completeness, the fullness of Reality; and That is called Brahman in the Sanskrit language. Brahma-vid apnoti param (Tait. 2.1.1), says the Taittiriya Upanishad: “Whoever realises this Brahman attains to the Supreme Felicity.” It is so because of the fact that when anyone contacts Pure Existence, that contact is equal to the contact of all things. It is like touching the very bottom of the sea of Reality. Hence, Brahman is All-Existence. The knowing of it is of paramount importance.

The Upanishads highlight various ways and means of attaining this Supreme Brahman. The principal method prescribed is direct inward communion with that Reality. Direct inward communion is called meditation. Deep thought, profound thinking and a fundamental, basic feeling for it – longing for it, and getting oneself convinced about one’s non-difference from it because of its being All-Existence – is the great meditational technique of the Upanishads. Inasmuch as this meditation is nothing but the affirmation of the knowledge of the universal existence of Brahman, it is also calledjnana, the path of wisdom. The meditation of the Upanishads is the affirmation of the wisdom of the nature of Brahman. Whoever knows this Brahman attains the Supreme Being. Brahma-vid apnoti paramtad eshabhyuktasatyam jnanam anantam brahma(Tait. 2.1.1). How do we define this Brahman? Satyam jnanam anantam: This is the name of the Supreme Being. It is Pure Existence, satyam, Ultimate Truth. It is Omniscience, All-Knowledge, so it is called jnanam. It is everywhere, infinite; therefore, it is called anantam. What is Brahman? Satyam jnanam anantam brahma.

Yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman so’snute sarvan kaman saha brahmana vipascita (Tait. 2.1.1). This is an oracle in the second section of the Taittiriya Upanishad which gives us the secret of the final attainment of bliss and freedom. This satyam jnanam anantam brahma, this Supreme Truth-Knowledge-Bliss-Infinity is, of course, as has been mentioned before, everywhere. It is also hidden deeply in the cave of your own heart – nihitam guhayamGuha is the cave, the deepest recess of your own being. That is verily this Ultimate Being. You have to be very cautious in not allowing this thought to slip out at any time – namely, your deepest recess of existence cannot be outside the deepest recess of the cosmos. The all-encompassing nature of Brahman also envelops your basic being.

When this universal Brahman is conceived as the deepest reality of an individual, it is called the Atman – the essential Self of anything. It is the essential Self and not the physical, not the mental, not even the causal sheath of your personality; all of these, as you know very well, get negated in another condition of your being – namely, deep sleep. The analysis of deep sleep is a master key to open the gates of the secret of your own existence. Neither the body, nor the mind, nor this so-called ignorant sheath can be considered as your own reality. Blissful sleep cannot be a condition of ignorance, because the experience of bliss has to go together with a kind of consciousness of that experience. This essential Being of yours indicates the character of the Universal Reality also. It is a sense of freedom and bliss that you enjoy when you come in contact with It. Do you not feel free and happy when you go into a state of deep sleep? Can the freedom and the happiness of sleep be compared with any other pleasure of this world? Even a king who cannot sleep for days together would ask for the boon of being able to sleep for some days, rather than having a vast, material kingdom. To go into your own Self is the best achievement, the highest attainment, whereas to go outside yourself, however far beyond you may go, is that much the worse for you. Knowledge of the Self is knowledge of the Absolute. Atma-jnana is alsoBrahma-jnana. The knowledge of the deepest in you is also the knowledge of the essential secret of the universe. So, whoever knows that supreme satyam jnanam anantam, Truth-Knowledge-Infinity, as hidden in the cave of one’s own heart, directly comes in contact with that satyam jnanam anantam brahma. Simultaneously, you begin to feel a bliss of contact with all things. Saha brahmana vipascita so’nute sarvan kaman: “All desires get fulfilled there in an instant.”

In this world, to fulfil different desires, you have to employ different means. There, a single means is enough to give you the happiness of everything – not one thing after the other, successively, but simultaneously, instantaneously. In your current state, if you have one pleasure, you cannot have another pleasure at the same time, and if you want to have a third kind of pleasure, the first two must go. Thus, you cannot have varieties of pleasure at the same time because of the conditioning factor introduced by the sense organs in such experience. Your senses do not give you simultaneous knowledge of anything. When one thing is happening, another thing is forgotten. But in the contact of Brahman, there is simultaneous knowledge of all things. At one stroke everything is known, and everything is enjoyed also. It is impossible for us mortals, thinking through the sense organs and through this body, to imagine what it could be to enjoy all things at the same time.

It is not merely possessing a kingdom; that also may look like a happiness which is sudden and simultaneous. A king who is the ruler of this whole world may imagine that he has simultaneous happiness of the entire kingdom of the earth. “The entire earth is mine,” the king may feel. But the entire earth stands outside the king. The experiencing consciousness of the king does not hold under his grip or possession this vast earth that he considers as the means of his satisfaction. So the king’s happiness is a futile, imaginary pleasure; really, he does not possess the world. The world stands outside. If the object of experience stands outside the experience, the experience cannot be regarded as complete. Unless the object of experience enters into you and becomes part and parcel of your own existence, you will not be able to enjoy that object. All objects cause anxiety in the mind because they stand outside the experiencing consciousness. Even if you have a heap of gold in the grip of your palm, it cannot cause you happiness. It will only cause anxieties of different types – such as how to keep it, how to use it, how to protect it, how not to lose it, and how to see that it is not leading you to bereavement. The possessor of gold and silver is filled with anxieties, and that person cannot sleep well. Even a king cannot sleep well because of the fear of attack from sources that are external to him. To be secure under conditions which are totally external to yourself is hard, indeed, to imagine.

Brahman experience is not an object of contact; it is an identity. The object is the experiencing consciousness itself. The content of awareness becomes the awareness; existence and consciousness merge into each other. Sat becomes chitchit becomessat. It is not actually one thing becoming another thing; the one thing is the other thing. Existence is nothing but the consciousness of existence. When you say that you exist, you are at the same time affirming that you are conscious that you exist. You are not merely existing, minus the consciousness of existence. It is not an appendage that is added on to existence in the form of consciousness. Consciousness is not a quality or an attribute of existence, like the greenness of a leaf or the redness of a flower – nothing of the kind. You cannot consider consciousness to be connected to existence; itis existence. Actually, existence-consciousness means consciousness which is – or existence which is aware of its existence. In that state, which is called Brahman-knowledge or Brahman-experience, there is simultaneous experience of all things. There is all-existence, a simultaneous knowledge of all things – omniscience, a simultaneous taneous enjoyment of all things, and perfect freedom. It is perfect freedom because there is nothing to obstruct your freedom in that state. Here, in this world, whatever freedom you may have is limited by the existence of other things in this world. Your freedom is limited by the freedom of another person and, therefore, your freedom is limited to that extent. You cannot have unlimited freedom in this world. But That (Brahman) is unlimited freedom. It is unlimited because anantam brahma: “Infinite is Brahman.”

Now you have, as students of this great doctrine of the Upanishads, questions of various types: “What is this world? We understand what you are saying. Now, what isthis world that we are seeing in front of us? How are we to reconcile this perceived world with that Great Thing that you are speaking of?” The cosmological scheme that follows in the very same Upanishad after this statement about the absoluteness of Brahman gives us a brief idea as to how we have to set in harmony the nature of this perceived world with the eternal existence of Brahman.

Tasmat va etasmat atmana akasas sambhutah (Tait. 2.1.1): “From this Universal Atman, space emanated” – as it were. This is something hard for us to conceive at the present moment. Space is actually the negation of the infinity of Brahman. Infinity does not mean extension or dimension – but space is extension, dimension, distance. So, immediately a contradiction is introduced at the very beginning of the concept of creation. God is negated, as it were, for various reasons, the moment creation is conceived, one reason being that the creation appears as an external manifestation, whereas God – Brahman – is the Universal Existence. We know the difference between universality and externality. The moment there is the concept of space, there is also automatically introduced into it the concept of time. We cannot separate space and time. Duration and extension go together. Actually, according to modern findings at least, space and time are not dead appearances, lifeless presentations before us. For us, to our common perception, spatial extension may look like a lifeless dimension which does not speak, which does not think, which has nothing to say. Time also seems to be some kind of movement which has no brain to think; it is like a machine moving like a bulldozer in some direction. This is what we may think with our paltry, inadequate knowledge of what space and time are. Space and time are not dead things; they are basic vibrations of the cosmos. Motion goes together with space-time. Not only according to modern scientific terminology, but also in the ancient thought of the Agama and Tantra, one may say that the concept of space-time goes together with motion, force.

A tremendous vibration, an uncanny force is generated the moment there is the beginning of what we call creation. It is a central point that begins to vibrate – bindu, as it is called in the Agama Shastra. Bindu is a point. It is not a point which is geometrical, which has a nucleus; it is a cosmic point, a centre which is everywhere with a circumference nowhere, as people generally say. It is a point that is everywhere, which is inconceivable to ordinary thought. It is a tremendous vibratory centre. Modern astronomy also seems to be hinging on this point when it concludes there was a ‘big bang’ when creation took place – a splitting of the cosmic atom. The atom should not be considered as a little particle; it is a cosmic centre. The entire space-time arrangement is one point, like an egg – brahmanda, as it is called. A globular structure is easy to conceive, and so we call it an ‘anda’, a kind of egg – a cosmic egg. Tadandam abhavat haimam sahasramsh samaprabham (Manu 1.9) says the Manusmriti: “Even millions of suns cannot be equal in brilliance to that cosmic spot.” Therefore, it is not a point as we can geometrically imagine. It is an inconceivable point.

The Universal cannot be thought by the mind and, therefore, that cosmic point also cannot be really thought of. Astronomers call it the cosmic atom. But the word ‘atom’ has such peculiar suggestiveness to our thinking mind that often we are likely to slip into the thought of it being a little, small thing. The smallness and the bigness question does not arise there. In that condition, we cannot say what is small and what is big. “Who is a tall man?” If I ask you this, whom will you bring? “Bring a short man.” These are all relative terms. In comparison with a tall man, someone may look short, etc. So there is no such thing as a tall man or a short man, a long shirt or a short shirt; they are comparative words. So, too, we cannot say what kind of atom it was. Therefore, they call it brahmanda; and it split, we are told, into two halves. What kind of halves they are is not very clear. The subject and the object, can we say? The Cosmic Subject and the Cosmic Object can be two halves of the cosmic egg – or we may say it is the Cosmic Awareness meeting with the Cosmic Object, which is material in its nature. The materiality of the object follows automatically from its segregation from the perceiving consciousness. The concept of matter also has to be very carefully noted. Here, in this condition, ‘matter’ actually means a hard stone or granite or a brick; it is also a vibration. The Samkhya definition of prakriti, in its highest condition, is not in the form of a solid object but a vibratory condition of a tripartite nature – sattvarajas and tamas. Certain Upanishads analogically tell us that these two halves of the cosmic egg are something like the two halves of a split pea. The pea is one whole, but it has two halves.

Everything in the world has a subjective side and an objective side. I conceive of myself as a subject and, for some other reason, I also conceive of myself as an object. The impact that is produced upon me by conditions that are not me may make me feel that I am an object, but the impact that I produce on the external conditions may make me feel that I am a subject. That which exists outside my perceiving consciousness may make me conceive of myself as a subject of perception, but the presence of such an object for itself will appear as an object. This dualism, cosmically introduced at the very beginning of things, is the subject of all the religious doctrines of creation, wherever one may go in this world. God created the world, somehow. This ‘somehow’ brings in this peculiarity of the externalisation of God’s Universality. “The Supreme Purusha sacrificed Himself as this cosmos,” says the Purusha Sukta. The supreme alienation of the Universal into the supreme externality is called creation. God alienated Himself, as it were, in the form of this large, vast, perceived world. He has become this vast world. I mentioned to you previously the difficulty arising out of using such words as ‘becoming’, ‘transforming’, etc. I will not go into that subject once again. These words have to be understood in their proper connotation and signification.

Tasmat va etasmat atmana akasas sambhutah (Tait. 2.1.1): This fundamental cosmic space-time-motion, or vibration, became more and more gross in the form of wind –vayu. Actually, the word ‘vayu‘ used here should not be taken in the sense of what we breathe through the nostrils. It is, again, a vibration of a vital nature, which we callprana. An energy manifested itself; cosmic energy emanated, as it were, from this basic vibratory centre which is the space-time-motion complex, to put it in a modern, intelligible style. The solidification, condensation and more and more externalisation of the preceding one in the succeeding stage is actually the process of the coming of what is called the elements. From space, or akasha, arose vayu; from vayu, or air, came friction – heat, or fire; from there came the liquefied form, water; and then came the solid form of the earth.

Tasmad va etasmad atmana akasa sambhutahakasad vayuhvayor agnih, agner apahadbhyah prthiviprthivya osadhayah (Tait. 2.1.1): “All vegetation started from the earth.” Osadhibhyo annam: The diet that we consume is nothing but the vegetation growing on earth. Annat purushah: Our personality is an adumbration, solidification, concretisation, clarification – whatever we may call it – of the food that we eat. In the personality of the human being we find in a miniature form all that has come cosmically down to the earth, right from the Supreme Brahman – satyam jnanam anantam brahma. So the universe is called brahmanda and the individual is called pindanda. The macrocosm is the universe, and the microcosm, or the individual, is a cross-section of the macrocosm. All that is in the universe you will find in yourself. You are a miniature of creation. If you know yourself, you know the whole world. This is why it is said, “Know thyself and be free.” Nobody says “Go outside and know things.” It will not serve your purpose. Know yourself and all things are known, because you are the nearest thing that can be contacted and the nearest thing containing all things that are the furthest and the remotest. Therefore, the Ultimate Reality is also called the nearest and the furthest. Tad dure tad vad antike (Isa 5): “Very far is It” – in terms of the spatio-temporal expanse of creation; “Very near is It” – as the Self of your own existence.

The miniature individual, as I mentioned, has all the layers of the universe. These are the physicality of the lowest earth, the vibratory form of the prana, the mental creation or the mentation, the power of thought, which is reflected in the process of creation from the Ultimate Being Itself, and a peculiar negation that we experience in our own self in the form of the ultimate causality of sleep, which is comparable to the negation that was referred to just now in the form of the manifestation of space-time-motion. This individualised microcosmic representation of the cosmic layers is seen individually as a series of what is called the koshas, or the coverings of the consciousness in us. We may, in a way, say the whole universe is a covering up over Brahman.

The cosmic sheaths can be conceived, and they are really conceived many a time when we speak of Brahman becoming Ishvara, Ishvara becoming Hiranyagarbha, Hiranyagarbha becoming Virat, and so on. These sheaths in us – the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal – are the inverted forms of the otherwise-vertical, we may say, forms of the cosmic sheaths which are in the form of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether, going upwards from below. The Ultimate satyam jnanam anantam is negated, as it were, in this creation, because the Universal being is absent in all that is external. The word ‘external’ contradicts anything that can be considered as universal. In a way, God is denied in this world. We cannot see God anywhere; we see only particulars and spread-out things which are external in nature. Nevertheless, as the Isavasya Upanishad warns us, the so-called negated, abolished existence of the Supreme Reality is also hiddenly present as the Atman behind the earth, the Atman behind water, fire, air and ether. There is an Atman even behind space and time. Various degrees of the manifestation of universality can be seen in the operation of the five elements. The Universal is least manifest in the earth, more manifest in water, still more in fire, still more in air and still more in space, so that space looks almost universal, but yet it is not universal because it is externalised.

In a similar manner, in our own personality also, there is a degree of the manifestation of externality and materiality. The physical body is the most material and the most external, visible thing among other things. Very hard substance is this physical body and very external; we can see it with the eyes. The internal externalities are not so easily contactable, but yet are conceivable and observable through analysis. The so-called physicality and externality of the body is made to feel its existence, its very life itself, by the movement of a vibration inside, called prana shakti. When the pranaoperates through the cells of the body, we feel that the body is alive; every little fingertip, every toe is alive. It is alive, so-called, because of the prana pervading every part of the body. If the prana is withdrawn, there is paralytic stroke or even death of that particular part. If the prana is entirely withdrawn, the so-called living body becomes a corpse. It becomes dead matter – matter per se.

So our individuality, as a symbol of conscious existence, is a contribution; it comes from the prana, the vital energy that is operating within this body. But the prana is operating because of the thoughts of the mind. We can direct the prana, or the energy, in different directions by the concentration of thought of the mind. If the mind thinks only of one particular thing, the pranic energy is directed to that particular thing only. Little children look beautiful because of the equal distribution of pranic energy in their bodies. They do not have sensory desires projected through any particular organ. As the child grows and grows, he becomes less beautiful to look at because the senses begin to appropriate much of the pranic energy for their own individual operation. The senses become more and more active when we grow into adults or old men. But a little child is beautiful. Whether it is a king’s child or a beggar’s child, one cannot make a distinction; little children are so nice!

Therefore, the prana enlivens this body, but is itself conditioned by the thoughts of the mind, and the mind is a name that we give to an indeterminate way of thinking. “Something is there.” When we feel that something is there, but we do not actually know what is there, we are just indeterminately thinking. But when we are sure that something of a specific type is there – “Oh, I see. It is a tree. It is a lamppost. It is a human being” – this determined identification of the nature of a thing which was indeterminately thought by the mind is the work of the intellect, reason, or buddhi, as it is called. These layers are very clear now: the physical, the vital, the mental and the intellectual.

There is another thing that is totally indeterminate, and that is the condition of our experiences in deep sleep. It is a potential of all future experience and a repository of all past experiences. It clouds consciousness to such an extent that in deep sleep, when it is preponderating, we cannot even think. Thus, in this individuality of ours, in this microcosm that we are, there is a miniature representation of the cosmic creative process. As the peels of the onion constitute the onion, so these sheaths constitute our personality and even the cosmic creative process.

This is, briefly, what I can tell you about the essential teaching of one of the sections of the Taittiriya Upanishad, which tells us three things. The first teaching is that the Ultimate Reality is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, and it is hidden in the cave of the heart of every individual – knowing which, one becomes all things and enjoys perfect freedom and bliss. The second teaching is that all things that we call the universal manifestation emanate from this Supreme Being only. The third teaching is that we, as individuals, are also part and parcel of this creation and we have in us a miniature representation of everything that is manifest cosmically. For the time being, this is enough for you as far as the Taittiriya Upanishad is concerned.

The Mandukya Upanishad goes deeper into this teaching of the Taittiriya Upanishad by an analysis of the states of consciousness that seem to be involved in the categorisation of the sheaths. The involvement of the basic Atman-consciousness in us, in the sheaths – gradationally – becomes experience, which is waking, dreaming and deep sleep – jagratswapna andsushupti.

Buddhism, meditation, yoga

Jana Samooha Kadamai


Dear Sri Balaji,

Some nice insights have been given by learned devotees
to your question on Dheergaayush.

May I be permitted to add the following,  drawing some
inputs from Taittria upanishad and Katopanishad.?

The very purpose of creation is to provide congenial
atmosphere for the jivas to take up sariram so that it
can discharge its karma and aim for libeartion.

To use the  Vedic language, the jiva is capable of
discharging its functions of  karma / rituals (karma
kanda) and realisation of the brahman (brahma kanda /
gyana kanda), only when it is enshrined in a sariram.
It might take many births (bodies) to perform these
two. But to the enlightened jiva, i.e., for the jiva
which knows how it has to conduct  the journey, it is
desirable to finish the show as early as possible and
attain liberation. That is why one is blessed to live
a long life.

In the first category,  discharge of karma comes in
the course of what you call   ‘jana samooha kadamai’.
These have been laid down in many texts and in
particular in Taiittriya Upanishad as  ‘swadhyaayam
and pravachanam’ , meaning that which have to be done
compulsorily and as  a way of life.

In the course of one’s life, the person passes through
four ashrama  levels and of the four, that of the
grihasthashrama has been identified as the most
important one. Because it is  the grihastha on whom
others are dependent. It is he who has to carry out
multiplication of material wealth  for the sake of
taking care of his immediate dependents and also of 
the needs of the other ashrama- vaasis.
He has to bear the  responsibility and duty
(swadhyayam and pravachanam) of taking care of others.
He has to do as many as 40 samskaras that directly or
indirectly benefit other ashrama –vaasis and also
other forms of creation. 

He has to make offerings and sacrifices for the
benefit of the society.

These  samskaras create in him certain rights and
previleges not possessed before, to enter upon certain
duties and responsibilities for attaining the goal of
perfection. This requires that he has a healthy body
and long life.

The Taiitriyam  addresses the sishya ( the
brahmachari)as a Pracheena yogyan  and lists down what
all he has to do after  leaving the guru kulam. These
duties are characterised as “Tapas” by  Rishi Naga,
the son of Modhgalya.

The foremost purpose of blessing one with long life is
that he may be capable of performing this “TAPAS” in
all effectiveness. The blessing ‘padinaarum petru peru
vaazhvu vaazhga’ is to emphasise that the person be
endowed with the 16 types of wealth in order to
discharge his ‘jana samooha kadamai’ effectively.

In the second category,  the need for a long life is
for one’s  own spiritual development. 
We can find reference to the importance of the body in

In his reply to Nachikrtas’s last question, Yama
dharmarajan tells about the means of reaching Sri
vaikuntham .Yama says that the sariram (body) is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri vaikuntham. “The
jivan enshrined in the body enjoys  paramaanandham in
Sri Vaikuntham. Therefore treat the sariram as a
vehicle capable of transporting the jivan to

“AthmAnam rathinam vidhdhi, SarIram rathamEva thu/”
Bhudhdhim thu sArathim vidhdhi mana: pragrahamEva
IndriyANi hayAnAhUr vishayAn thEshu gocharAn/
AthmEndriyamanoyuktam bhOkhthEthyAhur manishina://

Yama asks Nachiketas to treat the SarIram as a
chariot. The jiva is the yajaman of the chariot. And
Bhudhdhi is the charioteer. The chariot is being drawn
by the horses which are nothing but the Indriyas and
it is for the Bhuddhi (charioteer) to control / rein
them using the manas. The horse may stary  anywhere as
they like, but unless the charioteer guides the horses
properly , he can not take the Yajaman (the jiva –
Bhokhtha) to his ultimate destination, Sri vaikuntham.
In the journey, the chriot, namely, the body is an
imporatnt carrier bacause, in the absence of it , the
yajaman can not undertake his journey. That is why
Yama concludes in his answer that the body is the
vehicle for the jiva to reach Sri Vaikutham. 

When blessed with a long life, for the prapannan, or
even for the one who takes rejoice in doing the
Kainkaryam, every day in the sariram is a blessed day.
“ettraikkum, EzhEzh piravikkum, undranOdu utromE yAvOm
unakkE nA mAtchaivOm.
 “Matru nam kAmangal mAtru”

A pretty long life, even in good many births is
something great to ask for,
provided  the jiva  knows how  to conduct its journey
well for the purposes it has been ordained to.

Jayasree sarnatahn

This is a post from Sri Vaishnava on Ramanuja.org web page (http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/jul2002/0065.html). More blog posts to come on this subject.


AUM, Shanti