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Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy

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It is good for the aspiring yogi to have some theoretical knowledge of his subtle anatomy, for that is the inner mechanism which comes more and more into function on the conscious level as he progresses further and further toward enlightenment. The three major channels within our subtle bodies, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, carry not only the movements of the highest, rarefied spiritual energies which evolve us, but through them consciousness itself moves and manifests.

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The supreme center of conscious in the individual is the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus located in the head, corresponding to the brain, for it is the astral and causal brain. It is the place where Self-realization takes place, and where we should keep our awareness centered. For in the head we find the Brahmanadi, the channel in which the consciousness rises upward from the body into the head, through which it moves as liberation is attained, and through which we ascend beyond the bodies into Spirit Itself at the time of death.

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It is crucial for the yogi to realize that the chakras and major nadis found in the body are only subordinate reflections of the chakras and nadis in the head, where true sadhana takes place and true enlightenment occurs.

In meditation yogis experience the reality of these things which at first encounter in yogic texts may seem baseless mythologies. But this is the glory of yoga: we can experience those realities for ourselves. Many yogis have doubted various statements or descriptions in the ancient texts, but as they progressed in their practice they experienced the truth of those statements for themselves, much to their surprise.

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Leave the downward path and come to the central path. The central path of the sushumna leads directly upward into the Sahasrara, the place of liberation.

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The beginningless and endless Infinite is embodied in the Sahasrara-chidakasha. “If a thousand suns should rise together in the sky, such splendor would be like the brilliance of that Great Being” (Bhagavad Gita 11:12). And that Great Being is revealed in the Sahasrara-chidakasha when the attention of the yogi is always oriented toward that both in and outside of meditation.

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Human beings are literally miniature universes. I remember vividly the first time I experienced this while meditating. I wrote about it in this way: “While meditating one day all ordinary physical sensation vanished. Spatial relation ceased to exist and I found myself keenly aware of being beyond dimension, neither large nor small, but infinite (for infinity is beyond size). Although the terminology is inappropriate to such a state, to make it somewhat understandable I have to say that I perceived an infinity of worlds ‘within’ me. Suns–some solo and others surrounded by planets–glimmered inside my spaceless space. Not that I saw the light, but I felt or intuited it. Actually, I did not ‘see’ anything–and yet I did. It is not expressible in terms of ordinary sense experience, yet I must use those terms. I experienced myself as everything that existed within the relative material universe. Or so it seemed, for here, also, there are two interpretations, one dramatic and self-glorifying, and one the simple truth. The first opinion can be that I had come to experience myself as the totality of universal being, that I had realized that I myself was the Absolute Being, that God and I were the same entity, that I was God and God was All. And then the truth: The human body is a miniature universe, a microcosmic model of the macrocosm. The physical human body is a reflection of the universal womb that conceived it. I had experienced the subtle level of the physical body that is its ideational (i.e., causal) blueprint. On that level it can be experienced as a map of the material creation. Having experienced that for myself I now knew it to be true….” It is this mirroring of the universe that makes humans the highest organisms on the earth.

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Kundalini is essentially not energy (shakti), but the bliss consciousness of Shiva (Brahman). I learned this from Swami Rama of Hardwar many years ago when I was visiting his ashram at Ram Kunj. It is Brahmic Consciousness that must arise in our consciousness and unite us with Itself.

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Kundalini is the Brahma Jyoti which is the essence of the light of the sun. For the sun is formed of spiritual energies which gives life to all sentient beings on the earth and awakens and develops their consciousness. That is why at dawn and sunset the Gayatri Mantra, a prayer for enlightenment, is recited facing the sun. The Ajapa Gayatri, the Soham mantra, is the essential mantra for invoking the solar energies at all times, intoning So mentally during natural inhalation and intoning Ham (pronounced: “Hum”) mentally during natural exhalation. For more about this, see Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.

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An urdhvareta yogi is one in whose subtle energy system the pranas, the life energies, are predominately flowing upwards into the Sahasrara/Chidakasha in which our immortal, eternal Self abides, united with the Paramatma, the Supreme Self–the finite with the Infinite.

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That inner power which becomes wasted by flowing down and out must be conserved and directed upward into the head, into the sahasrara. Then nothing worthwhile remains unattainable to the yogi. When this is done, the subtle magnetism of the brain begins to draw the straying energies back inward and upward, literally making the yogi “whole.”

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Sahasrara awareness is an important help in daily sadhana, especially outside meditation when it is so easy to become distracted and lose the thread of spiritual awareness.

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Within the Sahasrara there is what yogis call “the Agni Mandala,” the sphere of internal fire. In the Fire of the Spirit all that is not either the Self or a purified and necessary vehicle of the Self will be consumed.

As Yogananda said, the book of Revelation in the Bible is not prophecy but a yoga treatise utilizing symbols to convey its message. (He wrote a commentary on the entire book, but it has not yet been published.) There the Agni Mandala is spoken of as a lake of fire: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.… And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:10-15).

These verses are symbolic representations (too complex to comment on here) of the final transmutation of the yogi’s entire being into divinity. The process is awesome and tremendous. Just after his resurrection the bodies of Jesus were undergoing this process. If anyone had touched him they might have been harmed by that divine energy-power, the way light can pain those with eye defects. That is why Jesus said to Saint Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). When the transmutation was complete, then he could be touched. When he appeared to the disciples he said: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39). And to Saint Thomas, who had not been there at his first appearance, he said: “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (John 20:27).

Next in Living the Yoga Life: The World

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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