Chapter Five of Om Yoga
“The visible form of fire, while it lies latent in its source, the firewood, is not perceived; yet there is no destruction of its subtle form. That very fire can be brought out by means of persistent rubbing of the wood, its source. In like manner, the Self, which exists in two states like fire, can be grasped in this very body by means of Om. By making the body the lower piece of wood and Om the upper piece and through the practice of the friction of meditation, one perceives the luminous Self, hidden like the fire in the wood” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1:13, 14).
The sole purpose of the cosmos is evolution, and this is especially true of the human body. Though frequently mistaken for an obstacle or distraction by spiritual seekers, the body is a perfect evolution machine, and its components should be known and worked with. At the same time it is essential for us to know what is significant and what is not, otherwise we can become lost in the complexity of the several energy systems that comprise the human organism.
The spiritual alchemy of yoga is a process that occurs when the entire internal mechanism (antahkarana) of the yogi is perfectly synchronized. Then the transmutation is inevitable and the internal mechanism opens the way into the kingdom of heaven–limitless consciousness.
Just as God is embodied in the multilevel manifestation we call creation or the universe, manifesting himself as the physical, astral, and causal cosmos while yet transcending it, in the same way each sentient being is embodied in a universe of his own, exteriorly finite but interiorly infinite. Neither God (the Paramatman) nor the individual spirit (the jivatman) evolve, for they are eternally perfect and unchangeable, but their “bodies” do evolve over ages beyond calculation. The evolution of the cosmic cosmos is consciously intentional, but the evolution of the individual cosmos is subliminal and therefore unconscious until it reaches a point where the individual spirit can comprehend and take charge of it consciously–in other words the point at which it becomes a yogi.
Responsiveness to yoga practice
We cannot lessen the innate effectiveness of Om Yoga, but we can certainly lessen or even prevent our responsiveness to it and the effect it will have on us. The bodies, physical, astral, and causal, are the vehicles through which the individual evolves during the span of life on earth, and must be taken into serious account by the yogi who will discover that they can exert a powerful, controlling effect on the mind. If wax and clay are cold they cannot be molded, nor will they take any impression. If molasses is cold it will hardly pour. It is all a matter of responsiveness. Only when warm are these substances malleable. In the same way, unless our inner and outer bodies are made responsive or reactive to the japa and meditation of Om we will miss many of the beneficial effects. Hence we should do everything we can to increase our response levels, to ensure that our physical and psychic bodies are moving at the highest possible rate of vibration and are functioning in harmony at the maximum level, and with perfect polarity and interaction between them. Diet and spiritual discipline, especially the observance of the yogic principles known as yama and niyama (which will be discussed later), are essential to successful yoga practice.
A kriya is a purificatory action, practice, exercise, or rite. Kriyas purify the body and nervous system as well as the subtle bodies to enable the yogi to reach and hold on to higher levels of consciousness and being. Therefore “Kriya Yoga” essentially means “Yoga of Purification” which removes all obstacles to Self-realization, the path to the Absolute. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjai says: “Austerity (tapasya), self-study (swadhyaya), and offering of the life to God (Ishwara pranidhana) are Kriya Yoga” (Yoga Sutras 2:1). Commenting on this verse from the Yoga Sutras, Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri Mahasaya said: “Constant japa of the Pranava, Omkar, which is self-revealing, and constant focus on it as the form of Ishwara, and dedicating all actions to it as if you are not the doer yourself; is Kriya Yoga.” Here we see from the words of the Yogiraj that Om Yoga is the heart of spiritual purification.
Just as the outer universe is a complex of many interrelated points such as suns and planets, in the same way the material and subtle bodies of the yogi–which reflect and react on one another–are a network of life energy points known as chakras. Chakras are points in the bodies into which the universal life force (vishwaprana) flows. Without that constant inflow the bodies would become dormant and disintegrate–would die. The chakras are both entrances and exits for the cosmic life power as well as reservoirs of that power and points of intelligent direction of the power. These are:
- The Muladhara, located at the base of the spine
- The Swadhishthana, located in the spine a little less than midway between the base of the spine and the area opposite the navel.
- The Manipura, located in the spine at the point opposite the navel.
- The Anahata, located in the spine opposite the midpoint of the sternum bone.
- The Vishuddha chakra, located in the spine opposite the hollow of the throat.
- The Ajna chakra, located at the point between the eyebrows–the “third eye.”
- The Brahmarandhra chakra, located at the crown of the head.
The nature and function of the chakras
1. Base (Muladhara) chakra. The Muladhara chakra deals with the purely physical, atomic structure of the body. Therefore its energies deal with healing, correcting and empowering the very cells and organs of the body. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as insight into all material phenomena and independence of them; negative energies manifest as totally material perceptions and impulses toward avid attachment to material things and disbelief in anything higher than matter.
2. Swadhishthana chakra. The Swadhishthana chakra deals with neurological energies, emotions and desires, including sex/lust. It involves all that is self-centered and egotistical in a person. Through its purification are corrected those areas of our physical and emotional life. It also deals with the fluids in the body including the lymph and blood when there is an abnormality there. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as gentleness, sensitivity to others’ feelings, helpfulness and even self-sacrifice; negative energies manifest as negative emotions such as anger, resentment, hatred, jealousy, envy and–most of all–lust.
3. Navel (Manipura) chakra. The Manipura chakra deals with the metabolism and the assimilative powers of the body. It, too, relates to desires, especially the desire to acquire, control and encompass. It relates to the digestive system as well. So those are the aspects of a person that correction of this chakra can affect. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as strength of will and purpose and a highly developed sense of order and right conduct; negative energies manifest as greed, possessiveness, negative ambition and materialistic involvements.
4. Heart (Anahata) chakra. The Anahata chakra deals with metabolism and controls the cardio-pulmonary system. It too deals with feelings, but feelings of higher affection and altruism. (It is still in the lower levels, so do not mistake its movements for true or spiritual love or devotion to God.) It also deals with the faculty of sight and therefore basic perception as well as lesser intuition. It has a lot to do with the immune and circulatory systems and controls the thymus gland in the center of the chest. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as loving-kindness, generosity, and unselfish actions for the benefit of others; negative energies manifest as the desire to dominate others and to use them for selfish advantage.
5. Throat (Vishuddha) chakra. The Vishuddha chakra deals with intellectual development and the power of speech. The thyroid is controlled by it also. The will is also involved to some extent. Higher intuition comes into play here to some extent, as well. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as wise, uplifting and healing speech, words that have the power to manifest what is being spoken; negative energies manifest as foolish, meaningless words, lies, manipulative and negative, harmful speech.
6. Third eye (Ajna) chakra. The Ajna chakra controls, coordinates and partakes of all the functions of those beneath it. It particularly deals with spiritual intuition and spiritual will. Positive energies of this chakra manifest as clear intuition, spiritual perceptions and spiritual will power; negative energies manifest as chaotic or negative psychic experiences as well as whimsical, capricious and negative applications of will.
7. Crown chakra (Sahasrara or Brahmarandhra). The energies of the crown chakra are purely spiritual and unconditioned by any influences other than our finite spirit and the Infinite Spirit from which we derive our very existence. So there is never any trouble there. It need only be refined and empowered by the practice of yoga to establish the precedence of these holy powers over the lower levels of our existence.
The Sahasrara, the Thousand-Petalled Lotus of the astral brain, contains reflex points that control every aspect of the yogi’s physical, astral and causal makeup. Consequently the yogi’s attention is continually oriented toward the Sahasrara. In the esoteric writings of both Hinduism and Buddhism we find references to “the jewel in the lotus.” The lotus is the Sahasrara and the awakened consciousness of the yogi is the jewel. As Blavatsky wrote in The Secret Doctrine: “Each of us has within himself the ‘Jewel in the Lotus,’ call it Padmapani, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, or whatever name we may give to our Divine Self.”
The thousand-petalled lotus, the Sahasrara Chakra, is the place where individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness meet and are one. Everything is there. The individual complex of each person originates in the Sahasrara, and the Sahasrara itself is a map or miniature of the cosmos–physical, astral, and causal. It is the dwelling place of pure consciousness (Spirit), both individual and cosmic. Consequently, liberation is experienced in the Sahasrara. It is the Paradise from which we fell into material consciousness and to which we must be restored through yoga. Within the Sahasrara Paradise, our own Garden of Eden, is the Tree of Life (Genesis 2:9), whose fruit of Self-knowledge will make us immortal gods within God (see Genesis 2:9, 3:22-24; Revelation 2:7, 22:2,14). Through the Sahasrara the subtle energies of the higher planes flow into the brain and body, making it the origin and seat of all supernatural experiences and abilities as well as the point of communication with higher planes and higher consciousness.
Om and the chakras
Om is the special mantra of the Sahasrara, but the japa of Om affects all seven chakras simultaneously and brings them into harmony with one another and establishes the primacy and control of the Sahasrara over the others. Therefore the intonation of Om in and outside meditation accomplishes the purpose of yoga. Om is the ruling mantra of all the aspects of our being. The repetition and meditation of Om awakens, empowers, and perfects the entire mechanism of our physical and subtle makeup. This includes the elimination of those psychic snarls, whorls, blocks, and conditionings that are our karma. Those who through Om Yoga continually attune and merge their consciousness in this way will in time become totally identified with the individual spirit-Self and with the Supreme Spirit. This merging is the beginning of Cosmic Consciousness.
The Chidakasha and the Sahasrara
“Whatever one may be doing, the attention should be fixed in the head” (Paramhansa Nityananda, Chidakasha Gita 217).
Since we are essentially consciousness, authentic yoga deals directly with consciousness. And when we speak of consciousness we do not mean “consciousness of spirit,” as though spirit were an object and consciousness of spirit only a condition of awareness, but we mean spirit itself which is consciousness, the eternal subject.
In yoga treatises we frequently encounter the term “Chidakasha,” which means “the Space (Ether) of Consciousness.” This is the level of existence and consciousness so pure and subtle, so interwoven with Spirit, that it is indistinguishable from Spirit, which is why the yogis say that the spirit-Self dwells in the Chidakasha and is the Chidakasha.
The Bhagavad Gita says in the beginning of the fifteenth chapter that the entire field of relative existence is like a tree whose roots are above and whose branches and leaves are below in the material world. This is not only true of the macrocosm, but also of each one of us that are microcosms–reflections of the macrocosm. Our “roots” are in our brain, the Sahasrara, and our body, limbs, and senses are the trunk, branches, and leaves. The Chidakasha, the indwelling spirit of the Sahasrara, is literally the taproot into the Infinite, the gateway of higher consciousness–both ascending and descending.
In the introduction to his book, Pranava Gita, Swami Pranavananda Giri, “the saint with two bodies” written about in Autobiography of a Yogi, sums up the whole purpose of our involvement with intoning Om to experience the Chidakasha: “The omnipotent inordinate cause is Paramatma. That Paramatma is within this body. The exact location of this Paramatma in the body and how the mind may be made to merge with It, has been determined by the yogis. Sadhakas have seen through their practice that this Paramatma, despite the fact that it is omnipresent, exists in the Chidakasha in a conscious form, and the Pranava is its expression.” The Chidakasha is the abode of our Self, the center-point of our incarnation in relative existence.
Awareness of the Sahasrara is spiritual consciousness itself. From the enlivened Sahasrara the sacred light and power of Spirit will flow into every cell of every level of our being. The Bhagavad Gita describes the yogi as “having placed his vital breath [prana] in the head, established in yoga concentration, uttering Om, the single-syllable Brahman” (8:12-13). By intoning Om in time with the breath we activate literally thousands of channels in the physical and subtle bodies, causing the life force to spontaneously, effortlessly, flow upward into the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain (Sahasrara Chakra) and then merge into the Chidakasha, into the Divine Light within the Sahasrara that is the essence of Om, the Life-Giving Word, the Pranava.
“Urdhvareta” refers to a yogi in whose subtle energy system the pranas, the life energies, are flowing upwards. All three Om Japa Methods accomplish the upward flow of the pranas, because they are empowered by the intonations of Om, which causes the pranas to flow upward into the head where the Sahasrara and Chidakasha are located. Of the three, Om Japa Method Three is the most direct and efficient practice, causing the pranas to flow upward virtually immediately and in a much greater quantity and speed than other methods. Although I discovered Om Japa Method Three on my own some years ago, I later found it outlined in Swami Sivananda’s book Meditation on Om. After describing the practice just as I have given it in the previous chapter, he says: “Put sufficient force into the thoughts of Om. Feel that Om is coming from your Soul. This will raise your consciousness to a very high plane. You will become one with the Soul, the Atman.” However, after a while when the yogi’s subtle energies have become highly refined, all the Japa Methods are equally effective in raising the subtle energies into the head for the maximum degree of evolution and mastery. Om is the key to becoming established in the Urdhvareta state.
Read the next chapter in Om Yoga: Points for Successful Meditation
Om Yoga links:
Preface to Om Yoga: The Physics of OM
- The Word That Is God
- OM in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras
- Om Yoga Meditation
- The Yogi’s Subtle Anatomy and Meditation
- Breath and Sound in Meditation
- Points For Successful Meditation
- Afterword: It Is All Up To You
- Appendix Three: Practical Applications of Om
More on OM Yoga:
- Appendix One: The Glories and Powers of OM
- Appendix Two: Christian Insights on Om Yoga
- Foundations of Yoga
Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
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