Chapter Five of Om Yoga Meditation: Its Theory and Practice
“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).
One of the most valuable books for the aspiring yogi is Philosophy of Gorakhnath by Akshaya Kumar Banerjea, himself an accomplished yogi in the Nath Yogi tradition. Speaking of the reunion of the subtle forces within the individual–including his physical body–Banerjea observes: “The material body is as much a playful self-revelation of the Supreme Spirit (with Shakti) as life and mind and has no really separate non-spiritual existence. The body is perceived as a non-spiritual reality, so long as the mind is concentrated upon its material spatio-temporal character. When the mind is concentrated upon the Spirit within it, not only the mind, but the body also is spiritualized, i.e. its spiritual nature is unveiled.” Consequently the yogi gives attention to the physical, astral, and causal bodies that are the vehicles of his consciousness–the consciousness he intends to unite with its Source.
Yoga of both body and mind
There are many Sanskrit words with which the yogi must become conversant. Two are Samskara and Vasana. Samskaras are impressions in the mind, either conscious or subconscious, produced by previous action or experience in this or previous lives. They are propensities of the mental residue of impressions, subliminal activators, prenatal tendencies. Vasanas are bundles or aggregates of similar samskaras manifesting as subtle desire. It is a tendency created in a person by the doing of an action or by enjoyment which induces the person to repeat the action or to seek a repetition of the enjoyment. A vasana is a subtle impression in the mind capable of developing itself into action, and is the cause of birth and experience in general.
One of the most renowned yogis of the twentieth century was Swami (“Papa”) Ramdas of Anandashram (Kanhangad, Kerala). In Gospel of Ramdas he says the following regarding the body, yoga and vasanas.
“Vasanas may be driven out of the mind. But they persist in the body. One whose mind is free from vasanas is said to have manosiddhi; one whose body is free from vasanas is said to have kayasiddhi. One who has kayasiddhi is said to have completely eradicated all his vasanas both from his mind and body. That is perfection in yoga. Some jnanis stop at eradicating the vasanas from the mind and do not care about their ejection from the body. But there are some siddhas who have perfected the body also. By so doing, they say they are divinizing the body. They make the light of the atman permeate the body to such an extent that every particle of the body is made holy and shines with the divine radiance” (p. 374).
“Jnanis stop with the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi and they consider the body and all the universe as illusion or non-existent. Even after the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, though the mind is free from vasanas, the body is not. Of course, jnanis do not care about it as the body and everything connected with it is unreal. But the yogis are not satisfied with this realization. Thy make the body also pure and illumined. That is Purna [Full, Complete] Yoga. Then every particle of his body is radiant with spiritual splendor. Now the yogi has attained perfection of the body also, the grandest spiritual experience” (pp. 595, 596). Therefore the following information in this chapter is of inestimable value to the Om yogi.
Esoteric science is a necessary factor of all viable spiritual traditions: those that truly open the way to higher consciousness, which is the essence and the purpose of evolution. A major part of that science is the knowledge of our spiritual anatomy, our subtle energy levels through which spiritual consciousness can be invoked and expressed. Those levels are like rungs on a ladder leading to higher degrees of consciousness when understood properly.
Yoga, the supreme esoteric science, speaks of special channels and centers of life energy in our subtle anatomy that must be cultivated in preparation for the attainment of enlightenment. The ancient yogic seers, including the Nath Yogis who claim that Jesus was one of their most revered gurus (see The Christ of India), taught that these channels and centers are means of spiritual realization. Therefore the yogi must master, refine, and evolve these channels and centers to attain perfect spiritual realization.
The greatest of these yogis, the greatest yogi of all time, was Gorakhnath. Gorakhnath asked his teacher Matsyendranath: “How can a yogi have meditation that goes beyond the physical?” The answer was most relevant to the subject of this chapter: “He should meditate within his body to rise above the body” (Gorakh Bodha 99, 100). Later Matsyendranath told him: “To destroy deception or duality one should reside within” (114).
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 when its components are 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 yogic sages have explained the subtle anatomy of a yogi’s bodies which he must refine and evolve to assist in his ultimate liberation. In the twelfth chapter of Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda wrote about his guru Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri: “Master numbered many doctors among his disciples. ‘Those who have ferreted out the physical laws can easily investigate the science of the soul,’ he told them. ‘A subtle spiritual mechanism is hidden just behind the bodily structure.’” The internal alchemy of yoga is a process that occurs when the entire internal mechanism (antahkarana) 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.
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 is the heart of Kriya Yoga as described by Patanjali.
Ida, Pingala and Sushumna
In the spine there are three major passages or nadis through which life energy and the primal energy known as Kundalini move upward and downward. The one on the left of the spine is known as the Ida, the one on the right as the Pingala, and the one in the center is the Sushumna. Life force moves downward in the Ida and upward in the Pingala. Kundalini moves upward in the Sushumna.
We do not awaken Kundalini–it awakens us. In the same way we need not open the Sushumna, for if the Sushumna was not open we would either be a vegetable or dead. Neither is there a need to deliberately “raise” the Kundalini, because the evolving life force of Kundalini always moves upward in the Sushumna, though in many people it is so minimal and slow that it has very little observable effect. But whenever there is creativity or intelligence manifesting in a human being–and most of all when there is spiritual inspiration or insight–it is being produced by the upward flow of the Kundalini in the Sushumna.
The rate of ascent and the volume of the Kundalini’s rising is according to the evolutionary development of the individual and the condition of his bodies, gross and subtle. We accelerate the function of the Sushumna and Kundalini through the practice of Om Yoga, especially Om Japa Pranayama.
When the Ida and Pingala are in perfect synchronization, the flow of life force in the Sushumna is greatly enhanced and unhindered. Gorakhnath wrote about it this way: “The Sun rises in the Sushumna, and the current of consciousness comes to dwell in the Sahasrara lotus and the bhramargufa [Sahasrara] is illuminated with the radiance of the Self.”
“He who knows this knowledge of the life force [prana], the great science, is a knower of the Vedas” (Goraksha Paddhati 1.46). “This cosmic Shakti exists in the individual bodies of all breathing creatures (Prani) in the form of Kundalini (Kundalirupa)” (Arthur Avalon, The Garland of Letters, p. 113). According to various scriptures and writings of master yogis, the KulaKundalini is inherent in all things as the force that points them to the Goal and moves them along toward the Goal. We engage in Om Yoga practice to put ourselves and our bodies back into harmony with the innate evolutionary impulse of the universe–with Om–and attune them to the Kundalini that flows in response to our practice. In this way we clear the pathway for the rising Kundalini from the Muladhara to the Brahmarandhra.
What is Kundalini? Actually, it is quite a simple thing: it is the evolving power inherent in the universe and in all forms of life. It is the Kundalini that functions in the chakras and the subtle channels that connect them known as nadis. It is only the mode of movement that varies in them. Kundalini in no way “sleeps” and does not need awakening–only a clearing of the way for its perfect functioning. It pervades everything and is active in everything. Ultimately it is seen to be the universe and that which transcends the universe.
Kundalini is not energy in essence, but consciousness. However, when consciousness moves it is seen as energy. As Gorakhnath explained at length, Shakti (Energy) is really Shiva (Consciousness) acting in a dynamic way. This is a profound and essential truth which must be grasped by the yogi. Kundalini is the Living God in whom we live, move, and have our being. The essential sound-form (vachaka or mantra) of Kundalini is Om.
Om is the original extension or emanation of Kundalini, which is both mula prakriti, root-energy, and mula chaitanya, root-consciousness. Therefore Gorakhnath says in the Goraksha Sataka: “Knowledge of the breath is the great knowledge [mahavidya]” (46). In Om Yoga the breath is one of the keys to liberation. This is in contrast to those who consider the breath to be an obstacle to realization and the cause of restlessness. It is not the breath itself but the breath in a state of distortion and disharmony that produces the trouble. Certainly, without the breath nothing can be accomplished by the yogi. Correction of the breath through Om japa in time with it is an essential element of yoga practice.
This is why Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, wrote in a song:
Pranayama be thy religion,
Pranayama will give thee salvation,
Pranayama is the Wishing Tree.
Pranayama is Beloved God,
Pranayama is Creator Lord,
Pranayama is the Cosmic World.
Control the little pranayama,
Become all-pervading pranayama,
You won’t have to fear anything anymore.
The rising of Kundalini is a matter of consciousness and not energy. When the Kundalini rises the consciousness expands, unfolds, and evolves. Om japa and meditation remove all blockages in the subtle channels (nadis) of the subtle bodies, and cause the bodies themselves to vibrate to Om as their fundamental frequency. Just as Om manifests and pervades the physical, astral, and causal creation, so the vibrations of Om pervade all our bodies, awakening and evolving them. Om Yoga is Kundalini Yoga, pure and simple.
During the practice of Om Yoga, every chakra and nadi is affected and glows with subtle light. As the process continues, they increase in brightness and begin to develop as a seed does when exposed to heat and light. The same is true of every cell and every atom in the yogi’s being on all levels, physical, astral and causal. Consequently we may experience these changes in meditation, but we should let awareness of them arise and subside spontaneously during the japa and meditation of Om. Otherwise we confine and limit their effects within us.
Chakras and adharas
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. There are many subsidiary satellites of the chakras called adharas. Adharas are reservoirs of pranic energies, storage units for the energies that flow into the subtle bodies through the chakras, and therefore can be (and often are) mistaken for a chakra.
The Nath Yogi tradition teaches that there are nine major chakras:
- 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 Talu chakra, located at the root of the palate (opposite the tip of the nose).
- The Ajna chakra, located at the point between the eyebrows–the “third eye.”
- The Nirvana chakra, located in the midst of the brain: opposite the middle of the forehead, directly beneath the crown of the head.
- The Brahmarandhra chakra, located at the crown of the head.
The term Sahasrara chakra refers to the thousand-petalled lotus in the head, corresponding to the brain–the supreme chakra which contains the Ajna, Nirvana and Brahmarandhra chakras, though “sahasrara chakra” is often used to indicate the Brahmarandhra alone. According to the Nath Yogi tradition, the Sahasrara chakra is the supreme chakra, and all other chakras are actually within the Sahasrara, the chakras outside the Sahasrara such as those in the spine being reflections of the primary, archetypal chakras in the Sahasrara. Therefore continual attention is given to the Sahasrara in Om Yoga practice.
The nature and function of the nine chakras
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Talu chakra. The Talu chakra is a kind of switching station like on a railway. Subtle transmuting energies and the Kundalini move up the spine from the Muladhara to the Vishuddha chakra. Then they need to move forward and reach the Ajna chakra. In the centuries since knowledge of the Talu chakra was almost lost, sadhakas throughout India have expressed frustration with the fact that the energies rise to the Vishuddha and will not move to the Ajna. This is because the way the subtle bodies are constituted, the Talu chakra must be prepared and activated before the energies can move forward to the front of the head. But that has usually not been known. I personally have heard of several people making this complaint and knew one man who sought advice from many renowned yogis over the years but received no help.
- 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.
- Nirvana chakra. The Nirvana chakra is the center in which liberation (moksha) is attained and experienced. Without knowledge of this chakra there is a problem in the liberating energies moving from the front of the head back and upward to the Brahmarandhra chakra through which the yogi’s spirit rises to merge with the Absolute. Like the Talu chakra, the Nirvana chakra must be prepared and activated before the energies can so move. The Nirvana Chakra is also called the Jalandhara chakra. Jalandhara means “Holder of the Net” in the sense of perfect mastery of both the subtle energy network of nadis and chakras and of samsara itself, the “net” in which all sentient beings are caught until the Nirvana Chakra is reached in full awareness. Jalandhara also means: “holder of the aggregation,” as it also controls the seven chakras beneath it.
- Crown chakra. The energies of the Sushumna 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 reached and empowered by the Kundalini to establish the precedence of these holy powers over the lower levels of our existence.
These nine chakras are the actual “nine gates” of the body spoken about in the Bhagavad Gita (5:13), not the nine openings found in the body. The nine chakras are major factors in the subtle energy system of a human being, the ruling power centers, though there are a great number of minor chakras throughout the gross and subtle bodies of each one of us.
More on the Sahasrara
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 Om Yoga practice. 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 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. The process of meditation takes place throughout the body, but predominantly within the Sahasrara since it is the seat of the spirit-Self.
It is the Paradise from which we fell into material consciousness and to which we must be restored through yoga. That is, the yogi’s entire consciousness becomes centered there. Gorakhnath described it as when “the current of consciousness comes to dwell in the Sahasrara lotus and is illuminated with the radiance of the Self.”
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 intonation of Om affects all seven chakras simultaneously and brings them into harmony with one another and refines their energies. Om is the ruling mantra of all the aspects of our being. The japa 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 practice 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 “drawing his prana into the head, established in yoga concentration, uttering OM, the single-syllabled 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.
Since you cannot do Khechari Mudra outside meditation, if you like you can keep a general awareness of the Sahasrara outside meditation, feeling that the breath and intonations of Om are taking place there. In this way you can keep centered in the Chidakasha state you experience in meditation.
“Urdhvareta” refers to a yogi in whose subtle energy system the pranas, the life energies, are predominately flowing upwards. Your immortal, eternal spirit abides in the Sahasrara united with God the Absolute Spirit–the finite with the Infinite. In the Bible the urdhvareta state is symbolized by the words of Isaiah the prophet: “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). The Sahasrara is the Lord’s house (place of abode) on the top of the head (Mount Zion), and the nations, the various forms of prana that flow upward through the practice of Om Yoga because they are empowered and polarized by the intonations of Om, which causes the pranas to flow upward into the head where the Sahasrara and Chidakasha are located. They are direct and efficient, causing the pranas to flow upward virtually immediately and in a much greater quantity and speed than other methods, raising the subtle energies into the head for the maximum degree of evolution and mastery. Therefore Om Yoga is the key to becoming established in the Urdhvareta state.
There are three kinds of mudras: hatha yogic, tantric and dhyana yogic. The hatha yoga mudras are body positions (asanas), the tantric mudras are hand and finger positions for both ritual and meditation, and the meditation (dhyana) mudras are eye positions. For example, in the miraculous photograph of Lahiri Mahasaya found in the first edition of Autobiography of a Yogi, the great yogi is demonstrating the eye position known as Sambhavi Mudra.
If you read much on yoga you must eventually come across the expression “Khechari Mudra.” Turning the eyes upward the yogic Khechari Mudra. In Sanskrit, kha means the sky, space, or ether (akasha). Char means “to move.” So khechari means “sky walking”–moving in the etheric space that is the limitless basis of everything, the akasha that is consciousness itself–Chidakasha. Khechari Mudra is the procedure which enables the yogi to be a khechara–one who flies in the Sky of Consciousness. For Khechari Mudra opens the “sky” of the Sahasrara, the Thousand-Petalled Lotus. Sensitive yogis can experience this.
Khechari Mudra is commonly thought to be the hatha yoga practice of extending the tongue and making it enter the post-nasal cavity. This is considered the sign of a yoga adept, but it really just causes post-nasal drip and can render some people unconscious.
The real Khechari Mudra of the yogis is the simple turning up of the eyes in a gentle, unforced manner without any strain at all. To determine the angle of your upturned eyes, just hold your forefinger along your eyebrows, touching them and covering the area between them, and gently look up at your finger. (If this seems a strain in the beginning, look up at a lesser angle.) After a while you may automatically turn your eyes up higher and that will be just fine. But there must never be any strain.
This turning up of the eyes opens and activates the higher levels of awareness in the Sahasrara that are collectively known as the Chidakasha, the Ether of Consciousness that is the eternal, immortal spirit. It is important to understand that we are not straining the eyes upward to look at or through the third eye. We are simply looking upward and letting things take their course. I personally call it “flying the friendly skies” of the opening and expanding Sahasrara/Chidakasha. You will find that many openings can occur from this practice, and you may even feel as though flying in limitless space.
In the book of Revelation the Beloved Disciple recounts this symbolic experience of Khechari Mudra: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit” (Revelation 4:1-2). Then he described seeing God (Ishwara) enthroned in the Chidakasha surrounded by twenty-four great beings (“elders”). The things he described in symbol will be perceived by the adept yogi. The twenty-four elders are twenty-four chakras found in the Sahasrara, and in their midst is the “throne” of Divine Consciousness wherein dwell the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This experience corresponds to the state of pratyahara (interiorzation) which results according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras when asana and pranayama have been sufficiently mastered through Khechari Mudra and Om Japa-Pranayama.
Khechari Mudra produces increased awareness of the Sahasrara. Your immortal, eternal spirit abides there united with God the Absolute Spirit–the finite with the Infinite. This little practice opens true spiritual consciousness. In the Bible this is also symbolized by the already-cited words of Isaiah the prophet: “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). The Sahasrara is the Lord’s house (place of abode) on the top of the head–Mount Zion, and the nations, the various forms of prana that flow upward through the practice of Om Yoga. Whatever does or does not happen is exactly right. Just look up, relax and experience, keeping focused on Om. In yoga no strain is ever needed–in fact it will be a hindrance.
Khechari Mudra should be done throughout your meditation, once you are used to it.
You might be interested to know that during one part of his training with Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda had to keep his eyes turned up in Khechari Mudra throughout the day, with open eyes, yet had to fulfill all his ashram duties. One result was a lot of bruising from running into the sides of doorways. But in this way he learned by experience the effect of Khechari Mudra. He said in public talks that keeping the eyes downward leads to subconsciousness, keeping them straight ahead establishes in waking consciousness and keeping them upward leads to superconsciousness. In the 1936 BBC documentary he goes into samadhi by turning his eyes up in Khechari Mudra even though they remain open.
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
- Understanding the Aspects of Om Yoga Meditation
- Points For Successful Meditation
- Foundations of Yoga
- Afterword: It Is All Up To You
- Appendix One: The Glories and Powers of Om
- Appendix Two: Breath and Sound in Meditation
- Appendix Three: Practical Applications of Om
More on OM Yoga:
Read about the meanings of unfamiliar terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
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