I was about 9 years old when I was walking thru a frozen forest, shouldered my pellet gun, and discovered the great transformative silence of death as a chickadee fell from the branch. In 2003, my father was killed in a work accident. Later in life I came to live and practice in a holy place between the cremation grounds of Varanasi, India; the chosen abode of Lord Shiva. When my grandfather passed away, we shared our fear of death and brought peace to the whole family. That light and purity of a new born baby also shines in the eyes of those who burn for that final release from the wheels of time. All of our lives we seek the flavour that will quench our thirst, but eventually, we thirst for the most unthinkable mystery; death.
The movement of the breath is controlled by the Great Spirit in the Sky of Consciousness and it comes and goes; starts and stops only by that ultimate grace. The power of Great Spirit is raw and pure when we go thru the great transformations of birth and death. Between these two great moments lie all the smaller cycles of the breath and the days and the seasons and so much more that we can experience fully and deeply as we experience that great birth and death of the body. This is the experience of reality.
Yoga and spirituality suggest we can experience a deeper reality if we look at life beyond our individual experience and experience life in relation to the universal expression of consciousness; of spirit; of spanda; Shiva’s self expression thru his powers; his Shaktis. We are so much more than these limited bodies and the experiences we have in this lifetime; we are intimately connected to the whole span of time and everything that has and will exist. We are not just a part of this universe, we are this universe. The truth is so mindbogglingly beautiful and wonderful that we can only experience it as that…… astonishing beauty, dazzling amazement and wonder. We’ve all felt this as some time in our lives. This is the experience of reality,
There is little difference between letting go of our egos so that we can transform ourselves in this life, or doing so so that we can prepare for the next life. In either case, we want to turn our awareness towards the truth of who we really are here and now releasing ourselves from the past and the future; releasing ourselves from our own stories. Each time we transform ourselves we seek to reach a higher consciousness; we want that positive growth which which will benefit not only ourselves, but our families and communities and the universe as a whole. It’s that universal connection and experience of non-difference that we seek, but which remains, for most of us, just out of reach. Like a shy damsel, ultimate reality casts only the most fleeting glimpse from the corner of her eye. And this is were we must also seek out that ultimate reality: in those dark corners of our mind and along the edges of our breath and our thoughts and between all things which seem distinct.
Between you and me is some chemistry which brings us into perfect and blissful union because it allows both of us to taste the ripened fruits of our individual karma while contributing, each in our own special way, to the collective karma that ties us all together. We call activity karma when we experience it a force of limitation that separates; but when we experience activity as a force of freedom and play arising and falling away from the same place, bringing everything together, activity is then called Kriya (the spontaneous activity of one who experiences life as universal agency (the actor) and preceiving subjectivity (the witness)). This is the experience of life; reality; divinity.
We are all on this path of healing together. Together we will grow and evolve; find the courage to face our fears and overcome the false limitations we put on ourselves. To do this we practice being open and honest to the reality of the moment while applying our most sincere efforts to whatever activity is at hand. This sincerity is especially important for healing and spirituality, since it provides us with the impulse and the will to gather the necessary knowledge and put it into a meaningful action. Tapping into this personal sincerity for healing is what we mean by healing from within.
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Prana is life force or vital essence. Vayu is air and movement. Pranavayu is the movement of vital energy. Western Yogis have been talking about prana for many years already and it’s a relatively common term now. Modern Sanskrit scholars now tell us that we may have misunderstood the meaning of this word (see Wallis or Dyczkowski for confirmation).
Yoga teachers will commonly cue student to “inhale the prana” and “to visualize prana coming down into the body to give it energy. Ayurveda has followed with this classification of prana being a downward movement connected with the inhalation. Prana vayu is actually a bit of an awkward arrangement of terms since anything with prana moves and anything that moves has prana. This means we can refer to all five movements of the prana vayus as movements of ‘prana;’ we can also drop the use of prana and just call these movements the vayus.
What modern scholars tell us is that the word ‘prana’ actually refers to the upward outward movement of our exhalation rather than the downward inward movement of our inhalations. The implications of this research is just starting get filtered down to us ordinary yogi and even very respected Ayurveda Institutes have still not taken the time to consider their own teachings and understanding of this topic.
I have written elsewhere about the ignorance of the colonial mindset so I won’t talk about it here. Most ordinary yogis in the west are so far removed from the yogic scriptures that such finely tuned understanding of the terms they use is of little importance. The larger institutes and colleges are typically more concerned with reputation and profits they have little incentive to seek after the truth. It almost seem to be a kind of “little mans syndrome” of academia. Only the the great scholars care about such things and nobody listens to them since we can find the (wrong) definition of of prana anywhere on google.
So, getting back to exhalation which is connected with prana vayu. When we exhale, our vital force goes out thru our breath and the five senses to illuminate the world much like the Sun as it follows it’s daytime course thru the heavens. It’s rises with the beginning of our exhalation and moves thru the sky (of consciousness) until setting in the 12 finger space above the crown of the head to give way to the movement of the moon which rises full when the sun sets. This is where the exhalation has ended. As we inhale to passively and graciously receive the gift of life one nitya (goddess) leaves the Moon and enters into our bodies to nourish us and give life to the soul (the Sun) thru the body until she is herself drained of life, dark and dry as the Sun gains exaltation begins to penetrate the cold darkness of death with heat of life and the illumination of consciousness.
This is also the meaning of pranayama (prana + ayama): the life force which defeats death bringing life to the sense, allowing them to move. Prana brings movement and warmth to whatever is inert, cold and dead. (I have also seen the opposite interpretation (prana + yama) suggesting that we do the breathing practices in order to still the breath, slow all the vital functions, an ultimately ride the breath to the heavens leaving the duality of earthly existence behind. Of course we continue on with our life, but without attachment, free of the limitations of the three gunas and they individual vital breath. One moves instead in perfect harmony with the universal flow of consciousness.
Kal Bhairava takes over for Yama in Varanasi.
When we exhale prana, that life force which was given to us by god, reaches out to the world through our senses to colour and flavour the objects with whatever flavour we might crave; whatever we have inside of ourselves at the moment reaches out to the world to create a counterpart. When we inhale and bring back all of that sensory material we generally forget that we have just created it, so we react. We forget that we always get back whatever we give. As long as we have forgotten this fundamental rule we will suffer from our karma; once we learn it, life becomes a spontaneous play whatever might be your circumstances.
“The vital breath is essentially a state of consciousness which manifests as the movement of two breaths; prana and apana (exhale and inhale).” This is a major theme of Tantra: that one thing appears to be two separate things; or, as is the case in waking life, as a multiplicity of distinct objects. As we look at things more and more closely and understand them for their subtleties rather than accepting them at face value, they begin to merge together as though they were never separate. As it says in the Stanzas on Vibration:
“Whatever else may exist apart from you, if subjected to sound reflection, simply disappears like the fables palace of celestial musicians and you alone, changeless remain….” Stanza 10 goes on to say that , “then the soul realizes that his true nature (dharma) is universal agency and perceiving subjectivity, and so he knows and does whatever he desires.” ~Stanzas on Vibration~
In yoga we often talk about the body, mind and soul. We can think of this as three worlds or three layer of our being. The vayus live in the intermediate region of our highest intelligence but they move between the heaven and earth; the soul and the body; the subject and the object. Vayu is Air and Ether, which allows it pervade and move between all 36 tattva.
The prana vayus are known as the vehicle of Rudra, an ancient name for lord Shiva that means “the Howler.” Rudra is known as the “Lord of Beasts.” He is often associated with the 11 Mahurts which signifies his rulership of the mind and the 10 indriyas (5 sensory and 5 motor functions).
There are 5 Prana-vayu (movements of essential vital force), the sacred spaces associated with them. I have described them both in Tantric terms as well as in terms of Ayurveda
Prana: Represented by the Sun. Prana is moving when we exhale; this is a movement upward & outward from the body, when the vital force of the senses reach out to their object. This is the expression of our life force to penetrate the world and forever leaving our mark up it (which will come back to us again thru the 5 fold cycle of the vayus). Prana also represent what we give to the world. Many people who belong to traditional cultures will begin a deep breath with an exhalation whereas modern people are much more likely to inhale straight away when told to take a deep breath. In the later Tantras, this movement became associated with the pingala channel of the nadi system.
Apaana: Represented by the Moon. Apana vayu is the inward & downward movement which first comes to us thru the crown of our head in the form of grace or shaktipat as we receive the gift of life. In Ayurveda it’s the downward movement that aids elimination. and moved down the body Ayurveda they say move downward and outward. Like for the elimination of bodily waste. In later Tantras this became associated with the Ida channel of the nadis system.
Samaana: According to Ayurveda, it moves inwards, spinning towards a centre point like meditation. In the waking and dream state, prana-apana is active, however in states of deep-sleep samaana (the Equalizing breath) balances the inhalation and exhalation. The call it the equinox
Udaana: The Ascending breath. This is the central channel; the shushumna. This is the upwards rising force. According to Ayurveda, it also moves outwards like speech.
Vyaana: expansion in all directions radiating from the navel outward in all directions. Often considered as the nadis energy system similar to the meridians of Chinese Medicine.
What is the most essential quality?
The first story
Once upon a time all of the organs and functions of the body got into a debate about who was most essential. Many were praising the the way the skeletal system gave shape and standing to the body, or how the blood carried nutrients to maintain the body, others marveled the how the heart pumped blood and how the lung found it’s own way to pump air, then pranavayu came along and everyone silent, for they knew that without the warmth of prana and the movement of the vayus that all life would stop. The hearth would not beat, the blood would pool and go stagnant, and the breath stops; the body becomes cold and inert.
The second story
Once upon a time, the Gods entered into a timeless argument over who was most powerful and essential for the functioning of life and this universe. Shiva happened to be moving about rather than sitting peacefully upon the peak of Mount Kailash. Something always seemed to be happening whenever Shiva was moving about. When Shiva came across this childish argument he sought to quell it by simply pointing out that none were as powerful as him and they should all just go home and forget this pettiness. Of course some of the big gods who were standing around took offense to this; namely Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver. To their protests, Shiva merely revealed his true form as a mystical shaft (lingam) of light and said, “see if you can find where I end.”
The two who remained standing there laughed at the challenge and quickly set off in opposite directions to find those loose ends, finish off the argument, and, for once, make Shiva look live the fool; because after all, everything has to come to an end. But after eons searching thru the vastness of Shiva’s light they finally decided to meet back in Kashi where it all began. When they got there, Vishnu immediately fell to his feet to offer his most respectful pranam to Shiva. But Brahma, who, despite his capacity for creation, has no eye for consequences, lied and said that he had found an end. It was just over the horizon not so far and it had only taken so long to return because he had decided to rest there for a while and fell asleep.
Almost nothing enrages Shiva like arrogance and upon this insult all of his his most fearsome aspects rose to the surface and with an upsurge of impulse he chopped of one of Brahma’s five heads. The greatest crimes in India are those that go against pure knowledge and wisdom; they call this killing a Brahmin. Even the Gods are subject to karma so this fierce form of Shiva, whom they call Bhairava, took up the skull and walked the four corners of India for the next 12 years. This is the version of Shiva most emulated by modern Naga babas and Aghore: naked, fearsome to behold, covered in the ashes of the funeral pyre where he makes his bed. Every part of his external image brings fear and revulsion. But if we take the time to get to know a true aghore we will get to know and over come our own fears. For that’s the social role of the Aghore, to show us that this is the worst it can get; this is our greatest fear; but actually, it’s not so bad.
After 12 years of wandering like this, Bharava returned to Kashi, and not far from the train station washed himself in a small pond. All of his impurities (malas) dropped away along with the skull which had been his companion for 12 years. He once again brought balance to the three gunas within himself, overcoming their excess and deficiencies freeing himself from the wheel of time and the cycle of cause and effect. In short, even the most fearsome evil was able to overcome the inner turmoil of self and social recrimination and realize himself as that same light of the universe that is in all things without distinction of good or bad or any of the other opposites.
Head Chopping in Hinduism
In Kashi, whenever Shiva takes this fierce form and starts chopping off heads they call him Bhairava and have given him a rather bureaucratic job of welcoming and signing in all the pilgrims to give them access to the spiritual vision necessary “to cross the river that is so hard to cross.” You could say that he does this by metaphorically chopping off their heads. This head chopping metaphor is a relatively common one in Hinduism. Shiva chopped Ganesh’s head in Ujjain. They have built their own Bhairava temple there to commemorate the great event. Of course it was a little bloody and gruesome, but due to that Ganesha received blessings from all of the gods and was given guardianship over the directions. Kali is also famous for her necklace (mala) of heads. Ravana, the main antagonist of the Ramayana was given his great powers by Shiva when he cut off his own head in offering to Shiva. My teacher once told me that “only Ravana can cut off his own head and get away with it.” Due to his great power of penance his head grew back every time. Ravana was actually said to have ten heads due to the vastness of his knowledge and wisdom. All of this suggests that a jnana yogi needs to acquire, by penance and blessing, knowledge which faces in all ten directions.
In Jyotish we also have the story of Rahu and Ketu, the north and south nodes. This all happened in the very beginning when the gods and demons (the bureaucrats and bohemians) figured out that they had to work together to retrieve the elixir of immortality by churning the ocean of milk; pretty much all the divine being had to help in some way. In their greed to get the amrit, they didn’t think much about the side effects which was the creation of the physical universe and it’s cycles. Laxmi and Kamadenu came from this churning as did some great toxins that Shiva was able to swallow to save everyone. When the amrit arose and they were getting ready to pass it around a beautiful dancing girl appeared, seductive and scantily dressed. This was a ploy by the gods who knew the demons could be easily distracted by their senses. From the start, they never intended to share the amrit with the demons from. Swarbhanu was watching and saw all of this happening so he disguised himself as one of the gods and lined up with them for the amrit while the rest of the demons were being pushed to the back of the line. But just as Swarbhanu was taking a drink Sun and the Moon alerted Vishnu who swiftly cut off his head, but it was too late, the amrit had made it down his throat and both halves of him were immortal. The called the head Rahu and the body Ketu and gave them an abode in the starry heavens with the planets. The continue their vendetta against Sun and Moon whom they’ve never forgiven. At the time of the eclipse they get their chance to exact revenge thru various methods of disruption. Rahu brings intense desire while Ketu brings an almost equal intensity to his ambivalence. While Rahu brings our focus to the material world an ensures that the wheel of karma keeps turning; Ketu cuts us from our material ambitions allowing us to surrender to what is.
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This section focuses on how to understand our health thru an understanding of Vedic Astrology and Ayurveda. I am greatly indebted to the dedicated and pioneering works of Robert Svoboda, Vansant Lad & Dr. KS Charak in this regard. My teachers, Sanjay & David have also been a great help in understanding these basic concepts which are extremely useful in diagnostics. With this said, as far as I can tell, this is the first in-depth research that has been done (in the English language) to combine these two important traditional sciences (Ayurveda and Jyotisha) in this way. Since much of the remedial advice comes from Yoga and all of this follows in accord with Tantra, Indiaologists should find this page of great interest. I plan to continue adding and editing to this page and if you have anything to add or take away from this work I’m very open to sincere, informed & constructive criticism that will advance my own knowledge and help me to better serve my clients; all of those universal brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles who support my work.
Surya – Sun
Pitta, bilious, represents the heart, asthi dhatu, bones, teeth, nails, calcification, hair, right eye, blood circulation, provides the support for the body, protects the vital organs Matures at 22. Represents mature people around 50 years old.
A strong well placed Sun gives forgiving, hard working & honest nature; strong bones, tall, strong teeth, nails, and hair; great endurance, strength, vitality, stamina. Their body will be rich in salts and minerals like iron, copper, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium & others.
Afflictions to the Sun primarily effects the bones, the blood circulation & mineral levels of the body, but these functions have far reaching effects on our body.
When the Sun is diminished by too much slow, wet, cold, heavy, dense kapha influence, affliction can cause bone spurs, bone fusions, scoliosis, hunchback lordosis and other spinal misalignment which will affect the way a person walks and moves. High levels of calcium can lead to deposits which affect the glands (Hypothyroidism) and soft tissues (Myofibrositis) contributing to tumors, blood clots, inflammation and high blood pressure. Extra teeth and excessive hair & nail growth are common as is a deep seated anger or fear and sensitivity to the cold.
When Sun is afflicted by excess heat or wind one may have a mineral deficiency causing weak brittle bones; receding hair line; hyper-irritability, poor blood clotting, tooth decay, receding gums; dry brittle nails. High metabolism is likely and severe affliction can lead to hyperthyroidism or hyperactivity of the parathyroid causing the break down of bone in order to release more calcium to the blood. Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis are also common especially in latter years. They may have feelings of insecurity, loneliness, nervous for which they may try to compensate through over-activity or erratic activity and physical strain; they may suffer from the heat, dehydration leading to gallstones, kidney stones excess bile from liver heat. Their physical height may be short.
The Sun also relates with fevers, head aches, eye disease, burns, epilepsy, leprosy; injuries from fall, weapons, poisons; fear from quadrupeds, thieves, and serpents.
Chandra – Moon
Kapha, phlegmatic with an element of vata, wind when too close to the Sun. Rules over the rasa dhatu, the fluids of the body, especially the blood, lymphatics, white blood cells, lactation, breasts, the female reproductive system, chest, taste, emotional boundaries & digestion. Moon, along with Mars, controls the menstrual cycles. Matures at 24. Represents old person of 70.
A strong, well placed moon gives clear perception, strength, clarity, trust, stamina, great love, compassion & profound faith along with soft, beautiful, smooth skin; soft wavy hair & good complexion (colour pigment). A strong moon brings music and perfume to life.
Afflictions to the moon primarily affect the nourishment of the blood, fertility, the tides of the body & ones emotional comfort. This is where we look for psychiatric problems, emotional disturbance, tuberculosis, pleurisy, dropsy, dyspepsia, diarrhea, anemia, fevers associated with chills and rigours, fear from water and watery animals.
When moon is afflicted by too much slow, wet, overly nourishing kapha influence there can be congestion of the lymphs, veins, sinus, bronchial passages, water retention (edema), swelling, pallor, excess salivation. Heaviness of the heart, lethargy, swollen or enlarged breasts.
When the moon is afflicted by too much hot, or cold, dry pitta and vatta influence there can be dehydration, skin problems (acne, hives, rashes) thirst, fatigue, dizziness, fever, shock, palpitations, anemia, blood poisoning, jaundice, slow and scanty menstruation, lack of taste (perverted taste), lack of clarity or perception, grief, sadness, anger, anxiety, hypersensitivity to sound, chronic fatigue syndrome, generalized body aches and pains, lack of faith.
Kuja – Mangal – Mars
Pitta, bilious, kakta dhatu, red blood cells, hemoglobin, bile, ones strength and the power of the body, courage, red bone marrow, inner lining of the uterus, the liver & the spleen. Matures at 28. Represents young children below school age.
A strong, well placed Mars gives a strong life force, healthy complexion, warm delicate skin, rosy cheeks, red lips, lustrous eyes, pink nails, pink hands and feet, and a strong immune system. They will be happy, wise, intelligent, bright, and will love to over come challenges. However, they may be sensitive and intolerant to heat, judgmental, critical, perfectionist.
Mars is a natural malefic that gives affliction as often as he receives it. Whatever Mars’ conjunction or aspect will bring some element of heat to that part of the body or area of life. Mars can cause acute illness and injury related to heat and inflammation, ulcers, fevers (especially eruptive ones), lacerations, cuts, surgery, aggression, fractures, hemorrhoids, diseases of the uterus, miscarriages, abortions, problems in the regulation of body temperature, herpes, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, appendicitis, epilepsy, most skin discolorations, blood clots, varicose veins, many auto-immune illnesses. Anger, hate, envy and most hot, sharp emotions.
Too much hot, wet pitta influence on Mars can cause bleeding tendencies, wounds, skin conditions (rashes, burns, eczema, itching, acne, nose bleeds, dermatitis), inflammations (infections, conjunctivitis, hemorrhoids, canker sores), hypertension, high blood pressure, stomach acid, jaundice, hepatitis, gall stones, dehydration, red warm hands & feet, red eyes, high blood pressure, aversion to meat, aversion to heat, poisoning enlarged liver or spleen. Considerable affliction can lead to auto-immune illness such as Lupus or HIV/AIDS.
Too much dry windy vata influence on Mars may cause dry, rough, cracked skin; pale lips, tongue, nails, bluish colour to skin, a craving for iron, hot spicy foods, sour citrus, meat, children may eat clay, anemia, breathless on exertion, loss of luster, lack of enthusiasm, weakness, cold hands and feet, emptiness of blood vessels.
Budh – Mercury
Tri-doshic, impressionable, majja dhatu, the whole nervous system, our capacity for learning, discrimination and reasoning, rules over the skin, the CNS, the ANS, the cranial nerves governing the senses and the motor responses, tactile sensations (touch, pain, temperature, etc.) relates with the hypothalamus, the throat, nose, lungs, fore-brain, grey matter, cerebral cortex, communication, as well as eye gunk and some mucous related with elimination. Matures at 32. Represent youth.
When Mercury is strong, well aspected and prominent in the chart, the native is likely to have clear perception, right understanding, right comprehension. They will have attractive eyes, youthfulness, clever speech and will be capable of quick, articulate and effective response.
Mercury’s affliction results in misunderstandings, misconceptions, confusion, delusion, hallucinations, mental aberrations, nervous breakdown, mental instability, abusive language, speech defects, high strung temperament, vertigo, impotence, skin problems, some sensory defects especially those related with coordination or hallucinations, sudden falls, bad dreams.
When Mercury is disturbed by too much dry, windy vata influence perception will be shaky, there can be nervousness, anxiety, stress, insecurity, Attention Deficit Disorder, poor communication and understanding, nightmares, insomnia, tingling, numbness, paralysis, muscle twitching, anemia, cold hands and feet, sexual debility. they may lack muscular and hand eye coordination or have exaggerated reflexes. Under severe affliction, Parkinsons disease, Epilepsy, stroke or Schizophrenia could develop, as well as Osteoporosis, rheumatoid or Osteo-arthritis.
When Mercury is disturbed by too much hot pitta influence may create a feeling of heat in the body, hypertension, nerve conditions like sciatica, herpes, leading to chronic fatigue syndrome, Epstein Barr virus, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cerebral hemorrhage, stroke. When Mercury is disturbed by too much think, heavy kapha influence the nervous system may be slow, slow reaction times, sluggishness, lack of awareness excess sleep. There can be tumors on the pineal or pituitary glands, or anywhere along the nervous system, fluid may accumulate in the brain.
Guru – Jupiter
Kapha temperament, meda dhatu, the fat of the body, generally offers a protective influence against injuries and disease, but can afflict thru growth and expansion causing congestion (typically) to the lymphatic system, circulatory system, liver, tumors and growths. Jupiter rules over the ears, hearing, gall bladder, spleen, part of the pancreas. Matures at 16. Represents young adults for 30ish.
A strong, well placed Jupiter gives ambition, responsibility, broad mindedness, energy, stamina, confidence, determination expansive love and compassion. They will have a balanced appetite, beautiful eyes, expansive voice soft shiny hair and skin. They will be well nourished and they will tend to see the best in people and situations.
Afflictions to Jupiter typically relate with over nourishment or under nourishment; too much fat on the body (or in the wrong places of the body), or too little fat. By this point we can begin to see the different personalities that might be related to the various planetary arrangements.
Too much slow, wet, heavy kapha influence on Jupiter can cause obesity, lethargy, joint pain, breathless exertion, slow metabolism, profuse sweating, low libido, excess thirst, sweet taste in the mouth, cold clammy skin, hypertension, gallstones, high blood pressure, diabetes, spasms when passing the last drops of urine, fowl smell from armpits, fatty tumors on the organs or body, heart disease, high cholesterol, thick blood, arterial sclerosis, enlarged spleen, hypothyroidism, endorphins like serotonin are inhibited causing depression; Seasonal Affective Disorder , Steroid toxicity as the function of the liver and the thyroid are reduced, moon face, water retention, slow metabolism. Alcohol (Mars) leads to fatty liver (Jupiter). Weak liver may also lead to low testosterone.
Too much hot, dry, light vata pitta affliction to Jupiter can cause dry skin, cracking aching joints, especially low back ache, stiff muscles, emaciation, protruding eyes, hair loss, hoarse, dry, foggy voice, insomnia, menstrual irregularities, constipation, craving for meat and cheese, emotional insecurity, fear, anxiety. Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis), osteoporosis (bone loss), spontaneous fractures, lumbago, hyperthyroidism, low cholesterol, enlarged spleen. hyperthyroidism.
Shukra – Venus
Kapha and vata, cool, sweet & active, Venus rules over shukra dhatu, the reproductive fluids, the sex organs, urinary system, kidney, endocrine system (along with the moon), glands, the senses in general. the sense of aesthetic taste, artistic sensibility, throat, cheeks, sex drive, face, eye sight, tear glands, mid-gut, intestines, appendix, part of the pancreas. Matures at 25. Represents teenagers.
A strong, well placed Venus will give strong clear senses, a healthy appreciation for beauty and a balances sexual appetite.
Venus is typically the planet who brings harmony to a situation. When Venus is afflicted there is a lack of harmony in life and in our connection with the world of the senses where we connect inside with outside. If Venus is over stimulated, our senses will be over stimulated and we could become a slave to trying to satisfy our senses. On the other hand, if Venus is weak and bogged down, then our sensory connection with the world will reflect that and we can loose interest in life and in connecting with the external world. One extreme can be good if you’re a rock star; the other will work better for a sadhu.
When Venus is afflicted by excess they will have an increases sexual appetite and attraction tot he objects of the senses. there can be inflammation of the bladder, kidneys, urinary system, premature ejaculation, urinary cysts.
When Venus is afflicted by deficiency there can be growth of bacteria and infections due to a decreased discharge of urine and menses. They may have a low libido, fear of sex, pain during sex, lack of ovulation, impotence or infertility in men or sterility in women.
Sani – Saturn
Vata temperament with some kapha. Rules over mamsa dhatu, the muscles (skeletal, smooth, and cardiac), nerves, lymphatics, legs, feet, distal part of the colon and rectum, along with the bones it gives support to a person thru the appearance and personality. Matures at 36. Represents very old people over 100.
Someone with a well placed Saturn will have good muscular coordination, ambition, maturity, confidence, determination, responsibility, a meditative mind (love, compassion, total relaxation), no expectation that causes resistance to the reality of the experience; spontaneous action without motive for a particular result.
Saturn is probably most famous for giving affliction by contracting, blocking, holding, restricting, cooling & bringing stiffness and fear to whatever he touches thru aspect or conjunction. Saturn represents incurable or chronic disease, arthritis, rheumatism, emaciation, paralysis, deformities, insanity, glandular disease, elephantiasis, tumors, cancers, exhaustion, fatigue, depression, melancholy, constipation, injuries sustained by falling trees of thrown rocks (injuries from the air), muscle twitches, spasms, contractions, convulsions & aches. Saturn is always involved in severe illnesses like Bell’s Palsy, quadriplegia, paraplegia, multiple sclerosis.
Too much wet, slow, heavy kapha affliction on Saturn like poor diet, insufficient exercise, sleeping in the day, tonsillitis, enlarged bulky muscles, loss of proportion, muscle cysts, hernia, fibromaylgia, fibrocystic changes in the breasts, uterine fibroids, enlarged lips, cheeks, tongue.
Too much hot, dry, light influence on Saturn can cause one to work too hard, undertake too much physical activity, lack protein due to insufficient nourishment. This can result in muscle atrophy/wasting/rigidity, loss of muscle power, emaciation, fatigue, dislocation of joints, TMJ disorders, craving for meat, sunken cheeks, sunken eyes, many look like a walking skeleton, expression of grief and sadness, cold and hungry (but cannot adsorb the nutrients in food) profuse accumulation of ear wax, smegm. One may feel like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Unresolved emotions accumulate to create tension, stress and stiffness fear, anxiety, grief, sadness, anger.
Slowness of action, clumsiness, hiccup, insanity, unfounded fears, leprosy, debility, hemorrhoids, chronic boils or ulcers, incurable ailments, poisoning, snake bites, diseases of the feet. Gives phobias thru connection with the moon. Considered the same as Saturn. Matures at 48. Represents very old people over 100.
Same as Rahu, but more uncertain cause, epidemics, eruptive forces, viral and infectious disease, parasites of intestines or blood, speech defects, diagnostic confusion, surgical intervention, same as Mars. Matures at 48. Represents very old people over 100.
Lantern Festival – Chang Mai
Fevers, headaches, whole body, brain, strokes, cerebral bleeding, injuries to the skull, head, difficulties at time of birth, eyes, back of head to base of skull.
Neck, throat, thyroid, obesity, face, mouth, jaw, teeth, childhood disease, like cough, cold, flu, mumps, measles, genetic illness, memory, larynx, cerebellum, vocal cords, faculties of speech, taste, tongue, sight, beauty, eating habits, hair, manner of speaking, the face one shows to the world, family values.
Cough, pulmonary problems, lungs, asthma, shoulders, arms, upper back, nervous disorders, mentality, muscular-skeletal coordination, agitation, movement and expression of the upper body, stress response, behaviours of the hands, mental illnesses related to mentality (argumentative, cranky, perfectionism, tantrums, stubbornness), the way one reaches out to the world.
Chest problems, breast cancer, tumours, chest colds, rib cage, emotional comfort, boundary issues, front part of chest, elbows, watery pump action of heart, lungs, breasts, endocrine system, watery tides of the body, lactation, capacity for foundation education.
Vitality, heart, solar plexus, diaphragm, digestive juices, fertility, intelligence/intellect, menstrual problems, mid-back, small intestines, vitality produced by the heart, pitta of the blood.
Digestion, absorption, gas, ulcers, allergies, hypoglycemia, diabetes, appendicitis, immune system weakness, bowel movements related to digestion, colon, large intestine, hands, they way we approach our health challenges.
Urinary problems, fertility issues for women, internal sex organs, venereal disease, sexual virility, lowest part of abdomen, lumbar, kidneys, pancreas, one on one relationships.
Hemorrhoids, bowel movement, blood disorders, impotence for men, external sex organs, urinary, sacrum, perineum, rectum, bladder, prostate, uterus, ovaries, sudden shocking events, deep healing.
Arteries, obesity, hips, sacrum, paralysis below the waist, thighs, belief.
Weakness to bones, arthritis, knees, our standing in life.
Any part of the body signified sign, house, planet or nakshatra that is touched by any of these malefic signifiers will suffer. The degree of the suffering will depend on the number of malefic influences on that particular part of the body by checking the various signifiers for that part of the body as detailed below.
Tamasic combinations and planets will function thru the physical body in a spiritually dark way.
Rajasic will function thru the mind, emotions and intellect in a spiritually active way.
Sattwic will function thru the soul in a pure loving harmonious way acting as an instrument of the divine.
The Body of Kal-Parusha
(House Number also signifies the sign of that number)
1st house is the head
2nd house is his face and neck
3rd house is arms and shoulders
4th house is his chest
5th house his heart
6th house his stomach
7th house is his groin
8th house is his anus
9th house is his thighs
10th house his knees
11th house his shins
12th house the soles of his feet
(If the ascendant degree is between 0 – 10 degree, we follow first drekkana; if it’s 10 – 20 degrees, we follow the second drekkana; 20 -30 degrees we follow the third.)
1st house: Head, Neck, Pelvis
2nd house: Right eye, Right Shoulder, Right side of penis/anus
3rd house: Right ear, arm, testical
4th house: Right nostril, side of the body, thigh
5th house: Right temple, heart, knee
6th house: Right cheek, abdomen, calf
7th house: Chin, navel, feet
8th house: Cheek, abdomen, calf
9th house: Left temple, heart, knee
10th house Left Nostril, Side of the body, thigh
11th house: Left ear, arm, testical
12th house: Left eye, shoulder, penis/anus
The Body of Kal Parusha by Nakshatra
Ashvini: Both knees & upper parts of feet
Bharani: Head & bottom part of feet
Krittika: Waist & top and back part of head
Rohini: Both legs & the forehead
Mrigashira: The two eyes & eyebrows
Ardra: Hair & both eyes
Punarvasu: Fingers & nose
Pushya: Mouth & face (facial expression)
Ashlesha: Nails, joints & ears
Magha: Nose, lips & chin
Poorva Phalguni: Private parts & right hand
Uttara Phalguni: Private parts, lips & left hand
Hasta: The two hands & fingers
Chitra: Forehead & neck
Swati: Teeth, intestines & chest
Vishakha: Both arms & breasts
Anuradha: Heart, stomach, bowels & womb
Jyeshta: Tongue, neck & right side of the body
Moola: Both feet & the left side of the body
Poorva Ashadha: Both thighs & the back
Uttara Ashadha: Both thighs & the waist
Shravana: Both ears & the sex organs
Dhanista: Back & anus
Shatabhishak: Chin & right thigh
Poorva Bhadrapada: Both sides of the body, ankles & left thigh
Uttara Bhadrapada: Both sides of the body, ankles & lower legs
Revati: Both armpits, abdomen, groin & ankles
There are several ways to determine body parts thru the astrology chart. Of course no single method will be 100% accurate. These various methods allow us to check a body part in at four different ways (by sign, by house, by Dekkana & by Nakshatra). If the same part of the body is afflicted thru all four of these indicators, you can be sure that part of the body we suffer in some form. On the other hand, if all four signifiers of the same body part have benefic influence or beneficial yoga, you can be sure
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A wide variety of people us Vedic astrology for many reasons, but most of the people who come to me are looking to deepen their spiritual practice; or understand their place in society thru wealth, marriage, career; or perhaps they are concerned about their health, or their state of mind, or their family.
Astrology shows how everything and everyone is connected so there are always things we can do to strengthen what is good in us and loosen our attachments what is dark and draining.
For remedial measures to work, we have to understand how and why they work, and they have to be something we are likely to follow.
Like everything astrological, remedial measures have to be suited for this time and place.
What is Vedic Astrology?
Commonly known as Vedic Astrology because of it’s connection with Ayurveda, the science of life, Jyotish is the science of light. This science, as it’s practiced today, has it’s base in the Hora Shastra by SageParashara. The original book was written over one thousand years ago and my teacher still tells me to consult it before asking him questions.
Vedic astrology is unique from western astrology in several ways. The most obvious is that Parashara teaches us to use the sidereal chart which locates the true position of the planets in relation to the the time and place of ones birth. This means that compared to Topical chart used for western astrology, all of the planets will shift about 24 degrees (almost a whole 30 degree sign, x 12 gives us 360 degrees)). For example, in western astrology my Sun is in Sagittarius, but in the Vedic sidereal my Sun is in Scorpio. My Moon, however, is well advanced in Gemini in the western topical chart so it remains in Gemini in the sidereal chart, but at very low degrees.
One of the other major differences is that the position of the sun is generally considered of lesser importance in Jyotisha than that of the Moon or the ascendant (rising sign). The ascendant changes sign every 2 hours, the moon every two days and the sun once per month, so it’s obvious where we will find the most individual and personalized reading.
Jyotisha also has a system of planetary cycles called dashas that is missing from Western astrology which uses progression of planets to time predictions which is more cumbersome and does not offer the consistency of results offered by the dasha system. The dashas allow for precise prediction and greater understanding of the cycles of this incarnation. We are connected to the planets as existing within ourselves and we are within them. All of the light which shines to illumine this world before us shines and is directed from within. We are that Shankara who is the source of the power of the wheel of energies. When we praise that Shankara, we praise the highest expression of our own selves by whose contraction and expansion this whole world comes into being and goes out again.
The most important feature of Vedic astrology is how it works with Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra to offer numerous remedial measures that can be personally tailored for anyone depending on their own will to gain the Supreme knowledge that nourishes, heals all wounds, allows us to form a union with ourselves, freeing us of all limitation.
How does Vedic Astrology differ from Western Astrology?
Vedic Astrology, known as Jyotisha, is the science of light which has been followed since ancient times in and around India where astrologers are still considered teachers, guides and counselors. The Vedic system of Astrology differs from the western system of Astrology by using the sidereal chart that accurately charts the locations of the planets which means that the planets in your charts will be shifted by about 24 degree. Considering each sign takes up 30 degrees, this means that the western topical astrology charts are out by almost an entire sign. This why many people find that their moons, for example, are in different signs in the two systems.
Vedic Astrology uses the rising sign chart, the Moon chart, the Sun chart and the Navamsha chart to uncover the mysteries of an individuals universe. Western astrology uses only the sun chart. From the Vedic perspective the sun is the soul of man, this makes it more difficult for us to understand than our mind, represented by the moon, and our physical existence, represented by our rising sign chart. It’s only a few who are blessed to not only recognize their own, but to be able to articulate it as well. Our mind and our body we can generally have a coherent conversation about, this is why Vedic astrology generally discusses only these more manifest karmas.
Vedic Astrology has a dasha system that allows for accurate prediction of events on a time line. The dashas are the periods of our life that are ruled by the different planets. The Vedic system uses 9 planets: the seven main ones (Sun , Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn), and Rahu and Ketu (the north and south nodes), dark spots in the sky that cause eclipses whenever they come over the sun or moon. These nine plants each rule over a span of years which combines to 120 years. Saturn, for example, rules over 19 years. Within Saturn’s 19 years, each planet again rules a period of time so that the time periods of all nine planets equals 19. So the 19 year dasha period of Saturn has nine sub-periods, each sub-period again has nine sub-periods. The dasha‘s are used to understand more specifically what karmas are arising at different periods of your life.
The predictive capability allowed by the dasha system is how Vedic astrology proves itself. When the dasha periods are combined with the transiting planets, astrological prediction can be amazingly accurate. But making such predictions does not necessarily serve the client or the astrologer. The more specific an astrologer tries to be in their prediction, the more likelihood there is of making an error and leading a client down a wrong path. Also, in most cases, one cannot be sure of an exact birth time or location coordinates which will always have a subtle effect on a chart and a life. But more importantly, not all karmas are so fixed as to be certainties.
Free will plays a huge role in how we are affected by karma. One of the main jobs of an astrologer is to help people use their free will most effectively by pointing out the benefics and malefics in their life and suggesting subtle remedies based on the desires and abilities of the client. The predictive capabilities of Vedic astrology should not be taken to suggest that we are completely ruled over by fate, but rather we could be if we don’t maintain some kind of vigilant awareness of our mind, body and spirit.
Vedic astrology can be an excellent tool for such personal awareness, especially when combined with the complimentary tools such as yoga, Ayurveda, and other spiritual practices.
If you have any questions about Vedic astrology please contact me at email@example.com
Om Namah Shivaya
How does a reading work?
There are generally five parts to a reading. First, I take the birth data you give me and caste the chart. Next, I look into your past to find details about your life and family so that we might gain confidence in the data, and the client can be assured that astrology is a working science. The third step goes thru a broad array of past and future and personal characteristics. Vedic astrology loves specific questions that it can answer clearly and directly so we address these in the fourth part of the reading, as well as philosophical questions that this science often provokes from people. The last part is the most important part where we discuss remedial measures.
What kinds of remedies are available?
The astrology chart is like a doctors pathology report. For the client, much of the karmic script is just meaningless data; what’s important is the medicine. “What can I do?” This is what is most important: what can we do to help ourselves, to help others, and to help this world. Thru the remedies, astrology shows us the ways we can connect to that universal energy in order be more effective in the three worlds.
Vedic astrology is supported by all of the remedial measures of yoga, tantra & ayurveda. Classical remedies include gem stones, metals, colours, weekdays, mantras, offering service, charity or donation, or actively harmonizing with some part of nature, giving worship to specific deities. I can also offer individual advice for meditation and asana practice. Some generalized health, diet and lifestyle advise is also possible.
Initial Consultation: 1.5 – 2 hours
Full chart assessment of the past, present and future karma
Evolution of consciousness
Major life themes
Remedial measures suited individuals in the modern world
Includes one Skype call (or detailed e-mail), one e-mail with basic information before the call and another follow up e-mail to address question afterwards.
Follow-Up Consultations: 1 hour
To answer specific questions
To give an annual report
These can be completed by call or e-mail.
Chart Matching to assess suitability for marriage and advise on relationship challenges that the individuals are likely to face, both as individuals and as a couple. Traditionally this is used for partner selection, but it can also be a great relationship tool for couples to understand what brings then together and the lessons they are here to learn thru their relationships. I also give advice on marriage gem stone selection since diamond is not always the most supportive gem stone for marriage.
Payments can be made by e-mail interact transfers or PayPal.
What is the ground of Yoga? What is it that makes yoga unique and special setting it apart from all the other activities we perform on the course of the day or throughout our lives?
According to Patanjali, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
yoga cittavrtti nirodaha
Thru tradition we are advises to ground ourselves in our practice in a similar way.
Om shree ganesha namaha
Any kind of spiritual exercise begins with supplication to Ganesha, famous as the remover of obstacles, and our mind being the biggest obstacle to spiritual realization. The little rat (rodent) he uses as a vehicle is always chewing like the mind. You’ll also see his image or some symbol relating to him at the entrance ways of temples and some homes.
A fairly famous way of opening into a spiritual practice like yoga and meditation goes like this:
Om shree ganesha namaha
Om aparvitro pavitrova sharva vashtang
gato o piva yashmaret pundari
kaksham asavantra suchii
Om madhai namaha
Om keshai namaha
Om Rishikeshai namaha
Om pundari kakshan punatu x 3
Om apsarpantu te bhuta, ye bhuta bhuvi sanshitas
ye bhuta vignakartarste nashyantu
Om namaha shivaya
After supplicating Ganesha, it goes on to purify the body internally and externally thru supplication to Vishnu the great preserver and operator of the three gunas within the main trinity of gods at the level of Ishwara. After the purification rights (pundari kakshan punatu), we insist that ghosts, latent desires (apsar) and mental impressions of the past be banished from disturbing us from our practice. This will happen by reaching the level of Shiva knowledge (Shivajnana); universal consciousness. So from this we want to practice from a ground of Shiva consciousness.
As we continue our contemplation of the earth tattva, we have to remember that Shiva descended as far as earth and then stopped. He could have descended further, he can do as he likes, thus they say, he likes earth the best. Shiva descends to the most impure gross dense point of earth before making the ascension back thru the tattva.
In this regards, I think of all these people who ask about past lives and such things. If we consider the tattva of tantra, the individual soul exists below the maya tattva, so even our soul is subject to time and the rest, which allows for linear progression and thus past lives. Time, of course takes on a different dimension relative to the birth and death of that soul so when we think about past lives we need to consider that that soul too will make a complete cycle from purity to impurity to purity once again. Such a realization might be the Sankya ideal of kaivalaya for the duality is still there, but Tantra advises to press on beyond the knots, otherwise known as the universal womb, that separate us from from the supreme consciousness, which is the realization of the non-difference between the universal and the individual: moksha; liberation in this life. Patanjali’s yoga cittavrttinirodha is both the the definition of yoga and the means to stopping the fluctuations. We stop (nirodha) the fluctuations (vrtti) of the mind (chitta) by bringing them together in union (yoga). You could say that the project of yoga is to harmonize the mental fluctuations; the cittavrtti.
Going back to the original question of this article, what makes yoga unique. Yoga shares many similarities to creative projects like dance and the arts which also seek a kind of harmony between the artist and the mythical spirits which moves his hand to draw of feet to dance. But there is a subtle. Of course, one could make arguments for dancers at the highest levels reaching a kind of samadhi; but this says little stress, tension and competition that mark the a climb. The truth is that dance very typically has numerous undesirable side effects related to vata and pitta excess and diminished kapha. This is the exact opposite of what yoga is trying to do: cool, calm, lubricate and nourish the body and ultimately the universe. Harmony is something we seek on all levels, but only when we act for something far greater than ourselves or our limited sphere of perception to we strive for yogic perfection: balanced body, balanced mind, balanced spirit.
Sankya will take you to a firm notion of duality, while Vedanta will soften that sense of duality with the Brahman, but will maintain some sense of maya, while Buddhism is said to take you to the void, Tantra is said to carry us beyond the void to the very source of the arising, sustenance, falling away of every mental impression, experience, and the whole universe. I suppose you could say that dance will allow one to harmonize with some few others, Sankya will aid in harmonizing with most others, but only Tantra seeks harmony with the entire universe.
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Every sort of therapy, regardless of the intensity requires the client to feel a sense of safety and security in the space and in the presence of the therapist. W
One of the main roles we play as yoga teachers and traditional therapists is just to see people for who they really are; which from my perspective is Shiva; lord of the universe. The truth being that everyone is filled with divine beauty. Darshan is the Hindu expression for divine vision: they go to the temple to both give darshan and to receive darshan; to see god and be seen by god.
Darshan involves seeing without judgment; acceptance without condition. People can feel this and they generally feel safe in such an atmosphere. This sort of attitude of acceptance also involves ensuring that our expectations are balanced so that the client may feel empowered to take control of their own lives and be successful on their own terms.
I think it’s equally important for students and clients to understand that they are the ones doing the work and that healing will arise from within. It certainly is not the role of the yoga instructor to take any credit for any changes (or healing) that takes place. People who praise us for our helping hand would be better to direct their praise to that Shankara who is lord of the wheel of energies. This is just our luck to be present and to be used as a instrument for healing.
Telling a student what is best for them vs encouraging them to find out for themselves?
This issue has been raised many times in different ways throughout the workshops I have been attending at Ajna. On the one hand, the body is incredibly strong and can handle almost any posture that we enter into voluntarily, on the other hand, the body is an incredibly fragile thing that can be injured for almost no apparent reason.
Yoga relies on several forms of knowledge including scriptural (knowledge of the experts) and experiential (knowledge gained thru our own experience). As yoga teachers’ people come to us because we have prior experience and study of a practice they would like to incorporate into their lives. From this perspective, it’s our job to advise them based on our own experience or personal study of the scriptures (modern scientific research on yoga could be considered scriptural knowledge in the modern context since modern scientist often play the role of guru these days).
However, telling people what we have learned thru experience or scripture is only half of our job. We must also inform students that if they have any doubt about our teachings, they should discover it for themselves either thru their own personal experience contemplative meditation.
The examples from Patanjali emphasis surrender to that divine will which is always guiding our material being, but there is another side of yoga that emphasizes personal responsibility. If everything is arising from within then the truth is that we cannot blame any of our injuries on our yoga teacher; we have to take responsibility for that. (We cannot blame anything on anyone else for the events of our lives or the way we perceive them). We cannot expect to be healed by our yoga teacher, as this is also our own responsibility.
…. This will be continued in the answer to question #4: “owning” ones own practice.
How does my awareness of privilege (or lack of privilege) affect my actions?
By all appearances I am a middle aged white male; top of the heap.
I’ve spent considerable time traveling places like India where my white skin quickly distinguishes me as a wealthy and privileged person of this world. Add this to a society where the “guest is god,” then I most certainly take a privileged position in Indian society. In Canada, this travel is seen as leisure, which also creates an appearance privilege (how many times have I heard: “You’re so lucky.”)
On the other hand, I’m hard of hearing, metis, forest loving traveler following some foreign beliefs. I can let my appearance get pretty rough, and of course isolation has it’s own effects. Other than being a white male, whatever privileges society offers are swept away in the way marginalized people get swept away in almost any society.
Perhaps I’m especially privileged that I can choose one appearance over the other. Knowing I can choose, I generally prefer to choose the role of marginalized. It’s part of the lesson for people to look beyond appearances. On the other hand, it can be very useful to play into these appearances, polish myself up and assert my privilege to get what I want from society.
The important thing is to recognize that the world of appearance does not change what we have inside, which is where our true strengths and weaksnesses lie. We cannot take it personally when someone gives way to our privilege, nor should we take it personally when someone takes advantage of theirs. It’s always give and take and it all arises from within.
How to empower our students to “own” their practice?
I often tell my students that my role is only to teach them yoga so that they can go back home and make their own practice in the bedrooms and private spaces. I teach pretty close to the same routine every class and try to remind them (and myself) that it’s their class; I can adjust to what they want. I often tell them that listening to me is actually taking away from a much greater inward experience that they could have at home. I ask them about their own practice (yogic or otherwise) and encourage them to follow that and perhaps discover the yoga in it even if it doesn’t seem at all like a yogic activity. I try to inform clients on the various kinds of yoga that are not necessarily asana based and encourage them to connect with those things that bring them a clean and clear sense of joy. It’s also not uncommon for me to go to people’s homes and practice (or teach) yoga with them there. And of course always trying to direct their awareness inward where they can experience their power and realize their own personal responsibility.
Strengths based practice: how does this intersect with how I’ve been taught to teach yoga?
This field is perhaps one of the main ways that yoga and other forms of traditional healing differ from healing in the west. The experience of most traditional healers that we are not really healers at all; but perhaps, at best, we are instruments of healing in the same way almost anything can act as such an instrument when the time for healing comes. The true healing, of course, comes from within the individual. I have often been taught that my job is just to do my job to the best of my ability and not worry about results. Not everyone will get the same results and certainly not everyone is looking for the same results; they will get from me whatever they have in them to get and I will get the same from them.
This is traditional ways: give up seeking results, give up your attractions and repulsions, forget your prejudices, be aware and see people deeply for who they really are which in yoga essentially means to see ourselves deeply for who we really are: we are that shiva nature, that consciousness permeating everything, that joy and freedom that underlies everything. Be aware of who you really are and then express that in the therapeutic model that resonates with you, master your own practice (whatever that is) and share it with others, it will resonate with some people and others will be repulsed by it. This is not personal.
Yoga talks about the different kinds of students, this relates also with healing: some will be healed miraculously from the slightest hint, some will need some explanation, some will need practice and explanation, some will need even more work for just the slightest understanding, others will never get anything from us; some might get a small token, others a fortune. These things are not for us to be concerned with; this is all karma. By some combination of their luck and our luck things will happen. However, we are still very much personally responsible, so, in the context of yoga therapy our job is twofold: 1. to keep up to date with the latest therapeutic models; and 2. to cultivate inner yogic awareness. Put another way, we must be aware of all the tattva (which is all this science and nature we are studying from this guruji who has so many impressive years of experience); know them by scripture (specialists) and know them by personal experience. These classes are modern form scripture, however life experience is always the highest knowledge.
We will heal to that tattva for which we have awareness. The more pervasive our awareness the deeper is our ability to heal… ourselves….. and then we see that we are not different from those who come in front of us.
Our job is not to heal, but to be ourselves to the greatest possible degree. If our dharma is too heal, then we have a particular responsibility to be the absolute best version of that healers self we can be. If we want to teach empowerment we have to realize it in ourselves. Prove that the method works on your self and then teach that method to others.
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Self knowledge, the equal of universal knowledge in most of India, is one of the most prized areas of knowledge. Various sciences and systems have been created just for this purpose. One of the oldest branches of knowledge in India is called Samkya. This is a dualist and materialistic branch of knowledge that sought to map out and categorize the various elements of existence that allow us to have this human experience. After some time, many of the philosophers and rishis began to understand that there was more to life than meets the eye. The material designations of Sankya are fine they said, but something was clearly missing since all this matter is inert, insentient and incapable of the complexity that we see in life. So, the rishis and philosopher looked deeper and eventually expanded the categories of tattvas to include several higher elements that connect us to a divine well-spring of power that infuses matter with sentience.
So, anyone wishing to follow the philosophical schools of India should have some cursory knowledge of the tattwas as outlined by Sankya as well as the more subtle tattwas as outlined in Tantra. In this section I wish to share some of the notes I have made regarding the tattwas. I cannot claim this as original work, but since it’s an area of study that I find myself continuously coming back to, I’ve come to believe that a basis in this knowledge is necessary for the more intellectually minded self seeker.
The Bhagavad Gita has said that there are four kinds of people who worship god: 1. the distressed, 2. seekers of knowledge, 3. seekers of wealth, 4. people of knowledge. In his summary of Chapter 7 of the Gita, Abhinavagupta wrote that, “Pure devotion is the wish fulfilling tree by means of which one may fulfill hopes proper to be desired by the sadhaka.” (p186) And elsewhere it has been said that knowledge is better than practice, meditation is better than knowledge, but renunciation of the fruits of action is better than meditation.
Spiritual inclination is grace! Spiritual effort is grace!
Tantric Upayas: Mean of Liberation
“Whatever act I may have performed without knowing its good or bad consequences or knowing the proper order of its performances; whatever act I may have performed without concentration or with any other lapse of my intellect; all of that, O Shambhu, you who are compassionate, forgive me, your miserable and ignorant devotee. Through this strota I surrender myself to you and let me never again become the abode of misery for no good reason.” (Abhinavagupta p264)
So with all of this in mind we can then then use these clues about our true nature to help lend us the faith and knowledge that we all need to begin or continue our spiritual practice. In tantra the means to self-recognition are said to be four-fold; these can be understood as both different stages of practice, as well as different means that can be used in different circumstances. The point of any Tantric sadhana is to efface the ego while cultivating a sense of universal love and oneness with those (and that which is) around you.
Ultimately we all have to accept that this comes only by grace, but a touch of that grace seem to already apply to those whose aim in life is spiritual. In any case these are the four means of liberation.
Shambhav-upaaya: Philosophical and mental means of liberation. Iccha-shakti; method of will. Theory of reflection. A kind of direct perception or pure understanding that form is merely a reflection of the Supreme. There is no method here other than being established in your own will; seated in the self; seated in the heart or however you want to put it. Matrkachakra: this is the awareness of pure thought without constructs; in other words sound. Pratyahara: this is spontaneous absorption which comes only by grace. When one is established in the self what need to be done. Abhinavagupta described pratyahara as, “When, like a turtle which withdraws its limbs on all sides, the yogi withdraws his senses from the sense objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.” (Gita 2/58) We expect our saints to be living at this level of awareness. Accords with the dream sleep when the mind dwells in the throat.
Shakt-upaaya: Contemplative concentration of void. (ex. Gap between two thoughts) Jnana-shakti. Uninterrupted awareness. Discovery of reality of void thru subtle means of conscious awareness. Practices that involve the mind and various higher levels of consciousness. Spiritual teachers are perhaps expected to be practising here. Accords with the dreamless sleeping state when the mind dwells in the heart.
Anava-upaaya: Depends on breathing (uccaara), sense organs (karana), and mental concentration (dhyana). Concentrate on space between inhale and exhale. One pointed concentration with any sense organ (ex. Trataka). Dyana without form like mantra. Dyana with form like yantra. Devote yourself to God thru puja, japa, homa, study of the scriptures. All the practices that make use of the organs of sense and action. This of course is where most of us are trying to practice and learn. Accords with the waking state when your mind dwells in the navel.
An-upaaya: No method. Only remain aware that nothing has to be done. Abide in one’s own self. Surrender your actions to God. This is the back up plan. This is perhaps the practice of the average person. Accords with the 4th state when the mind dwells in the head.
All of the methods we use for self-recognition and self-improvement will fit into one of these categories. For most of us we can only apply an-upaaya. We’re busy completing our karma, we’re engrossed in what we’re doing and that’s ok. We just have to remember that nothing truly needs to be done; we just have to be. For many people, this isn’t enough, we want to go deeper and try to understand and perhaps perceive the subtler aspects that are indeed ensuring that everything will be ok in the end (or it won’t and that’s ok too). We want to apply some upaaya, some means for greater self awareness; we want to apply ourselves and improve our organs of sense and action (anava-upaaya); we want to use study scripture, practice various forms of meditation and yoga that can help get us or keep us in touch with some divine that we all sense is a part of our lives. We generally feel pretty good about ourselves doing all of this until someone reminds us that nothing really needs to be done. At which point we stop doing so much and sit and do it all in our minds: conscious awareness; subtle awareness; shakt-upaaya. We have to do something so we continue, but we try to keep in mind that the doing doesn’t really matter so much; it’s not really part of the job profile of the individual self the individual soul that is still a part of the universal self that we’re all trying to get in touch with has made many of those decisions (after all, astrology clearly teaches us that the universal self is taking care of most of the doing down here on earth). The individual self can, however, move it’s awareness around and put it where ever it likes. (The oldest texts on yoga talk about entering other bodies.) Some say we are to put our awareness on prayer, others say to look for pleasure and satisfaction in life, a few other dare to claim we should focus on combining the two. All would perhaps agree that we should first have some idea who we really are. In the end, grace is our only hope. By grace some people become seated in themselves and there is nothing more to be done (shambhav-upaya). When we withdraw our senses from the objects of sense we experience the pure taste of whatever flavour we have inside of us; we get that pure flavour we crave on account of the wheels of energies that are operating inside of us.
“The withdrawal of the vital channels (pranayama), the conquest of the elements (dharana), freedom from the elements (pratyahara) and the separation of the elements (Svachinanda).”
(Shiva Sutra 3/5)
“…he who constantly tries to discern the spanda (vibration) principle rapidly attains his own true state of being….” (Stanzas)
Vijnanabhairava it the classical text outlining 112 methods of Tantric and Yogic methods of union or self-realization. Some suttras give very specific instruction, others leave the door wide open for you to follow what comes natural to you: a word, an object, a thought, anything at all; fix your mind on it and don’t let it waver. “The expansion of consciousness that takes place when one is engaged in a single thought should be known as the source from whence another arises. One should experience that for oneself.” (Stanzas 41) Or find that point between two breaths, two thoughts, or two actions and try to rest your mind there. Meditate on being both the perceiver and perceived (the subject and the object). Then establish a state of awareness of that which links the two. Become fully aware of the state of perceiving, free from both subject and object. Abhinavagupta has described it as a bird swooping down upon it’s prey. That moment moves fast and we must be swift.
Much of the Vijnanabhairava teaches a kind of concentration or focus, when we can take this power of focus and put it where we like, then we can do what we want. Of course we also have to have he self knowledge to know if we have the various abilities of mind sense and action to get that thing. This is why yoga seems to focus so heavily on health, exercise, learning and study; because if we’re strong healthy, flexible and knowledgeable we will be able to access and heighten all of our natural abilities. If we have looked at and studied the self merely by observing the various faculties of the self we will be more comfortable in our bodies, our minds, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. This comfort allows us to take our awareness away from the body, mind and circumstances and focus instead on those higher aspects of ourself that reach throughout the cosmos rather than remaining trapped in our tiny worlds of suffering and woes. Contemplate each tattva respectively and disattach from it: from least pervasive to most pervasive; from the elements, up thru the senses, mind, intellect, maya and consciousness itself. (See chapter on tattva’s.)
Anything that brings us closer to recognizing and realizing that we are that universe can be considered a means to liberation. Many of the Indian sciences have their own upayas depending on which parts of us we are focused on healing and getting into touch with. But every upaya also affects the whole. So if you’re following Ayurvedic diet to heal your body, that healing is also bringing more awareness of your soul. But of course everything must be followed in balance or you get some excess or deficiency.
In regards to healing, we can often look at to the activity of the senses to see if what is happening on the inside is the same as what is happening on the outside. Food, acupuncture, the clothes and ornaments we wear, the the people we associate with and the activities we perform can all be used to heal. It’s all a kind of worship and ritual. Swami Laxmanjoo made a point when he said that worldly life is pragmatic, worship should be appreciated as theater: art for arts sake. In the Stanzas on Vibration it says: “Constantly attentive and perceiving the entire universe as play, he who has this awareness is undoubtedly liberated in this very life.” With equal gusto it has been advised to ignore the cycle of birth and death; the cycle of life is higher, only it is eternal. If we live for an eternity there is always time and reason for healing and self recognition. It’s cautioned, however, that while participating in sense enjoyment, we are to be enjoying the bliss of self, not the pleasure of the sense object.
“The subject is said to be the lord when, in the midst of phenomena, (he experiences them) as his own body. (But he is) a fettered soul when, sullied by karma etc., (he experiences) conflicts (klesha) in the midst of diversity generated by maya.
Jyotish Astrology Upayas
“the City of Eight consists of the inner mental organ along with the senses of knowledge and action. Others say that it is [also] made up of the five breaths, the five subtle elements, desire, karma and ignorance.” (Tattvaprakasha)
Jyotish astrology, as the science of light, also seeks to engage the subtler perspectives and provide upayas for self recognition. Astrology acts as the mirror of the individual self and suggest remedial measures for helping you to realize your connection with the universal self. For anyone with any experience with Jyotish astrology, we often find that our limits in the material world are much greater that we at first suspected. The extent of our fettered is almost unimaginable, but still we get this wonderful experience of free will. So how do we explain this contradiction between our experience and the knowledge.
Astrology is of course an ocean of a science, and the astrologer merely a pearl diver. The ocean is vast, and the diver is just one small simple man. The client has his or her chart (the ocean) and the astrologer also has his own chart, which is but a wet-suit compared to the ocean. If both charts are favorable, the client will receive a good reading and go away happy and receive the fruits he or she expects to receive. Perhaps the person will even get a glimmer of the divine forces to which are inseparably linked. If, however, just one chart is not favorable, many things can easily go awry. The astrologer can have a bad day and miss something, or the data might not be quite right, or the client might not understand correctly. In any case, it’s always our own fate, we cannot blame others for our misery.
Traditional healers generally maintain that they do not actually perform any healing. The client comes (we always hope) with that healing already inside of them. The healers job is merely to point them in the direction of healing. The healer is just an instrument of healing. This is why such a variety of scientific and non-scientific methods all work to heal; because it’s not the method which is providing healing, but the patients own life force. Astrologers need to impress upon people that what they generally decoding for them is what they have inside of themselves; and not necessarily some outside force. There are no upayas that can bring you anything you don’t already have inside, all they can do is help you to reach the highest and best potential of what you already have.
From an astrological perspective, what is outside of us and outside of us are merely reflected versions of each other that are constantly acting and interacting together. We get a combined effect of the reactions that are produced. We often say that an astrology chart is like a pathology report. The astrologer is like the doctor who interprets that report. The client doesn’t really need to know the details of the report, what the client needs is the remedial measures.
In truth, most people know themselves fairly well. They don’t really need an astrologer to tell them about themselves, what they need are ways which will help them understand the interconnectedness of everything. Giving specific selfless service is said to be one of the best ways of overcoming or understanding our suffering. When we serve those who share our suffering or represent our fears then we dissipate that negative quality; life become just a little bit lighter.
Meditation and any spiritual practice in general can been good, but even these things can be fine tuned with astrology. Of course gemstones are easiest for most people with a few extra dollars, but without grace, I can’t imagine the effect to be as strong as with some practice which can include service and ritual, but also tapas, worship, mantra, the study of scriptures and other such engaging practices.
What is important to remember is that “Identification with the City of Eight is bondage.” This may come as a surprise to many people who have been taught to identify with their own inner soul, rather than with their body, but these lessons of the City of Eight suggest that even the deepest essence of our individual soul is binding, as of course it must be, since freedom is not an individual experience but rather a universal one.
Part 10: The Goal
Somewhere within all of this is supposed to be some goal. We want something for all of this work performed. What exactly we want is not easy to describe. Many words get used such as enlightenment, self-recognition, self-empowerment, freedom, liberation. Many other describe as self-improvement or self-betterment. We are not, after all, merely doing this for our health. So what should we expect? The truth is that we should not expect anything. Of course everything is always changing so there will be change, but fundamentally nothing will change. You will still have the same fate and karmas to perform. As Krishna said in the Gita: “we cannot avoid action, not even thru non-action.”
What changes is our awareness? By gaining deeper more focused awareness we are able to recognize how we are ourselves the universe. This is self-recognition. We come to recognize the eternal subject which is ourselves, as well as the relationships of that subject with the various objects of the world beginning without own body. We are not this limited individual self, we are the universal self in part and in whole.
Some beliefs bring people to an emptiness once the individual self has been over come, Tantra promises a fullness like a pot boiling over. The fullness is the dynamic interplay between subject and object, the movement and change of the world. To be aware of this is said to be freedom. The practice of yoga is the practice of being aware of all those things that connect us with ourselves and the other (which is who all the gods essentially represent) We should be aware of consciousness, breath, energy levels, rituals, mantra and worship. Expanded awareness is the only goal and these are the tools (our body and this world) This is the same awareness which shows us that there really is no distinction between fate and free will.
This is a big concern for many people who feel as though they are being led thru life like a draft animal. Many people who hear about astrology feel like this whole concept of astrology somehow interferes with their free will. Most people is this world are very attached to the ignorance they call free will. This common idea that we are the body and thru the body we can do what we like thru free will is a very narrow and ignorant perception of freedom and will. If we start to recognize that we are all of this, only then will we recognize the place from where that freedom and will arise.
We recognize our free will when we are aware of that all of this is emanating from the free will of that Shiva which is inside of us; that which which is us. Freedom is exercised on the levels between Shiva and maya, not on the level of our minds, bodies and senses. These things are merely the tools for exercising that freedom. Of course once a choice is made, we have to live by the karma of that choice. As soon as an individual soul takes a body, the time and place of that activity becomes crucial for the rest of ones life. This is of course the time and place of our birth and first breath, and whatever karma is given to us at that precious moment will determine the extent of the work to be do in this life. The trick is to recognize all of this and maintain that awareness that we are Shiva, we are the chooser, and have chosen to experience all of this. What is inside is outside so we have as much power inside of ourselves to affect events in our lives and this world as the Sun and the Moon have to affect the life cycles of this universe. It’s a fully reciprocal relationship between ourselves and the world. The more we recognize this, the more harmony comes into our lives and the world. The truth to life and freedom are vast; they range far beyond the mundane details of life. We can be sure, however, that everyone will play their role and each of us will get that taste we most crave; the quality of that flavour will be up to us.
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