Hatha yoga is the union of prana and mind with the Self. In the spine are three major nadis known as ida, pingala and sushumna. Nadi means flow, like the flow of electricity within a cable. One wire carries the negative force and another carries the positive force of electricity. So in hatha yoga, ida nadi represents the negative force, the flow of consciousness, pingala represents the positive force, the flow of vital energy and sushumna nadi represents the neutral force, the flow of spiritual energy. The union, the connection between these three flows, occurs in ajna chakra (the eyebrow center). The union between ida, pingala, and sushumna is hatha yoga. When this union takes place there is an instant awakening in mooladhara chakra at the base of the spine. This is the seat of primal energy or kundalini shakti. The awakening of kundalini is the subject matter of hatha yoga.
Through the practices that are taught in hatha yoga, union is brought about. As a result of that union, the awakening of kundalini takes place. When awakening occurs, then kundalini ascends to higher realms of consciousness, and finally it is established in sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. When kundalini is established in sahasrara chakra, that is called yoga, not hatha yoga. This is the difference between yoga and hatha yoga. Yoga means union of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (energy). Shakti is kundalini energy; Shiva is the supreme consciousness seated in sahasrara chakra. When awakening takes place in mooladhara at the base of the spine, then kundalini starts ascending. She ascends through sushumna, not through ida and pingala. Sushumna is the highway for kundalini. It passes through various chakras, sometimes all of a sudden and sometimes very slowly. When it unites with ida and pingala in ajna chakra, that is called hatha yoga. Then, after this first union, it forges ahead to sahasrara chakra. There it unites with the supreme consciousness, Shiva. That is called yoga, which means ultimate union. Therefore, the ultimate object of hatha yoga is to experience yoga.”3
“There are actually three channels in the system. The one in the center is called Sushumna, which caters to the parasympathetic nervous system, or the autonomous nervous system. The one on the left looks after the left sympathetic nervous system, and on the right it looks after the right sympathetic nervous system. Now, it is not accepted yet, or discovered yet in medical science that the left and right sympathetic nervous systems are two juxtaposed systems. Their functions are absolutely opposite to each other.”
Shri Kamya Devi
(Kamya [321st]: Desired — (by seekers after liberation).
“The left side channel is called Ida Nadi and is connected to the right side and the back of the brain. The two, left and right channels, cross at the Agnya Chakra. This channel caters for the left sympathetic nervous system. This channel looks after our emotional life and our past. It is the channel which creates our past. Whatever is the present today becomes the past tomorrow. The subconscious mind receives information from this channel. The sub-conscious mind has an age-old Collective Subconscious mind beyond it. Everything that was in the past since creation resides dormant in the Collective Subconscious. This Collective Subconscious has all that is dead in the evolutionary process collected and stored. Whatever is dead or gone out of the circulation of evolution and also whatever is spilling out of the subconscious mind goes out into the Collective Subconscious mind.”
Shri Bahu-rupa Shri Nirmala Devi
(Bahu-rupa [824th]: Of multifarious manifestations. ‘Bahuni yasya Rupani Sthirani ca carani ca, deva manusya stiryan ca bahurupa ta tah Siva.’ There are many forms of Her: the divine, human, animal, static and mobile. Hence, She is known as ‘Bahurupa.’ (Devi-Purana) The Jagat, Jiva, and Isvara are Her forms.)
“The right side channel is called as Pingala Nadi which crosses Ida Nadi at Agnya Chakra level. It is connected with the left side and the front of the brain. This channel caters for the right sympathetic nervous system. On the right hand side is the supraconscious mind, which creates our future. Whatever we think about our future is recorded on the right hand side, and it also has a Collective Supraconscious, which has got all that is dead, which happens due to over-ambitious, futuristic personalities, aggressive animals or plants.”
Shri Kama-Kalarupa Shri Nirmala Devi
“The Sushumna is the central channel for our evolution. It is through this channel that we become Collectively Conscious and all the disparate factors of our being are integrated in one whole. It makes the connection between our conscious mind and the auto of the autonomous system, the Spirit, which is a reflection of God. Sushumna is the way of Dharma, the straight and narrow path by which we pass through the Gate of the Agnya Chakra to enter into the Kingdom of God in the Sahasrara.”
Shri Sasvataisvarya Shri Nirmala Devi
(Sasvataisvarya [952nd]: Eternal Kingdom of dominion. She is always the Giver of Eternal Bliss, the greatest dominion.)
In the Tao Te Ching the primordial power is described as that of a mother. Lao Tze described Kundalini as the “spirit of the valley” (in which flows the Nadi of Sushumna). The spirit of the valley never dies. The spiritual instrument within us can be described as a microcosm (miniature form of creation) which links us with the Divine. The ancient esoteric text “Scripture of the Golden Flower” also spoke of the effects of the awakened kundalini energy.
The Lord Buddha spoke of the “middle path” to achieve nirvana. He was actually describing the central channel (sushumna) through which the Kundalini ascends. Later Buddhist masters considered that the existence of the path of liberation within a human being was the greatest secret. They transmitted it to only a few deserving disciples.
Mooladhara Chakra (Base); Yesod
“The Sanskrit word moola means ‘root or foundation’ and that is precisely what this chakra is. Mooladhara is at the root of the chakra system and its influences are at the root of our whole existence. In tantra, Mooladhara is the seat of kundalini, the basis from which the possibility of higher Realization arises.”
For true understanding of the totality of the subjective life of man, the ancient sages revealed that the five sheaths mentioned above constitute the human personality, which also consists of “three bodies”. These three bodies are used for experiencing the outside world of objects in various states of consciousness. These three bodies are:
- Sthula Sarira or Gross Body ( or Asthool)
- Suksma Sarira or Subtle Body (or Sookham)
- Karana Sarira or Causal Body.
The gross or physical body is made up of five elements, ten senses, the five vital airs (Paraanas), and four subtle inner faculties namely mind, intellect, consciousness, and egoity. The subtle body is made up of the mind, intellect, consciousness, egoity, and five elements. As the name implies, the causal body is the cause of other two bodies.
The gross body consists of the food sheath and the vital-air sheath. It is made of five elements: space, air, fire, water, earth. Through this gross body we contact the outer world to gather stimuli for our experiences. The mental and intellectual sheaths together constitute the subtle body. The subtle body is made up of thoughts. In other words, the mind and the intellect is the subtle body.
The bliss sheath constitutes the causal body. It consists of vasnas in unmanifest form. The causal body is the Maya attached to the Jiva . Due to ignorance, the Jiva remains attached to it, whereby, becomes separated from its true Self. To put it otherwise, our actions constitute the causal body. Sookham asthool sagal Bhgawaan – The auspicious Master is contained everywhere including Sukshma and Sthula (sggs 299).
CHAKRAS OR SUBTLE CENTERS
It is said that the soul enters into matter as a spark of omnipotent life and consciousness. Its instruments are subtle and causal in nature. The soul enters the primal cell of life wearing two forms: a causal body, which in turn is encased in a subtle body. As the name implies, the causal body is the cause of subtle and gross bodies. Thus, the soul is encased in these three bodies. The powers in the various elements of the subtle body help build, maintain, and enliven the gross physical form. The yogis mention that the centers of life and consciousness from which these powers function are the subtle brain (“lotus” of rays of light or vibration), and the subtle cerebrospinal axis (or sushumna) containing six Chakras (rings) or subtle centers.
Khat nem kar kothree baandhee bastu anoop beech paayee -The Creator has fashioned this body chamber with six rings (chakras), and placed within it the incomparable thing – that is soul (sggs 339, ln 12).
Ultat pawan chakra khat bhede surti sun anuraagee- I turned my breath inwards, and pierced through the six chakras of the body, and my awareness was centered on the Primal Void of the Absolute Lord ( sggs 333, ln 3).
Also known as the six psychic centers, the five Chakras are located in the spine, and the sixth Chakra is located in the medulla. These are the subtle centers of the superconsciousness. The six subtle centers mentioned by the yogis and the seven planes of consciousness described in the Vedas are essentially the same. More specific location of these six subtle centers, and their associated functions, elements, and cosmic sounds (for Chakras located in the spine) are briefly summarized as follows:
The top most Chakra or subtle center is located in the Medulla. It is located in the brain between eyebrows (seat of the single or spiritual eye), and the top of the cerebrum (“lotus” of rays of light). This is the powerhouse of life force and consciousness. It supplies power to the subtle centers.
- Cervicial or Vishudha center is located in the spine opposite to the throat. Its associated element is ether. This center produces the sense of hearing. It maintains the etheric background of the body, and its work produces the musical cosmic sound (Dhuni) of ocean rumbling.
- Dorsal or Anahata center is located in the spine opposite to the heart. Associated element is air, its work produces the bell-like or gong sound. It enables the oxygen and the prana or life energy in the body to combine with the physical cells, and is also responsible for the sense of touch.
- Lumber or Manipur center is located in the spine opposite to the naval. Associated element is fire, its work produces the harplike sound. Its function is to produce the sense of sight, and to maintain the heat of the body.
- Sacral or Savdhirthan center is located in the spine opposite to the generative organs. The associated element is water, it sustains all the watery substances in the body, and is responsible for the sense of taste. Its work makes the sound of a flute.
- Coccygeal or Mooldhar center is located at the base of the spine. The associated element is earth, and it makes a sound of a buzzing bee. It is responsible for the solidifying of the primal life force into atoms of flesh, and for producing the sense of smell.
The scriptures reveal that the human body is made by five elements (i.e., ether, air, water, earth, and fire). As indicated above, the five subtle centers located in the spine are associated with five different vibratory elements, functions, and musical cosmic sounds (Dhuni). The sixth medulla center, located above the five spinal centers, continuously recharges with life and consciousness all the sub-powerhouses of vibratory elements.
The soul, the pure image of God (Jot Saroop), reigns in the center of the astral region of medulla, frontal part of brain between the eyebrows (single or spiritual eye), and at the top of the cerebrum (“lotus” of rays of light or vibration). In deep meditation, the devotee goes beyond the physical sounds, and begins to hear five sounds of subtle forces. The Gurbani narrates all this so beautifully as follows:
Mastak padam dualai mani. Mahi niranjan tribhavan dhani. Panch sabad nirmaail baje– on the forehead is the Lotus and around it are the jewels (or rays of light). In the center is Pure Lord, the Master of the three worlds; the melody of the five pure sounds resounds there (sggs 974).
One cannot see these Chakras with the physical eyes. Also, one cannot take them out by cutting the body. How mystic the human body really is!
With the help of the above background, we can now try to understand Kundilini. The lowest of the six subtle centers is the coccygeal center, which is located at the bottom of the spine. As mentioned by the yogis, all the subtle powers of consciousness and life force flowing downward from the higher centers into the coccygeal center come into physical manifestation through the channel of this lower center. As the life force flows outward from the coccygeal center, it creates and sustains the region of flesh, bones, blood, marrow, organs, nerves, veins, arteries, glands, muscles, skin, and so forth.
Parasympathetic nervous system
2. Sympathetic nervous system (right)
3. Sympathetic nervous system (left)
4. Central nervous System (This need not be discussed as it is the link with objectivity).
The set of rays that fall on the fontanelle bone (apex of the head known as Taloo) pierce in the center and pass straight into the medulla oblongata through a channel (Sushumna). This energy, after leaving a very thread-like, thin line in the medulla oblongata, settles down in three and a half coils in the triangular bone at the base of the spinal cord (Mooladhar). This coiled energy is known as Kundalini
The subtle energy enters through the center of the brain (Sahasrar Brahmarandhra) and precipitates six more centers on its way down. The gross manifestation of this subtle energy, in the Sushumna channel of the spinal cord, is termed the Parasympathetic nervous system. The centers of chakras are expressed as plexuses outside the spinal cord. Surprisingly, we have the same number of plexuses and subplexuses outside, as the number of chakras and their petals inside, the spinal cord. Medical science knows very little about this system. Science calls it the autonomous nervous system, meaning the system that works spontaneously-on its own. For example, if we want to increase the rate of our heartbeat, we can do so by exerting ourselves (activity of the sympathetic nervous system). But we cannot directly reduce the heart (activity of the parasympathetic nervous system). The parasympathetic nervous system is a system that is like a petrol pump through which the petrol of Divine Love fills us. But when a human child is born and the umbilical cord breaks, a gap is created in the Sushumna (the subtle channel in the spinal cord). And on the gross level, one can see there is a gap between the solar plexus and the vagus nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. This gap is known as the void in the Zen system of religion and Maya (or Bhav Sagar) in Indian thought. Later when ego and superego bloat up like balloons and cover our brain at the apex of the left and right sympathetic nervous systems, the fontanelle bone calcifies, and the all-pervading vital force of Divine Love gets cut off completely. Then the human being identifies himself as a separate entity and the consciousness of “I” (Aham) presides. This is why Man does not know His universal unconscious. His ego severs this subtle connection.
The sympathetic nervous system uses the vital energy. There are two systems-left and right. The two channels, which carry this energy, in subtle form (in the medulla oblongata), are known as Ida and Pingala respectively. The right-side system (in the right-handed person) caters to the emergencies of the active consciousness (extra efforts and emergencies). The left-side system (in medicine they say it remains dormant) caters to the subconscious mind of the psyche (libido).
Both these sympathetic-nerve systems are called the Sun and Moon channels (i.e., Surya nadi and Chandra nadi). Hatha Yoga comes from the words Ha and Tha, meaning the Sun and Moon. By this yoga you can control the activity of the sympathetic; you can use more stored energy or else completely stop the activity of the sympathetic for a short time. Just by using the stored energy you cannot achieve the eternal flow of the divine. With control over the sympathetic you can slow the heart rate or even stop the heart for a short time. You may achieve all the physical gross symptoms of the parasympathetic. But you cannot activate the parasympathetic which is the channel for your real yoga (meeting of the divine). With Hatha yoga you may even control your mind. But the mind thus governed is heavily conditioned for the spiritual flight into the divine. One may keep good health and good mind to be a good citizen in a society, but that is not the only aim of life.
Both sympathetic and parasympathetic act on the plexuses, but in opposition to each other. The parasympathetic relaxes the plexuses while the sympathetic squeezes the energy by constricting them. One fills in the vitality and the other consumes it.
There is a gap in the parasympathetic nervous system (Sushumna) but no gap in the sympathetic nervous system (at the navel). This is the hurdle that has rendered all our searching-and entry into the parasympathetic-fruitless so far. It is like three ladders, two of them touching the ground while the central one is hanging in the air. So whenever we try to rise in our consciousness, we move on to the sympathetic system.
If we pass toward the right side we enter onto the activity that goes on bloating in the balloon of ego. Thus we feel responsible and active. When this activity increases beyond limits, like a growing tree whose roots are not equally grown, the being falls to the ground. Over activity of the sympathetic nervous system causes tension, sleeplessness, and ultimately all deadly diseases like cancer. These diseases are caused by the constricted plexuses that have been drained of their energy. If you can make the parasympathetic dominate the right side, then we can antidote the effects of over activity. Then all the diseases and the effects caused by this right side get cured automatically. The left side sympathetic nervous system (libido) has the power to store all that is dead in us. It connects you with store houses of the subconscious mind and with the collective subconscious (Bhootlok or Paralok). At the backside of the brain, at the apex of this channel, the super ego exists like a balloon. It becomes heavy by storing, the conditioning of the mind through libido. So if the tension is heavy it breaks the superego into many fragments. If you still overexert by conditioning, a partial vacuum forms and this sucks another dead personality from the collective subconscious (Paralok) into your superego. So in your pursuit of truth, if you take to further efforts and indulge in concentration, training of the mind, forced abstinence, forced meditation, or complete slavery to the emotional attachment of the mind, the libido with the aid of the affected superego may connect you to the collective subconscious (Paralok) where all dead souls-bad, good, or saintly-exist. These souls start manifesting through you and you get siddhis or extra sensory perceptions. Actually these are the different subtle (dead) personalities dominating us through super ego.
FOCUSING PSYCHIC POWER
We may say that a Yantra is an instrument, designed to curb the psychic forces by concentrating them in a pattern, and is such a way that this pattern becomes reproduced by the worshipers visualizing power.
– Heinrich Zimmer, Ph.D., Indologist
It has been suggested by several modern schools of Yoga that the chakras, with their associated symbology, represent nothing more than a method of forcing the mind to concentrate upon the body.This may be so, especially when we consider that one of the literal meanings of the Sanskrit Laya is absorption. Such absorption, or concentration of the mind upon the body, would lead to the opening or harmonizing of the chakras and their respective psycho-physical functions.Harmonizing the chakras implies an ancient chime of psychic anatomy that corresponds with our western physical, or gross/macroscopic anatomy, of the central and autonomic nervous systems. Consider the following correlative analysis.
Central Nervous System
Divided into brain and spinal cord.
Brain: Cerebrum and cerebellum. A midline sagittal slice resembles the fetus, symbol of latent growth, the neophyte, or Sahasrara padma – i.e., full potential yet to be released.
Spinal cord: Averages eighteen inches in length. Eighteen is the Hindu number of completeness. In the Mahabharata we note the eighteen days of the Great Battle, the eighteen battalions that fought, and the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita (“Song of God”). When the spinal cord is dissected out of the vertebral column, along with the brain cone, it resembles a serpent (Kundalini), while the cavity of the spinal canal is sushumna. The spinal cord transmits sensory (afferent) messages to the brain and receives motor (afferent) signals from the brain down its tracts to produce changes in effectors (i.e., muscles and glands). The sensory nerve tracts of the spinal cord represent Ida (receptive, passive) functions while motor nerve tracts down the spinal cord are equivalent to Pingala (projective, active) functions.
Autonomic Nervous system
It was formerly called involuntary, and even earlier (nineteenth century), the vegetative nervous system, as it was thought to govern functions beyond conscious regulation-e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestive functions, etc. However, by the 1970s Elmer Green, Ph.D., was able to prove that voluntary control could be established through a combination of biofeedback and autogenic training.The autonomic nervous system divides into two sections which constantly interact with each other, either for dominance (according to need) or functional integration.
Sympathetic Branch: Left and right chains of ganglion, tethered to the spinal cord but running down each side of the anterior bodies of the vertebral column, and averaging twenty-two ganglion a piece, spread out from the coccyx up to the cervical vertebrae. This symmetry is reminiscent of Ida and Pingala with Sushumna, the spinal canal, as the “Middle Pillar” of Western Magical practice. The twenty-two ganglion represent the number of the Avatar, or coming savior in Hinduism, and in Western occult anatomy the twenty-two ganglion correspond to the twenty-two paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, twenty-two bones of the skull (used as a “communion cup” a sin the Nordic Skoal), and the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana in the Tarot. Functionally the sympathetic nerves most often act as an accelerator, producing pingala reactions, an extreme example being the so called “fear, fight, flight” syndrome.
Parasympathetic branch: The major section comprises a pair of vagus (in English, “vagrant”) nerves, which emerge from the base of the skull to wander down the neck, through the chest, and deep into the abdominal cavity. Again remember the symbolic twins: Boaz and Jachin, Ida and Pingala. Parasympathetic branch fibers constantly meet with sympathetic branch fibers to form plexuses, the major ones on the physical plane representing the materialization of the non-physical chakras. Functionally the parasympathetic nerves most often perform braking actions; I call them the “rest, relaxation, recuperation” fibers, and hence they may be allied to Ida reactions.
A Few simple examples may help us relate to the autonomic nervous system in a meaningful way.
|Organ or system||Sympathetic Action||Parasympathetic Action|
|Pupils of eyes||DILATE: Better to see with if interested or frightened.||CONSTRICTS: No threat, so every photon of light not necessary.|
|Heart rate||INCREASED: Tachycardia. If frightened or anxious, more oxygen and glucose pumped around faster.||SLOWED: Bradycardia. Safe to relax and rest.|
|Hand temperature||COLD: Principle of “Brain sparing.” Blood is with-drawn from extremities and saved for the heart and brain.||WARMED: Vanishes cold hands. Many types of meditation do this.|
|Sleep||HYPER-ALERTNESS: Anxiety, insomnia.||Deep sleep comes easily.|
|MALE SEXUAL FUNCTION|
|Erection||Inhibits if nervous, as arteriole blood supply constricted to penis.||Allows full erection.|
|Ejaculation||Sympathetic arousal at right level is necessary for ejaculation.||Inhibits ejaculation.|
|FEMALE SEXUAL FUNCTION|
Note: Overarousal of the sympathetic may lead to premature ejaculation and also ejaculation without erection.
The above examples demonstrate a delicate “union”, or Yoga, that must occur between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. In the sexual example, we could express it in Laya Yoga terms and say that a fine balance is necessary between Muladhara and Swadhisthana, and between the God and Goddess cohabiting within each chakra.The discussion of the nervous system has been vastly oversimplified but it can form a solid physical matrix to build a much more subtle base for inner concentration. Someone once defined Laya Yoga as autonomic nervous system gymnastics.Indeed more specifically, we could define most meditation as parasympathetic gymnastics.
INTRODUCTION TO CHAKRA DHARANA
Yoga postulates that the focus of psychic power may be developed through concentration (Dharana) upon the chakra zones. The result is dispersion of psychosomatic tension that so often occurs at one or more of these vital zones.
An analogous situation is autogenic training, developed in the early part of the twentieth century when the German psychiatrist Dr. Johannes H. Schultz amalgamated Yoga methodology with a then current European fascination-hypnosis. For example, concentrating upon the hands, visualizing them flushing red with blood, and telling yourself they are getting warm will actually raise the hand temperature by as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your starting point.
This type of autogenic training is a form of “Western Yoga” and works exactly the same way as most meditation methods. The sympathetic nervous system is dampened, allowing the peripheral arterioles to dilate and flood the extremities with blood. By now you will have empirically discovered that successful meditation is always accompanied by an end result of warm hands and feet.