Tuesday, 17 December 2013

BHAKTI ESSENTIALS: A GUIDE TO THE MIRACLE OF DEVOTION



"Do you really want God? Do you really thirst for His Darshan? Have you got real spiritual hunger?

He who thirsts for the Darshan of God only will develop love. Unto him alone He will reveal Himself. 

God is a question of supply and demand. If there is sincere demand for God, the supply will come at once.

Pray fervently like Prahlada. Sing like Radha. Repeat His name like Valmiki, Tukaram and Tulsidas. Do Kirtan like Gouranga. Weep in solitude like Mira over the separation from the Lord. You will have Darshan of the Lord this very second" 
Swami Sivananda


There are countless ways to achieve God realisation, to unfold the full spiritual potential of each one of us, just as there are countless variations depending on each individual's temperament and leanings. The universe, as we start our sadhana journey with high hopes and dreams of glory, can look a big and puzzling place and before we know it our minds can get tied into loops and knots by the complexities of it all. So, we start step by step, establish the beginnings of a helpful discipline, then fight against our lower tendencies in order to keep the momentum going. And the years pass...

Yet when real yearning for God in whatever form this comes to you, a remarkable set of feelings and focus take hold, because suddenly, all bets are off. Life as we know it no longer holds true.

This awakening is very different from the awakening of the will, the imagination, or the intellect, because it concerns the mysterious workings of our own heart. Bhakti is usually described as the path of devotion on sadhana, with the deliberate assumption of duality. That is: there is the "I", our soul, and there is the "Thou", God, in whatever form fits for us.

Bhakti is defined in the great Narada Bhakti Sutras as:

Sa tvasmin para (ma) premarupa
Bhakti is intense love for God
Sutra 2

Bhakti differs from other approaches such as the way of the jnani, of discriminative and ruthless cutting to the non-dual truth (as in advaita vedanta or many strands of Buddhism), because of its simplicity. Because all we are talking about in bhakti, our only real scriptural text, is our own longing. Bhakti is the path of the yearning lover. It is not dry. It is not intellectual. It is instantly understandable. And in its own way, it is wildly perfect.

This yearning will come unbidden to you, if you faithfully pursue sadhana. It is not a matter of make believe or pretense. The great Bengali sage Ramakrishna had sharp words to say to his young disciples when they began to imitate his own devotion, weeping and falling to the ground in feigned ecstasy. Just as anyone can instantly spot someone who feigns love for another, so this love of God cannot be mimicked at all, and is unique to each of us. It is also not the ultimate stage, but a passing stage.

Here are some warning words from Sri Anandamayi Ma:

"At the supreme summit of love, exuberance, excessive emotion and the like cannot possibly occur. Emotional excitement and supreme love are in no wise to be compared. They are totally different from one another."

With this warning in mind, it is worth remembering how God Consciousness arises. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to characterise the dawn of ecstatic union with God as a move from "I am THAT" to "THOU art THAT", where you begin to glimpse God everywhere, in everything, until the final realisation "ALL THIS IS THAT".

Crazy Love

Suddenly, one day, you may wake up with the most curious fervour of love, which can indeed mimic madness on occasion, because you become absolutely swept up in the focus of a passionate overwhelming longing for god, a love that brings absolute restlessness to your soul and to your life. One moment it is not there, you are normal, with your little bag of troubles and concerns. The next: impossible yearning!

In this state of truly divine ardour, words are absolutely useless. You get beyond them. Mantras, japa, texts, all that is swept aside. you are left with something naked and real, like a massive electric current. You call out to your Beloved in your own words, with your own cries, in your own language. You throw away everything else beyond this one overwhelming yearning. 

This state is total agony, but also total bliss, and absolutely wonderful experience of such sweet pain that you don't know where to put yourself. You are disconsolate, bereft, alone, don't know what to do or where to turn because you are so filled with this longing. And you realise that it is your Lover himself that keeps piercing your heart with darts of longing, and that is the sweet cruelty of bhakti. God is perceived as very near, but behind a glass barrier, just out of reach. And it is truly intoxicating ecstasy to feel this.

This first happened to me in a curious part of my life about 16 years ago now, when I was practising sadhana intensely, reciting the Sri Guru Gita every day, chanting in the evening, living alone and going to work every day. From one point of view it was a lonely existence. From another, it was perfect for silence and spiritual endeavour.

One day, it was a Saturday, I was planning to go the cinema — and it was set to be a normal day like any other. But a longing overwhelmed me. One moment, normal life. The next, complete fire! I flung down my chanting texts, consumed in this pain of separation, a fire burning it felt like in every cell in my body and my heart began to pour out moans of longing, words I have never used since, a total overwhelming fire of Love for God. Sweet intimate words of longing, nothing fancy, but just a pain, a wound.

I went to the cinema in a daze, returned in a daze, slept in a daze. Tears fell from my cheeks, and the state persisted for about a month. When I saw little things in the world - a beautiful mossy wall, a magenta coloured car, the sunset and so on, my heart burst open and the tears would come. What a strange period, a whirling period of intense longing that just kept racheting up and up.

The result, eventually was that my mind simply stopped one evening at a gazed at a particular cloud formation. It stopped. And what was revealed was glorious. Unfortunately I've lost the notes that were written in ecstasy at the time, but that to me was a taste of bhakti.

That is one stage of bhakti, and it is not a path for the well-behaved, the logical, the prudent. No! stay away from loving God unless you are prepared for this. But, can you stay away from such love? Of course you cannot! It draws you like a moth to the flame. When the great sages say your God really is your Lover, these are not fanciful words. A Lover such as this enjoys every advantage because there is no escape from the storm of ecstatic reaction, which increases in intensity moment by moment.

Discovery

The stage of yearning is then replaced by the stage of finding and discovering. This is the realisation of God in every leaf, everything we see, in our feelings, in the random aggregation of tendencies we call our mind, in the sky, in everyone we meet. Thus real love dawns, a love of utter calm because when the heart is full, there are no more storms, just the gentle swell of the ocean. What more is there to wish for when all is granted, runs some lines of a famous Abhanga by Jnaneshwar Maharaj. Such a state is very rare, the supreme attainment of the heart, the supreme uncovering, the supreme silence of the supreme now, the eternal moment of hush and grace and unfolding of manifestation.

This is hinted at in so many wonderful phrases... "the pearl of great price", the mystic wedding", and such phrases will come from your own heart in your own language.

  "Anyone who has tasted prema bhakti — devotion with supreme love — even for a second, will never waver from it. But such devotion does not arise in everyone. Not everyone who enters a lottery gets first prize. That only goes to one person among millions. True devotion is like that; only one in a million will experience it." Ammachi

But the simple understand...

Bhakti is never understood by pundits or people of the intellect, or even the rich, self-importance and overly prosperous. One thing it involves in the beginning is one thing most people with their monstrous egos find impossible: the art of bowing. Bowing before God. But that is how bhakti begins. That is how the heart becomes pure. And remember the words of Jesus:

Blessed are the pure in heart, 
for they shall see god. 

Many look down on bhakti as the mad superstitions of Bengali village mothers. Oh, but the poor, the simple, the pure-hearted: They understand it perfectly! You go to a black Baptist church in a run down urban area in the US and that's when bhakti in practice hits you right between the eyes.

I remember I  sweet story about this, and a woman disciple who loved her Guru with one-pointed devotion. The Guru died. She continued her life, outwardly a reserved and largely silent anonymous lady in another ashram. But the Master of that ashram well knew her secret inner state. A disciple asked him "what is Guru bhakti?" and the Master said, "Look, I will show you." He beckoned to the silent woman, had her sit near. Then he whispered to the other disciple "Watch her carefully." The Master then asked the disciple loudly "And what is going on in the village of X, haven't you been there recently?"  The name of the village was the place in which the woman disciple's Guru died. The woman, on hearing the name, started and her face grew ashen. Tears fell silently from her eyes, but otherwise, no outward sign. "That, " the Master whispered, "Is bhakti."

So, to quote the words of a true spiritual hero Basavanna:

Don't take on this thing called bhakti.

Like a saw
It cuts when it goes

And it cuts again
When it comes

If you risk your hand
With a cobra in a pitcher
Will it let you
pass?

Vaishnava traditions

This brings us on to  consideration of what practice perfectly expresses bhakti. Because you will find, just as Ramakrishna did, that the stage of desperate bhakti turns your soul into none other than the condition the Gopis, the handmaids of Lord Krishna. Bhakti has a feminine character, and this is secretly understood in many different traditions - some of the great Psalms in Judaism and Christianity absolutely nail the point, and give us startling images of the yearning souls as the beautiful princess leaving her ancestral homeland and everything behind as she travels to her own wedding ceremony with her husband to be, the great king. This is us, this is all of us: dressed in our finery (spiritual practice), leaving kith and kin behind (our usual life, thoughts, self-image) accompanied by handmaidens to the sound of music and celebration. We rush to meet the Beloved.

The Vaishnava traditions that swept through India about 600 years ago brought the practice of intense devotion to Lord Krishna, the full avatar of Mahavishnu, to the Indian heartlands. And the echoes of this revolution are still with us today, even in the west with the curious saga of the Hare Krishna organisation and their dogmas and practices. 

Lord Krishna is the Lover, we are the Gopis. And the legends and symbols surrounding Him reveal the endless Lila, the play, game or sport, or dance, that god dances with each one of us, over and over and over again. Lord Krishna is the gathered sweetness of love, the divine intoxicator, the mischevious and playful artist of your soul — and it is his divine flute, heard by the soul, that makes us drop everything and run to Him, and try to find Him — because He is likely to be hiding.  

If you are a woman, then the path of bhakti is so much easier than for men. Women function well from the heart. Men face many cultural barriers about expressing torrents of emotion. And for women, a further beautiful possibility exists — the awakening of devotion to the child Krishna. This great secret joyful practice has brought many great women to Self-realisation.

The traditions of Vaishnava devotion make much of group chanting and singing — sankirtana — and japa, the repetition of one name of God, one mantra. Both are pathways to intense joy and fervour, but equally both get discarded when bhakti takes fire. Many people do japa without any care or real thought about what they are doing, gabbling words as quick as they can to meet their self-imposed targets for japa recitation using japa malas.  

Will  this kind of thing really impress the Beloved? You can test this out by reciting your own name 108 times, or get someone to do this to you. It becomes intensely irritating very quickly. The real japa is heart-felt, the name a sacred jewel. Guru Nanak of the Sikhs knew this secret in his marvellous life and legacy - the name is sacred, so sacred that it should scarcely be uttered let alone gabbled like a hen in a barn. And as many texts tell us, just one heartfelt "Lord" is 1000 times more effective than dry mindless recitation to fulfill a japa quota.

Shakta considerations

In one sense, our desperate bhakti yearnings are so feminine because they really are not us, but the divine Shakti in Her desperate longing to unite with Her consort. In Shakta terms, this is Shiva and Shakti. In Vaishnava terms, this is Radha and Krishna. But the same surging force applies. Our limited personality is subsumed in the raging currents of Sri Mata Kundalini as she rushes to her wedding with the great Maheswara.

Yet there are also the rich and wonderful traditions of devotion to the Devi, where there is not necessarily that same wild cosmic ride to a climax, but simple recognition of Her majesty and presence in the universe. She is all we see, but this is an easy thing to say and a whole different matter to feel. Just as with the Vaishnava traditions of bhakti, you will find that the Devi, our Mother, likes to play. After all the unfolding, infolding universe is simply her Lila, her sport.  She is Lalita, the playful. She is Bala Tripurasundari, the eternal youthful feminine archetype which you can see embedded even in our fallen Kali Yuga culture. 

And a true bhakta begins to understand this vital truth: that of playfulness, of dance. Sadhana is not a rigid, joyless, grey and self denying affair. No, it is a dance, a celebration, a village wedding, a gala! And worshippers of the Devi will dance this dance with Her. Now she is here, now gone. She is always elusive, always one step away, just left the place at which we arrive.

So, we go hunting for Her. We see Her in the beautiful forms of women, we see Her in devastation. We see Her so near, just there somewhere between breaths. She is maddening, infuriating, uncatchable! And then She reveals Herself at her own will, at Her own choice, bit by bit. She is merciful and compassionate, She understands the rough edges of Her children, their follies and inadequacies. She helps in times of dire need. 

How do you call to Her? Like you call to your Mother. Don't be formal, stiff, shut up like a clam, wearing your best clothes. Simple, childlike faith brings such calm and serenity.

Many people wish to chant this and that text to Her, but really all you need is that longing, and a focus. And as intimate as our relations is with her, we can also get a glimpse of Her majesty, her awe-inspiring presence. I love Her.

Narada Bhakti Sutras

The Bhakti Sutras ascribed to the great famous sage/messenger of the Vedas, Narada Muni, (who eternally travels the cosmos, veena in hand), are the absolute essence of bhakti philosophy, condensed into 84 different sutras, brief aphorisms and pithy instructions. Below is Narada's prescription on how to obtain bhakti:

35. To attain supreme love, a person must renounce objects of sense pleasures as well as attachment to them
36. Bhakti is obtained by constant and uninterrupted worship of God
37. By hearing of and singing the glory of the Lord, even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life.
38. the principle means of attaining bhakti is the grace of a great soul
39. It is hard to obtain the grace of a great soul because it is hard to recognise such a one. But if a man receives his grace, the effect is infallible
40. Through the grace of God alone an aspirant obtains the grace of a great soul.
41. There is no difference between god and his devotees
40. Therefore seek the mercy of a great soul.

Catholic traditions

One other religious tradition has managed to keep alive bhakti in a very different setting. Despite the dogma attached to the religion, the Catholic faith has kept alive the Devi as Mother Mary,  and She above all other manifestations of the Devi in this age has a particular quality of mercy and understanding. She can captivate You this way, and the practice of the Rosary is a marvellous use of japa, and a sure way to holiness.

Catholic tradition also gives us many inspiring examples of great saints who had wonderful and unmistakeably kundalini experiences. One is St Teresa of Avila, who experienced an angel thrusting a dart into her heart again and again, bringing her top overwhelming ecstasy of longing. Another is the Italian St Philip Neri, who when young had the experience of an angel replacing his heart with one of fire... and indeed after his death, his heart was discovered to be abnormally and unusually large. 

Then there is the focus on Jesus as the one destination, as Son of God, as the source of all bliss. This has impelled many generations to lives as monks and nuns. 

Here's a wonderful quote from the Catholic Saint St Catherine of Genoa, who had more than her fair share of exalted spiritual experiences:

"When God sees the soul pure, as it was in its origins
He tugs at it with a glance
draws and binds it to Himself with a fiery love
that by itself could annihilate the immortal soul.

In acting thus, God so transforms the soul in him
that it knows nothing other than God
and He continues to draw up into His fiery love
until He restores it
to that pure state from which it first issued.

Those rays purify, then annihilate.
The soul becomes like gold
that becomes purer as it is fired,
all dross being cast out.

Having got to the point of 24 carats
gold cannot be purified any further;
and this is what happens to the soul
in the fire of God's love."

There are many equally wonderful testaments to the path of devotion, some well known and some obscure. A little known work in the present age is the "Ladder of Monks", a short treatise written by a Carthusian Prior, Guigo II, in the 12th century. This is a wonderful exposition of the fires of bhakti, with the soul as the bride of the spouse.

Do not fear, bride of the spouse
do not fear
do not think yourself despised
if for a little while 
He turns His face from you.

These things all work together for your good
And you profit from His coming and 
His Withdrawal..

He comes to you
and then He goes away again.
He comes for your consolation,
He goes away to put you on your guard
for fear that
too much consolation
will puff you up.


And in the end...
It all boils down to Love. Love as a quality, as a substance, as well as a rasa, a delectable taste, or a bhav, a mood. and it boils down to Love out of time, in the eternal Now — something my generation experienced through mind-altering drugs in the 1960s. Love is the same as chitti, it is what we are woven out of. It is what the entire universe is created from: Love is purna, is fullness, it is sat chit ananda, eternal unchanging bliss. 

And it boils down to anugraha, to Grace. The gift of a bhakti temperament is so divine. With it the most illiterate villager in the poorest community will soar. Grace is the power of God to bring us to Him, Grace is the mystic marriage proposal. Do we "win" grace? Some say we do through spiritual practice. Some say the gUru brings us to the place of Grace. Some say it is just a matter of destiny. Who knows? Not I. The intellect is mute on the subject. The ones who really know are the Lovers united with the divine.  And that union is the destiny of all bhaktas. It takes a million lifetimes? Who cares? A bhakta just loves God, can't help it, won't change it, is stubbornly set on that one simple thing: Devotion. The Beloved. And in this way, our world is saved again and again.

Or to end with the words of the great mystic saint Allama Prabhu:


It was
as if the fire in the tree
burned the tree.

As if the sweet smells
of the winds of space
took over the nostrils.

As if the doll of wax
went up in flames.

I worshipped the Lord
and lost the world.







Monday, 9 December 2013

CHAKRAS: A GUIDE


Warning

Before we start looking at the chakras, it is worthwhile remembering that their close examination belongs to only a few traditions and schools of spirituality. And many people suffer from a sort of "chakra inferiority complex", believing that knowing all about them is absolutely indispensable to spiritual growth, and that somehow they should start spouting mantras, remembering colours, sequences, petals and so forth in order to advance spiritually. This is, as I hope you realise, profoundly missing the point, or to use a well-worn analogy, "mistaking the map for the territory." 

The chakra systems are not universally agreed upon, and their wide dissemination into popular culture could well have done more harm than good, because a sort of linear thought pattern has emerged where people blame all sorts of things on "misaligned"  or "imbalanced" chakras (as if they are made of muscle or sinew or bone like a spinal disc) or boast of "chakra openings" and spend much money on useless courses designed to rebalance chakras etc. As you will read, chakras are quite the neat whirling diagrams you might think... the diagrams themselves are merely shorthand notes of the real thing. And we are all different. 

So if you stick rigidly to this dogmatic chart of the chakras you may find your own experiences have absolutely nothing to do with the mental images of each chakra. What happens, for example, when psychic ash starts pouring from your palms or soles of your feet? Where does that fit in? Or when your whole skins appears to be able to breathe? So on and so forth. So: You don't need a degree in chakra studies for self-realisation! What comes to you, comes to you. Chakras are true, but so are many other things...


Patterns

Our physical, astral, and causal bodies are made of light, spun out of light, and wherever there is light, there is vibration — hence sound. We are therefore each one of us a unique song sung by the creator, brought into being by the Divine flute of Lord Krishna. We are also a pattern, a harmony, part of the wider harmony that is the body of this manifested universe. We are a pattern that is a part of a wider pattern. We are the body of the Devi Herself, because our Divine Mother is all of manifestation.

So the very beginning place for a simple guide to the chakras is to understand this tendency of the formless, the unmanifested, to manifest in pulsations of various patterns and harmonies, yet these vibrations are all ultimately one substance — chitta, consciousness and one primordial vibration, which in yogic circles is symbolised as the sacred sound Om.

Chakras overview

Chakras, often described as “wheels” but probably better thought of as vortices or whirlpools (moving in a spiralling pattern a little like how you see water going down a bath plug hole), are a vital part of the pattern design that makes up both the human, animal and vegetable template.

The chakras are where the energy of manifestation is channelled into particular harmonies. All the chakras sing, that is they all emit particular tones which vary depending on the individual. Their function is to safely conduct and channel life energy, or prana, around the pyscho-spiritual system which consist of thousands of subtle channels called nadis that lie hidden behind or within the physical structure of the human body at a very subtle astral level of manifestation. When prana is no longer captured, filtered and regulated, it escapes our body — which is when the body dies.

The chakras regulate, therefore, the flow of life force and help sustain the pattern of both our physical body and our astral and causal bodies. They are a bit like electricity conductors.

Our body contains thousands of chakras, but only a few have a direct function in the process of Self-Realisation, and the traditions of Yoga tell us both where they are and what they do.

In fact the process of enlightenment is usually described in yogic terms as the journey of Sri Mata Kundalini, the divine spark hidden in each of us as a dormant serpent energy at the base of the spine, through the different chakras and the three main knots, barriers or granthis which prevent the upward passage of the kundalini. A realised Guru will awaken the dormant kundalini of the seeker and also help remove these knots.

Much confusion and controversy surround this topic of the Guru and the process of what is called “shaktipat”, the awakening of Sri Kundalini by another. Our world is so fallen that many people charge money for shaktipat, set themselves up as perfect masters and so on and pursue the business of making money from being a Guru. Such people can indeed mostly get away with it because disciples tend to be in very emotional and susceptible states when they meet the imagined perfect master, and thus fall prey to all sorts of make believe and psychosomatic manifestations – what used to be called “hysteria”.

The real point is that the true Guru, the enlightened guru is forever united in Shiva and Shakti, therefore it is Shiva or Shakti that grants shaktipat and their decisions are entirely a matter of anugraha, of grace. A true Guru can instantly see the state of the disciple’s subtle and causal bodies and thus the energy is sent to where it is needed. What energy, and how? Well, the best analogy is the “candle lighting other candles”, the candle being the Guru’s powerful emanations of light, helping light others (traditionally described as by thought, word sight, sound or touch). This power is largely derived from celibacy and the lineage of the Guru.

Now don’t despair if you feel you have no access to any such great masters. The first thing to understand is that many great Yogis act in their astral bodies long after their mortal bodies have died. My own Guru Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi said he would be just as active for 50 years after his death (in 1994) from an astral body, and this is the true experience. Your Divine Mother will lead such a Guru to you… or you are marked from birth with a link to such a spiritual giant. Don’t settle for second best. As Jesus says, “the shepherd knows his sheep… the sheep know their shepherd” and there is an indescribable moment of recognition when you meet or come across the Guru – and it could be in the pages of a book, even on the internet, a stray photo etc. If you are judging whether this person or that person is your guru, that’s not it. The recognition comes from the heart and is eternal.

Sooner or later if you pursue the path of sadhana, you will gain an interest in the chakras and try to seek out as much information as you can about them. Information is, however, no substitute for direct knowledge. But the difference between chakras which are awakened and chakras which are dormant is the difference between trying to see a darkened room without turning on the light switch.

So, there is much misunderstanding about chakras, many useless exercises supposedly dedicated to cleansing the chakras, or making them powerful etc etc, and equally much unnecessary worry about whether chakras are opened or closed or overactive etc.

The law about all scrutiny of the chakras is to take heed of the wise old saying: Don’t mistake the map for the territory. In other words, don’t think that swirling away inside you are picture-perfect little flowers with different coloured petals, all doing what the pictures of the chakras might lead you to expect and somehow making your life beautiful. The chakras are not necessarily as you might expect: indeed you will rapidly find that the chakras are in fact hubs of energy that extend far around and beyond your body.

Yogis and saints have been scrutinising chakras in age after age and have discovered many curious things about this hidden part of our life. There are disagreements between traditions in various ways — some argue there are seven main chakras, others that there are nine. Some place the heart chakra in one location, others somewhere different.
But what is inescapable once you begin to feel the presence of these subtle energy hubs is that each chakra does have a taste, a quality that does indeed evoke in the mind and the mind’s eyes the quality of vibrating centres formed into what are experienced as whirling or trembling petals. Just as kundalini energy is invariably experienced by us humans in terms of snakes and undulating snake-like motion.


The chakra journey
It is very important to grasp a key point about chakras. Our journey towards self-realisation is not a simple linear ascent of energy, passing through various chakras and the challenges they represent. Not at all. Particular practices can have a big impact on particular chakras. When chakras are activated, particular psychic phenomena can occur. When they are thoroughly cleansed, then their full power and purpose becomes clear. Each in their turn have particular functions which are governed by particular guardian deities. Each give off glorious lights and each have essential gifts that seekers need. But don’t start thinking “Oh, I’m now up to the third chakra” etc etc, our evolution into self-realisation is not as simple as that.

Also, when you read the qualities etc associated with each particular chakra, remember that the presence of a chakra can only be felt or seen on a very subtle level of awareness, and at that moment, if you are drawn into contemplation of a chakra, the dimensions can expand so that you the experiencer are a tiny point in an enormous structure of vibration that is the chakra. Chakras move: they spin, they tremble, and they are ultimately woven of the finest light, rays of chitti beams, and furthermore they move through time. They process the fine lines of prana, they harness many subtle layers of energy. They are in short masterful creations and deserve every amount of respect.


Strange petal journey
This experience of the realities of chakras as petals has a further aspect to it, as each petal or vibratory pattern of a chakra contains within it particular codes or qualities which differ from the top or “light” side and the bottom or “shade side” , in a sort of reverse polarity where shadow qualities reflect the desirable qualities and this becomes particular clear in the crucial heart chakra, where we find such qualities as courage, endurance etc on the light sides but their shadow opposites, cowardice and lack of staying power on the other.

One can actually be in a situation where the chakras become awakened by, say, spiritual discipline or extreme events etc, and as their potency unfolds, so does the risk that the negative aspects get heightened and become unsettling. The key to all this is committed spiritual practice and a whole dose of common sense. If sensations are overwhelming then always ensure you recite some protective “kavach” or armour mantras to help you.


The journey to enlightenment brings you along many a strange path, which are for your feet alone to tread, and the dragons you slay and enemies you conquer are actually simply your own samskaras scrambling to be expressed. But, be aware that discomfort can happen on a spiritual path.

The huts


The great Bengali saint Gosain (Sri Bijoy Krishna Goswami) once gave a most fascinating talk about how in his experience, the seeker met the particular shakti of each chakra in his astral vision outside a hut. Each shakti begged the seeker to unite with Her. But if the Yogi does so, he effectively gets stuck at a particular level of enlightenment. Only by worshipping rather than uniting with the Shakti does the Yogi then progress to the next hut. This is fascinating because one of the claims of the American Franklin Jones (or Adi Da) made of his enlightenment was that he had met and united with Shakti and thus was liberated. Gosain implied there are many levels of progress, many huts to visit.  

The 7 main chakras

Traditionally the chakras associated with the practice of yoga and meditation are seven in number, loosely located near particular parts of the body equivalent to parts of the spinal cord, in which is hidden three subtle channels, the shushumna — the most important psychic pathway along which the Kundalini arises, and two channels on either side, the Ida on the left and Pingala on the right. The Ida conducts mental energy, manas shakti, while the Pingala conducts prana shakti, the vital life force. Hidden in the shushumna are latent samskaras, tendencies carried over from previous lives which obstruct the free flow of kundalini — a little bit like soot in a chimney.


The shushumna itself is not a tiny little fibrous stalk that you might imagine hidden in the spinal chord, and as with contemplation of the chakras, when you have a vision of the shushumna it might shock you how enormous and large it is. This is a matter of direct personal experience as the imagery will be very different in every case. But you could have an experience of seeing an enormous tunnel stretching into the darkness below, a tunnel ringed with samskara upon samskara – tightly packed “seeds” of karma waiting to unfold and sprout. One meditator I know used to have visions of one giant tunnel lined with row upon row of filing cabinets, each in turn containing rows upon rows of files — a neat image of the samskaras from life after life, all packed away. This maybe a vision that causes the seeker to lose heart.

And interesting dreams can inform you of this in other ways. I remember at a pure time in my life when I happily believed enlightenment was a matter of days, having a dream of trying to reach something dangling, some prize, but on a huge mound of sand that was impossible to climb. That sand was my samskaras. Or another dream of being in an underground shopping complex at a strange and unsettling store which was packed in every space with dolls and statues old, new, ancient and every one of them wicked in some way. Again: samskaras.


If we truly had conscious awareness of just what lies in the shushumna we might become faint-hearted. But not for nothing do the sages talk about the “fire of Yoga”. For it is true that every ounce of spiritual practice stokes tremendous fire. And when the kundalini energy truly rises up the shushumna, or ida and pingala, it is so powerful, naked raw universal energy 100,000 times more powerful than anyone’s nuclear arsenal, that nothing remains – the samskaras are roasted in this brilliance and raw energy which has an unmistakeable fizzing roaring sound to it.  

There are many spiritual practices related to the chakras, mostly concerned with circulating attention on each chakra, normally starting with the ajna chakra loosely situated between the eyebrows, and the techniques bring your attention round and down the front, then up the back and thus round again — this kind of movement has come to be known as kriya yoga, but there are countless variations involved.

But, traditionally, the chakra system is examined from the base up and this is how we will look at each chakra, with the qualities and purpose of the chakra explained in each case.




1)      Muladhara Chakra

Mula, also written as Moola, means root, and this vital chakra is found roughly at the astral equivalent of the base of the spinal chord below the perineum. It is what ties our spiritual or astral body (which contains our bundle of karmas from a previous incarnation) essentially to our incarnation. It is the base of the building, and the home, vitally of the dormant Sri Kundalini, who is to be found within a secret inner chamber of the chakra, represented in symbols as a lustrous serpent wound three and a half times round a grey Shiva linga.

Traditional attributes

Element: Earth
Petals: 4 deep crimson, set in golden yellow square yantra with 8 spears set around it
Yantra supported by: elephant with 7 trunks. On elephant’s back, deep red inverted triangle with bija mantra.
Bija Mantra: Lam
Other mantras on petals: Vam, Sham, Sham, Sam (written in gold)

Notes:
·        The Kundalini rises from this chakra when She awakes. Her passage can be as swift as a thunderbolt up the shusumna
·        This kundalini rising is often desired by spiritual practitioners, who can mistake a movement of prana called pranotthana as the rise of kundalini, a rise of prana usually through the pingala nadi rather than the shushumna.
·        For by far the best ever written description of the awakening of kundalini read the works of Gopi Krishna, who had an “accidental” kundalini awakening in the late 1940s in India.
·        This chakra and its symbolism is all to do with solidity, grounding, the ability to live and survive and transmute basic primal energies to do with eating and sustenance.
·        The redness of the petals will be a remarkable discovery and hold the deep symbolic secrets of manifestation
·        The 7 trunks of the elephant symbolise the 7 minerals, trace element or dhatus, vital to the functioning and creation of the tissues which form the physical body. The elephant’s size and solidity is its own explanation.
·        The kundalini when dormant is also symbolised as mahakala, or great and infinite time
·        There is an important knot that prevents the rising of kundalini, the brahma granthi, the knot of Brahma.
·        This knot is loosened when spiritual practice brings human awareness beyond the mundane concerns of simply living, eating, grabbing power and so forth.
·        There is much which is less pleasant in the muladhara – the forces of the id, the aspects of unconscious power and sex complexes, and our neuroses about sexuality in particular.
·        Thus all perversions of a sexual nature, all excessive cruelty spring from the uncleansed muladhara chakra.
·        The muladhara can be cleansed and awakened without the need for celibacy.  What is important here is the correct purificiation of the muladhara, which then gradually transforms attitudes to sexuality so that it is seen as a pure and vital part of life, not the be all and end all of every minute of existence.

When the Muladhara chakra is badly out of balance you can find:
·        Cruelty
·        Desire to take or deny the life energy in others, especially the young. Thus: child abuse
·        Schizophrenia and severe mental disturbance

·        Sexual perversion and sexual addictions
·        Over rigidity in terms of maintaining sexual control and abstinence, leading to a choking off of the life force. Thus: over-rigid and over-authoritarian personalities
·        Tyrants of every kind, and bullies in the family circle




2)      Svadisthana Chakra
Swa” means one’s own, “disthana” dwelling place, thus one’s own seat, one’s own dwelling place. This chakra is located very near the muladhara and roughly in the area of the genitals in the physical body, or the level of the pubic bone.

Traditional attributes
Element: Water
Petals: 6 vermilion, forming a lotus within which resides a white crescent moon which in turn is made up of two circles forming two inner sets of petals which represent both the inner and outward dimensions of experience. The two circles are separated by a lustrous white crocodile.
Bija Mantra: Vam
Other mantras on petals: bam, bham, mam, yam, ram, lam (written in the startling flare colour of lightning)
Within the bindu of the bija mantra reside the deities of the chakra, Vishnu and his Shakti Rakini. Rakini has many important associations, especially related to the vegetable world and vegetarian diet helps awake the potentialities of this chakra.

Notes
·        This chakra is one of the hardest to understand. It deals with the unconscious, and thus many tendencies and patterns that we have stored away from our conscious mind
·        These emerge as tendencies, challenges, inner problems that have a direct influence on our moods and emotional state
·        It is here at this point that the kundalini in Her rising may meet blockages and subside to Her latent state time and time again, and it is at this stage that most aspirants find themselves stuck
·    Thus we can be beaten back time and time again by laziness, depression, anger, boiling lusts, greed and many temptations manifesting on your mental screen
·        If you find yourself caught in a storm of passion as a result of meditation, don’t be alarmed and ride it out. As you pass through the cleansing stage of this chakra, passions do subside, but the difficulties are what every seeker faces. Storms of thoughts, of desires needing fulfilment can arise
·        The way through these difficulties is narrow, but all seekers have trod the path: after a while, sexual desire can be transformed into love, into love for others, and addictions can be changed to the overwhelming energy force which is true devotion to your Ishta Deva, your image of God

When the Svadisthana chakra is badly out of balance you can find:
·        Endless sexual desires
·        Anger out of all proportion to the incident or apparent cause
·        Desire to binge and eat unsuitable foods
·        Envy, jealousy
·        Overpowering fear
·        Poor impulse control

When purification begins to take effect:
·        Close affinity to water and understanding of its vital nature
·        Loss of fear
·        Good impulse control
·        Awakening of strong viveka, discrimination
·        Enormous powers of intuition
·        Awareness of astral entities




3)      Manipura Chakra
Mani” means jewel, “pura” means city and this is a marvellous description of this vital chakra, because it is intimately involved in success, achievement, will-power and the ability to process the rays of light which come both from the spiritual sun and the physical sun which bathes our bodies with light and nourishment. This chakra is like a busy central station in a rail network because it is the one that directly has to do with energy, nourishment, circulation, health and that vital quality of sadhana, virya, enthusiasm. In fact whole mystery traditions have been built around the power of this chakra, its warmth and association with the sun.  The manipura chakra is also known as the “navel” chakra because this is where it is roughly situated.

Traditional attributes
Element: Fire
Petals: 10 glowing yellow, forming a lotus within which resides a inverted fiery red triangle shining like the early morning sun, full of vigour and life rays. This triangle has on its three sides a bhupura in the shape of a “T” and within the lower apex of the fiery triangle is a ram
Bija Mantra: Ram
Other mantras on petals: pham,dam, dham, nam, tam, tham, dam, dham, nam, pam (written in the colour of electric blue)
Within the bindu of the bija mantra reside the deities of the chakra, Rudra (Shiva) and his Shakti Lakini — the benefactressof all life..
Tanmatra (subtle sense): sight
Janendriya: eyes
Karmendriya: feet
Guna: Rajas

Notes
·        This chakra is about the intake and regulation of energy, both gross and subtle. We need fire not just to digest and live, but to help fire our own intellect, our own willpower
·        Specific yogic exercises which bring intense concentration on this chakra enable you to see the entire inner bodily function and so forth, and the ability to spot deseases and imbalances
·        Athletes, endurance specialists, motivational speakers, leaders, all these will have strong manipura chakra because this is where the energy is taken in and then distributed.
·        Hatha yoga in particular helps cleanse this chakra, because it rebalances the whole pranic sytyem.  

When manipura chakra is out of balance
·        Poor health
·        Depression
·        Stomach disorders
·        Devoid of energy, listless
·        Unable to complete tasks
·        Deluded
·        Hides away from the light

When purification begins to take effect:
·        Huge bursts of energy
·        Able to live with little sustenance, because sustenance begins to be drawn from the rays of the sun and subtle pranic waves of the earth
·        Vast zest for life
·        Introverts become extroverts and lose fear of social situations
·        Secret knowledge of the body and subtle processes which filter and distribute energy
·        Tireless, fatigue lifts

·        Keen sense of the grandeur of life and its possibilities




4)      Anahata Chakra
Anahat” actually means unstruck, and there are many reasons why this nomenclature is so appropriate. The chakra is located roughly in the region of the heart, and can be experienced as a spacious emptiness around the heart region, or to the right, or to the left. The exact location is for you to discover, as it subtly varies. But this is one of the so-called “higher” chakras whose opening has an utterly transformative effect on the practitioner, because it opens up an entirely different system of perceiving, from the heart rather than the mind.

Its opening is a glorious affair, but may be temporary under unusual conditions such as the physical proximity of the Guru or a centre of loving-kindness such as an extraordinary loving person. Its opening is the secret source of the unconditioned love we see and admire in so many saints of every and any religious or social tradition.

And we may be lucky enough in life to meet such people who emanate extraordinary vibrations of love – such people may work obscurely in the caring professions or be actively involved, without ego, in the upliftment of all humanity, because the heart centre when opens grants an ocean of daya, compassion, and titiksha, forbearance.  So, anahat because it reflects the ceaseless self-beating of the physical heart, but also the vibrations of the ocean of love and compassion that are one of the finest subtle levels of manifestation.

The anahat chakra opening is guarded by the second psychic knot or granthi, the Vishnu granthi. This is the knot dealing with all forms of emotional attachment, and is symbolically described in the famous myth of King Bharata and his attachment to a deer when in the final stages of yoga, which causes further rebirth. Attachment, a complex and vital aspect of human life…

Bija Mantra: Yam
The 12 Petals can be experienced as shining crimson, but also a deep blue in colour Other mantras on petals: kam, kham, gam, gham, ngam, cham, chham, jam, jham, nyam, tam, tham (written in the colour of vermilion)

Within the chakra, a hexagonal shape representing the twining of Shiva and Shakti and the element air, wind, breath or vayu, is an antelope. There reside the deities of the chakra, Ishta and his Shakti Kakini.

Within this chakra is a still ocean, on which floats a blue lotus, and also where can be found the kalpataru, the wish-fulfilling tree which grants all holy desires.

Notes
·        This chakra is the one most of us would fervently wish to be reached and purified, because who would not want to be able to fulfil any desires?  But therein lies the challenge. Only the desireless will have access to this siddhi, this special means of making true a desire, because otherwise this power in the unpurified would be put to harmful effect
·        We have no real conception of what love actually is until this centre begins to open – and it may open partially for a limited period in our lives
·        When it does we truly feel as if we are flowering. An immense stillness will come to our life, because the very centre of this is stillness and silence, hence the symbology of a still lake or ocean. This stillness is moved by long undulating waves, which produce great bliss
·        The opening brings inner peace whatever the circumstances and hence unshakeable faith
·        It brings a real understanding of the connection you have with the rest of the universe and all its manifestations
·        No selfishness can linger long when this chakra is unfolding
·        The key challenge: attachment. Especially the attachments of close relationships, a husband or wife, a child, a longing for a child, one’s parents, one’s Guru, not attachment to things like wealth and fame which are the concerns of earlier chakras in the series.
·        The ability to emanate love means you gain the power to conquer the hatred in all
·        Sense of touch gets strongly developed and refined
·        This grants the ability to heal










(ps the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Catholic imagery shows a wonderful truth about the power of the enlightened, and the pain of assuming the karmas of their disciples)


When Anahat chakra is out of balance
·        Closed heart
·        No desire or interest in scriptural or religious traditions
·        No empathy for others: hence, narcissism
·        Unable to access higher states of awareness
·        Animals stay away from

When purification begins to take effect:
·        Waves of love
·        A feeling of immovable serenity
·        Awareness of angelic and devic presences
·        Inspired creative abilities, able to channel astonishing wisdom as whole texts
·        Clairvoyance, clairaudience
·        Understanding of the secret book of life







Vishuddhi Chakra

This chakra is centred in the throat area, Shuddi means purification, and this is a centre that manages to purify and harmonise the forces which interact on us and emanate from us. One particular myth is particularly instructive, that of the “blue throated” Lord Shiva who successfully drank the poison churned up by the Devas and Asuras as they churned the celestial ocean. So, it is a chakra vitally concerned with cleansing. Cleansing by sound, cleansing by mantras. The opening of this chakra can be felt as a persistent warmness and spaciousness and grants extraordinary eloquence and charm of voice, because it brings the utterance of truth which is aligned to manifested reality, not lies, fantasies or false conjectures.

Bija Mantra: Ham

The 16 Petals of this mantra can be experienced as effulgent deep purple, with some texts describing the chakra as dark grey. Other mantras on petals: am, aam, im,eem,um, oom, rim, reem, lrim, lreem, em, aim, on, aum, am, ah  (written in the colour of crimson)

Within the chakra, a circle shining like the full moon, which represents the element akasha. Within the moon, a now white elephant. There too reside the deities of the chakra, Sadashiva and his Shakti Sakini.

Here at the chakra is the entrance to vijnanamaya kosha, which is the gateway to psychic development and experiences. 

The tanmatra or sense associated with ther chakra is not speech but its counterpart hearing, although the chakra’s karmendriya or organ of action is the vocal chords.

Notes
·      This chakra is the one which many ignore, but which plays a vital role in the  sustenance of the body and the awakening of higher abilities in terms of receiving and processing the thoughts of others
·        Its awakening can be accompanied, as with the heart chakra, with a feeling of spaciousness in the throat area, like your throat is open, bathed in golden honey, and utterly relaxed.
·        Its opening awakens powerful gifts of oratory and speech but this brings responsibility. Speaking harsh words and cruel statements misuses the chakra. Words have a powerful effect on the atmosphere, and part of our basic purification is to “see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil”, not an easy thing to achieve in the world in which we live.
·        This can alsao be the chakra which reveals the inner state of teachers and gurus who may not be what they pretend to be, as harsh words from their mouths show that purification has not been fully achieved.
·        Its most important gift is the ability to perceive and understand the thoughts of others.
·        The chakra is also associated with the hidden abilities that enable Yogis to rise above hunger and thirst.
·        On a more mundane level, a fully awakened chakra here can give a Yogi the ability to counteract all poisons.






Ajna Chakra
This chakra is centred in the point between the eyebrows, slightly higher than the eyebrows, and is absolutely key to the practice of sadhana. Its importance cannot be overstated. This is the psychic point where the three main nadis ida, pingala and shushumna all converge to flow up to the sahasrara as one mighty stream of molten light. It is also mentioned in innumerable texts on Yoga as the place on which to intensely concentrate to enable true meditation to take place.

The word ajna itself means to “obey, to follow” and this hints at the powerful gateway into the infinite that this centre is. My own Guru Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi had one main practice he taught, which was an hour’s meditation on the point between the eyebrows every day, (called both the bhrumadhya and the vikruti or bhikruti)  as a way to still and transcend mental activity and in my own life I would say that 30 years of meditating on a mantra were as nothing compared to this ancient powerful practice, so it cannot be recommended highly enough.

The chakra is intimately associated with the mysterious pineal gland in the brain, whose function puzzles scientists, but which is also described in mystery traditions as the third eye… and most pictures or murtis of deities will feature this third eye. It is the reason in Indian tradition why tilak marks are placed in the location.

No mantra is needed, just intense focus on this spot, without straining the eyes. You will then realise the exact spot is inwards, in the brain as it were. Even Lord Krishna himself in the Sri Bhagavad Gita stresses this  kind of meditation (its normally mis-translated as meditating on the tip of one’s nose, which implies all sorts of wrong associations. A Guru will help you with this, will be waiting to manifest for you, or more clearly will help you purify your perception until you can clearly perceive his presence at the gateway point of the ajna chakra or in the sahasrara.

Such a technique seems so basic and simple, when we tend to want loads of powerful secret mantras to fast-track us to enlightenment and siddhis, but if you persist with this practice, and can do it for an hour a day, then intense purification will take place for you. You begin to be aware of shunya, emptiness within and without and thus reach Samadhi.

Bija Mantra: Om

The 2 Petals of this mantra can be experienced as a particular kind of light bluey grey with an essence of silveriness. On the left petal is the mantra ham, on the right is the mantra ksham (written in silvery white). These are bija mantras associated with both Shiva and Shaktiand represent the ida and pingala. Within the lotus of the chakra is a round circle representing the void.  And also found in the circle is an inverted triangle of Shakti, with a black shiva lingam which before it is purified may be other colours. Concentration on the lingam is often a useful technique. My Guru’s own enlightenment began at an early age when the image of a lingam forceably took over all his awareness, emanating from this chakra.

The deities of the chakra are, Paramshiva and his six-faced Shakti Hakini.

The tanmatra or sense associated and karmendriya or organ of action are the same – the mind. This is why concentration on the chakra stills mental activity.

Notes
  •         This chakra is absolutely key to any real spiritual development because it is really the only one in which we can gain the quietening of the mind.
  •         When this happens, the psychic abilities awake.
  •         Meditation on the ajna chakra brings extraordinary powers of deep concentration, which is a hallmark of great Yogis.
  •         It also allows knowledge to come to you which does not come from the senses: revealed knowledge, strands of deep truth and insight about the universe and the great lila or sport of shiva and Shakti.
  •         The scriptures say mastery of this chakra brings the ability to enter another body at will, grants powers of all-knowingness and omniscience.
  •         Here is another granthi or knot, the rudra granthi. This is a knot we only face in the final tests before Self-realisation when powers come and an intoxication with ones own abilities. For most of us this will never happen. But the attachment to siddhis must be broken for final illumination.
  •         It is the gateway to the sahasrara and thus Samadhi and enlightenment.
  •         You can experience its opening as a burning fire, as if something is drilling inside you, or as if ashes are pouring out of the ajna chakra.
  •         It gives us, finally, the ability to perceive truly, not falsely. Because it allows us to transcend manas, the mind.
  •        This experience cannot be described in words. But it brings the ability to perceive and witness behind what we think is the witness, which is usually a highly purified layer of buddhi, intellect. Thus, it is truly the door to the infinite.








The Sahasrara
So much useless verbiage has been written about this destination point, the crown chakra or “1000 petalled lotus” but it is not really a chakra at all, simply the ultimate home for the union of Shiva and Shakti and thus the point where the absolute and the relative are merged. You cannot bluster your way to access to this great treasure of humanity. You cannot pretend intimacy, and you cannot get there without purification and sadhana – unless you are so highly evolved that experiences unfold for you automatically. To paraphrase another well-known idiom: there is no “I” in the sahasrara, meaning that here all individual sense as you know it is lost, here the ego is dissolved, here the individual atman is revealed as paramatman, as infinite, unbounded and eternal, as sat, chit, ananda. And here, of course, words are mute. It is the experience of silence, but within this silence is contained all heaven, all possible worlds. This is the experience of Samadhi. And you will find the trace of this great and true experience in every religion and faith of the world if you know how to look for it. It is “the pearl of great price”, it is “freedom”. It is “nirvana”.

Traditionally within the sahasrara is the "a-ka-tha" triangle, within which lie the Guru's padukas or sandals. If this powerful image manifests for you, you will find it irresistable, and yourself unable to break away from it. It is a real experience of rays of wonderful energy, light, bliss constantly pouring from the Guru's padukas (which may appear wooden, or golden depending on your purity, or peerless crystal) and one of the reasons why the Guru is so revered in Yogic tradition. 

The padukas of any guru are mysterious affairs, as they contain so much shakti from the Guru. Again, Baba Mutananda's autobiography tells of the extraordinary moment his Guru the great Bhagawan Nityananda handed him a pair of his padukas, then lumped on them some sizzling bhajis... this produced intense intoxicating bliss in Muktananda such that he danced drunkenly down the path to where he was staying.  If this image comes unbidden to you, then you are uniquely and absolutely blessed and destined to pursue serious sadhana. It is a sign that if you put in the effort, you will achieve great liberation in this lifetime. 

Samadhi itself has different degrees depending on the process of purification: savikalpa is Samadhi with a trace of mental fluctuation, coexisting with apprehension of all-pervading silence. This in turn is described in some traditions as having four further stages. Then savikalpa Samadhi gives way to nirvikalpa Samadhi, when all mental activity in terms of thoughts has completely ceased, when the breath stills to a stop.

This is such a subtle and easily misunderstood area. A feeling of peace and quietness is not Samadhi, nor a feeling of joy. It is a whole other experience, as if your mind has been entirely flipped over, as if something has popped, something irrevocably changed,  It is not necessarily something that happens in a flash of thunder. You may find that meditation leads you to more and more profound quietness until then there is a point where your perception changes while in meditation so that you are outside your mind, outside every subtle feeling of awareness, that you have disappeared – and then Samadhi can begin to dawn.

But consider the long long journey of purification this usually takes. When it is completed, we are as supermen, we become not quite human anymore, because we have reached the home we were meant to dwell in. Enlightenment is thus the permanent opening of the access to the sahasrara, to Samadhi which in turn burns up all karmas. The experience next to Samadhi, by the way, when some individuality emerges, is the experience of the sheath of bliss, in as much as bliss soaks and permeates the body and pours out of you to others.

To illustrate what can occur, I always remember a marvellous description by a Chinese Taoist who was lucky enough to find a hut on a side of a sacred mountain and there devote his days to meditation. One day he described how he was just boiling some potatoes when he entered Samadhi. He finally came out of the state and discovered a puzzling thing:  the potatoes he was cooking had thick mould on them. He has been in Samadhi for weeks.

This is the point when, it is said, nature gives a mighty roar. When, we Shaktas can say, Divine Mother gives the ultimate grace of liberation. It is Her will entirely who gets there or not, there are no rules about it. But we can also say that it is a matter of destiny. Circumstances, responsibilities might so crowd our lives that we never can devote the time to search for this hidden joy. This is why, if time and opportunity opens up, we should be so thankful.

How rare it is for anyone to seriously aim for Samadhi, and how even rarer is success. This is why the Upanishads tell us that the path to enlightenment is “narrow and sharp, like a razor’s edge… most difficult to tread” and why Jesus obliquely tells us “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven” ie “rich” in the sense of having any possessions including the ultimate possession of “I” and “me” and “mine”.

There are some fantastic descriptions of the ultimate enlightenment process, both from Shivabalayogi’s biographies, his disciple Baba Shivarudrabalayogi, and the famous autobiography Play of Consciousness by Swami Muktananda. Also read tales from Sivananda, Anandamayi Ma, and so forth.

Which leads us to possibly the finest words ever uttered on this apprehension and union in the sahasrara, the famous words of Lord Buddha “Gone, gone, utterly gone… to the other shore”. And this is our glorious glorious wonderful enthralling destiny, however long or short we make the journey.

Here are some words from Baba Muktananda on the Sahasrara:

"As the Kundalini rises to the sahasrara, you begin to see a divine effulgence. There are one thousand knots in the sahasrara, which shine with the brilliance of a thousand suns, but instead of being scorching like the sun, their light is cooling. The light is so powerful that when it reveals itself to you, you don't have the strength to stand it. In the centre of that effulgence lies a tiny and fascinating beautiful light, the Blue Pearl... which is the divine light of consciousness which shines in everyone. Within the blue pearl are millions and millions of universes. The blue pearl contains the entire cosmos."