Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The 5 Elements and their Divine Qualities

The five traditional knowledge senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and hearing as well as the five action senses of elimination, reproduction, locomotion, grasping/manipulation, and speech are connected respectively with the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space.

Many of the world's traditions, influenced by the patriarchal sky god religious traditions hold these senses in a mild or more extreme form of contempt, emphasizing transcendence over embodiment of these senses and qualities. However, if we truly examine these elements and their bodily representatives, we see that they only truly reflect the divine. If we choose to emphasize one quality over another we end up dividing ourself and reality with preferential bias. This can lead to extremely subtle bondage that is difficult to overcome.

Reality is like a multifaceted gem. Depending on our orientation to it and ourselves, we will see/relate to it in infinite ways. If we "discover" our continuous nature in this way, it is possible to then assume that this facet is the only way that reality can be talked about. We become fundamentalist about what is, instead of allowing the fullness of its expression to be.

The following facets I will describe are only from my words, my orientation, as I explore what these different facets reveal to me through my limited self through the instrumental body.

The earth element at its core reveals the indestructible nature of reality. Not that reality does not change form, but that at its essential core reveals itself to be unborn and undying. Our nature at its core is unchanging. It cannot be added to or taken away from. There is nothing other than it. It is real or what is called in Sanskrit sat. It is true, it is the Real. Not in one aspect, but all aspects of it are wholly one and undivided. It does not die. It will never cease to be. The solidness of our embodied presence can be meditated on to witness this.

The water element at its core reveals the continuous nature of reality. This emphasizes that although form changes, the essence continues through time and space. It implies movement, energy, that creates, exists, and is resolved into something apparently different. Even through the change in form, the underlying "substance" is still there. For example, the ocean changes form and moves but is always still the ocean. Our sexual/reproductive energy can be meditated on to explore this facet.

The fire element at its core reveals the luminous nature of reality. This facet has been emphasized in many traditions. We are at the core, the "Seer". This is the natural awareness, the unchanging witness, the consciousness, unchanging, undying, that is revealed at the core of our mind. I have talked about this much already in this blog in revealing this facet through the process of Shambhavi mudra. The eyes can easily lead us back to this facet. Fire also has in addition to its luminous aspect, another aspect of heat. This heat is what transforms and "melts" obscured areas into clarity. It transforms the rajasic and tamasic qualities of mind into sattvic ones, to more clearly reflect our natural luminous nature.

The air element at its core reveals the blissful nature of reality. This facet has been rejected by many traditions which is unfortunate. The bliss nature is revealed through going deep down into the feeling layer. At its "surface" it is airy and light, at its core it is buzzing with energy, alive and filled with total presence. This is the natural vibratory potential and power of the real, the continuous. When we dive and go back into this natural power, this energy, we feel, we are feeling itself. This is the spanda, the pulse of the divine, throbbing and full. Go deep into the feeling layer to discover this.

The space element is the complete and total unobstructed nature of reality. This aspect is very challenging to traditional systems that attempt to control and limit what our freedom actually is. By its nature, reality cannot be obstructed in any way. This means that it is free to create, exist, and even destroy in an infinite variety of ways. There is no obstruction in any direction. All morality and creations of our human existence ultimately have no meaning here. The space element strips all of these fabrications away and we are left in a place with no external reference frame and nothing to inhibit us. The profound Khecari mudra will reveal this aspect. More on this one later.

All of these aspects are not separate. It is very powerful to meditate on them separately and also to connect our meditations with them, to see that they are only facets of one whole undivided reality. They cannot be fully witnessed in the objective mode but only in the instrumental modes and lower where they start to reveal themselves.

If one takes these elements as the divine, one begins to step away from constructed human modes of spiritualism and philosophy and steps into the realm of direct experience. One has to dive into oneself, truly and fully, with full trust and acceptance. No one can strip this away or limit it. Reality is always shining forth, through your direct experience. This is an embodied truth, one that doesn't divide spirit from matter, one that doesn't involve transcendence, but fullness. This world itself is God. Not part of it. All of it.

Don't limit what you are.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bandha and Mudra

Mudra at its most sublime is not just a hand gesture nor even a gross bodily position. Although these can be utilized to get to the subtler aspects, mudra is at heart an internal gesture. It is like a reflex or an inner orientation that is taken. It is very difficult to say whether it comes about through effort or non-effort as it functions at a very deep level of our being. It helps us immensely to have both simultaneously recognition as well as recollection (smrti). Once we recognize what mudra is, the recollection is important as this is what takes us into the continuity that mudra reveals.

Bandha at its most sublime is not just a physical lock, not just a pulling in of the perineal floor, the chin or the abdominal wall. It is a contraction of energy that is a part of the mudra process. When the mudra occurs, simultaneously 3 things happen. A concentration of energy occurs that "pinches" the normal flow of things, causing the normally outward/downward movement to halt and reverse. This "pinching" is the bandha. On either side of this pinching there is a reversal of movement. At one side we have nimesa, a retreat and a dissolving of the outward moving tendency of energy and mind. On the other side we have an expansion into clarity and other expressions of our deeper continuum.

There are several things to pay attention to in this process. One is the clarity aspect, which is oftentimes focused on exclusively in traditions like Vedanta and other traditions which focus on "consciousness itself". However if we follow the feeling of this expansion we can also trace the contraction point/line of the bandha process as well as follow the reversal of mindwave/energy. We can also focus on the movement or inner directionality of the flow of consciousness. Focussing on these latter processes "embodies the clarity" and puts us in touch with the bliss aspect of our deeper continuum. Then we are able to pay attention to the simultaneity of both action and knowledge, clarity and its expression, Siva and Sakti.

There are many different entry points for the mudra and thus different mudras are described. Each mudra also offers a slightly different orientation to the deeper continuum and provides different insights into the nature of that continuum. Once you understand and can recollect this process more easily, it is something which can be maintained almost constantly and new aspects will be revealed.

We limit ourselves when we attempt these processes from an outer perspective, just following simple instructions from the texts. You can pull in your abdomen a million times but it will get you nowhere. Theos Bernard, a mid century yoga practitioner did 1000 naulis a day and from what he told in his biography, he got nowhere with it. Other practices undertaken led to similar results. This is because these practices which are based on bandha and mudra have to be internalized. You have to understand these practices on the instrumental level. If they are taken on the objective level, you get nowhere but further in monkey mind. Even if the body becomes strong, the intelligence remains dull. This is true for all of the bandhas and mudras in the texts. The same is true for the practices of the kumbhakas (retentions) and pranayamas. Further discussion will be made of some of these practices in a later blog.