Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shambhavi Mudra Elaborated

I thought I would elaborate on the Shambhavi mudra to go into deeper detail of this most powerful mudra. This is a more detailed description of the process which was discussed in an earlier post.

Mudra means gesture. Gesture can mean many things, from a physical gesture to an internal gesture. It is a slight movement that is initiated with the will which has the capability of propagating outward or inward through space.

Shambhavi mudra, also call Bhairavi mudra, is a subtle internal technique involving the eyes which can lead one to the depths of yogic meditation. It is described in many texts including Hathapradipika, Gherandha Samhita, Amanaskya Yoga, and Vijnanabhairava Tantra. These texts however do not give full instructions of this powerful technique but rather only hint at what it truly is.

The process of mudra follows what is called in Patanjali's yoga sutras parinama. Parinama is the process of transformation of one state to another. It involves movement and a change of state. The important point to understand in parinama is the process of movement itself. Mudra is a gesture that starts in a very subtle way and then follows a powerful movement gradient to affect objective perception, transforming the energy that underlies this objective manifestation to one of pure clarity. This clarity can be followed internally to the central nadi Susumna. At this point many "doors" open, through which the movement can be continued and the expansion of knowledge through one of these doorways can be facilitated. This is the topic of the 3rd chapter of the Yoga Sutras.

Shambhavi mudra thus is the excellent technique which brings about the results of the containment of the mind discussed in the first chapter of the yoga sutras. It is a technique which starts beneath the mind and completely brings it under control. It is in some ways a powerful technique of bio feedback.

One of the most important things to attend to in the mudric process is movement and not object or outcome. If one is attached to name and form, one is still in the objective layer of mind and will have no access to this mudra. The mudra is purely an instrumental or sensory process that underlies the mental functioning. The Hathapradipika quoting the Yoga Vasistha tells us that the mind and prana are like two sides of a single coin, that if we control one we control the other. In the Hatha tradition we take a hold of the mind by taking hold of the prana. So what is this prana? Prana is the felt layer that underlies all sensory processes. It is immediately felt as the totality of the underlying sensation body. So following this understanding, we can access this prana by following any of the knowledge or action senses to their point of origin. With Shambhavi mudra we use the eyes.

The technique of Shambhavi mudra begins with the eyes. We keep the eyes open. The texts say not to blink but in my opinion this matters not in the slightest because it doesn't matter what we are seeing. The important point is the seeing itself. This technique in my opinion is also not about directing the gaze. Gazing is not Shambhavi mudra. Gazing at the midbrow or third eye only puts the attention on an object and not on the seeing itself. The seeing itself is what draws us in, not what the eyes are looking at. The opening of the third eye comes when the ordinary two eyes become clear of the mental projections. Ordinarily our eyes are completely contaminated by the "eye of the mind" which distorts what we are seeing through the pureness of the seeing itself. I have given the example before of trying to see purely when one is thinking of one's favorite movie. Try it. Can you do it? Can you see with complete clarity and focus while the mind thinks of some topic? It can't be done. We are either seeing through the mind's eye or the 2 eyes of the body. Both cannot be simultaneously activated. In our everyday functioning, we are bouncing back and forth between objective and instrumental awareness, normally so quickly that we are not even aware of it. And our home base is in the objective level of perception. Continued application of Shambhavi mudra takes our home base lower into the instrumental realm, a vast realm completely unlike the objective reality.

So back to the technique. We look and then see. In seeing there is distortion. The distortion takes us towards the rajasic or agitated state or the tamasic or lazy state. The eyes experience this as either becoming tense or lazy. The eyes have to be constantly adjusted or focused so that they continuously come into a state of clear focus. Remember that it is not the focusing on an object but the focusing of the seeing itself. This is only the initial stage of Shambhavi mudra but it is a very important one. In fact many things occur as a result of this focusing/clearing that propagate throughout the body and mind system.

The next part of the technique involves feeling the seeing. We yoke the feeling layer directly to the seeing layer. To do this we have to focus more on the movement. We attend to the directional gradient that either takes us from clarity to unclarity or from unclarity to clarity. Attending to either movement is extremely important as it is the catching of the movement from unclarity to clarity which reactivates the mudra process. This is a powerful form of bio feedback and is the heart essence of the yoga. It is discussed quite clearly in Yoga Sutra 1.18. The holding of the state of meditation is brought about by what is called samskara or a conditioned pattern. The holding of a state is effected by parinama or transformation which is movement. We don't attend to the state, we attend to the movement which holds the state. This is an extremely powerful process, one which I will elaborate on in a later blog.

So by recognizing the unclarity, the mudra activates and "tunes" the eyes and system to bring it back to clarity. This clarity/unclarity, when we yoke it to the feeling layer begins to reveal itself in the totality of the body. Suddenly it is no longer just limited to the eyes. We feel Shambhavi mudra as a holistic activity which is felt throughout the system. Mind is felt suddenly as tension in the body. With the release of that tension, mind disappears and the clarity of body/mind expands. This is the process of unmesa/nimesa discussed also in an earlier blog.

If we follow the feeling of the clarity, it takes us "backward" into the central column area. If we stay with the movement, it takes us to a very special realm. At this point we can either just hold steady or "direct" the movement further into an infinite realm of doors. If we hold the mudra on a particular doorway, the knowledge of that doorway opens and reveals itself. This is the process called samadhi which is discussed by Patanjali. I will discuss this aspect in another blog.

The nice thing about Shambhavi is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. It is not limited to seated sessions of practice. It takes our asana and physical practices to a whole other level. 

Hopefully this post has helped to outline the process of mudra, Shambhavi in particular, in a more comprehensive way. With the use of this technique, one has no longer to rely on hours of meditation to still the mind. The mind instantly comes under control along with the body and one can utilize the focusing of that energy for a number of different purposes. Thus we have yoga, through the practice of prana nirodhah, giving rise to citta vrtti nirodhah.

 Please check out my youtube video for a video instructional on Shambhavi mudra.