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The science of the chakras is very much the science of breath and posture. In order to fully appreciate their enormous significance these two terms have to be understood in their widest sense. Posture is to be understood as one's total attitude to life at all levels. Therefore one can speak not only of physical but also of mental and spiritual posture. Breath is to be understood as the movement of the life force throughout the entire system; as the flow of energy between its poles of spirit and matter. Bearing these principles in mind and with the knowledge of man's occult anatomy outlined in the first part of this book, the purpose behind the practices of yoga becomes very much clearer.
Any serious programme or system of self-training has to begin with attention to the basic rules of health at the simplest levels. These may be compared to the foundations of a house. One may neglect the foundations at first with apparent impunity. But later on when more weight is added to the structure the building will not stand up. The same principle applies to self-training. Building on an insecure foundation means eventually having to go back on one s work to remedy the defects. For as one goes higher in self-training one contacts greater energies and brings these into activity in one's system. If the system is not strong enough it will not be able to contain them. This may be compared to pouring very hot water into a container which has flaws in it and therefore breaks up. These basic rules are to be found in all the classical systems. Harmlessness to all life, truthfulness, cleanliness, right diet, freedom from excesses in any field all these qualities are the equivalent of the foundations of our building. A foundation is a basic strength upon which to build and these virtues are in fact strengths of character upon which we can build our higher development.
The next step is the work of balancing the lower energies in the system. Many people do not understand why the Hatha yoga postures and exercises are really necessary in self-development. They try to take a short-cut by omitting the whole of this initial but vital part of the process.
Let us take a simple illustration which makes this point quite clear. If one attempts to balance a pencil upright on its end at first, it is necessary to keep steadying it with the hand to prevent it falling over. When it is balanced, however, one can remove one's hand and it will remain upright. Now consider the body as the pencil. The aim of Hatha yoga is to bring the body to such a state of health and perfection that its forces are balanced. Only then can one withdraw one s attention from it and concentrate one's attention at higher levels. In fact so long as the body is not in perfect equilibrium the attention of the mind will be continually absorbed in it in just the same way as the hand's attention was continually absorbed in steadying the pencil until it was balanced.
We have all at some time had the experience of being unable to sleep due to pain in some part of our body. At such times the consciousness is continually absorbed in, and therefore attached, to this pain, so that it is unable to leave the body. When the pain ceases, however, the consciousness can leave it and pass upwards into the sleep state. The whole aim of Hatha yoga is to be found in this analogy. It is to bring the body into such a state of equilibrium that the consciousness can be withdrawn from it and pass upwards to higher states.
In terms of the chakras, Hatha yoga prepares the energies at the lower levels to be raised to the higher ones. When the energies have been so raised the preliminaries are no longer so necessary. This point is made clear in the classical yoga textbook the Hatha Yoga Pradipika which says that the various asanas, kumbakhas and mudras should be practised 'so long as Raja Yoga has not been attained'.
However, it is also possible to practise Hatha yoga without having much understanding of its real purpose. A great deal of yoga practised both in the West and East falls into this category and has become merely a fashionable new kind of gymnastics. Many people, not realizing that this is a means to a higher goal, make it an end in itself so that it becomes a glamorous kind of acrobatics or contortionism. Of course even with this limited motive the practitioner will still derive benefit to his health but the real purpose will have been missed.
With a knowledge of man's occult anatomy and a clear idea of the aim of yoga, the purpose of many practices becomes easier to understand. Initially the aim of these practices is to free the posture from any blockages or kinks which may be inhibiting it.
Nearly everyone has some blockage at some points in his system: that is to say, there is a resistance at some point to the flow of the energies. In fact all disease is merely a restriction of the flow of the life force in a particular area. In yoga terminology the channels through which the energies flow in the human system are called nadis. These nadis have to be cleared of blockages and enlarged. This process is an important part of Hatha yoga. Exercises and postures which involve bending, twisting and stretching the spine fall into this category of generally promoting greater energy flow throughout the system.
Another important category of postures is those which promote balance. We have seen that balancing the forces has a vital significance especially when we come to the question of the third force or Kundalini. Postures and exercises which train one in the art of balancing are important in learning to control the positive and negative forces in the system and bringing them into equilibrium.
The lotus posture and its variations has a combination of effects.
Firstly, it provides a stable triangular base on which the spine and upper part of the body can be supported at ease. This is essential for later stages of meditation and concentration. If correctly performed it also has the effect of causing the spinal column to be held erect on the pelvis.
Secondly, by crossing the legs and either joining the hands or placing them on the knees, the open energy circuits are closed. Energy which would normally leave the system through the hands and feet is therefore retained. Slight pressure from the heel on the perineum aids the upward flow of energies from root to crown.
Thirdly, this posture is essentially a sublimative one. Through its practice the energies in the system are retained, brought under control, and sublimated up the vertical polarity of the spine to the higher centers.
After the preliminaries a further stage can be reached when certain practices which directly affect the chakras may be undertaken. The subtle effects which various postures, mudras and bandhas have on the energies in the system is an extremely complex and difficult subject. Very few of those who practise yoga seem to understand fully these effects. Some portions relating to this subject are kept secret. However by correlating the explanations of man's occult anatomy already given with his own experiences in practice, the student can work these out for himself to a great extent.
We give certain examples which may serve as guidelines in this field: inverted postures for instance cause the energies to flow upwards to the higher chakras. The comparison of an ordinary electrical battery is helpful here. Current flows between the positive and negative poles. When the battery is discharged the method of recharging is to reverse the flow of current through it between its poles. In the human system by standing on one's head one is doing just the same thing; reversing the flow of energy between the polarities on the vertical axis of the spine.
The student will also readily be able to realize for example that the throat and heart are strongly affected by certain postures. In particular the shoulder stand has a remarkable effect on the throat centre provided that the body is held absolutely erect and at right angles to the neck with the chin pressed firmly against the sternum.
Bow postures done with the breath retained cause energies to flow into these chakras provided the head is fully held back. As a further example, certain postures are effective in activating the solar chakra. These are principally the ones which draw in the abdomen and exercise control over the energies centered there. After practising these correctly one becomes aware of a greatly increased activity of the gastric fire or fire element in the system. Similarly the sacral and root centers are affected by their appropriate postures.
These postures and exercises should always be practised:
(a) With a knowledge of the purpose and effect which they are intended to promote.
(b) Slowly and deliberately without hurry or anxiety.
(c) With complete one-pointed concentration on what is being done.
The best way to understand the mysterious third force or Kundalini is by the illustration of the pendulum.
When the pendulum is in motion it swings continuously from side to side vibrating between horizontal or right and left poles.
It also has a vertical polarity and as it swings, energy is transmitted downwards from its pivot or source. If its motion ceases the right and left poles become balanced and cease to exist.
Then the energy which was being sent downwards must also return to its source and travels upwards along the pendulum which is now stationary in the middle.
In yoga terminology the right and left side energy flows are Pingala and Ida, and the central channel is Sushumna.
In Kabalistic terms they are the Pillars of Severity and Mercy and the central channel is the Path of the Arrow. Kundalini, therefore, is the path by which the energy returns to its source when it ceases to manifest in the human system as a vibration between poles. When Kundalini returns to its source the pendulum has ceased to swing. All polarity ceases and our consciousness returns to its source through the crown chakra.
When the breath ceases to flow through the right and left sides off the system either we die or if we have prepared ourselves and the energy is controlled, we can transcend death and can pan consciously into the deep mystical state of Samadhi.
There is considerable misunderstanding concerning the awakening of forces in the human system which then, it is said, activate the chakras. On the whole this is putting the cart before the horse; it is truer to say that when the nadis or energy channels are purified, and the forces are balanced, the chakras are ready; then the energies can flow through them and not vice versa.
In all nature forced growth is never the most healthy kind of growth, and sudden dramatic awakenings of forces are seldom desirable. Instances of this kind of unbalanced development seem to have received more publicity than they merit and are often assumed to be the rule rather than the exception.
There are, however, certain people in whose lives the awakening of forces or faculties is likely to be very sudden and perhaps unexpected. This is due to karmic forces building up gradually against some strong obstacle or deep-rooted hindrance to that person's development. In such a case the obstacle will go on resisting until the forces building up finally overcome it and as a result a sudden change in the pattern of life and its energy flow comes about.
At a later stage the highly evolved soul learns to control the powerful awakened energies which flow through his system. He will be able to direct them upwards or down- wards, or focus them at whatever level he requires. For some people the effect of the sublimation of the awakened Kundalini will be one of rejuvenation. One is reminded of Rider Haggard's 'She' who preserved the prime of her body by bathing in the sacred fire in the mountain. It is interesting to speculate how much the author knew of the esoteric aspect of his subject concerning the real sacred fire within.
The mind is often compared by yoga teachers to a pond, the surface of which is covered with innumerable ripples caused by the winds of desire blowing upon the water and ruffling it. Only when these winds cease to blow does the water cease to be agitated. Then it becomes calm and lucid and a totally new experience supervenes because it is possible to look down through it and see the bedrock of the pond beneath. Previously, due to the water's agitation, one could not have seen the bedrock of the pond or known that it existed. In this analogy the water of the pond is of course the mind, and its substratum or bedrock is the higher principle within ourselves which is above the mind - the spiritual consciousness. The winds of desire are the emotions which ruffle the mind.
True concentration of the mind is therefore only possible when we can achieve dispassion and detachment from our emotions. We have seen already that thought descends through the etheric level to manifest through the four elements, which are themselves modifications of the ether. Whenever the mind, therefore, is associated with any of the elements it is in a state of emotion. In terms of the chakras, when the energy of the brow chakra begins to take on the vibrations of any of the five lower chakras its own vibration is lowered and it becomes tinged by emotion. Every emotion is an association of the thought principle with one or more of the elements which then colour or condition it. Pure thought, uncoloured by any of the lower vibrations, is the unconditioned mind.
The unconditioned mind is free from the organs of sensing or acting associated with the lower chakras and is self-contained in its own vibration. Such pure thought is tremendously potent. Faculties such as thought transference, materialization, and mind reading depend upon the ability to concentrate the mind by freeing it in this way. As we have already seen earlier in this chapter the ability to do this depends initially on proper preliminary training at the Hatha yoga level. Thus Hatha yoga leads on to Raja yoga in a natural sequence of progress.
Finally the energy of the brow chakra must be raised to the higher vibratory rate at the crown. This step is only possible and should wily be attempted after the mind has been thoroughly disciplined and a high level of mental concentration achieved. In order to have complete control of any instrument one must be able to take it up, use it efficiently, and lay it down again at will. Only then does it become a true instrument. Only then can one stand back from it and say, 'This is my instrument, it is not me; I am separate from it and I control it'. The mind has to be trained to this degree before the final stage can be achieved. The thoughts have to be brought under complete control. Only then can we make the subtle distinction between the thought and the thinker. When we realize that I the thinker exist independently of my thought we can lay down the thought and remain conscious at the I am level alone. Then we cross the final bridge from Not Self to Self.
Many students are concerned about the possible dangers involved in the practice of yoga, especially if self-taught. Some comment on this question would seem to be appropriate here. First, one should realize that danger is a relative term. What is dangerous for one person may be completely safe for another. Therefore one cannot logically say that anything is dangerous in itself except in relation to the person doing it. Secondly, everything in life that one does carries some element of risk. If there were no risk at all in that activity then the return or results from it would be negligible in creative importance. The reward is always proportionate to the effort involved, and the effort required will be proportionate to the relative danger. So the whole of life is a process of learning from experiences which when looked back on afterwards appear as mistakes by comparison with our subsequent knowledge. Therefore one needs to be ready to go forward boldly but not rashly into the future ready to improve on what one did before. To take more risk than one can comfortably handle is foolhardy and not to take any risk is equally foolish.
Undoubtedly a competent teacher will help one progress more swiftly, but in the matter of finding such a teacher an important point is often overlooked. It is you yourself who in the end has to decide whether or not a certain person is a competent teacher and so the responsibility must finally come back to yourself.
No one can do your learning for you just as no one else can eat your food for you. There will be no progress without a willingness to assume responsibility. In this connection there is a further even more important point, which is that in accordance with the law of karma or cause and effect, one ultimately receives from life what one puts into it. What one gives out and what one receives are two sides of the same coin.
However, a great part of humanity has not yet learned this truth which is naturally linked with the law of reincarnation, since the giving out and receiving back is necessarily evened out over more than one life. This law applies equally to learning in that one may only receive knowledge to the extent that one gives it out. Therefore in order to learn one must also teach what one knows to others who need it. The latter comment involves an important principle of using one's energy in the most economical and therefore most creative way.
To give to someone exactly the most useful knowledge that he needs at the moment he needs it is to do this. Trying to force knowledge on people who are not ready for it is a wasteful and therefore an uncreative use of energy. In this, discrimination is necessary to judge whom you can best help, and in which way, and at what time. The door-to-door apostle trying to force his ideas on all and sundry lacks proper discrimination and makes an uneconomical use of energy. The old adage that when one is ready the teacher will appear is true because you bring yourself by your own efforts into contact with the sources of knowledge which you merit at that time.
even the best teacher can only
teach one to teach oneself about ONESELF!
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