Anāhata Nāda = unlimited, infinite sound
The Anāhata Chakra is one of the most beautiful and richest Chakras, and invites us to dwell longer in its inexhaustible treasures of delightful feelings and experiences. It is located in the region of the heart, in the centre of the chest, and this is why it is also known as the Heart Centre. And it is not without reason that the heart is regarded as the symbol of love, for the Anāhata Chakra is the seat of love.
Just as love is infinite, so also is the Anāhata Chakra. And the extent of the radiance of the Anāhata Chakra depends upon the depths of our relationships. When our heart opens to divine love, our love becomes infinite. We find numerous sayings in general use about the boundless nature of the Anāhata Chakra: “To have a big heart”, “a heart as deep as the ocean” and “to have a place in the heart for everyone”.
Saying “I love you and always think about you” with the intellect only are merely empty words. To really send loving feelings to someone we must open the Heart Chakra and allow love and light to radiate from our inner Self.
The following event is described in the Rāmāyana :
Hanuman, the great devotee of Lord Rāma, often told people that Lord Rāma and his beloved wife, Sītā, sat enthroned in his heart. When someone made some sceptical and derisive comments about this he was hurt by these doubts and exclaimed: “I can prove that I am speaking the truth!” And with that he seized his chest with both hands and pulled it open – and there, within his heart, the living images of Rāma and Sītā were truly to be seen.
The Anāhata Chakra is our inner temple in which the divine Ātmā, “the flame of life”, resides. Self-Realisation, also known as God-Realisation, involves the recognition of our own Self, the Ātmā. To show that something belongs to us or concerns us we spontaneously point to the centre of the chest, the site of the Anāhata Chakra. No-one points to the head, the stomach or any other part of the body. This shows clearly that we spontaneously identify ourselves with the Ātmā within the heart centre.
In the Chandogya Upanishad it is written:
“In the centre of the body there is a little shrine surrounded by a wall with eleven doors. Hidden within the shrine a Lotus blossoms, and within this there is a tiny, little room.”
What does this tiny room in the heart of the Lotus mean? It is the Ātmā, our true Self. The Ātmā is a part of God. It is pure, unchanging, Infinite Consciousness. It is Eternal, Unborn and Immortal, and exists in every living being. Just as the whole tree is already contained and present within a seed, the essence of the entire cosmos exists in the centre of the Heart Chakra. Admittedly, we are unable to see it – even if the heart is dissected and examined under a microscope we are unable to track down this “tiny room within the Lotus of the heart”.
The Jīvātmā lives joyfully in the liberated feeling of divine love and heavenly bliss when it has found its way to its true Self in the Anāhata Chakra. Bhakti Yogis, especially, who follow the path of devotion to God, linger here for a very long time. In the infinite space of the heart they are constantly discovering something new, fascinating and attractive. But the Heart Chakra is not the final goal. That is why it is necessary to continue along the path towards knowledge of God and God-Realisation in accordance with the teachings of Gyāna Yoga.
During a journey by rail we travel through different landscapes. We enjoy the scenes of lovely villages, woods, meadows, mountains and lakes – but we let them pass us by without stopping because we want to reach our goal. And in exactly the same way we should continue our journey through the Chakras and regard the Anāhata Chakra as one station only out of many along the way, without allowing the delightful feelings, visions and fantasies that we meet here to stop us.
Anāhata means “infinite” and “continuous”. In the Anāhata Chakra we hear Anāhata Nāda, the constant, fundamental sound of the Universe, the eternal vibration of the Self. Its sound is SO HAM – “That I am, I am That”. We perceive it as a subtle rhythmic melody similar to a heartbeat, but much softer and more wonderful.
The poet, Srī Kabīrdās, was inspired by this melody within the heart to write the following verse:
“The flute of the infinite is played without ending, and its sound is love.
When love renounces all boundaries it arrives at the truth.”
To perceive the sound of the Self, unbroken contemplation connected with very fine conscious awareness is essential. We are able to experience this when we are conscious of the Mantra SO HAM day and night without interruption. With every breath, therefore at least 21,000 times in 24 hours, the sound of SO HAM resounds within us. The stream of the breath produces the sound SO with the inhalation and HAM with the exhalation. But if we lose contact for just one breath the sound of the Anāhata again disappears.
On one hand we experience delightful, happy feelings in the Anāhata Chakra, but on the other hand it is extremely easy to become unbalanced in this Chakra. If the mind and consciousness are not pure, misleading thoughts and feelings, fixed ideas and complexes that affect us physically and psychically arise in the Anāhata Chakra. Deep in the hear we come across numerous unprocessed experiences and Karmas from the past, which are resting in the subconscious.
All of us carry deep and painful wounds of disappointment within ourselves. Spiritual wounds are far more difficult to heal than physical ones. They can easily be ripped open again and drag us down into a whirlpool of emotions. In such a situation it is best to withdraw from the external world for a short while and reflect inwardly. In this way we can gather fresh strength, and with the help of Gyāna (wisdom) again find inner balance.
The more the Heart Centre opens, the more strongly and deeply we feel the spiritual pain – but we can rest assured that it will finally dissolve in the light of love and wisdom. Therefore we should not forget to keep the door of our heart open. Because when we keep the heart closed for fear of further injuries, we simultaneously block our feelings and prevent them from being assimilated or expressed.
This is why the Āgyā Chakra should be developed hand in hand with the Anāhata Chakra so that emerging feelings can be analysed and controlled by Viveka (discrimination) and Buddhi (intellect) – not by harsh criticism or reproaches but with loving understanding and insight, which heal and resolve. In the Anāhata Chakra we are able to expand our feelings into infinity, but in the Āgyā Chakra we raise them to a higher level of consciousness.
To open the Anāhata Chakra in the spiritual sense means the realisation of all-embracing divine love, free from the capriciousness of worldly emotions.
When the life force flows within us unhindered and harmoniously, we feel light-hearted and happy. Happiness means to be in complete balance. When we are free of fear and tension the Heart Chakra opens and imparts pleasant feelings and inner strength. This strength heals the inner wounds and allows us to forget the pain and unpleasantness of the past.
But, unfortunately, this feeling of happiness is transitory. It relates only to the physical and psychic levels. We do, in fact, experience Ānanda (bliss), but still lack Sat (truth, reality) and Chit (consciousness) . In the heart we are able to perceive our inner reality and the beauty of the Self, but we are unable to maintain this state permanently. In these fleeting moments of bliss we are always conscious that we still have not reached our goal. However, we should not be disheartened as the day will certainly come when we will be permanently established in the divine Self, then we can never again be frightened or hurt.
In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says (2/58):
“A Yogi has the senses under control and is able to withdraw or externalise them at will just as a tortoise is able to extend or withdraw its limbs.”
To fulfil their duties within the world Yogis turn their attention to worldly matters. But if they want to get in touch with their true Self they withdraw their attention within. They do not identify with the body, the thoughts or the feelings, and this is why they remain inwardly untouched by the disappointments and hurts of the world.
Two specific problems that we encounter in the Anāhata Chakra are worldly attachment and dependency. Often we feel we are tied to someone but are not necessarily happy about the relationship. A communal bond can be found everywhere in nature and is important for the maintenance of social order. But if we
have fulfilled our duties in life and are still unable to release ourselves from the constant worry of family and possessions, this indicates a false sense of attachment. And, apart from the ego, this is one of the biggest hurdles on the spiritual path.
How can we recognise whether our feelings express dependency or genuine love? There is a very simple test for this:
- Love brings joy, not sadness
- Love shows understanding and provokes no arguments.
- Love provides security and makes no demands.
- Love grants freedom and knows no jealousy.
Just like self-interested affection, feelings of resentment and revenge are also types of attachment that bind us. The body dies but the attachment does not disappear and binds us for several lifetimes. The cause of all problems is MAMATĀ , attached to “mine”. Mamatā is a strong, binding force that pulls us towards our desires and expectations. Mamatā clings to us like a leech and sucks out our spiritual power. Its companions are ĀSHĀ (hope/expectation) and TRISHNĀ (“thirst” – desire,longing). For as long as these exist within us we are unable to reach our goal. The following story shows this clearly:
A Master once approached a farmer to remind him of his true duty in life. He said to him: “Now that your son is grown and has taken over the work on the farm, it is time for you to dedicate your life to your spiritual perfection.” But the farmer, who clung firmly to his family and possessions, replied. “It is still far too soon. I want to wait until my son is married and has an heir, and then I will come to you Master.”
Several years later the Master visited the farmer again. In the meantime several grandchildren had been born so the Master said: “Now your house and farm are secure you can come with me.” But as before the farmer vehemently declined, saying: “Do you not see that they need me? Who will look after my grandchildren when the young ones are working in the fields?” So the Master left alone again.
Shortly afterwards the farmer died and because of his strong attachment to his family he was born again as a calf on his own farm and grew into a strong bull that was used by the young farmer for cultivating the fields. When the Master visited the village again he recognised the farmer in animal form and again offered to take him with him. But as always the farmer was not ready for this. “What would my son do without me? He has bought a new field and has no other draught animal.”
Exhausted by the hard work he died after a few years and, in turn, was born again on his former farm, but this time as a dog. Vigilantly he made his rounds about the estate. However, when he wanted to come closer to his grandchildren he was chased away by his own son, who even threw stones at him although he was treated well by his family in all other ways. He was still unable to overcome his attachment and go with the Master when he again visited the village. “Who would guard the house if I went?” he worried. “It would be an easy target for riff-raff and thieves.”
And so it went. Year after year the Master called on the farmer who, because of his attachment continued to sink to lower and lower levels of consciousness over several lifetimes. He became a snake and finally a worm that eked out its existence in the cowshed of his former farm. Still undisturbed by these external transformations his inner attachment to his relatives and his farm remained, preventing him from following the Master and going towards God.
One Master was in the habit of repeating only two words in his Satsang – Cut and Unite. In this way he expressed that we must first sever our old habitual worldly relationships to be able to unite with God. Just as seeds die in the earth in order to germinate, we must first give up and detach from everything in order to reach our goal.
Dependency is the cause of most ills. From dependency arise expectations and demands, and these in turn give rise to anger. We become angry if someone refuses us something that we wanted or if something that we depend upon is taken away. If we do not purge ourselves of these impure stirrings of emotion that originate in the lower Chakras, we can again lose everything that we have gained through spiritual striving and the grace of the Guru, as the following parable shows:
In the jungle lived a Yogi who possessed many Siddhis, and in his hut there lived a little mouse that he spoilt daily with small titbits. One day the mouse lamented: “Master, I am so unhappy.” “What makes you unhappy, little mouse?” asked the Master. “I am scared of the cat that prowls around your hut,” squeaked the mouse. The Master said: “You need not live in fear any longer, I will turn you into a dog.” But one day the dog ran to the Yogi barking and trembling in agitation. “Master, I am terribly afraid because there is a gigantic tiger roaming the woods.” “I will change you into a lion,” decided the Master, “then you need not fear the tiger any more.”
So through the grace of the Master a small mouse became a mighty lion. One day the Yogi kicked a stone and sustained a small wound. Without thinking of it again he lay down in the evening and went to sleep. Attracted by the smell of the blood the lion approached and licked the open wound of the Yogi. The Yogi went to pull the foot closer but the lion held it firmly with his paw, growling, and a dangerous gleam shone in his eyes. He forgot everything the Master had done for him, that his greatness and power had been given by the Master. The predatory instinct gained the upper hand. The Master recognised this, and with a movement of his hand changed the lion back into the little mouse he had once been.
The most important renunciation is inner renunciation (Vairāgya). Ahead of everything else renounce your negative qualities and harmful habits, and remove the stumbling blocks of ego, greed, quarrelsomeness and hostility that lie on your inner journey.
The greatest inner obstacles that block us and do not allow us to make any progress, stem from the unconscious, and therefore preclude a rational approach. An effective and helpful technique to bring light into the hidden crevices of our psyche is offered by “Self-Inquiry Meditation” contained in the system “Yoga in Daily Life”.
Letting go is very difficult for us all. It gives rise to fear and defensiveness within us because we are dependent upon our habits even if they harm us or cause pain. We believe that we will lose our identity, our purpose in life, but the exact opposite is the case.
- Vairāgya liberates us from fear and sorrow
- Vairāgya means to love all
- Vairāgya is love.
We find a Lotus with twelve petals in the Anāhata Chakra. The petals represent the five Prānas and the five Upa Prānas (or expressed another way – the five Gyāna Indriyas and the five Karma Indriyas ), together with Manas and Buddhi. In this context Manas denotes the disposition and Buddhi the intellectual capacity.
The twelve petals also depict the twelve most important qualities that we are able to develop in the heart centre:
Joy, peace, love, harmony, bliss, clarity, purity, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, patience and kindness.
To live with an open, loving heart means to awaken and cultivate these twelve qualities. When we sprinkle the Lotus of the Anāhata Chakra with the water of Bhakti (devotion) these twelve petals blossom into the celestial flower of Universal love, the fragrance of which delights everyone.
The Anāhata Chakra is also known as CHINTĀ MANI because it bestows upon us the gift of expressing our thoughts and feelings in touching words, pictures or melodies. When we are in the Anāhata Chakra our perceptions become finer and more comprehensive. Artistic talents and creative abilities, through which we are able to touch the hearts of others, are awakened within us. These rediscovered treasures awaken infinite love and the desire to open to and communicate with others. Poetry, stories, pictures and sounds that we create from the heart allow the most beautiful chords to be struck within people. This is because love, the language of the heart and the call of God, manifests within them.
Those who call upon God long for truth, love and bliss. Even if the artist still has not realised God, the inner veil is lifted for a short time and other spheres are revealed through the artist’s vision and intuition. This gift is bestowed by the awakening of the Anāhata Chakra. Those who are able to realise their artistic talent are blessed and inwardly rich; and with the inspiration and creativity comes Ānanda, inner fulfilment and peace of mind. Countless works of art testify to the fact that people who have opened their Anāhata Chakra are able to accomplish marvellous things.
Everyone of us possesses artistic abilities that are able to enrich ourselves and others. Whether you paint, draw, write, play a musical instrument or sing, all these open your heart and allow you to feel the closeness and beauty of God.
The divinities of the Anāhata Chakra are SHIVA and SHAKTI . Shiva (or Purusha) is pure consciousness that steers us towards goodness and the Supreme Self. Shakti (or Prakriti) is the Divine power through which consciousness manifests.
The aspects of Purusha and Prakriti are also found in Sūrya Shakti (the power of the sun) and Chandra Shakti (the power of the moon). Both flow in our Nādīs and have a significant influence on our physical and psychic state of health. Prānāyāma is an important and valuable practice for harmonising both these aspects. As explained in previous chapters, breathing through the left nostril, which is connected to the moon principle of the Idā Nādī, quietens the emotions, while breathing through the right nostril, which relates to the sun principle of the Pingala Nādī, clarifies our consciousness. Nādī Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) unites and harmonises these two main Nādīs and brings the emotions and intellect into balance.
This regulation of the breath is an extremely beneficial technique, especially for the Anāhata Chakra, because it is possible that here we will oscillate between clarity of consciousness and emotional weakness for a long time. Painful memories continue to rise from the heart. If our ego is unable to digest rejection and insult they will lie like stones within us and we become “heavy of heart”.
But reflect on this: You can cry, torment yourself and be sad every day – but no-one forces you!
The gland related to the Anāhata Chakra is the THYMUS GLAND. It is located between the collarbones in the centre of the chest. If one taps this place lightly with the knuckles a few times, it quietens nerves affected by excitement or stress and brings us back into balance again.
When our emotions overwhelm us we should not act but wait until they have quietened again. Emotions that are too strong and churn up the heart can blind our reason. It is not rare that people have caused terrible wars in the belief that they are acting in the name of love. We are all too aware of the atrocities that have been committed, and are still being committed, “in the name of God”.
Resentment, desire, obsession, fanaticism and dependency are negative qualities that also cause mischief in the Anāhata Chakra. Only when we have conquered these qualities does the entrance to divine love open for us.
When the “waves become high” in the Anāhata Chakra we really feel as though we are being shaken about like a boat in a storm-lashed sea. We need all of our power to stop ourselves from sinking. In one of his Bhajans Mahāprabhujī compared the seeker with a boatswain who gets into distress and calls despairingly to God:
Lord, how far away is the safe harbour?
The ocean seems endless to me, without direction or way
Dark clouds of ignorance envelop me
Storms of passion and anger allow the waves to rise higher
I have lost my way through greed and dependency.
Lord, help me to weather this storm safely!
Mahāprabhujī says: Your karmas shroud you like dark clouds,
It is impossible to flee from them.
Only the grace of the Gurudev can liberate you from them,
Just like the wind drives the clouds from the sky.
The animal symbol of the Anāhata Chakra is a black ANTELOPE. The antelope is fast and powerful, and at the same time delicate and sensitive. With its refined senses it senses danger well in advance. It is vigilant day and night, just as we should be on our spiritual path – always attentive and careful.
In the Anāhata Chakra there are two more important symbols – a SIX-POINTED STAR together with a NEW MOON. Both relate to the changeability we experience in this Chakra.
The six-pointed star is formed by two intersecting triangles. The triangle with the tip pointing upwards symbolises the energy (Shakti) that offers us the possibility of raising our state of consciousness. The inverted triangle implies that we can also very easily slip back into the lower Chakras again from the Heart Chakra. The triangles also highlight the inner battle that takes place within the heart between spirituality and emotion. When we purify our emotions we raise ourselves above earthly emotions and the spiritual love that rises in the Anāhata Chakra is the first radiation of the Divine light within us. But this enlightenment does not last because we still have to struggle with contradictory inner tendencies until our spiritual feelings are strengthened sufficiently.
The moon grows daily until it finally becomes the radiant full moon. In the same way our spiritual development is fostered by our daily practice until one day it achieves perfection. And just as the Lunar phases influence nature and the tides, the feelings within our heart are also subject to constant change; aggression and enthusiasm alternating with kindness, helpfulness and consistency.
In much the same way as the narrow crescent of the new moon is virtually invisible in the sky, our love for God exists within us unconsciously at all times, but our feelings of love are primarily directed towards worldly things. Love for Māyā always leads to disappointment, whereas love for God never disappoints. The more we steer our love towards God, the more love flows towards us.
When we constantly guide our consciousness towards God, then one day there is no longer anywhere that we do not see God. When the river flows into the ocean there is neither river nor bank, only the endless ocean stretching in all directions. This is our goal – unity with God.
The colour of the Anāhata Chakra is LIGHT BLUE. Blue means spirituality and unity. It is the colour of the clear, cloudless sky, the reflection of purity and infinity. Also, the colour of the flame of a candle is blue in the centre as it is not polluted by smoke. When we purify the fire of the Manipūra its reflection in the Anāhata Chakra is also clear and pure. Sometimes when we are meditating on the Anāhata Chakra we can perceive the radiance from the glow of the Manipūra Chakra as a yellowish-orange colour.
The Tattva of the Anāhata Chakra is VĀYU, the air element. Air forms the basis for movement and expansion and symbolises the breadth and boundlessness of the heart, within which our consciousness is able to expand without restriction. Vāyu is connected physically to the sense of touch and the skin (the organ of touch), and emotionally to the level of feelings. When the heart is touched it can give us a feeling of becoming lost in an ocean of emotions or sinking into our feelings.
When air is in motion it develops an immense power. Storms can even uproot strong trees and destroy whole houses. Infinite power also exists within the Anāhata Chakra; and it can be utilised positively or negatively. Just like a raging storm, anger and fury can devastate everything positive and beautiful that we have built in our lives; but the power of love is capable of achieving miracles and moving mountains.
The most important and most beautiful quality of the Anāhata Chakra is BHAKTI. Bhakti means love and devotion. Love and devotion manifest as understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and helpfulness. If all people developed these qualities there would be no further arguments or wars. Satya Yuga, the age of truth and purity (the “golden age”) where harmony, love and consideration reign supreme everywhere, would again begin. But at present we are a long way from this – often we are not even able to establish peace within our own family.
The first step in self-realisation is to recognise your own Self in every living being. Whoever has realised this feels the joy and the pain of others in the same way as their own feelings. We would then avoid eating meat because we are aware of the suffering and fear of the slaughtered animals in every piece of flesh.
When we are able to see God within ourselves and within all beings, when unlimited, all-embracing love awakens within us and we experience the feelings of other living beings just as we do our own, the Anāhata Chakra has fully awakened – like the Yogi in the following story:
A Yogi was sitting beneath a tree absorbed in meditation when a small bird sat on his knee. The Yogi opened his eyes and saw that the poor animal was shaking from head to toe. “What are you so afraid of little bird?” asked the Yogi. The little bird answered: “See that big falcon sitting over there, he chased me here to kill me. In my need I have taken refuge with you and implore you to save my life!” The Yogi assured the little bird he would protect it and that it need no longer be afraid. Then the falcon approached and addressed the Yogi: “I beg you, please give me my prey. It is already several days since I have eaten, and with my last ounce of strength I pursued this bird. If I cannot eat it then I will die.” The Yogi saw in front of him two desperate living beings that had turned to him as their last hope. He then took a knife and cut a piece of flesh from his own body corresponding to the size of the little bird and threw it to the falcon. After this the birds disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared and the wound that the Yogi had inflicted upon himself through his compassion closed without even leaving a scar. Then the Yogi realised that this had been a test for him by God.
Only those who possess Santa Bhāva and Samdrishti , and selflessly serve all living beings, can pass such a test. A Santa (a saint) is like a tree. A tree is not attached to those who feed and water it. It allows everyone, people and animals alike, to rest in its shade. It does not think badly of those who eat its fruit, nor bear ill-will towards those who throw stones at it. Quite the opposite – it gives sweet fruit in return, and even gives wood to those who fell it.
Love reveals itself in different ways: One kind of love is the worldly affection that we give to our partner, children or friends. This love is important and beautiful. We need an object for our love and until we are able to find this we feel restless and unfulfilled. Fundamentally we are trying to find someone whom we are able to love, not someone who loves us. Everyone wants to be able to give their love and feelings. When we lose a loved one we feel deep sadness and pain within our heart. Sometimes we feel a pressure on the heart, the reason for which no medical diagnosis can be given, as this feeling has no physical cause. It is more a psychic blockage that impedes and interrupts the flow of love from the heart.
The second kind of love is that of the Bhakta, the seeker of God. The Bhakta’s inner state, which is that of one who has had enough of worldly desires, is quite similar. The song of a Yogi meditating in the night illustrates this feeling:
The world is sleeping, but I am awake.
Oh my beloved Lord, I am waiting for you.
In the dark of the night two are not sleeping,
The Yogi and the Rogi (ill person).
That one who is awake attains that which is longed for;
But the Bhogi (worldly person) misses the opportunity.
There are two people who are unable to sleep. The Yogi is kept awake by the yearning for God, and the ill person (Rogi) by pain. Only the “Bhogi”, the worldly person, sleeps deeply and soundly in ignorance. That one who is awake finally obtains that for which he is longing. The ill person finds release from pain, and the seeker finds God.
Paramhans Yogānanda expressed his extreme yearning for God in a beautiful song:
Door of my heart, open wide I keep for Thee.
Will Thou come, will Thou come, just for once come to me!
Will my days fly away without seeing Thee my Lord?
Night and day, night and day, I look for Thee night and day.
Open the door of your heart so wide that God has no chance of passing by! To those who have such pure love for Him God will certainly come one day.
One time when the wife of Srī Tulsīdās was staying with her parents a sudden insurmountable longing for her came over Tulsīdās. Even though it was the middle of the night and a thunderstorm was raging he set out immediately with no thought for the rigours of the journey. When he arrived, absolutely exhausted and drenched, she uttered a sentence to her beloved that would alter his whole life in one stroke: “If you had directed the power and love that it took for you to reach me towards God, the Almighty, you would have attained realisation a long time ago.” Deeply affected, Tulsidas henceforth withdrew from the world, meditated and devoted his whole life to God. He attained God-Realisation, and whilst in a state of divine consciousness wrote his greatest work, the Rāmāyāna, and many Bhajans showing people the way to true love and to God.
Bhaktas seek a form of God to whom they can pray and direct their faith and their devotion as a focal point for their love. Bhaktas are not content with the concept that God is “everywhere” – no, they wish to see Him with their own eyes! And God, the Almighty, who is love itself, fulfils the desire of His Bhaktas when He takes on a human form and incarnates on earth.
In the Srī Vigyān Dīp Gītā Mahāprabhujī said:
“The elements are invisible and exist everywhere within the Universe
But to achieve anything they must take on a form.”
We can use the element of fire as an example. Fire slumbers invisibly in everything. But with this “dormant” fire we can neither heat nor cook. It is only when it becomes visible and “alive” in the form of flames that it is effective and useful. And this is how it is with Nirguna and Saguna God. Nirguna God is, in fact, present everywhere, but we are unable to approach Him or reach Him.
How can a prayer be effective if we speak aimlessly “into nothing”? Who can we turn to for help and advice about the problems that we will inevitably encounter on our spiritual path, but are unable to resolve? This is why we need the personal guidance of a Saguna form of God – particularly in Kundalinī Yoga. And, more importantly, we also need an object to which the love within our heart can flow. Otherwise the Kundalinī Shakti remains blocked within the heart and our development is hindered.
A doctor can only heal while he is alive. A king only has power for as long as he lives. Therefore, a living Master is also indispensible in transmitting the wisdom that is passed from Master to Master according to ancient tradition. The Master gives instructions on how to guide our Bhakti in prayer, mantra and meditation.
Occasionally, however, there are exceptions. Through the power of intense longing and ardent prayer, a God-Realised soul or a divine incarnation can appear to us in astral form and give the spiritual guidance for which we crave.
The third kind of love is all-encompassing divine love. God is love, and love is God. Divine love has brought into life countless forms, and divine love sustains and guides them on their journey through the Universe. The Divine Self is manifested and reflected in the innumerable beings of Its creation so all may again finally unite with It.
The great saint, Rishi Nārāda, described the nine elements of Bhakti Yoga in his Bhakti Sutras.
SATSANG – Good company.
To cultivate and maintain contact with people who speak of God and truth.
HARIKATHĀ – Stories about God.
To be inspired by the Holy Scriptures and the life stories of saints.
SHRADDHĀ – Faith.
To have faith in the Holy Scriptures and the Master, and to accept and take to heart their words
ISHVARABHAJANA – To sing God’s praises.
To sing spiritual songs (Bhajans) which praise the glory of God.
MANTRA JAPA – Repetition of Mantra.
To inwardly repeat your Mantra at all times and under all circumstances.
SHAMA DAMA – Internal and External Control.
To be the Master of the senses and not allow temptation to overwhelm us.
To maintain discipline in thought, word and deed.
SĀNTO KA ADARA – To honour all Holy people.
To respect and honour all people who have dedicated their life to God, no matter to which
religion they belong.
SANTOSHA – Contentment.
To be thankful for and content with everything that God gives.
ISHVARAPRANIDHĀNA – Devotion to God.
To love God with a pure heart, no egoistic expectations, and complete surrender to the Divine.
When we introduce these principles of Bhakti Yoga into our life the love of God comes into full bloom in our heart. When we feel God’s presence in prayer or meditation our heart overflows with deep inner joy. Tears come because such a vast stream of love and bliss pours forth from the small vessel of our heart, that it simply overflows with this wonderful sensation. In English there is a very appropriate expression: “Fountain of Joy”. This supreme state that fills the Anāhata Chakra with pure love and bliss is known as BHĀVA SAMĀDHI. In this moment we experience our first union with God.
Even though this experience may be truly wonderful, do not lose yourself in this ocean of beautiful feelings. Do not come to a standstill here, but rather continue to strive for the real goal.
Mahāprabhujī teaches us:
“Love every being as much, if not more, than you love yourself.”
Care for and respect all livings beings, because God lives in everyone. When we carry God within the consciousness of our heart we realise love as it relates to ourself and all beings. No other power in the world is capable of opening our heart, only love! Give love, give protection, even give yourself if it will help someone. Allow your energy to flow; the more you give, the more you receive. When you work for others the Divine Mother, nature, works for you and constantly supplies you with fresh energy. Use this power for something meaningful and do not squander it. Pass on what you have already realised and pray for that which is yet to be realised. Do not idle away your time, as life flows by all too rapidly.
Srī Kabīrdās wrote in a poem:
“Life is like water in a cupped hand. Inevitably it escapes through your fingers and soon your hand is empty. Every second you lose a valuable pearl of life, and you do not know how long the string of pearls of your life is.”
Every second is a golden opportunity that never returns. With every second our life becomes shorter. Time wasted is lost forever; but every tiny endeavour, every step, is counted. With each heartbeat and each breath, try to think of God as love. We cannot find God outside ourself, but only within through Bhakti and Gyāna. When we unite knowledge, consciousness and love our life becomes successful. A person who looks for God in the external world behaves like the lady in the following parable:
A man observed an old lady walking up and down outside her house with eyes glued to the ground, obviously looking for something. He approached her and asked if he could perhaps help her in some way. Gratefully she said yes and explained that she had lost her sewing needle and was looking for it. After they had both scoured the area for half an hour, the man finally asked, “Grandmother, please try to remember where you lost the needle.” “Oh, that I know very well,” she replied. “I dropped it on the floor inside my house.” “Then, for heaven’s sake, why are we looking outside?” asked the man, stunned. “Because it is too dark inside,” was the innocent response.
This story may seem ridiculous to us; but if we are honest, don’t we behave like this as well? We are constantly looking for happiness in the external world, and often spend our whole life chasing after love, recognition, acceptance, etc. When we look in the wrong place we are unable to find fulfilment. Whereas if we go within we will find the connection to our real, divine Self and everything that we have ever longed for in abundance.
To live Yoga “in daily life” means to find and constantly maintain the connection to the inner Self in each of our activities, 24 hours a day, and do everything with love and careful consideration. When we live and work with the attitude of “Nāham Kartā, Prabhu Dīp Kartā – I am not the doer, it is God who acts in me”, spiritual practice and worldly activity merge into unity.
The Mantra of the Anāhata Chakra is YAM. It means to let go, to liberate, to give.
YAMA also refers to the five ethical principles of Rāja Yoga:
- AHIMSĀ – non-violence
- SATYA – truthfulness
- ASTEYA – not stealing
- BRAHMACHARYA – pure way of life
- APARIGRAHA – non-accumulation
To purify the consciousness and heart by adherence to these principles is a lifelong task, as new situations will continue to arise. Through prayer, practising Mantra, Satsang and singing Bhajans we are not only able to clear blockages in the Anāhata Chakra, but also in the Manipūra Chakra and Vishuddhi Chakra. When energy is able to flow freely through the heart again fear, annoyance, sadness and nervousness are “washed away”.
If possible avoid all influences that darken your consciousness. Every day we think and do so much that is neither meaningful nor helpful for our own development nor for anyone else’s. A large proportion of our feelings and thoughts pale into insignificance just as spilt oil seeps into sand.
Purify your thoughts and feelings by reading inspirational and spiritual books and by keeping company with people who talk about God and the truth. Any books or discussions that broaden your knowledge and awaken your longing for God are valuable. But bogus teachings and bad company can divert you from your path and lead you astray.
The wisdom that we read or hear from others is valuable and definitely beneficial, but we can only attain realisation through our own practice, experience and meditation. A painted apple does not satisfy our hunger and reading recipes does not produce a meal. Albert Einstein very aptly said: “A gram of practice has more value than a tonne of theory”, and equally Yogis have always taught:
“YOGA KARMA SUKHOSHALAM” – Yoga becomes successful through action”.
Give whatever you are able to give; and ensure that your existence is always helpful for others. Repeat God’s name – your Mantra – and perform all your actions in God’s name. When you stay connected to the Ātmā in your heart, the divine source of love within you never dries up and your inner power never peters out.
MANTRA SHAKTI, the power that lies within our words, is an important power that we can discover and awaken in the Anāhata Chakra. It attains perfection in AJAPĀ JAPA, the spontaneous, constant flow of the Mantra. In Ajapā the Mantra runs at all times, whether you are awake or asleep, without conscious repetition or mental recollection. Through this we are able to establish an uninterrupted connection with God. Repeat your Mantra until you feel God in your heart permanently. This allows your love for God to grow even more. And through your love for God the yearning to see God is aroused, until ultimately this longing finds fulfilment in union with Him.
Mahāprabhujī wrote about Ajapā Japa in a Bhajan:
Ajapā is the most excellent Mantra
Sing SO HAM and realise SAT-CHIT-ĀNANDA in your heart.
Through Ajapā the Antahkaranas are completely purified.
On the day you no longer need to practise Ajapā
You are victorious.
A story from the Rāmāyāna makes it clear what the perfection of Ajapā means:
When Rāma had freed his wife, Sītā, from the power of the demon king, Rāvana, they were joyfully reunited and returned to Ayodhya. Hanuman, the leader of the monkey army, also returned with them and stayed in the royal palace. At one stage Rāma became aware that Sītā was jealous of Hanuman because, instead of devoting his attention to her, Rāma only had eyes for Hanuman. Hurting, Sītā thought that Rāma was so fascinated by Hanuman that he noticed no-one else. Lord Rāma understood her thoughts and instead of answering her, he bent forward and pulled a hair from Hanuman’s body. He then held it to Sītā’s ear and she heard the Mantra “Rām, Rām, Rām” resounding constantly from the hair. Then Rāma said: “Do you understand now? It is not me who turns towards him, but he who constantly pulls me towards him.”
Ajapā Japa penetrates body, mind and soul so that every cell of the body and every stirring of the mind are filled with the sound of the Mantra.
It is also reported about Hanuman that to ensure his Ajapā Japa was never interrupted even momentarily he would click RĀM – RĀM – RĀM with his fingers when he needed to yawn. Even today in India one can still observe people such as Brahmins and Pandits clicking their thumb and forefinger whilst yawning. This means that their Mantra is consciously repeated in all situations.
How is it possible to recognise whether one has already realised Ajapā within oneself? There is one infallible indicator – the attainment of SANKALPA SHAKTI.
Sankalpa Shakti indicates the perfection of Iccha Shakti (willpower). Through this Siddhi (miraculous power) we are capable of generating such a strong energy with our thoughts and wishes that they are realised within a short period of time. What Sankalpa Shakti is capable of is illustrated in the following story:
Among numerous splendid fruit trees in a royal garden there stood a young mango tree bearing its very first fruit. One day when the royal couple were walking in the garden the queen caught sight of the lovely little tree and expressed her desire to enjoy that first mango. The king gave her his royal word on this and at once ordered the gardener to guard the tree day and night. The gardener also placed a fine net over the branches to protect the valuable fruit from damage as well as preventing outside access.
About a month later, when the mango was ripe, a young couple from the kingdom were walking by the palace walls. The wife spotted the golden, lustrous fruit beneath its protective net and turned pleadingly to her husband: “It is said that a husband should fulfil his wife’s every wish; do you see that beautiful mango – I am dying from the desire to enjoy it. The husband possessed Sankalpa Shakti and so he merely stretched out his hand and immediately the wished-for fruit lay upon it. Extremely pleased his wife took the sweet fruit and ate it straight away.
The next day the king called the gardener and ordered him to bring the promised first mango. Embarrassed, the gardener had to confess that it had mysteriously vanished. Out of anger the king ordered that the mango thief must be found. He assigned this search to his son and ordered that the perpetrator of this heinous deed be executed immediately.
Because the man had taken the mango for his wife without any bad intent he presented himself voluntarily to the prince when he heard of the king’s command. He recounted to the prince the details of the story, of how he had come to be in possession of the fruit without difficulty through his Sankalpa Shakti. The prince felt a deep respect for this honest man and considered how he could save him. He took himself off to his father, the king, and reported that the perpetrator had been found. In the process he described the supernatural ability possessed by the man, and how it could only be advantageous to allow the man to teach him this extremely useful art before the sentence was carried out.
Thereupon the king ordered that the man be brought to him and requested that he teach him this skill. But no matter how much the king tried he could not attain this remarkable power. At this point the prince said: “My father, perhaps it is not possible for the teaching to be successful when you sit on your throne and your teacher kneels before you on the floor. Water can never flow up a mountain – that is against the law of nature. If you would like to learn something you must step down from your high seat.”
At this the king descended from his throne and allowed the man to take his place. The man then raised his hand and blessed the king; instantaneously his power passed over to the king who then stretched out his hand and wished for a fruit from the garden, and immediately it lay upon his hand.
Now that the king had got what he wanted he called the guard to take the man to the place of execution. But once again the prince intervened: “Father, think about this; doesn’t a person who kills his Master commit a grievous sin?”
Here the king finally bowed before his teacher, granting him freedom and showing him the appropriate honour and respect.
Sometime, somewhere in the cosmos each of our thoughts are realised, and through certain Yoga techniques we are able to awaken the Sankalpa Shakti within and speed up the fulfilment of our wishes. Our intentions gain a strong concentrated effect through Sankalpa Shakti, and the effect of the Sankalpa begins immediately as thought is already the first step towards realisation. But this does not mean that the goal had already been attained. Depending upon what we have resolved to do, the goal can still be a long way off and require a lot of effort. The path, however, has already been set, and the Sankalpa Shakti now begins to steer our life in the appropriate direction. Therefore we should consider very carefully what we wish for and be cautious about using a Sankalpa.
Mantra Anushthāna , in particular, strengthens Sankalpa Shakti, Mantra Shakti and Ajapā Japa. Another effective practice is Yoga Nidrā (the sleep of a Yogi). With this deep relaxation technique we reach a state of consciousness between waking and dreaming in which our thoughts are immediately realised, and therefore our Sankalpa attains fulfilment more rapidly.
But there is one thing we should pay attention to. Sankalpa Shakti is completely unbiased; meaning it functions in all cases by fulfilling all desires – the bad as well as the good. Therefore when we begin to notice our thoughts and wishes coming to fruition we should be very careful, as the following story illustrates:
A traveller took a rest from his journey under a tree. But this was no ordinary tree – it was a Kalpavriksha, a “wishing tree”. As the traveller thought to himself “how pleasant a cool breeze would be now” he at once felt a soft, gentle breeze around him. A short while later he felt hungry and thirsty and imagined how marvellous a good meal and a refreshing drink would taste to him now – and the next moment the desired meal was beside him.
The traveller ate and drank, and as he felt tired afterwards he looked around for a comfortable place to sleep; and a soft bed was already there. The man thought nothing about where all these gifts had come from, or why – he simply accepted them unthinkingly.
When he woke up dusk was already falling, Worried, he looked around and suddenly the thought came to him that perhaps a wild tiger was laying in wait amongst the trees and would attack him. No sooner did he have the thought than a tiger sprang out of the trees and killed him. His thoughts were realised straight away in this instance also.
When our wishes are fulfilled in a flash, when we are successful, when our problems are resolved as if by themselves, when people are well-disposed towards us, and when we are accepted, honoured and respected, then we should be happy about these things but also allow healthy circumspection to prevail; because it is at this point that the “wishing tree” of the Anāhata Chakra begins to bear fruit. After we have reached this level it is particularly important that we think, wish and speak only positively because, as has been previously mentioned, Sankalpa Shakti can bring both the good as well as the bad.
The story about a monkey who, in his foolishness, wished for something that later resulted in a big problem, should also serve as a warning for us to exercise caution in our wishful thinking:
One day a snake charmer went into the forest to catch a snake for use in his act. Soon he found a large cobra that he caught and placed in a basket. Carefully he covered the basket, tied it securely and set out for home. As it was a very hot day the man decided to take a rest under a shady tree.
But a monkey who loved honey more that anything else in the world was sitting in a treetop. When he saw the basket he was certain there was honey in it. Now he had only one thought and one wish: “How can I get hold of that honey!” In his mind he was already imagining how he would enjoy this sweet delicacy. Through the power of his thinking his wish was actually fulfilled. The man got up and briefly left his basket and the monkey immediately took advantage of the opportunity to take the basket. With a big jump he sprang down from the branch, grabbed the basket and climbed back up the tree again as high as he could.
Horrified the snake charmer gestured to him to let the basket fall, but the monkey only gloated over his success. Full of anticipation now for the expected pleasure he opened the basket and froze in horror as an angry cobra rose from it hissing. Now the monkey just sat there not daring to move, and he had only one thought: “How can I get rid of this basket again!” Within a split second his original desire had vanished. That which he had so ardently wished for, he now wanted to get rid of at any cost.
And many people behave in this way. They wish for things without proper reflection or knowledge and soon find that what they wished for has resulted in a critical or painful situation. One example of this is when someone falls in love, and in their passion think they have found the “sun and the moon”. Unfortunately, such unions very often end in argument and divorce.
Therefore, only ever wish for that which will bring you lasting happiness and contentment. A clear view of the consequences of our thoughts and wishes accompanies the development of the Āgyā Chakra. When the feelings of the heart are combined with reason and insight we avoid the previously mentioned dangers.
Until the Anāhata Chakra opens it is not possible for the Āgyā Chakra, the centre of mental energy and power of thought, to develop its full potential. Every action, every word, all feelings and thoughts should be filtered through the Anāhata Chakra and be enlightened by Bhakti (Love) and Gyāna (Wisdom). Gyāna is unable to feel anything without Bhakti, and Bhakti is blind without Gyāna. Where love and knowledge join forces there is completeness. Understanding and kindness leads us directly to God.
At the level of the Anāhata Chakra we understand and forgive all. In the Bhagavad Gītā, which existed thousands of years before the Bible, Lord Krishna instructs us to forgive our enemies (12/13-14; 18):
“I love those Bhaktas who are hostile to no being, who are always kind and compassionate, free from selfishness, serene in sorrow and joy and full of patience, who are always content and have devoted their lives to me. That one is dear to me who treats friend and foe alike and remains the same as regards honour and abuse, praise and censure, joy and pain and is free of any attachment.”
Forgiving is the greatest virtue and sacrifice. There is nothing greater than the words Jesus spoke on the cross:
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The VISHNU GRANTHI, the source of Ānanda, bliss, is located in the Anāhata Chakra. The purer the Anāhata Chakra, the deeper the feelings of joy, warmth and happiness, and unity with God is experienced even more intensively. When the Vishnu Granthi within the heart opens, the desire to help other living beings arises spontaneously. With the help of the Anāhata Chakra we are able to understand and resolve problems with other people more easily. The greater and deeper our love for God, the stronger our love for Nature and all of Nature’s manifestations.
The Anāhata Chakra is the door through which we are able to reach the Sahasrāra Chakra, where knowledge of our true Self is revealed. Divine consciousness streams from “the door to the Supreme” (Brahmarandhra ) to the Anāhata Chakra through the Brahma Nādī. With this the circle closes: Consciousness is filled with love, and love is enlightened by consciousness.
Therefore, depending upon the degree of our Gyāna (wisdom) the feelings within the Anāhata Chakra can either lead us to confusion, or to liberation. Frequently we use all our power to avoid worldly disappointments, but instead find ourselves even more deeply entrenched in the net of Māyā. Why is this so? Because we are not looking in the right place for help. Without God’s help we are unable to overcome the countless obstacles we meet in our lives. Praying is the best medium to get in touch with God and our Self.
Guru Nanak said:
“Even if a thousand suns and moons rose they would be unable to remove the darkness of ignorance within the heart. This can only be removed through the grace of the Guru.”
And we are also able to cross the ocean of the world without drowning when we follow a realised Master. The Master knows the way and knows how to avoid the perils of Māyā. When we remain in his boat we will reach the other shore safely. In accordance with the laws of nature, water always flows down a mountain and collects in the valley. In the same way Divine Grace and Guru Kripā flow constantly to those hearts that have great depth and possess humility and devotion to God.
True love is eternal and unites forever. In the Anāhata Chakra we find Divine Love and infinite bliss in the union with our real Self.