As we cultivate meditative self-awareness, we gradually proceed from the exterior to the interior self-identification of consciousness—identifying first with the body, then with prana, then with many layers of mind, one after another, and finally, with pure consciousness alone. As the yogis say, “See all of consciousness, and your body is included.”
The universe is a dance of energies that vibrate at many frequencies. These energies become units of all sizes, from atoms to stars, individual souls to cosmic beings. They ebb and flow, merge and part, form whirlpools, and dissolve into each other. As oceans of light, they flow into each other and separate again, changing frequencies; as they do, they become suns, galaxies, space, air, fire, liquids, and solids. They also become the bodies of human beings, into which the energy called consciousness comes and is embodied.
Of all the energies flowing in the universe, consciousness is the one from which all the others arise and into which they all merge. The ancient texts are fond of the phrase “from consciousness down to the solid earth,” for all this is a single matrix—a tantra—of energy, and within it are myriads of interwoven matrices. The human being is one such matrix of energies, all dancing with each other at frequencies ranging from those of solid bones all the way to the subtlest waves of consciousness. Those who can understand this personality matrix will understand the whole universe.
Observe the creation of a single human personality. As two human streams of consciousness love each other, the force of their love invites a third for whom they provide a miniature body. This third one brings along a matrix of energy, and his body grows along the lines of this energy. The fetus is connected to the mother at the navel; from the navel 72,000 nadis (energy channels) fan out into the personality system. Since the energy pattern is arranged in a symmetrical manner, the body grows in this way. For instance, look at how the hairlines follow the symmetrical paths of the energy flow.
We are not separate from the universal dance of energies. Observe how we interact with the biosphere—how the body clock responds to solar, lunar, and stellar times, and how the blood responds to ocean tides. Although these forces often seem to operate independently, each answering to its own rhythm, their patterns are all vibrant subsystems within the single master system of consciousness whose dance it all is.
When the all-pervading energy of consciousness touches us, we come alive. When energy becomes condensed and solid, it becomes our material body—down to the cells. Each cell is filled with the vital energy called prana, which is maneuvered by the mind energy. The “I” in us is pure consciousness. It owns and operates the body vehicle and guides the mind. It is the purest, finest vibrating energy.
The Matrix of Life
Thus, like the rest of the universe, we are layer upon layer of energy (or light), which form complex patterns. The subtler layers are aware of the grosser ones, but not vice versa. Through the process of meditation and self-awareness, however, we can attune ourselves to these energy processes. The meditation masters impart their experiential knowledge to us through the oral tradition: they tell us there is no greater excitement than that of suddenly discovering that the cosmic ocean of prana is flowing right through us. And then this dynamic thrill becomes diffuse, and its millions of sparks, like an incredible display of fireworks, illuminate the vast network of energy channels that run through and vitalize us.
Those whose awareness is bound to earthly frequencies know only the physical body. Others, who refine their self-identification by attuning to finer frequencies, know of an undying consciousness. To know this is to know that we are immortal. But before we can comprehend the immortality of our universal consciousness, it is essential that we understand the relationships between and among various hierarchical levels of energy. This understanding is not an intellectual process. It is a matter of letting our interior awareness travel along the lines of diffuse patterns of energy so that we can actually perceive all their operations and modes of power.
Yogis send their awareness on this interior journey and return to chart maps of consciousness. They find that the energies all interact with each other in many forms—that the relationship between the denser and finer energies is that of interdependence. The solid, earthly ones affect the subtler, mental ones in a more immediate way, but the finer ones turn out to be the masters in the long run.
The relationship between the body and prana may be viewed similarly. Poor posture clogs the pathways of prana. But once these pathways become unblocked through the practice of asana, prana itself begins to give little surges into the organs so that the body rights itself spontaneously into correct posture. What is more, many practitioners of yoga report that their kundalini-based practices cause a natural cleansing of internal systems, which affects the prana matrix and thereby influences the body.
The relationship between prana and mental energies is no different. When we have low prana, we may experience a temporary mental fog. But the intention of consciousness infuses the mind with a certain illumination, and then prana has no alternative but to obey the mind. Thus, through deep meditation, the mind can be used to intensify the strength of prana. One who cultivates self-awareness observes and comes to consciously control all the interior operations of body, prana, and mind.
Levels of Self-Identification
Now let’s turn to the important issue of self-identification (abhimana). For ordinary individuals, the abhimana is with the densest energy level, the body—or so it appears. But, in fact, consciousness can identify with each of the forms the energy takes and call them all “I.” For instance, a person may identify his relationships with various members of his family, saying, “I am a son; I am a father; I am a brother; I am a husband.” But he is also apart from these—just himself—when sitting and writing a poem to his divine lover. He is free of all human relationships at that time, yet he is close to his true identity. It is thus with consciousness.
In other words, even though most human beings seem to identify with only the surfaces of their bodies, consciousness remains wide awake and active elsewhere too, for if their identifications were truly limited to the gross solid structure of the body, how could they breathe with the lungs, digest with the internal organs, and send out brain waves? On a still deeper level, how could they have internal emotions and other forms of thought? Obviously, consciousness is operant in and identified with each of these forms of energy. As we cultivate meditative self-awareness, we gradually proceed from the exterior to the interior self-identification of consciousness—identifying first with the body, then with prana, then with many layers of mind, one after another, and finally, with pure consciousness alone. As the yogis say, “See all of consciousness, and your body is included.”
Seekers often ask, “How did consciousness ever lose its purity in the first place?” The truth is that it never did. Just as one’s whole mind is never asleep even though the sleeping part is not aware of the ever-awake part, so identification with the body is vastly different from identification with pure consciousness, or the One. Pure consciousness continues on even while we’re unaware, taking care of all the lower-level frequencies that are powerless to contain and measure it.
Centers of Consciousness
In humans this primary consciousness operates through a system of psycho-physiological centers. This body with all its cells is run by prana; prana is directed by the mind; the mind is guided by consciousness. But in some areas, these various energies are joined together closely, resonating to each other’s vibrations. They derive their power from pure consciousness. In these specific areas the vibration passes from consciousness into the mind-prana-body system, and from these areas the energy is distributed into the rest of the personality.
Take, for example, our breathing processes. What is the origin of breath which, when looked at physically, is nothing but a series of air pockets trapped in cavities? What turns that air into flowing breath? The rhythmic movement of certain organs. What moves the organs? Prana. What causes prana to vibrate so that the associated organs thus move rhythmically? The mind. And the mind is moved by consciousness.
Consider this: the universal consciousness sends the tiniest spark of its thrill through the mind into our psycho-physiological centers in such locations as the navel, cardiac center, throat, and pineal area. The thrill creates a pulsation in the pranic system that in turn creates certain rhythmic movements in the constituent organs. He who understands the source of the thrill knows that the rhythm of his breath responds to the same vibration that produces pulsations in the hearts of suns. This is why the yogis give names like surya-bhedana, “piercing through the sun,” to their pranayamas.
Consciousness in its full universal nature is not subject to limitations of space, time, or personality. It is sent forth into our being, which is made of lower and denser frequencies, like a beam of light penetrating through a rocky cave. Because the lower-frequency energies vibrate in a time-space reference, creating a physical body, they need a physical locus to harbor that light which transcends all loci. So the yogis say that this immense, intense energy—kundalini—resides in a channel extending from the base of the spine up to and engulfing the entire brain region. Though it is non-physical (and therefore not tangible), yogis in deep meditation experience it as an unceasing flash of rod-like lightning shining with a light like that of 10,000 suns, yet as slim as though it were 10,000th of a hair’s breadth wide. It passes through seven ever-vibrant and dynamic psycho-physiological stations into which it sends its sparks. Thus consciousness touches us and we come alive, becoming persons.
The locations of these centers of consciousness, or chakras, are: (1) base of the spine and the perineum, (2) root of the genitals, (3) navel, (4) cardiac region between the breasts, (5) hollow of the throat, (6) between the eyebrows, and (7) top of the head.
Many have asked, “Does the energy of these chakras flow in the spine or in the front of the body?” The answer is that the distinction is arbitrary and imaginary. Front and back exist only with reference to the materially dense body, but the field of finer energies permeates the entire region and does not correspond to the spaces and times to which the body is bound.
Kundalini: Tuning to the Higher Levels
The consciousness of kundalini contains both life and awareness. It may be called the life force (jiva-shakti) or the consciousness force (chit-shakti). A division of its two main powers comes about through the chakras. One part of the energy is called the mind. The other part, prana, receives the infusion of life energy from kundalini and uses it to vitalize the cells, organs, and senses. Thus the two powers of kundalini consciousness devolve into the mind and prana, and through them they are further infused into the entire individual. The thrill of life and awareness that we experience, however, is so minute compared to the full power of consciousness that yogis say that true consciousness is lying dormant, asleep in us.
All that humankind has ever accomplished or created, all that ever passes through an individual human being, is no more than a minute fraction of the universal consciousness. But the majority of us are not capable of experiencing even this tiny thrill at its fullest, because the lower-level energies are not capable of containing or measuring higher-level energies. With any energy system, too much voltage will overload and blow out the circuits. We have established such strong identification with lower-level energies (the body, emotions, etc.) that we have weakened our power system and made it incapable of receiving a larger dose of the thrill. So first we have to purify the personal consciousness and gradually tune it to higher-level energies until enough strength is built up that we can awaken to the full glory that is flowing into us even as we read this. But those who experiment with kundalini without purification or precautions—and without expert guidance—only suffer damage to both psyche and body.
The gates of our chakras are thus open only enough to permit a mild infusion of consciousness. But look at the intense awareness we have in these stations: in the perineum and the genital areas, the sensations can sometimes seem to be uncontrollable; in the navel region, we experience insatiable hunger; the emotions felt in the heart region keep thousands of psychiatrists busy; and many of the words uttered from the throat center are useless—or worse. As for the forehead and the brain, they are the devil’s workshop. The energy already flowing through each of these centers often seems excessive, and we don’t know what to do with our restlessness. This feeling of overload—that we are about to blow a fuse—is a common experience. It happens because the lower-frequency energies (those involved in ordinary physical and sensory experiences) do not have the capacity to absorb all the power that is being infused into us from consciousness.
The Inward Path
Yogis resort to a different path—the inward one. And here we come to the difference between closed stations and open stations. The scriptures state that the average person is living with closed chakras that are waiting to be opened. Many erroneously think that with the opening of a chakra the outward activity associated with that center will increase, thus making us sexier or more articulate. But such externalized activity only dissipates the energy at its lowest frequencies. It has nothing to do with highly refined interior consciousness.
The pulsations that we experience daily in the various psycho-physiological stations are nothing but reminders of a higher presence within. They are like lighthouses guiding ships. Each pulsation says to our lower-level-energy consciousness: “Come this way; here is a gate through which you travel inward into the highest awareness.” If we observe these pulsations as reminders, we begin to listen to an inner music, and we may use them first as a point of focus, then as a thread leading inward. For example, let us consider the sexual thrill in the second chakra. It makes an average person restless, for the infusion of energy from within is so powerful (even though it is infinitesimal compared to all the power of consciousness) that no amount of sexual activity can bring total satiety. Yogis, however, regard this center merely as a gateway to higher-level-energy consciousness, with its pulsations mere reminders of the inner sources. Yogis close the outward flow, and that is called opening the chakra. All externalized restlessness then ceases. The lower-frequency energy is returned to the higher-frequency.
In other words, any time a sexual pulsation is felt, the yogi responds to it, considers it a blessing as a reminder, and uses it as the end of a thread leading inward to pure consciousness. The yogi reverses the flow. Compared to the ecstasy of this inward flow of our personal consciousness into the universal consciousness, the outward sexual flow is a useless discharge, and all of its intense enjoyment is like sucking on the peel of an orange once the juice has been squeezed out. Similarly, when the throat center begins to open, the yogi seeks silence. When he does utter a word, it is so power-packed as to be recorded as sacred scripture and repeated for millennia around the globe. Such were the words uttered by the Buddhas and Christs of history.
We may divide humans into those of inward-flowing consciousness (antar-vritti) and those of outward-flowing consciousness (bahir-vritti). Those rare few in the first category live and walk in the awareness of their cosmic connection. They are committed to turning sensory awareness inward in order to experience the thrill of the unlimited flow of cosmic energies. They do not utilize any of their energies as mere persons, but serve as channels for the cosmic flow. They depend on nothing and no one external, but many are dependent on them for knowledge and healing. Those in the second category derive excitement from all that passes through the senses and into the brain from the external world. Thus their psychology is that of a dependent person, even though they think they are independent.
We need to understand how, through sadhana, the outward flow of awareness may be reversed so that the intricate dance of the interior energies may become real. We also need to understand that we can cultivate the resolve to change our self-identification from lower-frequency energies to the highest one. That is freedom of consciousness from the bonds of space, time, causation, and karma. That is immortality.
Source: Inspired Thoughts of Swami Rama (Swami Rama)