Tuesday, February 5, 2013
'Balance...The Essence of a True Life"
Human life as we are told is invaluable and has been achieved through His immense kindness. It has been bestowed upon us for us to learn, experience and progress to ultimately merge with Him. Life is a continuum and the human body is multidimensional….. with myriads of factors coming into play for it to run smoothly…but smoothly it runs only when delicately balanced. How is this delicate balance achieved? To understand this we need to start from the beginning…. Creation. As we are aware, the human body as well as the entire Universe came into being through a vibration comprising of sound and light, called ‘Aum”, ‘Shabd”, “Amen”,” Ameen” or “Hum”. The human body formed through what is called “Pranashakti’ also known as “Chi” or “Ki’.This pranashakti, after giving birth to us lies dormant at the base of the spine, at the Muladhar chakra from where it controls the functioning of the human body through a network of nadis. As pranashakti descends down it divides into a number of energy centres called chakras, which are “wheels” and are spiritual and energy processors, each related to an endocrine gland and concerned with the regulation of the functioning of the various systems of the body. They are also related to the five elements or ‘tattvas” and store specific types of emotional memories. These chakras, therefore keep the energy flow of the body in balance…the flow of which is normally positive, but whenever it becomes negative or blocked imbalance of the chakra results leading to the development of various diseases in the body. We are also aware that this entire creation has been formed by five elements…Earth (Prithvi), Water, (Jal) Fire,(Tejas), Air (Vayu) and Ether (Akash).The human body is also derived from the same elements. Every cell of the human body is represented by all the five elements….the cell wall is formed from the Earth element, the vacuoles in the cell from Space, the cytoplasm from the Water element, Nucleic acids from Fire and cell movement is due to the Air element. Human beings and Nature are thus interconnected….our bodies are holograms of the Universe (each part of a hologram contains the whole). To quote Kahlil Gibran “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of the ocean”. Our sages tell us “As is the atom, so is the Universe; As is the microcosm so is the macrocosm; As is the Human body , so is the Cosmic Body; As is the Human mind so is the Cosmic Mind;” Elsewhere, the same thing has been expressed as “As above, so below” We, human beings as well as everything else in Nature bear an integral relationship. The five elements or Tattvas combine into three basic energies or functional principles, present in all of us in varying degrees. In other words they are responsible for Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Space or Ether (Anahat and Vishudhi Chakras) form Vata, Fire (Manipur chakra) forms Pitta. Kapha is constituted by Water and Earth elements (Muladhar and Svadisthan chakras). These have been called “Doshas” in Ayurveda. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in each and every cell…when in balance, they create health but when imbalanced they cause disease. These doshas are responsible for the variety of our individual differences, preferences, our eating habits as well as the various biological and psychological processes of our mind, body and consciousness. Very briefly, Vata is the principle of Air and is the energy of movement, while Pitta is the principle of fire which is responsible for the energy of digestion and metabolism. Kapha, being the principle of water is the energy of lubrication and structure. Each of these have quite specific characteristics, for example, a person who has a predominance of Kapha is generally heavy or obese with a fine skin , beautiful eyes, is stable (grounded), happy and has a graceful walk. A Pitta, on the other hand has a sharp intellect, ambitious, an overachiever, has a pronounced hunger and can see “ahead”. A person with a Vata personality is generally thin, very intelligent, creative, has a good grasp of things but forgets easily. The whole of life’s journey is also divided into three major milestones. From birth to age 16 is the Kapha period, from 16 to 50 years is the age of Pitta while from 50 to 100 is the age of Vata. Seasons have also been classified according to the doshas. The windy, cool, dry weather of autumn is predominantly vata, followed by the dark, heavy, damp, cloudy qualities are Kaphic in nature. Early spring is still mainly Kaphic but late spring and summer are Pittic, characterized by increased warmth, light and brightness…and heat. Similarly, the various times of the day and their effect on the human body have been described in detail in Ayurveda…. Kapha predominates from 6 am to 10 morning and evening, Pitta is dominant between 10 to 2, afternoon and night while Vata is at its peak at dawn and dusk. Living in accordance with these principles and moulding ourselves accordingly brings a proper balance to our lives. There is a lot of truth in the saying “early to bed and early to rise makes Jack healthy, wealthy and wise”! The Cycles of Nature are responsible for our Biorhythms which create the basic vibratory backbone of our existence…namely the beating of the heart, pulsation of the cerebro spinal fluid, the menstrual cycle etc. There are many such examples…the two hour shift between right and left hemispheric dominance (of the brain)…our breath regulates this and there is a distinct shift of our mindset from linear to intuitive depending on the shift of our breath from one side to the other(the nasal cycle) It is well known that when we are born, we are born with a particular “prakriti”, which is a unique and specific combination of the three doshas at conception, which is one’s psychobiological temperament and does not change during one’s life time. It is decided by the person’s combination and proportion of Vata, Pitta and Kapha and is determined according to the genetics, diet, life style and current emotions of the parents. Incidentally, the five “Mahabhutas” as these elements are called form part of practically all Complementary Systems of Medicine, be it, Ayurveda, Chinese, Tibetan, Thai or Unani Medicine, Yoga etc, though the names are somewhat different. As life progresses, a lot of changes take place in the balance of the doshas in our body due to weather, dietary choices, fatigue, stress, emotional state, exercise etc . All these factors alter the state of our doshas and reflect the state of health …this is called Vikriti. Prakriti has certain ‘gunas’ called the ‘gunas of Prakriti’ which are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. It is these gunas which decide how we behave since each has certain typical characteristics. Sattva is characterized by purity and virtue, and related to the Spiritual Eye or the Agya chakra, Rajas is concerned with passion and worldly activities and related to the Heart centre or the Anahat Chakra. Tamas is characterized by inertia, pride, arrogance and evil tendencies and related to the lower three chakras, namely, Manipur, Svadisthan and the Muladhar chakras. All of us have a mixture of all three but one or the other predominates. As per Yoga, our body has five parts, or sheaths or “koshas” which are known as the Annamaya Kosha or the “Sthula Sharir’, (the Physical body), the Energy body or the Pranamaya Kosha, (the Physiological Body), the Manomaya Kosha (the Psychological Body)…these two together constitute what is called the “Sukshma Sharir”/Astral Body. This is followed by the Vijnanmaya Kosha (the Intellectual Body) and finally the Anandmaya Kosha, or Bliss Sheath (Space). The last two are together called the ‘Karan Sharir’ or the Causal Body. In a nutshell, the human body thus has a Mind, a Body and Spirit…all being ENERGY, which must remain in balance. Generally there is a tug-o-war between our mind, body and spirit….the mind is forever pulling us towards sense pleasures while the spirit tries to take us towards Him…the resulting pull is detrimental to our healths. Ayurveda states that the purpose of our lives is achieved by balancing four fundamental aspects of life, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. ‘Dharma’ broadly means duty or right action, “Artha” is material success or wealth, “Kama” is positive desire while “Moksha’ is spiritual liberation. For all these to be possible, sound health is essential. From the above, it becomes clear that to maintain a balance in life there has to be a balance between our Mind, Body and Spirit, which is the Inner and the Outer, between the Self and the Environment, between the three Doshas…Vatta, Pitta and Kapha, between our Energy flow and our chakras, between our Prakriti and Vikriti, and last but not the least a balance of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. How is this to be achieved? All of the above are possible by connecting to the Self…through Yoga (as in “Union’). This union is best achieved through meditation as learned from a Realized guru. Ashtanga Yoga too plays a very important role….all the eight “petals’ slowly but surely lead one to the yoga of union. Yoga asanas and Pranayam bring about a balancing of the chakras leading to balancing of our energy system. This combined with Meditation gradually leads us through our spiritual evolution…we transgress the negative aspects of the chakras which occur when they are imbalanced…namely transgressing the Muladhar Chakra gives us freedom from fear and brings about grounding, balancing of the Svadisthan Chakra makes us rise above our five major negative qualities…Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moh, Madha and Matsya, ie we rise above our Tamasic temperament by transgressing the two lower chakras. Transgression of the Manipur chakra makes us rise above our Rajasic temperament. As we ascend to the Anahat or the Heart Chakra, positive emotions of Bliss, peace, love, harmony, understanding, clarity, purity, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and unity come to the fore. This combined with ascension to the Vishudhi Chakra brings us closer to the truth and one becomes sattvic in temperament. Similarly meditation helps us gradually transgress the various koshas…. When we meditate, the first thing that happens is improvement in physical well being, followed by harmonization of the breath (the pranamaya kosha). The two together lead the development of a strong body and strong will power. As meditation becomes deeper and deeper, our breathing becomes slower and slower, and tranquility of the mind starts, which is conducive to focusing on the Self leading to beautiful experiences.With still deeper meditation, we reach the level of the Vijnamaya Kosha or the Intelligence sheath, resulting in greater development of wisdom….finally with still deeper meditation, we reach the level of the Bliss sheath which is supposed to be the ultimate…..merger with Him. Yoga and Meditation increase our awareness, which helps us in our eating habits, our life style, our mental processes, and brings us closer to the Divine all of which are conducive to balancing our mind, body and spirit….and enable us to live in conformity with Nature. Therefore, in order to truly ‘live’ one needs to be in balance……just ‘Be” Sources: “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Remedies’ by Vasant Lad, ‘Radical Healing” by Rudolph Ballentyne, “The Spiritual Approach to life” written by Sri Bimal Mohanty