Chapter 80 — Sikhidhwaja Laughs at Chudala; Astral Flight; Kundalini to Attain Ends; — the Five-Fold Pattern of Elements

Vasishta related:—

Her husband heard the beautiful lady’s words but he did not have the intelligence to dive into the meaning of what she said or to understand what she meant by her reliance upon the soul. Instead, Sikhidhwaja told her jokingly, “How hard it is to understand is your speech. How unbecoming it is at your age to speak like a girl about great things, indulging your royal pleasures and sports as you do in your royal state.”

“Leaving all things you live in the meditation of the formless. If you have all that is real to sense, then how is it possible for you to be so graceful with an unreal nothing? Whoever abandons the enjoyments of life by saying he can do without them can never retain gracefulness. He is like an angry man who refrains from eating and resting, then weakens himself in his hunger and restlessness. 5 He who abstains from pleasures and enjoyments and subsists upon empty air is like a ghost without material form living a bodiless shadow in the sky. He who abandons his food and clothing, his bedstead and sleep, and all other things, resting devoutly in only the one Soul, cannot possibly preserve his calmness.”

“That I am not the body or bodiless, that I am nothing yet everything, are words so contradictory that they have no sane meaning. That I do not see what I see, but see something that is quite unseen, is so very inconsistent that it suggests no sanity of the mind. From these I find that you are still an ignorant and unsteady young lady, my frolicsome playmate as before. I speak this way to you by way of jest in the same way as you have jokingly spoken to me.”

10 The king finished his speech with a good laugh. Realizing it was noon and time for his bath, he rose up and left his lady’s apartment. 11 The queen regretted the situation thinking, “O drat! The king has quite misunderstood my meaning. He did not understand what I meant to say about my rest in the spirit.” Then she returned to her usual daily duties. 12 After that, the happy queen continued her silent meditation in seclusion, but passed her time in the company of the king in the enjoyments of their royal sports and amusements.

13 One day it came to pass that the self-satisfied queen pondered about how to fly in the air. Although she had no desire in her heart, she wished to soar into the sky on an aerial journey. 14 She retired to a secluded spot where she continued to contemplate her aerial journey, abstaining from food and shunning the company of her companions. 15 She sat alone, keeping her body steady on her seat and restraining her upward moving breath between her eyebrows (khechari mudra).

16 Rama asked, “All movement of bodies in this world is through the action of bodies and the impulse of their breathing. Then how is it possible to rise upwards by restraining body and breath? 17 Tell me, sage, how can one fly through the air by breath control and force of will? 18 How can an adept in spirituality or yoga philosophy accomplish this?”

19 Vasishta replied:—

Rama, there are three types of attainable goals: effort to obtain the desired object, disdain for the thing sought, and indifference to the object of desire. 20 The first, attainment of the desirable, is secured by employing the means for its success. The second, detestation, hates and slights the thing altogether. The third, detachment, is the intermediate way between the two. 21 All good people seek whatever is pleasant, and everyone avoids whatever is contrary to good. No one seeks or shuns the way in between.

22 As soon as the intelligent, learned devotee comes to the knowledge of his soul and becomes spiritualized in himself, then all these three states vanish from his sight. He feels that they are all the same to him. 23 As he comes to see these worlds full with the presence of God, and his intellect takes its delight in this thought, he remains in the intermediate state of detachment, or he loses sight of even that. 24 All wise men remain in the course of neutrality. The ignorant are eagerly and vainly pursuing their objects, but the dispassionate recluse shuns everything.

Now listen as I tell you how to attain something. 25 All success is obtained in the proper time and place and through action and its instruments. This makes a person’s heart as happy as when spring renovates the earth.

26 Among these four (time, place, action and instruments), preference is given to action because it is of highest importance to bring about a result. 27 There are many instruments for flight, such as the use of the gutika Ayurveda pills, application of black powder (collyrium), the wielding of sword and the like. But all of these are attended with many evils that are prejudicial to holiness. 28 There are some gems and drugs, and also some mantras, charms and formulas prescribed for this purpose. But when these are fully understood, they will be found harmful to the practice of yoga. 29 Mount Meru, the Himalayas, and some other holy places are mentioned as seats of divine inspiration, but a full description of them will tend to violate the aim of yoga meditation. 30 Therefore, listen to me tell you something regarding the practice of restraining the breath, which can be used to obtain powers and is related with the story of Sikhidhwaja, the general subject of the present discourse.

31 One should practice the yoga described in the scriptures by driving away all desires from the heart except the one object, and by contracting all the body openings and keeping the posture, head and neck erect. 32 Moreover, one should have the habit of taking pure food and sitting on clean seats. One should ponder the deep meaning of the scriptures, maintaining the virtues of good manners and right conduct in society and refraining from worldliness and all earthly connections. 33 By refraining from anger and greed, and abstaining from improper food and enjoyments, then over the course of a long time, one must become practiced restricting the breath. 34 The wise man who knows the truth and has control over his triple breathing of inspiration, expiration, and retention (puraka, rechaka, and kumbhaka) has all his actions under his control, just like a master has all his servants under his complete control.

35 Rama, know that anyone who has control of his vital breath is a sovereign on earth and has secured his future liberation. 36 Breath of vital energy circulates through the inner lung of the chest which encircles the intestines. Breath supplies all the arteries with life, and it is connected to all of the intestines as if they shared a common channel.

37 There is a curved artery (nadi, subtle channels in the astral body through which the vital energy or life force flows) that looks like the curved shape at the end of a lute’s neck, or the whirling currents of waters in the sea, or the curved half of the letter Om. It is situated in a small circle at the base of the spine (called the kula kundalini nadi). 38 This kundalini is deep seated at the base of the bodies of gods and demigods, men and beasts, fish and fowl, insects and worms, and all aquatic mollusks and animals at large. 39 It continues curved and curbed in the form of a coiled snake in winter until it unfolds its twisted form under the summer heat (intestinal heat), and lifts its hood like the disc of the moon (at the crown of the head). 40 The wind of the breath extends it from the lower base to pass through the heart cavity, touch the space between the eyebrows, and remain in continuous vibration. 41 A mighty power, like the central core within the soft trunk of the plantain tree, is continually vibrating, like the strings of a sitar, within the kundalini nadi. 42 This nadi is called kundalini because of its curved shape. Its power is the prime mobile force that sets the physical body into motion. 43 It is constantly breathing like the hissing of an infuriated snake. With its open mouths, it continually blows upwards to give force to all the organs.

44 The vital energy enters the heart drawn in by the curved kundalini. The kundalini is the seed for the consciousness of the mind and all its faculties. 45 As the kundalini thrills in the body, like a bee fluttering over a flower, so does our consciousness throb in the mind and has the perception of nice and delicate sensations. 46 The kundalini nadi stirs quickly to grasp its gross objects, just as our consciousness is roused at the perception of an object of the physical senses. These come in contact with one another like an instrument laying hold of some material. 47 All the nadis in the body are connected with this grand nadi and flow together like so many cellular vessels into the heart cavity where they rise and fall like rivers in the sea. 48 The continued rise and fall of this main nadi is the common source of all the sensations and perceptions of consciousness.

49 Rama regained, “Sage, how is it that our consciousness, which comes from the infinite intellect at all times and places, is confined like a minute particle of matter within the cellular vessel of the curved kundalini nadi where it rises and falls by turns.”

50 Vasishta replied:—

It is true, O sinless Rama, that consciousness is the property of the infinite intellect, always present in all places and things with the all pervading intellect. Yet sometimes it is compressed in the form of a minute atom of matter in material and finite bodies. 51 The consciousness of the infinite intellect is, of course, as infinite as infinity itself. But being confined in physical bodies, it is like fluid diffused over a small space. The sunshine that lights up the universe appears to be flush against a wall or other confined place.

52 In some bodies, consciousness is completely lost, such as in mineral substances that are unconscious of their own existence. In others it is fully developed, as in gods and humans. In some consciousness is imperfectly developed, as in plants, and in others it appears in a perverted form, as in the inferior animals. So everything is found to have its consciousness in some form or other.

53 Moreover, listen as I explain how consciousness appears in various forms and degrees in the different bodies of animated beings. 54 As all cavities and empty spaces are grouped under the category of air, so all intelligent and unintelligent living beings are grouped under the general category of the one ever existent intellect which pervades all things like a vacuum. 55 The same un-decaying and unchanging intellect is situated in some places as pure consciousness, and in others in the subtle form of the five-fold elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth).

56 This five-fold element of consciousness is the template for many other five-folds, just as a great many lamps are lit from one lamp. There are the five vital airs, the mind and its five-fold faculties of the understanding, the five internal and the five external senses and their five-fold organs, together with the five elemental bodies. They all have ingrained in them the principles of growth, rise and decay, and the states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.

57 All these five-folds abide in the different bodies of the gods and mortals according to their respective natures and inclinations. 58 Some take the forms of places, and others of the things situated in them. Some take the forms of minerals, and others of the animals living on earth. 59 This world is produced through the action of the five-folds, the principle of intellectual consciousness presiding over the whole and every part of it. 60 The union of these five-folds in gross bodies gives them their intelligence. Therefore we see the mobility of some dull material bodies and the immobility of others. 61 As the waves of the sea are seen to roll in one place and to be still in another, so this intellectual power is in full force in some bodies and quite inactive in others. 62 As the sea is calm and still in one place and quite boisterous in another, so the five-fold body is either in motion or at rest in different places.

63 The five-fold body is mobile by means of the vital airs, and the vital life (jiva) is intelligent because of its intelligence. Rocks are devoid of both, but trees have the faculty of sense because they are moved by the breath of winds. Such are the varying natures of the triple creation of animals, minerals and plants. 64 Different words are used to denote the different natures of things. Fire is the general name for heat and frost is that of coldness in general. 65 Differences in the mind’s desires, which mature in time, dispose the five-fold elements to the forms of the mind’s liking.

66 The many different desires of the mind, running in their diverse directions, are capable of being collected by the wise and employed for their best advantage and well being. 67 Men’s desires, whether for good or evil, can be roused or suppressed by turns and employed to their purposes. 68 Man must direct his desires in a way that promises him the objects of his desires. Otherwise, it will be as fruitless as throwing dust at the face of the sky.

69 The great mountains are only heaps of the five-fold elements hanging on the tender and slender blade of consciousness. These moving and unmoving bodies appear like worms on the tree of knowledge. 70 There are some beings with their desires lying dormant in them, such as the unmoving plants and minerals on this earth. Others have their desires ever active, such as gods, demigods and men. 71 Some are filled with their desires, such as worms and insects living in soil. Others are without desire and the heirs of salvation, such as liberated yogis.

72 Every man is aware that he has a mind and understanding. These and his hands, feet and other body parts are all made up of various combinations of the five-fold elements. 73 Inferior animals have other senses and other types of body parts. In the same way, inert objects also have some kind of sense with other sorts of organs.

74 Thus my good Rama, these five-fold elements display themselves in different forms in the beginning, middle and end of all conscious and unconscious and moving and unmoving beings. 75 The slightest desire of any of these, be it as minute as an atom, becomes the seed of aerial trees producing the fruit of future births in the forms of the desired objects. 76 The organs of sense are the flowers of this tree, the body and the sensations of their objects are like the fragrance of the flowers. Our wishes are like the bees fluttering about the pistils and filaments of our unsteady efforts. 77 The clear heavens are the hairy tufts resting on the stalks of the lofty mountains. Its leaves are the blue clouds of the sky. The ten sides of the sky are like vines spreading all about it.

78 All beings now in being, and those coming into existence in future, are innumerable like the fruit of this tree, growing and blooming and falling off by turns. 79 The five seeds of these trees grow and perish of their own nature and spontaneity in their proper time. 80 They become many from their sameness, and come to exhaust their powers after long inertness, then subside to rest of their own accord like the heaving waves of the ocean. 81 On one side they are swelling like huge surges, and on the other they are sinking low into the deep, excited by the heat of dullness on the one hand and hushed by the coolness of reason on the other.

82 These multitudes of bodies, the playthings of the five-fold elements, are destined to remain and rove forever in this world unless they come under the control of reason and are freed from further reincarnation.