This three day intensive, in John’s words- is a master immersion and a teacher training compressed into three days. In other words- buckle up and hold on. The process was not so much a dissection of the Spanda Karikas, as I did with Carlos, but more of how does this text help us share our vision of Anusara Yoga? John had his own translation and commentary book made up for us to follow along.
We started off the day with a review of the aspects of the Divine, the Absolute, Spirit, The One. Which are:
Chit: the power of consciousness
Ananda: the highest bliss and joy
Svatantrya: unlimited freedom
Purna : fullness- lacking nothing
Spanda: a stillness that is trembling
Shivaya/Shri: auspiciousness- goodness, absolute benevolence
We chose to focus on Spanda for this training but we still talk about all of them as we go along because they are qualities of something that is not just ever one thing. The reason pulsation, or Spanda, is so important is because the place between these pulses- the place of seemingly stillness- is the place of the middle. That place of the middle becomes a point, a “bindu”, and a gateway to the Absolute. It’s the pause at the top of the inhale and at the bottom of the exhale.
Everything pulsates – down to the smallest atom- and pulsation can’t happen without two things in contrast. (Think sun/moon, light/dark, and open/close.) How can you know light unless you have ever experienced dark? The pulsation arises from the dark and goes to the highest pinnacle of light, the apex, and from there slowly fades back into the dark to wait for the next pulse. Spanda exists in the cycles of the day, the year in our own life. We are created, we reach the pinnacle of life and then we return to the dark. Contrast increases our knowledge; it doesn’t have to be a seemingly negative thing. Diversity helps us understand our own world better. So even in diversity there is a place of the middle and around it from that core line everything expands out into ever increasing complexity. Think of a tree- from a trunk, to the major branches, to the smaller branches, to the leaves and then finally the flowers- ever expanding complexity all from the middle.
After the morning talk we went into a basic practice that worked on seemingly simple stuff but it was all down in a way to work with the Spanda, to start from the place of the middle. Things like aligning your feet and your hands rather than going all the way to skull loop right off the bat. It made me feel better about how I teach because I seem to talk every class about choosing to align and how we even set our feet and our hands in a way that is full of desire to know ourselves better- to know the One in us. Maybe it really is just that simple.
After lunch and buying a new pair of yoga pants- left all my clean ones at home by mistake- we settled into an afternoon of deep discussion. John launched into the second stanza which mentions the shaktichakra- wheel of Shakti. John described the wheel as literally the wheel of time, of climbing apex and dissolution. So when the Absolute manifests, time is the result of the Absolute becoming aware of succession: the passing of time. Therefore everything manifested has a sequence-how does that happen? How out of pure consciousness which has no limit, no time, any sequence- comes this deep order of nature?
As best as I understood it here it goes: The top five tattvas, or principles of existence, are Shiva, Shakti, Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti, and Kriya Shakti.
Shiva is pure consciousness, it is like the sun, and Shakti is the creative power of that consciousness, it is like sunlight. They are the same but different aspects of the same. In the top five tattvas there is Iccha- the will of the consciousness. It is will that comes before action- we have an idea before we can create. Jnana is the knowing of that will and Kriya is the action- a spontaneous action that has no condition or expectations- it is action for the sheer delight if it. In with all these five tattvas is a fine “trembling”. So from this pure consciousness it the trembling that causes the Iccha to wilfully pulsate from fullness to contract part of itself- it creates the screen of prismatic crystal unto which and into which all the possibilities of diversity and colour then manifest. Shiva/Shakti loses nothing of itself in the process- it stays completely unaffected in the unmanifest.
Iccha, Jnana, Kriya, then become the aspects of the wheel- the shaktichakra. The wheel starts with Kali- the Goddess of destruction. She is the consumer of time (kala being time and kali meaning the one who consumes time) she represents the blank state of your mind, no form or colour from which everything grows. She is the dark ground where the seed of the tree is planted. She represents Iccha. Saraswati represents Jnana, she is the deep order, the sequence that the growth follows- she is the tree that sprouts from the seed. Finally at the apex of the wheel, at the height of the cycle before it moves downward again is Lakshimi, she is Kriya, the final action that is the fruit or flower of the tree- that which decays and falls to the ground, into the dark and back into Kali. Kali who seems to represent chaos, and darkness and destruction then is just part of the wheel- she is the ground upon which all ideas sprout. (I know Sjanie will love that….)
I have a great dissection of the Nataraja and his meanings but I think I will save that for a later blog. I’ll add pictures in the next few days!