Fundamental Principles of
the Hridaya Practice
In general, it is important to attain a state of inner harmony which enables us to awaken any spiritual state and immerse into it. This spiritual path targets the amplification of the inner freedom in as many directions as possible. It is important that the students should become aware of and responsible for their own spiritual development and to not get attached to the yoga teacher. Based on the fundamental principles and the practice routine, the course is deliberately designed to allow the students to be successful on the path regardless of any subjective inner or outer parameters.
Can the Ineffable Be Known?
Obviously, because there is no way to quantify the ineffable, there is no objective example or model for us to replicate in our endeavor to reveal the Spiritual Heart. As a general rule, in order to delve deeper into our inner experiences, we need to focus our open attention on the echo stirred deeply in our being by various inner attitudes. We also need to understand the significance of this echo. Thus, through a feedback process, we gain progressive control over some parts of our consciousness, which are normally considered inaccessible or ineffable. In this manner, we get to have an inner capacity which favors the surrender and the spontaneity. This seems paradoxical at first sight, because, apparently, it is not simple to come up with and also apply methods meant to switch on the spontaneity and naturalness, sahaja, inherent to the surrender into the Self, to total surrender to God. Yet, this is precisely the expression of the experience gained from consistently long hours of meditations for centering into the Spiritual Heart. This is the very “secret” of a mystic who is able to go instantaneously beyond the barriers of the mind, into the consciousness of the One.
Principles Underlying the Fundamental Practice of Hridaya Meditation
With regard to Hridaya Meditation, there are four main stages. The student is to maintain awareness of these stages as meditation becomes accessible at increasingly deeper levels.
- The temporary suspension of the discursive thinking and ordinary thought process (stillness and mental clarity).
- The direction of attention is reversed; we focus inwards and direct our energy towards the chest area. (This stage is the same as the pratyahara process from Raja Yoga). It corresponds to the “descent” of the mind into the Heart practiced by the Christian mystics.
- The sublimation of the energies of the senses, psyche, and mind (energies focused in the Heart during stage two), into the ineffable vibration of the longing for God, into the Sacred Tremor, spanda.
- The conscious surrender to the Reality of the Spiritual Heart, followed by the dissolution of the individual consciousness. This is how we move from the individual consciousness, jivatma, to the consciousness of the Self, atman.
(The importance and significance of these stages is extensively explored in Hridaya courses and retreats. The mnemonic for the four stages is SISS (Stillness, Interiorization, Spanda, Surrender).
With regard to the nature and the activity of the mind, there are two stages:
- Quieting and clarifying the mind;
- Transcending the mind, the Absolute Void, Pure Stillness.
The transcendence of the mind cannot be induced by techniques or methods. It occurs when the favorable inner conditions are created. The techniques and various forms of meditation are the training tools for the mind. They may induce the silence of the mind and clarity, as well as body relaxation, mental control, calm.
There is nothing to be done to reveal the Pure Stillness, because, next, on the background of the Pure Stillness we move from a “to do” stage, to a “to be” stage.
Jnana Yoga affirms that this is the ultimate background of our being, it is what we really are. Any technique is now abandoned, while we remain into the deep stillness of the Heart. In the Buddhist tradition, which includes strict rules regarding the control of the mind and meditation, these two stages are clearly mentioned:
- Samatha (in Pali) or Shine (in Tibetan): The stage in which the follower practices the mental concentration on various internal or external objects (focusing and quieting the mind by focusing on breathing, body sensations, etc.) and
- Vipassana (in Pali) or Vipasyana (in Sanskrit), or Lhagthong (in Tibetan): The “vision,” the equanimity of the mind (the state of peace and abiding calmness) or, in other words, the access to the non-conceptual reality, the revelation of the ultimate void (intimate understanding of the transience of thoughts’ and of the mental content – because they come from nothing and go back to nothing).
Therefore, the void, the absolute stillness cannot be induced by a specific technique. It can be revealed, when the adequate conditions are favorable (created through spiritual practice) and when the mind is calm. With regards to the stage (first one) regarding the methods which can be used to create the control and quietness of the mind, there are two categories of techniques meant for achieving:
1) The mental capacity for concentration or
2) The awakening and development of the Witness Consciousness.
There are countless techniques for concentration or meditation, but they are all based on these two principles used for the practice of meditation. Most of them insist on one of these aspects solely, but there are a number of methods which tend to integrate both of them. Ramana Maharshi’s method for the revelation of the Spiritual Heart integrates both attitudes:
1) Focusing the mind in the center of the chest, slightly to the right;
2) Developing the Witness Consciousness and the awareness of Awareness itself, by an attitude of detachment from the body, feelings, thoughts, and mind—using, for example, the question “Who am I?.”
In Hridaya Yoga, the mind is gradually purified and controlled both through a systematic use of specific concentration techniques and by developing the Witness Consciousness. With regard to the practice of asanas, it is essential to outline the importance of the aspects related to energy and consciousness, the two “poles” of a correct practice. It is not enough just to “push” the energy into one place or another, into a chakra or a nadi. Therefore, we insist on the necessity of maintaining the Witnessing Attitude, which leads to the achievement of our True Nature, through the alchemy of the asana.