Friday, March 20, 2015

India's Quest to Reclaim Yoga

A bronze chola statue of Nataraja [dancing the eternal flow of creation, preservation and dissolution of the Vedic yajna], at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Photographed by Kesava Mallela, July 1, 2005.


The whole of karma yoga, or any yoga for the matter of that, is centred round this principle governing all life and existence – the principle of yajna, sacrifice.

– Swami Krisnananda,
The Teachings of the Bhagavadgita

In his 17 November 2014 speech at Allphones Arena in Sydney Australia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that Swami Vivekananda's dream of India becoming vishwa-guru or world teacher has come true. Vishwa is a Sanskrit word meaning not only the whole world, but also the whole universe or cosmos. Guru means one who brings light into darkness, and most often connotes a spiritual teacher.
    It is true that much of the world looks to the sages and sacred texts of India for spiritual light and certainly hatha yoga has spread widely across the world, but considering the persistent disharmony seen throughout the field of India and the world it seems wise to acknowledge that both the world and India have a long way to go in terms of our understanding and embodiment of the unity-consciousness that is the Vedic basis and all-illuminating outcome of yoga.
    Sri Aurobindo, who also foresaw India's future as vishwa-guru, wrote in The Secret of the Veda that no Indian has understood the Vedas in over 2,000 years and admitted that:
"... [In] the later ages the very device used by the Rishis turned against the preservation of the knowledge. For language changed its character, rejected its earlier pliability, shed off old familiar senses; the word contracted and shrank into its outer and concrete significance. The ambrosial wine of the Ananda was forgotten in the physical offering; the image of the clarified butter recalled only the gross libation to mythological deities, lords of the fire and the cloud and the storm-blast, godheads void of any but a material energy and an external lustre. The letter lived on when the spirit was forgotten; the symbol, the body of the doctrine, remained, but the soul of knowledge had fled from its coverings." [Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo (CWSA), Vol. 15, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1997, p. 56-57.]
The device or "body of the doctrine" used by the Vedic Rishis to preserve knowledge was the yajna or sacrifice. Yajna, also spelled yagna and yaga, is the foundation and central subject pervading the Vedas, and whether many people in our day and age know it or not, it is the foundation of yoga.
"The higher light of Surya [the Sun] is that by which vision rises on our darkness and moves towards the superconscient ... is the vision of the highest to which man arrives by the Yajna or Yoga of his being, by its union through a long labour of self-uplifting and self-giving to the powers of the concealed Truth. 'O Sun, thou all-seeing Intelligence,' cries the Rishi, 'may we, living creatures, behold thee bringing to us the great Light, blazing out on us for vision upon vision of the beatitude, ascending to the bliss in the vast mass of thy strength above!'" [Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 479.]
    In his September 2014 United Nations General Assembly speech Modi called for an International Yoga Day, saying that the ancient science of yoga is India’s gift to the world. On 11 November 2014 he appointed Shripad Yesso Naik as India's first yoga minister, tasked with the job of promoting and protecting India’s most famous export. It will be interesting to see if the yoga minister's job will include educating the world on the essential connection between yajna and yoga because, as is, ask any yoga teacher or student outside India what yajna has to do with yoga and you will likely get a very blank face. Yoga is defined in the Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon (CDSL) as:
"The act of yoking, joining, attaching, harnessing ... a yoke, team, vehicle, conveyance ... fixing (of an arrow on the bow-string) ... a means, expedient, device, way, manner, method ... any junction, union, combination, contact with ... connection, relation ... putting together, arrangement, regular succession .... [Its] chief aim being to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with Isvara or the Supreme Spirit; the union of soul with matter; the union of the individual soul with the universal soul."
    Yaga is defined in the same comprehensive dictionary as "an offering, oblation, sacrifice." Yaj is defined as "to worship, adore, honour ... with sacrifice or oblations ... to consecrate, hallow, offer." In The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo wrote that the term and form of the yajna, and hence the central theme of the Vedas, is the journey of the 12 month year.
"This victory [the possession of our complete divine consciousness delivered from all falsehood by the free descent of the truth] is won in twelve periods of the upward journey, represented by the revolution of the twelve months of the sacrificial year, the periods corresponding to the successive dawns of a wider and wider truth, until the tenth secures the victory. What may be the precise significance of the nine rays and the ten, is a more difficult question which we are not yet in a position to solve; but the light we already have is sufficient to illuminate all the main imagery of the Rig Veda."  [CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 182.]
In the same book he also wrote, "In the Puranas ... it is stated that the body of man is the year." [CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 177.] This is stated because for the Vedic Rishis yajna expressed the unbreakable link and quantum entanglement between man's physical body and the body of time and all that manifests within that eternal body. The Earth's yearly journey around the Sun is a real, not imagined, body of time lived by the Earth and all her inhabitants. It is the base unit of our time on Earth, which to the Rishis was understood as the foundation of oneness throughout all cycles and moments in time, just as the number one is the base unit of our number system. This Puranic correlation between the body of man and the body of the year gives us an extremely important key to the essence of yoga and to the universal and eternal law of our being and becoming – sanatana dharma. It may also give us an indication of how little modern man knows of this yoga, the yoga of the whole body of the eternal Self as it moves in time and space. The Vedic Rishi Dīrghatamas sung of the yajna:
Twelve are the fellies, and the wheel is single;
three are the naves.
What man hath understood it?
Therein are set together spokes three hundred and sixty,
which in nowise can be loosened.

That breast of thine exhaustless, spring of pleasure,
wherewith thou feedest all things that are choicest,
Wealth-giver, treasure. finder, free bestower,
—bring that, Sarasvatī, that we may drain it.

By means of [yajna] the Gods accomplished their sacrifice:
these were the earliest ordinances.
These Mighty Ones attained the height of heaven,
there where the Sādhyas, Gods of old, are dwelling. 

Rig Veda 1.164:48-50 (tr. by R T H Griffith)
    The Rishis and Sri Aurobindo have told us that the union or yoga of the individual self with the universal Self or vishwa-atma (the super-soul of the cosmos) is accomplished via this 360 degree framework and journey. It is important to note however that the Rishis did indicate this was not at all a simple matter to comprehend. Even Sri Aurobindo admitted to not fully understanding the 12 months or rays of the yajna in The Secret of the Veda. Yet since Sri Aurobindo's passing in 1950, this mystifying connection between the 12 month year and the unity consciousness of the Vedic Rishis has been much explained and demystified. Many missing pieces have been put into place and many misunderstandings regarding yajna and yoga have been corrected.
    Sri Aurobindo's initiation into the true and full nature of yoga began in 1908 which marked the beginning of a process of recovery of the lost truth-consciousness of the Veda, for India and for the world. Much of this initiation, which included fifteen days of instructions from the non-physical presence of Vivekananda who had left his body in 1902, occurred in the Alipore jail where Sri Aurobindo was imprisoned for one year and one day exactly by the British government for his role in the fight for India's independence. This process of recovery developed in successive stages in the natural course of time.
    Twenty-four days after his 6 May 1909 release from the Alipore jail, Sri Aurobindo spoke in Uttarpara, telling India that the truth-consciousness and sanatana dharma of the Vedic Rishis had been lost in its own motherland and needed to be fully rediscovered and restored for the benefit of the world. He acknowledged "few of us really know what [the Sanatan Dharma] is. ... the Sanatan Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived."  He told India of his visions for her on that day:
"It is to give this [eternal dharma] that India is rising. She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak. She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world. India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great."  [CWSA, Vol. 8, p. 6.]
In 1910 Sri Aurobindo began writing The Secret of the Veda and revealed therein that, according to the Rishis, the path, way or course by which man (presumably India first) recovers the lost Sun or Light of Truth of self and world, is yajna. In 1914 he met Mirra Alfassa, who he acknowledged as the living incarnation of "The Mother" and as absolutely inseparable from his own yogic force, power and mission. They collaborated to bring down the highest spiritual light for India and for the Earth and after he left his body in 1950, she continued this work. In November of 1958 the Mother spoke of the need for a link between the prevailing consciousness of humans and the supramental or truth consciousness:
"It has not yet been built – it is in the course of being built ... The moment has come just now in the history of the universe, when that link must be established." [Collected Works of the Mother (CWM), Vol. 15, Lotus Light Publications, 2003, p. 366.]
Eleven years later, on the last day of 1969 and in the first weeks of 1970, the Mother envisioned this link in the form an inner chamber of the Matrimandir (the Mother's Temple), the measurements and features of which she documented precisely. Unbeknown to most, her vision was a perfect expression and embodiment of the fundamental pillar and fount of Vedic wisdom – the 12 month yajna or year. In addition to the fact that the primary template of the chamber is the circle of 12, the height and width the Mother gave for this inner chamber actually equals the number of days in the Earth's year. On top of that marvel of sacred geometry, the 24 meter diameter she saw for the chamber perfectly exhibits the Vedic correspondence between one 24-hour day and one year (as well as larger much cycles of time). This correspondence may not make much of an impression on the fragmented modern mind as yet, but in truth, it demonstrates a knowledge of principles of self-similarity, scale invariance, multi-local phenomenon and quantum entanglement within a unified field that extends not only through space but also through time as some modern scientists are beginning to discover.

A top-down view of the Mother's Temple vision, as constructed in
The New Way, Volumes 1&2,  Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, Aeon Books, 1981.

The Mother told her students in 1954:
"Twelve: that’s the number of Aditi, of Mahashakti. So it applies to everything; all her action has twelve aspects. There are also her twelve virtues, her twelve powers, her twelve aspects, and then her twelve planes of manifestation and many other things that are twelve; and the symbol, the number twelve is in itself a symbol. It is the symbol of manifestation, double perfection, in essence and in manifestation, in the creation." [CWM, Vol. 6, 10 Nov. 1954, p. 395.]
Throughout 1970 she attempted to convey something of the Matrimandir's connection with the progressive 12-stage evolutionary journey known to the Rishis as yajna:
"[Regarding the temple's interior] I have seen ... It will be a tower with twelve regular facets – each facet representing one month of the year. ... then inside there will be twelve columns ...." [The Mother's Agenda (TMA), Vol. 11, 3 Jan. 1970, Institut de Recherches Evolutives, Paris, 2000, p. 16]

"The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection. Union with the Divine manifesting in a progressive human unity. – 14 August 1970" [CWM Vol. 13, p. 223.]

"The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Universal Mother according to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching. – 15 November 1970" [CWM Vol. 13, p. 223.]
    Aditi, besides being universal mother and supporter of all creation and of all gods, including Agni, is described by the Rishis as "all that hath been born and shall be born." [RV 1. 89.10, tr. Griffith.]   
    The Mother was 90, going on 91 when she had her vision of the inner chamber of Matrimandir which visually and spatially enacts the eternal birth of Agni – the hidden One and the sacred fire which upholds the 12-rayed yajna (also spelled yagni). With this vision she established the missing link between the mortal-mundane consciousness of the human race and the immortal-divine consciousness of the Vedic Rishis. Thus she also illuminated the connection between the Vedic goddess Aditi and yajna. Three years later the Mother left her body, leaving behind the temple vision as her final and finest offering of supramental seeing to her students, conveying the true Vedic essence, foundation and field of unity-consciousness.   
    When the Mother realized these students were going to discard the specific measures and characteristics she gave for the inner chamber of this temple (and her gnosis along with it), she let them have their way, saying, "[They] understand what they have inside their heads. They change the meaning of the words .... So one must wait and wait until they are ripe – a lot of time is wasted, you understand. It is better not to say anything: apply the Pressure. Oh [in that] I am pitiless!"  [The Mother's Agenda (TMA), Vol. 11, Institut de Recherches Evolutives, Paris, 2000, p. 56-57.] A temple was subsequently built in the Mother's name in Auroville, which ignored and destroyed the sacred geometry of the temple. This temple continues to be celebrated by many who have yet to reestablish in their consciousness the significance of the Vedic Year (yajna) and its importance for the uplifting of consciousness not only in India, but throughout the world.
    The word "sacrifice" – the English translation of yajna, has come to mean to offer something for something in return, or to selflessly offer, give up or lose something, even one's life, for someone else or for a larger cause. It also unfortunately means to murder or slaughter innocent animals or persons as an offering to an unseen divine or perhaps demonic entity or higher power with the hopes of gaining sustenance, riches or favor from that entity or higher power. Sakrit in Sanskrit is translated in CDSL as "acting at once or simultaneously." Its prefix is sa meaning "junction," "conjunction," "similarity," "equality," and "together with" and is the root of the English words "same" and "similar" as well as "sacred". The second half of the word "sacrifice" likely comes from the Sanksrit word viz meaning, among other things "to enter in," "pervade," "to enter the fire," "to join or flow into" as well as "home" and "dwelling."  Viz is closely related to vish meaning "to do" or "perform" as well as "pervasion," "to extend" and "to go in various directions." Vish is the root of the word vishwa (as in vishwa-guru and vishwa-atma previously mentioned) which in addition to meaning universal, means "in all places, everywhere," "all-pervading or all-containing" and "omnipresent" and is used by the Vedic Rishis to describe Agni, known as the lord of the sacrifice.
    These Sanskrit root words convey something of the true sense of the Vedic sacrifice or yajna in which all creatures on Earth share the same home and are joined in the same evolutionary journey towards unity-consciousness. In the Vedas this journey towards and continuous display of wholeness, holiness or sacredness is orchestrated by the hidden one, the eternal flame or lord which pervades all of creation, personified as Agni. The boons said to be generated via this sacrifice are the treasures, both material and immaterial, that are generated from the cultivation and establishment of unity-consciousness, including the boon of trikaladristi – a unified vision of all time, past, present and future. The boons of sacrifice were not meant to delight and facilitate a divisive, egoic consciousness and selfish lifestyle, but rather to free mankind from such ignorance via progressive revelations and manifestations of the higher Self. India would do the world a great service if it were to help reestablish the original significance and gnosis of this divine and universal sacrifice, which Sri Aurobindo indicates is her destiny.
    Time after time the Vedic Rishis sang of the importance of this yajna – the journey of the one Self in many forms. They sang of the importance of the correct measure of its body whose joints and limbs are equivalent to the months and seasons of the year. We are told in the Rig Veda that Agni "wins the sacrifice by its form." We are told, "They who have established year and month and then the day, night, sacrifice and holy verse have won dominion which none else may gain." [RV 7.66.11, tr. Griffith.] Sri Aurobindo wrote, "[T]he luminous fathers ascended by the power of the Word ... by the power of the Sacrifice into the fearless light and stood upon the wide and open levels of the supramental existence." [CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 476.] The Rishis sang:
'[L]et us make ourselves conscious of the jointings of [the year's] times and its seasons. It shall so perfect our thoughts that they shall extend our being and create for us a larger life.' [RV 1.94:4, tr. Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 11, p. 66.]
    The Sanskrit word rtam is found over and over again in the Vedas. Its root rta is defined in CDSL as "luminous, fixed or settled order, law ... sacred action or custom, divine law ... divine truth ... sacrifice ... the sun ... to go the right way." On Wikipedia it is also defined as "that which is properly joined." From this word comes the English words "rhythm," "ritual" and "right." In the Vedas rta is inseparable from yajna. In other words, the rhythms of the Earth's year are inseparable from the divine law, truth or oneness of our existence. Sri Aurobindo wrote in Hymns to the Mystic Fire:
"We have to find our way to that, to get into touch with this Truth and Immortality, sapanta rtam amrtam, to be born into the Truth, to grow in it, to ascend in spirit into the world of Truth and to live in it."  [CWSA, Vol. 11, p. 17.]
    The Rishis tell us that when the yajna is mis-measured, not observed or wrongly-observed, all hell breaks loose and the rakshasas (disturbers of the sacrifice) and other lords of darkness, described as coverers, hoarders, destroyers and tearers of truth and light, rule our time on Earth. In other words disharmony and the splintering of truth – the splintering of yoga and its body of gnosis, is the inevitable result of ignorance of yajna. The passageway, link or yoke between the mundane and the divine consciousness is thus blocked by such ignorance or ayajja – a Sanskrit word meaning a "bad" or "miserable sacrifice". Yagakantaka, meaning "sacrifice-thorn," is the name given to a "bad sacrificer ... who does not know the god, metre, glossarial explanation affixes of the Vedic verses." [CDSL]
    The Rishis clearly knew the dire consequences of mis-measuring the sacred year just as those familiar with the construction of sacred temples know that mis-measuring or mis-constructing any sacred measure of the temple will lead to disharmony in its field. In the case of mis-measuring the year, it is the entire world which suffers the loss of ritam or truth. With this in mind and considering that yajna is the Vedic foundation of not only yoga but of India's entire culture, one wonders if India's new yoga minister will be tasked with investigating the divergent measures of the Vedic yajna throughout India. Director of Tamil Nadu's Aeon Centre of Cosmology Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet has been making the case for the need to restore the true Vedic sense and measure of the yajna for over forty years.
    Norelli-Bachelet was occultly called to India by the Mother in 1971 and subsequently inherited from her and Sri Aurobindo the unfinished and colossal task of illuminating the still-relevant function and importance of the Vedic yajna and the knowledge contained within. [The Tenth Day of Victory, Aeon Books, 2003, p. 7-18] Upon examination of her writings, it becomes apparent that despite the intensive yogic efforts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and all that they accomplished, they only scratched the surface of what needed to be known by India and the world about the Vedic yajna. It becomes apparent that the task of restoring the foundation of Vedic gnosis, and hence the foundation of yoga, was far from complete upon their respective samadhis. Together they established the importance of the yajna as a link to the solar or supramental consciousness, but they were not responsible for explaining why and how this link was valid. Neither were they responsible for telling India the challenging news that the truth and rhythm or rtam of the Vedic yajna is the tropical year, measured out by the Earth herself, not according to the uneven distribution of distant stars and constellations of the sidereal zodiac which have nothing at all to do with the Earth's seasons and months by which life on Earth is actually created and nurtured. These weighty responsibilities fell to Norelli-Bachelet.
    The basis for her seeing and knowledge of these sacred matters flowed from discoveries she made in her early thirties regarding our 0/9-based number system inherited from the Vedic civilization. She began to see how this 0/9 system functions in conjunction with the 360 degree, 12 month year as a key of supramental gnosis. She later discovered that the 12 month zodiac is the basis of St. John's revelation, the Vedic yajna, the Hindu tradition of yugas and the ten avatars of Vishnu. Many Indians accept the common story or history that the 12 month zodiac was imported into India by Babylonia, not recognizing that it is actually the very foundation of the Vedic Sacrifice and Vedic civilization, subsequently exported from India into Babylonia and beyond. Norelli-Bachelet has had the task of challenging this significant historical error.
    After the Mother passed in 1973 and students began to deform her temple vision, Norelli-Bachelet became responsible for deciphering, revealing and preserving the true significance of the original vision and measure of the Mother's Temple, made in the image of the Vedic yajna. Her work towards recovering the measure and highest meaning of the Vedic yajna for India and the world, based on the supramental light Sri Aurobindo and the Mother threw on the matter in their lifetimes, has been unwelcome to those who feel that the yajna is already correctly understood and correctly measured in India, and therefore think no re-calculations or re-thinking on the issue is needed.
    It would be fitting for India's new yoga ministry to investigate this matter. It seems only natural that this ministry would extend its interest in preserving the purity of yoga to a concern for the purity of the Vedic yajna. Otherwise, if there is no meaningful restoration of this key of sanatana dharma, it would seem the word and practice of yoga is apt to continue losing its connection with "the soul of knowledge" of the Vedic Seers as Sri Aurobindo noted was a large problem for not just India, but the world at large. Much of the world's words, language, numbers, forms, mythologies, religious rituals, deities, celebrations, holy days and symbols can only be truly understood and appreciated in the context of the yajna which birthed and yokes them all. Thus re-establishing the true foundation of yoga will have a radical integrating, harmonizing and transformative effect on the world's divergent and often disastrously conflicting ideas about what certain words, rituals, symbols and deities actually mean. These words, rituals, symbols and deities will necessarily come to be understood in terms of our common rtam, our common journey and in the context of an all-embracing unity and continuity of our being throughout time and space. Thus words that have gotten "lost in translation" over many millennia will no longer be fuel for conflict and hatred.
    2016 will mark 108 years since Sri Aurobindo was initiated in 1908 into his divine mission or adesh to help India recover its true knowledge and experience of sanatana dharma and to effectively reverse "the Falsehood that has governed the minds and hearts of men for so long" with the "power of Truth." [CWSA, Vol. 35, p. 290.] Perhaps India's yoga ministry will be moved to honor Sri Aurobindo's 144th birth anniversary by celebrating the remarkable progress he has made together with the Mother and Norelli-Bachelet towards the recovery of the lost "soul of knowledge" since the year 1908.
    The Rishis tell us in many and various ways throughout the Vedas that the illumined seers who win the highest consciousness for mankind "are able to hold the seat of illumined knowledge, to mentalise the supreme abode of the [yajna]." Via this instruction it becomes apparent that India's destiny to become vishwa-guru will be better fulfilled once it is able to fully understand and hold this seat or foundation of yoga for the world. Considering Prime Minister Modi's sincere interest in reclaiming the ancient science of yoga and protecting it from further degradation by the West, perhaps humans can be hopeful that this fulfillment will illuminate our world's immediate, rather than distant, future.
"It is by the satya mantra [the true sacrificial verse], the true thought expressed in the rhythm of the truth, that the hidden light is found and the Dawn brought to birth, gūḍhaṁ jyotiḥ pitaro anvavindan, satyamantrā ajanayann uṣāsam (VII.76.4). For these are the Angirases [seers of Agni] who speak aright, itthā vadadbhiḥ aṅgirobhiḥ (VI.18.5), masters of the Rik who place perfectly their thought, svādhībhir ṛkvabhiḥ (VI.32.2); they are the sons of heaven, heroes of the Mighty Lord who speak the truth and think the straightness and therefore they are able to hold the seat of illumined knowledge, to mentalise the supreme abode of the sacrifice, ṛtaṁ śaṁsanta ṛju dīhyānā, divas putrāso asurasya vīrāḥ; vipraṁ padam aṅgiraso dadhānā, yajñasya dhāma prathamaṁ mananta (X.67.2)."  [Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 15, p. 185.]  
"[The] old Vedic poets . . . spoke of the spiritual life as a constant ascent . . . 'The priests of the world climb thee like a ladder, O hundred powered. As one ascends from peak to peak, there is made clear the much that has still to be done.' But once the foundation has been secured, the rest develops by a progressive self-unfolding and the soul is sure of its way. As again it is phrased by the ancient Vedic singers . . . 'State is born upon state, covering after covering becomes conscious of knowledge; in the lap of the Mother the soul sees.'" [Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 25, p. 268.]

"A day will dawn when people of all classes in my country will band together as one living mass at the sacred altar of the World-Mother, represented here by our Motherland and face the rest of [the] world with heads held high." [Sri Aurobindo, Tales of Prison Life, v2, Sri Aurobindo Institute, p. 27.]

Lori Tompkins
20 March 2015


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