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Yoga of the Spiritual Heart
Discovering the very heart of existence
Hridaya Yoga is a spiritual path whose purpose is the revelation of our True Self, atman or the Spiritual Heart. Developed by Sahajananda, Hridaya Yoga is based on traditional spiritual principles and visions from classical yoga based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Advaita Vedanta, Tantra Yoga, and Kashmir Shaivism. They are further correlated with teachings from Sufism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism.
The practice of Hridaya Yoga allows us to live in the very “core” of existence, to feel the heartbeat of life, to intuitively know the eternal dimension of every moment. Students engaged on the path of Hridaya Yoga aspire to live in the Heart, in the Supreme Reality, in God, with God being experienced directly, beyond any conceptual and religious definitions.
Hridaya Yoga’s practices include Hatha Yoga, meditations for the revelation of the Spiritual Heart, and techniques for cultivating awareness in daily life. Participation in a Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreat is an excellent way to experience these teachings.
Metaphysical Principles of Hridaya Yoga
The vision of this spiritual path is based on the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, which teaches about the essential Oneness of all creation. We start from the premise that everything that exists in the Universe is a manifestation of the Supreme Consciousness, which reveals itself in each and every individual as atman, the Spiritual Heart. The Spiritual Heart represents the real source of our freedom, spontaneity, and profound bliss.
Hridaya Yoga aims to eliminate the contradictions, tensions, and conflicts caused by the dualistic vision and by its inherently conditioned programming. Hridaya Yoga amplifies the aspiration for the revelation of our Ultimate Nature, the Spiritual Heart. This brings a direct understanding and experience of Oneness.
In Hridaya Yoga, we endeavor to coherently express the Consciousness of Oneness through the use of meditation and Hatha Yoga. Additionally, Hridaya Yoga uses specific methods to assist students in applying this vision in their everyday lives. In this manner, the awareness of the Spiritual Heart can be permanently infused in every moment.
At Hridaya, the focus on energy centers (chakras) and energetic phenomena during the practice of Hatha Yoga is always associated with the Witness Consciousness—the awareness of our real being. In the beginning stages of Hatha Yoga practice, experiences related to energizing the chakras (and the insights and transformations which may result) are important to acquire an increased awareness of the subtle structures (koshas) of the being. However, gradually, as we gain spiritual maturity, the process of transcending the attachment to our physical or energetic structures becomes the most important aspect of spiritual practice.
Therefore, Hridaya Yoga is a spiritual practice that does not emphasize the domination, control, or forcing into submission of our internal or external nature. Instead, it recommends the conscious surrender of our individual limits. Here, the surrender to the Spiritual Heart is the highest stage, the crowning of a practice sustained by personal effort. The asanas (yoga poses) are performed with an attitude of profound devotion and inner transfiguration rather than by allowing the ego-based will to attempt control of the body and the mind.
The Hridaya Yoga practice itself represents a profound aspiration to remain permanently aware of the ultimate spiritual Reality.
As part of the practice, Hatha Yoga inspires us to reach a state of harmony with the Divine Reality, to let go of limited corporeal consciousness, to reveal our inherent freedom, beauty, and openness to the Spiritual Heart.
The meditation and yoga techniques practiced at Hridaya are not performed in order to “achieve” the Supreme Reality. In fact, the Supreme Reality is not something to be “achieved” or conquered—this is not an aim or purpose of the spiritual path. Actually, we are revealing something that already exists within us, which is our very intimate essence. Thus, the purpose of the practice is to promote the purity of our “instruments”—the body, the soul, and the mind—in order to allow them to express atman, the Supreme Consciousness.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to understand these attitudes, as well as the role played by the body, soul, and mind in their relation to the Spiritual Heart.
The Importance of the Principles Governing the Spiritual Practice
“One cannot realize the ultimate reality without relying on conceptual knowledge.” –Nagarjuna
It is important to outline the principles underlying the spiritual practice because they define it and make it coherent and clear.
These metaphysical principles can be found (in different terminologies) in many of the great spiritual traditions:
There is one Supreme Reality, which represents the universal, unique, and ultimate substratum of the entire existence.
The Nature of the Supreme Reality is Consciousness. (The first Mahavakhya, “Great Saying,” of the Upanishads is Prajnanam Brahman, or “Consciousness is Brahman.”) Consciousness is understood here not as an expression of mental activity, but rather as the very “life” of creation. It is not only the source of biological life but also of any movement or energy. Consciousness is the root of any cognitive or sensorial process. Consciousness is the background of “life” in animals and plants. It is the ultimate source of the movement of atoms. This approach is different from the common religious belief in a God who exists somewhere separate to us, such as Heaven. Thus, the affirmation “Brahman is Consciousness” makes us understand that Brahman is not to be seen as God, the “Creator of the World” as in the theistic religions, nor as a Creator who does not intervene in the Universe (as in Deism). Brahman, as Consciousness, is the very light in which we are thinking. Because Brahman, God, is Consciousness, even to doubt or deny Brahman is to affirm His existence, since Brahman is the very source of thinking, and the brain merely an instrument of consciousness.
This Supreme Reality exists as the ultimate essence of our being. It is called atman, the Supreme Self. (We also frequently refer to atman as hridaya, the Spiritual Heart.)
The practice of yoga techniques, Self-Enquiry, and other spiritual practices can generate the necessary conditions for the revelation of our ultimate essence, the Spiritual Heart.
The revelation of our ultimate essence, of who we are, atman, has caused the great Indian sages to recognize that Brahman, the Supreme Reality, and atman, the Spiritual Heart, are identical. (Three of the great four Vedic and Upanishadic statements, Mahavakhyas, refer to this correlation of atman and Brahman: Ayamatma Brahma, “The Self, atman, is Brahman“; Tat Tvam Asi, “Thou art That”; and Aham Brahmasmi, “I am Brahman.”)
There is a primordial vibration, spanda, that is expressed in our being as the Sacred Tremor of the Heart. The origin of the term spanda (literally “tremor” or “vibration”) is found in the spiritual tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. Spanda is the primordial vibration of the Universe and of our being. If we imagine the Supreme Reality as an absolute immobile ocean, there would be no connection between It and the world. The consequence would be that the world is just an illusion, maya, that there is nothing divine in the manifest world, which should be transcended. This is the conclusion of the ascetic paths. With this comes the denial of the world and of many of the energies of the human being. Conversely, Kashmir Shaivism recognized the “dynamic” of spanda, a dynamism that is simultaneously inherent to the Supreme Transcendent Reality and is expressed in the world as well. Thus, spanda creates a bridge between the transcendent and immanent, between energy and consciousness. Ramana Maharshi used the term sphurana to refer to the same sacred vibration. It can serve as a way for an emotional or spiritual experience to transcend the personal level and reveal the freedom of the spirit. The Sacred Tremor of the Heart is an infallible inner guide. It always exists, as the fundamental dimension of existence, to guide us from the personal level to the transpersonal and beyond, from temporary existence to eternity.
In accordance with the traditional tantric vision and the contemporary holistic vision, the starting point in the Hridaya Yoga philosophy is that everything is interconnected. The Whole in itself is a vibrant living relationship. Life, per se, is a cosmic game of infinite interactions. The consciousness of the Spiritual Heart causes every moment lived according to this holistic vision to become an opportunity for inspiration, revelation, and a sacred celebration of the interconnectedness between all the individual parts, on the one hand, and between each individual part and the Whole, on the other.
As we start to develop an intuitive knowledge of the one universal background of existence, the understanding arises that all aspects of our being are ultimately divine. We also become intuitively aware that our Ultimate Nature is not limited to the physical body or to the subtle mind, soul, or other energy structures. We become aware of the universal background of existence as being the transcendent dimension of our being.
The Purpose of the Practice
The aim of the various technical approaches used in Hridaya Yoga is not to cause a state of mind or an experience, but to develop and refine the structures which adequately support the revelation of our Divine Nature. We utilize these technical elements to further develop:
A clear and quiet mind, able to generate the conditions for the transcendence of the mind itself.
The Spiritual Heart—becoming aware of it being an “organ” of direct knowledge. The Spiritual Heart is a subtle organ that can simultaneously integrate the Supreme Reality (the Subject of knowledge), the very nature of spiritual endeavor and aspiration (the means of knowledge), and the object of the spiritual practice (the object of knowledge).
The Awareness of the Spiritual Heart
In the spiritual practice, we shall not make a goal of perfecting the physical postures. However, the profound transformations that take place during the execution of an asana make it a tool to help us open towards our Ultimate Nature.
Therefore, an asana is but a modality to express the Oneness of our being, a tool used to cause the consciousness to expand. It is a dance of energies—the dance of Shakti and Shiva, of Energy and Consciousness.
The awakening of latent energies and their balancing and centering in the Spiritual Heart represents a way for us to open towards the infinite and become cosmic beings. Instead of “practicing” or “doing” yoga or an asana, our aspiration is of “being” in yoga and of consciously living, in that asana, the miracle of “be-ing.” The asana is used as a tool to help us develop the sharpness of the Witness Consciousness, to immerse ourselves into the Heart’s profound levels, and to reveal who we really are.
Thus we achieve an attitude that is meditative and in which mental concentration is accompanied by the Witnessing Attitude and an Open Attention to the energetic phenomena that may arise. The Hatha Yoga session is not an imposed practice, but a creative activity called for by the tendencies and energies associated with the present moment. Thus, the practice of Hatha Yoga is more than an ascetic practice or a strictly physical workout. It becomes a practice of awareness and joy-filled openness.
In this manner, we avoid the danger of a rigid or useless practice based on egoic willpower. Instead, our practice is oriented inwards. It becomes increasingly intimate in its nature, freely expressed, dynamic, continuously refreshed by inner echoes, by feedback responses from the flow of energy.
In order to harmonize the energies and the various aspects of our being (the body, sensations, and mind), we have to go through a process of unification and integration of this “Conscious Totality,” which is our very being. While practicing yoga, we become yoga. Oneness is reflected in and between the internal and external aspects of the being. By practicing Hridaya Yoga, we celebrate and honor the very power of life.
In this manner, we establish contact with the infinite and eternal potential of our True Nature. As a result, we stop being preoccupied with routine problems, dramas, and fears, and we can freely access the extraordinary treasure which is offered by the present moment.
Centering in the Spiritual Heart induces a feeling of a sacred interconnection within the Totality. This is the true home where we find ourselves together in the radiance of Pure Presence.