Monday, 1 September 2014

The seven utterances are bhuh, bhuvah, suvah, mahah, janah, tapah, satyam. What do they convey, what do they represent?

September 2014 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami— vyāhṛti (व्याहृति)
I completed teaching the 200 hr Teacher Training Program at Loyola Marymount University by Aug 10th. I now find it a bit difficult to teach for 7 hrs a day for 5 weeks at a stretch. We may offer the program next time at two separate times for about 2 1/2 weeks to three weeks each. The program went off well, it was a very satisfying experience with a bunch of adorable participants. I also taught a one day program on Vinyasakrama at Ananda Ashram in NY state
Immediately thereafter I came to Chennai on Aug 15th for attending to a nagging personal problem which is getting dragged. I was planning to return to US on Sep15 to go to Chicago to teach a program at Chicago Yoga Center, then a weekend program at Anand Ashram in October and possibly teach a seminar at Princeton University in December. Everything appears to be uncertain until this issue is sorted out. I am also scheduled to teach the entire Bhagavat Gita verse by verse as I studied with Sri Krishnamacharya. This 70 hr program would be in May 2015 at my friend Steve Brandon's Harmony Yoga in UK. But first the Uncertainties!

Vyāhṛti-व्याहृति

The two most important mantras of the Vedas are Pranava (OM) and then the Gāytri. There is another mantra or a group of mantras used extensively, the vyahritis. Ahriti is to hold back whereas Vyahriti is to give out and hence these vyahriti mantras are known as utterances. There are seven vyahritis out of which the first three are very commonly used. They are also called mahavyahritis or great utterances. The seven utterances are bhuh, bhuvah, suvah, mahah, janah, tapah, satyam. What do they convey, what do they represent? According to one school especially the purnic school, the seven vyahritis represent the seven worlds starting from the world we are in, the bhu loka. Then the rest of the six worlds are the higher worlds. Due to one's good karma one is able to traverse to higher worlds in successive births.

The first three vyahritis are more commonly used and are known according to some authorities as Maha Vyahritis or the great utterances. In Indian especially South Indian dishes turmeric is invariable added, like in curries, sambar (soups), rasam. It is an integral part of pujas or worships. Many women in olden days used to smear themselves with turmeric paste before or while taking bath as skin conditioner and use it also as a facial base. Sometimes the mahavyahritis can be considered as essential concomitant mantra like turmeric is in daily life. So one may call, the vyahritis as mantra turmeric.

Om burbhuvassuvaH is how one starts the pariseshana mantra or the food purification mantra before one starts to eat food. One takes a spoonful of water in the right hand and sprinkle it on the food (usually cooked rice) saying Om bhurbhuvassuvaH. Then one would proceed to to do the parseshana mantra when water is dripped around the plate or the plantain leaf on which the food is served. Thereafter one would pick up with the thumb and the ring finger, one cooked grain of rice and put it into the mouth hailing the five pranas one by one and finally the Brahman the ultimate reality. It is a beautiful cute meaningful ritual at the start of taking food.

Taittiriya upanishad talks about the fourth vyahriti. “There are three vyahritis, BhuH, BhuvaH and SuvaH. Beyond them is the one, the fourth, Maha(t) says the great sage Mahachamasya. That is Brahma(n). That is Atman or individual Self. (Maha iti| tat brahma| sa atma||”

It could be seen that the Upanishad says that MahaH is Brahman or the ultimate reality. And what is Brahman The upanishad elsewhere defines Brahman as “Satyam, jnanam anantam brahma” Satya would mean Truth or one that really exists. It is something that is not affected by time as truth is not affected by time. Secondly it is jnana or consciousness and finally it is ananta or it is everywhere or something unaffected by space. So the definition of Brahman is pure consciousness unaffected by time or space. Here advaitins tend to take heart in the statement that the brahman is the atman or the self in each of us. They say Brahman and atman are one and the same, not different from each other-- that it is advaita.

The upanishad helps to understand these mystic vyahriti mantras.by relating them to something known to us. The first vyahriti can be related to this world (ayam lokah) or the bhuta, agni or fire, or the brilliant sun or the rig veda mantra (rik) or prana or the life force itself. Then the next vyahriti 'BhuvaH' may be related to inter-space (antariksha), or the bhuta, vayu or air, or the sama veda mantra or the physiological principle apana. The third vyahriti 'suvaH' would relate to the heaven, or the sun or the yajur veda mantra or the vyana vayu in the body. Finally the mahat could be related to aditya or the sun, or chandrma the moon, or Brahman the ultimate reality and also food which sustains life of all beings. Thus one should be contemplating on the four vyahritis as per the upanishad

Again there are vedic passages that refer to not just three or four but seven vyahritis, BhuH, bhuvaH, suvaH, mahaH, janaH, tapaH, satyaM (OM bhur-bhuvas-suvar-mahar-janas-tapas-satyaM). These seven vyahritis are referred to as seven worlds or lokas as mentioned earlier. However these lokas are also related to the seven states of consciousness. According to taittiriya upanishad, Brahman, alone and immortal, pure consciousness desired to become many “bahusyam prajaayeyeti”. Then it contemplated or was in a state of tapas. This perception (aaloka) of the brahman in known as tapoloka even as it is interpreted in puranas as a world by itself. After deep contemplation Brahman created the entire universe. This state of the supreme consciousness came to be known as jana loka. Having created it the Brahman entered into each one of its creation and became the Self of everything, everyone. In this microcosmic state it had three experiences one with the waking state, one with the dream state and one with the deep sleep state. Mahachamasya after deep yogic contemplation realized that there was a fourth state of this consciousness which transcended all the three other individual states of consciousness. So we have three levels of ordinary consciousness at the individual or microcosmic level represented by the three vyahritis bhuH, bhuvaH and suvaH. Then the fourth level is the yogic state which the upanishads call as turiya or the maha loka. But since the same consciousness is also the one from which everything came about, the three state of super or cosmic or macro-cosmic consciousness will be the jano loka, tapo loka and satya loka. This ideation is used in the pranayama mantra which proclaims that the same consciousness can be viewed to have seven states four at the microcosmic state and three at the cosmic state. In all brahman as atman or individual self is in the pure state of consciousness (atman or drashta) at the fourth state represented by the vyahriti mahat. And at the cosmic level it is in its pristine glory bereft of any creation or ideation and is represented by the vyahriti 'satya'. Yoga helps to realize the pure consciousness at the individual level (kaivalya, turiya) wheras vedanta helps to realize the same consciousness at the cosmic level (moksha)

The vyahritis therefore are very important mantras next only to Pranava (OM) and the gayatri. In fact when we chant the gayatri three times a day (gayatri japa) during the sandhya, the gayatri mantra is chanted (japa) not alone but preceded by pranava and the three vyahritis

Om (Pranava)
bhur-bhuvas-suvaH (the vyahritis)
tat-savitur-varenyaM (I pada of gayatri)
bhargo-devasya-dhimahi (II pada of gayatri)
dhiyo-yonaH-prachidayat (III pada of gayatri)

Pranava, vyahritis and Gayatri are beautiful, highly potent and meaningful mantras of the vedas.

With best Wishes

Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami

Friday, 29 August 2014

Ashtanga Backbends: Kapotasana, catching ankles without adjustments, also 25 breaths in Kapo


I was talking with Kristina this morning, we've been having an ongoing 'discussion' concerning adjustments and assists all summer, we were talking about Kapotasana and why I decline the assist.

My argument is that I reached my ankles on my own without adjustments so why receive them (adjustments/assists) now.

Currently I'm barely grabbing my toes (I injured back moving house a couple of months back) but taking ankles and heels from the air have come and gone over the years, it'll come back.... or not. Heels would be nice, gives you something to grab onto and draw yourself in nicely, would settle for heels again.

So I had a quick look on my youtube channel, I seem to remember posting "heels are back" videos and "heels are back again" videos. I thought it might be encouraging to anyone whose recently lost their best kapo and are beginning to doubt if it will ever come back.

This first video I notice I titled Ankles in Kapo from Vinyasa Krama. I remember this video. I tended to to think that you really needed to practice Kapo every day to get a deep kapo (or leg behind head postures say), a benefit of the Ashtanga approach of practicing the same series everyday. Here though I had been practising Vinyasa Karma all those extra backbend postures in the Bow and Mediative series that help to open up the back gradually.

This is one of my arguments against strong assists, if somebody is really struggling with kapo perhaps more preparatory postures might be the way to go rather than taking somebody into the posture groan by groan.

Perhaps both ways achieve the same results.



I thought the next one was interesting, this is the first time I caught my ankles but I noticed how rather than pushing up and walking my hands in, the real work seems to be done at my hips and top of thighs, look how they keep moving forward, must try that again tomorrow.

 I remember noticing how Manju's half drop back technique that Kristina also employs really works the top of the thighs, dropping back to the wall or just hang backs do a similar thing, I should work on those again perhaps.



The last one is another on getting ankles back after a period in the kapo wilderness this time I credit Richard Freeman.


and and

I forget why I mentioned Richard, ah, here's why, there's a link to a post that I'd forgotten about

Exploring something Richard Freeman seemed to be saying'ish at AYC. I've tended to bring my sitting bones together then nutate my hips as much as possible, tilting my hips upwards before dropping back. Richard talked about bringing the sitting bones together and the coccyx forward but then also attempting the draw the pubic bone back towards the coccyx, bringing all four points towards each other and drawing up mula bandha ...then bringing the sacrum through, so the whole unit comes forward and up...something like that, either way it made a surprising difference to my kapo today which has tended to be semi committed winter kapo's for the last couple of months. 

from this post Richard Freeman AYC backbending workshop transcribed, "It works I tell ya".

Just one more because I loved this project. This from the Rishi series project (supposedly Pattabhi Jois told David Williams that after Advanced series there was the Rishi series where you choose ten postures and stay for 25 or 50 breaths). I tried it out for all the asana in Primary and 2nd series and found it transformational. Lets hear it for long stay's with slow breathing! Something Krishnamacharya advocates in his Original Ashtanga from Yoga Makaranda (1934) back when he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois.

More on the Rishi Series HERE http://grimmly2007.blogspot.gr/p/ashtanga-rishi-seriesapproach.html


And finally heres a link to my Kapotasana progression post

Kapotasana Progress videos Dec 08 to present (march 2012)

So I don't know, I've enjoyed adjustments I've received from Kristina and Niko, Manju too this summer but I'm still not sure how I feel about them in the abstract, perhaps we just over employ them, don't need them to give or receive them as much as we think we do, perhaps there are other ways, approaches and of course for the home ashtangi we need other options.

I'll be teaching the Vinyasa Krama backbend sequences, Bow and Meditative, on my workshop at StillPoint Yoga London next Sunday (still places) as well as Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga, pranayama etc. Because the breath is slow and kumbhaka's are employed, Krishnamacharya original Ashtanga is a slower practice, so don't be put off by the 'Ashtanga' label, beginner's very welcome.







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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

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