Every Saturday evening Swamiji gives a talk on a great being. This is a talk he gave a few years ago just after we completed a Shiva Process Training and the night before an Intensive.
Every Saturday evening Swamiji gives a talk on a great being. This is a talk he gave a few years ago just after we completed a Shiva Process Training and the night before an Intensive.
Excerpt from Self-inquiry: Using your Awareness to unblock your life by Swami Shankarananda
AS A SPIRITUAL teacher, I meet many people. I hear sad stories. I’ve come to the conclusion that the task of being a human being is a difficult one.
When the soul takes on a body, it becomes confused. The physical plane is indeed hard to master. People don’t know how to conduct their relationships. They don’t know what to say and when to say it. They don’t know how to earn a living nor how to save their money. They don’t know how to deal with their desires and fears nor how to discipline the energies of their body.
When we are born, we are not given a how-to manual, and the advice we get from our family and culture may be remarkably wrongheaded. Nonetheless, there is an appropriate art of living. The great masters have called this art many things: living in the Tao, Zen, yoga, Tantra, the natural state (sahaja samadhi). These names given by different traditions refer to the same thing: a life lived from the centre outward, a life in contact with the Self. Because we are blocked in career and relationship, in the areas of health and wellbeing, we need a method to cut away the misinformation under which we struggle, and get to the truth. Self-inquiry is that method. Self-inquiry gives us a way to deconstruct the false constructions of the mind, and reveal the true Self.
Self-inquiry is the mother of all spiritual methods and all forms of meditation. It is direct, sleek and effective. It requires no religious belief, nor any dogma to practise it. It is very much in the modern spirit because, like science, it is a quest to discover what is. The need for inquiry becomes critical when we understand that we are broadcasting stations for our feelings. We live life passionately and we always speak and act out of one feeling or another. If we have a negative feeling, like tension, anger, fear or depression, we express that feeling through negative thoughts, negative actions and negative speech. We blame others. Our thoughts, words and deeds express our negativity.
This has a profound impact on our life. If we are broadcasting negativity, other people feel it. We don’t get the job we have interviewed for. People move away from us. They avoid our company. Even our pets run away. We may blame circumstances and other people, but the source is in the thoughts and feelings that we are broadcasting through our speech and our actions. As intelligent yogis, we become aware of our negativity, whether by direct instruction or the feedback we are getting from others. Instead of projecting the feeling, we take it inside through Self-inquiry and seek to purify it. We investigate the feeling, release it, relax it and take responsibility for it. After successful inquiry, our feeling is now positive. We radiate joy, love, peace and confidence, which translate into positive thoughts, positive actions and positive speech. Now we get the job we seek and people want to be around us. Our life is positively transformed by means of Self-inquiry.
(Try listening to the below meditation Speaking to your mind.)
The name most linked to Self-inquiry in the history of spirituality is that of the great 20th-century Indian sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana said that all methods must necessarily end in inquiry. His reasoning was something like this: you meditate on an image of the deity or the Guru, or you contemplate a spiritual principle, or even look at a yantra (sacred diagram). In the end, the question will arise, ‘Who is it that is seeing, hearing or experiencing whatever you are meditating on?’ And with that question, inquiry begins. The attention moves from the object to the witnessing subject; from the periphery to the centre. Self-inquiry is an inner investigation that moves to the core of reality—ever more inward, more real, more true, more present, more vibrant, more central is its direction and thrust.
I met my Guru, Swami Muktananda (Baba), in Delhi early in 1971. There was a big tent on a sprawling lawn and hundreds of people were attending satsang, a spiritual gathering in the company of a great being. In the corner, a young man was sitting in meditation but he was also vibrating, hyperventilating and flopping about like a fish. I’d already heard that Swami Muktananda had a legendary power to awaken the kundalini energy, the inner divine power of seekers, and this caused kriyas, yogic movements, that were sometimes quite physical or even violent. This was the first one I’d ever seen and I looked at it with a sceptical eye. But it passed the test: I knew it was genuine. Some force other than his own will was moving in that young man. At the same time, an inner knowing arose in me: ‘That will not happen to me!’
I was correct in that while I had many spiritual experiences, I never did flop about like a fish. But shaktipat, awakening of the kundalini energy by the Guru, can manifest in a wide variety of ways. Because of my scepticism, when the energy started coursing through my body forcefully, my first thought was that I might have malaria! Finally I noticed that my ‘malaria’ was strangely responsive to the evening Arati program. I realised I was experiencing an awakening.
In my case, the most significant effect of shaktipat was that it drove my mind inward and gave birth to the process of inquiry that has become the Shiva Process. My mind had been exceedingly external; only divine grace could reorient it inwardly. Feeling frustrated with my efforts to know the Self, I asked Baba for advice. He told me that rather than straining to know the Self conceived of as far away, I should know that the Self is always complete and perfect within me. He said I should contemplate ‘I am the Self. I am Shiva’. By Shiva, he was not referring to the Hindu deity of that name, but to universal Consciousness, the substance of the Self. His answer transformed my sadhana by 180 degrees. I no longer felt I was striving for some attainment, but rather that the attainment was already present and I had to rediscover it.
According to one yogi, there are two significant obstructions to knowing the Self. One is ignorance of its existence and of the possibility of making contact with it. The other is a tight, cramped state of inner tension. Baba’s answer had solved the first, though the latter remained a problem.
On another occasion, I was meditating in the company of my teacher. Feeling on that day the contraction of my being, and frustrated by how far away the goal seemed, I strained to go deeper and have a more profound experience. I felt blocked and discouraged. Suddenly, the understanding arose in me, ‘You may not be having the meditation you want, but you can always have the meditation you’re having’. With it came an intuitive grasp of a completely different spiritual orientation. I would no longer seek something I felt I needed or wanted, but I would now investigate what actually existed. Combining this with Baba’s instruction that I should contemplate ‘I am the Self’, I had the beginnings of a complete method. Following it, I focus on my inner world, arming myself with his instruction that the Self is already here, already present, though perhaps hidden. I decide to investigate my experience in the very moment. Exploring inwardly, I discover a rich variety of phenomena: movements of energy, subtle feelings and sensations.
With my inner eye, I see a number of lights. Most interestingly, I discover blocks and areas of tension in my subtle world. These attract my attention. I can see directly that they affect my wellbeing and my emotional state. The energy of my inner world does not flow properly and harmoniously as long as these tensions remain. I intuit that these blocks, which are more subtle than physical, can eventually manifest as disease. Acknowledging that these tensions have a profound effect on me as well as on my spiritual state, I feel I’ve come face to face with my spiritual dilemma as it shows up in the moment. I begin to investigate these perceived blocks. What are they made of? What causes them? I try to get as close to them experientially as I can. I inquire into them and they yield information. My inner voice tells me, ‘This is anger. This is fear’. I inquire further. A knowing arises that these tensions are connected to a circumstance that happened today, or a week ago, or even years before. I am starting to unravel the mystery of my inner being.
Sometimes a solution to a block arises in my awareness spontaneously, and when that happens, the block dissolves and I feel a release of tension. My inner being is more harmoniously poised. I leave this meditation in a far more uplifted state than I began it.
I had hit on a method that seemed a universal way of dealing with spiritual obstacles. Where Ramana’s inquiry focused only on Self-knowledge,the inquiry I was doing was applicable to all areas of life. I discovered that the problems I encountered with other people, issues of work in the ashram, doubts that arose in my sadhana, all showed up within me as tensions and blocks. I could work within myself to release these blocks by finding intuitive means. Having worked on them within, I noticed that obstacles were simultaneously removed from my outer life. My inquiry took wings in the presence of my Guru, and I felt certain that his spiritual energy, his Shakti, brought my inquiry to a boil.
The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism says that this whole universe is an unfoldment of Consciousness. At the very interior of the universe is divinity, pure light, pure energy and pure love. As Consciousness unfolds externally, things become more gross and material. When we investigate anything, we go in the opposite direction—from the outer to the inner, from the husk to the kernel, from the external to the essence. In a world of Consciousness, everything is subject to inquiry. When we have a conversation, there are the words that we speak and their meaning, and then deeper down, a more real conversation occurs at the emotional level. The universe is a detective story and becomes, as we move from the periphery to the centre, always more real.
Swami Shankarananda with Devi Ma
As we mature and live with some degree of awareness and sensitivity, we become aware that people are different. We may even become aware that people fall into broad categories or types. This paper considers a typology based on three types: thinking, feeling and doing. In my experience, this is the simplest and most elegant of all the typologies I have encountered.
In the early decades of the century, the spiritual teacher, G. I. Gurdjieff, described three basic types. He called them, “Man #1, Man #2 and Man #3″—doer, feeler and thinker. He considered all three to be on the same level. Each could evolve to a higher level through conscious, spiritual work.
The contemporary teacher, Da Avabhasa, follows Gurdjieff, but calls the physically-oriented person a Vital, the emotional person a Peculiar, and the intellectual person a Solid. These terms are suggestive, humorous and also somewhat charged. Da Avabhasa gives the Gurdjieffian system a negative spin by regarding these types as avoidance strategies. I favour using them as a tool for self-study and understanding to help us recognise our own type and to understand and appreciate others. With this difference in emphasis, I am adopting Da Avabhasa’s terminology.
The Vital’s focus is in the navel, the vital or moving centre; the Peculiar is focused in the heart, the emotional centre; and the Solid is focused in the brow or third eye, the thinking centre. In nature we find few pure types. Most of us are a blend of all three tendencies, with one or two predominating.
Each type has its own relationship with time. The Peculiar is often caught up in the past—nostalgia, regret or hurt. The Solid is future-oriented, seeking to be ready for the dangers of the unknown. And the Vital lives for the moment, seeking to maximize experience in the present.
For balance, each type has recourse to a form of yoga, or a particular path of spirituality. The Vital might resonate with karma yoga, the path of action. The Peculiar might resonate with Bhakti yoga, the path of devotion. The Solid might resonate with Jñana yoga, the path of wisdom.
“I experience. I build. I seek pleasure. I do. I explore. I dominate.”
Zorba the Greek, Greg Norman, Madonna, Paul Hogan, Steve McQueen, Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neil, John Wayne, Evel Knievel, Demi Moore, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Pablo Picasso and Hercules.
Vitals are driven by will, desire and action. They are centred in the navel area. Vitals look at the universe as a vast pleasure garden filled with possibilities for enjoyment. With their domain in the physical life, they extend their will into the world, seeking ever-new experiences. They love to see their actions bear fruit in achievement.
Vitals are at home and effective in the physical world. They are the captains of industry, great athletes, powerful performers, empire builders and politicians. Fearlessly extending the boundaries of their experience, they explore, discover, conquer and seek wealth and power. Charismatic, they live with passion and enthusiasm.
Vitals tend to overindulge in physical pleasure and substance abuse, often neglecting the more subtle aspects of life. Archetypal ‘party animals’, they have the urge to engulf others in their lifestyle and passions. Sometimes, they lack the ability to discriminate what is good for them. They seek to maximise intensity of experience in the present moment.
Physically powerful, Vitals do not always know how to use their power and are sometimes not sensitive to others. When they don’t get what they want, they become frustrated and can become chronically angry. They also have a tendency to blame and may exert force, which shows up as a tension in the navel.
Vitals need to develop discrimination and would benefit from self-inquiry and introspection. Their tendency towards overindulgence can show up as impatience and intolerance. Vitals should observe this danger signal as soon as possible. A good exercise is to sit down and focus on the feeling, to discover the source of the tension, then bring the thought, “I let go, I relax” into the navel area, until relaxation occurs.
Most Vitals would rather go to the gym than meditate. Vitals need to feel they are accomplishing something and are most suited to karma yoga, the yoga of service. When Vitals turn their enormous energy within, they can have powerful spiritual awakenings. Typically they feel this physically and want to share their meditation experiences. They want to feel passionate about what they do.
Vitals can get lost in worldly pleasure and the search for power and satisfaction. Usually, their pain is caused by the need for recognition. They need to come to understand the powerful force of desire and how to use it to attain peace within.
Spiritually, it is important for them to recognise and value their own Self, and to honour their Shakti, or spiritual energy.
When Vitals become attached to objects their desire for them increases, which can generate anger. Enthusiasm for life can dwindle and they become controlling. Vitals also can get attached to the outcomes of their efforts, which can cause frustration with others.
Vitals need to become less attached to the fruits of their actions. This frees them from worrying about outcomes. They learn to delegate and encourage others’ creative expressions. They can rise to the top of their profession with confidence and the spirit of generosity.
Enjoyment of life becomes their yoga. They no longer see the world as objects of desire, but as the play of Consciousness. They revel in the power of the Self.
“I feel. I express myself. I yearn for love. I transcend. I accept.”
Marilyn Monroe, Salvadore Dali, Michael Jackson, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Prince, Garry McDonald, Elton John, Dame Edna and Albert Einstein.
Peculiars are inspirational, creative and emotional. They are centred in the heart. Experiencing the world of practical reality as boring and dreary, Peculiars seek a transcending experience that dissolves all feelings of separation. Aware of a higher possibility, they fantasise and daydream, creating scenes in their mind. They can be devastated when reality does not live up to these expectations.
Peculiars yearn to fall in love and be swept up on the wings of romance. They are attracted to dazzling careers filled with fame and glamour. They like to share their feelings. When possibilities shrink, they may turn to drugs and alcohol to escape or to numb the feeling of disappointment. Spiritual Peculiars may look for meditative ecstasies and transcendent spiritual experiences as a way of avoiding the mundane. They might become addicted to occult adventurism, psychics, channels and past-life readings.
Peculiars try to give concrete expression to their feelings, which can take the form of works of art or of a utopian vision of life. They are the artists, poets, actors, psychics and comedians—intensely creative performers who love to have centre stage. They often have an element of genius. They can be unusual in their attitudes and bohemian in their lifestyle.
Peculiars have a tendency to leap from love affair to love affair, as soon as the first bloom of romance is gone. They can be filled with regret and pine for a romanticised past. The love that once was, is gone, or the love that could be, is not. The worst fate is to feel nothing, and be left with the boredom of daily life.
Peculiars are sensitive and compassionate, but sometimes physically weak and sickly. They can be given to self-pity, neediness and hypochondria. The chronic problem for Peculiars is sorrow and despair, born of loss and disappointment and a tendency to brood, especially about the past.
Where Vitals might be excessively involved in sense pleasure, power and money, Peculiars can be excessively involved in their creative, emotional and relationship issues. They can become toxic with depression and sentimentality and ineffective in the physical world, so their dreams are never fulfilled.
A healthy antidote for this condition is the practical discipline of daily life. An austere practice like Zen Buddhism, in which the student is told to “chop wood and carry water” and not philosophise or seek ecstasies, is perfect for Peculiars. They need to learn to detach themselves from their emotional life.
Peculiars must learn to be content with what they have. They have to become aware when sadness wells up in the heart area. They should strongly determine not to indulge it by giving voice to despair and self-pity. They must learn to pour their love into their life as it is, not as it could be or should be. Sitting with the feeling in their heart, they could say, “I accept myself as I am. I accept my life as it is. I love myself.”
Peculiars who resist their tendency to despair can discover a rich energy in ordinary life. They can inspire and uplift others with their very being. They become filled with spiritual energy.
Peculiars have an overwhelming desire to merge in oneness. Their natural yoga is Bhakti yoga, the path of devotion. When Peculiars turn to yoga they use their feeling of love to merge with the Self. This focus purifies and strengthens their emotions. Their spiritual attitude is surrender and devotion. They want to serve and give to their beloved, but can become too attached, which creates emotional tension, jealousy and resentment. The spiritual practice of the bhakta is to focus on loving everyone and not to seek the love of one person only.
Peculiars tend to idealise every emotional situation they face. Placing huge demands on those they love, they may feel disappointed when their expectations are not met and can become resentful. Because they can be readily influenced, it is important for them to keep good company, especially with fellow seekers.
A spiritual pathway for Peculiars is to meditate on the heart, until desire and negative emotion are transformed into divine love. When they offer all of their activities to God, they no longer grieve, hate or crave. Their attachment turns to wisdom. When they love impersonally they manifest compassion for all humankind. They take delight in their own Self.
“I analyse. I philosophise. I illuminate. I am still. I understand. I control.”
Mr. Spock, Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth and Jodie Foster.
Solids seek stillness and perfect solitude, knowledge and wisdom. They are centred in the mind, which physically, is in the brow: the point between the eyes called the ‘third eye’. Solids use their intellect to understand the world. They love new understandings and insights. But they also can feel threatened by an unknown, and possibly dangerous, future and they worry. Through understanding and analysis, Solids try to make the world a safe and rational place. Forces of chaos constantly threaten to explode and stir up their peace and stability. Solids control feeling with their intellect, thus their chronic problem is fear, and its near relative, worry.
Since Solids seek rationality and security, they tend to suppress life, dynamism and change. They approach life through the mind, not the intuition. They analyse first, and feel and experience later. Solids are academics, journalists, engineers, philosophers, scientists and doctors. An entrepreneur is likely to be a Vital, expanding into new markets and new profits, whereas the Solid might become a lawyer, or an accountant, professions that offer counsel in caution and restraint.
Solids can be pessimistic and sceptical in their approach to life. Fear of the future blocks their visionary capabilities. New ideas, new experiences and new feelings are treated with suspicion. When they understand new things, they relax and become more accepting and less fearful of change. Understanding is the key to the Solid’s sense of security.
Solids focus, study, limit, control and analyse. Where Vitals expand their boundaries and Peculiars transcend boundaries, Solids create boundaries. They seek to create the perfect structure within which they can feel safe.
Through their tendency to over-analyse, they can block the life force, become paralysed with fear and disempower themselves. Their analysis can become self-protective or ego-protective, rather than leading to wisdom or insight. Lacking spontaneity, imagination and sensuality, Solids keep themselves busy with lists and details and are always time-challenged. They have an overwhelming sense of responsibility. They tend to be arrogant or judgmental, especially of people who seem irresponsible or lacking in discipline.
Vitals put their own desires ahead of rules and concepts. Peculiars put human values ahead of rules and concepts. Solids tend to place rules, concepts and ideas of duty and morality ahead of desires and human values. They are the last to know when they fall in love. The French dramas of Racine and Corneille, typically centring on the themes of love versus duty, or passion versus honour, are examples of the clash between the Vital or Peculiar values and Solid values.
Solids need to open to the life force and trust the emotional and intuitive realms. They need to understand that they are safe and protected, even when there is a movement of life and feeling. When they feel their brows knit, they should be aware that they are worrying. A good exercise for a Solid is to bring to mind thoughts like, “There is nothing to fear. This is my own feeling. These are my own thoughts. I expand my understanding in this situation. All is well”. When they allow their life force to flow, Solids create clarity and peace, even out of chaos.
Solids naturally gravitate toward jñana yoga, the path of wisdom. The main practice of jñana yoga is Self-inquiry. The meditator asks empowering questions like, “Who am I?” or “What’s going on here?” Awareness is used to focus on the deepest level of reality. In meditation, jñanis discard all thoughts that seem untrue, or that lead away from the experience of the Self. They go beyond such identifications as, “I am a man. I am a woman. I am a doctor” until only pure awareness pulsates in their mind. An unevolved Solid can get lost in identifications, treatises or analysis. But they have the power to turn their intellect towards the inner Self.
Spiritually awakened Solids have an intense desire to know the deepest reality. They have an intuition of the truth, and will not stop until they have discovered it. They probe the nature of reality until they achieve a breakthrough in understanding. When this happens, their minds merge with the Self, and they experience a profound insight into their own divinity. Solids then want to serve the Truth.
Highly evolved Solids have a strong sense of Self and a positive approach to life. They feel secure in that knowledge, and express it by taking an expansive view of the world and others. Although sceptical at first, Solids will change when knowledge and understanding dawn. Solids learn to discern the Truth and express their understanding.
Each type has a strong, a weak and a middling centre. For example, Peculiars who are strong in feeling, (heart), tend to be weakest at doing, (navel), while adequate at thinking (third eye). This is set forth in the following table.
Type Strong Centre Middling Centre Weak Centre
Vital navel (doing) heart (feeling) third eye (thinking)
Peculiar heart third eye navel
Solid third eye navel heart
Spiritual medicine can work like traditional, physical medicine. Here, ignorance is the disease, and yogic practices and techniques are the medicine. Inner balance is the return to health. Spiritual medicine can work allopathically or homeopathically. Allopathic medicine goes against the nature of the disease, (if the patient is over-heated, apply a cold compress), and homeopathic medicine flows with the nature of the disease, sometimes counter-intuitively, (e.g. to treat insomnia, take minute doses of caffeine).
A Vital can be allopathically urged to develop discrimination. This will be difficult and uncomfortable, but rewarding. Eventually, the Vital will naturally follow the yoga of action, karma yoga. This is homeopathic because Vitals are predisposed to action.
Peculiars can be urged to do physical exercise and be grounded (allopathically against their nature). Eventually they will gravitate toward the yoga of devotion, Bhakti yoga.
Solids can be urged to cultivate devotion and feeling (allopathy). They will naturally follow the yoga of wisdom, Jñana yoga.
Every person has a Solid, Vital and Peculiar within them. Few people are a ‘pure type’; most of us are blends. One type will usually predominate and a second type will be next in importance. In the following table, the first named type is dominant. By taking the three types and combining them in pairs, we refine our typology and create useful distinctions.
Vital dominant Peculiar dominant Solid dominant
Each of these nine sub-types has their own characteristics. A future study will elaborate them. To find which sub-type you are, simply decide which of the three types is the best description of you and then which of the other two ‘flavours’ your main type.
Types 1, 4 and 7 above are ‘pure types’ – that means that you are a clear exemplar of one type primarily.
Another way to understand the Vital, Peculiar and Solid archetypes is as tendencies within yourself. Every person has all three capacities, but different situations, people and events bring out our Vital, Peculiar or Solid response.
In the late sixties, I was teaching at a university and living in a bohemian part of New York City. The environment of the university was so solid, I felt like a Peculiar. The peculiar world of my friends, who were poets, filmmakers and artists, made me feel solid. I balanced my life by moving between these two worlds.
Thus in different contexts the same person will express himself differently. A football team is generally a collection of Vitals, but within the world of the football team there will be Solids, Vitals and Peculiars relative to each other.
This typology is a simple but extremely powerful tool of understanding. Use it to understand yourself more clearly. Contemplate, for example, in which areas of your life you are your most vital, peculiar or solid. Are you more comfortable in one type than the others? Which is your least comfortable or natural type?
Gurdjieff said that the first step in spiritual life is to balance the centres. Then Man #1, #2, or #3 becomes Man #4, balanced man. To begin to balance yourself you will probably have to work on your neglected or underdeveloped centres. This will likely be uncomfortable, but it will also be rewarding in terms of spiritual growth.
Even though these types manifest as expressions of your personality, always remember that at the deepest level you are the Self, the blissful, dynamic presence of divine Consciousness.
Some familiar typologies: Astrology divides people into twelve types, based on the position of the sun in the zodiac at birth. The astrological typology is made more complex by factoring in the positions of the planets, as well as the position of the moon and the rising sign, that is, the eastern horizon at the time of birth.
The Jungian typology, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, defines personality types based on contrasting tendencies: introversion/extroversion, intuitive/sensing, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving.
Yoga uses a typology described in the Bhagavad Gita called the gunas, which categorises food, people and activities. This system defines three types: tamas, or dullness, rajas or activity, and sattva or purity and harmony.
Also popular in the last thirty years is the Enneagram, which enumerates nine types. Based on the teachings of Gurdjieff, this was developed by Oscar Ichazo and has been extensively studied in some New Age and Christian circles.
Excerpt from the book ‘Consciousness is Everything‘ by Swami Shankarananda.
This book is designed for seekers who are well-established in their practice. It is also for those who have a special interest in Kashmir Shaivism and are curious as to how the discipline would be treated from a yogic perspective.
I recognise that I have included a daunting amount of Sanskrit words and technical ideas. Had I not written Happy [Swamiji’s guide to meditation Happy For No Good Reason], I would feel guilty about this. On the other hand, I am sure that seekers in the two categories I have mentioned will have no trouble with the text.Now, what if a beginning meditator wandered in here by mistake? Well,he can’t leave without at least reading Chapter Five, You Are Your Awareness. The essence is there. Also, I would refer him to Happy, which has sizeable discussions of Kashmir Shaivism. If he is willing to work through this text, however, I am providing here a short, nontechnical overview of Shaivism. It is the heart of Shaivism as I see it: Shaivism is known as ‘the three’ because it discusses these three subjects:
♦ The nature of the Absolute
♦ The nature of the human being and contraction
♦ The method by which contraction is overcome
Shaivism holds that pure awareness and not matter is the basic stuff of the universe. This can be compared to the situation in a dream, in which the awareness of the dreamer is the fundamental substratum of everything that appears in the dream. The one Consciousness that underlies the universe can also be called God. Here we are referring to God as the Absolute, beyond any specific form.
For reasons known only to Him, God decides to create a universe and become many. By means of His Power, which can be personified as His feminine aspect, He creates the universe in His own being, Himself becoming the individual soul by a process of contraction. Though it appears in Consciousness, the created world is real. The universe is actually Consciousness vibrating at different frequencies, becoming more material and gross as it unfolds.
The human individual is nothing but God in a contracted form. When the individual looks at himself, he notices that he has the same qualities as the Absolute, though they are shrunken and vitiated. God has perfect will, perfect knowledge and perfect ability to do, while the human individual has all of these powers in limitation. They show up in him as three basic knots within his being.
The first knot is limitation of will. The human individual experiences it in his heart as a painful sense of separation, weakness and grief. This is the fundamental birth trauma in which God becomes the individual. The limitation of knowledge is experienced in the mind. The human mind experiences darkness and confusion and strains to understand the truth. The third knot is experienced in the navel area and is felt as a sense of frustration and lack of fulfilment.
Shaivism asks us to recognise our similarity with God and ultimately our oneness with Him. It minutely examines the human condition as a contraction that moves us from the divine status to that of a human being. It recognises a power of contraction and delusion that brings this about. The power is real but is actually an aspect of God. One of the ways it shows up is in language. The language that God uses in His true state expresses His ecstatic song of oneness, while human language tends to perpetuate separation and weakness.
Having looked at the human situation, Shaivism now turns to the solution, a methodology for overcoming the woes and limitations of the human being. Shaivism proposes a comprehensive inner technology designed to restore the human being to his inherent oneness with God. For this, he has to loosen the knots in his heart, mind and navel by means of three methods.
To heal the contraction in his navel, he tries to act well in all situations and come into harmony with the higher power. To heal the contraction in his mind, having discovered its cause in the misuse of language, he tries to bring his thinking into alignment with his highest good. To heal the existential angst in his heart, he tries to transcend thinking altogether and merge himself in the oneness of pure Consciousness.
Having profoundly practised these spiritual methods, the Shaivite seeker recognises the divinity within his own Self and also outside himself in the world and in other people. His main insight is that the subject, or Consciousness, is not separate from the object, or matter. In fact, he experiences directly that the object is contained within his subjectivity,that is, within Consciousness. He has now reached the culmination and the goal of the practice of Shaivism and he stands as a liberated being, fully free within himself, shining with divine wisdom and radiant with love.