Photography & Yoga 10 The Heart

Photography and Yoga  ~ Part 10 ~
Vision of the Heart

"The Heart
is the hub of all sacred places;
go there and roam."
Bhagawan Nityananda

It is true that the kingdom of God is within.  
Whoever saw anything saw it inside his own heart, not outside.  
Only after seeing That inside his heart was he able to see That outside too.
Swami Muktananda

                                                                     Photography & Yoga      Image #32        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

As large as the universe outside, even so large is
the universe within the lotus of the heart.
Within it are heaven and earth, the sun
the moon, the lightening, and all the
stars. What is in the macrocosm
is in the microcosm. 
Chandogya Upanisad

Throughout all cultures, the Heart has been considered to be the the center of emotion, wisdom and mystical experience.  The Heart is the vast space of the divinity within, the seat of longing and devotion.   The Heart is the force behind our efforts to attain whatever is considered to be the highest.   The great yogic sages say God dwells in the Heart. 

The space of the Heart is where we take sanctuary from great pain, where we feel the pulsations of love, experience the silence of contentment.  A great yogic saint once said the Heart holds within it the undifferentiated state of the distinctions of the knower, the known, and the process of knowing.   In other words, we already know --within our Heart-- the answer to all our questions before we even ask them, but we need to be in touch with our Heart before this knowledge can emerge into our awareness. 


A Personal Story The Darshan Line
It was customary, back in the 1980's and 90's, to come before Gurumayi at the end of a two day meditation Intensive and have her Darshan.  It was a ritualized way of blessing the Guru and expressing one's gratitude, and yet another opportunity to receive the Guru's blessings.  ~  A line would form, and slowly but surely everyone would finally have their chance to spend a brief moment in her close, physical presence.  Gurumayi would be sitting in her chair and touching each person who came before her with a wand of peacock feathers.  It was understood, to be touched by the true Guru in this way was a great and auspicious blessing.

The word Darshan means "to see the lord, to have a vision of God."  Most of the people who came before Gurumayi would pranam, or bow at her feet.  The pranam is a very sacred, ancient ritual act in which one places one's heart above one's head--a symbolic gesture of surrendering one's ego and intellect to a higher power, the Divine wisdom and grace of the Guru, the Self within.  Gurumayi, and her guru, Baba Muktananda always taught that when one bowed to the Guru it should be done with the right understanding: that God, Guru, and one's own Self were identical. "I bow to, I honor, the same One divinity that exists within you and within my own Self."

Standing in the Darshan Line has always been for me a very intense process.  The shakti which naturally radiates from the true Guru activates all the mental patterns of the mind and ego; all the self doubts and fears come up:  "Am I worthy enough?"  for one knows in their heart that the True Guru sees everything about each person who stands before her in the Darshan Line.   

Besides receiving the blessing of the Guru in the form of the touch, Gurumayi may also give individuals a physical gift, known as prasad, such as a silk shawl, or some beads, or a box of candy.   She might speak to you, ask you a question, or simply look into your eyes.  She might ignore you completely.   I have seen Gurumayi shake the hands of first-timers, or give a teenager or a grandmother a hug in the Darshan Line.  Sometime people would give Gurumayi a gift, and then a few minutes later Gurumayi would signal her assistants to give those very gifts to others who followed in the Darshan Line.  Any thing could happen, and everything seemed to happen at the same time in the Darshan Line.  Watching Gurumayi giving Darshan was like watching a spontaneous dance unfold.  It was like watching a continuum of miracles happen before one's very eyes.  No one ever new what was going to happen in the Darshan Line.  


At one particular intensive I took with Gurumayi at her ashram in South Fallsburg, NY, the Darshan Line seemed endless.   So many people had taken the intensive that there had to be several over-flow rooms to accommodate those who could not fit into the main hall.  After the intensive, those in the overflow rooms filed into the main hall and joined all the rest of us in the Darshan Line.

As I stood in the line, which was moving forward very slowly, I began to feel frightened; my mind became rather frantic with a million questions and concerns, such as: "Would she notice me?"  "Would she look into my eyes?"  "Would she bop me on my head with her peacock feathers?"  "Would she ignore me?" "Would she speak to me, or ask me a question?"  "What should I say?"  "Would she give me a present?" . . . and on, and on.     

A tremendous amount of shakti gets activated in my mind and my body whenever I am physically close to Gurumayi.  She is, after all, the embodiment of grace, the creative power of the universe, and the shakti in the hall is very very thick with presence from the two day process of the intensive.  The fear I was experiencing was my ego afraid of being burnt by the purifying fire of the Guru's divine state; but as I came closer and closer to Gurumayi in the Darshan Line my fear began to dissolve, and instead of anxiety I started feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude in my heart.  I felt so fortunate to actually have a true Guru, and to be in this line with so many people who were seeking what I was seeking.  My eyes started to tear, and my whole being ached with love and a feeling of longing.  By the time it was my turn to come before Gurumayi, my heart was totally open.

The Hall Monitors grouped me with about seven or eight other people and directed us to go before Gurumayi together when they signaled us.  As we were waiting for the signal we were able to watch Gurumayi from a very close vantage point, from just off to her side.  We watched her talk and joke with the people before us; we watched her bop people on their heads; she instructed her assistants and Hall Monitors, and signaled them in various ways.  As I watched all this I became mezmerized by Gurumayi's intense attention to everything that was happening, her graceful flowing movements, her compassion, and joy, the radiance of her love.  It seemed that not only was everything happening quickly, indeed to began to appear that everything was happening all at once.

We at last received the sign to come before Gurumyi.   As I started walking toward her and was about to pranam at her feet, something very special, something magical happened . . .

I began seeing Gurumayi from two means of perceptions, from two perspectives or modes of being;  each had its own different sense of time and space.  In the one, I saw her attending to all the other people who had come before her and the Hall Monitors.  ~  And in the other mode--though I could still see and hear all that was happening in the moment, everything began to slow down, and a sense of silence pervaded my experience.  At some point in this transitional moment everything became suspended in an atmosphere of velvety softness.  As I looked up at Gurumayi, sitting in her chair, she slowly turned and looked at me, then she gently closed her eyes, lowered her head, leaned forward a bit and reverently placed her hands together in namaste.  

I returned the gesture with the same great reverence.  It was as if I had become a mirror reflection of her gesture.  Then I bent down and pranamed before her feet.  As I got up and started walking away I felt the touch of her peacock feathers on my back.   But, it was more than just a touch; it felt as if she were playfully but lovingly massaging my back with her wand of feathers.  I kept walking.  There was nothing more to do.  My mind had come to a complete standstill.  


I have contemplated this experience frequently and I often remember this experience as part of my preparation for going into my morning session of meditation.  It has occurred to me that the two modes of perception I experienced in that Darshan Line corresponds to the idea of the pranam.  On the one hand there is the perception through the eyes of the ego which is filled with the experience of fear, neediness, feelings of attachment and the lack of worthiness, etc.  That is what we experience when the ego is above the heart.  ~  Then there is the mode of perception through the Eye of the Heart, in which everything seen is experienced as sacred, because everything is being seen through eyes of divine love, respect, gratitude and grace

Gurumayi often says at the end of her most special programs that we are never really apart from each other; that each and every one of us could find her in the space of our own Heart, for she is always there, with us, for us.  We could always have her Darshan when we remembered to turn within and enter the cave of the heart.      

                                                    Photography & Yoga      Image #33        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

Inside the Heart
The great poet-saint Kabir says that with the eyes closed we can see the most distant regions inside the Heart and know that we are the Maker and Source of all the things and places that we perceive:  

Inside this heart are sunlit forests,
          cool shady bowers,
          and the maker of forests
          and bowers;
All the seven seas are there,
          infinite numbers of stars,
          the music arising from
          the unstruck sound,
          and the source of all water.
Friend, listen, if you want to know the truth,
I'll tell you the truth:
God, whom I love, is inside this heart.    

                                                                   Photography & Yoga      Image #34        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

Exquisite Flower
When a drop of love from a pure heart 
falls on dry ground,
the most exquisite flower  
of new life emerges.
Swami Chidvilasananda  
The Magic of the Heart 

Why Are You Looking? 
Why are you looking for God from forest to forest, when He lives in our own Heart?  This one looks for Him in the East; that one looks for Him in the West.  Without the Guru, you'll never find Him.  Manpuri, Indian saint

Entering the Heart
Entering the heart is like coming into the center of the sun.  There is no more "you;" there is nothing except the iridescent force of that light.  ~  When you are in the center of the sun, there is no way to block its light.  It streams through you and around you.  So by entering your own heart, you make the whole world a better paradise.  Swami  Chidvilasananda  February 21   Resonate With Stillness 


The Created Heart and the Uncreated Heart
There is the created Heart, the physical organ which purifies and circulates the blood throughout our body; and there is the transcendental, Uncreated Heart, radiant with the primal vibration OM, the sound of "I Am," the source of all worlds, physical and subtle. 

The yogic saints say that all the universes known and unknown exist in the Heart; that the Heart is at the very center ("the hub") of the Wheel of Consciousness.  If we were to ask "where is this subtle Heart" the sages would say it is at the center of everything we see and don't see, everything we touch and don't touch, everything we feel and don't feel, everything we imagine and can't imagine.  The Heart is timeless, eternal, stainless . . . Uncreated.   The mystery of all mysteries, the Heart is Shiva, the Heart is God, the Heart is the Guru, the Heart is the Self.  Swami Muktananda's Guru, Bhagawan Nityananda said:  

The Heart is the hub of all sacred places; go there and roam.


Someone asked Swami Muktananda: "What is the relationship between the physical heart and the heart you talk about?"  Baba replied:  

They are the same--a person has only one heart.  In scriptural terms the heart is in the chest as well as at the top of the head.  However, it is the same heart that extends from one place to the other.  A yogi who meditates on the sahasrara, the upper heart, considers this thousand-peteled lotus to be the heart.  The heart is the same for everybody--for yogis and for regular citizens.  The breath goes out and comes in, and there is a space inside where it becomes still for just a second.  The breath has merged inside, and it hasn't yet started to come out; it is still in the state of merging.  The space where it merges is the true heart.  That is called hridaya.  ~  You have asked a beautiful question and I want to thank you.  

In response to another question about the heart, Baba said:  In the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna asked the Lord: "O Lord, if I want to meet You right away, where can I find you.  Where do You dwell?"  ~  The Lord said, "Arjuna, if you want to meet Me right away, come to the heart, because I dwell in everyone's heart."  

                                                                Photography & Yoga      Image #35        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

The Pratyabhijna-hrdayam
A key yogic text regarding the Uncreated Heart, and the Heart's relationship to perception and creation, is the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, an ancient scriptural text based in the Indian philosophy known as Kashmir Saivism.  Swami Shantananda's book The Splendor of Recognition offers an excellent contemporary meditation on each of the 20 sutras that comprise this ancient text.  If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to look at part three of my Photography and Yoga project which contains excerpts from Swamiji's book.  The following commentary is from sutra 4: 

"As we recognize the great light that shines in the body, by this very act, we place ourselves within the divine heart and hence in the very center of creation.  Startling as it is, this teaching is difficult for our minds to comprehend, for maya-sakti obscures our experience of the Truth.  The fourth sutra tells us that the Lord is as much on earth as in heaven--and that he is also in the heart of every human being, pulsating with the awareness 'I am.'"

Purifying the Heart 
The heart is one of the seven chakras in the subtle body; the heart may be referred to as the psychic instrument or the mind: it can be the center of our feelings, thoughts, sensations, memories, and past impressions.  Just as the physical heart purifies and circulates the blood in our bodies, Yoga is the discipline and the mysterious, alchemical process of purifying the heart (and the mind) of our feelings, thoughts, sensations, memories, and past impressions, or samskaras.  The sages say the purification is essential, for only then can the light of the Self, the silence of the Self, exist in total freedom.  The purification process requires great self-effort: a true disciplined commitment to doing the yogic practices, and the grace of a True Guru.

                                                             Photography & Yoga      Image #36        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

The Cave of the Heart 
The yogic saints say the Cave of the Heart is the abode of the great silence, the abode of the great light of Consciousness.  The Heart, they say, is eternal; it is the abode of God, the abode of the Self: 

The cave of the heart shines brilliantly: it blazes with a self-born light.  
Without either sun or moon, the cave of the heart is lit by itself.
Swami Chivilasananda, from The Magic of the Heart

Once you experience God in the cave of your own heart, you begin
to perceive His energy dancing through every cell of your body,
permeating your life.  And you wonder in amazement, "How could 
such glory have remained hidden from me for so long?"
It is for this reason we meditate.
Swami Chivilasananda, from The Magic of the Heart

The Light of the Heart 
When you perceive the light of your own Heart permeating the entire universe, you have the amazing experience of oneness.  The mind is so astonished by this divine splendor that all it wants to do is lower its head in awe and follow the command of the Lord.  The experience never leaves you.  Everywhere you go, it is with you.  Swami Chivilasanada, 1995 New Years Message   

                                                                Photography & Yoga      Image #37        Vision of the Heart           Symmetrical Photograph

It Can See What Is Hidden
The eye of the heart is so important in your life.
It can see what is hidden from the senses.
Gurumayi, from The Magic of the Heart

Vision of the Heart  ~  Photography & Yoga
So what does the Yoga of the heart have to do with my creative process in photography? The yogic practices and teachings and my experiences have taught me that Seeing Photographically is more than seeing the outer world through an understanding of the medium of photography.  It now means to me seeing the outer world inwardly, with grace, through the subtle eye of intuition, the Eye of the Heart.  

With grace . . . when I am photographing, everything I see is a form of God, an experience of Darshan.  With grace . . . the photographs become articulately processed and readied for contemplation.  With grace I sit quietly with the images, enter them, and absorb their unsayable messages . . .  for, with grace the images then function for me as true symbols, and through the Eye of the Heart I am able to perceive in them the radiance of the heart's interior light, the heart's vibrant, pulsating, Conscious energy, So'Ham, "I am."

The Interior of the Heart
Behold the interior of God's heart.
What is it made of?  What does it contain?  
What message does God's heart have for you?
Allow your mind very gently 
to enter God's heart.


This part 10 of the Yoga & Photography project was 
announced in the "Latest Addition" section 
of my website's Welcome Page on
September 18, 2015

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.