Photography & Yoga 3. "Flashing Forth" - Perception, Creation, the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam

Photography and Yoga  ~ Part 3 ~
"Flashing-Forth" Creation, Perception, the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam  

Perception, CreationThe Pratyabhijna-hrdayam 
The Pratyabhijna-hrdayam is an ancient yogic scriptural text (11th century C.E.) based in the Indian philosophy known as Kashmir Saivism.  It consists of 20 brief aphorisms, or sutras, and commentaries on each of the sutras, written by the Kashmiri sage named Kshemaraja.  The Pratyabhijna-hrdayam was a text that Baba Muktananda loved dearly; he referred to it frequently in his teachings, and it was the primary text to which he would refer his many students.  In 2003 Swami Shantananda, one of the great teaching monks of Siddha Yoga, published his own set of commentaries on the ancient text.  His book, entitled The Splendor of Recognition, followed many years contemplating and writing articles on each of the twenty sutras.

I highly recommend Swamiji's commentaries on the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam.  I have been reading and re-reading and contemplating them since his book first came out.  Happily The Splendor of Recognition has recently been reprinted in a new edition so it is once again available to the public.  Below are excepts from his book which I have selected primarily for the ways in which they shed light upon, and help me better understand, my creative process in photography.  Much of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam is about perception and its relationship to creation and creativity.  

Swamiji's commentaries are remarkable in the way that he so clearly comes to terms with the ancient teachings within his own contemporary context.  Also, as you will see, he courageously elaborates on certain points and extends his interpretations by sharing his own personal experiences.   Swamiji's writing has been blessed by his service to both of his teachers, Baba Muktananda and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, and he was encouraged to study and write about the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam by both of them.  In other words, his writings carry the the blessings and the grace of his meditation masters; his writing comes  from his heart, not just his intellect.

Photographs and Commentaries 
At the bottom of this page, following the text selections from Swamiji's book, I have presented several new symmetrical photographs along with commentaries on the images.  Each of the commentaries includes some reference to a text excerpt used below from The Splendor of Recognition.   

*          *          *

Sutra 1  Creation 
The first sutra of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam is about the creative force of the universe.  From a devotional point of view, according to Swami Shantananda, the sutra ". . . addresses the heart's longing to know the nature of God . . . the nature of Reality and its relation to the world and to us, as human beings."

Swamiji writes: "The highest reality is most often designated by the term citi [pronounced chit-ee].  Citi is one of the feminine forms of the root cit, which implies 'to perceive, to observe, to appear, to understand' and 'to know.'  That is to say, Citi is that which is endowed with the power to know and to perceive; it is that which makes things appear in the sense that an object can only appear--or exist--in our experience when it is held in the field of our awareness. . . for this reason we usually translate the word citi as 'consciousness.' . . . Consciousness is simply awareness."

Note: before Gurumyi became Swamiji's teacher, he was an early disciple of Baba Muktananda.  Baba was the founder of what is known as the Siddha Yoga Path.  Baba initiated Gurumayi into the Siddha Lineage before he passed on in 1982.  Swamiji quotes Gurumayi and Baba frequently in his book, and I have included several of those quotes below.  

In Sutra 1, Swamiji quotes Baba Muktananda who, upon being asked which yogic practice he recommended to begin with, said:  All you need to know is your Self.  If you get to know your Self, you will get to know everything.  The first and formost question is: "Who am I?"  Self discovery is the root of all actions.

Swmaiji writes that Sutra 1 is a contemplation on our inner nature which is consciousness:  "Consciousness is . . . the Great Light, Prakasa . . . not the light that can be seen with the eyes, but the light by which the eyes see.  This light is the capacity of Consciousness to illuminate and reveal, to make things appear and manifest. . .  This light is the raw material of creation.  What we perceive . . . is nothing but a manifestation of the light of Citi."

"This light of consciousness is inextricably linked to vimarsa, awareness, which can be viewed as the reflection of that light on itself--the capacity of Consciousness to know herself. . . . Perception isn't even truly possible unless we reflect on the meaning of what we perceive." 

In addition to vimarasa, the power of Consciousness to know herself and to discern and distinguish between the various forms of the universe, there is one other potential just as significant: the power to create a universe.  Swamiji writes: 

". . .our very perception of the universe is, inevitably, an act of creation.  This means that the world of our experience, the world in which we live and act and feel, is our own manifestation. . . .  Like a mirror, virmarsa shows us ourselves and our creation."

In the yogic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism prakasa (the pure light of Consciousness) is personified as Siva, while vimarsa (the power of Self knowledge that both creates and knows its own creation) is personified as Sakti.  

One of the great ancient texts of Kasmir Shavisiam states that "She, the primordial Sakti . . . is the seed of all the moving and motionless things which are to be, and is the pure mirror in which Siva experiences himself." 

Siva and Sakti, the primordial couple are really one and inseparable.  They together express the vibratory movement, or spanda, of wanting to become the creation.  Siva is represented in the texts of Saivism as the power to illumine, to give existence and form, to bestow appearance; and Sakti is represented as the power of bliss which drives her to take the form of all created things.

Human beings are a form of Siva and Sakti.  Swamiji again quotes Baba Muktananda :  A human being has the freedom to become anything.  By his own power he can make his life sublime or wretched.  . . .  God lies hidden in the heart of every human being, and everyone has the power to realize that.   


The texts of Kashmir Saivism say that there are three main processes that occur in the universe: coming into being, continuing existence, and dissolving into repose.  A metaphor is used to explain this: when we open our eyes and become aware of our world around us we are creating our world.  When we close our eyes, when we sleep, we dissolve that same world.  Swamiji writes:  "This opening and closing of our senses is exactly what Citi does in the creation of the universe. . .  The act of creation is simultaneously an act of perception.  When I perceive something I am creating it for myself.  The creation lasts as long as I retain it in my perception. . . "

The following words are once again by Baba Muktananda;

Because of your existence,
Creation exists.
If you do not exist, 
nothing exists.
Muktananda, first know your Self.

What are you looking for
east and west,
north and south,
above and below?
Muktananda, the whole universe
you alone are, you alone are,
you alone are.

"[Baba Muktananda] is saying that you and the universe are the same principle, and further, for this glorious creation to exist, you must be present.  In other words, you--your inner being, the Self--can generate a universe out of your own Consciousness.  This is precisely the message of Sutra 1:  Consciousness is the cause of the universe.  Only Consciousness is capable of creating the cosmos, and only Consciousness can be the material from which that cosmos is made.  Everything depends on Consciousness.  The creative capacity of all individuals, of all of nature, has its source in Citi and derives its power from Citi.  There is no manifested thing that, in and of itself, has the capacity to create Consciousness without engaging its own power of Consciousness.  Only Consciousness can know herself, as well as everything that takes form within her."


This creative act of Consciousness happens outside of time; it is free from the limitations of space and form, the laws of cause and effect.  Sakti's Creation, her power of free will, her One Reality ". . . projects her light like an explosion of fireworks on a dark night, sending forth brilliant sparks that assume the countless forms that inhabit the cosmos.  It is in these objects and worlds--in creation itself--that we encounter the parameters of time, space, and the natural laws of cause and effect." 

"The act of manifestation is the coming forth of what is already contained in the undivided oneness of Consciousness."

Everything in the created universe pulsates with the primordial vibration known as spanda.  It is a throbing motion of expansion and contraction through which the cosmos appears and disappears, like a blink of an eye.  Swamiji explains: "It is through spanda that the cosmic eyes of Consciousess open and close and the universe unfolds and refolds itself in a rhythm of creation and dissolution.  The universal pulsation of spanda happens at dizzying speed, ceaselessly renewing its manifestation."


Citisakti, through a process of contraction, casts herself into creation.  Every form she becomes is a world unto itself.  Every individual being is it's own world of experience, known in Saivisim as the knowing subject; everything else is an object of knowledge.  Swamiji writes:  "The relationship that each subject has to its world, to its 'objects' is established through the act of of perception.  These three--the knower, the known, and the act of knowing--are seen as the triad of knowledge, and together they form the fundamental structure of any creation."

Citi, however, reduces the perception of differences to a vision of unity.  Everything is Consciousness, a form of the One Reality, the Self.  Swamiji writes: 

 "To the yogi . . . what is most important here is the knowing subject, for it is the subject that is both the origin and the goal of all cognitive acts.  In other words, if you, as the knower, are not present, there is no experience of the world. . . In any and every situation, both the object and the knowledge of that object depend on the perceiving subject."

A text of Kashmir Saivism states:  Nothing perceived is independent of perception, and perception differs not from the perceiver; therefore the perceived univere is nothing but the perceiver. 

Who is the perceiver?  Swamiji states, it's the Self, "the same Consciousness that creates everything it perceives."  

When we have this perspective, this right understanding, Creation becomes a sacred place, everything in Creation is sacred, a form of divine Consciousness.  The ultimate goal of yoga is to live in every moment with this awareness: Everything is Siva, everything is Consciousness, everything is my own Self.  I am that.  When we have this perspective, Swamiji writes:  "any experience is a potential means for gaining full knowledge of the supreme Self."  

*          *          *

Sutra 2   The Mirror of Consciousness and Its Countless Reflections
Swami Shantananda introduces the second sutra by explaining from the perspective of Kashmir Saivism the relationship between Citi and world she creates, using the metaphor of a mirror: "Citi is the mirror and the reflection is her creation . . .Citi's universe, of course, is not the reflection of another reality; it is a projection of her own being. . . all takes place within Consciousness, projected onto a portion of her own being.  The diverse forms of creation with all their play are not different from Consciousness or from each other."

Swamiji asks himself: What does this have to do with me?  "And then I understood that I could view my own awareness as a reflective screen . . . I could consider that whatever I saw (or heard or tasted or smelled or even touched) was received on the mirror of my awareness. . .  Yogis call this perspective 'witness-consciousness,' which is the ability to view one's experiences from the perspective of the supreme Self.  In other words, its as if the yogi were watching all of life on a mirror, the mirror of his or her awareness."


Swamiji raises this hypothetical question and then gives his own answer:  If I am sitting in a room and observing the space around me 'Is my consciousness in this space?' or 'Is this space in my consciousness?'    

"Both are true.  Your consciousness is in this space, because that is the way it appears, and appearances have their own reality.  At the same time--the space is inside your consciousness because you are the one who is experiencing the space.  The space is reflected upon your consciousness, and once you understand that, you can see quite clearly that your consciousness is not limited to your body.  When I picture my own consciousness, I see it as a vast field of awareness, encompassing all that my mind touches.  It is this that is the mirror."


The following quote is from Baba Muktananda's autobiography which is entitled The Play of Consciousness.  It is a description of Baba's experience of final liberation.  Swami Shantananda uses the quote to illustrate the point that "with witness-consciousness we may have detachment in relation to what we experience, but there is also a sense of connection with it and the joy that accompanies that sense of union.  The full experience of pratibimba is never one of disaffiliation from life. . . "  

The light pervaded everywhere in the form of the universe.  I saw the earth being born and expanding from the light of Consciousness, just as one can see smoke rising from a fire.  I could actually see the world within this conscious light, and the light within the world, like threads in a piece of cloth, and cloth in the threads.  Just as a seed becomes a tree, with branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit, so within her own being Citi becomes animals, birds, germs, insects, god, demons, men, and women.  I could see this radiance of Consciousness, resplendent and utterly beautiful, silently pulsing as supreme ecstasy within me, outside me, above me, below me.   Baba Muktananda


Swami Shantananda writes:  "The sacred texts of Saivism, substantiated by the experience of yogis, state that supreme Reality exists beyond creation while manifesting simultaneously as creation.  Reality is beyond form and also it is form; it is unchanging and at the same time it is constantly changing; it is eternal and it is absolutely fleeting.  In other words, Reality is simultaneously transcendent and immanent: it is that which is beyond the universe, and at the same time that which contains the universe.  Taken together these two inseparable aspects comprise the totality and fullness of Reality.  The difference between these two seemingly contradictory descriptions is a matter of perspective.  It all depends on how you look at it."

The Void & Creation 
"Chiti has neither form nor content, only an unfathomable boundless depth, which the sages of Saivism call the mahasunya, the Great Void.  . . .  Mahasunya is void only in the sense that there is no subject to perceive objects, for in the Great Void all manifestation has fused with the light of Consciousness.  Here, one experiences neither happiness nor suffering, knowledge nor ignorance, but a thought-free, steady, peaceful state."  

Swamiji shares his personal experience of the Void:  "We sometimes experience this exalted state during meditation.  Whenever I enter into this inner silence, I am arrested by its sheer emptiness.  There is no thought in this state.  There is neither joy nor sadness nor even, it seems, any "I" who could register that there is nothing happening.  My consciousness becomes absorbed in a deep, silent serenity, and when I emerge from this state, I invariably feel that I have touched the very foundation of my existence."

"After a draft of this soul-drenching silence, we might well ask why Citi bothers to take form. . . .  [One great sage of Saivism] says it is the nature of supreme Reality to create . . . something she cannot avoid doing. . .  The Creation of the universe is an expression of the power of freedom--the freedom to do or not to do.  If Citi did not express herself in creation, how would she know herself as a conscious, vital, creative power?  If God were only the Great Void, isolated in his unity with no worlds or sentient beings, how would he know that he posses the capacity to create?  It is as a natural expression of this capacity that the ultimate Reality manifests the world of things. . .  As an act of divine creative will, the universe appears."

*          *          *

Sutra 3   The Splendor of  Manifestation
We each create our own worlds, according to Kashmir Saivism, and in this sutra part of the focus is on how the world responds differently to each of us.  But I am going to narrow my text selections to Swami Shantananda's discussion of a particular theory of manifestation-- abhasa-vada, especially because one meaning of the word abhasa echos the title of Swamiji's book. 

"A vada is a doctrine or theory, and an abhasa is that which flashes, illumines, appears, or manifests, and it also means "splendor." . . . The Saivite sage Utpaladeva postulates that everything we experience and perceive is an abhasa or a combination of abhasas.  That's like saying everything in life is a projection, a flashing forth, of Reality."

"All created forms issue forth from the unformed and undifferentiated space of Consciousness.  These expressions of God are apparently propelled into existence in an infinite diversity of forms, making explicit what lies implicit in the light of prakasa [Consciousness]."

"By choosing the term abhasa Utpaladeva seems to emphasize two significant aspects of the creative act: on the one hand, objective manifestations are forms of the great light of Consciousness, which illumines; and on the other hand, they are ephemeral flashes, mere projections onto the screen of Citi with no permanent existence.  In spite of the flickering and precarious nature of abhasas, without them there would be no world to perceive.  Without abhasas we couldn't understand what it is to be a subject; our existence would be a diffuse spread of light with no form, no limits, no definitions, and no variety.  . . . Without objects we would not be subjects.  Which is to say, from the very outset of manifestation, the reciprocity between an individual and her world is established as the primordial pattern of the entire universe.  The basis for reciprocity is the fundamental distinction between subject and object. . . . "

"This differentiation is the springboard for the entire process of creation.  As Utpaladeva postulates:  The great God is in fact none other than the real Self of each and every being.  He alone endures, having evolved into all phenomenal existence through his undiversified Self-awareness, "I am this."  The sage is saying that the Lord, who is the experiencing subject (the essential I am) has himself created his objective experience (all of this).  Because of the reciprocal nature of the relationship between subject and object, we can also turn this statement around, acknowledging that it's through the existence of this world that the subject exists."

"Within the Lord's creation we as individuals create our own world through our inner abhasas.  Through our inner abhasas we perceive some objects and not others, we make associations with our past experiences, and so we invest our perceptions with our own meanings.  This, then, becomes our world, and we do live in it.  We have no other." 

Hidden Flashes
"One reason life seems so perplexing is that many abhasas are hidden, veiled or unobserved.  . . . It seems to me the purpose of the scriptural study we are doing here is to heighten our awareness--to expand our ability to live consciously."

"Anything that streams out of the great light of Consciousness is an abhasa.  Our physical bodies for instance, are universes of astonishing  complexity, comprising countless abhasas." 

"Abhasas are forms of the spanda.  They're what flashes forth when Citi opens her eyes. . . These flashes come forth incessantly and at a fantastic speed.  Normally, we think in terms of cause and effect . . . Utpaladeva [a Saivite sage], however, states that this way of understanding creation is restrictive--and not at all descriptive of how things truly come into being:  The Lord by virtue of his infinite divine power, manifests these apparent phenomena simply through his divine will . . . that is what is known as his active nature, his creative aspect.

"When I speak to someone for just a few moments, that person is created and destroyed millions of time right before my eyes.  The abhasas that compose his body, his voice, his feelings, his gestures are appearing and disappearing, vibrating beyond the reach of my senses.  Each pulsation of spanda creates, maintains, and destroys everything.  The reason I can identify the person who appears in one moment as the same person I was speaking with just a moment before is that these abhasas flash forth in a given pattern, re-creating the person's form and once again animating it.  According to Utpaladeva, each moment of our perception is composed of a series of abhasas, pulsating with tiny consecutive modifications that give us the impression of movement."

*          *          *

Sutra 4   The Individual Embodies the Universe
"The individual being is a perfect replica of the Lord. . .   In this sutra we find that . . . the universe and we are one and the same. . ."

"Not only is everything in the universe made of the same 'stuff,' but also that stuff contains within itself everything it ever becomes.  This means that every particle of Consciousness contains the whole of creation in precisely the same way that every particle of a hologram can re-create the whole. . ."    

"Everything exits within us."  

Stages of Consciousness:  Stage 1  Pure Creation - I am
"The universe has not evolved or developed; it has been created, as a whole, in a flash. . . this creation is not a historic event . . . for in the realm of pure creation the principles that generate our experiences of time and space, of cause and effect, do not operate.  Here, what we experience is that the universe is created anew in every instant.  Right now as you read these words, new worlds are flashing into being and again dissolving into nothingness.  Siva and Sakti do not stop the process of conception at any moment.  If they did, everything would instantaneously disappear in the Great Void.  The experience of aham [I am] is the totality of creation reflected in its own Self."

Stage 2  Witness consciousness
"Perception occurs through the witnessing capacity of unencumbered Consciousness.  As we become absorbed in a landscape, it seems that we are the lord of all this."

Stage  3   I am this
"The relation between the subject and the universe . . . reaches a perfect balance . . . and is represented by the awareness of aham-idam, 'I am this.'  The awareness of the subject and the awareness of the object become equally clear in their real nature. 'I am' and 'this' rest in perfect balance in the luminous, infinite mirror of Siva--identical to each other, identical to Siva. Unity as well as diversity appear as equal expressions of Supreme Consciousness.  It is from this stance that the creation can spring into manifestation . . ."

Stage 4   Separation - Maya - Illusion 
"A conscious being has, for the sake of bringing about creation, lost his full powers.  It is because he has lost his powers that he can enter into the womb of creation.  This fourth level of manifestation is maya-sakti.  It is this power of illusion that supports the individual's sense of separateness, accompanying him through all the ensuing levels of the contraction of Consciousness, as Paramasiva enwraps himself in increasingly grosser forms of manifestation."


"Whoever has realized her own divinity even for a moment learns that her body contains, in a contracted form, all the principles that comprise the universe and also experiences herself as the origin and center of everything that has been created."

"Just as the Self is the one energy that assumes all these forms, so the . . . energies that condense according to their particular vibrations--are all, intrinsically, the same energy.  That is why it is impossible to define a specific location as the center of the universe, as when we mark the center of a circle.  Citi pervades everything equally in all directions; each place is the center of everything."  

"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.'"

*          *          *

Sutra 5   Universal Consciousness Descends to Become the Mind
"The mind . . . is itself a form of universal Consciousness. . . all the activities of your mind are a form of God. . .  The irony is that this very mental activity, which is so clearly identified here as an expression of divinity, is also what obscures our divine nature from us."

"All meditation techniques attempt to bring the mind to rest on a single point, which stills the mind, thereby allowing the meditator to experience the serenity that lies beyond the mind, in the inner space of Consciousness."

"The point of this sutra is to tell us that our perception, like the very world itself, is divine Consciousness. . .  Through our vikalpas [perceptions] we actually create that world."

"[Kasmir Saivism] invites us to have this recognition in every instant of our lives: to see that our world reflects back to us our thoughts, our feelings, our interpretations-- our perceptions--and that, then, becomes our reality. . . supreme Consciousness takes the form of our perception."

"Like supreme Consciousness, the individual consciousness [the mind] is a creative power.  It is through us that God experiences his own wonderous creation.  It's because God's own essence operates through our thoughts that those thoughts are strong enough to create a world. . .  One might ask: If all my thoughts are pure Consciousness, why do I experience them as thoughts?  The answer is simple: because of maya's power to conceal."


Swami Shantananda'a Meditation Experience
"I was having what I might call an 'average' meditation . . .  Then suddenly, as if from nowhere, there was at the center of my mind's screen an exquisite bluish light . . . I watched its radiance . . . until it expanded to fill my entire inner space. . .  Then I began to notice images were emerging from the light.  An image would arise spontaneously from the light.  It would hover at the forefront of my mental screen for a while and then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it would merge back into that splendid light.  As I watched the birth of these thought forms, which were made of light and were coming out of light, I was filled with joy. . . I was taking great aesthetic pleasure in seeing them arise and subside.  Intuitively, I recognized that the blue radiance was an expression of my own inner being."

"After I came out of meditation and contemplated what I'd seen, I was awestruck by what it implied: that everything in my mind . . . is a form of blue light. . .  It was the blue light of Consciousness I was seeing, God himself, and the joy that I experienced was his joy--or my own divine joy in watching my creation unfold within me, a creation made of my own thoughts, my own vikalpas.  These appearances were abhasas, the playful flashing of manifestation on the impeccable screen of citi."  

Swamiji ends Sutra 5 with a quote from an ancient text of Kashmir Saivism:
Wherever the mind goes, whether toward the exterior or toward the interior, everywhere there is the state of Siva.  Since Siva is omnipresent, where can the mind go to avoid him?

*          *          *

Sutra 6  Perception and the Human Condition: The One Who Experiences Maya
"Sutra 6 tells us it is the nature of the mind to perceive and experience maya. . . . [The act of perception] makes the projections of Reality; the abhasas discussed in sutra 3, present themselves afresh in every instant, taking on colors and various forms in accordance with our attitudes and desires. . .  My perception of created things--my family and my gender, my role and my nationality--brings me, a conscious being, into constant relation with the world.  The act of my 'knowing' in this way is crucial in giving personal meaning to everything around me. . .  In the act of becoming an individual . . . Consciousness does not surrender her essential nature.  She vibrates unceasingly as that individual. . . However, having taken the form of an individual, Consciousness chooses to forget, at least partially, her attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and rapturous fullness; of eternality, freedom, and all-pervasiveness.  She now experiences that her creativity becomes confined to specific efforts . . she becomes dependent on emotions, desires . . .  the passing of time . . her will has to live within the sequential spaces of causes and their effects."

The Mind,  Witnessing the Mind,  and the Pure "I Am"
"Flashes of artistic inspiration arise as an impulse directly from the Self, and yet it is the psychic instrument [the mind, it's thinking faculty, its ego, its intellect] that notices these insights and inventions, that remembers them and finds ways to give them expression."

"Difficulty arises . . . when we identify with [our perceptions] . . .   When we adopt the stance of a witness, we are identifying with the great Witness, the Self . . . Our differentiated perceptions are a creation of citishakti playing in the mind, and the Self witnesses these perceptions without being affected by them in the slightest."

Swamiji then encourages us:  ". . . instead of identifying with with the limited "I" of the ego, the source of most misconceptions, strive to identify with the supreme "I" of the Great Self.  This is the pure "I am" feeling."

*          *          *

Sutra 7  The Many Facets of the One Reality 
This sutra is for the most part a pause and summarization of all that has thus far been covered in the first six sutras.  After Swamiji provides his overview he shares his ever-deeping contemplation regarding his experience of Indian temples: how going into a temple, leaving the busy world outside, is like going deep into the silence of one's own Heart.  I personally see an interesting connection in the passage I am presenting below to my experience of contemplating my photographs.  Swamiji writes:

"What is especially significant for me involves the central section, the inner sanctum of the Indian temple, where the deity is housed.  This is known as the garbha-grha, the "womb house," a name that implies for me a gestation of the grace that is imparted to worshipers who enter this sacred space.  It is usually a square room (the square being the symbol of perfection) with no windows, patterned probably after the caves to which yogis traditionally retire to perform their spiritual practices.  It also represents the cave of the heart, the innermost sanctum in each of us--the place where we, too, retire to have the darshan [inner vision] of our deity, our innermost being."

*          *          *

Sutra 8  Darshan
"We can describe a darsana as a philosophy, as a point of view, a way of understanding ourselves and interpreting the world.  The word literally means "seeing" and "observing" as well as "examining" and "contemplating. . .  Sutra 8 tells us that [the countless philosophical systems] are nothing but varied phases of Consciousness. . .  What truly matters on the path of knowledge is developing what Baba Muktananda used to call "right understanding," the comprehension that all this is Consciousness. . .  Each path of knowledge was necessary for gaining the ultimate knowledge."

"Gurumayi says that on the path of knowledge, the instructions we receive are not meant to be understood easily; they're meant to stop the mind and inspire contemplation."

". . .  recalling the teaching contained in sutra 5--that all our perceptions vibrate with the light of sakti--we can apply the other face of discrimination, affirmation:  All this is a creation of Consciousness.  All this is the vibration of my own Self.  The projections I'm seeing are full of bliss."

"At the heart of the term Darsana stands a mystical and devotional experience, an inner vision of the One beneath outer appearances.  As a philosophical point of view, [Darshan] allows us to dissolve the limited perceptions that stand in the way of divine vision."

*          *          *

Sutra 9  Destiny: The Choice is Ours
This sutra involves some complicated elaborations on how we have contracted our awareness from the Self into a separated, individual, ego-oriented relationship to the world.  Thus when we perform actions in the (mis)understanding that we are the doer, the creators of our actions, we manifest a growing collection of karmas that keep us coming back into the cycles of samsara, the play of consciousness.  Yogis who long to break free of this self-perpetuating cycle eventually begin spiritual practices and perform actions with the awareness that the Lord is the doer of all actions.  To illustrate the teachings of this sutra, Swami Shantananda presents a fascinating "fairy tale" entitled "The Story of Queen Lila."  It's a long but truly remarkable story which I will not address here.  As an artist, the concept of non-doership introduced below is very important.  It involves surrender, and a willingness to let the creative process do what It needs to do.  When there is detachment within the creative process, I have found that there is a profound sense of being an active participant in something truly great though inexplicable and outside of time.     

"Of all of the themes developed in Saivism, the chain of our actions and their effects--which is what leads to transmigration--is arguably the most pertinent to our lives and, thus, the most controversial and also the most often discussed.  This is what's know as destiny--or fate or, if you prefer, karma."

"I am the one who creates my world. . . . Contraction is the sine qua non in the experience of creation, and the fact that we do not remember having chosen to take it on is just a part of the play."

"According to [the Saivite sages] the yogi who is able to perform actions with a sense of non-doership--that is, without wanting benefit from them--receives a very special benefit: the experience of being aware of the spanda, the creative vibration of sakti."

"Consciousness is free from the boundaries created by the principles that govern time and the natural order of space and form, cause and effect.  For Citi, everything exists.  It simply exists.  The present is eternal.  In other words, the events and living beings of the universe, with the entire gamut of possibilities and variations, are "happening" in Consciousness simultaneously.  The universe is an apparition, without a sequence of cause and effect . . .  right now, as you are reading this, you are living the totality of all your "past" and "future" lives!  

The Soul and the Body". . . What is it that transmigrates?  The mind."  We think that the soul is "inside" the body.  According to Kashmir Saivism, the body exists within the soul, which contains as well as penetrates it."

*          *          *

Sutra 10  The five Acts of the Lord
"With these five acts--creation, maintenance, dissolution, concealment, and the bestowal of grace--the Lord carries out everything that happens in the universe."

"Concealment is the reason that grace exists: Grace is the solution to concealment.  By means of grace, the Lord ends the concealment he has imposed on himself.  He comes to the recognition that his own Consciousness penetrates the cycles of the universe.  In other words, grace resolves--or dissolves--the illusion of duality inherent in the individuals's universe."

The Guru's Grace
"In Saivism, the Guru is viewed not as an individual, male or femal, but as a sakti, as the very power that bestows anugraha [grace].  The scriptures state emphatically that the power of grace is not the body or mind or personality of the spiritual master, but is divine will itself, performing the role of spiritual master through that particular vehicle.  In other words, grace takes form as the Guru for the sake of the student.  In the yogic scripture Kularnava tantra . .  the Lord Siva tells his disciple, the Goddess Parvati:

O my Beloved, Siva is really all pervading, subtle, above the mind, without features, imperishable, of the form of space, eternal, infinite.  How can such a one be worshiped?  That is why, out of compassion for his creatures, Siva takes the form of the Guru, and when worshiped with devotion, O Goddess, he grants liberation and fulfillment.

"As I said earlier . . . the Lord wills himself to remain separate from his plenitude, and so it follows that it can be dissolved only by another act of divine will.  This is what happens when we receive saktipata-diksa [the descent of grace, initiation]."  shaktipat   Also, to read about my shaktipat initiation with Gurumayi click here, #13

"We ourselves perform the five acts of the Lord, including the bestowal of grace. . .  [sutra 14] We can confer grace on ourselves through our efforts to pierce the shadow of appearances with the firm understanding I am Siva. . .  I am the one who performs the five acts of God. . ." 

*          *          *

Sutra 11  The Five Acts of Perception
Illumination--the first moment of perception: "We give expression to the creative act of Siva through the process of abhasana.  Do you remember the abhasas, those sparkles of conscious light that flash forth all forms in the universe?  [sutra 3]  In exactly the same manner, through our own senses, we project the objects that we perceive, causing them to appear before us. . . It is said that when Siva opens his eyes, the universe comes into being; the same happens with us when we activate our sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste. . .  The sensations that fill our days are abhasas, reproductions of the divine power creating our own universe.  Our sense perceptions are beams of sakti. . . The saktis appear from their origin, the Self. . ."

Enjoyment:  "As you continue to witness the re-creations of the senses, you are maintaining them.  Thus you maintain within yourself the objects of your universe, performing the act of enjoyment (rakti).  . . . Rakti, as a practice of yoga, occurs when we enjoy the play of the senses being aware that these experiences both arise from and are maintained in the Self." 

Inner Knowing:  "Next comes vimarsana, an inner knowing, or knowledge.  Here we disengage the sense, yet the awareness of the object persists within us.  This . . . is the yogic equivalent to Siva's act of dissolution, for when Siva withdraws the universe, metaphorically closing his eyes, he folds it into his own being."

"The Saiva scriptures tell us that all circumstances and objects, even those we might ordinarily consider to be unpleasant, annoying, or threatening, hold the essential and sweet flavor of oneness. . . vimarsana is the practice of acute attentiveness in which one lifts the veil of separation, glimpsing [the oneness of] Consciousness at the moment of perception." 

Swamiji continues with a personal story in which he experienced oneness while looking at an original painting by Vermeer in an art museum.  He writes:  "The effect it had on me was to stop my mind.  My entire body was inundated by delight and wonderment.  Even after I walked on, I continued for a while to feel the effect of the picture, recreating for myself my own joy in it. . .  At this point, my mind was still free of interpretation, but before very many minutes had passed, I began to digress, thinking . . . The superfluities of information flooded my mind and buried the feeling of pure joy.  How many times in our day do we have experiences of this sort!"

*          *          *

Sutra 12  The Creative Power of Sound and Words
"To comprehend the full power of [the letters of the sanskrit alphabet, the words made up of the fifty letters, etc.] we must begin once again at the beginning, with the creation of the universe. . .    how creation manifests vibrationally--through the power of sound, known as supreme speech, para-vac. . . . Each of the saktis [letters] is a matrika, a term translated as 'mother,' because out of the womb of matrika springs the created universe."

"[We fail] to understand the power matrika has in our lives--the way we get lost in the meanings of the words we hear, both from others and from inside ourselves.  There is a whole constellation of meanings around words; these meanings bring forth responses from us; and these responses tether us to the illusions of the world more effectively than any rope."

"The creation of matter from sound is described by any number of India's philosophers.  In Kashmir Saivism the fundamental reality is viewed as a pulsating Citishakti who projects the universe of forms from her own exquisite vibration.  This perspective is not unique to Saivism:

In the beginning was the Word:the Word was with God and the Word was God.  ~
Let there be Light . . . dry land . . . vegetation, trees bearing fruit . . .

"Divine intention moves into words, and the words give rise to concrete objects.  This biblical image is a metaphor for the creative process that Saivism describes in four stages."


"Para-vac . . . means literally 'supreme speech,' the voice of God."  [Kashmir Saivism states] Para-vac is Consciousness.  It is Self-awareness spontaneously arisen. . .  the highest freedom . . . The pulsing radiance is pure Being, unqualified by time and space.  As the essence of all things it is said to be the heart of the Supreme Lord."  

"Para-vac contains all letters, all words, all objects, all beings--everything that is to compose the created universe.  Para-vac, immersed in delight, vibrates subtly as aham, 'I am,' the very pulsation of the Self.  This is equivalent to saying that at this highest level, speech and the objects named by speech are undivided and indivisible, coexisting as a vibrating power that is . . . the totality of sound that is Siva [God, the Lord, Bhairava].  The totality of sound is the source of everything and is simultaneously contained in everything.  Of course, this vibration cannot be perceived, as there is nothing at this level either to hear or to be heard.  All of creation, and the vibrational sounds associated with it, exists in the vast silence of mahasunya, the Great Void.  It is from this silence that they will emerge into boisterous activity."


"Pusyanti-vac, Visionary Speech:  Consciousness manifests as a desire to perceive objects as separate and distinct from itself--that is, duality.  Visionary speech is the cosmic memory in which all forms are reabsorbed and retained during the dissolution of the universe, and from whence these 'remembered' expressions emanate as the universe is re-created. . ."


"Madyama-vac, Intermediary Speech, or middle. . .  An intermediary experience in which the world is perceived as distinctly separate from the words that describe it.  It is in the 'middle' between unity and diversity. . .  Though we 'hear' and even 'see' these mental images, ideas, and feelings embodied in words, they are happening on the conscious screen of our intellect and are not yet 'out there' as when we perceive objects with the help of our senses."

"This is the source of our thoughts and of the discursive mind itself--and along with the thoughts come the objects designated, and vice versa. . .  By making these indentifications and associations we begin to structure the way we understand the world and ourselves."


"Vaikhari-vac, Quite Solid Speech . . . the level of speech that pertains to the body: the spoken word. . . The mental structures with which we organize letters, words, and sentences into meaningful communication are inherent in us like archetypal forces."

"Underlying all the levels of speech is the great light of Conscoiusness, origin of both the words and the objects they name.  Thus all the forms of speech carry weight, for every level is penetrated by the highest, by para-vac."

Note: Swamiji concludes this sutra with a discussion of the power of mantra, which are words enlivened with the living sakti of a true yogic saint or Sadguru, to support the spiritual practices of devotes.  I am skipping over this part of the commentary on sutra 12 for it is outside the scope of my photography project.

*          *          *

Sutra 13  Paths of Inward-Facing Contemplation
"Once we have the discernment necessary to observe ourselves creating, sustaining, dissolving, concealing, and giving grace to our world [the five acts of the Lord] then our own mind turns toward itself in contemplation and ascends to its natural state.  The mind changes the direction of its gaze and becomes Supreme Consciousness (citi) once again."

"When I look inward my mind becomes calm.  Then this serene mind allows me to enter . . . a place where I'm in intimate contact with the inner me, the silent resonance of 'I am." . . . Turning within is the essential gesture of all spiritual practice. . . The mind recognizes its own nature as citi, as pure Consciousness. . . . In other words, the mind stops identifying with the thoughts and feelings--formed of the words it produces incessantly . . ."

"The main effort on this path is to let go of all traces of 'mental activitiy' and to enter again into the vast space that is avikalpa, 'free from thought.' . . . With this movement, we dissolve the binding effect of matrika-sakti at its very source, the profound silence of the unuttered divine speech."

"What I would like to emphasize here is the purification of the mind, which Baba Muktananda used to say is the true purpose of spiritual practice.  For once the mind is pure, we do indeed live in the awareness that all our perceptions and actions are expression of the five cosmic acts of Siva."

*          *          *

Sutra 14  The Self is Always Apparent
". . .the very act of perception demonstrates beyond a doubt who is having the experience.  We are Siva, the only one who possibly can take in what he himself has created.  This is why we are such great devourers of experience. . . . Contemplating the nature of our own perception is the key to recognizing ourselves as one with everything."

"As a yogi gets closer to his goal, the flames of Consciousness grow higher and glow with greater intensity forming . . . a circle of luminosity that envelopes the triad of perception--knower, knowledge, and known.  The yogi then perceives the entire universe as that luminosity. . .  As we know, all forms and thoughts are nothing but Consciousness.  The fire is the light of your own Self. . .  this great light consumes all manifoldness, all binding thoughts in the same way the flames of the yajna [yoga fire ritual] reduces all the offerings to one mass of ashes." 

*          *          *

Sutra 15  Within Us, the Entire Universe
"The very nature of yoga is inner expansion.  As we go within, our own consciousness begins to extend beyond the body and the mind and to take into itself all that it encounters.  When this assimilation is complete [everything] appears exactly the same as the Self. . . one's own being. . . you see your world--your friends, your own home, your work--bathed in the light of God."

Swamiji tells a story of a woman who was taking a meditation program.  Her mind became quiet and she could feel her awareness expanding beyond the limits of her body. . . beyond the meditation hall . . . beyond the streets outside the building . . . beyond Cananda . . . beyond North America . . .

"When this woman's awareness had expanded to the point where she experienced that the Earth in its entirety was contained within her own Self, she noticed that the planet seemed quite small to her and that it was nothing for her to place it into her own heart. . .  Her consciousness continued expanding through the galaxies toward an astonishingly infinite universe.  Everything seemed minute, and finally she held the whole of the universe in her heart.  At that point a question crossed her mind.  "If all the universe exists within my heart, who am I?"  The answer came immediately . . . "I am Siva, the Lord, the true Self.  I am infinite, eternal, and unlimited.  I am pure Consciousness.  Only I exist.  The universe is a play of light and shadow within my Self.  I am the only Truth."

*          *          *

Sutra 16  The Bliss of Liberation
"Instead of producing a sense of separation, the purified senses of an enlightened yogi perceive the Great Light shining within all created objects.  Each perception vibrates with the ecstasy of the Self, enjoying the world of its own creation.  What is perceived in the mind and what is perceived outside are no longer two different realities.  Citta, the mind, has become citi, Consciousness."

"The world-embracing state of one whose mind has fully grasped it's divinity is described by the great Saivite saint Utpaladeva:  'I am He,' All this is my own splendor . . ."

Swamiji concludes sutra 16 with a sharing of his own personal experience, his glimpse of the state of an enlightened being.  During one meditation he saw in his mind an image of Gurumayi, his spiritual teacher and Meditation Master.  After a while he felt himself become one with the image of her.  He then could experience her exalted state, see through her eyes.  He writes: 

"I saw people, leafy trees, buildings of some sort--everything was threaded through with an intricate web of delicate, conscious vibrations.  These vibrations seemed to be the basic material from which everything was fashioned, and since I could see those vibrations as well as the forms they took, it appeared that the world was there and, at the same time, not there.  Each form appeared to be made of frosted glass, a faint luminosity that was a reflection of my own inner light.  I felt a connection with the whole of creation.  It seemed as if everything was a part of me. . . . In fact, I seemed to 'pervade'--with my awareness, with my own inner light--everything that I perceived."

*          *          *

Sutra 17  Expansion of the Center (Universal Consciousness)
"During the act of creation, by virtue of its irrepressible will, universal Consciousness chooses to hide its essential nature which is perfect freedom. . .  The power that supports spiritual transformation [prana-sakti] remains latent in a human being until it has been activated or awakened. . . This dormant force . . . is what we call Kundalini."

"As Gurumayi has said:  When you receive shaktipat, divine initiation from the Guru, your kundalini energy is awakened within.  Your eyes are opened to an inner world that you never knew existed.  You see familiar things in a new way. . . The miraculous begins to envelop your existence; and you cannot tell if all this beauty is coming from the inside out, or the outside in."

"As the prana-sakti expands . .  . it moves into the heart and the higher cakraswhere our experience of such qualities as compassion, love, devotion, eloquence, and poetic inspiration also expands.  When the sakti moves in the cakras, it naturally purifies them, removing energy blocks and revealing what has been hidden from our own awareness."

Note: a cakra ("wheel") is a center of energy located in the subtle system of the human being.  There are six major centers which lie within the susmna nadi, the central channel of the subtle body.

[The final destination of the yogi, the expansions of the center] ". . . is  said to culminate in the state in which one's awareness roams through the vast space of Consciousness, perfectly sealed in the bliss that dissolves all bondage." 

*          *          *

Sutra 18  Approaches for Expanding the Center (meditation techniques)
"The first and simplest method for expanding the center is the dissolution of thoughts. . . with practice and in time we become habituated to the experience of our true identity as profound inner silence: not I am something or another, but simply I am.  The more one rests in a state free from thought, the more the center expands."

"The second practice is the contraction and expansion of one's sakti. . .  Here is what Gurumayi says about this 'contraction' of sakti and its benefits:  Turning within is called yoga. . .  It makes [the seeker] understand the true purpose of the senses.  It uncovers the glory hidden within him.  It enables him to go deep into the cave of his own heart.  It shows him the way to unite heaven and earth. . ."

The Space Between"The fourth method . .  is one of watching--simply watching--for the beginning point or the ending point of the breath, the pause that occurs when the breath itself 'turns around.'  It's the point at which one breath has ceased and the next has not yet begun."

"When Baba Muktananda referred to this practice, which he often did, he would speak about the beginning and ending points as if they were one, calling them both 
hrdaya.  He writes:  Here, 'heart' does not refer to the physical organ.  The heart is the place where the breath merges, inside and outside.  In reality, these two places are one.  The duality of inner and outer space exists only because you have the sense of your physical body.  The moment you transcend your body-conscousness, the inner and the outer spaces merge." 

Swamiji continues:  " . . . there is great attainment to be found in this space between the breaths. . .  In fact, the 'point at the beginning and the end' can also be the pause between two thoughts, two emotions, two physical movements, two states of mind.  It can refer to an interstice that appears within any dichotomous activity.  Any of these spaces that are bracketed by two actions can serve as an entry point into the vast realm of Consciousness."

Swamiji quotes a text from Kashmir Saivism:  When a yogi mentally becomes one with the incomparable joy of song and other objects, then of such a concentrated yogi, there is identity with that incomparable joy because he becomes one with it.  

Swamiji shares another one of his experiences, this time in relation to hearing Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 5:  "As I listened I could actually sense the music undulating through space and entering my ears.  I could feel the sweetness literally streaming from the music and blending with the sweetness that had already arisen in me.  It was as if the inner delight were enjoying the outer delight of that beautiful sound."

"In this astonishing state of open-eyed meditation, I looked at the wall in front of me where there was a painting depicting a festival in some historic time.  I'd always loved that painting but now I was perceiving the very vibrations of the colors and the lines of this much loved scene actually move across the space of the room and enter my eyes.  The rapture of my love for this painting seemed to merge with the rapture inside me until it was no longer the painting that I delighted in but the beauty of my own joy.  I could feel that the joy awakened through my senses was taking place simultaneously at the core of my being."

*          *          *

Sutra 19  Samadhi and Its Imprint 
"For me the key term in Sutra 19 is nityodita, 'eternally emergent."  This term reminds us that the joy we long for is always accessible and that, for a yogi, it isn't enough to experience joy sporadically.  The goal is to become permanently established in that state of joy, to have joy coming forth from within oneself constantly and for all time."

"Samadhi is the state in which the discursive mind unites with--becomes one with--Consciousness.  Samadhi is the fusion of the individual 'I' which is embodied in the mind, and the eternal 'I' of Siva [the Self].  It is the state of total integration."

"Samadhi is a natural function of the mind. . .  it is the stabilized and quiet mind--that lets go of delusion and thereby attains the state of samadhi.  In other words, it is the mind that  experiences itself as God.  It is the mind that realizes its own identity with the Self.  A purified mind is the mirror on which Siva reflects his perfect light, the light that brims with his overflowing bliss."

"[The sutra tells us] . . . by returning to the imprint that our experiences of samadi have left on our waking consciousness  . .  we are all able to learn how to remain in that state."

"The path of pratyabhijna, the path of recognition, is this repeated remembrance of our own highest nature. . .  meditating again and again on our identity with supreme Consciousness.  Samadhi is both the goal and the means to the goal."

Open-eyed Absorption
"In time, when the yogi's practice of meditation matures, he begins to experience unmilana-samadhi, open-eyed absorption. . . he opens his eyes and his awareness remains absorbed in the Self even though he is in the state that comes after meditation with his senses fully operating. . . The process stabilizes when the yogi's perception no longer oscillates from the outer samadhi to inner samadhi, but remains steady.  Then the yogi experiences the Great Light penetrating the exterior just as he experiences it in the interior; he is in the same state regardless of whether his eyes are open or closed."

"[To the Siddha, a fully realized yogi] . . . the world appears as a reflection in the vast field of Consciousness, as if the forms were and yet, at the same time, were not manifest. . . the yogi feels himself in the changeless space beyond the reach of the continuous sequence of the creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the world.  Anchored in this center of deep silence and complete tranquility, freed from the whirlwind of vikalpas [movements of the mind]he witnesses the sequenced movement, krama, of Siva's cosmic acts, with the expansion and contraction of events, times, spaces, and forms that compose the experience of the world."

"Here the two forms of absorption in the Self, nimilanan and unmilanan, unit in one continuous flow of divine knowledge in which all traces of differentiation disappear. . .  In every moment he knows I am God.  Gurumayi speaks of this glorious unity awareness:

Pratimilana is the song of the soul.  The soul wants to be reunited. . . .  I am Siva.  My body is Siva.  Everything about me is Siva.  Siva is inside, Siva is outside.  I am Siva.  Siva is me. . .  When the heart aches, it aches with the longing to be one with Siva.  It is this awareness that makes it possible.

Then Swamiji quotes Baba Muktananda who speaks of the blue light of Consciousness.  

God has granted me the vision by which I see everything with a slightly bluish tinge.  In India there is a plant that grows wild in the field, and it produces small, light blue flowers.  That is the color of my eyes.  In the scriptures this is called the lotion of Consciousness.   Tukaram Maharaj said that when this lotion of Consciousness was applied to his eyes, he could really see.  First his vision was limited, and then it expanded.  When it expanded he could not see the world as world any longer.  He could not see people as sinners or as wicked; he could see only God's light everywhere, and everyone appeared to him to be the light of God.

*          *          *

Sutra 20  The Recognition of Our Own Heart 
"Utpaladeva, having attained the goal of yoga, says that he wishes to serve by sharing his insight with others.  Everything comes from one's recognition of the Great Lord, Siva."

"Recognition arises when our cognitive understanding of the Lord's glorious nature and our mystical experience of our own Self come together in a flash, in a moment of revelation, and we know: I am God."

"Now we have come full circle, returning to the evocative term that provides a name for  the core of teachings we've been contemplating: pratyabhijina. . . which clearly conveys a return to knowledge."

". . .in the universe there is one knower, one knowledge, and one known.  Pratyabhijina, then, is the knowledge of the knower turning back to know itself.  The light of the Self reflects on itself, always turning to its own rapturous presence as the only knowledge that exists.  In the impeccable space of the heart . . . every action is an act of worship, and all perceptions are forms of meditation."  

"As a yogic practice, pratyabhijna involves a persistent and steady return of our awareness, over and over again, to the ever present movement of the spanda that vibrates in all our actions and all our thoughts. . . ." 

"The most significant of the various practices . . . is the remembrance of the essential 'I am" that pulsates as our very heart."

*                   *                  *

*                   *                  *

on Six 

Photography & Yoga     Image #4     Symmetrical Photograph:  Window Curtains, light and shadow   

I have decided to publish at least one new photograph within each of the Photography and Yoga project chapters along with a written commentary on each of those images.  Since I am in no way making photographs to illustrate my texts for this project, for that would be impossible for me, I think, the situation I am facing here in this project as a visual artist is well put in this excerpt from Sutra #6:   

"Flashes of artistic inspiration arise as an impulse directly from the Self, and yet it is the psychic instrument [the mind, it's thinking faculty, its ego, its intellect] that notices these insights and inventions, that remembers them and finds ways to give them expression."  

It seems to me surrendering to my Creative Process yields the best results.  I put myself at its service and watch what happens.  Then if I can link the image to the texts for this project I will do my best not to be too embarrassingly obvious about the juxtapositions.  My mind knows less than my heart.

Contemplation vs Commentary
I should clarify something here: there is a very big difference between commenting on a photograph and the contemplation of an image.  Contemplation involves surrender, and listening to the heart which is the realm of perfect silence and stillness.  I know this appears to be a paradoxical or contradictory statement, but the fact is, what I need to learn from my photographs has everything to do with their origin, which is, if I am being true to my creative process, the heart.   Commentary, on the other hand, is peripheral information, mind stuff that is not without interest, but lacks the deep resonance of silence, that is to say, the meaning of the heart.  What I can say about a photograph is news from me, the photographer.  What is felt but inexplicable, not-sayable but somehow known, is news from the Universe, i.e., the heart.    

Mirrors and Reflections
Sutra 5 tells us that our world, that is to say, the world we see, is a reflection of how we perceive the world; what we see reflects back to us our thoughts, our feelings, our interpretations.  In short, Supreme Consciousness takes the form of our perception.  Indeed, the rather long commentary in Sutra 2 is about mirrors and reflections:  

"Citi is the mirror and the reflection is her creation . . . Citi's universe, of course, is not the reflection of another reality; it is a projection of her own being. . . All takes place within Consciousness, projected onto a portion of her own being.  The diverse forms of creation with all their play are not different from Consciousness or from each other."

I had an extraordinary experience that relates to this teaching while I was standing before the vast space of the Grand Canyon.  I actually witnessed my perception of the world as being a projection from within my own being onto the screen of consciousness.  You are welcome to read my personal story.   click here and read Story #1 

Regarding the above photograph 
Having introduced this section with the above words, then, I realize that though I love the image #3 above, I have perhaps too little to say about it.  That the image nearly silences me is a good thing, but of very little interest to you . . . I imagine.  

The source image from which I constructed the symmetrical photograph was light and shadow falling across some laced curtains which were hanging over a window in our house.  There is a sense of pulsating expansion in the image.  That is to say, the image seems to enlarge and project out from its center.  The pulsating rings of light and shadow suggest an ever widening expansion . . . like the circular waves that form and spread out over the still surface of a bottomless, infinitely large lake when a stone is tossed into the water.  ~  Also, perhaps there is some visual referencing of a compass in the lines that intersect and surround the image.  ~  Where are we going? then, if this image is serving as our directional guide?

*          *          *

                                                Photography & Yoga     Image #5     Symmetrical Photograph:  Bathroom Mirror  

Speaking of mirrors and reflections . . .  I thought of this image above (#4) as I read in Sutra 7  Swamiji's personal contemplations about his experiences in Indian temples.  He mentions the inner sanctum of the temple as being a square space: indeed, many of my photographs over the years have been made in the square format; more importantly, though, when I truly contemplate my most numinous photographs it feels as if I am entering a sacred space, an "inner sanctum," which is understood in Siddha Yoga to be the silent "cave of the heart."  Many temples in India have at their center a Shiva Lingam, and the image above has some formal resemblance to lingams and temples.  The source image for this symmetrical photograph was a reflection in a mirror which was inside a man's bathroom at a nearby university.  In sharing this information, there is admittedly some humor to be found in that which was photographed.  Nonetheless, the image does have, for me, a numinous quality, a presence which I honor and consider worthy of contemplation

I will repeat Swamiji's words once again from sutra 7: "What is especially significant for me involves the central section, the inner sanctum of the Indian temple, where the deity is housed.  This is known as the garbha-grha, the "womb house," a name that implies for me a gestation of the grace that is imparted to worshipers who enter this sacred space.  It is usually a square room (the square being the symbol of perfection) with no windows, patterned probably after the caves to which yogis traditionally retire to perform their spiritual practices.  It also represents the cave of the heart, the innermost sanctum in each of us--the place where we, too, retire to have the darshan [inner vision] of our deity, our innermost being."  

I have a recurring meditation experience in which I begin to experience wave upon wave of light pouring over me.  The light is like a heavy white liquid.  It is something like a ritual bathing, and I am the oval form of a lingam receiving this wash of light.  Waves upon waves of light pour over my smooth lingam form, and each of the waves brings a gentle feeling of bliss that permeates my entire being.  I interpret this rain of grace, as the light of my own Divine energy, or shakti, the light of my own Self.

*          *          *

                                                                 Photography & Yoga     Image #6     Symmetrical Photograph:  Trees, driveway, garden hose, grass 

In sutra 2 Swamiji writes:  "In other words, Reality is simultaneously transcendent and immanent: it is that which is beyond the universe, and at the same time that which contains the universe.  Taken together these two inseparable aspects comprise the totality and fullness of Reality.  The difference between these two seemingly contradictory descriptions is a matter of perspective.  It all depends on how you look at it."

All my symmetrical photographs begin with a real-world image as its source.   From the source image I construct the final photograph, such as in the one above, image #5, in which that one image is repeated four times and conjoined such that the one image is mirroring itself both vertically and horizontally.  The process yields a visual transformation of the originating source image into one that could be described as abstract or non-representational.  

This fascinating visual state-of-affairs is something of a metaphor for the the idea that Reality is simultaneously transcendent and immanent; that which contains the universe and that which is beyond the universe.  The reality of the photograph is simply that it is a picture, but a picture that has come with grace and which is a carrier and transmitter of grace.  That is to say, at least for me, the picture has presence; and that presence has the power to potentially change the contemplator of the image.  Again as Swamiji writes:  "It is only a matter of perspective, a matter of how you look at it."  

When I contemplate the image above, I don't see trees, driveways, garden hoses, little sections of grass; my seeing turns into an inner feeling which opens my heart.  It is as if the presence animating the image connects with some living thing inside me, and in that connection becomes known is some nonverbal, subtle way . . .  or at least consciously recognized, to take the word from Swamiji's book title.   

"A human being has the freedom to become anything. . . .  God lies hidden in the heart of every human being, and everyone has the power to realize that."   Perhaps it is appropriate to say that my heart that's the source of the image: "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.'" 

*          *          *

                                                                  Photography & Yoga     Image #7     Symmetrical Photograph:  Lampshade shadows

All of Sutra 3 is for me fascinating and mysterious.  The entire text of the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam is of course about perception and creation.  I have selected a few brief excerpts from Swamiji's text that I feel relates to the image #6 above:  

"Each pulsation of spanda creates, maintains, and destroys everything."  ~  "Everything in life is a projection, a flashing forth, of Reality." ~  "Each moment of our perception is composed of a series of abhasas, pulsating with tiny consecutive modifications that give us the impression of movement."  

The symmetrical photograph above was constructed from a source image which included a small fragmented part of a lampshade, and its multiple, fading shadows which were being projected upon the wall behind it.  For me, there is a visual pulsation in the image, a sense of "flashing on and off," a sense of being witness to a visual transformation--both of creation and dissolution--of a shadow image.  And it all is happening in a space and time that is at once suspended, luminous and silent.  At the center of the image there is a vibrating horizontal form; it's darker in tone from all the other tones in the image.  It could be the vibratory source (sound?) of the entire, radiant-radiating image.

*          *          *

                                                            Photography & Yoga     Image #8     Symmetrical Photograph: Light streaks on ceiling

In Sutra 5 Swamiji has writes about a meditation experience that sheds light on the teachings from the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam.  Although he does not use the term "Blue Pearl" in his telling of the meditation experience, Baba Muktananda and Gurumayi write extensively about in their teachings as the source of everything.   The image above has a blue cast to it, and at it's very center there is a blue diamond.  If I stretch my imagination a little, I can see the image as a "flashing forth" of the abhasas with, at its very center, the Blue Pearl.     

Swami Shantananda writes:  "After I came out of meditation and contemplated what I'd seen, I was awestruck by what it implied: that everything in my mind . . . is a form of blue light. . .  It was the blue light of Consciousness I was seeing, God himself, and the joy that I experienced was his joy--or my own divine joy in watching my creation unfold within me, a creation made of my own thoughts, my own vikalpas.  These appearances were abhasas, the playful flashing of manifestation on the impeccable screen of citi." 

Baba Muktananda writes in his book Meditate:  The tiny blue light, the light of the Self, we call the Blue Pearl.  ~  The blue pearl is the most intimate body of the soul, and it is fascinatingly beautiful.  As meditation deepens, one begins to see it sparkling and scintillating in the topmost spiritual center, the sahasrara.  . . .  The Blue Pearl is the size of a sesame seed, but in reality it is so vast that it contains the entire universe. . .  The light of the Blue Pearl lights up our faces and our hearts.   ~  The Blue Pearl is the abode of God . . .  

*          *          *

                                                            Photography & Yoga     Image #9     Symmetrical Photograph: Light streaks on ceiling

I associate this image above (#7, whose source photograph is a streak of light that I saw projected onto the ceiling of our living room) to Sutra 12, which addresses the power of sound and the origin of words and all creation.  The streak of light becomes in its symmetrical transformation like the blades of a fan or parts of a cosmic machine that makes the primordial sound OM.  

Sutra 12 excerpts:  "We must begin once again at the beginning, with the creation of the universe. . .  how creation manifests vibrationally--through the power of sound, known as supreme speech, para-vac. . . . Each of the saktis [letters of the sanskrit alphabet] is a matrika, a term translated as 'mother,' because out of the womb of matrika springs the created universe."  

"The creation of matter from sound is described by any number of India's philosophers.  In Kashmir Saivism the fundamental reality is viewed as a pulsating Citishakti who projects the universe of forms from her own exquisite vibration.  

"Para-vac . . . means literally 'supreme speech,' the voice of God." . . . The pulsing radiance is pure Being, unqualified by time and space.  As the essence of all things, it is said to be the heart of the Supreme Lord."  

". . . at this highest level, speech and the objects named by speech are undivided and indivisible, coexisting as a vibrating power that is . . . the totality of sound that is Siva [God, the Lord, Bhairava].  The totality of sound is the source of everything and is simultaneously contained in everything."

In Siddha Yoga the word OM is said to be the primordial sound.  Gurumayi said:   "In the beginning was the word."  The Vedas say, "In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was Vak, or the Word; and the Word is Brahman." . . . The Word is the Absolute. ~  What is the word the Vedas talk about?  They say that the primordial word is OM.  ~  In the beginning was the sound OM. . .  The sound OM is the womb of all literature.  It carries within itself everything in this world. . .  ~  You carry so much within yourself . . . All that you need to do is tap the source and release the sound in every cell in the body.   ~  When you chant OM you can actually experience it as timeless, ageless . . . as you go deeper and deeper into the sound, you can't tell when it began.  As this sound permeates the entire body, you feel it has no beginning, it has no middle, it has no end.  ~  in the Kathopanishad it is said, "Without doubt, this word is itself the Absolute, this word indeed is the supreme attainment.  For him who knows this word, all desires are fulfilled.  It is complete."  ~  All worlds come out of this sound OM. . . This sound can pierce the mind, the intellect, and the heart.  ~  All these things are made up of the same sound . . . it is the Supreme Consciousness which governs all names and forms.  That within which names and forms is Brahman, the Absolute.  That is the immortal, that is the Self.  from a 1985 talk by Gurumayi published in Darshan #73

I had a dream one night (in the early 1980's, several years before I met Gurumayi and became a student of Siddha Yoga) in which I found myself inside a dark, mysterious  space filled with huge, medieval looking machine parts.  I think they were gears; they were turning, very slowly. . .   Perhaps I was inside something like a gigantic clock, that is to say a clock of cosmic proportions.  The parts of the machine were suspended in a dark vast space with points of starlight visible all around.  

I became aware of a humming sound; a very deep, low frequency vibration.  It began to increase in volume or intensity of vibration until the sound shook my whole body, my very being . . . and woke me up.  As I vividly remembered the dream, I became filled with a living energy and the presence of the numinous. 

In Siddha Yoga, one approach to meditation that is taught is to silently repeat the sound OM along with one's breathing, aligning the in-breath and the out-breath with the silent repetition of the sound OM.  The goal of meditation is to reach that silent point of origin, within one's own self, from which the sound of OM spontaneously emerges.  In the photograph above, the white dot in the center of the image could be contemplated as that point of origin of the sound OM. 

This part 3 of the Yoga & Photography project was 
announced in the "Latest Addition" section 
of my website's Welcome Page on
July 4, 2015

The text above including excerpts from Swami Shantanada's book
Splendor of Recognition was published in a slightly  
changed form in an earlier project on my 
website:  Part 3 of my project  
The Creative Process

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.