It was in 1987, the first time I visited India, that I heard about KHEL. Dr. Arya, my meditation teacher, and his wife, Lalita Arya, known to many as Ammaji, introduced me to Mr. Chatterjee, who was the manager of a charity that served children of disadvantaged lepers in the area around Dehradun, India. Here’s the heart touching story of how the charity got started, in the words of Saumya Arya Haas, one of Dr. and Mrs. Arya’s daughters:
My father was originally from India and my mother of Indian descent. She grew up on the edge of the Amazonian Rainforest in Guyana, South America. I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Although we called our mom “Ammaji” (Hindi for mother), I had little direct experience with India until 1981, when we relocated to my father’s hometown in the Himalayan foothills. Dehradun was not the industrious city it is today; rather a sleepy settlement sprawled in the lush shadow of the mountains. Cows napped in the streets, grandly indifferent to passing cars, and the electricity was surprising only when it worked. The nearest international long-distance phone was a six-hour drive. Everything was an adventure.Add a comment >
This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studying Theology, her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
The Ocean has many currents, yet they are all Water. On its surface we find a variety of diverse waves, which according to the conditions in which they appear (such as times/tides and circumstances) vary tremendously.
It is the same with human beings. Basically we share one existence, there is only one divine energy (call it what you may). This view is today shared by many scientists as well as Mystics, Sages, Yogis and wise Ones across the globe. The Siddha and Avadhuta, Bhagavan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri is one such “Voice of the Self”. He said: Reach to your core, the sense of distinction is not the Truth. ….there is “same-ness”… burn up the idea of “you and I”….no separateness! Yet this “Sameness”, this unified field of conscious energy…has currents. Across the world these have been named the Five Elements, or five energy fields.
Each existence, each human being is a unique mixture of these five. Any mixtures has one dominant ingredient, accordingly we talk about constitutions. So each of us has a constitution with which we came into this world and which expresses accordingly in the conditions and circumstances in which we live, thus accounting for the immense plurality of human beings. However, there are similarities amongst this diversity so that we can talk of certain types of people, just like we talk of certain currents in the ocean.
The Five Energy-fields we know as : Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space, accordingly we have five types of people being dominated by these energies which in a very simplified way can be said to be determined by the following characteristics: Earth: stability, security, generosity, holding all without judgement Water: flexibility, adaptability, receptivity, nourishing Fire: transforming, ascending, illuminating, joyous Air: Transparent, clarity/truthful, movement, connectivity Space: unlimited, detached, generative, holding – wisdom
This means, people who have a mixture or rather shall we say a constitution, with one of these elemental tendencies as dominant, will be influenced by these character traits. The traits determine our mental and physical tendencies, our emotional and physical make-up, even our health and potential illness. As we are “shaped” by these tendencies/energy currents…our attitude to meditation (amongst the many things in life) is also influenced by these.
So, different types of spiritual practices speak to different people, they act so to say, as doors – towards various levels and practices of Meditation. Ultimately Meditation simply will happen. Life-energy/prana/Shakti..is supremely intelligent and will find her own way to the State of Meditation, where it sinks into That “Sameness”, that One-ness which is beyond words and descriptions.
So, for a person that is dominated by , the discipline of having an upright posture is important, because the “Earth person tends to slump… to sink into herself… which blocks the energies flow-ing smoothly; especially through the frontal meridians and the spine. Furthermore having a stable base puts us right in the ‘lap and security’ of the Earth.
Earth people often lack flexibility… so if it’s easier for them, they can happy-ly sit on a chair, especially when elder. Nowhere in the scriptures (to my knowledge)it says one has to sit on the floor. However lying down is not an option. The weight of the body presses on the sacro-iliac joint and inhibits breathing apart from fostering the tendency of falling asleep! From this level of physical, material stability we can rise to subtler levels. Stable posture is a necessity for all meditators, but the Earth-person is in its “Element”.
For a while the Earth–person will be fully occupied with her body, to be-come comfortable and at ease so as to be stable and rooted here (in life as well as in posture). Relaxation of the physical body at this point is very important.
Next step is to focus or concentrate on an object; be it outer (like an object, a picture, or word /mantra, or even parts of the body. Gradually with practice focus changes from the apparent physical, to something higher… even within the body such as non-vocal mantra, the Chakras or an inner picture/visualisation etc.
Gradually one evolves from a more sense orientated nature, to a more evolved being. One will notice that the behaviour towards one-self and the people around, or even the environment will change. Our modern western society seems to have lost this simple truth. We know full well that when people have a sense of self, a point of belonging, of security in themselves, they behave differently.
It is hard to imagine somebody lashing out at society, take drugs, hitting an old lady or starting a war if they feel secure, accepted, held and loved within them-selves. We recognise these trends in ourselves and others, but can we change it? To change others we first have to change ourselves, we have to drink our own medicine; it does not work by proxy.
So for the Earth Person, it is important to work with the manifest first; she will feel attracted to a physical representation of Guru or God, or concrete ideas about behaviour, social and ethical codes. May be even to a religious frame of meditation, because it’s “safe”.
The spiritual question She has to answer is: Who am I”. In the context of the earth-dominated person and her attraction to meditation, it has one more interesting angle. To answer her core Question, she will gather knowledge, in the sense of facts. Facts on which she can rely; that give her security and stability. Once this is gained….she has great foundations to move on.
For a person that is dominatedby still the posture is important, as for all people who practice meditation.
And it’s almost un-necessary to say, that the “Water- person” like any other, benefits from the calming influence of meditation. The reason is interesting though. The core question that drives the spiritual quest of the Water-person is: Where am I coming from and where am I going… so these people are constantly likely to flow from one thing to another in order to find out. They too need to find boundaries, stability but in a different way than earth-people.
Water flows, is flexible and adapts… but needs channelling otherwise it disperses. It needs the stability of posture and the calming influence of concentration… in order to give it direction. Water needs channelling whether in nature as such or as a personal energy. Flowing must not, and cannot be stopped… so contemplation is attractive to these people.
Water-people are often highly emotional, in fact they battle with fear. No wonder, as every-time they flow to a new place, they have to let the old place (their identification with it) behind. So in order to not be held prisoner by their emotive energy …they benefit by channelling the emotions in a safe way. Thus swadhyaya, contemplation, study or chanting mantras is attractive to these people. There is activity, there is flowing, there is emotional involvement but it is channelled and made safe.
This is a good dharana (door) for people dominated by the Water-element. Another good way is chanting /or silently repeating ‘Ohm’ in conjunction with the breath, either alone or with the encouragement of a group! Be careful however, because of the ‘emotionalism,’ Water people’s devotion could become a form of self-indulgence.
They should use meditation to reduce their attachments and avoid getting caught up in the outer forms of devotion. They need to learn to go beyond the form to the formless and infinite reality. However for that they have to battle with their fears. So David Frawley advises that they are ‘particular good at meditating upon the eternal, immutable aspect of truth.’ The awareness of water as ocean increases the space of mind; it lets us swim in wider visions.
Meditation upon the void is also particularly good. ‘It can be combined with meditation upon the inner light, bringing more fire into their minds.’ Their minds are prone to rest comfortably, such contentment can easily be confused with higher states of mind.
Water-people must make sure they stay alert; as the Zen call demonstrates: ‘Attention, Attention, Attention.’ David Frawley adds: ‘They should use meditation like climbing a series of mountain peaks along a great journey, not stopping along the way, no matter how pleasant.’ (p.53)
Indeed Water- people must stay alert, alert to their own tendency to flow here and there, and in the process drown others, or disperse themselves. However if channelled…their quest to reach the Ocean, the depth of the State of Meditation will be successful- according to their capability!
There is one more concept to which the Water-person might be alert to. Because of the nature of flowing…. It has a tendency to try this sort of Meditation and this one and so on…searching for ever new ways to which to flow! In this way they easily disperse their energies. To explore is good… but not to disperse…or evaporate! Here too Attention is asked for! Balance is asked for!
But ultimately the commitment must be to one’s own spiritual evolution, and a water-person has the capacity, through its determination to flow to the Ocean!
For a person that is dominated by Meditation can be a ‘god’s end’ it can calm their inherent rajastic energy (they need to be constantly active) furthermore they often carry anger and aggression in themselves. Their need to ‘get on doing this and that’, their ability to focus/concentrate can be put to good use.
The danger is that here too, they want to achieve something – they have to learn to relinquish all control, and become receptive, this way they can expand their hearts and minds. Once they do, the path of devotion is “their path”. To “get there, to meditate on forgiveness, compassion and love is a great help. Then to surrender to the divinity of their choice is the ultimate Meditation-path for these people.
Their problem is, that they have to test “how far can I go?” They go to extremes of any kind…good or bad, and they are challenged to come back from there and find a balance that will not destroy them. Potentially they destroy all form. And thus in terms of meditation, they might easily rebel…”I don’t want to sit still”. If they find a balance, they can not only transform, but transcend…fire becomes light, becoming light even on the spiritual path.
In Yoga and many spiritual traditions around the world, the element of Fire has a special place because of this ability to transcend. Fire-ceremonies are performed across the globe. Fire is often seen as a bridge between this world and the beyond… but for that the hard work of emotional purification has to be done. In Yoga it’s often referred to as tapasya.
What than can we learned from meditating on Fire? None can say it better than this ancient prayer from the Aboriginals of Australia.
‘May the fire be in our thoughts, making them true, good and just. May it protect us from the evil one. May the fire be in our eyes. May it open our eyes to share what is good in life. We ask that the fire protect us from what is not rightfully ours. May the fire be in our ears. We pray that we may hear with a deep, deep listening the flow of water and of all creation. And the dreaming, may it protect us from gossip and things that harm and break down our families. May the fire be on our lips so that we may speak the truth in kindness, that we may serve and encourage others. May the fire protect us from speaking evil. May the fire be in our arms and hands so that we may be of service and build up love. We ask that the fire protect us from all violence. May the fire be in our whole being, in our legs and our feet enabling us to walk the earth with reverence and care, and to walk in the way of goodness and truth and be protected from walking away from what is truth.’
To think that this is 40,000 years old! Within the Fire, it asks for its opposite; the quality of water; a deep, deep listening, “that we may hear the flow of the water and all of creation – and that we may serve others. And this is the path of the person who is dominated by Fire energy. May they learn to tame their own Fire, balance it, so that they can transcend Fire and become light, especially the light of love and compassion for others.
For a person that is dominated by it is almost natural to focus on the breath. And indeed in almost all meditative traditions the most frequent recommendation for Meditation is to focus on the breath. The breath takes us away from focus on the manifest realm, it is manifest but also subtle, we can’t see, taste, or smell the Air (well sort of) ..yet we can feel it, for example on the skin or on our nostrils, or indirect through expansion and contraction of the lungs, belly etc. In other words… our relationship to Air is different the awareness is one of movement…not so much a “thing’ an object. It’s subtler. The cyclic rhythm of breath is like a gateway to experiencing the movement of existence.
There is rising and there is falling, there is in-breath and outbreath, there is coming and going, there is birth and death. So breath has a lot to teach us. For example that we have to let go… without letting go with the outbreath.. no new breath can come in.
Letting go of what is not needed is a core issue for People with the dominant Element Air. Hence the spiritually guiding question in their lives for Air-people is : what do I need to let go of? It’s a question of discrimination. Ultimately in meditation it means letting go of the ‘experiencer’, the “I”, the Ego….who observes… When we let go of things what remains? The ultimate Truth. We gain clarity of who we ultimately are.. or better of that which we ultimately are.
But focus on the breath reveals not only movement, and letting go, but there is a ‘space in between breath’; there is a point, a powerful point of stillness. This stillness plays a great part in Buddhist Meditation, especially Zen; it’s the core of all emptiness and with it the womb of all form.
Stillness in between breath has been compared to the zenith of the sun; it’s the vital ‘turning-point.’ For one instance there is ‘neither this, nor that’; one can witness – from the outside – the ever changing movement. Much as a mountaineer standing at the peak can see both: where he came from – and where he is going.
But as the example shows, we have to stop and stand back if we want to see ‘change;’ we can neither be caught up in the past nor the future; the process of change needs us to let go – even let go, eventually, of this the vantage point (the experiencer).
The point, where we see what has happened, and realize we need to let go, is also called the ‘Turning Point’, and that is Now; in the Now, the mentally agile Air person can harness their “abundant mental energy for meditation, which for them should be like the flight of the eagle. They must let their mind soar without losing focus.” (D.Frawley; p. 300)
For a person that is dominated, Meditation has a great attraction. Space is the vast unknown from which all form comes forth. Meaning the person dominated by the Space Element….there is an awareness of infinite possibilities. It can be a call to great creativity, or a call to great exploration in the manifest or the spiritual; potentially it’s the vastness of potential…which is itself very challenging… because its limitless… where to go? And therefore the leading spiritual question for a person dominated with the Space-Element is: what is my Purpose, why am I here?
The Space- person might have to tendency to escape with his/her mind into this vastness…or might realise that from this potential we need to act, and because Space is clear and subtle he teaches us: no matter whether we are a – writer, shoemaker, mother, or husband “we must walk our talk” (as the indigenous people of the Americas say) we must fulfil our purpose! And this goes further than we think, because it is irrelevant whether we are a teacher, a poet, a president or a pauper, a computer technician, a nurse or a Guru; it is not the roles we play that are important, it is not the achievements we gain which is our purpose, but how we are, what we are.
All grandeur, all ego-trips can be cut out. The vision that space holds for us is to fulfil our potential by achieving the highest aspirations of a human being, and history is full of such noble men.
Socrates was such a noble man, he was tried and executed in 339 B.C. because he did not believe in the city gods and is said to have misled the youths of the city with his philosophy. Indeed he was renowned as a man of fortitude and courage. He was also known for living the truth, for being true to himself and even-minded; for having great self-control; he was dressed summer and winter in the same thin clothes and walked barefoot. Plato described for us Socrates’ speech (Apology), in front of the court at his trial:
‘Someone might say: “Are you not ashamed, Socrates, to have followed the kind of occupation that has led to your being now in danger of death?” However, I should be right to reply to him, “you are wrong sir! If you think that a man who is any good at all, should take into account the risk of life or death, he should look to this only in his actions, whether what he does is right or wrong, whether he is acting like a good or a bad man. It is not difficult to avoid death, gentlemen of the jury, it is much more difficult to avoid wickedness, for it runs faster than death.”
So meditation for people that are especially influenced by Space energy has two options… to contemplate the highest Truth until they become that truth; or to straight away focus on the peace and emptiness of the mind. The No-thing, that emptiness.. which is potential… which is Fullness…
The Meditation on emptiness is symbolise nowhere better for me, than in the following prayer from the Metah Sutra. 121 Peace to all beings, may all beings be well and happy and free from fear. Peace to all beings, whether near or far, whether known or unknown, Real or imaginary, visible or invisible, born or yet to be born… Within and beyond imagination, in the world of ideas, In the world of memories and in the world of dreams… Peace in all elements, of earth and air and fire and water, fulfilled in space. Peace in all universes, from the smallest cells in the body To the greatest galaxies in space, peace and light rising.
And the fullness, is best describe in the opening verse from the Isha- Upanishad:
Om pūrṇaṁadaḥ pūrṇamidaṁ pūrṇāt Pūrṇamudacyate, Pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya Pūrṇamevā vaṡiṣyate
Om. That is fullness.This isfullness. From the fullness springs the fullness. If the fullness is taken from thefullness, the fullness remains.
Finally let’s not forget, that we all are All, all the qualities, all the tendencies, all potentialities…All.
Om Tat Sat
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