The Heart Centre
27 Feb 2022 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
The heart centre is extolled greatly by the seera and sages of Vedanta. It is the centre where we first feel the light of the Divine.
As Sri Ramakrishna says:
The sou through which God sports is endowed with his special power. The landlord may reside in any part of his estate, but he is generally to be found in a particular drawing-room. The devotee is God`s drawing-room. God loves to sport in the heart of his`s devotee. It is there that his special power is manifest.
The heart centre is not the anatomical heart but the spiritual heart. Once an aspirant asked Swami Brahmaananda, one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, “Sir, in which center should I meditate? Should it be center in the heart or the center in the brain?”
“My boy,” Swami Brahmananda replied, “meditation can be practiced in either center , as you please, but I would advise you at first to meditate in the heart. Meditate upon your Istadevata in the lotus of the heart.
The aspirant then asked: “But sir, the heart is made of flesh and blood.How can I think of God there?”
To this, Swami Brahmananda replied: “By heart , i do not mean the anatomical heart. In the beginning , as you think of the Lord inside of the body, you may think of flesh and blood. But soon you will forget the body and there will remain only the blissful form of your Istadevata.”
The location of the heart center is neither to the right nor to the left but near the middle of the chest, where we generally feel emotions. The heart center is the seat of the individual soul, which is the focus of the all-pervading Supreme Self, the Soul of all Souls. Our individual consciousness is part of the Cosmic Existence. The individual and the universal are inseparable. In meditation at the heart center, the aspirant thinks of the heart as the focus of the all- pervading Pure Consciousness. He then meditates on this Consciousness as light, and in the depth of meditation on this Consciousness mergese in the all- pervading Pure Consciousness. Success in any ofrm of meditation depends upon the awakening of spiritual consciousness at the heart center. Such awakening is never possible without the cultivation of inner purity.
Swami Vivekananda wrote: “Think of a space in your heart and think that in the midst of that space a flame is burning. Think of that flame as your own soul. Inside the flame is another effulgent light, and that is the Soul of your soul, God. Meditate upon that in the heart.”
The various Upanishads mention the heart as the main center of consciousness. The Mundaka Upanishads says:
He moves about, becoming manifolf, within the heart, where the arteries meet, like the spokes fastened in the nave of chariot wheel. Meditate on Atman as Om. Hail to you! May you cross beyond the sea of darkness. He who knows all and understands all, and to whom belongs all the glory in the world- He, Atman, is placed in the space in the effulgent abode of Brahman. He assumes the forms of the mind and leads the body and the senses. He dwells in the body, inside the heart. By the knowledge of That which shines as the blissful and immortal Atman, the wise behold Him fully in all things.
The Sverasvatara Upanishad says:
The maker of all things, self-luminous and all-pervading, He dwells always in the hearts of men. He is revealed by the negative teachings, discriminative wisdom , and the knowledge of Unity based upon reflection. They who know him become immortal.. His form is not an object of vision; no one beholds Him with the eyes. They who, through oure intellect and the knowledge of Unity based upon reflection, realize Him as abiding in the heart become immortal.
The Chhandogya Upanishad says:
The Brahman which has been thus described is the same as the (physical) akasa (space) outside a person. The akasa which is outside a person is the same as that which is inside a person. The akasa which is inside a person is the akasa within the heart. The akasa which is within the heart is omnipresent and unchanging. He who knows this obtains full and unchanging prosperity… He who consists of the mind, whose body is subtle, whose form is light,whose thoughts are true, whose nature is like the akasa, whose thoughts are true, whose nature is like the akasa, whose creation is this universe, who cherishes all ( righteous) desires, who contains all pleasant odours, who is endowed with all tastes, who embraces all this, who never speaks, and who is without longing- he is my self within the heart, smaller than a grain of rice,smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a grain of millet; He is my Self within the heart, greater than earth, greater than the mid-region, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds. He whose creation is this universe, who cherishes all desires, who contains all odours, who is endowed with all tastes, who embraces all this, who never speaks , and who is without longing- He is my self within the heart. He is that Brahman. When I shall have departed hence I shall certainly reach Him;one who has this faith and has no doubt ( will certainly attain to that Godhead)… That Self abides in the heart. The etymological explanation of heart is this: This one( Ayam) is in the heart ( hridi);therefore It is called the heart ( hridayam). He knows this goes every day ( in deep sleep) to heaven ( i.e Brahman, dwelling in the heart).”
There is a space ( akasha ) within the heart; in it lies the person ( purusha ) consisting of mind ( manomaya), immortal and luminous. The Sushumna passes through the piece of flesh which hangs down like a nipple ( i.e, the uvula) between the two palates and ends where the skull splits and the roots of the hair lie apart. That Sushumna is the path for the realization of Indra ( i.e, The Lord, or Saguna Brahman). The soul of the aspirant , passing through the Sushumna, rests in fire, represented bt the vyahriti bhur;he rests in the air, represented by the vyahriti bhuvah.
Bhur and Bhuvah refer respectively to the earth and the air. The illuminated soul, after coming out of the body at the time of death, becomes established in fire- represented by the vyahriti bhur ( a symbol of the earth) – a limb, so as to speak, of Brahman. That is to say,, such a soul pervades the whole world. Similarly, as he gets established in the air- another limb of Brahman –his soul pervades the air. The verse describes the space in the heart as the symbol of Brahman, and the sushumna as the doorway to the realization of Brahman.
Regardinng the center of consciousness at the heart, the Katha Upanishad says:
There a re one hundred and one arteries (nadis, energy channels for prana) of the heart, one of which piercecs the crown of the head. Going upward by it, a man ( at death) attains immortality. But when his prana pasases out by other arteries, going in different directions, then he is reborn in the world. The purusha, not larger than a thumb, the inner self, always dwells in the hearts of men. Let a man separate him from his body with steadiness, as one separates the tenser stalk from a blade of grass. Let him lnow that self as the bright, as the immortal- yea, as the Bright, as the Immortal.
The Mundaka Upanishad says:
The purusha alone is verily the universe, which consists of Work and austerity. O my good friend, he knows this Brahman- the Supreme and the Immortal, hidden in the cave of the heart- cuts asunder even the knot of ignorance.
The Svetasvatara Upanishad says:
The Purusha, no bigger than a thumb, is the inner Self, ever seated in the heart of man. He is known by the mind,which controls knowledge , and is perceived in the heart. The y who know him become immortal.. The self, smaller than the small, greater than the great, is hidden in hearts of creatures. The wise, by the grace of the creater, behold the Lord, majestic and desireless, and become free from grief.
The prasna Upanishad says:
The atman dwells in the heart, where there are one hundred and one arteries( nadi); for each of these there are one hundred branches, and for each of these branches, again, there are seventy- two thousand subsidiary vessels. Vyana ( vital energy that pervades the entire body) moves in these.
The Mnadukya Upanishad says:
Know AUM to be isvara, ever present in the hearts of all. The calm soul, contemplating AUM as all pervading does not grieve.
The brihadaranyaka Upanishad says:
The Akasha is the honey ( effect) of all beings and all beings are the honey( effect) of this akasha. Likewise, the bright immortal being who is in the akasha and the bright, immortal being identified with the akasha in the heart on the body( are both honey). (these four) are but this self. (The knowledge of ) this (self) is (the means to ) immortality; this ( underlying unity) is Brahman, this ( knowledge of Brahman ) is (the means of becoming ) all…. “Which is the Self?” This purusha, which is identified with the intellect( vijnanamaya) and is in the midst of the organs, the( self- effulgent) lies within the heart( intellect). Assuming the likeness ( of the intellect) , it wanders between the two words; it thinks , as it wear, and moves ,as it were. Being identified with dreams, it transcends this ( waking ) world, which represents the forms of death ( ignorance and its effects)… That great unborn Self, which is identified with an intellect ( vijnanamaya) and which dwells in the the controller of all, the lord of all , the ruler of all,. It does not become greater through good deeds or smaller through evil deeds. It is the lord of all, the ruler of all beings, the protector of all beings. It is the dam that serves as the boundary to keep the different worlds apart. The Brahmins seek to realize. It through the study of thr Vedas, through sacrifies, through gifts, and through austerity) which does not lead to annihilation. Knowing it alone one becomes a sage( muni). Wishing for this world( i.e the self) alone, monks renounce their homes.
The Brahman Upanishad says:
Within the recess of the heart is that akasha of consciousness – that with many openings, the aim of knowledge within the space of the heart- in which all this (universe outside) evolves and moves about, in which all this is warped and woofed ( as it were). (Who knows this ), knows fully all creation. There are devas, the rishis, the pitris, have no control, for being fully awakened, one become the knower the all truth.. The heart ( i.e , the inner chamber of the heart) resembles the calyx of a lotus, full of cavities and also with its face turned downwards. No that to be a great habitat of a whole universe.
The Mahanarayana Upanishad says:
The Infinite Self, more minute than the minute and greater that the great, is set in the heart of beings here. Through the grace of the Creator one realizes Him who is free from desires based on values, who is supremely great and who desires based on values, who is supremely great and who is the highest ruler and master of all, and becomes free from sorrows…. In the citadel of the body there is the small sinless and pure lotus of the heart which is the residence of the Supreme. Further in the interior of this small area there is sorrowless Ether. That is to be meditated upon continually…. One should meditate upon the Supreme- the limitless, unchanging, all-knowing cause of the happiness of the World, dwelling in the sea of one`s own heart, as the goal of all striving. The place for His meditation is the ether in the heart- the heart which is comparable to an inverted lotus bud. It should be known that the heart, which is located just at the distance of a finger span ( the distance between the tip of one`s thumb and the tip of the little finger when the hand is fully extended) below the Adam`s apple and above the navel, is the great abode of the universe. Like the bud of a lotus, suspended in an inverted position, is the heart, surrounded by arteries. In it there is a narrow space (or near it there is a narrow space called Sushumna). In it everything is supported. In the middle of that (narrow space of the heart or Shusumna) remains the undecaying, all-knowing, onmi-faced, great fire, which has flames on every side, which enjoys the food presented before it, whuch assimilating the food consumed (the rays of which spread scattering themselves vertically and horizontally), and which warms its own body from the insole to the crown. In the centre of that Fire which permeates the whole body, there abides a tongue of Fire, of the colour of shining gold, which is the topmost among the subtle, which is dazzling like the flash of the lightning that appears in the middle of a rain-bearing cloud, which is as slender as the awn of a paddy grain, and which serves as a comparison to illustrate subtlety. Paramatman dwells in the middle of that flame. (Although He is thus limited) still He is the four-faced creator, Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, the material and efficient cause of the Universe and the Supreme Self-luminous Pure Consciousness.