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28 December, 2013

Yogic Practices for awakening Ajna Chakra


       Direct concentration on ajna chakra is very difficult and, for this reason, in tantra and yoga the mid-eyebrow centre (which is in fact is the kshetram of ajna) is used to awaken this chakra.  This point is called bhrumadhya (bhru means eyebrow and madhya means centre), and it lies between the two eyebrows in the place where Indian ladies put a red dot and pandits and brahmins put mark of sandal paste.  This eyebrow centre can be stimulated and awakened by various techniques.


       Firstly, there is an important shaktkriya (cleansing technique) called trataka, which will aid in the awakening of ajna.  It is a powerful technique which can be defined as "fixed gazing at one point".  If practised regularly, it develops the power of concentration and from this concentration, the direct awakening of the latent faculties of ajna chakra is brought about.

       Ajna can also be stimulated and awakened by concentration on the nadis directly.  The method for this is anuloma viloma pranayama, mental or psychic nadi shodhana, also known as 'the coming and going pranayama', and prana shudhi, 'the purifying breath'.

       You can also awaken ajna chakra by concentrating on the eyebrow centre, performing such practices as shambhavi mudra.  Initially, when there is no sensation or awareness at this point, some ointment or oil such as tiger balm can be applied.  This facilitates concentration.  With practice, the pressure of your concentration at this area increases and the sensations are carried back to the pineal gland.  this brings about an awakening in the pineal gland in the form of visions and internal experiences.

       Ajna and Mooladhara chakras are closely related, and the awakening of one helps to awaken the other.  Ideally ajna should be awakened to some extent before mooladhara, in order to allow an unafected perception of the energies manifested by mooladhara and the lower chakras.  However, the awakening of mooladhara will help to further awaken ajna.  Infact, the best way to bring about awakening of ajna is through the practices of moola bandha and ashwini mudra which are specific for mooladhara.

Preparatory practices

       Jala and sutra neti can be practised for a few months to purify the nasal area and the important nerve junction behind it.  This will help to sensitize ajna chakra and aid in its awakening.  Apart from having a profound effect on the nervous sytem, neti removes dirt and mucus from the nasal passages, relieving colds and sinusitis, disorders of the yes, ears, nose and throat, as well as inflammation of the tonsils, adenoids andmucous membranes.  It removes drowsiness and gives a general lightness and freshness in the head and throughout the body.  At the same time, it profoundly alters psychic awareness, faciltating free flow of breath in both nostrials, so that the meditative state can be attained.  It should be practised every morning before you commence your other sadhana.

Practice programme

       The following sadhana (consisting of practices 1,2 and 3) for ajna chakra should be continued daily for one month.  You may then proceed to the sadhana given for awakening mooladhara chakra.


Anuloma Viloma Pranayama with Prana Shuddhi
(the coming and going breath and the purifying breath)

  • Sit in a comfortable meditative posture.
  • Make sure the spine is erect and the body is relaxed.
  • The body must become absolutely still.
  • After some minutes, begin to develop awareness of the breath in the nostrils.
  • When you breathe in, your whole awareness should flow with the breath from the tip of the nose, up to the eyebrow centre.
  • When you breathe out, your whole awareness should flow with the breath from the eyebrow centre to the tip of the nose.
  • Become aware of the triangular of the triangular form of the breath between nostrils and the eyebrow centre. 
  • The base of the triangle is at the level of the upper lip, its sides are the right and left nasal passages, and its apex is within the eyebrow centre.
  • Firstly, feel the breath moving in and out of the left nostrils, then the right nostril.  Then be aware of the breath as it flows in and out through both nostrils altogether.
  • Once you are established in this breath awareness, begin to consciously alternate the flow of the breath between the two nostrils in the same way as nadi shodhana, except you practise it physically or mentally.
  • Consciously inhale through the left nostril to bhrumadhya and exhale through the right, the inhale through the right to bhrumadhya, and exhale through the left.
  • This is one round of anuloma viola or mental nadi shodhana.
  • Complete 4 rounds.
  • Now practice one round of prana shuddhi, which involves breathing in and out through both nostrils together.
  • Inhale and exale through both nostrils simulatenously, visualizing the passage of the breath forming an inverted V-shape.
  • Continue in this way: four alternate nostril breaths, then one breath through both nostrils.

  • In the beginning, the rounds can be counted as follows:
  1. - inhale left nostril, exhale right nostril; inhale right nostril, exhale left nostril,
  2. - repeat
  3. - repeat
  4. - repeat
  5. - inhale both nostrils, exhale both nostrils, and so on.

  • After some practise, the rounds can be counted from 100 back to zero as follows:
     100 - inhale left nostril, exhale right nostril; inhale right nostril, 
              exhale left nostril.
       99  - repeat
       98  - repeat
       97 - repeat
       96 - inhale both nostrils, exhale both nostrils, and so on.

Practice note

       Accuracy in the counting is absolutely unnecessary, and if an error is made, the practice must recommence from 100.  It is very important to keep count of the breaths, because without keeping count, anuloma viloma is altogether too powerful for many aspirants, swallowing up their awareness in the unconscious sphere.

       The aim of the practice is to stimulate ajna chakra on the subconscious, psychic level, and for this awareness must be maintained.

       If you sink into the unconscious sphere, you will only be aware of the vast store of impressions in the unconscious mind, and will completely lose awareness of the practice.

       This awareness is essential for the development of mind control and also for the awakening of ajna chakra to conscious accessibility.

       This practice can also be very well integrated into yoga nidra.

Practice 2:  Trataka (concentrated gazing)

  • Sit  in a comfortable meditative asana, in a dark room in which there is no draught or breeze.
  • Please a lighted candle at eye level, directly in front of the eyebrow centre, at arm's length.
  • Make sure that the wick is perfectly straight and that the flame is motionless.
  • Straighten the spine, close the eyes and relax the body.
  • Be aware of the physical body only.  Let it become as still as a statue.

      From this time on you should try to keep the body absolutely motionless throughout the whole practice. When you are prepared, open your eyes and gaze steadily at the tip of the wick.  With practice you should be able to gaze steadily at the flame without blinking or moving the eyeballs.  Two or three minutes is sufficient.

       The whole of your consciousness must become centered in the flame, to the extent that awareness of the rest of the body and the room is lost.  The gaze should be absolutely fixed at the tip of the wick.  When the eyes become tired or if they begin to water, close them and relax.

       Do not move the body, but be aware of the after-image of the flame in front of the closed eyes.

       Everyone has looked into the sun or a bright light, and on closing the eyes for a few minutes, has seen the clear impression of that light on the retina of the ye.  Likewise, the after-image of the candle flame will be clearly visible.

       You should practise trataka on this image, holding it directly infront or a little above the eyebrow centre.  Keep the eyes closed.  If the image moves up or down, or from side to side, observe it and try to stabilize it, without straining.

       When you are sure the image has appeared or faded for the last time, then open the eyes and continue to concetnrate on the external candle flame.

       After the last round, gaze into the emptiness for a few seconds then practice palming.

Time of practice

       The best times to practise trataka ae the dark hours of the very early morning or late at night.  At these times, the atmosphere becomes very still and quite, not only the physical atmosphere, but also the mental and psychic atmosphere.  In this stillness, success is trataka is readily attained.


       Trataka can be practised as time permits, but five to fifteen minutes is the usual period in the beginning, building up to thirty minutes gradually over a period of time.  Two or three minutes per round is sufficient to spend gazing at the flame.


       Trataka on a flame is not recommended for myopia, astigmatism, cataract or glaucoma.


       Trataka has many physical, mental and spiritual benefits.  Physically, it correct eye weakness and defects such as nearsightedness.  Mentally, it increases nervous stability, removes insomnia and relaxes the anxious mind.  When the eyes are fixed and unmoving, the mind become steady and calm.  It helps to develop good concentration and stronger willpower.  Spiritually it awakens ajna chakra.  


       Trataka can be practiced on a small dot, the full moon, the rising sun, a shadow, a crystal ball, the nose tip, an image in water, a yantra, darkness, a shivalingam and many other things.

       Those who have a personal deity can practise trataka on his or her form and those who have a guru can practise on his or her photograph.  Trataka can also be practised on one's own image in the mirror, or the eyes of another person.  These should, however, only be done under the guidance of a guru, as there are certain risks involved.  Avoid practising trataka on the sun as the delicate membranes of the eyes may be damaged.

Two divisions of Trataka

       There are two divisions of trataka, bahiranga (outer) and antaranga (inner).  The methods mentioned so far are all part of bahiranga trataka.  Inner trataka (antaranga) is internal visualization, perhaps of a chakra, a yantra or your personal deity.  The eyes remain closed throughout.  One of the best inner objects for concentration is a tiny star or point of light.

Practice 3
Shambhavi Mudra (eyebrow centre gazing) with Om chanting

Stage I: External awareness

  • Sit in any meditative pose with the back straight and hands on the knees.
  • Look forward at a fixed point, then look upward as high as possible without moving the head.
  • Focus the eyes and concentrate on the eyebrow centre.
  • Try to suspend the thought process and mediate on ajna.
  • Repeat Om, Om, Om with awareness of the sound vibrations at the eyebrow centre into which you are gazing.  
  • Each Om should be produced in a soft clear voice, with awareness of every vibration of the mantra in the eyebrow centre.
  • Each mantra should be one or two seconds in duration, and immediately followed by the next.

Stage 2:  Internal awareness

  • Now the eyes are closed, but the inner gaze remain in the eyebrow centre.
  • Begin to chant the mantra more slowly, with full awareness of the sound vibration in the eyebrow centre. 
  • Imagine that the sound is being emitted from within the eyebrow centre itself.  Gradually and effortlessly increase the duration of each Om, making its long and continuous.
  • The sound should be steady and of an even keys, ending on completion of the breath.
  • Then refill the lungs completely breathing through the nose, but do not alter the position of the body or head.
  • Begin the next Om, maintaining awareness of the sound emerging from the eyebrow centre.
  • Practice for five minutes

Stage 3:  Awareness of sound vibration

  • Continue to chant the mantra Om, but become aware of the sound reverberating throughout the body.
  • Try to be aware of the sound only, listening to its vibrations emanating from the eyebrow centre and permeating the whole body.
  • Do not be self-conscious, but allow the sound to manifest itself fully, maintaining awareness of the vibration of the sound only.
  • Practise for five minutes.
  • Gradually the duration of the practice can be lengthened.
  • Finish off the practice with palming.


Do not strain the eye muscles, when they become tired or slightly strained, release shambhavi mudra and relax the eyes.

Source: Excerpts from the book on "Kundalini Tantra" written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

22 December, 2013

Why do Hindu go pilgrimage to Sabarimala?

In Indian Culture...
Why do Hindu go pilgrimage to Sabarimala?

      Sabarimala is in the Sabari Hills about 30 kms due east of Chengannur, 47 miles south east of Kottayam, Kerala, and 185 km north from Trivandrum, Kerala State, South India.  

       Sabarimala, otherwise known as Dharma Sastha and Harihara Puthran, is the abode of Lord Ayyappa.  During the main festival season in the month of Narayana (December-January), numerous pilgrims come to this place while observing strict vows.  During this time, many men wearing black can be seen in the nearby cities converging on Sabarimala and singing the chants of Lord Ayyappa.

Road Map for Journey

       Reaching the temple is not easy.  You have to take the road going south from Kottayam and then up to the Pamba River.  The traditional route is through Erumeli.  Pilgrims then trek some 15 miles for two days barefoot through the forests to Pamba.  From Pamba you wade across the Pamba River where pilgrims bathe or wash clothes.  thereafter, you go to the Pamba Ganapati temple to receive blessings there.  Then it is an additional three miles of walking through thick forest to this wilderness hill temple at Sabarimala. Another route is from Tamil Nadu through Vandiperiyar.  An easier route allows the pilgrims to drive directly to Pamba and then trek the three miles to Sabarimala.

       You finally go up the stairs to the temple complex whee you can offer prayers to the Divinities in the secondary shrines.  There is an altar where you can offer prayers and lit camphor.  Further on by several hundred feet is the sacred banyan tree (saramkuti)  where it is said said Lord Ayyappa directed his troops to throw down their weapons to prepare for worship.  There is a long narrow path through dense jungle to a valley between the Neelimala and Sabarimala mountains.  You then begin the mile-long climb up Neelimala, the temple mountain.  It can be tough making your way up the uneven steps and it gets steeper as you go, so it is not unusual to take rests along the way.  Some people have to be carried up.  This takes a few more hours before you reach the final 18-step stairway to the main temple itself where the Sri Ayyappa deity is enshrined in a little sanctuary on a raised area.  

Significance of 18 holy steps

       The 18 steps represents the god on the 18 hills that surround the temple.  At the first step, the pilgrim breaks the coconut he has been carrying.  Then you climb the 18 steps.  In the rush during the main pilgrimage season, ti is so crowded that this alone  can take up to an hour to reach the sanctum where the pilgrim can finally attain the vision of the deity of Lord Ayyappa.  Then you move forward.  A small shrine to Lord Ganesha is on the right where you offer respects.  Then you go to see the main deity, called Panchaloha, which is an image of Lord Ayyappa made of five metals.  Now you perform the maijn puja or worship, the Neyy (ghee) abhishekam in which you anoint the deity with some of the ghee that you have brought with you.  It is only a small portion of the vast amounts of ghee that has been brought by the pilgrims, which number in the thousands.  You offer the ghee that you have brought to the priest at the main shrine.  He pours it over the deity.  Thereafter, the pilgrimage has been completed and you begin the journey back.

Legend behind Lord Ayyappa

       The legend behind Lord Ayyappa is that he is said to be the son of Shiva and the incarnation of Vishnu known as Mohini Murti, Lord Vishnu's form as a most beautiful woman.  That is why Lord Ayyappa is called Hariharaputra, meaning the son of both Hari or Vishnu and Hara, Shiva.

       The reason for this described in the Srimad Bhagavatham (canto Eight, Chapter Twelve).  Therein, it is related that once when the Lord Shiva had heard about the pastimes of the Lord in the form of an attractive woman, Mohini, during the churning of the milk ocean, Shiva went to see the Lord.  After offering descriptive prayers, he asked to see this beautiful feminine form of the Lord.  Being merciful to His devotee, the Lord expanded His energy and manifested Himself as a most attractive woman.  Lord Shiva, upon seeing this form, was immediately captivated.  Shiva lost his sense and began to follow Her.  While chasing Her through the woods for some time, he passed semen.  Only after discharging semen did Lord Shiva realize how he had been dragged by the illusory energy and then ceased to follow the beautiful form.  However, in the version in the Bhagavatham, Shiva's semen did not produce the child Ayyappa, but fell on the earth where mines of gold and silver later formed.  So those who follow Bhagavatha Purana and similar Vedic texts, they do not put much emphasis, if any, on Ayyappa.

      Lord Ayyappa is often portrayed with four arms, three eyes, and seated peacefully in the lotus position, padmasana.  Two of his hands carry a sword and a shield, while the other two exhibit the mudras  or positions of assurance of fearlessness and giving blessings.  Other views of him present an image with only two arms and two eyes.  He wears gold ornaments and crown. Lord Ayyappa is also called Shasta, which means the controller of the world.

How the location of Sabarimala came ?

       The story is that after Durga killed the demon Mahishasura, his spouse undertook the endeavour of intense austerities to gain the favour of Lord Brahma that she would not be killed by Shiva or Vishnu.  She became increasingly powerful, much to the consternation of the gods.  Then Shiva and Vishnu together formed an idea in which she could be destroyed by creating a person fit for the job.  This child was discovered by King Rajashekara who reigned in Panthalam in Kerala.  He had no children so he named the child Manikandan and raised him as a son.  The child killed Mahisha when he was only twelve years old.  He had also brought female leopards back from the forests since the milk was supposed to cure the queen's headache.

       The king, however, had realized the divine nature of Manikandan.  The king had been told to build a temple to Manikandan at the spot where his arrow landed, after Manikandan disappeared.  The king then shot the arrow, which found its mark at the top of Sabarimala hill.  This is where the temple was supposed to have been built originally by Lord Visvakarma, the demigod architect.  Parashurama is said to have made and installed the image.  Now, there are millions of pilgrims who make the trip to the hill to see this temple of Lord Ayyappa.

Source: Excerpt from the "SPIRITUAL INDIA HANDBOOK" written by Sephen Knapp.