Tomorrow I begin a 10-day silent retreat called Hridaya, or Revelation of the Spiritual Heart. This retreat is the primary reason I came to Thailand; to practice in this yogic mediation tradition and to spend time with its primary teacher, Sahajananada (Claudiu Trandafir). I had hoped to leave you with some first impressions of Agama and Koh Phangan before retiring this evening, but the hour is late and I must get some sleep. If you’re interested in what I’ll be doing the next week and a half, you can check out the brochure or read a small excerpt I’ve included below. Goodnight All.
What is Hridaya, the Spiritual Heart?
The only beauty that lasts is the beauty of the Heart.
Hridaya, the Spiritual Heart, is our essential and ultimate nature, the ineffable dimension of our being. It is another name for the Supreme Self, atman, as it is named in the Yogic tradition. The Spiritual Heart is the Supreme Consciousness, the ultimate Subject of Knowledge, the pure I. It is the witness consciousness, that intimate observer of all of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, the mind, of the whole Universe in both its inner and outer dimensions.
Through the practice of meditation, more and more subtle understandings about the real significance of the Spiritual Heart will be revealed. In the beginning the Heart is an object of meditation, then it becomes a means of knowledge, and finally it is revealed in its true nature, as what we really are.
In the spiritual traditions of India, as elsewhere, the ‘heart’ refers not so much to the physical organ as to a psychospiritual structure corresponding to the heart muscle on the material plane. This spiritual heart is celebrated by yogins and mystics as the seat of the transcendental Self. It is called hrid, hridaya, or hrit-padma (‘heart lotus’). It is often referred to as the secret ‘cave’ (guha) in which the yogin must restrain his mind. In some schools, notably Kashmiri Shaivism, the word hridaya applies also to the ultimate Reality.”– Georg Feurstein
Accordingly, the Spiritual Heart or the Heart (with a capital H) may vary in significance depending on the context of use or different correlations. However, even if this notion seems complex, we should not lose ourselves in the snare of concepts alone.
Absolute simplicity is the nature of the Heart. Simply direct your attention toward the chest area. That very fine and discreet vibration which is awakened there, in the absence of any thought, in the quietness of the mind, is the beginning of a sacred tremor, the most direct experience of the Spiritual Heart. Please relax yourself, take your time and close your eyes for a few seconds while you allow this vibration to arise…. Can you feel it?
This subtle calling of infinity, radiating from the chest area, is the most expressive and intimate representation of the Heart. Please open yourself to this sacred tremor of the Heart, because contained within it is the communicative warmth of the Truth. Without this, all that follows would only be more “food for the mind” or lifeless information, simply. The real essence of the Spiritual Heart lies exactly in this tremor, this very intimate vibration. Give yourself the time and peace to feel it profoundly.
In the simplicity of this vibration lies the freshness of revelation – a revelation which comes from “inside” even when the information seems to come from “outside.” The simplicity of this vibration, of this sacred tremor of the Heart, is the “spirit” of this kind of information.
The Spiritual Heart, on the other hand, can be seen through its multitude of symbolic traits and the substance of each. Each of them has its importance and, in actuality, the complete spiritual journey can be described through them.
1) Firstly, the main essence of the Spiritual Heart: It is our essential and ultimate nature, the ineffable dimension of our being. It is another name for the Supreme Self, atman, the witness consciousness, as mentioned above.
2) The Spiritual Heart is the ultimate Reality, which is transcendent and immanent in any aspect of the Macrocosm. It is the ultimate essence of all. It is a condition beyond duality: “The Heart of the man and the Heart of the Cosmos are one.” Through spiritual maturity, the Heart is revealed as something more than an individual dimension of our being, after which it ceases to be expressed in terms of duality. It represents the whole in which Subject and object, the witness and witnessed, are one. Seen as consciousness, the Heart is unlimited. It is the infinite Light. It is also the absolute freedom and spontaneity of this Light of consciousness, which appears to us in different forms in manifestation. The Heart as the Supreme Consciousness is like the ocean, which is reflected both as the vastness of sea and the different shapes of its waves. Similarly, the awareness of the Spiritual Heart is a complete path in itself. It can lead to a direct knowledge integrating all the energies, the whole of manifestation, but at the same time, it reveals the Ultimate Supreme Transcendence.
3) The Spiritual Heart is sui generis a spiritual organ of direct knowledge. Sometimes the Heart is understood as a means of revelation. It is also an organ of the purification, reintegration, and transfiguration of our being. For instance, for a Tantric everything that brings pleasure tunes the Heart, seen as the cosmic instrument of consciousness. Through detachment from any individual accent comes a spontaneous sublimation in the Heart. In this way, each sensation is brought to its purity and then offered to the infinite space of the Heart.
4) The Heart is a point of inflection. The Heart is the bridge between finite and infinite, personal and transpersonal, the present and eternity. It is openness toward the Whole. In this aspect, the Heart represents our main opportunity to transcend the limitations of individuality. This function of the Heart makes it a borderline territory because it simultaneously bears the characteristics of the Ultimate Reality and of the finite realities. The inner Heart is a portal to direct experience of what is called "spirit," consciousness – concepts that easily elude all definition.
5) The Spiritual Heart is an inner guide revealing the Ultimate Truth. Following its impulses is a way of redemption.
6) The Heart is the source of the whole of Creation and the final point of all energies. It is thus often seen as a fountain of immortality. The overflowing of the Heart as pure Love and pure Existence is in itself the sign of realization:
In the middle of my Heart,
a star appeared,
and the seven heavens were lost
in its brilliance. – Rumi
7) The Spiritual Heart is the abode of all deep mysteries. It keeps a secret of its mystical royalty. It is the source of a spontaneous wonderment that generates the intuition of God’s existence. In Yogic tradition, this attribute is named guha, the “cave of the Heart.”
Indeed, the Heart has some imperceptible subtle functions for those who do not intend to live their lives profoundly, spiritually. It remains an unknown domain for the one who ignores the inner kingdom in which the Heart is the core.
) The Heart is the Absolute Void:
Our behavior itself is the awakening:
There is no other Buddha than the Heart.
All phenomena are nothing but the Heart.
René Guénon affirmed that “the Peace of the void,” the “Great Peace” (Es-Sakinah) of Islamic esotericism seen in the divine presence of the Center of being, is symbolically represented in all traditions by the Heart. In Yogic tradition, it is expressed by hrid akasha, the infinite space of the Heart.
9) The Heart is a sacred tremor, the expression of a pure, absolute aspiration. The Sufis, Shaivists, Vedantins, Isihasts etc. all answered to the same calling of the Heart and expressed the same pure impetus, urge, yearning, and aspiration toward God, beyond the specific forms of adoration, beyond the concepts and names of this Reality. All of them perceived it as a sacred tremor vibrating in them and everywhere. From the Heart emanates a sense of Truth, a sense of Pure Existence. By making the Heart the symbol of sacredness, religions have indeed expressed this very idea.