HUMAN HEARTVedic Articles
Man saankrei ar ghar aantarei achcha
Keep hearts close to you and houses far away
The heart is the name of a separate organ of the human body. All the vibrations in the body occur due to nerve energy, but its centre in our bodies is the heart. We sense palpitations at this spot. It is the heart that houses life as well as death. It is the seat of the soul. It is the key to decoding our experiences of the previous life in the last incarnation. It is the laboratory where physical, mental and spiritual experiments take place. It is the centre of the ground where physical, intellectual and mental activities occur and are distributed with respect to their requirements on different planes.
It is common knowledge that the heart is the place where the process of blood circulation and later purification takes place. It circulates the blood but how it causes death is a mystery. Is the heart a muscular organ that can only be repaired through surgery? Experiments the world over are in the offing to treat the heart. Vedic ideology has something to offer in this regard. The word in Hindi has three sounds: ‘Ha’ indicates etymologically the depriving or driving away. The sound ‘Th’ stands for splitting. The third sound ‘Ya’ stands for the giver. It explains the functions of the heart. We may also explain the functions of the mind as motion, motionlessness and that which is static. It explains the desire or urge like an object that has its core as well as its limit. The heart is the core and our body the limit. The heart also in its turn has a centre as well as boundaries. Vital force or Praan is represented as the Brahma vitality, which stands for the effusion. The static phase is represented by the Vishnu vitality. Pace is Indra vitality.
The area of the heart’s work is very complex. It is the centre of awareness. It nourishes all the organs of the body. It has a nexus with the subtle body along with the gross and the inner rudiment of the body. It is related to the intellect and the mind also. It has a bearing on the outer environment also. The heart has relations with both the visible and the invisible world. The heart is the chief source of energy where the nerve plexus ‘Anahat’ exists. It is the centre where physical, transcendental and divine experience are felt. The divine head or Indra of this organ is negative, i.e. the organ receives energy from outside and redistributes it to the organs. It has a close bearing on the plexi called Swadhisthan and Agya. The energy released by the Anahat plexus governs the thyroid glands. It then passes on to the ‘Vishuddhi’ in the throat where the thyroid exists. This is also the location of the voice box.
The consciousness of everybody travels hither and thither on different planes. The planes viz. the physical, the metaphysical, mental and transcendental where it indulges in its play have different modes of energy. The interplay on different levels requires different voltages for the relevant functions and it is a fairly elaborate and complicated task. The heart is the centre where the energy and its intensity are switched over. The changes imply the emotional fluctuations for the energy changes as and when required. If the same class of thoughts and emotions persist, the energy changes in orientation. This is seen in prolonged sickness also. The human drives and aggressive feelings also affect this energy. Depression suffered for long durations also leads to the withering of the petals of the heart, be it depression relating to feelings or sensual urges. It may lead to the closure of the heart lotus. It may be represented as a sudden erosion or fall of the petals of the heart lotus, if there is some sudden trauma. The poet Bhavabhuti represents it as the beloved who dries up the heart lotus.
As a man suffers emotional fluctuations, the Anahat plexus, which lies in the heart, is pressurised. It draws its energy from the solar plexus and the outcome is dysplasia. When we are angry or spiteful, it happens accordingly. The man loses all strength, although these drives may be short-lived. However, anxiety and depression last for long periods and are of slow movement. Their effect on the human body is also lasting. They affect the adrenal gland. The heart being the centre of life and consciousness, its defence mechanism is fairly strong.
The heart stands for love and affection. It is the seat of mercy and charity. As the situation arises for it, it begins to dispense energy. This is the first step to selfless love. The development of the higher plexi begins here. Negative thoughts may affect it when thymus comes to the fore to weaken the protective energy.
It is positive thoughts that can bring about harmony in the body, mind and intellect. Positive thoughts also emanate from here. The Agya-Chakra or commanding plexus assists this creativity. It is the fertile ground of new and original ideas and attitudes. We are able to express ourselves by the collaborative effort of the two.
Like love, aesthetic appeal also has an affinity with heart. It may be natural beauty or inartistic. It adds to the evolution of the creative energy of the heart. It awakens consciousness.
The artistic implications of a painting or sculpture, if contemplated for an adequate period, waft the watcher to the subtle from the external gross level. The initial attentiveness is limited to the gross as man himself is a corporeal being only a few metres high. A direct access to the subtle is not feasible. The initial sound of the Gayatri Mantra indicates the ‘Bhu’ or earth, which is the beginning of everything. Nobody can transgress the earth. That regular ascetic practice may elevate one to a higher plane is a different thing. However, inception is always at the ground level. The corporeal may itself retire as a consequence of prolonged efforts. Art consists in the initial perception of the artistic appeal of the statue or painting. The emergence of the perception of a glow of light in these moments is the fruit of practice on the spiritual plane. The last state of culmination into the transcendental state of ‘Turiyawastha’ is the next higher state of achievement. It contains sheer bliss beyond the bright aureole that one perceives in the second stage. One may name this last stage ‘Samadhi’ or meditation par excellence. During the rare state of ‘Samadhi’ the palpitations turn inwards but this cessation of heartbeats does not result in death. The experience of being in contact with the immortal spirit, death has no traffic with it and the ascetic wakes up later. This practice awards one the rarest of wisdom and intellectual vigour.
The stages implied in the Mantras or mysterious words ‘Dasoham’, ‘Soham’ and ‘Aham’ indicate that the gross feeling is akin to being a slave. When the bright glow appears in the second stage, the aspirant is blessed with the light to utter ‘that he is also that’. It is indicative of tender love. It is the reward of an abundant faith and belief. When the confidant of the millionaire appears, the former is also addressed as the business magnate - the person whom he represents. That is an equivalent of ‘Soham’ or ‘I am that’. When the highest stage of Samadhi emerges, bliss comes to the fore and the ascetic in his ecstasy assumes the place of the Lord saying ‘Aham’ or ‘I am’. Thus the dynamics of the heart assume the reverse motion that is inward movement, which fulfils the purpose of human incarnation.
The Indian system has many concepts concerning the heart. The Vedic ideology advances a scientific analysis of the heart. Lord Krishna states in the Gita that one should seek the Lord not outside but inside. He is there in the heart. The individual soul has also been portrayed as the petal of light in the heart. The term ‘Ha’ in the word stands for the elemental space or ‘Akash’. ‘Ya’ stands for the elemental air or Vayu. The two are immortal. The third sound ‘Tha’ indicates death. It is transitory. However, since it is also shielded on both sides by the immortal essence, it also appears immortal. So long as a man is alive, he has an obsession with immortality. If he switches over to the notion of achieving certain ends, he will abstain from all wrongs. He will be the favoured being with immense bliss at his disposal.
Another view interprets the sound ‘Hri’ as the symbol of the mind. ‘Tha’ stands for ‘Vaak’ or the cosmos at the final stage. ‘Ya’ represents the vital force. Mind, Vaak and Vital force coexist. In the vital cosmos ‘Indra’ (vital force) is in a position of ascendancy. It stands for dynamism. It is the repository of the vital force, which inspires the Brahma, the Master of existence or of staticism and Vishnu the Master of stationary forces. Indra lends strength to Vishnu and Brahma. Since Indra is supposed to be the commander of fulfillment or pleasures, the ten senses are named after him as Indriyas. It is only a vital force for Indra who can connect the heart with the Vigyanatma or the self blessed with special knowledge. It implies carrying the initiative of the senses right up to the intellect. ‘Vigyan’ or special knowledge means intellect. Intellect or Buddhi stands for Avagam or acceptance by the self. Human actions start with the touch of the senses (Avagraha). Next follows ‘Iha’ or action at the end Avagam, i.e. acceptance by the self. This theme explains the nature and the function of the heart.
It is remarkable that the motion that we perceive in the heart is not the same as that which we perceive outside. There it is a very subtle movement. It is true that the self and the Brahma are not propelled by the nerve energy or ‘Vayu’. It is by means of the Karmic motion that we perceive them. Equivalent to the movement of the thoughts or the movement of expansion, creation is the movement of the heart. The nerve energy or the vital force that acts within the heart is named ‘Sutratma’. The varieties of the ‘Vayu’-Pran, Apan, Saman, etc. are there. It is the Vyan vital force that has an access to the heart. It relates to the external world as well. That makes the heart responsible for the regulation of the vital force or Vayu in the body. The Vyan vital force consumes water. Water is a symbol of life. It is the watery nectar that keeps us alive.
A couplet of Ayurveda (Health science) states that the other elements like Pitta-Choler or hot element and kiff phlegm or heavy and cold element are inert. They are to be carried to different stations in the body by the instrumentality of Vayu or vital force. We treat heart and mind as synonymous in common parlance. One blessed with hearty feelings etc. conveys that heart as another name for the mind. However, the two are not identical. Mind or ‘Maanas’ is elemental. It moves with Prana and Vak or Vital force and sound. It never dies. The sound ‘Tha’ in the word heart indicates death. It is not an accessory to the mind. It is the imprints lying in the mind that drive it to the sensuality. It is the rarest of rare beings among the yogis who are competent to witness the mind in its candid shape. We repeat that the veil of Maya and the mind never die.
Practically, mind and heart may be treated as two faces of the same coin. The external tangible face is the heart and the sublimated inner upward inclined one is referred to as mind. A man craves for peace and still he has to exist in the surcharged world that presents disturbances of the highest order. The Gita endeavors to convey the message of preserving peace even if your exterior is agitated. It is given to the versatile mind to so exist unperturbed by the ostensible hurricanes. The heart is denied this versatility. The monarch of heart Indra (vital force) reaches the precincts of specialised knowledge or Vigyanatma by means of the mind. Mind is enlivened by noble thoughts and not sensuality. There may be layers of sensuality. Then the mind polluted by the three Gunas appears as the gross heart. We are deluded into perceiving heart as mind. The organ named heart in clinical language is but the gross muscular pump. It receives the blood and passes it on to the respective organs after processing it in its own way. The vital force named Vyan is responsible for its palpitations. The terms that explain its etymology ‘Ha’, ‘Ya’ and ‘Tha’ are self-explanatory.