Transformation and Transcendence

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati, MB, BS (Syd.)

The whole aim of yoga is to unite the lower mind to the higher mind, the individual consciousness with cosmic awareness. The guru is one who has actualized this aim and has united the fabric of his being into one complete, integrated structure. This is achieved through a transformation of the brain/mind complex, which unites the lower feeling brain (limbic system) with the higher thinking brain (cortex) to form a united, intuitive brain capable of fathoming the mysteries of life.

Gurus and enlightened souls have long remained an enigma to their disciples, for they have passed beyond the range of intellect and intuition. They may seem like awe-inspiring gods or they may act like fools or ordinary men; we can never be sure from one moment to the next. This is because, having transcended time and space, they inhabit a non-rational sphere, not understandable by the limited mind. As Safarnama of Sirajudin said in 1649:

"To them, the world is a fashioning instrument, which polishes mankind. They, by identification with the processes of continuous creation, are themselves fashioners of other complete men. Some talk, others are silent, some walk restlessly, others sit and teach. To understand them, you must bring into action an intelligence which is an intuitive one, normally held down by its friendly enemy, the intelligence of the logical mind."*1

The question that often arises is what happens to the body and mind of someone who has transcended? Consciousness and energy are interlinked and interdependent and the attainment of cosmic consciousness involves the liberation of cosmic energy, kundalini. When this energy is liberated, a vast amount of power and force, said to be the outcome of splitting the atom, becomes available to us if we can hold it. Thus, those who transcend, require a guru to teach them slowly and in stages how to handle this energy.

Brain/mind fusion

The guru resides in sahasrara chakra, in cosmic consciousness. Sahasrara, the highest centre in man, representing the end state in human evolution, lies within the brain. It is centred at the pituitary gland, and actually contains all the other chakras within it. All of man's chakras represent points of intersection of mind (ida) and body (pingala), but sahasrara is beyond body and mind, which cease in ajna chakra. Thus we are seeing the results of a fully developed mind and body fusing completely to form a totally new, evolutionary, radical being. We can say that sahasrara chakra is the flower of a plant: the cells of the brain's cortex are the petals; the pituitary, pineal and hypothalamus are the central controlling areas; the spinal cord is the stem; and mooladhara chakra (containing the vast potential energy of kundalini) is the root source.

Having established his consciousness in sahasrara chakra, the guru is one who has complete control over his brain. This means he can consciously manipulate any part of his brain, an astonishing and phenomenal feat. Thus we start to realize why the guru has been regarded with such awe and veneration. He has all the latent powers of the brain and mind at his disposal with which to cultivate his disciples and to interact with the world. A totally unified brain allows for total body health, an integrated functional mind, intellect, intuition, and so on.

A unified mind means that the four basic components of ahamkara (self-awareness), chitta (remembering), buddhi (discrimination) and manas (thinking process) are all active, balanced and in their correct perspective. The guru has transcended the mind, has jumped over it into a higher state of consciousness, but to do this he had to make his limited mind a stable base from which to jump. This requires years of work and training. He now holds his old mind in the palm of his hand. The pressure and heat generated by the kundalini shakti are so intense that the unformed, uncut mind is compressed like coal into a multifaceted diamond so that it shines with its own inner light.

Neural reorganization

The nervous system of the guru is totally unified and all the billions of circuits in the brain are consciously controlled. Research is showing that control of the brain is a function of the central mid-brain structures, which include the limbic system, hypothalamus, pituitary gland and pineal gland, along with the reticular activating system (RAS) which is so vital to maintaining an alert, aware consciousness. By controlling these areas he can send out messages to any part of the brain he desires, so as to command its efficient coordinated efforts in his work. This control is established through spiritual practice and much experience in life at applying meditation and sadhana to practical work.

Synchronization of the brain and reorganization of neural tissue occur with meditative experience and result in the development of an intuitive awareness. Norman Don of the Division of Biophysics, American Dental Association, has proposed that insight develops because of a reorganization at the higher levels of the brain, characterized by the slower rhythm brain waves such as alpha and theta.*2

Insight develops because of intraneural reorganization and in itself leads to further reorganization in a snowballing effect. With constant effort this can become self-propelling, continuing along the lines of least resistance until the whole brain is efficiently catalogued, organized and redistributed according to the ideal for the individual.

Das and Gastaut (1957)*3 and Banquet (1973)*4 both showed an initially stabilized brain wave pattern, followed by rhythmical synchronized activity throughout the brain in subjects engaged in deep meditation. Some meditators then experienced a breakthrough into an internalized consciousness, in which fast frequency beta waves appeared, while they were practising kriya yoga, a form of kundalini yoga. Beta waves are usually seen in extroverted, tense or 'thinking' consciousness; however, these meditators were internalized and undergoing a blissful, life-affirming experience of strong light. This can be interpreted in the following way. Initial internalization of consciousness and stabilization of the brain is pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and dharana (concentration); the breakthrough phenomenon is dhyana (meditation), the blissful and unitive experience of the inner universe.

The experiment records a single experience which must have had an immensely powerful effect on the meditator's whole life. From this, we can better understand where the guru's experience lies. He has travelled through many such experiences which have a radical and cumulative effect on the whole brain and tend to be self-reinforcing once we get into the swing of them and learn to maintain our balance. The guru has passed through many stages of meditation and has ultimately reached another breakthrough called samadhi or dynamic equilibrium of which we can have no understanding until we experience it. We can quote the ancient texts which state the experience to be one of satchidananda - absolute truth, consciousness and bliss.

When the experiments of Das and Gastaut were finished, the meditators returned to their original state of consciousness. However, some retained altered states of consciousness, indicated by alpha and theta waves, even with their eyes open. These wave patterns are never seen in the normal waking consciousness of the average man. They indicate the retention of meditative or higher consciousness in external activity, and a change in the structure or functional emphasis of certain areas of the brain. In extrapolating this state to samadhi we can assert that brain function has altered so radically that the electroencephalogram will show a picture that is radically different from the normal.

The guru, or enlightened being, must retain a state of consciousness vastly altered from that of the normal meditator because he has gone from limited self-consciousness to infinite cosmic consciousness. He has made the quantum leap that occurs in transcending the mind and in awakening kundalini shakti. Don states that the transformative experiences suggest a possible discontinuity in neural functioning: '...the system characteristically changes from one energy level to another in a jump or discontinuity.'*5 One subject in Don's experiment described a spontaneous mystical experience in which she saw the interconnection of the world and its un-differentiated wholeness while the EEG stabilized at the dominant alpha frequency and its fourth sub-harmonic, with higher amplitude in the sub-harmonic.

The guru has really made the quantum leap for he has completed the octave of human chakras while the majority of humanity still flounders in the lower three. By entering sahasrara he has entered a new octave, one higher than the rest of mankind. At the same time he has perfected ESP, telepathy and other psychic abilities which he sometimes uses in communicating inner knowledge and experience to the disciple in order to help him jump across the abyss. We cannot understand this leap in consciousness in the same way that a dog cannot understand human consciousness. The faculty of perception from which this understanding springs has not yet been developed.

The infinite chemical sea

Just as the guru controls and adjusts his disciples to suit their internal and external needs, the pituitary gland controls and unifies the nervous system. This gland is the high priest of the nervous system, the central integrator which adjusts the balance between nervous and endocrine systems, mind and personality, and thus how we view and perceive the world. The pituitary gland and its surrounding structures are the focus for all the highest forces in man of which he is as yet unconscious.

The guru is fully conscious of the pituitary gland, which in the ancient texts is referred to as hiranyagarbha, the cosmic egg. Attainment of samadhi, cosmic consciousness, and guru-hood is said to occur when the egg is perceived in deepest meditation, opening up and flowering like a lotus. Then, all faculties of existence and reality are within our grasp.

With his consciousness resting in sahasrara, the pituitary, the guru can maintain and conserve hormones called retas, which can be converted into ojas, spiritual energy used to illumine the brain. Richard Bergland and his associates at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Idaho, USA, reported that the pituitary gland can secrete directly into the brain, as well as controlling body hormones. The investigators said they believed that pituitary hormones 'are carried directly to the brain to modify many, if not all, cerebral functions'.*6 Therefore, the more energy we conserve within the pituitary, the more energy we have to control the brain.

Other researchers, such as J. L. Barker and his associates at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, Maryland, USA, have found that the latest brain hormone discovery, enkaphalins and endorphins, may be a third type of nervous system modulator. These substances are secreted from the pituitary gland and are said to be responsible for, or to play a role in, physical and emotional pain relief, mental health, and a whole host of other functions, thereby assuming a central role in brain function, even determining which messages get through to consciousness.

It seems that the potential power of the pituitary gland to affect our lives is tremendous. What it can manufacture will remain one of man's greatest mysteries, gradually unfolding as we progress through evolution. The pituitary gland bathes in a sea of chemicals, fluids, blood, and so on. If the right ingredients are added, the correct chemical combination secured, the mental and bodily conditions optimized, then we may even be able to manufacture the lost fountain of eternal youth, the elixir of life, that thousands have sought for in their wanderings through the outer and inner worlds.

The ancient texts talk about the nectar of immortality which is secreted from lalana chakra situated at the back of the nose, under the pituitary gland. When the guru goes into samadhi he is said to taste the bliss of nectar. This can be interpreted in three ways:

  1. Metaphorically: the bliss of nectar is a poetic way of describing a subjective experience.
  2. Literally: there are glands at the back of the nose that are actually transmuted by samadhi so that their secretion becomes sweet tasting and inebriating.
  3. Scientifically: it is actually the pituitary gland which secretes the nectar, and this nectar is experienced as taste in the brain.

Because the yogi is stimulating the. brain centres for taste through khechari mudra at the same time as the brain is being flooded with amrit, he experiences a divine taste. However, this is not the only experience to occur when the pituitary floods the brain with this new chemical, whether it be called hormone, neurotransmitter, or whatever. Inner visions and light are seen; divine music and sounds are heard; smells, tastes, feelings and vibrations are experienced. Other faculties within the brain and mind are opened. It should be remembered here that both the brain and mind are involved. We are only concentrating on the brain because it gives us a tangible reflection of the huge change of consciousness that has taken place in the body.

When super-conscious awareness is reached, there is a radical change in the brain and the pituitary gland, which are transformed by vast amounts of energy travelling via the spinal cord (sushumna) to the brain. The pituitary gland is activated and becomes the philosopher's stone by a process of transmutation of the old dross to a 'golden' state. In this condition the gland actually secretes new chemicals which have not been seen in mankind, for few people have reached this pinnacle of development, and those who have, usually do not subject themselves to scientific research.

Beyond the body

The guru has transcended the body and mind at ajna chakra. In sahasrara he can retain his consciousness without the body and is said to have gained immortality. Not that his body will live forever, but by merging his consciousness with energy, he has been able to transmute consciousness itself. By making himself strong enough to withstand the unfolding of the infinitely powerful kundalini, the guru has been able to free himself from the limitations of this mortal frame. He gathers his pranas and leaves the physical plane.

The impact of this change is so great, however, that the body is also radically affected. Many gurus, saints and sages have evidenced incorruptibility of their physical frame after death. For example, the body of St. Theresa has lain uncorrupted in a church in Alba, Spain for four centuries, emitting the scent of flowered perfume. The body of St. John of the Cross, who died in 1591, was exhumed in 1859 and found to be uncorrupted in any way. The same applies to Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Aurobindo, Kabir and many others. In India, the bodies of realized saints and gurus are not burned as is the usual custom, but are interred in the ground in a samadhi where they give out spiritual vibrations to all beings who approach them.

The guru has immense power which he uses to transform his disciples, to aid humanity through his vast intelligence and inner resources, and to raise the mass level of consciousness, accelerating the whole process of evolution. Having reunited his nervous system and mind in the search for inner truth and knowledge he can then pass this on to others. Guru is indeed a transformer and king of all the three worlds: body, mind and spirit.


*1. I. Shah, The Sufis, Jonathan Cape, 1971.

*2. 'Higher brain reorganization may accompany insight', Brain / Mind Bulletin, 3(6), February 6, 1978.

*3. N. N. Das and H. Gastaut, 'Variations de l'activite electrique du cerveau, du coeur et des muscles an cours de la meditation et de l'extase yogique', Electroenceph. Clin. Neurophysiol., suppl. 6 :211-219, 1957.

*4. J. P. Banquet, 'Spectral analysis of the EEG in meditation', Electroenceph. Clin. Neurophysiol., 35 :143-151, 1973.

*5. Brain / Mind Bulletin, op. cit.

*6. R. Bergland, et al., Lancet, August 6, 1977.

*7. J. L. Barker, et al., Science, 199:1451-1453.