The Science of Illumination

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

We are beings of light-consciousness-intelligence, satchidananda, interacting in a three dimensional universe which is but one of many. We are invested with a body/mind vehicle with which to explore the universe in order that we might grow and expand our understanding of ourselves. The nervous system of the body is so designed that it allows us to perceive the world and is the basis of sentient living. This nervous system/mind complex is evolving.

Man invented the science of tantra in order to speed up his own evolution. Today, this science of illumination stands as one of the most powerful methods of opening up the reservoirs of potential in the unused sections of the brain. Using techniques to send prana to various physical and psychic centres, the yogi activates neural circuits that represent the forefront of man's evolution. The practices involved are powerful, and a skilled teacher and guru is needed, one who has already traversed the path of illumination.

Many of us are 'asleep'; we are unaware of our real nature as beings of light-consciousness-bliss. We get bogged down by the tamasic or rajasic aspects of nature, stuck in the visual-aural-sensory axis, hypnotised by this three dimensional world, scared to unblock our channels of perception and to directly confront our world or ourselves.

The present predicament of humanity can be likened to that of a man who has been wearing a heavy coat over his head since birth. He is unaware of the coat's presence, taking it for granted, and does not realise that it is causing him to bump into objects and to generally feel hot and miserable. The role of a guru in this situation is to awaken that man to his predicament. Once he is aware, the man can either take the coat off his head or leave it on. We all have the choice! Taking the coat off reveals the light of the sun and opens up a new and freer existence.

We are in the same situation as the man. At present we live in darkness of our real nature, and move about in the world with a dim and limited awareness. The role of the guru is firstly to make us aware of our predicament, and secondly to indicate ways to enlighten the darkness of ignorance and thereby bring about greater freedom. We can then redirect our energies so as to create a more expanded and enlightened culture. This is the basis of tantra.

Science and mysticism

In 5th century B.C. Greece, science and mysticism were united in a search for the fundamental essence which they called physis, the root of our word physics, Heraclitis described the universe as a single unified field animated by spiritual fire. Later developments caused science to move toward analytical, logical, left brain activities, avoiding the right brain activities of mysticism and the search for the more essential inner values. It was only with the theories of Einstein concerning energy and matter that the underlying unity of the cosmos, the basis of all mystical philosophy and experience in yoga, tantra, Buddhism, Taoism and so on, came to be recognised by science. 'Empty space' is now seen to be composed of interacting fields of energy into and out of which particles arise and dissolve. Fritjof Capra writes in The Tao of Physics, "The further we penetrate into the sub-microscopic world, the more we shall realise how the modern physicist, like the eastern mystic, has come to see the world as a system of inseparable, interacting and ever-moving components, with man as an integral part of that system."

In the yogic system the enlightened guru stands as one who has integrated the scientific and the mystical. He has the science of mysticism in his grasp and in this regard has demystified mysticism. He holds the key to unlock the powerful experience of a unified cosmos.

Unlocking the mysteries

The key to the hidden energy of the psyche lies in developing the nervous system and mind. It is necessary for the individual to reunite the scientific, logical, left side of his brain and personality with the mystical, intuitive right side. Again, this requires an enlightened master who can illumine the path. In this way, mysticism dissolves and a science of the infinite potential of man remains. This is tantra as the goal and the path.

That the key to mystical experience lies within the nervous system is being proven by scientists, especially neurophysiologists and psychiatrists. For example, E. d'Aquili, psychiatrist and philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania, has formulated a neurological description of what traditional mysticism calls 'the intuitive perception of God', in which the individual sees reality as a unified whole and experiences oneness with the world. D'Aquili sees such experiences as a product of the parieto-occipital region of the right side of the brain.

Unifying the brain

When we undertake the task of reunifying the right and left brain, the inner and outer personality, the body and mind, we are trying to develop a totally new and powerfully developed conscious awareness. The key to this experience lies in preparing the nervous system to transmit and hold vast quantities of energy, called shakti or kundalini.

The guru instructs the pupil to develop his nervous system slowly and systematically. Starting with asanas and pranayama, we begin to voyage into the depths of body and mind. Later, meditation can be initiated. The voyage requires courage and faith in the teacher and the teachings. The rewards of such an undertaking are vast and permanent.

The techniques of yoga are the foundation for a total, complete, systematic approach to reintegration of the nervous system. Anyone can start with this system and fantastic results will be achieved in a relatively short time. Perseverance and determination are the only prerequisites. We all have the choice!