Seven times seven are the planes of the Supreme Goddess, the steps of ascent and descent of the Divine Transcendent and Universal Adya-shakti.
Above are the thrice seven supreme planes of Sat-Chit-Ananda; in between are the seven planes of the Divine Truth and Vastness, Mahad Brahma; below are the thrice seven steps of ascent and descent into this evolutionary world of the earth-existence.
These three gradations are successively Supermind or Truth-Mind, with its seven Suns; Life with its seven Lotuses; Earth with its seven Jewel-Centres.
The seven Lotuses are the seven cakras of the Tantric tradition, descending and ascending from Mind (Sahasradala, Ajna, Visuddha, Anahata) that take up Life through Life in Force (Manipura, Swadhisthana) down to Life involved in Matter (Muladhara).
All these Life-Centres are in themselves centres of Truth in Life even as the seven Suns are each a flaming heart of Truth in luminous Divine-Mind-Existence; but these lotuses have been veiled, closed, shut into their own occult energies by the Ignorance. Hence the obscurity, falsehood, death, suffering of our existence.
The Jewel-Centres of the Earth Mother are seven luminous jewel-hearts of Truth in Substance; but they have been imprisoned in darkness, fossilised in immobility, veiled, closed, shut into their own occult energies by the hardness, darkness and inertia of the material Inconscience.
To liberate all these powers by the luminous and flaming descent of the Suns of the Supermind and the release of the eighth Sun of Truth hidden in the Earth, in the darkness of the Inconscience, in the cavern of Vala and his Panis, this is the first step towards the restoration of the Earth Mother to her own divinity and the earth-existence to its native light, truth, life and bliss of immaculate Ananda.
— Sri Aurobindo
(from the Hour of God, p. 27)
In one of the most richly suggestive paragraphs he ever wrote, Sri Aurobindo summarizes the gradation of planes of consciousness that together constitute the being and becoming of the Supreme Goddess, from the heights of her transcendent status in the Sat-Chit-Ananda down to the densest depths of her expression in the material Inconscient. Yet, curiously, while he elaborated on many aspects of this comprehensive vision elsewhere in his voluminous writings, Sri Aurobindo seems not to have commented further on his tantalizing reference to the “jewel-centres” of the Earth Mother. What are these jewel centers, and how are they related to Integral Yoga and the evolution of consciousness on earth? That is the question that will be considered in the following series of essays.
The hypothesis developed here is that the seven jewel centers correspond roughly to the seven continents, and that these jewel centers serve the same general functions with respect to the consciousness of the earth as the chakras of classical Indian yoga serve with respect to the consciousness of the human being. That is, each of the jewel centers opens to and canalizes the expression of a major plane of consciousness in matter, and this can be perceived inwardly as the subtle atmosphere of the land of each place, much as one can inwardly see the aura of human beings. However, because the chakras in the human instrument open to and express the various planes of consciousness primarily on the Life plane, their influence is less directly palpable in the physical vehicle than are the influences of the jewel centers, which open to and express the planes of consciousness in physical substance proper. Also, as the Earth Mother is immense and ancient in comparison to the human being, the consciousness of the jewel centers is impressively strong and stable, once one begins to perceive it. As best as I have been able to determine to date, this spiritual force or consciousness is principally associated with the bedrock of each place, and seems muted around large bodies of water, especially seas and oceans, which may act as buffer or transition zones between the jewel centers. What the consciousness of sea floors may be is a good question, for which I have no reply as yet but would welcome insights from interested observers.
In any case, the following study represents an initial attempt to map out the geo-spiritual organization of the planet Earth, paying special attention to how various human cultures have grown to express the consciousness of the jewel center where they developed. Evidently, as an experiment in a new way of understanding the world, some of the reflections here will later be found to need revision, enlargement, or reformulation in the light of a higher perception. The first step in this corrective process would be to document a large number of reported spiritual experiences of the lands of the planet, and this in turn will require the development of a new branch of collective yoga involving the efforts of many souls over time and space. My own observations reported here must therefore be taken as indicative at best, not definitive, as this direct experience is limited mostly to parts of North and Central America, Europe, and India, and even within these regions is not complete. Also, it is important to remember that all of the human cultural phenomena described in association with the jewel centers are ultimately secondary data, or a medium for studying jewel center effects. The essential primary data is direct spiritual experience of the land, which compasses a complex range of inner and outer perceptions that are impossible to put into words adequately. To arrive at such an experiential understanding of the jewel centers, each soul must enter into and cultivate his or her own personal communion with the Earth Mother, and from that will flow later a new collective yoga.
Now critics are always eager to ask about veracity and utility. How do I know that the geo-spiritual theory developed here is true, and of what practical use is it? I shall not enter here into a defense of Sri Aurobindo’s metaphysics and model of consciousness, but simply state that I accept them in totto and work within that world-view. Yes, he could be wrong in the end, and if so then the observations reported here are either pure imagination, or only partially true and to be accounted for by some as yet to emerge model of consciousness that is materialistic yet non-local, such as some of the interpretive frameworks that are currently being considered in non-local research, formerly known as parapsychology. However, I believe that in the course of time these expanded or hybrid forms of materialism will be found to be experientially less useful than their more spiritual Eastern counterparts, albeit perhaps as intellectually valid, and will be seen as an evolutionary step in the process through which the material sciences accommodate to the influx of data from non-physical planes of consciousness.
As for utility, there are many possible applications of the geo-spiritual theory and as the following essays will suggest, geo-spiritual influences can be detected in virtually all spheres of human life. However, one immediate and prominent utility of the geo-spiritual theory that should be highlighted here is its application to the problem of global warming. The national and international efforts that shall have to be undertaken in the next century to curb or respond to this threat are so extensive and expensive, and will require such a radical change in the way that individuals and societies function, that people will need a constant motivating force in order to succeed. Even if the cause of global warming is ultimately found to be natural and unrelated to human activity, which seems increasingly unlikely, that still does not solve the problem nor reverse its consequences—a fact so far insufficiently considered by skeptics of the global warming theory. Thus, in the coming decades humanity will to be challenged to unite and protect the natural environment as never before. While the threat of survival is certainly one strong motivating force in responding to this crisis, it is always difficult to make sacrifices and people will naturally tend to resist change if they are only changing because they have to and not because they want to. And this is where a geo-spiritual perspective can help: for by bringing out the consciousness of the Earth Mother and the functional importance of each of the jewel centers to global affairs, this world-view offers a new way to frame the entire endeavor of dealing with climate change, a motivating vision from which service to the Earth is felt as an avenue to both spiritual and material fulfillment rather than a burden and a constriction and a loss of freedom.
Finally, a few comments on antecedents and congeners to the geo-spiritual theory developed here. Virtually every traditional society has in some way recognized the sanctity of the Earth Mother and the fact that she is a conscious being, and most of the world’s great religious traditions have at least a few rituals or scriptural passages that acknowledge this profound truth. More recently, the development of the environmental movement and the Gaia hypothesis have tended to create, at least among some, a feeling of spirituality with regards to the Earth. There are also both Asian and Western healing traditions that have studied, to some degree, the “energy” or consciousness of the earth. The geo-spiritual theory developed here contradicts none of these antecedents, and embraces the seed truths contained in each and all of them, but elaborates the geo-spiritual perspective on a much larger scale, as well as with more functional detail, and was arrived at independently through the extension of Sri Aurobindo’s method of Integral Yoga to the world-being. Thus, the uniqueness of this perspective lies in what is new about Sri Aurobindo’s vision, namely, the perception that the evolution of consciousness on Earth is the cause, not the consequence, of the physical evolution heretofore studied by science, and the clear statement of a supramental evolution beyond the human being as the next step of terrestrial evolution.
Geo-Spiritual Anatomy of the Planet Earth
With those provisos, let us now turn our attention to mapping the geo-spiritual organization of the planet Earth. First and foremost, it must be said that what we call “planet Earth” is in fact only the physical manifestation of the great Earth Mother, not the all of her. In her highest, spiritual reality the Earth Mother is a large and living soul, a portion of the Supreme Goddess that has come down into the material universe to be a focal point for the evolution of consciousness midst the vast material cosmos. This soul of the Earth Mother can be experienced inwardly anywhere on the planet, but is especially apprehensible in the subtle atmosphere of the Indian subcontinent, where all of the planes of consciousness and parts of the being stand disclosed or revealed in their inmost spiritual reality, including the subtle godheads of all the jewel centers which are manifested more completely and outwardly in the other parts of the world.
The seven jewel centers, then, are the seven major continents of the planet, and these jewel centers serve on the macrocosmic scale of the earth-being the same functions as the seven chakras do on the microcosmic scale of the human being. Table 1, below, summarizes Sri Aurobindo’s descriptions of the seven lotuses (chakras) and tentatively correlates them with specific jewel centers and regions of the world. As one will note, there are complexities in this mapping that exceed a simple one-to-one correlation of chakras to jewel centers. These nuances stem both from the fact that Sri Aurobindo’s model of consciousness compasses the existence of planes and parts of the being in addition to the seven chakras of classical Indian yoga (notably the psychic being, subconscient, and Inconscient), as well as from the fact that the Earth is organized spherically whereas the organization of chakras is more vertical or axial. Also, the scientific definition of what constitutes a continent physically is variable. All of these factors introduce important subtleties we shall explore in due course. However, before delving into those details, let us first sketch out the largest lines of the yoga of the world-being, for the meaning of the details emerges naturally from that broader canvas.
Table 1. Proposed correlations of chakras to jewel centers
|Chakra||Plane of Consciousness||Jewel Centre|
|[Chaitya Purusha]||True soul, opening to the Infinite||Maha-Bharat|
|1.B||Sahasradala||Intuitive planes (several levels)||Maha-Asia|
|2.B||Ajna||Mental proper (reason, ideas, will)||Maha-Europa|
|3.B||Visuddha||Externalizing mind (power, action)||Maha-Asiatica minoris|
|4.B||Anahata||Higher vital (heart, emotion)||Maha-Africa|
|5.B||Manipura||Central vital (major life motives)||Maha-Pacifica (middle)|
|6.B||Svadisthana||Lower vital (creative energies)||Maha-Pacifica (south)|
|7.B||Muladhara||Physical proper (substance, matter)||Maha-America|
|B||[Subconscient]||Subconscious memory and habits||Maha-Australia|
|B||[Inconscient]||Existential void or darkness||Maha-Antarctica|
Just as there is a classical or typical pattern to the yoga of individuals, so too is there an overall pattern to the yoga of the Earth Mother. For individuals, there is the cycle of rebirth with its associated growth of the psychic being across lives, leading eventually to a spiritual opening and turning inwards to the development of the inner being. As the inner being unveils itself to the outer awareness, one may experience the seven chakras opening to the various planes of consciousness, as well the kundalini shakti rising upwards from the physical towards the intuitive planes of consciousness that are felt to reside in the subtle body above the head. To this classical pattern of Indian yoga, which has incidentally been described in other traditional societies including some of the native tribes of North America, Integral Yoga adds the movement of a higher consciousness descending from the supramental planes of consciousness overhead to transform both the inner and outer being below.
Similarly, there is a corresponding pattern to the yoga of the earth-being, only it is developed across the much longer and slower pace of geological time. While the body of the Earth has not literally died and dissolved since its formation some 6 billion years ago, it has undergone several extended cycles of reconfiguration, and these past ages of geological evolution represent the past “lives” of the planet, each of which supported a different phase in the evolution of consciousness. According to the plate tectonic theory of modern science, at the dawn of the most recent cycle of geological evolution, some several hundred of million years ago, the current continents of the planet were all clustered together in a single huge landmass, called Pangaea, located over what is now Antarctica. This proto-continent broke up due to the shifting movements of underlying plates of bedrock, and the huge pieces slowly spread out and migrated northward around the globe, eventually producing the distribution of continents we now live with. Yogically, this upward movement of the continents represents the rise of the global kundalini shakti for the current cycle of evolution on Earth, and during this ascending movement of land and consciousness, Life evolved from the age of early dinosaurs that populated Pangaea, through the rudimentary mental strata of increasingly sentient forms organized around an increasingly developed central nervous system, to finally the full emergence of Mind through mammals, hominids, and lastly human beings.
Thus, the mental plane of consciousness is now fully developed and manifested on Earth, and the evolution is preparing for a transition into the next great cycle, the Supramental manifestation. To support this evolution, the body of the Earth Mother is now organized to reflect a north-to-south gradation of consciousness that corresponds to the vertical organization of consciousness already found in human yoga. The north pole of the Earth is the highest sahashradala stratum of the planet, opening inwardly to the intuitive planes of consciousness felt in human experience to reside around and above the head, while the south pole (Antarctica) represents the Inconscient and is associated with the planes of consciousness felt to reside around and below the feet. In between the two poles, there is a gradual gradation of consciousness from the intuitive and mental planes in the north, through the higher and middle vital planes around the equator, to the lower vital and physical consciousness in the south, merging eventually into the subconscient in the far south, as in Australia and the southern tip of South America.
This basic geo-spiritual anatomy of the world accounts for the phenomena, first noted by Montaigne in his description of cultural variations within Europe but since echoed by other writers around the world, that cultures from northern latitudes tend to be more mentalized, methodical, and emotionally restrained in their norms than cultures from southern latitudes, which tend to be less rule-oriented and more emotional, sensual, and physically expressive. For example, compare the northern discipline, punctuality, and affective reserve of the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, northern Europeans, and North Americans, to the more affable ease, emotionality, relaxed time sense, and sometimes sensuality of Polynesians, Micronesians, Africans, and Latin Americans. However, while some thinkers have supposed, with some justification, that this common pattern of social psychology may be due to the effects of climate on lifestyle (colder climates require more planning to survive in and simply feel more harsh than the tropics), a full survey of the globe reveals the deeper cause to be a geo-spiritual effect. Africa, for instance, is warm from north to south and yet the cultures of north Africa are relatively more mentalized than those of central Africa, while the Andes are cold and mountainous and yet the Hispanic culture there is more physicalized in consciousness than, say, the relatively steamy southern band of the United States. Thus, in both of these regions we see the north-south effect modulating a purely climactic effect.
But human yoga recognizes another organization of awareness that intersects with the vertical gradation of planes of consciousness, and that is a dimensional experience that proceeds from the inside outward, from the inmost being or soul (psychic being), to the inner being, to the outer. In the correspondence that arises between the inner being and the outer body in human experience, this leads to the impression that the more inward parts of the inner being are experienced in or behind the back, while the more outer parts of the inner being are experienced in or in front of the body. In the geo-spiritual anatomy of the Earth, this dimensional organization is somewhat different than in the human vehicle, because the latter has an axial structure with a clear front and back, while the Earth is spherical and does not have a defined front and back. For the Earth, this dimensional organization of consciousness is translated into an east-west distribution, starting around the international date line in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and proceeding gradually westwards past the western shores of the Americas. Thus, the inmost parts of the inner being are most manifest or easily accessible in eastern Asia and the Pacific Rim, while Europe and Africa represent the outer parts of the inner being, and the Americas open to the outer being proper. Grossly, then, there is a major division of the world into the Eastern and Western hemispheres, with the soul of the world (the Indian subcontinent) and six jewel centers (down to the lower vital) in the east, and the physical consciousness and outer being located in the west, in the Americas.
This large plan accounts for some of the other cardinal features of human history, such as that human beings first evolved in the Eastern hemisphere and migrated late and lastly to the Western hemisphere; and that the first civilizations arose in Asia (Mesopotamia, India, China), spread later to Europe and southern Africa, and arose only belatedly in the Americas. Both of these facts are consistent with the process of manifestation described in Integral Yoga, according to which outer realities are first formed in the higher planes of consciousness and organized within the inner being, and then translated down into the physical and outward to the outer being. In addition, even despite the culturally homogenizing effects of globalization, one can still discern a general pattern of Asians being more inwardly oriented and delicate or subtle in their social norms and esthetic preferences than are Europeans and Africans, who tend to be more outwardly oriented, while Americans from north to south were traditionally more absorbed in the natural world and to this day remain especially dedicated to the material world and outer activity.
These cultural characterizations are, of course, generalizations and not meant to be taken in any dogmatic or bigoted sense, but only to suggest that jewel center influences on human culture exist and can be described. Evidently, human nature itself is the same everywhere on the planet and individuals vary considerably within cultures, so we take care to emphasize here that all of the cultural variations described in the following essays are not intended to suggest that any culture is better or worse than another, but rather that each is endowed by the Earth Mother in a unique way and that all are needed for the fullness of the divine manifestation.
In summary, then, the consciousness of the Earth varies in an organized fashion by latitude and longitude, with latitude corresponding to the planes of consciousness to which the seven chakras of the human being open in spiritual experience, while longitude corresponds to parts of the being ranging from inner to outer as one proceeds westward. This global distribution of planes and parts of the being creates the physical support for a global rhythm of sadhana in the Earth consciousness that proceeds as follows:
As the sun rises over the mid Pacific—that Sun which is the physical symbol of the supra-physical Divine Being—, the awakening movement of dawn streaks southward down the coast of northern Asia while at the same time rising northward from Australia. Since the lands of the Pacific Rim are roughly configured in a V-shape from the North Pole to the southern, this configuration creates a converging movement for the sunrise, whose two leading lines of landfall intersect on the southern shores of India, Maha-Bharat, the soul of the world-being. This culmination represents physically a presentation of the new day to the Divine Mother for her blessing. Stepping forth to receive the offering, the great Mahashakti reviews all the vast labor of evolution that has been done to date, and all that has yet to be accomplished, and She rekindles the hopes of the world-soul and revives the eternal dream of manifesting a life divine in divinized matter. Unlocked are the infinite treasure troves of her supernal worlds of Truth and Bliss, and down pours the flooding illumination of Her all-seeing gaze. Suffused with this higher light and guided by the inmost intimations of the Asian and Pacific jewel centers that have been baptized in the dawning of Maha-Bharat, now Maha-Europa, Maha-Asiatica minoris, and Maha-Africa spring to life. As the sunrise proceeds westward, the three great powers of the manifesting Idea, Power, and Heart throw their force behind the divine effort. Laboring under the blaze of full day, the entire Eastern hemisphere of the Earth Mother now throws all of her force into the concentrated tapasya of world-transformation.
But as the sunrise proceeds westward, a change comes over the manifestation. As night settles over the Eastern hemisphere and the six jewel centers there retire into meditation to absorb the day’s labors and prepare for the morrow, the spiritual work of the world-being is passed onto the seventh sister for her material blessing. Now daylight comes to Maha-America, again streaking down her northeastern coast while at the same time arising from below along her southern coast, repeating the same V-shaped pattern that transpired previously over the Pacific, but now over the Atlantic Ocean and kindling to consciousness the aspiration of the physical being and of sacred substance. Now the Western hemisphere of the globe springs to life and labors under the blaze of full day to manifest physically all that her six sisters in the East have conceived and planned and formed and felt and in the inner planes of consciousness.
Finally, as this massive work reaches its culmination for the day, the sun sets over the western coast of the Americas, an event as great and glorious as was the dawn previously in the East. For Maha-America is splendidly sculpted to fulfill her divine purpose, and her western sunset is a spectacle of Nature not to be missed. Laying her heavenly physique diagonally across the globe from the Antarctic to the Arctic, so as to catch the light of the setting sun in an orderly fashion, she begins her review of the day. Starting with the very tip of South America, in the depths of the subconscious, the sunset climbs up Maha-America’s majestic coastline like a fire of aspiration rising up an enormous stick of incense, reviewing every plane of consciousness along the way. Careful, comprehensive, precise, and complete, Maha-America leaves no detail of the world yoga untouched, and accounts for every movement of consciousness that has settled into her sacred substance in the last twenty-four hours. She inspects all that has been worked out in matter in the last day, and foresees all that has yet to be achieved the next. And then, with a last, mighty prayer from the bosom of the Earth, Maha-America surrenders her labors back to her six sisters in the East. As night settles over the Western hemisphere and the Americas sleep, already dawn streaks down Maha-Asia in the East and arises from the ancient memory of Maha-Australia in the south. Again the world’s inner being is kindled to life, and again Maha-Bharat leans down from her supraconscious spheres to receive the offering and bless the new day.
And so the cycle flows ever onward, from day to day and month to month and year to year, endlessly unfolding the Mahashakti’s will in her terrestrial form as the great Earth Mother. To produce seasonal variations in the emphasis of Her work, during the southern winter she tilts one way on her axis of rotation to focus the transformative Light on the intuitive and mental planes of consciousness in the north, while during the northern hemisphere’s winter she tilts the opposite direction to focus the work of manifestation more on the physical and subconscient planes in the south. And, over the much longer and slower rhythms of geological time, she goes through cycles of heating and cooling in various regions of the planet that make her geo-spiritual forces more or less available to the full play of Life in each zone.
Currently, we are witnessing the beginning of one such period of heating in both the northern and southern poles. Putting aside temporarily the question of whether or not human activity has contributed to this new cycle of warming, and whether or not it is salutary to life on the planet, let us try to glean at least some faint intuition of the inner meaning of these large geological changes. Could it be that the very Earth is feeling the influx of the new Supramental consciousness whose arrival Sri Aurobindo announced, and showing physical signs of both opening and resistance to the higher force that is flowing in from above and below? For even if global warming and polar melt are products of resistance to the influx rather than of opening to it, the Supermind uses every circumstance to advance the manifestation, and the errors that appear to the mental being as horrible or even catastrophic are seen by the higher consciousness as part of some greater, if yet to the mind, mysterious purpose.
If these initial inferences carry some truth, then we may look upon the problem of global warming that now confronts us as precisely the crisis needed to advance the evolution. For the stimulus of this global adversity shall then become the means for drawing humanity together as never before, and require the emergence of a new sense of unity and shared effort and destiny. But for such a global spiritual and material development to proceed to fruition there must also come a shared awakening to the divinity and consciousness of the planet Earth, and a growing perception of the inner meaning of her physical constitution. In this regard, the description of the seven jewel centers of the Earth Mother offered here can serve as an aide to evoking this world-being and setting the reality of Her presence firmly before us as a guiding light to illumine our collective endeavors.
Maha-Bharat: the World Soul That India is the soul of the world-being should require little explanation to anyone of spiritual sensibility who has spent time in the subcontinent. For palpable everywhere within her physical reach, yet explicable nowhere by purely physical terms, is her extraordinary spiritual atmosphere. Nature’s great temple to the supra-natural, and the Earth Mother’s main formed opening to the formless Infinite, she is the home of the Timeless and the Transcendent. Everything about her lands and peoples speaks of this opening to inner and higher worlds of consciousness, and even the darkest manifestations of human ignorance that flower perennially upon her soil cannot negate her essential divinity. In fact, as we shall see later, these errors and perversions are phenomenon of resistance against the tremendous spiritual energies that flow upon Earth through the portals of Maha-Bharat, and thus rather than contradicting her status as the soul of the world only prove it further. For just as water flow becomes turbulent when a large volume passes rapidly through a narrow channel, or a wire overheats when the electric current in it is too strong, so too does the narrow human consciousness impede the massive geo-spiritual forces of the Earth Mother. In every jewel center we will therefore find both positive and negative expressions of the power of the land that are unique to each place, and nowhere on the planet is this dual manifestation of aspiration and resistance more abundantly evident than in India.
Geospiritually, what we shall refer to here as Maha-Bharat extends beyond the current political borders of modern India and contains the entire subcontinent, including Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, probably portions of Tibet, and perhaps Burma (Myanmar) as well as the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Physically, the most striking geographic feature of Maha-Bharat is the Himalayan range, formed in ages past when the subcontinent migrated northwards and collided with the landmass of Asia proper. Since great mountains have always been regarded as sacred by traditional societies around the world, it is only fitting that the greatest of the great mountains on the planet stand on the subcontinent. The youngest and tallest mountain range on earth, these Himalayan peaks are the apt physical expression of the Earth’s aspiration for the Divine, and fittingly have always been viewed as the realm of Gods and yogis in the Indian tradition. But in addition to the towering Himalayas, the rest of the subcontinent contains, within a relatively small region, all of the major environmental zones of the earth—plains, deserts, jungles, rivers, ocean shores, drenching monsoons and arid droughts. From the coldest northern peaks to the hottest southern tropics, all of the essential geological and climatic zones of the world are summarized in the being of Maha-Bahrat, for by virtue of her role she must be so constituted as to represent the entire world within her being.
This extraordinary physical setting for Maha-Bharat is complemented by an even more extraordinary inner scene, an aura or atmosphere or consciousness that is truly sui generis. So enchanting and awe-inspiring is this inner landscape that one could almost say the real Maha-Bharat can only be seen with eyes closed, for it is only in the depths of meditation that She reveals her full splendor. Everywhere one goes on the subcontinent there is a vast and profound spiritual atmosphere, an aura or light that often appears to the inner vision as variations upon Krishna’s blue. There is an inner feeling of spaciousness and timelessness, an ineffable sensation of softness and subtleness that envelopes and permeates all objects, a sense that the physical world is but the thinnest of veils covering a vast and non-material world within. At times this pull towards the Transcendent is so strong that physical matter seems distant and unimportant to the experiencing consciousness, perhaps even unreal. Or, in moments and moods when the physical world becomes surcharged with the indwelling Divine or moved like a wave on the ocean of the Infinite by some vaster air, then Nature reveals her supranatural origin: in the clouds one sees the forms of great Gods and Goddesses, in the air float perfumes that hint at other and higher worlds, in both night and day broods the presence of some stupendous fathomless Void that is the beginning and ending of all things created. And at certain spots, such as mount Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, the spiritual charge of the land is so pure and potent, shines out with such a diamond-like Light from beyond space and time, that one can do aught but agree with the sages that indeed here the very Self of all existences stands mystically revealed in the form of a mountain. It is this revelation of the Spirit, this unveiling of the Transcendent, this manifestation of the Infinite within the finite terms of time and space that makes Maha-Bharat what she is, the soul of the world.
Because of this geo-spiritual force, human cultural evolution on the subcontinent has taken a turn towards the spiritual that is unique. While all human cultures contain spiritual elements, still, without denying the accomplishments of the rest we may appreciate that the subcontinent has supported the development not only of religion, but more characteristically of spirituality and mysticism, like no other region of the world. From the mantric chants of the Vedas, to the transcendent philosophy of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, to the high idealism of Jainism, to the Buddha’s quest for Nirvana, to all the later permutations of yoga and Hinduism, there is a constant search for the Timeless, the Absolute, the Infinite, the Transcendent that is characteristic of Indic culture. It is truly remarkable how philosophically rich and subtle the Indian religious tradition has been, and how oriented towards direct spiritual experience of higher states of consciousness. Whereas the religions born in the Middle East (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) espouse a mentally simple model of monotheism and emphasize the importance of doctrinal belief and institutional organization over personal experience—both telltale marks of the visuddha chakra, the dynamic or externalizing mind,—the Indian tradition has always been notable for its more complex world-view of polymorphic monotheism, according to which the one absolute Brahman expresses Itself through an infinite variety of forms and beings, both physical and supra-physical.
To support this vast and varied world-view, Indian spirituality is built upon psychological foundations that are more fluid than one finds in the religious traditions from the Middle East. The two main principles of the Indian approach to God are decentralization and direct personal experience. That is, there is no one central scripture or Bible of what has come to be called Hinduism, rather several major texts and multiple smaller ones, and indeed one is not quite sure what Hinduism is or is not, as it tends to absorb saints and teachers from other traditions over time (e.g., Lord Buddha became an avatar eventually, and one ventures that Mother Teresa will become a vibhutti of avatar Jesus the Christ in a few centuries). Likewise, there is no one, central holy spot in Hinduism. Whereas the Jews, Christians, and Muslims can all point to one or two holy spots where their respective religions arose, India is littered with sacred sites each more holy than the next, and so densely rich is the mythology around these manifold places that one can no longer tell where the mythology ends and history begins. Finally, all of this decentralization is stirred to creative life by a full and ancient repertoire of yogic, devotional, and meditative practices aimed at experiencing God directly, without the intermediary of any church or religious authority. This periodically produces the spontaneous emergence of individual yogis, mystics, saints, and sages whose first-hand experience of the Divine counter-balances and often supersedes the authority of priests and shastras.
If one has any doubt about the veracity of these assertions, one need only look to the phenomenon of gurus for evidence that Indian culture engenders a different approach to spirituality than other cultures of the world. While the popular media have now trivialized both the word and the role of guru almost beyond recognition, that triviality vanishes when one is confronted with the actual fact of a Self-realized being, as happened in the first half of the 20th century when the life of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi was documented for all to see. The very archetype of the enlightened master who lives on a hill, teaches by silence, and owns nothing more than a loincloth, here is proof positive that the myths and legends of India are not all imagination. While such extraordinary souls do, very rarely, take birth in other parts of the world, in India they come frequently enough that the culture has developed words to describe them (e.g., Jivanmukti, Bhagavan, mahayogi, paramahamsa, avadhuta, avatar, etc.), both social roles (sannyasi, guru) and philosophical traditions (Advaita Vedanta) to support their teaching, and a respectfully devout attitude in the people that receives them appropriately when they arrive. Had a soul such as Sri Maharshi taken birth outside of India where such cultural supports do not exist, the associated flood of devotees and flow of supernatural phenomenon would have either threatened the ruling orthodoxy or spawned a new religion. In contrast, inside India his presence was absorbed quite naturally as another in a long line of Self-realized beings who have graced the soil of Maha-Bharat—amazing, yes, but unprecedented, no.
And one starts with Sri Maharshi only because his example is so pure and incontrovertible. But Maha-Bharat has produced a whole rainbow of spiritual figures to appeal to all inclinations, and that just in the last hundred plus years, not to mention her star-studded pantheon from centuries past. To name but a few: Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Anandamayi Ma, Krishnamurti, Neem Karoli Baba, two Sai Babas, and Ammaji among others, plus exports such as Yogananda, the Mahesh Yogi, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his Hare Krishna movement, Swami Muktananda and his disciple Swami Chidvilasananda, Mother Meera, and more. Not all have been of the highest quality, and some, such as Rajneesh, ended in infamy, but the quantity is notable nonetheless. Furthermore, modern India has also played host to various foreign spiritual personages who came to teach, and this warm reception of the foreigner is especially compelling evidence of her authenticity, because it shows that in matters spiritual she judges not by color or creed or gender, but by inner capacity. Thus, for instance, we have the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama. Particularly in the case of Mother Teresa one has to ask “why India?” Of all the slums in the world, why did she have to come to Calcutta to serve God? Why is it that with Christianity spread around the globe, the one soul in recent memory who has absolutely and unequivocally embodied the ideals of Jesus the Christ had to live in India? The West has made much of what Mother Teresa gave to India, and one gratefully acknowledges that service, but did not India also give something to her? For the grace of Maha-Bharat is the gift of spiritual vision and revelation, to see Christ in the beggar and know that the Lord lives right here in the midst of our fallen and death-bound mortal state. Like so many who came before her, and all those who shall come hereafter, Mother Teresa’s faith was elevated to its highest spiritual potential by the consciousness of India.
Still, all this represents the extraordinary side of Indian spirituality, the saints and sages and great teachers. But let us also consider its more ordinary side, as this too reflects the geo-spiritual influence of the region. The first of these is religion as it grows in the masses and non-religious leaders, while the second is its wide and deep influence on the creative arts.
For instance, one vivid illustration of how ordinary religious worship is qualitatively different in India from elsewhere in the world is the design of the Hindu temple, which in critical ways differs from temples, churches, mosques, and sites of worship outside of India. In all other cultures, from Asia to the pre-Columbian Americas, religious architecture is designed to focus attention on a single, central spot which houses a sacred image or from which a verbal message is delivered by a religious official. In contrast, the Hindu temple is discursive, sometimes disconcertingly so to the newcomer. Hindu temples do have a central deity in theory, but in practice he or she is hard to find. One enters a huge enclosure, which symbolizes the cosmos, and once inside one’s attention is drawn in many directions simultaneously. Over here is a shrine to Ganesh, over there one to Durga; down this hall stretch hundreds of columns that entrance the eye with resonating shapes, while down that hall one arrives at temples within the temple, shrines to Lakshmi or Vishnu or Kali or Shiva or what have you. On this side a priest is ringing a bell and chanting mantras to one idol, while on that side a second priest is simultaneously leading a puja to another. Visitors are wandering in every which direction, children are running and playing, and the devoted are each worshipping in his or her own way—this man lies prostrate on the floor, that woman sits counting mala beads and muttering, a small crowd to the left is receiving prasad from a Brahmin, while another crowd to the right is performing an arati. The only fixed regulation seems to be to leave one’s chapals at the entry; other than that, one has true freedom of worship. Indeed, the sannyasin can even go about naked, if he has demonstrated a right to live outside social norms through extended austerities. The net effect on the visitor of wandering through this spectacle of God and humanity, all while passing through zones of blinding sunlight alternating with womblike darkness, is trance-like. It induces an altered state of consciousness and opens the mind to supra-rational realms.
And not only has the commoner developed a vivid approach to God, but so have Indian nobility and political leaders, who down through the ages have fomented a peculiar attraction to various types of spiritual idealism. Typically this impulse has been played out as a dynamic tension between renouncing political power in favor of a spiritual quest, versus ruling but trying to use power towards idealistic ends. Prince Gautama walked away from a kingdom to become the Buddha, while Chandragupta first built an empire only to renounce it later and die as a Jain ascetic in search of moksha. Ashoka, too, began with violence like Chandragupta, but then sought to use his power to spread the pacifist message of Buddhism and create a religiously tolerant society. The Kushans swept into India as marauding hordes from central Asia, only to end with Kanishka promoting an eclectic type of religious syncretism that expanded peaceable trade and exported Buddhism to China. The Mughals came as conquerors to impose Islam on the infidels, only to see Akbar the Great turn towards religious tolerance and the rule of reason, while his grandson Dara went one step further and sought the essential spiritual unity at the heart of both Hinduism and Islam. In the 20th century, Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi gave a modern expression to all sides of this dynamic tension, with Sri Aurobindo first working in politics and advocating the Gita’s doctrine of karma yoga in the quest for Indian independence, only later to retire from politics and even turn down the presidency of India in favor of his spiritual sadhana. On the other hand, Gandhi endeavored throughout his political career to bring the ideals of non-violence and religious tolerance to the struggle for self-rule.
Today, this deeply ingrained sympathy for spirituality of all types continues to endow contemporary Indian culture with a degree of religious tolerance unparalleled by any other society in the world. Whatever be the many ills of modern India, now as before she remains the world’s largest cauldron of spiritual experimentation and diversity. Whereas the United States and Europe espouse religious freedom on paper but in lived fact are rather restrained and anemic in their public expression of the religious impulse, India is frankly florid in her quest for God. She has native traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism as well, plus has imported Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism en masse. She hosts the largest religious festival on Earth (the Kumbha Mela), has more religious holidays than any other society on the planet, has shrines to some god or goddess on almost every corner and yet continues to build more, and one can scarcely find a public or private office on the subcontinent that does not boast a garland to one sacred image or another. In a word, her whole approach is florescent: with paints (as in holi), and fireworks (as in pongal), and lights (as in divali), and idols, and rituals, and myths, and music, and dance, and a billion people worshipping a thousand forms of gods and goddesses. In any other place in the world such a passion for religion would not be compatible with either peace or secular democracy, and yet somehow India manages to maintain both. Of course she has her constant smoldering religious tensions and the Hindu-Muslim problem, for religious conflict is inevitable given human nature, yet in the grand scheme of things Maha-Bharat contains these tensions relatively well and continues to advance slowly towards that great goal she has been seeking since the dawn of history—to behold the One who lives in the heart of the Many, to touch the Timeless living in the heart of Time, to realize the Infinite who manifests endlessly through all finite forms.
We began with matters religious and spiritual because these so patently reflect the geo-spiritual influence of the land on human consciousness in the subcontinent, but this force has had a palpable effect on every other aspect of Indic culture as well, from the arts to clothing, food, and even business and military affairs. In the creative arts, the constant push of the timeless and transcendent Infinite to manifest in finite time has marked all Indian art forms with the traits of subtle awareness, extension or elaboration, and repetition or resonance. Taken together, these features create the impression of endless variations or permutations that seem to play around or against a background of timeless, unchanging permanence. This dynamic tension evidently expresses the relationship between the dynamic and static Brahman of Indian spiritual philosophy, and thus the ultimate effect of Indian creative activity is to induce a meditative state of consciousness that is felt to be spiritual.
In literature, for example, we have the staggering narrative extension of the Mahabharata, with its vast content that covers all of creation, from Gods to humans to the transcendent heights of the Bhagavad Gita. From this and the Puranas derive an almost infinite variety of local myths and legends that are elaborated and repeated in endless permutations in the many languages and oral traditions of the subcontinent. In modern times, the essential spirit of this narrative tradition took a new form of expression in Sri Aurobindo’s prose and poetry, which are supremely meditative. In addition to developing a spiritual interpretation of the evolutionary process, note how Indian is Sri Aurobindo’s approach to expressing his perceptions. He extends his exposition to great length, richly elaborates a few core ideas into seemingly infinite permutations, and employs formal devices such as periodic prose or metric verse to create droning rhythms that have a mantric effect upon the reader. Or, as in the case of Savitri, written in blank verse, constantly repeated themes and lines or blocks of sentence structure are used in place of meter to achieve that sense of elaboration and resonance which are so characteristically Indian. By way of contrast, Japanese and Chinese Zen literature have approached somewhat similar themes of spiritual awakening through a completely different formal method, e.g., the crystallization of pristine moments of intuitive insight seen in Dharma stories, koans, and Basho’s haiku.
These same features of extension, resonance, and spiritual or meditative effect are abundantly evident in the classical music and visual arts of the Indian subcontinent. What may be called the spiritual content of Indian music is admittedly difficult to describe in words, because terms such as psychic feeling and intuitive influence may seem abstract to readers, but many technical features of Indian music can be described which are central to its meditative appeal. In terms of subtlety, for instance, the sitar is without doubt the most delicate, complex, and subtle stringed instrument in the world; hear how simple and heavy the Western guitar is in comparison. Or take the Indian tabla which, with its relatively small size and blend of five metals, produces a much more harmonious and melodious sound than the drums of Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Furthermore, in addition to the sounds of Indian instruments being subtle and refined, the structure of Indian classical music also facilitates extension and resonance. These are achieved through formal devices such as the juxtaposition of an elaborately developed (i.e. extended) raga that resonates around or against the background of a few constantly repeated drone notes, and the synthesis of improvisation with repetition of a huge repertoire of remembered scales and rhythms that allow the Indian musician to carry on almost ad infinitum when inspired. Add to this other contemplative features such the opening alap that drifts so beautifully from musical formlessness into a defined shape and tempo, and vocals that abound in open and resonant “ah” sounds, and you arrive at a musical form that is uniquely tuned to the expression of the Timeless and the Infinite.
In the visual arts, these characteristics are even more obvious because immediately visible. Here one can literally point to the distinct technical features of Indian art. In classical sculpture, for example, the anatomical detail of the physical form was less emphasized than in the European tradition, because the Indian artist was interested not in a mental rule for correctly rendering external reality, but something more spiritual and subtle–the feeling of suppleness and beauty and even ecstasy that belongs to the inner physical being rather than the outer physical form, i.e., the body seen from within rather than without. Hence the endlessly repeated curves and rhythmic shapes of so much Indian temple sculpture, that motionless movement of stone that enchants the beholding eye with a sense of transporting ananda. Even when this temple sculpture descends from its purest spiritual heights to include a sensual or even frankly erotic element—and that, by the way, is also Indian: a cosmic vision that can embrace the spiritual and the sensual in a single gaze–, it does so with a subtle and inward feeling. Thus, whereas in Europe classical sculpture depicted sensuality from without via perfect naked bodies, in India sensuality was evoked from within, via exaggerated busts, hips, shoulders, and curves that emphasize inner feelings and aroused perceptions over outer anatomical facts.
In architecture, the essential Indian motives and tendencies are expressed differently in the Hindu and Muslim traditions, but are clearly evident in both. We already touched upon many features of Hindu architecture in the prior description of the Hindu temple. To this we need only add that the technical devices of extension and resonance are achieved horizontally through the spatial stretch of hallways with endlessly repeating columns and arches, and vertically through features such as visually resonating roof lines and the teeming facades of the classical gopuram, which almost literally depict unending planes of consciousness populated by a countless variety of beings. Fused together, these formal methods create a visual impression of vibrating profusion, in north India with a more centrally organized temple structure to reflect a more mental force in the land, while in south India with more horizontal extension of the temple structure to reflect the physical consciousness of the land. Or, in the case of Islamic architecture, the cleaner and sharper lines of Persia were refined, softened, and given an enchanting delicacy unequaled elsewhere. There is less profusion and permutation than in the Hindu tradition, but visual resonance is nonetheless exquisitely achieved through repetition of hallway arches and domed roofs. Hence the exceptional beauty of the Red Fort in Agra, Islam’s most aesthetic fortress, and the sublime perfection of the Taj Mahal, that most mystical and magical of all tombs in the world. Luminous and ethereal, the Taj seems to float just above the ground, like a dream of delight conjured in some supra-physical world and materialized on earth. Indeed, it is precisely because of the geo-spiritual consciousness of the subcontinent that Islamic art and architecture reached their acme in India rather than elsewhere.
Today, the subtlety and richness of the Indian artistic temperament are evident both in contemporary painting–a veritable treasure-trove of talent we shall not have space to review here–as well in the less sophisticated but more popular medium of Bollywood film. While Bollywood does not have an overtly spiritual aim, still, it has latent visionary tendencies and esthetic preferences that are typically Indian. Some of these include extended viewing time; dramatic emotional intensity that aims not at naturalism but rather hyper-realism; a universal narrative structure that contains all genres in one (e.g., drama, romance, action, musical, and comedy all together); the juxtaposition of individual protagonists against a background of large groups of people; vibrantly colorful music and dance that synthesize global influences; and lastly, for the moment at least, the repetition of one unchanging and ever-droning Story—a love story that ends in a wedding—that is yet spun into an infinite series of particular stories, each different from the next. When executed poorly, these methods of elaborating and amplifying human emotion can lead to sloppy melodrama carried to lengthy excess, but when well accomplished produce a breadth of vision and richness of beauty and feeling that are unparalleled in Western cinema. And, in the hands of a genius such as Mani Ratnam, the tools of Bollywood can be toned down and turned to a more probing exposition of life that is almost Shakespearean in its scope and depth.
Finally, even the more mundane arts and practical activities on the subcontinent embody the traits described above. In clothing, for example, see how a piece of cloth can be kept as simple and unchanging as the white cotton dhoti that men wear, or elaborated and lavishly spun into the subtle beauty and infinite permutations of women’s saris. Or note how long it takes to prepare traditional Indian food, how extensive the process is, how many and varied are the spices used, how much subtle variation of flavor there is within the unifying sameness of all Indian curries. And yet, when it is finally time to eat this elaborate cuisine, one will do so in the most simple way possible, with the human hand, and not put material instruments between oneself and food. Indeed, even business and war on the subcontinent tend towards the subtle and the power of consciousness over matter. For example, India is known especially for its computer programming and software industry, telecommunications satellites, call centers, and well-educated technology specialists—all of which appeal to the consciousness end of technology rather than its more material end. And in military affairs, note how the faculty of intuition takes precedence over sheer physical prowess in various ways—in Pakistan through shrewd manipulation of the United States, in Sri Lanka in the ruthless psychological tactics of the Tamil Tigers, and in a recent war exercise between India and the United States, American pilots were found to have better equipment, but Indian pilots were better at predicting their opponent’s next move. Thus, literally every aspect of human culture on the subcontinent reflects a geo-spiritual influence.
Now one may well ask whether the consciousness of the subcontinent originates not from the land, but rather from the collective consciousness of the peoples who have inhabited the region for millennia. Perhaps human beings radiate a subtle psychosphere that, through non-local effects, has influenced the various forms of human cultural expression that have evolved over time? Yet while human beings undoubtedly do have a collective consciousness, there is evidence that the land is conscious as well, and is probably the stronger of the two forces by virtue of its enormously greater age and size. The most definitive proof that land itself is a conscious force lies in the Americas, and as we shall see later, there one can clearly trace how European colonists evolved over time from a mental to a physical consciousness. However, suggestive pieces of evidence exist within Maha-Bharat as well. One of the more fascinating of these is the Indian elephant, which differs in significant ways from its cousin, the African elephant. Whereas the African elephant is large, untamable, has ears the shape of Africa, and has an aura that to the inner eye looks deep red-rose, the Indian elephant is smaller, remarkably intelligent and trainable, has ears the shape of the subcontinent, and has a bluish aura to the inner vision, especially around the head. Thus, in migrating to the jewel center of Maha-Bharat, the elephant entered a field of conscious force that influenced its evolution so as to bring out its aspect of consciousness, as opposed to the vibration of the higher vital prominent in Africa.
Another example of this jewel center influence on animal evolution is the Indian cow, which is the most graceful and contemplative-looking cow in the world. With its large, peaceful, almost liquid-looking eyes, and elegantly arced horns and bony structures, overall it gives one the impression of wisdom and artistic beauty. In contrast, the European cow is more muscular and square of build, a creature defined more for outer function, while the American cow is simply a massive and rather unbecoming milk or meat producing machine. Significantly, one finds a similar trend in the shapes and forms of deer, gazelles, and antelopes, with the Indian varieties of these animals giving a greater impression of delicacy and softness than their European or American counterparts, in part due to their more rounded contours. These differences reflect the influence on animal evolution of a spiritual consciousness in the Indian subcontinent, the mental plane of consciousness in Europe, and the physical consciousness in the Americas. While human preferences around selective breeding may well have influenced the evolution of both cows and elephants (and more for cows than for elephants), the human factor probably had little influence on deer, gazelles, and antelopes. Thus, one has to wonder what underlying force molded the evolution of all three animal species in a similar direction, especially as these more subtle qualities of form do not confer any obvious survival advantage, and are therefore difficult to explain solely on the basis of natural selection.
The consciousness of the land, then, is ancient and powerful, and affects the evolution of all life forms that it supports. Positively, this has lead on the subcontinent to the remarkable spiritual, cultural, and artistic achievements we reviewed above. But the human system is ultimately small and feeble compared to the massive charge of the land, and therefore one also finds in Maha-Bharat numerous negative examples of resistance to the geo-spiritual force of the region. The consciousness of the Infinite inverted into its opposite becomes then the suffocating Finite, the Timeless imprisoned becomes the endless tyranny of Time, and the Transcendent descended becomes the hopeless Mundane. Therefore the land that has given the world its highest lessons in the liberation of consciousness has also produced seemingly infinite varieties of human suffering.
Historically, this side of Indian society is seen in the constant repetition of tragedy and downfall. The Mahabharata ends with all sides destroyed and dead, including Krishna himself. The great kingdoms of ancient India all ended in decay from within or destruction from without. The religious and cultural flowering initiated by Akbar and brought to its acme by Dara, was cut down brutally by Aurangzeb, who imprisoned his father, Shah Jahan, in a room in the Red Fort from which he could see his beloved Taj Mahal yet never reach it, and then went on to murder his brother Dara and perpetrate horrific massacres of Hindus. Thus, on the verge of steering towards a brighter future of Hindu-Muslim unity, instead the subcontinent veered down the path of strife and hatred that lead ultimately to the bloodbath of Partition and the Hindu-Muslim problem that continues to this day. And lastly there is that most pernicious and persistent of all Indian tragedies, the caste system, which over time turned the most complex and creative society in the world into little more than a jail.
Today, the dark side of the subcontinent is as disheartening to behold as its marvels are awe-inspiring—overwhelming population pressures, environmental degradation, poverty, lack of education, ignorance and backwardness of every kind, caste injustice, chaos, dirt, squalor, corruption, apathy, a total indifference to human suffering, the all-devouring greed of ruthless politicians and business tycoons, gang lords and cronyism, the absolute wickedness of child exploitation and child trafficking, and black magic practiced with a degree of occult knowledge not found anywhere else in the world. We shall not dwell here on illustrating in gruesome detail all this misery, which is the work of asuric forces, but simply point out that its quantity and variety is the negative manifestation of the Infinite. Precisely because Maha-Bharat is the soul of the world, all material and spiritual possibilities are manifested within her multitudinous movement, and whatever problem is to be worked out in the world-being must be solved first in the soul of Maha-Bharat before it can be realized definitively in the life of the world. Therefore the essence of all potentials both positive and negative live within her, and therefore she shows a mixed manifestation of light and dark that can feel absolutely overwhelming the small human instrument.
Geo-spiritually, this central role for the world-being means that all of the planes of consciousness manifested outwardly through the other jewel centers must have an inner or essential representation within Maha-Bharat, to serve as a channel through which these forces can flow into and out of the world-being. Thus, the same general plan previously described for the geo-spiritual anatomy of the Earth is repeated and summarized within Maha-Bharat, only on a smaller and less externalized scale: her northern lands open to ascending grades of the mental and intuitive planes of consciousness, while her central and southern lands grade through the various levels of the vital, down into the physical in south India and finally the subconscious in Sri Lanka. At the same time, her eastern shores open to the more inner parts of the inner being, while her western shores open to the more outer parts of the inner being. As a result, if one looks at the overall character of the different cultural regions of the subcontinent, meaningful variations emerge that reflect the geo-spiritual organization in the consciousness of the land.
For example, Bengal, in the northeast, is a land soft and gentle in her physical form, in some places almost visibly exuding that golden aura from which her name derives, and this poetic consciousness of the land is mirrored in the culture of her peoples. Bengal represents a plane of the inner mind that is both indrawn and intuitive yet at the same time interfused with the visuddha level, an unusual combination of forces that leads to the exceptional brilliance, sensitivity and expressivity of her people. The home of thinkers and artists and musicians and poets and dreamers great and small, she has always been given to large ideas and soaring inspirations that often far outreach the executive ability of her not so practical people. From here arose the movement for independence from the British, which other parts of India had to take up and accomplish, and from here issued that huge inspiration that still awaits its completion in the world: Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo, the seers of a new spiritual dawn for the world.
Moving along a line that proceeds roughly northwest from Bengal, we ascend into a plane of consciousness that is more purely mental or cognitive. Thus, we pass from the soft and milky light blue aura that permeates Kolkata, into the drier and more concentrated dark blue light of Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace in southern Nepal. In accordance with this consciousness of the land, note how eminently rational and cognitively penetrating was the Buddha’s teaching, and how the artistic esthetic of Nepal is more spare than in Bengal. And yet, at the same time, note how Nepal has never been a seat of great political power—for that, we must move further west, to Delhi, where the force in the land begins to flow more outwards into manifesting action. Delhi and her environs have long been the command and control center of India, from the times of the Mughals through the British Raj, and more generally the whole expanse of the Ganges’ plains on which she stands has been center stage for the great movements of Indian history since the dawn of civilization. This corridor has seen the coming and going of Krishna and the epic battles of the Mahabharata, of the Buddha’s peripatetic ministry, of the westward expansion of Chandragupta’s and Ashoka’s empires, of the influx of the Kushans from Central Asia and the Mughals from Persia.
From Delhi turning southwards and descending into central India, we come to a region whose aura is experienced more in the heart chakra and mid vital. In the northern portions of this region one finds temples such as Khajurao, where the feeling is devotional, emotional, and at times even sensual, as well as Sanchi, a Buddhist site of worship where the consciousness opens naturally to a large and stable heart space. Further south lies Hyderabad, in the more dynamic band of the central vital, at about the same latitude as Mumbai, which shares this vital energy and which we will return to later. In Hyderabad the human culture is notably more mercantile and money-minded than Bengal, and this characterization holds as true today with Hyderabad’s headquarters for Microsoft as it did in the past with its wealthy nizams. Significantly, the vital force of Andrah is even reflected in the character of its more famous spiritual sites and figures, such as the exceeding wealth of the temple at Tirupati as well as Sai Baba’s flare and facility with miracles.
Proceeding further south and to the eastern shores of India, we come to Tamil Nadu, the inner physical being of India. Here one finds many traits of the physical consciousness, most notably stability and preservation of the past. Tamil culture has always been more insular than in the north, less affected by invasions and more religiously orthodox, and the Tamil language is one of the oldest on the planet. The temples of Mahabalipuram are known outwardly for their perfection in the physical discipline of sculpture, and inwardly are experienced in the root or physical chakra, towards the base of the spine in the back. Accordingly, in modern times Pondicherry became the site for Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana for the spiritual transformation of the body and of matter, and the red earth of Auroville became the first soil in the world to manifest a truly supramental force.
Lastly, arriving at the southern tip of India, at Kanya Kumari, we find the temple where Swami Vivekananda is said to have received his adesh to go to America, the muladhara chakra of the world. And crossing the channel over to Sri Lanka, we come to the subconscious of the subcontinent, where aura of the land appears grayish black to the inner eye, and all the memories and habits of the subcontinent repose. From here the demon Ravana was said to have arisen in that time before time, and to here Buddhism settled as a persisting memory after its life force left India through the upper gates into the rest of Asia. In modern times, from here the forces of violence and destruction resurged recently via the vehicle of the Tamil Tigers, and one can only hope that their recent defeat presages the possibility of terrorism being vanquished elsewhere on the planet. But that remains to be seen.
In any case, as we now return up the western shores of the subcontinent, one finds the consciousness of the land more out-flowing than on the eastern coast. Historically, this outpouring force has supported extensive trade relations with Africa, Europe, and the Middle East dating back to antiquity, and currently is reflected in the relatively more florescent and cosmopolitan human sub-cultures of the region. For example, in Kerala, which expresses this abundance in the physical consciousness, one finds the most lush and verdant landscape of the subcontinent. Here the fullness in the land manifests in her human inhabitants via matriarchal traditions, socialist tendencies, and high educational level despite low income, all of which have helped Kerala succeeded better than any other part of India in tending to the basic physical needs of her people. Indeed, this physical force is even reflected in the character of some of her more famous saints, such as Ammaji, who gives darshan with a maternal hug for those in spiritual need.
Moving further north, we ascend into vital region of India again, first passing through sensual Goa, erstwhile abode of laid-back hippies and still the home of relaxed Mediterranean influences, and then arrive in ambitious and extravagant Mumbai. This area is clearly the seat of a large and externalizing vital consciousness, for it is now the center of both Bollywood and India’s financial industry, and in ages past produced the splendid artistic outpourings housed in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, which lie just north of Mumbai. Completing the circuit of the subcontinent, we return through the higher vital into the visuddha level again. In the southern levels of this passage, such as Rajasthan, one meets a roseate aura in the land, and a corresponding force of heart, valor, and passionate expressivity in the people. Hence the courageous Rajput kings of old with their splendid forts and palaces, and the continued vibrancy of Rajashtani folk arts today. Note the dynamic dance forms, powerful vocal music, highly contrasted color schemes, textiles with dazzling mirror-work and embroidery, and even business savvy. All of these features show a more simple yet forceful externalizing power than the subtle and inward delicacies of Bengal.
Finally, in the northern level of this region we find Pakistan, where the consciousness of the land is grey and unmistakably felt in throat chakra. Connecting physically with the visuddha center of the world via Afghanistan, this region is the subcontinent’s gateway of Power and externalizing force. Through here have flowed the large movements that have shaped not just Indian, but indeed world history. Here in the Indus river valley arose Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, which modern archaeological findings have shown to be the oldest known civilizations in the world, older than the ancient cities of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. Remarkable for its orderly cities with sophisticated drainage systems, this civilization clearly had some sort of centrally organized government, and yet there is no evidence that this society suffered the ills that characterize all other organized civilizations including our own—war, conflict, ideology, and a dominating upper class. Thus even here in the very cradle of civilization, one again finds evidence of a turn towards spirituality and peaceful idealism that has no precedent elsewhere on the planet.
In later ages this Indus Valley civilization decayed and declined, for reasons unknown but perhaps related to climate change, and then this land became the gateway to the plains of the Ganges, which we have already reviewed. Through the Khyber pass and down into the subcontinent came, in sequence, the ancient Aryans, Alexander, the Kushans, and the Mughals, and through here from the Punjab to Bengal ran the Grand Trunk Road that was the backbone of British colonialism, the central artery for the most far-flung the Empire the world has known. And to this day the region continues to show all the stigmata of resistance to what could and ultimately must become a spiritual power of action, for in Pakistan we find the very epicenter of the problem that now preoccupies the major powers of the world. Here we find a nuclear-armed Muslim state riddled with chaos and corruption that has become a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, and for the moment even houses Bin Laden himself, the world’s most wanted man. A disaster here would have global impact.
This then is a very brief introduction to that mighty force of God and Nature which is Maha-Bharat, soul of the world. Much more empirical work is needed to adequately characterize the many variations of consciousness across the lands of the subcontinent, and to understand how these geo-spiritual forces have affected the evolution past and present. However, for the moment we leave that aside and pass on to the other jewel centers of the Earth Mother, those great Goddesses who together organize and canalize the manifesting energies of the supreme Mahashakti.