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Intro | Vastu | The Four Goals | Sacred Architecture | The Vastu Purusha Mandala | Consultations
Yoga & Vastu
By Frederick “Rico” Baker
M.A. Archetypal Psychology
India has been the primary world source of wisdom for this great age. I am looking right now at a globe on my desk with India sitting regally in the center of the Indian Ocean at about 75 degrees East longitude. 180 degrees away, on the exact opposite side of the globe, at around 105 degrees West is the center of North America. India’s wisdom has reached us here in North America from the East and West in many forms, perhaps most notably in the contemplative spiritual traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and some might even say in the distant roots of Judaism and Christianity.
Yoga, India’s crown jewel, is of growing popularity in the West, especially hatha yoga, but also in its more expansive meaning as the total spiritual quest for union with the ultimate. I am especially interested in the fact that India’s wisdom has come to us not only in spiritual/religious forms, but in knowledge meant to help us be more fully who we are in all aspects of our daily life. Ayurveda, the way of healthy life style, for example, and actually all the Vedas or ancient wisdom writings of India have this goal of supporting the TOTAL blossoming of human potential.
Vastu } scroll up
An integral aspect of this daily wisdom has to do with how we design and build the structures we live in. In India this particular emphasis is called Vaastu Shastra or more simply Vastu. The words, like the English “vast” refer to all that exists. “Vastu” is the realm of the unmanifest and “vaastu” is everything that is manifest. More practically, vastu/vaastu has to do with everything that is created, from jewelry to airplanes, but most specifically to human dwellings.
In the West, we are learning more today about how to design and build, using non-toxic materials, to support the health of the occupants. Vastu, represents wisdom gained from many hundreds or even thousands of years of experience in this field. Homes, offices and temples all have differing functions and design requirements, but basically, all vastu structures are meant to support human evolution.
In modern society we live a large part of each day in buildings, often going directly from home to work via our vehicle. Some folks only have the open sky above them during the short time as they walk to and from their car. This means that the quality of these structures where we spend so much time are becoming ever more important to our health and wellbeing, as also the vital importance of times and places where we can enjoy unadulterated natural settings.
It would take many volumes to expound on all the subtleties of the vastu arts and sciences. My intent here is only to give a very brief introduction to vastu within the context of a complete approach to healthy/holy living. Let us begin within a wide context of the most fundamental goals of being human.
The Four Goals } scroll up
In the Vedic tradition, four goals are said to be basic to an integral life. They are arranged in order of priority, the foremost being Moksha or Liberation; followed by Dharma or living morally and ethically; Artha, prosperity; and Kama or enjoyment. All these goals are considered important when they are correctly prioritized. Vastu buildings address all four goals:
1. Starting with Kama, vastu buildings are ideally beautiful and enjoyable to all the senses. The are designed to be comfortable.
2. Prosperity or Artha includes responsible use of our resources. Wealth is meant to help us care for our families and community. A vastu structure is consciously designed to support the occupants and the community financially. Health, being our greatest wealth is of utmost concern in the design and construction of vastu buildings.
3. Dharma or ethical action is the goal of living in tune with our highest calling in a way that is as helpful as possible. The vastu home is not only meant to support the health and success of the occupants but to do so in the most positive way. For example, trees that are used for lumber are thanked and replanting is done to maintain natural resources.
4. Moksha or liberation is the highest goal of a vastu structure. With the exception of churches, it is probably not common in the West to think of buildings as contributing to our spiritual goals, especially our home and office. However, in vastu, as in all of the Vedas, liberation is the highest goal and all structures, and indeed all craft and art is meant to lead to this goal.
Sacred Architecture } scroll up
Vastu is best learned from a master. Like yoga, you can learn only so much from a book. There are scholars who have studied yoga, but only a yoga master has actually experienced yoga. It is very easy to misinterpret yoga as a scholar. The same is true for vastu. Until very recently, vastu principles have been highly guarded, not only as professional secrets, but because of its great power to both help and harm. You will read about various interpretations of vastu with widely differing information due to this phenomenon of scholars trying to present “educated” guesses about its meaning. Although I am not an architect or a carpenter, I have had the good fortune to study with a yoga master for many years and with a true sacred architect or sthapati, as they are reverently called in India, who comes from an ancient lineage of master builders. Of course this is a very great blessing.
To better understand vastu it is vital to start with the foundation (to utilize a construction metaphor) of its subtle physics and metaphysics. We are used to viewing the world for the most part from the assumption that we are the body, with the mind as an important epi-phenomenon of this basic identification. We are regarded as the subjects who look out upon the world of real things. In philosophy this is called naïve realism, a form of materialism. On the other hand, in extreme forms of spiritualism, the assumption is that there is only the unmanifest and everything that we apparently see is unreal. The discussion about what is real or not real, philosophically speaking, can get very messy, very quickly. Vastu values both the unmanifest and the manifest worlds.
One way of approaching this vast topic of unmanifest and manifest, is to begin with the largest category. We can call it the Ultimate or Absolute or many other names. In yoga philosophy, as in the Baghavad Gita, the Absolute is called Paran Purusha or Primal Being. This realm is actually beyond words and descriptions, but we still try. Paran Purusha, the One, manifests as Purusha and Prakriti, the first couple or the duality of unmanifest and manifest. It is their dance that gives us the world with all its paradoxes and the tantric sexual metaphor that hints at the paradoxical identity of the Two and the One.
Vastu approaches this paradox geometrically with the cube representing the unmanifest and the sphere the manifest. The primal cube is at rest and when it first moves, this motion is called Time or Pulse. Light, Sound, Space and all the rest of the 8 subtle elements evolve from this beginning. As it spins, the primal cube becomes the sphere and the spherical, impermanent world of our perceptions.
In sacred geometry, two and three dimensions can be converted so that we can view the cube and sphere as the square, and its movement into the circle. Looking at mandalas such as the classic Shri Yantra, we see this process of manifestation represented. The square is the basic background, the dot or bindu in the center is a dimensionless point where the unmanifest becomes the manifest. The triangles represent the movement of evolution and involution, correlating in the human subtle anatomy with the chakras, flowing lotus petals that give birth to the circles of the ever-changing phenomenal world.
The primal square is divided into 8x8 or 64 squares related to the primal octave of evolution hinted at above, and as the square becomes the circle it expands into the 9x9 grid. These two grids are the most commonly used in vastu to begin the process of designing buildings. The 8x8 grid is most commonly utilized for spiritual buildings such as temples, since they are meant to be most supportive for moving from the manifest to the unmanifest, while the 9x9 grid is most supportive for moving from the unmanifest to the manifest. (The direction we tend to prefer while being embodied. Ha!)
It is vital to understand the subtle physics of the grid system since so many subsequent vastu principles develop from it. Vastu says that all geometric forms have an effect and the square or cube since it relates to the restful primal unmanifest form is the preferred geometry to base the design for a restful, nurturing home. A space meant for more activity such as a business might make use of the circle or sphere or other form such as an octagon since it resonates with the geometry of activity.
The Vastu Purusha Mandala } scroll up
In vastu, once a space is enclosed within four walls it is said to take on a life of its own. This is the Purusha or Being of the built structure, the form takes on a resonance with the human body. Once it is oriented correctly to the cardinal directions, the being or purusha is given a cosmic placement between mother Earth, the Sun, Moon, and Stars. The center of the structure relating to the human heart connects us with the heart center of our solar system, galaxy and all the universe. The elements find their residence in the four corners as the energy is spun out from the heart center: Water to the NE, Fire to the SE, Earth to the SW, and Air to the NW. The character of these five elements (Ether is the element of the heart center), determines the appropriateness of the placement of rooms, for example, kitchen in the Fire corner, study in the Air corner, etc.
Now that we have some understanding of the fundamental physics, let us back up a bit to view the high points of building a vastu home.
The site is very important, ideally it has good sunlight, a level lot or one that slopes down to the NE, has richness of soil, plants and animals, bodies of water best located to the NE and clockwise flow of nearby streams, even underground streams should be flowing clockwise relative to the future home.
The design is created based on the vastu grid and of a size appropriate for the occupants. Building materials are best of new healthy materials, notably wood harvested with awareness and other non-toxic natural materials.
The final placement of doors, windows and exact dimensions are based on the individual needs and astrology of future occupants through a series of mathematical calculations that measure the levels of energetic input and output and determine the overall quality of sound/light wavelength. It is at this point that the vastu architect needs to also be a sensitive psychologist and able to determine just where a person stands in relation to the four life goals noted above. From this determination resonant materials and geometric proportions are chosen which fine-tune the final structure like a musical instrument, attuned and vibrating in harmony with the individuals involved.
Obviously it is ideal to start the process from the ground up, designing and building the home with intention and ceremony in appreciation of the purusha or being of the structure. However, there are things that can be done to make any home more attuned and vibrant. It is always helpful to eliminate clutter and especially in the sacred NE Water corner of the home. The central heart section of the home and every room is best left as open as possible. Within the limits of design it is also best to utilize the elemental emphasis of the rooms. For example, if possible, the kitchen should be so that it gets good morning sun as this helps with the digestive fire of all the occupants. The master bedroom is best in the SW as this room gets the most stable grounded (earth element) energy. Even if it is not possible to make these adjustments, a small altar to the elements in these corners can help the energy to circulate more freely.
In a vastu home, landscaping and especially perimeter walls and fences are also located relative to the overall proportions of the basic grid design. Massive rocks and trees are best towards the SW Earth corner, fountains and ponds towards the NE Water corner.
Finally, in the spirit of Yoga, it is best to have a sense of humor and equanimity about everything. It is helpful to remember to accept everything as it presents itself right now. However, if you can gracefully make some changes that make it easier, that is even more perfect. Ha!
Rico has studied yoga with master yogi, Baba Hari Dass, since he first came to this country in 1972. He has been studying vastu, and helping with vastu construction projects since being introduced by his friend Ronald Quinn (web site at www.vaastubydesign.com) several years ago and has taken classes with one of India’s foremost Sacred Architects, Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati. (See his website at www.vastuved.com for amazing photos of some of the many beautiful sculptures and structures he has designed and constructed).
Traveling around the world, Rico has made pilgrimage to many sacred sites and temples and helped to construct and dedicate many others. He lives in Santa Cruz, CA and Moab, UT with his family and wife Claire Joy. Together they like to help others learn about the wonders of ayurveda, astrology, yoga, and vastu.
Consultations } scroll up
Rico is available for consultations about vastu and in the case of major design and construction projects can make appropriate referrals. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.