Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi: Talk 616:

D.: Is the Jivanadi an entity or a figment of the imagination?

M.: The yogis say that there is a nadi called the jivanadi, atmanadi or
paranadi. The Upanishads speak of a centre from which thousands
of nadis branch off. Some locate such a centre in the brain and
others in other centres. The Garbhopanishad traces the formation
of the foetus and the growth of the child in the womb. The jiva is
considered to enter the child through the fontanelle in the seventh
month of its growth. In evidence thereof it is pointed out that the
fontanelle is tender in a baby and is also seen to pulsate. It takes
some months for it to ossify. Thus the jiva comes from above, enters
through the fontanelle and works through the thousands of the
nadis which are spread over the whole body. Therefore the seeker
of Truth must concentrate on the sahasrara, that is the brain, in
order to regain his source. Pranayama is said to help the yogi to
rouse the Kundalini Sakti which lies coiled in the solar plexus. The
sakti rises through a nerve called the Sushumna, which is imbedded
in the core of the spinal cord and extends to the brain.
If one concentrates on the Sahasrara there is no doubt that the ecstasy
of samadhi ensues. The vasanas, that is the latencies, are not however
destroyed. The yogi is therefore bound to wake up from the samadhi,
because release from bondage has not yet been accomplished. He
must still try to eradicate the vasanas in order that the latencies yet
inherent in him may not disturb the peace of his samadhi. So he
passes down from the sahasrara to the heart through what is called
the jivanadi, which is only a continuation of the Sushumna. The
Sushumna is thus a curve. It starts from the solar plexus, rises through
the spinal cord to the brain and from there bends down and ends in
the heart. When the yogi has reached the heart, the samadhi becomes
permanent. Thus we see that the heart is the final centre.
Some Upanishads also speak of 101 nadis which spread from the heart,
one of them being the vital nadi. If the jiva comes down from above and
gets reflected in the brain, as the yogis say, there must be a reflecting
surface in action. That must also be capable of limiting the Infinite
Consciousness to the limits of the body. In short the Universal Being
becomes limited as a jiva. Such reflecting medium is furnished by the
aggregate of the vasanas of the individual. It acts like the water in a
pot which reflects the image of an object. If the pot be drained of its
water there will be no reflection. The object will remain without being
reflected. The object here is the Universal Being-Consciousness which
is all-pervading and therefore immanent in all. It need not be cognised
by reflection alone; it is self-resplendent. Therefore the seeker’s aim
must be to drain away the vasanas from the heart and let no reflection
obstruct the Light of Eternal Consciousness. This is achieved by the
search for the origin of the ego and by diving into the heart. This is the
direct method for Self-Realisation. One who adopts it need not worry
about nadis, the brain, the Sushumna, the Paranadi, the Kundalini,
pranayama or the six centres.
The Self does not come from anywhere else and enter the body through
the crown of the head. It is as it is, ever sparkling, ever steady, unmoving
and unchanging. The changes which are noticed are not inherent in
the Self which abides in the Heart and is self-luminous like the Sun.
The changes are seen in Its Light. The relation between the Self and
the body or the mind may be compared to that of a clear crystal and
its background. If the crystal is placed against a red flower, it shines
red; if placed against a green leaf it shines green, and so on. The
individual confines himself to the limits of the changeful body or of
the mind which derives its existence from the unchanging Self. All
that is necessary is to give up this mistaken identity, and that done, the
ever-shining Self will be seen to be the single non-dual Reality.
The reflection of Consciousness is said to be in the subtle body
(sukshma sarira), which appears to be composed of the brain and
the nerves radiating from it to all parts of the trunk, chiefly through
the spinal column and the solar plexus.
When I was on the Hill, Nayana (Kavyakantha Ganapathi Muni)
once argued that the brain was the seat of the vasanas, because it
consisted of innumerable cells in which the vasanas were contained
and illuminated by the light of the Self which projected from the
heart. Only this set a person working or thinking.
But I said, “How can it be so? The vasanas must be with one’s Self
and can never remain away from the Self. If, as you say, the vasanas
be contained in the brain and the Heart is the seat of the Self, a person
who is decapitated must be rid of his vasanas and should not be
reborn. You agree that it is absurd. Now can you say that the Self is
in the brain with the vasanas? If so, why should the head bend down
when one falls asleep? Moreover a person does not touch his head
and say ‘I’. Therefore it follows that the Self is in the Heart and the
vasanas are also there in an exceedingly subtle form.
“When the vasanas are projected from the Heart they are associated
with the Light of the Self and the person is said to think. The
vasanas which lie imbedded in an atomic condition grow in size
in their passage from the heart to the brain. The brain is the screen
on which the images of the vasanas are thrown and it is also the
place of their functional distribution. The brain is the seat of the
mind, and the mind works through it.”
So then this is what happens. When a vasana is released and it comes
into play, it is associated with the light of the Self. It passes from the
heart to the brain and on its way it grows more and more until it holds
the field all alone and all the vasanas are thus kept in abeyance for the
time being. When the thought is reflected in the brain it appears as an
image on a screen. The person is then said to have a clear perception
of things. He is a great thinker or discoverer. Neither the thought that
is extolled as being original, nor the thing, nor the country which
is claimed to be a new discovery, is really original or new. It could
not manifest unless it was already in the mind. It was of course very
subtle and remained imperceptible, because it lay repressed by the
more urgent or insistent thoughts or vasanas. When they have spent
themselves this thought arises and by concentration the Light of
the Self makes it clear, so that it appears magnificent, original and
revolutionary. In fact it was only within all along.
This concentration is called samyamana in the Yoga Sastras. One’s
desires can be fulfilled by this process and it is said to be a siddhi. It
is how the so-called new discoveries are made. Even worlds can be
created in this manner. Samyamana leads to all siddhis. But they do
not manifest so long as the ego lasts. Concentration according to yoga
ends in the destruction of the experiencer (ego), experience and the
world, and then the quondam desires get fulfilled in due course. This
concentration bestows on individuals even the powers of creating
new worlds. It is illustrated in the Aindava Upakhyana in the Yoga
Vasishta and in the Ganda Saila Loka in the Tripura Rahasya.
Although the powers appear to be wonderful to those who do not
possess them, yet they are only transient. It is useless to aspire for
that which is transient. All these wonders are contained in the one
changeless Self. The world is thus within and not without. This
meaning is contained in verses 11 and 12 - Chapter V of Sri Ramana
Gita “The entire Universe is condensed in the body, and the entire
body in the Heart. Thus the Heart is the nucleus of the whole Universe.”
Therefore Samyamana relates to concentration on different parts of
the body for the different siddhis. Also the Visva or the Virat is said to
contain the cosmos within the limits of the body. Again, “The world
is not other than the mind, the mind is not other than the Heart; that
is the whole truth.” So the Heart comprises all. This is what is taught
to Svetaketu by the illustration of the seed of a fig tree. The source is
a point without any dimensions. It expands as the cosmos on the one
hand and as Infinite Bliss on the other. That point is the pivot. From
it a single vasana starts, multiplies as the experiencer ‘I’, experience,
and the world. The experiencer and the source are referred to in the
mantra. Two birds, exactly alike, arise simultaneously.
When I was staying in the Skandasramam I sometimes used to go out
and sit on a rock. On one such occasion there were two or three others
with me including Rangaswami Iyengar. Suddenly we noticed some
small moth-like insect shooting up like a rocket into the air from a
crevice in the rock. Within the twinkling of an eye it had multiplied
itself into millions of moths which formed a cloud and hid the sky
from view. We wondered at it and examined the place from which it
shot up. We found that it was only a pinhole and knew that so many
insects could not have issued from it in such a short time.
That is how ahankara (ego) shoots up like a rocket and
instantaneously spreads out as the Universe.
The Heart is therefore the centre. A person can never be away from
it. If he is he is already dead. Although the Upanishads say that
the jiva functions through other centres on different occasions, yet
he does not relinquish the Heart. The centres are simply places of
business (vide Vedanta Chudamani). The Self is bound to the Heart,
like a cow tethered to a peg. The movements are controlled by the
length of the rope. All its wanderings centre around the peg.
A caterpillar crawls on a blade of grass and when it has come to the
end, it seeks another support. While doing so it holds on with its
hind-legs to the blade of grass, lifts the body and sways to and fro
before it can hold another. Similarly it is with the Self. It stays in
the Heart and holds other centres also according to circumstances.
But its activities always centre round the Heart.