Yoga and Vedanta teach that each human being has three hearts: physical, psychological and spiritual. The physical heart is the organ in the chest. The psychological heart corresponds to the mind. The spiritual heart, while invisible, encompasses altogether the space amid the breasts, the space within and around the heart, and the mind. With profoundly engaged attention and sincere effort, we can realize the Divine wealth that occupies the spiritual heart.
“While growing up or trying to
Not knowing where to start
I looked around for someone who
May help reveal my heart…
‘…Know that the Lord is well and inside of you’ ”
Crackerbox Palace, George Harrison
The spiritual heart is also called the heart chakra, or anahata. It is considered the center of the body, the seat of knowledge and the core of God-consciousness. But many people believe God resides only outside of the body, which is a human-created limitation. Esoteric thinkers, musicians, poets and saints have told us for millennia that the human heart houses the soul; God inhabits the heart. With a title such as The Interior Castle, the 16th century mystic Teresa of Avila understood the concealed nature of that ethereal fortress:
“It is true that sometimes these things are forgotten, yet the loving desires to
enjoy God…return when the soul sees how little it serves Him.
Soon it turns and looks within itself and at how continually it experiences
His presence, and with that it is content…and it has no more fear of death.”
In Sanskrit, the word for heart is hridaya, which also means “sacred center.” There are three ways of knowing the spiritual heart, where the nuances of the mind and soul become apparent. We can read about it in a book, we can learn about it from a competent teacher, or we can go directly to the source within our own heart.
The Bhagavad Gita directs us to this last point. It tells us to be consistent with our practice of meditation and learn to remember God, the Indweller. Only direct experience through meditation on the heart will bring answers to previously unanswered questions, those that neither books nor teachers can explain. Try to open to the heart during meditation and listen without judgment, keeping an open mind to the Truth of your sacred heart center.
Buddha also taught his disciples to focus on the heart. To illustrate, the esteemed Tibetan Buddhist mantra om mani padme hum translates as “the jewel in the lotus.” Its exegesis is that the great gem of Truth lies within the spiritual heart, symbolized as a lotus. By focusing on the lotus of the heart, or heart chakra, the psychological heart and mind will become purified. This venerated tradition eliminates hurdles and unveils our spiritual nature within.
The Yoga Sutras teach that if we practice sustained concentration on the spiritual heart, knowledge of the mind will be revealed. This refined practice, called samyama, involves deep self-analysis and precise discrimination. The symbol of the heart chakra shows twelve lotus petals, which relate to twelve conditions that require relinquishing from the psychological heart: shame, grief, arrogance, anguish, anger, anxiety, doubt, regret, fear, jealousy, lust, and greed. This preparatory self-control is required for the aspirant’s samyama to be sufficient enough for this developed concentration to open the gates and reveal the fortress of the heart. It is after one prepares the body, breath and mind, and when the conscience is free, that one can perceive the lotus of the heart.
“I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind.”
I’m So Tired, The Beatles
Keeping the mind devoid of lower emotions and releasing attachments to them we remain clearer and more focused. Some commentators do argue that a reverse scenario is possible, that this process is not linear, but circular. That is, the spiritual mind could become focused in samyama first and then the psychological mind will relinquish its untoward contents afterward. But either way, the Indweller is there and awaits our arrival!
The guiding principle is to think of the heart as the ultimate center of consciousness, the Self of All, Atman, our essential nature. The heart chakra is a focal point of various energies. It’s the juncture of lower and higher human natures. It joins human effort with the grace received from above, integrating all the lower and all the higher parts of human existence. The objective of Vedantic literature is to cultivate the desire for these inner connections consistently, regularly, daily, hourly, constantly.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches us to remain vigilant in our focus and not lose sight of our inner world and the search for Truth. It recommends we repeat the practice of self-examination and self-remembrance throughout the day as one’s primary mental state.
If we take time, several times per day, even if just a few minutes, we can cultivate a concentrated, heartfelt routine. Practice non-attachment to the things of the world that mold and rust, but attach to the Indweller, God, with unswerving, targeted devotion.
“Let’s all sing someday sweet love will reign throughout this world of ours.
Let’s start singing of love from our hearts…”
Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing, Stevie Wonder
Questions for contemplation:
Can I see God in the outer world?
Do I only look for God in the outer world?
Have I visited the Indweller?
Do I doubt the spiritual heart exists?
If God is omnipresent, do I believe He/She resides inside me, too, right here, right now?