What is Samkhya? Is it a new age philosophy? Or What form of philosophy is it?
Samkhya, also Sankhya, Saṃkhya, or Saṅkhya, is one of the six original schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Samkhya philosophy is attributed to Sage Kapila. At a much later date, Sage Kapila described the 24 material elements in his Samkhya treatise. Samkhya and Yoga is often known as contemporary paths, in which Samkhya, the path of pure understanding is attributed to Kapila and Yoga the path of meditation and effort is attributed to Patanjali. Sage Kapila is traditionally credited as a founder of the Samkhya School. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India. Samkhya is an enumerationist philosophy that is strongly dualist. Samkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities: consciousness and phenomenal realm of matter. Jiva is that state in which puruṣa is bonded to prakriti through the glue of desire, and the end of this bondage is moksha.
Saṃkhya denies the final cause of Ishvara (God). Samkhya does not describe what happens after moksha and does not mention anything about Ishvara or God.
The word samkhya means empirical or relating to numbers. Although the term had been used in the general sense of metaphysical knowledge before, in technical usage it refers to the Samkhya school of thought that evolved into a cohesive philosophical system in early centuries CE. The Samkhya system is called so because “it ‘enumerates’ twenty five Tattvas or true principles; and its chief object is to effect the final emancipation of the twenty-fifth Tattva, i.e. the Purusa or soul.” Both the agrarian theology of Siva-Sakti/Sky-Earth and the tradition of yoga (meditation) do not appear to be rooted in the Vedas. Not surprisingly, classical Saṅkhya is remarkably independent of orthodox Brahmanic traditions, including the Vedas. Saṅkhya is silent about the Vedas, about their guardians (the Brahmins) and for that matter about the whole caste system, and about the Vedic gods; and it is slightly unfavorable towards the animal sacrifices that characterized the ancient Vedic religion. But all our early sources for the history of Saṅkhya belong to the Vedic tradition, and it is thus reasonable to suppose that we do not see in them the full development of the Saṅkhya system, but rather occasional glimpses of its development as it gained gradual acceptance in the Brahmanic fold. Samkhya and Yoga are mentioned together for first time in the Shvetashvatra Upanishad. Bhagavad Gita identifies Samkhya with understanding or knowledge. The three gunas are also mentioned in the Gita, though they are not used in the same sense as in classical Samkhya. The Gita integrates Samkhya thought with the devotion of theistic schools and the impersonal Brahman of Vedanta.
Buddhism and Jainism had developed in Northeastern India by the 5th century BCE. It is probable that these schools of thought and the earliest schools of Samkhya influenced each other. A prominent similarity between Buddhism and Samkhya is the emphasis on suffering. However, suffering is not as central to Samkhya as it is to Buddhism. Therefore, it is likely that Samkhya imbibed this idea from Buddhism. Likewise, the Jain doctrine of plurality of individual souls could have influenced the concept of multiple purushas in Samkhya. It is likely, that Samkhya was molded by many ancient theories of soul in various Vedic and non-Vedic schools.
The Samkhya system espouses dualism between consciousness and matter by postulating two “irreducible, innate and independent realities: Purusha and Prakriti. While the Prakriti is a single entity, the Samkhya admits a plurality of the Puruṣas in this world. Unintelligent, unmanifest, uncaused, ever-active, imperceptible and eternal Prakriti is alone the final source of the world of objects which is implicitly and potentially contained in its bosom. The Puruṣa is considered as the conscious principle, a passive enjoyer and the Prakriti is the enjoyed. Samkhya believes that the Puruṣa cannot be regarded as the source of inanimate world, because an intelligent principle cannot transform itself into the unconscious world. It is a pluralistic spiritualism, atheistic realism and uncompromising dualism. Purusa is the transcendental self or pure consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable through other agencies, above any experience by mind or senses and beyond any words or explanations. It remains pure, “non-attributive consciousness”. Puruṣa is neither produced nor does it produce. It is held that unlike Adavita Vedanta and like Purva-Mimamsa, Samkhya believes in plurality of the Puruṣas.
All physical events are considered to be manifestations of the evolution of Prakriti, or primal nature (from which all physical bodies are derived). Each sentient being or Jiva is a fusion of Puruṣa and Prakriti, whose soul/Puruṣa is limitless and unrestricted by its physical body. Samsara or bondage arises when the Puruṣa does not have the discriminate knowledge and so is misled as to its own identity, confusing itself with the Ego/ahamkara, which is actually an attribute of Prakriti. The spirit is liberated when the discriminate knowledge of the difference between conscious Puruṣa and unconscious Prakriti is realized by the Puruṣa.
By including mind in the realm of matter, Samkhya avoids one of the most serious pitfalls of Cartesian dualism, the violation of physical conservation laws. Because mind is an evolution of matter, mental events are granted causal efficacy and are therefore able to initiate bodily motions. The idea of evolution in Samkhya revolves around the interaction of Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti remains unmanifested as long as the three gunas are in equilibrium. This equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed when Prakriti comes into proximity with consciousness or Purusha. The metaphor of movement of iron in the proximity of a magnet is used to describe this process. Some evolutes of Prakriti can cause further evolution and are labelled evolvents. For example, intellect while itself created out of Prakriti causes the evolution of ego-sense or ahamkara and is therefore an evolvent. While, other evolutes like the five elements do not cause further evolution. It is important to note that an evolvent is defined as a principle which behaves as the material cause for the evolution of another principle. So while the five elements are the material cause of all living beings, they cannot be called evolvents because living beings are not separate from the five elements in essence.
Evolution in Samkhya is thought to be purposeful. The two primary purposes of evolution of Prakriti are the enjoyment and the liberation of Purusha. Like many other major schools of Indian Philosophy, Samkhya regards human existence as seat of intense suffering. Ignorance is regarded as the root cause of this suffering and bondage. Samkhya offers a way out of this suffering by means of discriminative knowledge (viveka). Such knowledge, that leads to mokṣa (liberation), involves the discrimination between Prakriti (avyakta-vyakta) and Puruṣa.
Puruṣa, the eternal pure consciousness, due to ignorance, identifies itself with products of Prakriti such as intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahamkara). This results in endless transmigration and suffering. However, once the realization arises that Puruṣa is distinct from Prakriti, the Self is no longer subject to transmigration and absolute freedom arises. Other forms of Samkhya teach that Mokṣa is attained by one’s own development of the higher faculties of discrimination achieved by meditation and other yogic practices as prescribed through the Hindu Vedas. The Samkhya system is based on Sat-karya-vada or the theory of causation. According to Satkaryavada, the effect is pre-existent in the cause. There is only an apparent or illusory change in the makeup of the cause and not a material one, when it becomes effect. Since, effects cannot come from nothing, the original cause or ground of everything is seen as Prakriti.
The Samkhya system follows the Prakriti–Parinama Vada. Parinama denotes that the effect is a real transformation of the cause. The cause under consideration here is Prakriti or more precisely Primordial Matter. The Samkhya system is an exponent of an evolutionary theory of matter beginning with primordial matter. In evolution, Prakriti is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects. Evolution is followed by dissolution. In dissolution the physical existence, all the worldly objects mingle back into Prakriti, which now remains as the undifferentiated, primordial substance. This is how the cycles of evolution and dissolution follow each other. But this theory is very different from the modern theories of science in the sense that Prakriti evolves for each Jeeva separately, giving individual bodies and minds to each and after liberation these elements of Prakriti merges into the Primordial Matter. Another uniqueness of Sāmkhya is that not only physical entities but even mind, ego and intelligence are regarded as forms of Unconsciousness, quite distinct from pure consciousness.
The evolution obeys causality relationships, with primal Nature itself being the material cause of all physical creation. The cause and effect theory of Samkhya is called Satkarya-vada (theory of existent causes), and holds that nothing can really be created from or destroyed into nothingness – all evolution is simply the transformation of primal Nature from one form to another.
Samkhya cosmology describes how life emerges in the universe; the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti is crucial to Patanjali’s yoga system. The strands of Samkhya thought can be traced back to the Vedic speculation of creation. Samkhya accepts the notion of higher selves or perfected beings but rejects the notion of God. Classical Samkhya argues against the existence of God on metaphysical grounds. Samkhya theorists argue that an unchanging God cannot be the source of an ever changing world and that God was only a necessary metaphysical assumption demanded by circumstances. The Sutras of Samkhya have no explicit role for a separate God distinct from the Puruṣa. Such a distinct God is inconceivable and self-contradictory and some commentaries speak plainly on this subject. If the existence of karma is assumed, the proposition of God as a moral governor of the universe is unnecessary. For, if God enforces the consequences of actions then he can do so without karma. If however, he is assumed to be within the law of karma, then karma itself would be the giver of consequences and there would be no need of a God. Even if karma is denied, God still cannot be the enforcer of consequences. Because the motives of an enforcer God would be either egoistic or altruistic. Now, God’s motives cannot be assumed to be altruistic because an altruistic God would not create a world so full of suffering. If his motives are assumed to be egoistic, then God must be thought to have desire, as agency or authority cannot be established in the absence of desire. However, assuming that God has desire would contradict God’s eternal freedom which necessitates no compulsion in actions. Moreover, desire, according to Samkhya, is an attribute of prakriti and cannot be thought to grow in God. The testimony of the Vedas, according to Samkhya, also confirms this notion. Despite arguments to the contrary, if God is still assumed to contain unfulfilled desires, this would cause him to suffer pain and other similar human experiences. Such a worldly God would be no better than Samkhya’s notion of higher self. Furthermore, there is no proof of the existence of God. He is not the object of perception, there exists no general proposition that can prove him by inference and the testimony of the Vedas speak of prakriti as the origin of the world, not God.
Therefore, Samkhya maintained that the various cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments could not prove God.
WHAT IS IT?
Tao or Dao is a Chinese concept signifying way, path, route, or sometimes more loosely, doctrine or principle. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, Tao is a metaphysical concept originating with Laozi that gave rise to a religion (and philosophy) referred to in English with the single term Taoism. The concept of Tao was shared with Confucianism, Chan and Zen Buddhism and more broadly throughout East Asian philosophy and religion in general. Within these contexts Tao signifies the primordial essence or fundamental nature of the universe. In the foundational text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, Laozi explains that Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe. Tao is thus “eternally nameless” and to be distinguished from the countless ‘named’ things which are considered to be its manifestations.
In Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism, the object of spiritual practice is to ‘become one with the tao’ or to harmonize ones will with Nature in order to achieve ‘effortless action’. This involves meditative and moral practices. Important in this respect is the Taoist concept of De (virtue).
In all its uses, Tao is considered to have ineffable qualities that prevent it from being defined or expressed in words. It can, however, be known or experienced, and its principles (which can be discerned by observing Nature) can be followed or practiced. Much of East Asian philosophical writing focuses on the value of adhering to the principles of Tao and the various consequences of failing to do so. In Confucianism and religious forms of Taoism, these are often explicitly moral/ethical arguments about proper behavior, while Buddhism and more philosophical forms of Taoism usually refer to the natural and mercurial outcomes of action (comparable to karma). Tao is intrinsically related to the concepts yin and yang, where every action creates counter-actions as unavoidable movements within manifestations of the Tao, and proper practice variously involves accepting, conforming to, or working with these natural developments.
The word “Dao” has a variety of meanings in both ancient and modern Chinese language. Aside from its purely prosaic use to mean road, channel, path, doctrine, or similar, the word has acquired a variety of differing and often confusing metaphorical, philosophical and religious uses. In most belief systems, Dao is used symbolically in its sense of ‘way’ as the ‘right’ or ‘proper’ way of existence, or in the context of ongoing practices of attainment or of the cull coming into being, or the state of enlightenment or spiritual perfection that is the outcome of such practices. Some scholars make sharp distinctions between moral or ethical usage of the word Dao that is prominent in Confucianism and religious Daoism and the more metaphysical usage of the term used in philosophical Daoism and most forms of Mahayana Buddhism; others maintain that these are not separate usages or meanings, seeing them as mutually inclusive and compatible approaches to defining the concept. The original use of the term was as a form of praxis rather than theory – a term used as a convention to refer to something that otherwise cannot be discussed in words – and early writings such as the Dao De Jing and the I Ching make pains to distinguish between conceptions of Dao (sometimes referred to as “named Dao”) and the Dao itself (the “unnamed Dao”), which cannot be expressed or understood in language. It has been asserted that Dao is properly understood as an experiential and evolving concept, and that there are not only cultural and religious differences in the interpretation of Dao, but personal differences that reflect the character of individual practitioners.
Dao can be roughly thought of as the flow of the universe, or as some essence or pattern behind the natural world that keeps the universe balanced and ordered. It is related to the idea of qi, the essential energy of action and existence. Dao is a non-dual concept – it is the greater whole from which all the individual elements of the universe derive. Dao is rarely an object of direct worship, being treated more like the Hindu concepts of karma or dharma than as a divine object. Dao is more commonly expressed in the relationship between wu (void or emptiness) and yin-yang (the natural dynamic balance between opposites), leading to its central principle of wu wei (non-action, or action without force).
Dao is usually described in terms of elements of nature, and in particular as similar to water. Like water it is undifferentiated, endlessly self-replenishing, soft and quiet but immensely powerful, and impassively generous. Much of Daoist philosophy centers on the cyclical continuity of the natural world, and its contrast to the linear, goal-oriented actions of human beings.
De (“power; virtue; integrity”) is the term generally used to refer to proper adherence to Dao; De is the active living or cultivation of the way. Particular things that manifest from Dao have their own inner nature that they follow, in accordance with the Dao, and the following of this inner nature is De. Wu wei (naturalness) is contingent on understanding and conforming to this inner nature, which is interpreted variously from a personal, individual nature to a more generalized notion of human nature within the greater universe.
Historically, the concept of De differed significantly between Daoists and Confucianists. Confucianism was largely a moral system emphasizing the values of humaneness, righteousness, and filial duty, and so conceived De in terms of obedience to rigorously defined and codified social rules. Daoists took a broader, more naturalistic/metaphysical view on the relationship between humankind and the universe, and considered social rules to be at best a derivative reflection of the natural and spontaneous interactions between people, and at worst calcified structure that inhibited naturalness and created conflict. This led to some philosophical and political conflicts between Daoists and Confucianists.
Dao means a road, path, way; hence the way in which does something; method, doctrine or principle. The Way of Heaven is ruthless; when autumn comes no leaf is spared because of its beauty, no flower because of its fragrance. The Way of Man means procreation; and eunuchs are said to be far from the Way of Man. Each school of philosophy has its Dao, its doctrine of the way in which life should be ordered. Finally in a particular school of philosophy whose followers came to be called Daoists, Dao meant ‘the way the universe works’; and ultimately something very like God, in the more abstract and philosophical sense of that term.
The Dao is what gives Daoism its English name, in both its philosophical and religious forms. Dao is the fundamental and central concept of these schools of thought. Daoism perceives Dao as a natural order underlying the substance and activity of the universe. Language and the “naming” of Dao is regarded negatively within Daoism; the Dao fundamentally exists and operates outside the realm of differentiation and linguistic constraints.
The diversity of Daoist interpretations of Dao can be seen across four texts representative of major streams of thought within Daoism. All four texts are used in modern Daoism with varying acceptance and emphasis among sects. The Dao De Jing is the oldest text and representative of a speculative and philosophical approach to the Dao. The Tao T’i Lun is an eighth century exegesis of the Dao De Jing, written from a well-educated and religious view point that represents the traditional scholarly perspective. The devotional perspective of Dao is expressed in the Ch’ing Ching Ching, a liturgical text that was originally composed during the Song Dynasty and is used as a hymnal in religious Daoism, especially among eremites. The Zhuangzi uses literary devices such as tales, allegories, and narratives to relate the Dao to the reader, illustrating a metaphorical method of viewing and expressing the Dao.
The forms and variations of religious Daoism are incredibly diverse. They integrate a broad spectrum of academic, ritualistic, supernatural, devotional, literary, and folk practices with a multitude of results. Buddhism and Confucianism particularly affected the way many sects of Daoism framed, approached, and perceived the Dao. The multitudinous branches of religious Daoism accordingly regard the Dao, and interpret writings about it, in innumerable ways. Thus, outside of a few broad similarities, it is difficult to provide an accurate yet clear summary of their interpretation of Dao.
A central tenet within most varieties of religious Daoism is that the Dao is ever-present, but must be manifested, cultivated, and/or perfected in order to be realized. It is the source of the universe and the seed of its primordial purity resides in all things. The manifestation of Dao is De, which rectifies and invigorates the world with the Dao’s radiance. Alternatively, philosophical Daoism regards the Dao as a non-religious concept; it is not a deity to be worshiped, nor is it a mystical Absolute in the religious sense of the Hindu Brahman. Dao is not religiously available; nor is it even religiously relevant. The writings of Lao Tzu and Chang Tzu are tinged with esoteric tones and approach humanism and naturalism as paradoxes. In contrast to the esotericism typically found in religious systems, the Dao is not transcendent to the self nor is mystical attainment an escape from the world in philosophical Daoism. The self-steeped in Dao is the self-grounded in its place within the natural universe. A person dwelling within the Dao excels in themselves and their activities. The Dao, or Way, of Confucius can be said to be Truth. Confucianism regards the Way, or Truth, as concordant with a particular approach to life, politics, and tradition. It is held as equally necessary and well regarded as De (virtue) and ren (humanity). Confucius presents a humanistic Dao. He only rarely speaks of the t’ien Dao (Way of Heaven).
As a formal religious concept in Confucianism, Dao is the Absolute towards which the faithful move. In Zhongyong (The Doctrine of the Mean), harmony with the Absolute is equivalent to integrity and sincerity. The Great Learning expands on this concept explaining that the Way illuminates virtue, improves the people, and resides within the purest morality. During the Tag Dynasty, Confucian beliefs were formalized and defined as a response to Buddhism. He emphasized the ethics of the Way. He explicitly paired ‘Dao’ and ‘De’, focusing on human nature and righteousness. He also framed and elaborated on a “daotong” (tradition of the Way) in order to reject the traditions of Buddhism.
Buddhism first started to spread in China during the first century AD and was experiencing a golden age of growth and maturation by the fourth century AD. Hundreds of collections of Pali and Sanskrit texts were translated into Chinese by Buddhist monks within a short period of time. The use of Chinese concepts, such as Dao, that were close to Buddhist ideas and terms helped spread the religion and make it more amenable to the Chinese people. However, the differences between the Sanskrit and Chinese terminology lead to some initial misunderstandings and the eventual development of East Asian Buddhism as a distinct entity. As part of this process, many Chinese words introduced their rich semantic and philosophical associations into Buddhism, including the use of ‘Dao’ for central concepts and tenets of Buddhism.
Buddhists regard the Dao as synonymous with both the Buddhist Path and the results of it; the Eightfold Path and Buddhist enlightenment, words and meaning are used to refer to rituals and practice. The ’emptiness’ refers to the Buddhist concept of sunyata. Finding the Dao and Buddha-nature is not simply a matter of formulations, but an active response to the Four Noble Truths that cannot be fully expressed or conveyed in words and concrete associations. The use of ‘Dao’ in this context refers to the literal ‘way’ of Buddhism, the return to the universal source, dharma, proper meditation, and nirvana, among other associations. ‘Dao’ is commonly used in this fashion by Chinese Buddhists, heavy with associations and nuanced meanings.
In total, the Dao is equated with the Absolute. The religious life is not an elite or special journey for Neo-Confucians. The normal, mundane life is the path that leads to the Absolute, because the Absolute is contained within the mundane objects and events of daily life.
A HISTORICAL LOOK INTO FENG SHUI
The Eight Life Aspirations style of Feng shui is a simple system which coordinates each of the eight cardinal directions with a specific life aspiration or station such as family, wealth, fame, etc., which come from the Bagua of the eight aspirations. Life Aspirations is not otherwise a geomantic system.
The Black Sect Tantric Buddhism Feng Shui was introduced in America in the 1970s. Black Sect is a religion that goes beyond Feng shui to include elements of transcendentalism, Taoism, and Tibetan Buddhism. Black Sect is concerned mainly with the interior of a building. Instead of orienting the bagua to the compass, it is oriented to the entryway. Each of the eight sectors represents a particular area of one’s life.
Landscape ecologists often find traditional Feng shui an interesting study. In many cases, the only remaining patches of old forest in Asia are “Feng shui woods”, associated with cultural heritage, historical continuity, and the preservation of various flora and fauna species. Some researchers interpret the presence of these woods as indicators that the “healthy homes”, sustainability and environmental components of ancient Feng shui should not be easily dismissed.
Environmental scientists and landscape architects have researched traditional Feng shui and its methodologies.
Architects study Feng shui as an ancient and uniquely Asian architectural tradition.
Geographers have analyzed the techniques and methods to help locate historical sites in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and archaeological sites in the American Southwest, concluding that ancient Native Americans also considered astronomy and landscape features.
Traditional Feng shui relies upon the compass to give accurate readings. However, critics point out that the compass degrees are often inaccurate as fluctuations caused by solar winds have the ability to greatly disturb the electromagnetic field of the earth. Determining a property or site location based upon Magnetic North will result in inaccuracies because true magnetic north fluctuates.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Feng shui was officially considered a “feudalistic superstitious practice” and a “social evil” according to the state’s ideology and was discouraged and even banned outright at times. Feng shui remained popular in Hong Kong, as well as in the Republic of China (Taiwan), where traditional culture was not suppressed.
Persecution was the most severe during the Cultural Revolution, when Feng shui was classified as a custom under the so-called Four Olds to be wiped out. Feng shui practitioners were beaten and abused by Red Guards and their works burned. After the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution, the official attitude became more tolerant but restrictions on Feng shui practice are still in place in today’s China. It is illegal in the PRC today to register Feng shui consultation as a business and similarly advertising Feng shui practice is banned. There have been frequent crackdowns on Feng shui practitioners on the grounds of “promoting feudalistic superstitions” such as one in Qingdao in early 2006 when the city’s business and industrial administration office shut down an art gallery converted into a Feng shui practice. Some communist officials who had previously consulted Feng shui were terminated and expelled from the Communist Party.
Partly because of the Cultural Revolution, in today’s mainland China less than one-third of the population believe in Feng shui, and the proportion of believers among young urban Chinese is said to be much lower Learning Feng shui is still somewhat considered taboo in today’s China. Nevertheless, it is reported that Feng shui has gained adherents among Communist Party officials according to a BBC Chinese news commentary in 2006, and since the beginning of Chinese economic reforms the number of Feng shui practitioners are increasing. A number of Chinese academics permitted to research on the subject of Feng shui are anthropologists or architects by profession, studying the history of Feng shui or historical Feng shui theories behind the design of heritage buildings, such as Cao Dafeng, the Vice-President of Fudan University, and Liu Shenghuan of Tongji University.
Westerners were criticized at the start of the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion for violating the basic principles of Feng shui in the construction of railroads and other conspicuous public structures throughout China. However, today, Feng shui is practiced not only by the Chinese, but also by Westerners and still criticized by Christians around the world. Many modern Christians have an opinion of Feng shui similar to that of their predecessors.
It is entirely inconsistent with Christianity to believe that harmony and balance result from the manipulation and channeling of nonphysical forces or energies, or that such can be done by means of the proper placement of physical objects. Such techniques, in fact, belong to the world of sorcery.
Still others are simply skeptical of Feng shui. Evidence for its effectiveness is based primarily upon anecdote and users are often offered conflicting advice from different practitioners. Feng shui practitioners use these differences as evidence of variations in practice or different schools of thought. Critical analysts have described it thus: “Feng shui has always been based upon mere guesswork”. Some are skeptical of Feng shui’s lasting impact. Feng shui has become an aspect of interior decorating in the Western world and alleged masters of Feng shui now hire themselves out for hefty sums to tell people such as Donald Trump which way his doors and other things should hang. Feng shui has also become another New Age “energy” scam with arrays of metaphysical products…offered for sale to help you improve your health, maximize your potential, and guarantee fulfillment of some fortune cookie philosophy.
Others have noted how, when Feng shui is not applied properly, it can even harm the environment, such as was the case of people planting “lucky bamboo” in ecosystems that could not handle them.
Feng shui practitioners in China find superstitious and corrupt officials easy prey, despite official disapproval. In one instance, in 2009, Feng shui practitioners gulled county officials in Gansu into hauling a 369-ton “spirit rock” to the county seat to ward off “bad luck.”
Modern Feng shui may have connotations of being a superstitious scam, which arose from improper usage and scams by New Age practitioners, but is not always looked at as a superstitious scam. Many Asians, especially people of Chinese descent, believe it is important to live a prosperous and healthy life as evident by the popularity of Fu Lu Shou in the Chinese communities. Many of the higher-level forms of Feng shui are not easily practiced without having connections in the community or a certain amount of wealth because hiring an expert, altering architecture or design, and moving from place to place requires a significant financial output. This leads some people of the lower classes to lose faith in Feng shui, saying that it is only a game for the wealthy. Others, however, practice less expensive forms of Feng shui, including hanging special (but cheap) mirrors, forks, or woks in doorways to deflect negative energy.
In recent years a new brand of easier-to-implement DIY Feng Shui known as Symbolic Feng Shui is being practiced by Feng Shui enthusiasts. It entails placements of auspicious (and preferably aesthetically pleasing) Five Element objects, such as Money God and tortoise, at various locations of the house so as to achieve a pleasing and substitute-alternative Productive-Cycle environment if a good natural environment is not already present or is too expensive to build and implement.
Feng shui is so important to some strong believers, that they use it for healing purposes (although there is no empirical evidence that this practice is in any way effective) in addition to guide their businesses and create a peaceful atmosphere in their homes. In 2005, even Disney acknowledged Feng shui as an important part of Chinese culture by shifting the main gate to Hong Kong Disneyland by twelve degrees in their building plans, among many other actions suggested by the master planner of architecture and design at Walt Disney Imagineering, Wing Chao, in an effort to incorporate local culture into the theme park.
What is Feng shui? Is it a fad? Am I required to rearrange my entire home? Or am I able to do only areas that need to become in better harmony?
Feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. The term Feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English. This is cultural shorthand taken from the passage of the now-lost Classic of Burial recorded in Guo Pu’s commentary: Feng shui is one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics, classified as physiognomy (observation of appearances through formulas and calculations). The Feng shui practice discusses architecture in metaphoric terms of “invisible forces” that bind the universe, earth, and man together, known as qi.
Historically, Feng shui was widely used to orient buildings—often spiritually significant structures such as tombs, but also dwellings and other structures—in an auspicious manner. Depending on the particular style of Feng shui being used, an auspicious site could be determined by reference to local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass.
Qi rides the wind and scatters, but is retained when encountering water. Feng shui was suppressed in mainland China during the cultural revolution in the 1960s, but since then has increased in popularity.
More recently, the Yangshao and Hongshan cultures provide the earliest known evidence for the use of Feng shui. Until the invention of the magnetic compass, Feng shui apparently relied on astronomy to find correlations between humans and the universe. In 4000 BC, the doors of Bampo dwellings aligned with the asterism Yingshi just after the winter solstice—this sited the homes for solar gain. During the Zhou era, Yingshi was known as Ding and used to indicate the appropriate time to build a capital city, according to the Shijing. The late Yangshao site at Dadiwan includes a palace-like building at the center. The building faces south and borders a large plaza. It stands on a north-south axis with another building that apparently housed communal activities. Regional communities may have used the complex.
A grave at Puyang that contains mosaics— actually a Chinese star map of the Dragon and Tiger asterisms and Beidou— is oriented along a north-south axis. The presence of both round and square shapes in the Puyang tomb, at Hongshan ceremonial centers and at the late Longshan settlement at Lutaigang, suggests that gaitian cosmography (heaven-round, earth-square) existed in Chinese society long before it appeared in the Zhou Bi Suan Jing.
Beginning with palatial structures at Erlitou, all capital cities of China followed rules of Feng shui for their design and layout. During the Zhou era, the Kaogong ji (codified these rules. The carpenter’s manual Lu ban jing; “Lu ban’s manuscript”) codified rules for builders. Graves and tombs also followed rules of Feng shui, from Puyang to Mawangdui and beyond. From the earliest records, the structures of the graves and dwellings seem to have followed the same rules.
The history of Feng shui covers 3,500+ years before the invention of the magnetic compass. It originated in Chinese astronomy. Some current techniques can be traced to Neolithic China, while others were added later (most notably the Han, Tang, Song and Ming dynasties).
The astronomical history of Feng shui is evident in the development of instruments and techniques. According to the Zhouli, the original Feng shui instrument may have been a gnomon. Chinese used circumpolar stars to determine the north-south axis of settlements. This technique explains why Shang palaces at Xiaotun lie 10° east of due north. In some cases, as Paul Wheatley observed, they bisected the angle between the directions of the rising and setting sun to find north. This technique provided the more precise alignments of the Shang walls at Yanshi and Zhengzhou. Rituals for using a Feng shui instrument required a diviner to examine current sky phenomena to set the device and adjust their position in relation to the device.
The oldest examples of instruments used for Feng shui are liuren astrolabes, also known as shi. These consist of a lacquered, two-sided board with astronomical sightlines. The earliest examples of liuren astrolabes have been unearthed from tombs that date between 278 BC and 209 BC. Along with divination for Da Lin Ren the boards were commonly used to chart the motion of Taiyi through the nine palaces. The markings on a liuren/shi and the first magnetic compasses are virtually identical.
The magnetic compass was invented for Feng shui and has been in use since its invention. Traditional Feng shui instrumentation consists of the Luopan or the earlier south-pointing – though a conventional compass could suffice if one understood the differences. A Feng shui ruler (a later invention) may also be employed. The goal of Feng shui as practiced today is to situate the human-built environment on spots with good qi. The “perfect spot” is a location and an axis in time.
Qi (pronounced “chee” in English) is a movable positive or negative life force which plays an essential role in Feng shui. In Feng shui, as in Chinese martial arts, it refers to ‘energy’, in the sense of life force or elan vital. A traditional explanation of qi as it relates to Feng shui would include the orientation of a structure, its age, and its interaction with the surrounding environment, including the local microclimates, the slope of the land, vegetation, and soil quality. The Book of Burial says that burial takes advantage of “vital QI”. Wu Yuanyin (Qing dynasty) said that vital qi was “congealed qi”, which is the state of qi that engenders life. The goal of Feng shui is to take advantage of vital qi by appropriate siting of graves and structures. Some people destroyed graveyards of their enemies to weaken their qi. Often people with good karma live in land with good qi.
Polarity is expressed in Feng shui as yin and yang theory. Polarity expressed through yin and yang is similar to a magnetic dipole. That is, it is of two parts: one creating an exertion and one receiving the exertion. Yang acting and yin receiving could be considered an early understanding of chirality. The development of this theory and its corollary, five phase theory, has also been linked with astronomical observations of sunspots.
The Five Elements or Forces (wu xing) – which, according to the Chinese, are metal, earth, fire, water, and wood – are first mentioned in Chinese literature in a chapter of the classic Book of History. They play a very important part in Chinese thought: ‘elements’ meaning generally not so much the actual substances as the forces essential to human life. Earth is a buffer, or equilibrium achieved when the polarities cancel each other. While the goal of Chinese medicine is to balance yin and yang in the body, the goal of Feng shui has been described as aligning a city, site, building, or object with yin-yang force fields.
Two diagrams known as bagua (pa kua) loom large in Feng shui, and both predate their mentions in the Yijing. The Lo (River) Chart (Loushu) was developed fir and is sometimes associated with Later Heaven arrangement of the bagua. The Luoshu and the River Chart are linked to astronomical events of the sixth millennium BC, and with the Turtle Calendar from the time of Yao. The Turtle Calendar of Yao dates to 2300 BC, plus or minus 250 years.
In Yaodian, the cardinal directions are determined by the marker-stars of the mega-constellations known as the Four Celestial Animals:
East: The Azure Dragon (Spring equinox)—Niao (Bird);
South: The Vermillion Bird (Summer solstice)—Huo (Fire);
West: The White Tiger (Autumn equinox)—Mao (Hair);
North: The Black Tortoise (Winter solstice)—Xu (Emptiness).
The diagrams are also linked with the sifang (four directions) method of divination used during the Shang dynasty. The sifang is much older, however. It was used at Niuheliang, and figured large in Hongsham culture’s astronomy.
Traditional Feng shui is an ancient system based upon the observation of heavenly time and earthly space. The literature of ancient China, as well as archaeological evidence, provide some idea of the origins and nature of the original Feng shui techniques.
The “form” in Form School refers to the shape of the environment, such as mountains, rivers, plateaus, buildings, and general surroundings. It considers the five celestial animals (phoenix, green dragon, white tiger, black turtle, and the yellow snake), the yin-yang concept and the traditional five elements (Wu Xing: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water).
The Form School analyses the shape of the land and flow of the wind and water to find a place with ideal qi. It also considers the time of important events such as the birth of the resident and the building of the structure
WHAT IS IYENGAR YOGA?
Iyengar Yoga, named after and developed by BKS Iyengar, is a form of Hatha Yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture and breath control. The development of strength, mobility and stability is gained through the asanas.
Iyengar has systematized over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama (with variations of many of them) ranging from the basic to advanced. This helps ensure that students progress gradually by moving from simple poses to more complex ones and develop their mind, body and spirit step-by-step.
Iyengar Yoga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas (postures). The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimizing the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Iyengar Yoga is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga.
Iyengar yoga focuses particularly on three aspects. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way so that the student suffers no injury or pain when practicing correctly. As all bodies are different and people have different weaknesses and strengths. Props were developed for use in Iyengar yoga; and are objects like wooden blocks, chairs, blankets and belts that help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures so that one can work in a range of motion that is safe and effective.
An added benefit is that although the therapeutic aspects of asanas and pranayama have been known for centuries, the emphasis on correct anatomical
alignment and methods of working have refined the therapeutic aspects of Yoga. Thus practice of Iyengar yoga will often result in eliminating aches and pains, improve posture etc. but Iyengar Yoga can also be used to treat many ailments, including extremely serious medical conditions, under the supervision of a suitably experienced teacher. The other two key aspects of asana practice in the Iyengar system are correct sequencing in which there is a powerful cumulative effect achieved by practicing asanas in particular sequences. The concept of timings means postures are held for considerable lengths of time to let the effects of the poses penetrate deeper within the individual
Pranayama is started once a firm foundation in asana has been established as physically the student requires the alignment, flexibility, lung capacity and training necessary to sit and breathe correctly while practicing. Pranayama gives numerous physical benefits including toning the circulatory, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems, activating the internal organs and creating a feeling of energy and calmness. Equally importantly it also brings the mind and senses under control and makes the individual fit for the experience of meditation.
One may, get the impression that Iyengar yoga is just gymnastics and deep breathing or only Asana and Pranayama. This is incorrect. Asanas and Pranayama are merely used as the tools with which to master all 8 aspects of Astanga yoga. Mastery of the body is the gateway to mastery of the mind. Consider the following: The whole human being from the outermost skin to the innermost being (or soul) is interconnected. For example, if the body is ill, the mind also becomes depressed, lethargic and bad tempered and if the mind is stressed the body becomes tense. The intensity and depth to which Iyengar yoga is practiced on the physical level does affect and change the mind and spirit.
In doing yoga asanas the whole body and mind must learn to become involved. One has to spread one’s awareness to the smallest parts of the body simultaneously so the mind becomes alert, attentive and sharp. One learns to breathe smoothly deeply and evenly so one’s energy (prana) can flow without obstruction and one learns to make the mind quiet, passive and receptive thus promoting a meditative state of mind. This makes the body fit for Pranayama.
Through asanas one also learns an awareness and application of ethics – Yama and Niyama. For example one of the Niyamas is sauca (Purity). An example: Because yoga builds up a very sharp awareness of the state of the body and mind, one becomes very aware of ones state of health and begins to nurture it. So after too much eating and drinking, the body suffers and the mind becomes dull. As one spends more and more time practicing yoga, the obvious contradiction and self-destructiveness becomes more difficult to reconcile and one begins to moderate ones eating and drinking, leading to a more pure lifestyle. Another example of this is the Yama of non-violence. Although superficially Yamas are social ethics and Niyama personal disciplines, both can be applied equally to any situation such as society or the physical body. While doing Parsvakonasana one may experience pain in the front knee and assume it is at fault for causing one discomfort. But in reality the knee is causing pain because it is forced into an unnatural position by the thigh and buttock working lazily. So the buttock and thigh do the violence by being lazy but we blame the knee. The remedy is to make the buttock and thigh work correctly then the knee can function properly and the discomfort disappears. As one’s sensitivity in the postures increases one also realizes that not only the buttock and thigh but all parts of the body to a greater or lesser extent have had their role in the violence to the knee. This thinking can be applied to society where it is easy to find the roots of violence in unhappy homes, childhood neglect and poor education.
Pranayama is the essential prerequisite for correct true meditation. It is theoretically possible to achieve a meditative state of mind by merely sitting and concentrating, in practice it is not possible for 99% of people. In meditation the mind is absolutely silent but razor sharp. Many people go to meditation classes, for many years even. But few achieve this state of consciousness; the mind has too many “portals.” It is like a sieve full of water. Whichever hole you block, water continues to pour out of the rest. The mind is too subtle, cunning and restless to be controlled and made still. Therefore, Pranayama is recommended as the breath is used to still the mind. Smooth subtle and controlled breathing is far easier to master than the mind and when the breath becomes smooth and steady so does the mind. Then one can learn to withdraw the senses from external objects and cultivate the state of mind where the experience of meditation can come.
Meditation is a state of mind that cannot be learnt and thus the practice of sitting and attempting to meditate is not a guarantee of results in itself. Rather the foundations of self-culture have to be built through practicing the first five disciplines of yoga. The experience of meditation comes when the student is ready.
This leads to another keynote of Iyengar yoga: meditation in action. If one can meditate on a flame, grain of rice or other subject, why not meditate on the posture one is performing? So, as a student does yoga postures the mind learns to become aware of the different parts of the body. At first the mind moves from part to part but with training learns to become absorbed in all parts of the body evenly at the same time. One learns to refine one’s awareness and penetrate deeper into the body in order to achieve more accurate and thus effective and comfortable postures. So the mind is trained to achieve a meditative state of being. Although pranayama is the real key to preparation for meditation, the progress made is applicable to asanas which can be practiced to such a degree of refinement that one meditates in the posture.
In sum, the Iyengar method of Yoga may be said to define itself as different from other styles of Yoga by 3 key elements, namely technique, sequence and timing: (1) Technique means that in practice one learns ever finer adjustments in the alignment of how one performs one’s asana and pranayama; (2) Sequence refers to the sequences in which asana and pranayama are practiced. For example, by varying which postures are practiced after which, the mental and emotional effects of the practice can be intensified in a manner not otherwise possible in order to bring about changes to the whole being including ones spiritual evolution; and (3) Timing refers to the length of time spent in postures or pranayama. Postures cannot be done swiftly or without awareness. It takes time to move into a posture and become stable. When this has been achieved then one remains stably for some time to intensify the depth of the posture and so extract its benefit. Otherwise the potential effects and benefits remain small compared to what is possible.
Yoga is approximately 4,000 years old and is a scientific methodology aimed at uniting the mind, body, and spirit. This bonding that occurs through yoga is said to bring about not only physical benefits, but mental benefits as well, taking the individual to a level that could not be reached by manipulating one factor alone. This unique characteristic has prompted many back pain patients to incorporate yoga as part of their treatment program. Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise not only in the United States, but worldwide. Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both mind and body. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy. Yoga also delivers many benefits to those who incorporate it into their everyday lives. There are many different types of yoga, each stressing a particular theory or mindset, and each is comprised of numerous postures and areas of focus.
While the actual practice of yoga is extremely extensive and detailed, in its essence yoga focuses on three main components: (1) Body position/posture; (2) Breathing; and (3) Meditation/state of mind. In general, yoga is a very safe form of exercise for most people. While there are more than one hundred different types of yoga, they all incorporate some form of breathing exercises, meditation and postures (asanas) that stretch and flex various muscle groups. The relaxation techniques that are incorporated into yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Some of the physical benefits of Yoga include: (a) Increased flexibility; (b) Increased muscle tone and strength; (c) improved respiration, energy and vitality; (d) the maintenance of balanced metabolism; (e) weight reduction; (f) cardio and circulatory health; (g) improved health performance; (h) improved athletic performance; and (i) protection from injury. Aside from the array of physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps people manage stress, which we all know can have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse and the inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life. Unlike the more traditional forms of exercise, yoga’s incorporation of mediation and breathing helps a person improve their mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention and sharpens concentration. Body and self-awareness are very beneficial, because it can help with early detection of physical problems or ailments and allow for early preventative action.
Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health, to improve balance, to heal and prevent injuries, to strengthen muscles and to open up the body for meditation. I find it a great way to get in tune with your body and your inner self. Yoga’s increasing popularity is proof that many people value an exercise system that engages the mind, body and spirit in equal measures. Over the past several years, yoga has experienced an upsurge in popularity in the western world among medical professionals and celebrities alike. While many associate yoga with new age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, yoga is actually an ancient practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. People who suffer from ongoing or recurrent bouts of back pain often have to try a number of different forms of exercise to find the most appropriate therapy to manage their pain. For many, yoga has proven to be a safe and effective way to finally alleviate many forms of back pain or neck pain and help prevent ongoing problems. Yoga can provide several healing benefits for people with various types of back pain.
Yoga can help by: (a) Healing injured back muscles; (b) Speeding time to recover from an injury; (c) Preventing re-injury; and (d) Helping maintain a regular level of daily activities and avoid disability. Among other things, yoga helps ease lower back pain by gently stretching and strengthening the muscles of the lower back and legs and increasing blood circulation, which in turn brings healing nutrients to the injured tissues. From lowering blood pressure to increasing pain tolerance, some of the following health benefits can all be discovered within the body: (1) Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body: (2) Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate; (3) Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain; (4) Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness; (5) Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance; (6) Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. becomes better attuned to her/his body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease; (7) Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga; (8) Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system; (9) Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga; and (10) Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism. Just as many health benefits occur within the body, there are many benefits that can actually be experienced from without the body. From better sleep to more energy and strength, here are some benefits found on the outside of the body;
(11) Aging. Yoga stimulates the detoxification process within the body. Detoxification has been shown to delay aging, among many other health benefits; (12) Posture. The very nature of yoga teaches the practitioner how to hold and control one’s body in a more healthful position. Through consistent practice, your posture will improve so that you look more confident and healthy; (13) Strength. One of the premises of yoga is that you are using the weight of your own body for overall strength; (14) Energy. Regular yoga practice provides consistent energy. When you perform your yoga correctly, you will feel energized after your yoga session rather than tired; (15) Weight. The benefits of a better metabolism along with the exercise of yoga work to keep your weight in check. Additionally, the stretching of muscles longwise helps to reduce the amount of cellulite that can build around muscles; (16) Sleep. Because of the many benefits to both body and mind that a yoga routine can provide, many find that their sleep is much better.; (17) Balance. An integral part of the yoga practice is balance and control over your body. With a consistent practice, you will find that your overall balance will improve; (18) Integrated function of the body. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit and means “to join together and direct one’s attention.” This is exactly what happens to your body after you start practicing yoga; (19) Body Awareness: Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence; (20) Core strength. With a strong body core, you receive better posture and overall body strength. A strong core helps heal and reduce injuries. This is why a lot of athletes do yoga as cross training; (21) Sexuality. Yoga can improve your sexuality through better control, more relaxation, and more self-confidence. Due to the strong mind-body connection of yoga, there are many emotional benefits to be gained from a consistent yoga practice. Find out how yoga can help improve emotional health with some of these ideas: (22) Mood. Overall well-being improves with yoga practice. The combination of creating a strong mind-body connection, creating a healthy body, and focusing inward can all lead to improvement in your mood;
(23) Stress Reduction. The concentration required during yoga practice tends to focus your attention on the matter at hand, thereby reducing the emphasis you may have been putting on the stress in your life; (24) Anxiety. One benefit to the controlled breathing used in yoga is a reduction in anxiety; (25) Mind-body connection. Few other exercises offer the same mind-body connection that yoga does. As you match your controlled breathing with the movements of your body, you retrain your mind to find that place of calm and peace; (26) Positive outlook on life. Continued practice of yoga results in a balance of many hormones and nervous system, which brings about a more stable, positive approach to life; (27) Memory. Improved blood circulation to the brain as well as the reduction in stress and improved focus results in a better memory; (28) Attention. The attention required in yoga to maintain the structured breathing in conjunction with yoga poses sharpens the ability to keep a sharp focus on tasks; (29) Calmness. Concentrating so intently on what your body is doing has the effect of bringing calmness. Yoga also introduces you to meditation techniques, such as watching how you breathe and disengagement from your thoughts, which help calm the mind. Several aspects of body chemistry such as glucose levels and red blood cells are affected by yoga. Here are some ways that yoga can help; (30) Cholesterol. Yoga practice lowers cholesterol through increased blood circulation and burning fat. Yoga practice is a great tool to fight against harmful cholesterol levels; (31) Lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system boosts your immunity and reduces toxins in your body. The only way to get your lymphatic system flowing well is by movement. The specific movements involved in yoga are particularly well-suited for promoting a strong lymphatic system; (32) Glucose. There is evidence to suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose levels; (33) Sodium. As with any good exercise program, yoga reduces the sodium levels in your body. In today’s world of processed and fast foods that are full of sodium, lessening these levels is a great idea; (34) Endocrine function. Practicing yoga helps to regulate and control hormone secretion. An improved endocrine system keeps hormones in balance and promotes better overall physical and emotional health; (35) Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat in the blood, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. A recent study shows that yoga can lead to “significantly lower” levels of triglycerides; and (36) Red blood cells. Yoga has been shown to increase the level of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen through the blood, and too few can result in anemia and low energy.