Kita Brahmari Nyaya the Law of Caterpillar and Butterfly in Yoga

Kita brahmari nyaya epitome

 Yoga has unique observations on the psychological process of change and about the mind and its power. “We become what we focus attention/emotion on” This is the Law of Caterpillar and Butterfly, or the Kita {the slug} Brahmari{the insect} Nyaya{ the law}. Buckminister Fuller  once mused that “ ‘There is nothing in a caterpillar which tells us that it will become a butterfly.” According to the Yogic tradition the caterpillar whilst in the cocoon meditates so intensely upon the form -the rupa- of the butterfly that it transforms from an ugly slimy crawling thing to an actualization  of beauty that takes flight! As a metaphor for the spiritual process and its goals this is just about perfect.

Yet Yoga insists this is not a symbolic statement but a literal truth. By intense focus upon a desired locus, human or divine, we are transmuted into the thing itself or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof! This is the theory behind Bhakti Yoga. Constant contemplation of, and mediation upon, the form or rupa of the deva or guru changes you forever. First you imbibe the qualities, then they infuse you till your very physical appearance alters, to say nothing of your personality and abilities. In India at least it is very common to meet disciples who have spent years with the guru coming to resemble him to an astonishing degree.

frawley 1

The great yogi and teacher David Frawley for instance looks just like Ganapati Muni who was an associate of Ramana Mahrishi!

Considering one is American and the other was a South Indian Brahmin and many years and no actual contact separate them, one concludes that there is something to this theory.


Paramahamsa Yogananda once said that he meditated upon the cocoon a couple of days before it was due to burst and he found there is a stage when the cocoon is suffused with light, everything becoming practically liquid light, before it congeals into the shape and form of the butterfly. The mystical artist Alex Grey seems to hold similar views from the evidence of this painting.

kita brahmari nyaya alex grey style

Light of course is the Prima Materia of Yoga, the foundation of life and its evolving cause.

The Daosit Master Chuang Tsu once had a dream that he was a butterfly flitting about. He ruminated on a consequent dilemma in front of his students ” Am I Chuang Tsu dreaming he is a butterfly or am I a butterfly dreaming he is Chuang Tsu?” The power of the Brahmari to provoke spiritual processes is ancient therefore.

Modern science has given us this scan.


I leave it to individual judgments whether it confirms or refutes this theory.

In terms of spiritual growth and even simple change for the better, it is an intriguing path. Intense contemplation married to emotional intensity brings about the desired results. It sounds like all the manifestation systems out there and perhaps with good reason.

Sarvam Shivamayam!

Addendum on August 13th, 2013

The blog got a massively popular response but the best one was on Facebook from Spiritual Teacher Shivo Osho. I include his exchange with me here

Shivo Osho Rohit, I went through your blog and I faced the same dilemma which I have always pondered. I would request you to respond to my questions. You have mentioned “By intense focus upon a desired locus, human or divine, we are transmuted into the thing itself or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof! This is the theory behind Bhakti Yoga. Constant contemplation of, and mediation upon, the form or rupa of the deva or guru changes you forever. First you imbibe the qualities, then they infuse you till your very physical appearance alters, to say nothing of your personality and abilities”. Well, I must say what you had said is true. However, I cant understand this as the peak truth or peak realization. For me, the key question is “How do you know what to focus upon? What you want to become, does it come from your spirit longing or from your ego desire to become like someone? Can you really find out what your spirit longs for, till ego is still the driving force? Isnt it of utmost importance to first understand what your true nature is, before trying to become someone?” Also, about Bhakti Yoga, I have heard that disciple becomes like guru and I have also seen many examples of that in my own life. But again I fail to understand this. For me the key questions are, “Isnt it more important to be devoted to life / divine rather than to your guru? Isnt is more important to discover your unique existence rather than become what your guru is? Doesnt life want you to discover who you are and not try to become the photo copy of your guru? What will make life celebrate, you becoming like your guru or you discovering your own unique place in the cosmic scheme of things?”

Rohit Arya I totally agree with you! I was merely reporting the traditional perspective.It has not been said in the blog that this is the peak truth, merely this is how it works. I add here that the best gurus have disciples who are authentic originals. The next level have shisyas with great similarities while the least attractive are the clone factories. The longing to be like someone perhaps comes from the perception that they are more evolved than you? The idea seems to be that some improvement is better than none. Many schools will say that the guru is the full experience of Life so becoming like him is actually the peak. I do not think so but that’s whats they hold. They will consider your perspective to be droha – impertinence and sin! I am of your views on this with the small point that this was one of the ways yoga enabled people to manifest change in desirable manners. It works but is not complete in itself. All skills are needed on the path.

Shivo Osho Thanks Rohit, for such an amazing answer…
Shivo Osho Rohit, I spent a long time in an organization, where being total gurubhakt was the ultimate sadhna and gurudroh was ultimate sin. However, my realization is that ultimate sin is not to listen to life,what it has intended for you. Life never repeats itself, it has not even made two leaves of the same tree exactly same, so why would it want you to be exactly like guru? I realize the true guru is the one who inspires his disciple to tread on the path to discover his own uniqueness. True bhakti is to discover your own unique place in the grand cosmic scheme and fulfill that without interference from ego.
Rohit Arya I do not have a single thing to add to this! I concur absolutely.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath, being a writer, a corporate trainer, a mythologist and a vibrant speaker.  He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five European languages} the first book on Tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He was the Editor of The Leadership Review, and on the advisory panel of, the first spiritual portal in the country. Currently he is the Director of Pro-Factor, a leadership and change facilitation outfit. He has been an arts critic and socio-cultural commentator for over two decades. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga. He leads the Ka Sangha meditation group, as well as The Integral Space meditation circle each week.

8 thoughts on “Kita Brahmari Nyaya the Law of Caterpillar and Butterfly in Yoga

  1. What a beautiful reminder and pictures, Rohit. The resemblance of David Frawley and the Muni radiates even without the hairdo. What we gestate, we become. And the caterpillar gropes from leaf to leaf for life – this is the mind, distilling image. Saw last night a TV prog about creepers which twist and twine around plants, trees and roots they feed off, like snakes, and occasionally burst into amazing flower. So are we with our teachers.

  2. Reblogged this on janeadamsart and commented:
    I am reblogging this post by Rohit, which arrived so serendipitously this morning, together with a phone call from a friend about the timely chrysalis in Yoga, and … my friend had just had a dream about a Tibetan cup with mud in it, which morphed into the Avilokiteshwara, the Buddha of compassion, and so he is going to visit Dharamasala. What resonance is at work within us collectively, and gestating ?

  3. To continue the added conversation with Shivo Osho: On focus: becoming like the guru, is rupa, and in itself transformative. But it is still a projection. Guru as dispeller of darkness is mirrored and activates from within – reciprocally. I suppose it is like being pollinated! From being inspired to raise our level, we are quickened from within, to take response-ability and to see to where we really are.

    Bhakti and other yogas are essential features but they may not fully work in isolation – i.e. the spiritual consumer is still hungry. When it is integrated – an integral yoga – the surplus drops away, for the core, the Self, is infinite. Or: life is carried and lived without resistance. Sort of: if music be the food of life, play on!

    Focus? Essential, to train the mind! Then Tat Twam Asi, or I am that I am – with a little help from all our friends and situations – is universal. Nothing in isolation.

    The best gurus attract disciples who are authentic originals – by law of resonance. They recognise each other in relationship, in dialogue, the two way process which is Consciousness. It was said that only a buddha sees another buddha in principle.

    I guess all opinions and philosophies are limited to the caterpillar/chrysalis view. The butterfly cannot be known to the flat earth dweller; yet the butterfly is what we are.

    I think the problem here is when we regard guru as a separate and divine person, rather than that resonance of full humanity or quantum of being, which is latent in ALL of us, across all our individualities and diversity. (For instance, the bond between mother and her newborn.) It is our essential bhakti and jnana nature to be inspired by the guru or Self teacher, but we have to transmute even this. No guru is a quick fix! Any who say they are, are mirages in the mirror.

    My teacher simply says “keep practicing”. Life does the rest.

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