How service becomes virtue signalling

Have you noticed that when people start by speaking of their desire to do seva{service} it somehow, over time, becomes about their tyag and balidan {sacrifice}? There is a grim inevitability to this progression, almost like it is a natural part of aging or something. There is really only one answer to this virtue signalling. It is a rude answer but it is also true. “Nobody put a gun to your head and forced you. You choose to do this because it felt good. What do you want now, a medal?”
This is why I prefer the greedy and selfish. I don’t like them but I prefer them. They are transparent about their self interest, and there is no bear trap in waiting where suddenly you are expected to repay and reward virtuous actions of the past.
As a Guru I get a lot of this. People feel obliged to signal their disinterested virtue and desire to improve society. The moment I see the ‘Improvement’ strand in somebody I back away. That is how things are done in religious circles. Most organizations are held up by what is essentially slave labor, long hard hours of unpaid and unrecognized work but since it has cultural sanction, it is not seriously challenged. I consciously chose not to go that route knowing it would limit growth but I could not cast myself as a slave driver. Now I am virtue signalling! But I have never blathered about seva so I can risk it.
I freely confess I was shattered and disheartened when Narendra Modi of all people, got onto the moral high horse of sacrifices made. It completely demoralized me. Then I became angry. How dare he pull this stunt on us? If this is so important to you then take a leaf out of Nehru’s book and give yourself an award. But dont make such undignified exhibitions in public. This is the Congress playbook and we, quite reasonably, expected different from him. My personal take is that working between 14 to 18 hours a day or whatever the myth making number so beloved of fans, has left him with very little time to do serious sadhana. He probably got into the ‘this is karma yoga’ mindset. This man who was the most hard nosed and unshakeable personality is now weeping copiously at every opportunity, One RSS person complained to me about this new sentimentality on display and my answer was a} why tell me? and b} check out if the weeping fits occur on days near Pournami, the full moon. Of course they do. Modi had the karmic potential to become a liberated soul but this time round it has settled for being a great ruler. That happens in yoga all the time.
Now the point of this post is not our PM. I still think he is the best man we have – even if I think he has made a catastrophic blunder. So the fanboys and fangirls may please spare me their ululations and ignorant enthusiasms designed to bring me into the light. I do not abide sanctimony from anybody.

Sri Guru Rohit Arya is the founder of the Arya Yoga Sangha – a Kundalini based system of the Integral{Arya} Yoga. He is a Yogi, Author and Polymath.

Rohit Arya_ Creation of Sacred India Tarot Grace card Ganesha





12 June 2001, from Jane’s diary:

“They want an artist to do an Indian Tarot which some sensitive ones have developed, incorporating Vishnu & Co, and the project is Secret, and will be produced in the same class as the new Ramesh book.  They don’t want treacle-colour Indi-Ikons, but …  the other kind of India – VEDIC INDIA.  All these years of Indian mysticism and Kabbalah training, exchanging trade –  now materializes! – we never know what next to be called upon!”

“He rolls boulders in your path aside – what could be better attributes for a god?

Correspondence, Rohit:  “The dancing Ganesha should not lose his quality of being an Earth energy first, but some sort of cosmic or outer space interpretation would be welcome.  His trunk should be turned to the left as that is the version of Ganapati that interacts with the world and welcomes and blesses people.  The sitting Ganesha can have his trunk turned to the right, as that is the spiritual version and symbolic of the inner quest.   Ganesha is always depicted not with an elephants head as really happened in the myth, but with a human head that looks elephant like.  It is usually a pink or sometimes white head.  I would like to try out an actual elephant head on a human body and see how that looks.  If it turns out to be too weird looking, we can go back to the norm.  If it does not, then we will have a unique and creative perspective, which also has the virtue of being scripturally accurate.  I love the idea of having the pentacles inscribed on the head, so please retain that for this illustration.  I really do not know what else I am to say, as your knowledge of Indian culture makes me hesitant to make anything except the broadest suggestions.  Please also look at the accompanying article on Ganesha, which we have put up on our website – it may give you some ideas for another point of view.   Emotion:  Happy, dancing Ganesha….”

In my drawing, Ganesh doesn’t hold an axe, he holds a mace.

Jane:The rat (his vehicle) I see as a humorous touch, the small one who gnaws through ropes.  Do you want Ganesh’s head as an elephant with or without headdress?  Can easily alter minor details.  You mentioned having “the pentacles” inscribed on his head.  Did you mean this design, or what?




“I have tried to combine stability with ‘pan-cosmic’ states of being, in this design;  also he should seem ever so slightly shocking and terrible as Lord of the Ganas, and guarding his mother, so I visualize the completed design (if it succeeds) with the impression of him a little against the light – the light behind him/Paradox.  Have put his trunk in his left hand, as you said.

 “I have found a friend who says he can scan and compress email images to send – I can ask him to do this once or twice a week until we have your London contact set up.   If it works OK, I can send you Ganesa and Rudra.  These two are now in colour, and complete, bar finishing touches, refinements and minor alterations to headdresses or facial expression.  I have left Rudra’s headdress vague, because it could be a Siva matted locks conch shell hairdo?  Or the proto-Siva headdress – is this the one that all the Nataraja wear?

Ganesha, now coloured in, is more gentle and playful in mood.  He dances in his OM which is in a four gated mandala, with his Rat and a little puja of incense and a few sweets.  The Sri Chakra on his trunk is now smaller.  He touches earth auspiciously.”

            Jane’s notes:


Dancing Ganesh remover of obstacles, is at first himself the obstacle:  so we worship him first before any creative process.  He unblocks the poet.  As an EARTH energy, through his dance the Spirit touches ground to manifest.  The square Yantra emphasizes this playful dance within the Tamil OM sign, with reddish and ochre tones.

Around Ganesh’s head is a circular blue aura – heaven or Spirit, entering the Earth:  the idea of squaring the Circle.

The Yantra on his trunk combines one ascending male triangle with two descending female/shakti triangles.  These male and female principles evolve from the primal element to polarize as shiva shakti – the kernel of the great Sri Chakra Yantra.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya_ the Shiva lingam in the Centre of India

The Dighori temple in Madhya  Pradesh  has a Spatika  {white moonstone} Shiva lingam reputedly the largest such lingam in the world. It is situated at what seems to be the exact geographical centre of India, but its power is that of a yogi who created a sthala peetham, a ‘spiritual process in potential’ which can be accessed by those who share the karma and the lineage.

I stumbled upon this temple entirely by chance. I was in Pench Tiger reserve , facilitating a corporate workshop for people taking initiative in rural development and sustainability. Wishing to visit the actual sites where this quite remarkable work was going on I was told we would be taken to a village which is near this ‘famous’ Dighori temple. I had never heard of it.  Then I was told it was also famous for being the birthplace of one of the Shankaracharyas, heads of spiritual orders and about the only strained equivalent chaotic Hinduism has to a pontiff. There was still no flicker of response from me, a situation that seemed to pique and slightly offend my helpful fount of information. Then I was told  it is the largest Spatika lingam in the world and I perked up. Spatika is white moonstone crystal and an entire Shiva lingam made of that signified that some very advanced yogi had been at work. It is difficult to energize properly such a substance; it holds enormous spiritual reserves if done correctly, but the inherent fragility of the materiel makes it very brittle and prone to crack when the energizing process  is  powerful.  Spatika uses and enhances the Ida or lunar energies of the Kundalini Shakti predominantly to calm and strengthen the energies of the organism or indeed of the surrounding environment. A full scale Shiva lingam, temple size,instead of personal puja space, that would be something to see and experience. So we went.

The temple is situated between Seoni town, mentioned in the Jungle Book as home to Mowgli’s pack, and the city of Nagpur. There is a high scale of agriculture but the jungle is also present everywhere, in the backdrop at the limits of vision. Several times the road takes you through actual deciduous forests. They are not very good roads, a fact casually acknowledged by a cheerful sign – “If the bridge is under water, please do not use it!’  You have to turn left from the highway on the way to Nagpur when you leave Seoni to access Dighori temple. Electricity has reached here, and so has the occasional stretch of tar and concrete, but browsing unremarked amongst cattle and goats were nilghai, twisty horned antelopes! Only the ignoramuses from the city seemed to find that notable, but it only underscored the omnipresence of the forest, at the edges of consciousness, a molten subtext of the wild to the apparent myth of pastoral we found ourselves in. It was beautiful, and there were people, even at ten in the morning, displaying evidence they had no loos at home. The jarring it proceeds on urban sensibilities, and the completely oblivious acceptance showed by all was a mini-education about the problems facing this impossible country. In the manner popular now all over India there was a concrete archway at the beginning of the actual road leading to Dighori temple. Madhya Pradesh favours large serpents and tridents to signify we are in Shaivite country.

As we approached I began to feel, not a pull, not an attraction, but a distinct Force, a pulsing power. I have been a yogi for a while now and such places vibrate strongly with me. It was not unpleasant, but it was not comfortable either. The previous night, as I was about to do my final meditation routine and retire for the night I began to shiver uncontrollably till my teeth chattered. This was strange but I put it down to an unaccustomed hi-impact AC! Under the blanket my Manipura, the navel chakra basically exploded. No other words will suffice, just an eruption of heat and power. It spread all over my body but I felt more power was flowing to the chest and arms than the legs. These sort of weird experiences have become quite regular now and I do not pay much heed to them or get overly excited. As soon as the cold stopped I sat down to meditate and fell asleep! That was noteworthy, for I was still conscious and aware but I could also hear myself snoring. I was locked into position and  there was nothing much I could do except to let it play out. After almost 100 minutes I  really fell asleep and woke up quite stiff and cramped still in my sitting posture. Now as I approached the Dighori temple it was clear some sort of clearing had been done first.

The temple has well maintained lawns and even a water tower. It is the middle of interior India so this is quite a disconcerting sight, a faux 15th century South Indian stone temple replicated in concrete and whitewashed, with these Trishulas all over. An aarti was going on, worship with chants and lamps, in which the armed policeman was enthusiastically participating. It was surely a violation of rules but his devotion was sincere. The din of the aarti – specifically designed so that inauspicious and negative comments though articulated will not be audible to the deity –  made all conversation moot. Also we had no time there, this was a bonus, an attempt at understanding the important markers of the cultural milieu. This is what I garnered from my brief time there.  These are a result of my Samyama, my mediation upon the subject. I offer no evidence per se I merely state this is what I feel is the significance of the temple. Photos of the lingam are not allowed.

The temple has been situated by a great yogi at the spot where he did his sadhana and attained his realization as did his gurus before him. From the clue in the name and the forest environment I understood they were Aghora yogis. Before he passed on he accumulated his knowledge, his experiences and his particular spiritual system into an energy package and deposited it inside the Spatika lingam. The lingam has seven copper bands around it which also means it has been created as a Master in pure energy form, each band representing one of the principal chakras and providing some material substance to embody otherwise uncontrollable energy. That is an ancient feature of all correctly created Shiva lingams, it functions at the energy level of a real guru and his chakras with none of the problems of dealing with his individual karma and human personality! Inside this Spatika lingam however he has created a sthala peetham,   a knowledge bank, a repository of his parampara or lineage and all their techniques. It can be accessed by somebody who is in the lineage and who has the require adhikara, the karmic deservedness or right. The ellipsoid form of the lingam the white crystal used – both hugely resistant to entropy at a spiritual level – ensured that the energy and the knowledge it carries will be stable for essentially millennia. I could not access it, it is not my path. But being in the Kundalini system I could recognize it and feel its incredible power.

Spataika works predominantly with the Ida or lunar channel of the Kundalini. The previous night I had a full blown episode of the Pingala or solar channel even though my Ida normally works even better than the Pingala. Some sort of balancing out was obviously in play, too much lunar input could have damaged my system so the Pingala activated in that quite unexpected manner and made me feel I was inside a volcano. The more I do Yoga the more astonished I am at how incredible the wisdom of the body is, specifically the energy sheath known as the pranmaya kosha. It remembers everything we have ever done, in every form of sadhana we have ever done, and insight and intuition are, as I have learnt, not mental process but purely body consciousness of the pranamaya kosha.  Whatever energy input I received from the spatika lingam is not at a conscious or verbal level; I just sensed it flow into me. The lingam  is so powerful they have a separate brass plated lingam to do abhishekam with and give charanamrita to drink from. That should tell you something. People who drink the water or milk used on the spatika are likely to have extraordinary reactions and it has wisely been avoided.

The clues are everywhere. The Nandi or bull vahana of Shiva has an extraordinary kundalini sarpam or snake emerging from his hump  – Anahata  – and reaching the Sahasrara between the horns. I will not say more here, I do not feel I have the right to reveal it as yet,  but those who can comprehend what is being communicated will grasp its full import. I have never seen this displayed in this public manner, that Nandi is unique in all India which abounds in peculiar Nandis, all displaying some aspect of yogic technique which can be achieved at the sacred spot they are in. The relative inaccessibility and obscurity of the temple also means that whatever process has been initiated by the founding yogi is working itself out in its own time. The temple is as close to the geographic centre as makes little difference but he has placed this white moonstone lingam over the solar plexus of the energy body of the land! Yogis never think small but this is indeed magnificent. In doing so he decided to consciously intervene in the evolution of the spiritual process of the land, which had become somewhat awry owing to the turbulent history it had endured. One day the person with the adhikara to access the parampara will land up there and then this temple will no longer remain obscure. Till then it is a peaceful little diversion. I am going back whenever I can. I may not be the one who can reach in but the Lingam has so many gifts; to access them takes time and I was barely there for ten minutes. Next time I am going to try and contact the Founding yogi and ask for his inputs and instructions. In the meantime I do my part in making this awesome place known to all serious yogis.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya_ 3 blocks to motivation in a spiritual process or sadhana

A spiritual process – called sadhana in Yoga – is a fine thing to have and sufficiently common for people to realize it is not easy. Most sadhana is simple, not easy, and as in all other aspects of life, one loses motivation rapidly. I offer what I think are the 3 prime reasons sadhana suffers and what can be done in integral response .

I had been thinking about the motivation problem elsewhere and have written about it on my blog about Work and Success. Great stuff – view here

I was then faced with a challenge. If, as I hold, “All Life is Yoga”, then these leaks or blocks to motivation should not be peculiar to the work sphere alone.  A little thought showed me that I was making the mistake of compartmentalizing  life.. The  leaks hold with as much validity in sadhana perhaps even more so. Yet spiritual processes may have their characteristic issues so a further effort on my part may not be amiss.


Bodhidharma was a South Indian prince who took Buddhism to China. The new monks were full of enthusiasm for the new faith but they simply could not sit long enough to mediate.  Bodhidharma taught them a variation of his martial art tradition, Kalaripayattu, the oldest known martial art in the world and still practiced in India, to condition themselves – and also defend themselves from brigands and villains who thought non-violent monks were a gift from heaven. This became Wu Shu, better known as Kung Fu and most magnificently kept alive in Shaolin. But the core issue remains. Most mediation styles require if not effort, at least endurance, for the benefits and grace to kick in. This is one of the most common reasons people fail in sadhana. They say they have no time but actually they get weary long before any dramatic changes occur internally. I speak feelingly, and from personal experience.

Hatha Yoga in fact was invented and designed to correct postural flaws and lack of stamina, the two major impediments to practising yoga proper which is mediation.   In actual fact the asanas or postures arose in meditation as a response to needs of the students; the current approach is to reverse the process but that is a matter for another time. Most people take about ten minutes merely to settle down into a simulacrum of stillness at the physical level. The mind takes considerably longer. At about the 25 or 30 minute mark, both physical and mental processes tend to slow down but the body, habituated to inertia over lifetimes has an inner mechanism that activates approximately around the 41 minute mark. Up to the 48th minute you are in profound discomfort. If you can tough it out to the 50 minute the body usually relaxes and settles into a deep state of grace and flow, but most people are in such agony and they feel so completely wasted that the posture breaks, the mind screams even more than the joints and you ‘fail’. After a few such disheartening episodes, you lose motivation and decide meditation or sadhana is not for me.

Those who practice pranayama may face this problem even more acutely. So much tiredness is released from the stored up inertia within the muscle memory that you think you are tiring yourself instead of releasing weakness. The body is a vital component of success in spiritual process, contrary to the usual belief, so having an instrument that is capable of rigour and stamina is paramount. Absolute stillness requires absolute fitness! An interesting aspect of mediation is that long practice – I am talking years now, not months and at least half an hour a day – causes the body to recalibrate itself into its ideal weight and fitness levels. Significant and even dramatic healing may occur. This requires a commitment to the long haul however, and people are usually too fatigued to stay the course.


Till you get to the grace of the still mind, mediation and spiritual processes seem like the most futile waste of time ever designed by a mocking fiend. Since there is nothing to do, and we are all conditioned to believe that not doing is a moral blemish, meditation feels profoundly unnatural at first and above all it is boring. Yes I know you will find endless paeans to the joy and bliss and high of mediation – they are all by people who got to the other side and have now forgotten how bored out of their skulls they were initially.  Unlike boredom in other domains, boredom in sadhana is particularly difficult as you cannot distract yourself, do something different, or employ any of the tricks that work! Boredom in sadhana is brutal because what you are bored with is yourself. This is not a pleasant or a popular realization and is a dangerous cross roads in the path. People prefer to abandon the path rather than accept they may be mistaken about their splendid uniqueness in the world .

There is only you… that is the harrowing part of this. You have to stay with it, accept it, even forgive it if need be, but you are what you are and until you comprehend that and integrate it there is no way forward. Once done, naturally, infuriatingly, boredom ceases! To stay put however requires that you do not get tired. If you are tired as well as bored, the chances of breaking through to any sort of insight or accomplishment go down drastically. The only real help here is faith, and the example of those who have gone before you. They got past it, so will you, if only you stay the course.


Frustration flows from thwarted desire. Mediation is supposed to reduce desires but in many cases it merely hones a keener edge to the desire. You seek virtue, but very often people seek excitement. They want grand and significant experiences, especially if others they know are reporting such things. They want to progress faster than they seem to be accomplishing at present. In sadhana, breakthroughs happen in leaps or jumps… they are not accretions which can be visibly measured, incremental measures of gratifying comparison.  The energy builds up, pools and collects itself and then bursts out, explodes to the next level, including the previous level now transcended. It usually happens at a time that is most inconvenient from a personal perspective also!

The optimal attitude to maintain I have explained in the other blog. I quote parts of it here –   “To work you have the right, but not the fruits thereof” Karmanye vaadika raste, maphaleshu kadachana. Now I do not imagine that Krishna would be against success, his entire life was argument enough against that. Nevertheless this was his prescription for integral action.   It is easy enough to say it teaches optimal functioning. If you are always looking at the fruit, the result, you are distracted from performing skilfully the action which will enable you to achieve that fruit. Yes of course.

The deeper wisdom of this too popular verse conveys is that outcomes cannot be controlled as we would desire.  When I grasped this it caused an internal explosion.  Let me hasten to add I have no patience with fatalism – the Niyati outlook, it is all kismet, in the stars. I believe in and practice Orenda, which is the Huron word for the Sanskrit term Purushartha. It implies, in both traditions,  invoking the power of the human will against the aspect of destiny that is ranged against you. It is the awakening of personal strength to alter what the insistence of prarabdha, activated karma, is trying to dole out to you. The direction of fate need not be your docile path. You can consciously intervene. I am Aghora – we refuse to accept the hand that karma has dealt us, but, and this is vital, the result of our response need not be what we desire. It could be, indeed very often it is, better than that we desired!

Yet and I cannot overstate the case, the leaps, the take-off, they occur unexpectedly and suddenly but only because there has been a steady input of sadhana or spiritual process over  time. The wait is part of the process sometimes as the organism may not be ready for a premature awakening, especially in the Kundalini systems of yoga.  Frustration in such a scenario is therefore avidya, ignorance of the process you have entered into. These supposedly arid periods are of vital significance and import; not to know that is tragic; to grumble about it is futile; to abandon practice is idiocy.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya _ Sacred India Tarot first workshop

The workshop was held on April 21 2012 at The World Trade Centre in Mumbai at the Sunflower hall on the 30th floor. Yogi Impressions are the publishers of the Sacred India Tarot. This is my first attempt at a photo essay type blog

Just before the workshop began, posing with some of the prints from the Sacred India Tarot deck

You can see the Ace Lotuses{cups} the meditating five faced Shiva, and the two bonus grace cards provided in the deck Ganapati and Mahaavatar Babaji

all set

I have never stood next to a poster which was displaying my work before! It is  a great feeling…

My publisher – and great friend – Gautam Sachdeva. He is an author of spiritual books too! This was the poster outside the session room

The camera was acting up so I froze up a bit but still we got a really great shot.

The Wild Card – the Zero card of the Major Arcana… here Rudra Shiva

The Empress – Mahalaxmi

A long shot of the audience during the session – this is the Emperor

The tremendous power that is known as Mahakali. These magnificent illustrations are by an English lady called Jane Ada

The Masculine aspect of the World Card in the Sacred India Tarot is the Ananda Tandava Murthi, the Bliss Dancer better known as Shiva Nataraja. Both Death and World cards are depicted with a Masculine and Feminine aspect, and with two bonus cards they make up a total of 82 cards in the deck!

The Feminine aspect of the World, the Mahashakti. I look suitably eerie and Tantrik here!

After the session with my Guru, Santos Sachdeva, author of the unbelievably awesome Kundalini Trilogy books on meditation. The hat is my trademark!

Iti .. i.e. Finis!

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya _ Shiva, the Bliss Dancer

Dance is an exuberant leap of life towards its source.Just as a tree bursts out of its nourishing soil to seek the sun, so too does the dancer seek out the creative source.

This need not be a conscious process.

It need not be a decision, a desire, a demand, or a destination.

It just needs to be dance.

The child sways to music long before it can talk. Or walk.

The soul never forgets how to dance, though minds and bodies may be ashamed of it.

To dance is to affirm life.

Which means that to dance is to risk.

Risk is not popular; systems that eliminate it are.

With dance you risk – ridicule, unwelcome self-awareness.

But also at risk is stagnant thought and depressing plainness.

When dancing, no one is ordinary.

A system of dance should not be confused with dance and dancing.

“We cannot dance”, means we don’t know a system.

So long as we can move, we can dance.

If this means something to observers, fine. If it means nothing, even better.

Does it mean something to you, something beyond the hotch-potch of clichés and assumptions and social conditioning of what dance is and what it should do?

Don’t enter a state of hot air about “Transcendental experience” and ” Being one with the universe”. A dancer has no time to think and feel such things – dancers are too busy dancing. Dance is not a vehicle for personal expression; dance is about your personality interacting with the world. Hence the importance of dance in cultures across the world, its primacy in ritual and magic.

Movement has its own language which language is usually inadequate to clearly express.

Dance with wit, with idiosycracy, with crankiness even.

Don’t dance in other people’s minds.

Not even in your own mind.

If the body is true, the mind and soul follow. So does the world.

For the world, Jagat comes from Ja – that which is born and Gat – movement.

Jagat is that which is born out of movement.

Dance is movement at its best and its purest – at its worst and ugliest – hence dance expresses the world peculiarly well.

Hindu mythology captued the essence of this insight most magnificently in the Ananda Tandava Murthi better known as the Nataraja, king of dance. But Ananda Tandava means the ‘Bliss Dance’ and Shiva is therefore The Bliss Dancer. The Lord of the World, Vishvanatha  Shiva is also the all-pervading consciousness. The World is thus the Dance of Bliss which is Shiva.

“Dancing gods must come” said Nietzche, unconsciously echoing the Nataraja who is also Nrityashila – habituated to dance. For Shiva like all dancers, not only expresses the personal view of the world but embodies it in the physical form.

Another great form of movement,  the martial arts, shares these insights with dance.

Without humility, there is no pride.

Without ignorance, there is no learning.

Without fear, there is no courage.

To dance is not just about art or craft or skill or dedication and achievement.

It is about the appetite to dare, to be exuberant, and to be yourself.

To dance is to make this moment, now, worth living.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya on Error and Danger with Unfamilar Gods

“It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living God”

I originally wrote this as a response to a strange picture of Kali I saw on posted in somebody’s news-stream. The actual picture seems to have been a personal possession, something I was unaware of as it had come into the public domain called Facebook. I have therefore blurred out all distinguishing and unique features retaining only the outline for the purposes of the spiritual points I am making.

This picture of Kali is beautiful. It is also chilling in that everything that could possibly go wrong, be wrong and is wrong is depicted therein! This picture is a salutary lesson in the perils of engaging with a foreign belief system with only fervours and a specific perspective to colour what you think you are dealing with. The actual energy, here a living deity for six millennia, has its own agenda, its own authenticity and integrity and the unwary enthusiast will soon realize the terrible truth of the warning by Carl Gustav Jung quoted at the beginning. I understand, and even approve, that we are entering into a new phase of human societies where all cultures are the inheritance of all beings. That is good. We are the country that articulated, five thousand years ago, this glorious sentiment –

Ayam nijo paro veti ganana laghucetasam

Udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam

{Only base minds reckon whether one be kin or stranger

Men of noble conduct take the whole world for their home.}

It is one thing to draw from the best of cultures worldwide. It is quite another to engage with a power like Kali, depict it in such manners and hope to get away unscathed!

I am not one of those Hindus who are constantly looking to be offended. I quite believe the person who made this picture and the person who displayed this as their Facebook backdrop are sincere and even devout. Kali is very attractive and as an emblem of female power she is irresistible. But a living goddess is a very different thing from a revived one. It is one matter to depict Epona, Bellona, Brigit, Isis, Ishtar and so on. The traditions are being revived and the energy forms and coalesces in mostly benign manners though I would not always be sure of that. But when an ancient archetype, a veritable Force in the Universe, is to be dealt with, one needs caution. There are protocols to approach such powers, and rules to follow in their depiction. In the esoteric and occult realm alas, as in the everyday world, ignorance of the law is no excuse. I am a Yogi and I have been a Tantric in many lives too. I do not seek to convince anybody about this or what I will now say. I merely state my experience. The gods, the devas and devis, are living energies, possible to be actually experienced and interacted with, and they do not take kindly to trifling with them. This picture, alas, will fall into that category.

The creation of a divine form to meditate upon and worship, called correctly a Murthi’ and incorrectly an idol, is a specific science in the Yoga system. Texts called the Agama Shastras lay out the parameters very clearly. What material the picture or murthi is to be constructed of, the colours, the number of limbs, the ritual implements they carry, their postures, everything is delineated to an incredible degree. God is formless; every Indian child knows that. The form is a specific degree or band of qualities of the divine that you wish to internalize and transform yourself with. The meditation upon the murthi is to facilitate the creation and dissolution of such qualities as symbolically represented by that divine form. Once you attain your purpose, you can give up that particular worship. These are not matters widely known, but they are the core of the Yogic outlook. Kali is a very speedy and turbulent process of spiritual evolution. She is an archetype of course, and the essence of all archetypes is that they always remain beyond your comprehension, no matter the deepening of wisdom and catalytic transformation of life they provide. The belief that devotion and good intentions will protect you is an optimistic one. The gods are as above the human as the human is above the ant. Accidents will happen; it is for humans to be careful.

The depiction of Kali has certain invariant parameters. This picture violates all the rules, which are actually safety procedures for the worshipper. How does one begin to enumerate the goof-ups? Why is she shown wearing what seems to be a red carpet gown? The essence of Kali is nudity!!! You can cover it up with skulls and garlands and limbs but Kali is nude, symbolizing the complete freedom from all conditionings and artificially created persona. Kali is the Authentic Self, the Face you had before you were born. That she should be nude is axiomatic. {It has caused a lot of problems in India too, when the disapproval of the Semitic faiths at such blood-curdling authenticity could not be shrugged away by a politically powerless Hindus society.}  But she is nude. Always. Then the colour of the skin is all wrong. Kali means “black as night”, she represents the primal power, the chthonic and even more ancient archetypes and that is always the Dark. This looks like a vampire heroine from chick lit.

Since she is the Dark, that blood moon behind her is completely wrong. Kali is beyond all categories, including time. Shiva, auspicious consciousness regulates Time, hence he is depicted with a crescent moon. Shiva is usually represented in most pictures of Kali. It is not compulsory but it is a good idea. Kali standing on Shiva is the yin-yang, Purusha-Prakriti, uncontrollable power can be channelled for the benefit of the world only when it is grounded in Consciousness. There is an upright fire triangle behind her – that is a symbol of Shiva. The downward pointing triangle represents Kali – it represents the shape of the yoni. To have a Shiva symbol, {technically called a Yantra, an energy form that symbolically depicts all the attributes of the devata or god,} without depicting Shiva as a figure, to not have the Kali yantra depicted, these are blunders of a magnitude that would cause hysterical laughter in a yogi for their blood would freeze at the risks being taken. When you have a yantra in your work, no matter your knowledge or intention, it activates and the consequences are all your own. Kali is also the wife of Shiva, and she is feminine enough to resent an affront to her husband. Trust me on this.

You cannot meddle with archetypes. The Nazis took the Swastika, painted it in Tantric colours of creation, red white and black, flipped the swastika horizontally and tilted it in a crowning act of idiocy. Every Yogi in India at the time said their doom was sealed. The initial success of the Third Reich may have made the Yogis look foolish but they understood that this was a process of destruction and in the end Germany was literally reduced to rubble. Jung was of the opinion that the occult meddling and perpetual ritual showboating of the Nazis had awakened Wotan{Odin} and they had no idea what was emerging. That was when he made his famous statement about falling into the hands of a living god. He said this in 1936 – when Hitler was riding high, but Jung knew that an unfettered and incomprehensible archetype that was Odin would work out its authenticity to the bitter end and that was Gotterdammerung. If a North God who had lain dormant for a thousand years could spread such havoc imagine what a Primal power like Kali will do in an individual’s life. Kali worship is recommended only for those who are fed up with life and wish to attain liberation. For she will burn your karma to make that possible and the best method is to mess your life up!

The flames depicted in this picture are one of the few things the artist has got right. Kali loves to haunt cremation grounds. But think of the symbology, what it implies… is that what you want currently in your life? Blood streams out of her mouth, that would imply she is Chinnamasta shown here. Again this business of drinking blood is spiritually symbolic. I will not reveal what it means, that knowledge is to be given only to those doing a specific practice. To have blood trickling down like this on the face… words fail! Normally Kali uses her left hand when wielding the sword, it is the instinctive severance of ego and limitations. The right hand implies rational control. Two swords are depicted here both of them Khadag Jawala – the flame swords. Now two swords are never used in one murthi, the energy can cut away or protect in certain specific qualities or situations. Two swords complete negate the idea of the sword itself. Then she is shown holding a chakra, the solar disc in her left hand. Ouch! The chakra is a light weapon, logical mind, right side and never ever associated with Kali. The trident is actually a Durga weapon, there is a Durga-Kali amalgam called Chamunda. So which enrgy is supposed to flow thru the picture into you and transform you? Durga, Kali, Chamunda? Such confused communication, such muddled worship is worse than any attempt at all and should be avoided.

Kali is also normally shown with a protruding tongue, signifying Vak Tapasya, austerity of speech and victory over rasa – the desire for flavours, taste, stimulation, which are the core drivers for desire in general. That is completely missing here. The empty bowl looking like an athletic trophy is redundant and the blood spilling out of the bowl is a blunder. Again I will not get into the symbolism of it, but that is not the hand in which the bowl should be held and the blood should not be spilled like this. The artist has no clue what sort of calamitous circumstances may be activated by such a rendering. The girdle of severed arms is correct but rendered useless by the gown. The arms depict the end of Grasping, of covetousness, of accumulation and collection, again not the best scenario if you wish to live in the world. But the hugest mistake is that there is no depiction of Abhaya mudra or Varadhana mudra.

The Abhaya mudra is the granting of fearlessless, depicted by an upraised right arm, palm facing the viewer. The Varadhana mudra is the granting of boons, lower right arm, palm facing viewer, fingers pointed downward. Without these two symbolic imperatives a Kali depiction is a singular failure, indeed it is doubtful if it is anything but a badly tortured archetype! One requires tremendous hardihood to make such blunders, or tremendous ignorance even if it is innocent. The whole point of engaging with a murthi is that it has to be done under the guidance of an experienced guru. An ancient power like Kali is ever vigilant, the slightest attention is enough to activate it. The transforming energy will seek to flow into the life, but the parameters depicted in the picture or murthi will dictate the quality and nature of the energy flow. In this case there is no granting of fearlessness or boons but two swords, a trident, blood promiscuously spilling all over the place, a Kali swathed in clothes, and even a galaxy like chakra!! What will manifest, what can possibly manifest, through such a tortured mistaken filter should make life very, very interesting indeed. Jung never tired of advising Westerners not to get involved with Eastern methods they imperfectly understood , for the psychic danger of engaging   with such an alien power was too great. It is still good advice. It remains unheeded.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five 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 has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga