Devotion: Letters to Initiates 9 – Vandanam

by | 16 Jan, 2024

Our culture encourages self-absorption. Our ego quite enjoys this, and places itself at the apex of creation! The ego does not like to bow to anyone. It would prefer to be bowed to, or to avoid the whole subject. The soul on the other hand understands unity, humility and how we are all one. Any bhakti practice is about remembering who we really are, beyond the confining consciousness of the ego. The ego is not the practitioner of bhakti yoga; the practice is for the soul, to bring forward the instincts and remembrance of the higher self and all of the Divine grace that is quiescent within.

Bhakti yoga is for our conscious reunification with the vast love of our immortal soul. Our conscious mind is not always capable of knowing when it is being guided by the ego and when it is being guided by the higher soul. It can think it is soulful when really it is completely self-serving. That is the problem with the conscious human mind.

The subconscious is where much of the battle between the soul and the ego plays out. It is in our subconscious that deep divisions are present and where blockages to love exist that can be very difficult to weed out.

Practices that involve bodily movement can be quite helpful in shifting patterns in the subconscious. This is the basis of the success of tapping in helping people with trauma and other psychological conditions. Another practice arising from the limbs of Bhakti Yoga is Vandanam. Vandanam means prostrating our bodies onto the ground in supplication to the Divine.

This can entail putting one’s body on the ground before a holy statue, or one’s guru. It is important to note that if we are practicing Vandanam with Guru, it is the inner realised divine energy to which we bow, not the personality. The Guru will already know this, but it is important for the rest of us to know this too. We do not surrender TO a guru, but THROUGH them.

Guru is a shakti-filled catalyst, a doorway held open so that our spiritual hearts can have help in awakening to the inner truth that we are all Divine and we are all one. We are in effect surrendering our ego, with our body at the feet of the Guru, while we are merging to the Divine spark within.

The ego will never get that teaching. It is a mystery. Vandanam is designed to help foster higher states of consciousness. The ego is largely uninterested in such things. Managing our egos is a big job, and Vandanam helps us to do so with as much ease and grace as possible.

Practicing bhakti, or love of any kind can seem simple minded to external observers. But if that is the case, we can be fairly sure they are not practitioners. Such things are so sacred, they are best saved for ashrams and temples, where these precious and powerful love filled glories are not sullied by people’s disdain for that which they do not understand.

Remember also that Pada Puja, which we looked at in Devotion Letters to Initiates 8, involved the veneration of the feet or shoes of the Guru or the Divine. Placing the ajna chakra in close proximity to the Divine energy within the soles (souls?) of the feet, affects a shift in consciousness for those who are open and willing to expand their awareness. Both Vandanam and Pada Puja are designed to help us foster humility.

One last note about Vandanam: in various parts of India women practice Vandanam by kneeling and placing their head at the feet. Men alone practice full prostration on the ground. This is a cultural matter, and may also be for the comfort of women’s bodies, including pregnant women. In non-traditional settings people can choose which posture they most prefer.

The relief in one’s being that comes from Vandanam is exquisite. As with any spiritual tool, practice strengthens the effect. One’s consciousness changes with love, and is exalted when bhakti is experienced. It is truly a blessing.

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