How to Receive
the Greatest Gift of Reality
In this text, I will discuss mahasiddha bhumis, lit. grounds of great accomplishment, and their importance in yogic practice. I have written a book entitled What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice that I recommend for new readers.
Biographical Note: First Glimpses
As a little boy, growing up in a family that was shadowed by my father's alcoholism, I began to pray and meditate spontaneously. I often went to my room, sat down on the bedside, and suddenly the room would be filled with immense peace and light, that entirely dispersed any anxiety I had. At the time I had no idea what happened but since they gave me great relief, I kept doing it. In retrospect, I have learned that I experienced both visitations of past mahasiddhas, masters of great accomplishment, as well as a descent of grace from my own mahasiddha bhumis, as they are called in Open Heart. I have discussed these experiences in some detail in this interview.
After 4 years of arduous training in Zen Buddhism in Japan and Finland, my health forced me to find a different path. As a young samurai-spirited fool who was desperately in love with zen, I would never have thought I would leave zen but I needed to and within few months my path took an unexpected turn towards sanatana dharma, or more commonly, hinduism, and its tantric methods, kriya yoga in particular. In December of 2006, I received my first empowerment of kriya yoga and I am not exaggerating when saying that after the first practice session of kriya pranayama spiced with strong guru devotion, my life wasn't the same anymore. I am neither exaggerating when saying that the clarity and depth of mind after 30 minutes kriya yoga practice, equaled a weeklong zen retreat where one sits in quiet meditation for over 12 hours a day. For those 4 years that I trained in zen, I had sat for 8 or more hours everyday without exceptions, following instructions of my teachers to the letter, so it wasn't like I hadn't tried.
Kriya Yoga and Paravastha
Nowadays there are many kinds of kriya yoga and not all of them have to do with Babaji, the modern time founder of kriya yoga, who is mentioned in Paramahamsa Yogananda's autobiography. I started kriya yoga in a lineage that had been passed from Babaji to Lahiri Mahasaya in 1860's, to Swami Sriyukteswar (d. 1936) and Paramahamsa Hariharananda (d. 2002), and finally to the yogi who initiated me, Paramahamsa Prajnanananda. In kriya yoga, I learned something called paravastha, which is short for turiyavastha or paraturiyavastha. Paravastha literally means state beyond mind. In kriya yoga this is done after magnetisation of the central channel with deep breathing, equipped with the emotion of loving devotion. To go into paravastha, the practitioner catapults her or his attention high above one's head. I do not recall what they told beginners about the energetic principles behind this exercise but nevertheless this exercise together with sweet devotion changed my life overnight. After finding kriya yoga, I still kept practicing 8 or more hours a day.
|Tibetan buddhist monk visualises tantric deity, Vajrasattva, above his head.|
I followed that lineage for about a year until I found Sivakami Om Anandi's website. We started emailing and I received initiation from her. Over time and many emails, she became my teacher and very dear dharma friend for 3 years until she passed away in late 2010. Before she passed, she asked me to continue her lineage.
Sivakami was unusual among teachers. She was an American grandmother who had retired some years before from a lifelong career breeding dogs. By the time I got in touch with her, she had moved to the island of Kauai, which is one of the main islands of Hawaii, due to very severe form of arthritis. She never allowed any of her students to meet her in person, so I never met her in person. Back then I couldn't understand or appreciate her choice but now I do. All communication was done through email or telephone calls. My emails with her add up to 600 pages.
Sivakami was a mystic and a bhakta, not a yogi. She had excellent karmic connections with nonphysical masters who taught her during her countless night time astral travels (sleep yoga) and meditation. She also met and learned many physical teachers but never clicked with them enough to become a student, which now that I think of it, is exactly how I have come to feel. When one gets a hang of tantric guru yoga with a mahasiddha, it is not an option to settle for less. That's how I feel, anyway.
One of the nonphysical teachers Sivakami met was Lama Thubten Yeshe, who at the time (1984-1985) was in between two reincarnations. Lama Yeshe offered her his teachings but she kindly refused because she was never attracted by the buddhist vibe. She had immense devotion towards Yogananda in whose organisation she started practicing in 1976. Later she got connected with widely known masters, Babaji and Thirumular, who I also worked closely with for several years.
Thirumular and Sivakami had been together in previous lives, so their connection was unique. I, by the way, never believed a word of any of the mystical stories she told me, until I checked them through my own meditation. I verified the brief connection with Lama Yeshe and her connection with Thirumular, for example, through my own meditation, and that I did, made her satisfied because I wasn't blindly accepting whatever she told me.
Riding the Mahasiddha Bhumis
I had been visited by nonphysical mahasiddhas since I was a boy and in 2007, they started to make themselves known to me in a more personal than before. I began to receive teachings, visit subtle planes and had many mystical visions. Sivakami's guidance in understanding them was immensely helpful and now I believe that not many people in the whole world would have been capable of providing such advice based on their own first hand experience.
She also taught paravastha or what in Open Heart are called mahasiddha bhumis. Connecting with these subtle centers had a central role in her teaching. In Open Heart Bhumi Model, which is one of the teachings I have received and taught, there are 7 centers above the head. These 7 can be split into two main groups: bhumis 7-10 and bhumis 11-13. That's how she taught them and called them 8th and 9th centers above the 7 chakras within the subtle system inside the body, from root center (skt. muladhara chakra) to crown center (skt. sahasrara chakra). She also called mahasiddha bhumis by the names of High Self and Oversoul, which I also used until 2013 when Open Heart switched from Sundara Kriya Yoga to buddhist tantra.
”There are two chakras beyond the crown of the head.
The 8th is that part of one's soul that never incarnates.
The 9th is our connection to the Oversoul, wisdom and love.
These are not spoken about, and yet they are very important
at this time in humanity's spiritual unfoldment.”
- Sivakami Om Anandi (27.6.2008)
”I believe in the next 30 years, there is going to be a push
by these Siddhas to bring back High Self... 8th and 9th chakra understanding among disciples that are ready for it.”
- Sivakami Om Anandi, (3.3.2009).
What she says in the latter quote about mahasiddhas pushing to bring mahasiddha bhumis back is interesting. As far as I know, they are taught in some forms of kriya yoga (not all) and hindu tantra, few forms of Taoism, few forms of reiki and new age healing. In Tibetan buddhist phowa, which is the technique of exiting the body at death and aiming for Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land Sukhavati (tib. dewachen), and some other visualisations where one visualises buddhas or gurus above one's head, it is taught although I have never seen it explained why exactly they are imagined above one's head. In Open Heart Yoga mahasiddha bhumis are exercised a lot, through pillars above and below the body. In a simple form, this is taught already in the Introductory Practice, under Jewel Visualisation.
Getting Back to Basic Principles
In Open Heart Yoga connection between the reincarnated bodymind and one's mahasiddha bhumis is done extensively because this is the most direct way in which our pure nature and its energy can be brought to the tainted mind. In OHY this is further fortified with breathing exercises, deity mantras and mudras. This is a highly efficient way to generate purification of mind, in our terminology, opening and perfection of bhumis.
Mahasiddha bhumis can be accessed within one's body and aura as well, through certain channels and secret centers, such as those taught in Vimalamitra's Wisdom Meditations. With specific instructions from a tantric lama this can be taken as a valid path but it is my observation that practitioners of various sutrayana paths do not systematically access this inner potential, the ground of being. Mahasiddha bhumis are also cultivated through common buddhist practices such as Refuge, Bodhicitta and Lineage Prayers but since the energetic charge accompanied with prayers almost always goes unnoticed and is not pointed out by lamas, I think it can be said that the students are not learning a correct way of practice. This is very unfortunate, of course.
”These are not spoken about, and yet they are very important at this time in humanity's spiritual unfoldment”, Sivakami said. I think the reason why she said that these centers are very important at this time, is because we are in the midst of the most destructive period according to the yuga-theory. Our time in the history of mankind is marked by technological advancement but because ethics, clarity of mind, and love and compassion for others are missing, a lot of technological advancement turns against us and as a matter of fact, against the whole planet we are living on. Since the illness of mankind is strong, humanity needs strong medicine to heal. I really wish more people would be ready for the medicine I discuss here.
From what I have witnessed in my own practice and that of my students, I can say that this type of yogic exercise, connecting directly to one's own buddhanature, emulating the grounds of these attainments in one's daily practice, is undoubtedly the greatest gift there is. There is no way to remain crooked with this medicine, nor there are side effects.
Thank you for reading,
A BA HU MANI PEME HUNG HRI*,
- Kim Katami, 21.5.2019
Open Heart Sangha, www.en.openheart.fi
*A - Seed syllable of 11th bhumi
BA - Seed syllable of 12th bhumi
HU - Seed syllable of 13th bhumi
MANI PEME – Mantric formula of the Buddha of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara/Chenresig
HUNG - Seed syllable of the karmic body, i.e. bhumis 1-10
HRI - Seed syllable of enlightened heart