By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati & Rukmini Abbruzzi
I wondered what people got from walking a labyrinth, so I decided to try one. I didn’t have any kind of special experience at the one in my nearby park, so I thought I’d try a better labyrinth and went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. They had just installed two labyrinths, outside in the garden and inside the cathedral.
From my hotel, I took the cable car up the hill, then stepped down into the street. I walked across a little strip of grass and a cement sidewalk to place my foot on the first stair step up to the Cathedral’s property. A bolt of energy shot up through my whole body!
I stopped, very clearly experiencing Kundalini’s message, ‘This is holy ground.’ I wasn’t even in their garden yet, only on the cement steps leading up almost two floors to get to their grounds. Wow!
I climbed the steps, tried out both labyrinths and still found nothing special there, but that’s because I was already in the center — in the Self. Yoga gave that to me, not anything outside. But I did learn about sacred ground. It’s not just the statue or flame in the temple that is sacred; it’s the whole temple and the ground on which it stands. The same is true of your body.
If your body were merely a house for your soul, your body would be an inert substance or form, enlivened by your Divine Essence. Instead, your body itself is Consciousness, every cell formed of Consciousness-concentrate. One yoga text explains the details by mapping how Consciousness becomes the Universe, including you, even your body and your mind:
Sa chaiko dviroopas trimayash chaturaatmaa sapta panchaka svabhaavah.
— Pratyabhijnahrdayam sutra #7
Though Consciousness is One, She becomes 2-fold, 3-fold, 4-fold and of the nature
of 7 pentads (7 x 5= 35).
Every sutra is rich and dense with meaning, yet this one gives more than most by naming 4 different maps of creation! There is the 2-fold map, the 3-fold map, the 4-fold map and the 35-fold map. While all these maps are true and all of them are occurring simultaneously, right now we’ll focus on the four-fold map. In the sutra, Shiva is the One Reality, being named as “Consciousness,” also referred to as “She” when manifesting a universe.
In the four-fold map, Consciousness (She) first manifests as the void. When you have a deep and profound meditative experience, you’ve experienced the void, an infinite inner nothingness, except that it is NOT nothing. It’s Shiva, becoming the void to hide Himself/Herself/Itself from yourself.
Within the void, while being the void, Shiva moves. That movement is called prana. This second level of manifestation is the energy that brings life to this universe, called prana.
Prana, the energy of life itself, begins to coalesce into subtle forms, like moisture coalescing into clouds in the sky. These different forms of prana become individual and separate beings on the subtle levels, pouring themselves into the five senses and the mind — becoming your five senses and your mind. This is the third level, made of pure energy.
That Divine energy condenses and concentrates into the fourth level of manifestation, your physical body. This is how your body comes to exist (with your parents getting involved too, of course). This is how everyone’s body, and every tree and every bunny and every rock comes into existence. It’s all energy, the “She” in the sutra, manifesting as matter. The physical form you see is just the outermost level of the Divine levels of manifestation that are all going on at the same time.
Rukmini describes being in a class led by Swamiji:
“At the end of the class, Swamiji invited us to open our eyes. And when I did, the expansiveness and fullness I had been feeling inside was visible outside too. It felt like I was the ocean, and my body a wave of the ocean, each breath a gentle bob of the wave. Every other body around me was another wave of the same ocean, bobbing slightly with each breath and small movement. Even the air around us, the sounds that moved through it, the floor beneath us, was the same ocean.”
Your body is a Divine Temple. It is Consciousness-Itself that houses the Divinity (you) that is Consciousness-Itself. Whether you study the teachings or not, the core opening practices of Svaroopa® yoga will give you the experiential knowing of your own Self, the Divinity that is Consciousness-Itself.body
Yoga’s timeless goal is the continuing experience of your own Divinity and to see that in all others. Do more yoga.
 English rendering by Swami Nirmalananda