What is Spontaneous Enlightenment – Sahaja?

Sahaja means spontaneous enlightenment. Sahaja practices became popular in India during the 8th century amongst yogi’s called Sahajiya Siddha’s.

Spontaneous enlightenment is described as “a deep understanding of spirit and matter, subject and object”. It refers to a method of perceiving the world as it is, instead of being limited by our ego based mental attitudes.

Sahajiya Siddha’s (Siddha means “one who is accomplished”) believed that enlightenment could be achieved in this lifetime, by all people living in samsara (the entanglement of the world). The Sahajiya Siddha’s practiced yoga which included various meditation techniques and a form of ritual union which was supposed to bring the female and male elements in each person together and in balance. Hence the Sahjiya Siddha’s pre-empted Karl Jungs theories of Individuations and Anima and Animus by over 1000 years. The aim of this practice was to unify all aspects our our personality.

The Sahajiya Siddha concept of spontaneous enlightenment influenced many Eastern religious traditions including Buddhism and Hinduism. Spontaneous enlightenment was alluded to indirectly and symbolically in the twilight language (sandhya bhasa) used by the Siddha’s throughout the centuries.

One of the early Buddhist Sahajiya Siddha texts the Hevajra Tantra describes four kinds of Joy (ecstasy).

From everyday Joy – there is some bliss. However from Perfect Joy there is even more bliss. From the Joy of losing the ego comes a passionless state. And the Joy of Sahaja is the finality.

The first or everyday Joy comes by desire for contact, the second or Perfect Joy comes from desire for absolute bliss, the third Egoless Joy comes from the passing of passion and by this, the fourth or ultimate Joy of Sahaja is realised.

The first Joy is Samsara (mystic union), The second Joy is Nirvana (the goal) The third Joy is Vairagya (dispassion) which shows you that there is no difference between samsara and nirvana. The fourth Joy of Sahaja (Sahaja-Siddhi) is free of them all. For there is neither desire or nor absence of desire, nor a middle to be obtained. You are free.

Yoga was a big part of the Sahajiya Siddha tradition. The development of the human body (kāya-sādhana) through Haṭha-yoga was of paramount importance in all Siddha schools. The strength of the body was deemed necessary to enable the supreme realisation. Supreme realisation was called Sahaja-siddhi or the fourth Joy.

Sahaja-siddhi means “accomplishment of the unconditioned natural state”. There is also a text by the same name. This text was revealed by Dombi Heruka, one of the eighty-four Mahasiddha’s or most accomplished ones. The following quotation from this text shows how the state of Sahaja-Siddhi. differs from the ‘mental flux’ of our everyday minds.

Although this translation uses the masculine pronoun for siddha, it must be remembered that the term ‘siddha’ is not gender-specific and that there were many female senior teachers within the siddha communities.

On achieving the fourth state or sahaja-siddhi, the practitioner is known as a siddha, a realised soul. He becomes invulnerable, beyond all dangers. For him all forms melt into the Formless.

Surati dissolves into nirati and “japa is lost in ajapa“.

The disolution of surati and nirati is one of the signs of  the accomplishment of sahaja-siddhi. 

Sahaja-Siddhi by Dombi Heruka

Surati is the act of will that occurs even when you try to disengage from worldly attachments. It refers to the self protective or ego-driven choices we make even when we decide not to be selfish. Surati can only be destroyed when the ego is destroyed. If we are able to destroy our ego then we achieve nirati – the cessation of the mental flux, which implies cessation of all willed efforts. 

Cessation of willed efforts does not mean that we are no longer active in the world. All it means is that our actions are not driven by conscious or unconscious personal desires.

The concept of Nirati or Sahaja-Siddhi is found in many schools of spirituality and yoga.

In Surat Shabd Yoga, nirati is the dissolution of the mind in “Sound,”.  In terms of Layayoga – when the ego dissolves – “Japa is lost in Ajapa” – sound becomes soundless. Words no longer matter – for you feel the truth.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s begin with “citta vritti nirodhaya” – the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

Modern Sahaja Yoga was popularised by Mataji Nirmala Devi (1923-2011). She taught a meditation technique which aims to enable self-realisation along with the experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence. While I have no experience of this meditation technique, intellectual understanding of Mataji Nirmala Devi’s philosophy suggests that her idea of thoughtless awareness alluded to nirati and Sahaja-Siddhi.

Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created  I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.

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My Life: Renunciation vs The World

Having recently returned from a journey of ascetic solitude in the Himalayas, disciplined practice at a monastery and delightful wandering in the Buddha’s footsteps – I face the challenge of having to re-integrate into daily life in the United Kingdom.

I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in my annual sojourn of solitude. At the end of said journey, without fail, every year – I am plagued by a desire to renounce the world and return to what feels like my real home. Many fail to understand why?

Let me explain – My journey of solitude is not one of luxury. It usually involves trekking in challenging environmental conditions and with very few amenities. It means early mornings (3am), disciplined practice, diet of rice and veg, one meal per day and long hours of labour or walking. Nights are spent in ashrams, lodgings or tents where a thin cotton mattress is the ultimate luxury and relief from the icy wind fills you with gratitude.

These journeys can be emotionally challenging as well. For as you trek through the mountains, you meet people – you experience their lives, their hopes, their pain. You hear stories that form knots in your throat that no amount of tears can undo. And you form bonds with the little people, those innocent, love-personified, children of the mountains. And no matter how much it breaks your heart, you have to leave them – for there is always more work to be done elsewhere. These mountains are huge.

And although I come to a comfortable home, warm bed, abundance of food – a life of relative luxury – all I crave is to go back.

Last year, while in the mountains – I had decided to break convention, renounce the world and just stay on. A dear friend and teacher, Vivek, convinced me otherwise. “You have too much work to do,” he said. “You are in a privileged position to be able to make a difference in the world. Live your dharma. If we all escaped to our “homes in the mountain”, who is going to do the work that needs doing?”

So, I came back to earn the funds, that enable me to support the people and projects that need support. I came back because I am told that its my duty to do so. I came back because of the bonds created in trying to earn those funds and perform those duties. Life is a web of entanglement. When you are unaware of this – it fills you with desire. When you become aware – it fills you with despair.

Hence renunciation is the easier path – for it allows you to escape this web. Living in the world is the real challenge. For even when the mind is untangled – duty keeps you bound.

Promise to Self: For as long as I am duty-bound, I will fight the good fight.

Suggestions and guidance – most appreciated!

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