I am sure as a child you must have enjoyed playing with shadows. In a dark room with a single candle making imaginative shadow shapes with your hands? Or in the evening, making shadow shapes on walls with your friends. Those were good uncomplicated times. Today’s kids wouldn’t have even seen their shadows. They are in school the whole day! Sometimes I wonder if they suffer from Vit D deficiency?
Now shadows. When I was a child, it was an enjoyable pass-time to stare at the shadow for a minute, we would purposely stand in scary poses with arms raised and all. And then look in the sky and see the large shadow/after-image looking back at you. An enjoyable scare perhaps and it felt like magic. Now imagine my surprise when I grew up and read in a book that this is actually a spiritual practice and is called ‘Chaaya Sadhana’!
Chhaya छाया is a Sanskrit word and means shade, play of light or color, resemblance, reflection, blending colors, reflected image, etc. One of the two wives of the Sun is named Chhaya the other is Sanjana (Also called Sandhya or Usha).
- These four names have much deeper meanings. Sanjana means the connecting point between the two. To know what these ‘two’ mean you should start your spiritual practice. Sandhya is the joint, if you can find your way out from this Creation maze, it is from here. Usha is the aura of the internal Sun. Chhaya is the reflection of the internal Sun which you see at your third eye.
- And in common usage, Usha is the light we see before sun-rise, ie, morning twilight. And Chhaya is the light that we see at evening twilight.
Sadhana साधना means accomplishment, performance, diligent practice, to propriate, to worship, to adore, to subdue, to find the solution to the conflict, establishing the truth, the agent, the reason, the means, the materials, the perfection etc.
Not much is written about Chhaya Sadhana but there are couple of books in Sanskrit on Swar-yog in which it is mentioned. The basic practice is as follows,
- Get your Sushumna active first. Either by doing pranayam or shift the nadi physically. Later you can shift the nadi just with your conscious intention. If your Pingala is active when you do your practice your mind will not be able to concentrate. And if your Ida is active when you do your practice your body will face some discomfort in sitting/standing for so long. So Sushumna should be active when you are doing any mind-focussing practice.
- Stand in the morning sunlight, about 1hr after sun-rise. The light should not be too intense and the skies should be clear. Wear light/thin clothes. (Yogis do it wearing the basic minimum)
- Stand with your back at the sun so that your shadow falls straight in front of you either on the ground or on a wall. Remember that the shadow should be seen in its entirety.
- Stand, straight arms at your sides and focus at the neck of the shadow.
- Mentally recite the mantra “Hreeng Parabrahmane namah” ह्रींग परब्रह्मणे नमः 108 times. You already know how to count on your fingertips so be precise with this count. This will take 3 mins max.
- Now close your eyes, put your hands over your eyes so that it is dark. (technically a Mudra is performed here, but it is not for beginners). You should see the after image of your shadow in your closed eyes. Here the shadow gets projected on your third eye chakra. Be in this pose for 2-3 seconds.
- Open your eyes and look into the clear blue sky. The after image of the shadow will be superimposed in the sky. Now you will use this image to analyse yourself.
If you are already doing some spiritual practice (mantra with the breath), you will see the shadow’s after image as it should be seen within a few days. If you are starting from nil, it might take upto 6 months.
The books say that the following are the interpretations.
- Left upper arm absent: misfortune to the spouse
- Right upper arm absent: misfortune to a close friend
- Both arms absent: misfortune to some close relative
- Head missing or the entire shadow is very faint: one’s death can occur soon
- Any other body part missing: personal misfortune or illness of that part
- An elongated body part can indicates good fortune.
The colour of the image
- A completely black or dark blue image – personal misfortune
- A yellow image – personal illness
- A red image – mental stress and deep rooted mental problems
- Many colours mixing together – development of intuition and good progress in spiritual practice.
First on what is actually happening when you concentrate your mind like this on your own shadow. You can do this on clear full moon nights also when the moon is bright enough to cast a shadow. It becomes an even more powerful experience on such nights. But first practice it in daylight, else you might end up scaring yourself at night. Any sadhana requires complete control over mind and body, but it doesn’t come in one day, but keep practicing regularly, most of the things I write about take very little time. If you choose to do this sadhana, it will take 5 mins of your time, no more, but everyday.
The combination of the mantra and the shadow and the sun/moon light creates a stillness in the mind. As the mind goes still, it sees beyond the simple light-shadow. It now sees the ‘shadow’-image cast by the movement of pran in your body. The shadow is something like a ‘photography negative’ of the body. When you are seeing the shadow on the wall, then seeing it at your third eye and then seeing it projected on the backdrop of the blue skies you somehow make it a ‘positive’ image again. Basically you see your pran-mai-kosh. If the pran/vital energy is not moving properly in a particular part of the body, it will cause illness there. So if the shadow looks thinner or vanishes from a body part you should be careful. Do healing on that part.
As far as the predictions from the book go about the misfortunes/ death I haven’t experienced such severe misfortunes (thankfully!) like these till date. But yes if the shadow gets ‘thinner’ for some body part I do feel pain. e.g. I tore the ligaments of the knee, that shadow-part got slightly ‘thinner’. You can correlate this with your body’s aura reading too, it will match. But the predictions apart, it is a very uncomplicated exercise which helps the mind expand.
You are superimposing your shadow-self on the skies. Can you understand this statement? You are linking your pran-mai-kosh to the Sky, to the Limitless. This exercise increases the pran flow in your body, both the quality of pran as well as the smoothness of the pran flowing in your nadis. The sky is a wonderful thing. Do you even turn your face up and look at the sky? Do so. Clear blue uninterrupted blue, limitless. All the pran/vital energy of the Universe just there looking back at you. Just looking at the clear blue skies balances the Saturn of your horoscope, makes your karmic leads easier to bear, Forget the esoteric, this uplifts the mind, relaxes it and wipes off looping thoughts from your psyche.
If you continue this exercise, you will be able to experience not only the pran-mai-kosh but also progressively the Mano-mai-kosh, Vidnyan-mai-kosh and the Anand-mai-kosh. Ultimately this will also lead to Samadhi and the ultimate knowledge of the Soul.
(There are other uses of this practice too. I had written in a post about the real tantriks being able to create a shadow to go and do their work. This is one of the ways of creating such a shadow. But after you learn how to use it, you have to be very much in control of your emotions and reactions to others. This is your sub-conscious you are harnessing. eg your boss scolds you, you are deeply hurt, sad. Your subconscious thinks it is a serious attack on you and sends off the shadow to attack the source of your pain, your boss!)
As a kid, playing the ‘shadow game’, I never knew that I would be doing this as an Chhaya Sadhana when I grew up! Indeed every action you do, leads you towards your Self. It has been quite helpful too, so once in a while do check up your shadow. It is also a good way to soak up some extra sun-rays. It might sound very simple and childish, but it is a very powerful and full-fledged spiritual practice in its own right. It alters your perceptions of Time, Space and pulls you on your road to yourself.
(Whatever I write about is obviously from some text or the other, I do not claim that originality. Whatever could be written about, all Tatva-gnyan, all Sadhana, ie all knowledge and all practices possible have been written down by our ancient Seers/Maha-Rishi. But yes, the experience which I had from practicing them is my own. So practice yourself and experience your own too!)
(A small update: Dad read this post, rolled his eyes and told me that there is a Chhaya-Jyotish too. The length of the shadow is measured and there are conclusions drawn from it. I asked him for the formulae, he said will give me the reference book if he still has it. So many aspects of Jyotish are vanishing in these modern times!)