Soma, the Bliss Principle in Vedic Knowledge – Part 1
by Vamadeva Shastri
Note: This article is being presented in two parts. Part 1 is presented here below, and Part 2 is presented in the Vedic Wisdom section of the newsletter.
Soma, the Counterpart of Agni
Students of the Chopra Center are aware of the importance of Agni as a primary principle in Vedic knowledge. This begins with the centrality of the digestive fire in Ayurveda. It extends to the fire of prana and to the fire of meditation, which are the basis of higher Yoga practices.
Agni in the broader sense is a cosmic power of light, perception and transformation, extending to the light of consciousness itself. Agni is not merely fire as a material or physical principle but as the light of all existence, with the entire universe itself existing as the cosmic fire.
In Ayurvedic treatment and Yoga practices, Agni relates to light, heat, purification and detoxification. It is the application of heat in some form or another that purifies, ripens, cooks and transforms. Higher Agnis are needed to develop a higher awareness.
Yet every form of Agni has a corresponding form of Soma, without which it cannot function properly. This is also an important fact to carefully consider. Soma is the principle of water, nourishment and bliss that complements Agni as fire, purification and knowledge. Similarly, Agni is the Sun and Soma is the Moon, the active and receptive aspects or electrical and magnetic forces, and all such complementary principles in nature. The entire universe is of the nature of Agni and Soma.
On an outer level Soma is the fuel for the fire as Agni. Yet on an inner level Soma is the transformed essence prepared, cooked or ripened for the fire – the fruit of Agni’s activity.
- For the digestive fire, good natural food is its fuel based Soma. Yet healthy tissues of the body are the Soma or result of the digestion of that food.
- For the Pranic Agni or life fire, good air, space, environment and positive fragrances are its fuel based Soma. A positive loving emotional expression is the inner Soma that is the result of proper development of prana.
- For the mental Agni, good natural sensory impressions are its outer Soma or fuel. Creative intelligence is the inner Soma that is the result of proper digestion of our sensory impressions.
- At the highest level for Agni as consciousness, there is the complimentary Soma as Ananda or bliss. This is the Soma of higher Vedic knowledge and the Ananda of Vedantic meditation.
The Importance of Soma in Your Meditation Practice
Soma is a Sanskrit term that derives from the root su, meaning to “energize, stimulate, swell, expand and grow.” It refers to the power of bliss or ananda, which in Vedic thought is the origin of all things and the basis of all creation.
Soma is first described in the Soma hymns of the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, which predominate in the ninth book or mandala. They are regarded as the most important hymns in the entire text and as providing the power to make us into Rishis or seers.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi recommended his students to listen to these Vedic Soma hymns chanted and also to study them either in Sanskrit or in English translations.
If we consider the role of Soma in our healing and spiritual practices, as well as Agni, we can create a more integral and balanced approach. We can learn how to enhance the bliss or Samadhi that is also the highest goal of our efforts.
To contact this Soma principle, we must first love what we are doing and have a genuine interest in our practice and our teaching. We must be guided by inspiration and aspiration, seeking both to grow in our own being and share what we learn respectfully with others.
Soma can be contacted initially as the well-being that you feel from your practice. It is the satisfaction that you gain through doing it on a regular basis. In regular practice there is a certain samskara or tendency to continue and expand it, a habit you get into, not based upon compulsion but based upon following the rhythms of life. It is like cultivating a garden and enjoying the plants grow, flower and produce fruit.
Soma, the Mind and Brain
Soma is called “nectar” or amrita. As amrita means both nectar and immortality, Soma is also called the “nectar of immortality.” Soma flows in drops called bindus in Tantric thought.
As Agni is the fire that ascends from below, Soma is the grace that descends from above. Agni relates to the Kundalini fire that ascends from the root chakra below and Soma is the corresponding nectar that descends from the thousand-petal lotus of the head above in higher Yoga practices. The thousand-petal lotus is often called the seat of Soma or the Moon.
Soma relates to the mind in Vedic thought, which is often identified with the Moon, and has its seat in the head. The mind like the Moon has a reflective nature that is developed through receptivity, observation and contemplation. The mind functions best when it is cool and calm like the light of the Moon. The mind has its own natural contentment when it rests in its own nature, held silent within us. Honoring the Moon in our lives and understanding the place of the Moon in our Vedic astrology chart helps us work with the Soma within us.
The thousand-petal lotus of the head has its physical counterpart in the brain and its many folds of tissues and fluids. In terms of Ayurveda, Soma relates to the Tarpak Kapha, the one of the five forms of Kapha dosha that lubricates and nourishes the brain and nervous system. It supports the watery nature of the cerebrospinal fluid, and promotes contentment, harmony and well being at both physical and psychological levels. Tarpak means, “that which gives contentment.”
Developing Tarpak Kapha, amrit or Soma is a way of gaining control of our own brain chemistry and promoting the secretion of positive chemicals and hormones that keep our nervous system calm and content. This development of Soma/Tarpak Kapha can help counter many adverse psychological conditions notably depression, anxiety, stress, anger and addictions of all types. It is an important factor in Ayurvedic psychological treatments.
This inner Soma or Tarpak Kapha has the power to heal and rejuvenate both body and mind, including the senses and the nervous system. It is the basis of Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies, particularly for the mind.
(Part 2 of this article continues in the Vedic Wisdom section.)
For further information on these topics, note Vamadeva's excellent books Soma in Yoga and Ayurveda: The Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality, and Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound.
About the Author
Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)
Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) is a Vedic teacher or acharya working internationally to promote Vedic knowledge. He is noted for his ability to integrate Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedic astrology into a single system for raising consciousness that can be easily understood and applied today. His work has been honored in India and in the West.
Vamadeva is the author of over thirty books published in twenty languages over the last thirty years. He has authored many articles and several sets of Vedic course materials. A student of the Sanskrit language, he has translated ancient Vedic texts, including the Rigveda and Upanishads. His recent book Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound is regarded as one of the best available texts on mantra, and includes the practice of mantra meditation. He also teaches Vedantic meditation based upon the teachings of Ramana Maharshi.
Vamadeva is an advisor for several Ayurvedic and Yoga groups and institutions. He has worked with many spiritual and healing organizations worldwide. He has taught at the Chopra center since its inception nearly twenty years ago. The nature of his work and teachings, and other Vedic connections, is explained on his website -- www.vedanet.com.