American Institute of Vedic Studies



Understanding the Heart with a Vedic Vision


The heart at a physical level is the basis of our health and longevity. Our life begins with our first heartbeat and ends with the last. The heart sets in motion the circulation that governs our physiological and organic functioning on all levels. It forms the core of our physical existence and upholds our physical wellbeing and equilibrium, the very harmony of our physical lives.

The heart is not only responsible for the physical condition of the body, its organs and tissues, it reflects the energy and vitality of the body. The heart is the seat of the lifeforce or prana that sustains the movement of life throughout our entire organism. The outer structure of the body is developed and sustained by the inner power of the heart. The prana centered in the heart holds our vital urges and instincts including hunger, thirst, reproduction, and survival. These vital urges are strong and immediate in their influence. If unfulfilled they cause disturbances with body and mind that we must address.

Heart disease is one of the main causes of death. It may be congenital or the result of other diseases like diabetes, respiratory problems, a complication of obesity, or from lifestyle factors like wrong diet, lack of exercise, stress, lack of sleep and overwork. It can be a complication of our artificial living patterns today on all levels.


The Heart, Mind and Emotions


Yet the influence and role of the heart extends from the body, nervous system and life urges into the mind. Psychologically, the heart is the root of our emotions and the basis of our sense of mental wellbeing. This emotional heart, though connected to the physical heart has its own identity, functions and actions. It is not purely physical in nature or a mere consequence of the actions of the physical heart. More often it influences the physical heart for good or ill.


The emotional heart is the seat of our emotions with desire as the root emotion, but also fear, love and hate, anger, envy, and jealousy, though these influence other organs of the body as well. The emotional heart a powerful influence on the physical body and the physical heart, as we all have experienced. Many physical diseases can be caused by or increased by emotional afflictions, stress and unhappiness. The emotional heart is strongly connected to sexual and relationship issues as our main emotional patterns of attraction and repulsion, for happiness or sorrow.


The Heart Chakra 


In addition to the physical and emotional aspects of the heart, yogic teachings recognize a heart chakra (Anahata) as part of the subtle body, which directs the movement of prana and awareness into the physical body, with connections to the air element, the sense of touch and the skin. The physical heart is regulated by it at a subtle level. This inner heart chakra at a deeper level is connected with higher states of consciousness, devotion, compassion and higher energies of prana.


The heart chakra upholds the subtle body just as the physical heart upholds the physical body. Yoga seeks to develop this subtle body which transcends death and is the vehicle for experiencing subtle worlds of energy, imagination and vision. This requires an inner awakening of the heart chakra, which holds our highest aspirations, including the seeking of immortality and union with the Divine. The heart chakra holds a deeper level of feeling than the emotional heart, taking us out of the material realm to the realms of subtle form and even the formless.


The Spiritual Heart (Hridaya)

Beyond the heart chakra is the spiritual heart (Hridaya), the core level of our being, the inner center of who we are in eternity,  The Hridaya is the ultimate origin for the mind and the seat of our reincarnating being (Jivatman) that links us to the Universal Self (Paramatman).


The Hridaya contains a deeper level of thinking and knowing than the mind, rooted in direct perception and unmediated experience, connected to wisdom that arises from the silent mind. In this regard, the Hridaya has an inner power of seeing, hearing and realizing.


The spiritual heart holds and rules over all the chakras of the subtle body and is the root power behind the causal body as well. In the causal body, we hold our karmic patterns and the ignorance or lack of Self-knowledge that traps us in the outer world of Maya. Yet the Hridaya also connects us to our higher Self beyond the physical, subtle and causal bodies and all the chakras. It takes us beyond all the pain, unhappiness and sorrow of body and mind.


Self-Healing and Self-Realization from the Spiritual Heart


The spiritual heart or Hridaya is the ultimate source and abode of healing, vitality and wisdom, extending into the physical body. Connecting to it aids in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and harmonizes all levels of our nature to our inner Self. How then do we connect to the Hridaya?


This connection requires simply that we turn our current of awareness within, searching out our true nature and Self (Atman/Purusha) behind and beyond body and mind. This is the basis of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi in Yoga, turning our prana and senses within, developing a power of attention and concentration, meditation with a focused and silent mind. This takes us into the unity consciousness or Samadhi, which is dwelling in the Hridaya, in which the mind is naturally calmed.


The spiritual heart is the seat of the Divine within us. We can surrender to it with devotion or uncover it with Self-knowledge. It is not just the core of our being but contains the entire universe. We all need to listen to and return to our hearts for our true wellbeing and bliss. But this is to return to the Hridaya or spiritual heart, not just the emotional or personal heart. Yet it will certainly aid in physical and emotional healing, as well as helping us develop our highest creative and intuitive powers.


Do follow your heart in life, but go its deeper core as the spiritual heart (Hridaya). Then all your true wishes will be fulfilled, which is to dwell in and share the highest Ananda with all.


Acharya Vamadeva (David Frawley)

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