Spiritual significance of Vastushastra

The world is changing, and with it there is a renaissance of Vãstu Shãstra. This is not a coincidence and it is important that the deeper meaning and philosophy of Vastu is understood in its correct perspective.

 

Vãstushãstra stands tall and apart. This oldest school of architecture is still in practice. The ancients ranked it high. They called it Sthapatya Veda – The Science of Establishing – which covered the entire gamut of architecture, sculpture, designing and construction, and classified it as an Upaveda. The Design Philosophy of this unique system is deeply interwoven with the elements of Space and Time, Form and Rhythm, Cosmic Directions and astronomy, an above all, it has a spiritual approach to the design philosophy itself.

 

It is the only system in the world which has the amazing capability to determine the Harmonic Quality of a Spacial Dimension and its relationship with an individual. A Vãstu practitioner uses this knowledge to design Living Rooms whose spacial energies are in resonance with the owner and his family. People who live and work in Vãstu compliant buildings experience Inner Peace, develop an Intuitive Mind, and therefore are able to make correct decisions in life to become successful, prosperous, wise, and stay healthy.

 

Other systems of architecture manage areas within a house or office to achieve maximum efficiency of usage, but Vãstushastra designs Spaces which resonate with our Inner Space and promote Inner Silence. To a vastu practitioner a building is a template, an altar raised to the divine self, a house of the Cosmic Spirit, an appeal and aspiration to the Infinite.

 

The Universal Consciousness manifested as Life and to create a base for it, created Earth, a living entity which experiences and reacts, pulsates with Diving energy to sustain life and growth. As a living planet it sends forth from its core this primordial energy in sets of concentric squares towards its surface, where this energy explodes into an energy grid of very perfect 81 squares, each having its unique properties. This framework of concentric squares is the vastu-purush-mandala.

 

Since the Earth vibrates, and as also it lives in Time, the combination of Time and vibratory movements develops a rhythm, छंद. Just as a discipline imposed on vibration and rhythm gives rise to sweet melodious music, similarly the knowledge of vastu can create a material space whose rhythm is attuned to the personality and vibration of the individual.

 

A space which is enclosed by a boundary becomes an independent entity and develops its own rhythm, character, temperament and personality. No two spaces or buildings are alike. Similarly, a house is where life rests on the four canons of life: Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. These are also the four pillars upon which the human society functions. That is why a house is to be looked upon as an organic whole where indiscriminate extensions/alterations/mutilations should not be carried out.

 

But Vastu is not confined to the construction of a house. Several scholars have attempted to describe Vãstu Shãstra as an Indian system of architecture. Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary describes Vaastu as follows:

 

Vaástu: the site or foundation of a house, site, ground, building or dwelling place, habitation, homestead, house RV. &c. &c.; an apartment, chamber VarBRS.; m. N. of one of the 8 Vasus BhP.; of a Râkshasa Cat.; (prob.) f. N. of a river MBh.; n. the pot-herb Chenopodium Album L.; a kind of grain ÂpShr. Sch. (cf. -maya).

 
The literal meaning as described above may be upheld by some, but it does not so much as touch the tip of the glory of this sacred Vidya. The world is witnessing a renaissance of Vãstu Shãstra, and it is important that its deeper meaning and philosophy is understood in correct perspective.

 

Vãstushãstra and Yoga

 

Vãstushastra has a strong similarity to the principles of Yoga. Like the flow of Prana in a healthy body, a Vastu design aims at creating a harmonious Pranic flow within the building. The geometric centre of the plot is the naval or Manipur, the North-Eastern part of the plot is the head with the Sahastrãr Chakra, and the South-Western part is its base with the Mulãdhãr Chakra. The diagonal line from North-East to South-West is Sushumna, the carrier of life force from head to below. To the west of this diagonal is Pingala, the Surya Nadi, and to the right of this diagonal is Ida, the Chandra Nadi.

 

Manipur, the centre of the plot has a high concentration of energy and is called Bramhasthan, or the Place of Brahma.

 

The History of Vãstushãstra

Matsyapurana mentions the names of 18 sages who are said to have established the science of Vastu:

 

भृगुरत्रिर्वसिष्ठश्च विश्वकर्मा मयस्तथा।नारदोनग्नजिच्चैवविशालाक्षः पुरन्दरः॥

ब्रह्माकुमारो नन्दीशः शौनको गर्ग ऐव च।वासुदेवोऽनिरुद्धश्च तथा शुक्र बृहस्पति॥

अष्टादशैके विख्याता वास्तुशास्त्रोपदेशकाः॥

म.पु. २५१.२-४, चौ.वि. २००६ पृ.८७७

 

18 Vastu Masters mentioned in Matsyapurana
Bhrigu Nagnajit Shaunak
Atri Vishalaksha Garg
Vashishtha Purandara Vasudev
Vishwakarma Brahma Aniruddha
Maya Kumara Shukra
Narad Nandisha Brihaspati

 

Each one of them is a glorious name in the illustrious lineage of sages who inspired humanity and showed it the path of spiritual Knowledge and Enlightenment. Bhrigu, the author of Manusmriti, Bhrigu Samhita, Bhrigu Sutra, Bhrigu Gita is credited with teaching humans the use of Fire, he discovered Sanjivani Vidya, the science of reviving the dead; Atri is the father of Dattatreya and Durvasa and is the Rishi of 5th Mandal of Rigveda called Atreya Mandal; Vashishtha is one of the Saptarishis, Guru of Lord Ram and one of the Prajapatis; Maharshi Shaunak is one of the highly respected Saptarishis; Vishwakarma and Maya are mentioned in the ancient books as Master Builders and Rgveda has hymns to both, Vishwakarma is regarded as the architect of the Universe and is widely worshipped; Maya was the  architect of the Danavas, author of Surya Siddhanta and Mayamatam; Nagnajit finds reference in Shatpath Brahman; Narad is highly revered as a sage by all and so much that in Gita Krishna says that amongst the Sages He is Narad – देवर्षीणाम्चनारद:, Shukra and Brihaspati have been discussed elsewhere in the chapter on Planets, and so on.

 

Vastushastra has a rich heritage of ancient literature. Fortunately most of it has survived the onslaught of time and is available today.

 

The definition and purpose of Vãstu Shãstra

 

The Vedic and the Agamic traditions of ancient India always held that the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. A dwelling is an ecological unit, a microcosm which reflects the Cosmos, the macrocosm. Vãstu Shãstra is the applied aspect of this philosophy, a highly refined method of creating a living space which is a miniature replica of the cosmos as perceived by the vedas. Vãstu Shãstra is about emulating the attributes of the Cosmic Space, about bringing the divine sentinels of Cosmic Directions into our homes, about creating Harmony by creating a living environment where the forces of nature are balanced and at peace with each other.

 

Sri Aurobindo has said…”Indian sacred architecture of whatever date, style or dedication goes back to something timelessly ancient and now outside India almost wholly lost, something which belongs to the past, and yet it goes forward too, though this the rationalistic mind will not easily admit, to something which will return upon us and is already beginning to return, something which belongs to the future.”(SA, The Renaissance in India).

There is a prayer is Sama Veda:

 

ॐ द्यौ: शान्तिरन्तरिक्ष‡ शान्ति: पृथिवी शान्तिराप: शान्तिरोषधय: zaiNtRvnSpty> शान्तिर्विश्वे देवा: शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्ति: svR‡zaiNt> शान्तिरेव शान्ति: सा मा शान्तिरेधि।सुशान्तिर्भवतु॥

 

May there be peace in the sky, may there be peace in mid region, may there be peace on earth, may there be peace in the waters, may the medicinal plants be peaceful, may the forest be peaceful, may there be peace in gods, may Bramha be peaceful, may all the creation be peaceful, may there be peace and peace only, may such peace come to us.

 

Vãstu is about creating an Inner Space, the chidãkãsh, where this divine peace can park itself. And it achieves it by creating a harmonious external environment – the bahyãkãsh.

 

At a more earthly level Vãstushãstra aims at establishing a dynamic balance between Form and Energy so that harmonious conditions are created for the inhabitants. Vãstu buildings have harmonious energies and they promote stability, prosperity, happiness, and mental peace for the occupants and owners.

 

The sages have emphasized that the ultimate aim of a human being is to move towards a higher state of consciousness, to change its mortal imperfection into a divine perfection. This movement results in the realization of Truth, or Self. This knowledge of Self is termed Para Vidya or Higher Knowledge, and the means to acquire it is called Apara Vidya, or Lower Knowledge. Apara Vidya has been categorized as ten: the Four Vedas, four upavedas, and six Vedangas. Mundaka Upanishad clarifies it (1. 1. 4-5).

 

द्वे विद्ये वेदितव्ये इति ह स्म यद् ब्रह्मविदो वदन्ति परा चैवापरा च ॥४॥

 

Twofold is the knowledge that must be known of which the knowers of the Brahman tell, the higher and the lower knowledge.

 

तत्रापरा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्ववेदः शिक्षा कल्पो व्याकरणं निरुक्तं छन्दो ज्योतिषमिति ।

अथ परा यया तदक्षरमधिगम्यते ॥५॥

 

Of which the lower, the Rig Veda and the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda, chanting, ritual, grammar, etymological interpretation, and prosody and astronomy. And then the higher by which is known the Immutable.

 

Thus all the vedas, upavedas and vedangas are Apara Vidya. We examine here the role of Vãstu  as Aparavidya.

 

To a spiritual aspirant Krishna in BhagwadGita has unveiled the three-fold path of union with the Divine: through the Yoga of Works, the Yoga of Knowledge and the Yoga of Devotion. In the presence of Devotion and Knowledge Works become a sublimed offering to the Divine. In Works man closely follows nature, trying to emulate its forces and various processes as nearly as possible. In return, Nature rewards him with further growth, success and social recognition.

 

Thus a process is initiated where the aspirant works, offers his work to the Divine, and spiritually evolves towards perfection.

 

Vãstu supports this process. It contributes by creating a space which is in harmony with nature, which supports positive growth of ideas, interpersonal relationships, flow, movement and action; a space where the Yoga of Works finds adequate expression. Vãstu , therefore, is a school of architecture inspired by the divine spark in the hearts and minds of great sages for whom nothing was beyond the purview of divine thought, सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म and with principles which are steeped deep into spiritual principles of life itself.

 

The Cosmic World with its Order and stern discipline has been built by the gods who occupy all the spaces, from the celestial Space within the Cosmic World to the little spaces in our homes, and even our mental space, chidambaram.  Man’s existence in the Cosmic World has a purpose: it must ascend to immortality and godhood; and the gods, having occupied man’s inner Space, strive to create different states in man’s consciousness for his ascention from mortality and low nature to Truth, godhood and immortality. Vãstu Shãstra helps the effort of the gods by creating an external space – a dwelling, a place to worship and meditate, or a place to work – by applying the same laws which the gods have used to create the Cosmic World.

This, indeed, is the ultimate function and the highest objective of Vãstu Shãstra.

 

Vãstu Shãstra and Vedas 

The Supreme Being is a Cosmic Architect who has shaped the Universe within a framework of certain natural laws, the laws of Cosmic Vãstu Shãstra as contained within the Vedas. The Vedas are anadi – timeless, and apaurusheya – not the work of any man. They were never created nor would they ever get destroyed. Shatapatha Brahmana says that the Vedas are the very breath of Ishwara. The Mantra reads thus:

 

स यथार्द्रैधाग्नेरभ्याहितस्य पृथग्धूमा विनिश्चरन्त्येवं वा अरेऽस्य महतोभूतस्य निश्वसितमेतद्यदृग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस इतिहासः पुराणं विद्या उपनिषदः श्लोकाः सूत्राण्यनुव्याख्यानानि व्याख्यानान्यस्यैवैतानि सर्वाणि निश्वसितानि

 

तस्माद्वा एतस्मादात्मन आकाशः सम्भूतः आकाशद्वयुः । वायोरग्निः । अग्नेरापः अद्म्यः पृथिवी । पृथिव्या ओषधयः । ओषधीभ्योऽन्नम् । अन्नात् पुरूषः।

 

  • tEiÄrIyaepin;d 2,1,1,

 

From Bramhan evolved Space
From Space evolved Air
From Air evolved Fire
From Fire evolved Water
From Water evolved Earth

From Earth evolved Herbs

From Herbs evolved Annam (Food)

From Annam evolved Humans

– TaittarIyopanishad 2.1.1.

Poetic as it may seem, it reflects a beautiful process of the manifestation of Creation, a process which is at the same time gradual and steady, encompassing the past, supporting the present, and paving way for the future. This is an evolution where the Formless acquires Form. It is the process of the Divine Consciousness metamorphosing into Elements; it is the phenomenon of subtle turning into gross.

 

According to the Tantras when the Divine Consciousness chose to create, it first gave rise to primordeal Anhat Naad: the Cosmic Sound and the Eternal Vibration. No physical thing could have caused it to vibrate, because Form had yet to evolve. When the Naad vibrated, it created a Beat and a Rhythm, both of which depend upon Time. Thus was born Time. The Naad needed space to vibrate to express itself, and so evolved Akash, the Space. With Space was born Roop, or the Form. This is the theory of the Creation of Universe, its elements and forms. Each subsequent development gave rise to a complete system of governing rules and attributes, and one may refer to them as the grammar of these elements.

 

The earliest reference to Vãstu  is found in Rgveda where the sage offers a prayer to ‘Vastoshpati’, the Lord of Vãstu, for protection, happiness and prosperity.

 

vaStae?:pte àit? janIý!Sman! Sva?vezae A?nmIvaeÉ?van>,

yÅvem?heàittÚae?ju;SvzÚaee? ÉviÖpde z< ctu?:pde. 7-54-1

vaStae?:pte àtr?[ae n @ix gyS)anae gaeiÉrñeiÉirNdae,

Ajra?sSte sOye Sya?miptev? puÇan! àit? nae ju;Sv. 7-54-2

vaStae?:pte zGmya? s<sda? te s]Imihr{mya? gatumTya?,

paih ]em?%t yaegevrÚaeyUym! pa?t SviStiÉ> sda? n>. 7-54-3

AmIvhavaStae?:pte ivña? êpa{ya?ivzn!,

soa? suzev? @ix n>. 7-55-1

 

  1. O Guardian of the Homestead: bring no disease, and give us happy entrance. Whate’er we ask of thee, be pleased to grant it, and prosper thou quadrupeds and bipeds
  2.  Protector of the Home, be our promoter: increase our wealth in kind and steeds, O Indu. May we be ever-youthful in thy friendship: be pleased in us as in his sons a father.
  3. 3 Through thy dear fellowship that bringeth welfare, may we be victors, Guardian of the Dwelling! Protect our happiness in rest and labour. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.
  4. VASTOSPATI, who killest all disease and wearest every form, Be an auspicious Friend to us.

 

(Translations courtesy Ralph T.H. Griffith)

 

The earliest application of Vãstu Shãstra may be said to be in the construction of ceremonial alters for Vedic rituals. Shulbhsutra – the Vedic geometry was used to calculate and design these alters. Numerous passages of Katyayan, Baudhayana and Apastambha Shulbha deal with the size of sacrificial altars and their method of construction. The Shrautasutras, Grihyasutras and Dharmasutras contain detailed instructions for performing the vedic rites and the associated architectural aspects, like the construction of the vedi and selection of the place for performing the rites.

 

In a step away from Shulbhsutra, in Rgveda Agni declares itself to be the measurer of the Celestial Space. Agni is one of the most important of all of the Vedic deities, the priest of the gods and god of the priests, and its declaration reflects the relationship between Space, measuement, Veda and the vedic deities.

 

अग्निरस्मि जन्मना जातवेदाः घृतं मे चक्षुरमृतं म आसन् ।

अर्कस्त्रिधातू रजसो विमानो अजस्रो घर्मो हविरस्मि नाम ॥

 

  • \G0 3.26.7

 

 

I am the Fire, I am from my birth the knower of all things born; light is my eye, in my mouth is immortality; I am the triple Ray, I am the measurer of the mid-world, I am the unceasing illumination, I am the offering.

(Translation by Sri Aurobindo, Hymns to the Mystic  Fire)

 

विश्वकर्मा वास्तुशास्त्र, समरांगण सूत्रधार, मंडन सूत्रधार, राजसिंह वास्तु, दीपार्णव, शिल्परत्न, मयमतम्, मानसार, मनुष्यालय चन्द्रिका, कश्यप शिल्प, अपराजिता पृच्छ, विश्वकर्मा प्रकाश, सनत्कुमार वास्तुशास्त्र, बृहत्संहिता, प्रासादमण्डनम्, राजवल्लभ वास्तुशास्त्र, सुप्रभेदागम, कर्णिकागम, वैखानसगम, अजितागम, रौरवागम , आग्नि पुराण, मत्स्य पुराण, विष्णुधर्मोत्तर पुराण, ब्रह्माण्ड पुराण, भविष्य पुराण.

 

[2] Translation from Sri Aurobindo’s {Kena and Other Upanishads: Mundaka Upanishad}

 

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