The Ancient Vedic Science of Living in Harmony with Nature
by Raymond Prohs
Creating a sacred space in accord with the laws of nature is the most solid foundation for creating a beautiful, powerful, successful, healthy and happy life. In 1985, my mother died of cancer. For over 20 years, she lived in a house with the front door facing the southwest of our property. The house also had an east-southeast entrance through our garage, which we all used every day. She faced south when cooking our meals. At the time, like most Westerners, not in my wildest dreams would I have made a connection between my mother’s illness and these or any other home feature. The best guess of the five doctors that took care of her — a guess based on almost 75 years of medical school and over 120 years of modern medical practice between them — was that the sad, confusing, singular “probable” cause of her death was second-hand smoke. Yet, soon after, I learned some things I’m sure her doctor’s never considered.
According to ancient manuscripts written over 5,000 years ago, entrances in the southwest and east-southeast and/or facing south while cooking (using fire) are life-threatening ‘defects’ — particularly for women. These are the writings of Vaastu, the ancient science of Vedic architecture from India which, like Chinese Feng Shui, offers extraordinary insights and practical solutions into almost all health and lifestyle problems.
My first introduction to Vaastu came during my second trip to India. I went to source high-quality, wild-crafted herbs for my Ayurvedic practice in the USA. At one stop, we were invited by the owner of a ‘natural’ pharmacy to stay a day or two in his home — a beautiful sprawling compound with gardens and a man-made pond fed from a 20-foot-high fountain. The rooms in his magnificent home were bathed in natural light streaming in through windows facing east; the floors were tiered — both upstairs and down; the rooms in the south were higher than the rooms in the north and east, if only by a few inches. When I commented on the ‘unique’ plan of the house and property, I was told it was built according to Vaastu. In fact, all the ownes properties were. Moreover, this man was sure Vaastu was the foundation of his and his family’s success and good health. He took me to his office, opened his safe, and there inside was a ‘book’ on Vaastu made of palm leaves. It was his family’s “bible for building”.
As far as he knew the family had always been wealthy and long-lived. In India, where they keep records that are literally thousands of years old, using the word “always” carries immense weight. The one constant in their family tradition was that they had always built according to Vaastu. The richest family in a valley known for its wealthy inhabitants, this current generation had founded 3 universities (2 technical, one medical), 2 hospitals, and 2 pharmacies – one Ayurvedic and one Allopathic. There were four generations living in near proximity; and every piece of property — and every structure on those properties — was built according to Vaastu.
His argument was articulate and his enthusiasm endearing, but my predominantly Western mind thought, “it’s just circumstantial.” Patiently, compassionately — he picked up on my skepticism — and, gently, he offered a short-form history of Vaastu. The ancient maharishis (in Sanskrit, considered the oldest language known to man, the word means “spiritual seers” or “knowers of reality”) recognized that man had an intimate relationship with nature, a relationship with innumerable permutations, yet founded on certain, specific and knowable laws that can be tested and the effects observed. This body of knowledge they call the Vedas. The science of Vaastu, one aspect of the Vedas, deals specifically with space, location and the influences of the nature’s cosmic forces on the quality of life of the inhabitants of a particular place. It was the first ‘natural’ science of architecture, pre-dating Feng Shui by perhaps more than 3,000 years.
In India, it is said that Vaastu and Feng Shui are intimately connected. The story goes that thousands of years ago a powerful Bengali prince begged a wandering mendicant to heal his dying wife. That simple man, a saint from China, humbly agreed; and soon the princess fully recovered. In his joy, the prince offered the holy man anything he wished, up to half the prince’s kingdom. Without hesitation, the sage replied, “I want your library”. It is said, he returned to China with over 6,500 volumes of ancient Vedic texts — many on Vaastu.
A Brief History
The wisdom of the maharishis came in the form of shruti and shmriti — divinely revealed knowledge, observation and practical application of direct experiences. Through their meditation practices, the ancient sages realized the existence of underlying forces whose source and expressions could be known directly through personal experience, though not apparent in the world of objects, the world of the senses. The maharishis called these invisible, yet universal, cosmic entities and forces “the Divine”. How to contact them; how to build personal, intimate, soulful and permanent relationships with them was first revealed to the seers by Divine emissaries — energetic intelligences, which imparted the sacred formulas for spiritual enlightenment. We know them as angels.
The application of this spiritual knowledge in the material world was accomplished through series observations and experiences. For example, meditation produced greater results in a place where the energy was peaceful; they found they could greatly increase the ability to gain and hold the shakti, the power of the meditation practice, by meditating in nature and, further, by doing it with water to the north, northeast and/or east. They tested all angles. The northeast offered access to receiving greater shakti if it was left open and uncluttered. Having a mountain behind them to the south, southwest and west protected their processes from the disruptive energy that naturally flowed from that direction. Through their observations, testing and direct experiences, they came to understand how the Divine played in the world and how to use their understanding for the betterment of mankind. Understanding Vaastu became a practical way to predict and positively influence Life events.
The Divine Expressed
The cosmic forces or “pillars of Creation,” as the Maharishis described them, were given the name panchabhutas, the Five Elements: earth, fire, akasha (space/ether,) water and air. Each has its own characteristics, its own qualities. Based on their placement — where and how they are situated on the property and in the home — individually and collectively the Five Elements exert either positive or negative influences on the people inhabiting the property. Too much height and weight (the earth element) in the north, for example, makes holding onto or accumulating wealth nearly impossible and, furthermore, is an extreme life-risk.
Clearly, these are not the elements that I remembered learning from the Periodic Table. These elements are energies or forces in nature, which strongly influence the physical, emotional and mental world(s) we each live in — forces that work in specific ways and produce specific results. Each of the Five Elements has directional strengths and exerts influences based on their placement. According to the Great Seers, when we live in accord with these natural forces the majority of our problems … the majority of all mankind’s problems … are solved. Their tests proved that creating a sacred space in accord with the laws of nature was the most solid foundation for creating a beautiful, powerful, successful, healthy and happy life — and, certainly, a must for a spiritual one. The maharishis stated that Vaastu is, in fact, fundamental to gaining success in spirituality.
Naturally, I wanted more modern proof. The story of my mother’s death in the context of her life became a case-in-point. Over the following months, I read everything I could find on Vaastu and tracked my personal and family history according to the residences I lived in — the configurations of rooms, entrances, street access and property angles. I realized my life was my proof.
Many books have been written on Vaastu — most authored in India and some authored in the West. Unfortunately, from a layman’s point of view, the Indian versions are virtually unfathomable – much is lost in translation. The Western versions, which seem more about production value and coffee-table style, are not much better. Their focus on finding a prominent place near the front door for the Elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh, and placating a seemingly implacable cosmic being called the Vaastu Purusha are the gist of their nod to the Divine in the world of earth tones, floral landscaping and interior design. While the layouts and certainly the photographs are pleasing to the eye, the information remains rather confusing.
Recently, however, a book has been published which is both readable and practical and appears to be truly divinely inspired. Written by Sri Sai Kaleshwara Swami, one of India’s most highly revered living saints, “Victory Through Vaastu” lays out the principles, practices and purpose of Vaastu as perhaps only a saint with his finger on the pulse of the modern world can. The book is presented step-by-step, from the fundamentals of the Five Elements, introducing the four basic principles, explaining the relationships between the elements, the principles and the directions, and then applying them to actual case studies and life histories. Many myths are debunked along the way (the existence of the Vaastu Purusha, for one.) At the same time, Sri Kaleshwar speaks of the Divine, and its expressions and influence, in surprisingly practical terms — neither couching nor proselytizing. “Victory Through Vaastu” shows how to use the divine energetics of nature to structure substantive change in the ‘real’ world.
The maharishis said that the majority of our karma is changeable through Vaastu. Such knowledge is power. Understanding and applying the knowledge of Vaastu changes the way we live our lives. Instead of being victims of circumstance, we can be sublime masters of them.
Raymond Prohs is an Ayurvedic practitioner, jyotishi and energetic healer from California, USA. He offers seminars and workshops on the teachings of Sri Sai Kaleshwara Swami in regular trips to Hong Kong.