developing a taste for the Divine

(imagination, desire, taste and other powers of the second chakra)

A momentís solitude is precious. So is the mind that can accept it. Swami Radha at Kootenay Lake, 1966.
In the Kundalini system, imagination is governed by the second chakra. This chakra, or level of consciousness, also controls the sense of taste and desire. The relationship between imagination, taste and desire is worth investigating.

Imagination swims in the waters of our thoughts and ideas and is open to stimulation from wherever it comes. Imagination gives birth to desire, and desires Ė especially those for pleasure Ė seek gratification.

In visual representations of the second chakra, the imagination is pictured as a makara, a mythical alligator/fish with a mouth big enough to swallow almost anything. Its teeth symbolize greed or a desire to hold on.

But even the imagination cannot hold on to everything at once. Our thinking process can be so fast that many thoughts are not even caught. Some ideas will arise that stimulate the imagination, while others will pass by. We also cannot manifest every potential idea. As human beings, we are limited in our expression.

If an idea does capture the imagination, we have to activate our innate intelligence to discriminate whether it is better to let the idea go or to hold onto it and pursue it to greater understanding. It is almost like learning to develop a taste for healthy food. What will benefit us in the long run? Different situations will call for different choices. But recognize that the power of choice is ours.

We have to take charge of the direction of the imagination through awareness. And because we do not have complete awareness, we can also rely on intuitive perception Ė those glimmers of understanding that are not necessarily clear, but that can be interpreted and worked with to bring about clearer understanding.

Left unattended, imagination can be misleading. A vivid imagination can lead to building up unrealistic hopes and expectations. When the imagination goes unchecked and uncontrolled, it can also create unnecessary fears.

Imagination is the source of much self-inflicted pain. For example, in a relationship, people often envision their life as a romantic film. Imagination interferes with the reality. There are two real people, and you have to come around to accept yourself as you are in order to be able to accept the partner that you want to be involved with. You also have to accept your partner the way he or she is.

There are numerous exercises to cultivate the imagination, including the practice of worship. Through spiritual practice and study, you feed the imagination spiritual food. The makara will eat anything and, with time, can develop a taste for the Divine.

If you give as much time as possible every day to the Divine, you will increase your taste and desire for the Divine. And your desire for the Divine, even if it is fulfilled to a very small degree, will nourish you for a long, long time. Once you have a taste of the Divine, you will know there is nothing better, nothing more desirable. You taste heaven itself. The point of meditation and study is eventually to give you that taste of Divine nectar and ambrosia, which is much more satisfying than the sugar candy of all your other desires.

The Divine wants to give us what is real and lasting, but instead of accepting this gift, we throw tantrums and hold onto our artificially coloured candies. We cannot be given more until we let go. Our hands need to be empty to receive, then we can overflow and give to others. You can give the physical body what it needs, but detach yourself from it. Donít become overly involved. When you give the body food, donít make a big deal out of it. Donít worship food or make diet another god. Whatever your understanding of human love is, donít make that another god, either.

Beyond gratification of desires is the greater adventure of expanded awareness, which leads to experiences that the imagination cannot even dream up. People sometimes ask me whether a spiritual seeker should have an exclusive taste for the Divine or rather a taste for doing good toward others in the world. It is never an either/or question. To integrate the spiritual, we have to bring quality into our life as we live it. We each have to define what we mean by ďqualityĒ and decide what kind of person we want to be, because one world feeds on the other. If you donít live according to your ideas or values in your daily life, that inattention will show up in your spiritual life. If you are very dedicated in your spiritual life, that dedication will filter into your daily life. Itís not either the world or the Divine, but the interaction.

Itís up to each of us to develop a balanced, healthy diet for the imagination, a taste for quality and compassion, which can then manifest and help create the kind of world we want to live in.
A pioneer in bringing yoga to the West, Swami Sivananda Radha is the author of 10 classic books on yoga, including Kundalini Yoga for the West and Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language. Her teachings focus on developing awareness and quality in life.

  read more of swami radha's past columns

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