The Bath Upāyas (The Bath Practices)

By Acharya Shambhu

image1The Bath Upāyas were inspired by verse 152 of the Vijñānabhairava Tantra, which you can find at the end of this post. I noticed a few years into my practice that doing the various exercises given by my teacher often resulted in what I would call “taking an internal shower.” Verse 152 validates these experiences and also reminds me of something that Rumi said: “Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” It’s a great advice, but how do we do that?

I live on Kauai and one of the favorite tourist spots is Queen’s Bath, a truly amazing coastal pool that looks like a giant bathtub. While taking a bath in an ocean bathtub or a regular bathtub with salts, oils, and rose petals etc can be relaxing and purifying for the physical body, there are much more potent baths, presented here in order of their effectiveness in their ability to melt the ice of our identity. The real royal bath is in the deepest core of our own being.

An iceberg becomes a chunk of ice, then a snowflake, then a drop of water, then vapor, then air, then ether, then space, then nothingness beyond time and space.

Doing these baths in the logical order they are presented, helps us to naturally and gradually tap into deeper levels of our own energies and awareness. We wash ourselves of ourselves one layer at a time, revealing deeper and deeper levels of cleanliness i.e. freedom. Doing all the baths in one session can be very powerful.

Here, I introduce in ascending order, the Bath Upāyas, the various means of bathing and purification, of washing oneself from oneself. I could have used the term the Bath Tattvas, the principles of bathing. According to Wikipedia, the Sanskrit word tattva means 'thatness', 'principle', 'reality' or 'truth'. A tattva is an element or aspect of reality. By grace, the Divine has embedded at all levels of creation purification principles, i.e. identity escape valves, which manifest in these techniques.

Of course the Bath Upāyas are not different from the traditional Tantrik upāyas. They are just another way to describe the levels of purification.

PRANIC BATH. Sustained breathing in and out at different time intervals and pauses and varying degrees of intensity bathes the body at the level of breath, i.e. physical life force. There are various martial arts, yogic, chi gong etc potent breathing exercises, whether aligned or not with different body movements, that can be extremely invigorating.

MANTRIC BATH. Chanting can be a powerful bath at the sonic level, tapping into the power of sound to move energy, thus removing energy blocks. I prefer using bija (seed) mantras like OM, HAMSA, SOHAM, SAUH, etc in sync with the breath.

TENSION RELEASE BATH. This is a unique idea introduced by Swami Rudrananda (Rudi). It’s a technique called tension release, the simple asking inside the energy centers to release all mental and emotional blocks. This creates an openness and flow of energy.

ENERGY FLOW BATH. We can develop the capacity to internalize our own life force which is normally extended out via the senses and mind (thoughts, emotions). We can reverse that outflow into a flow down the front of the body and up the back of the body, creating a complete circuit. Like a river, this pranic flow washes our tensions. Rudi’s double breath exercise is just one of many techniques that can be used to stimulate and sustain that flow.

RESONANCE BATH. The energy flow over time, as we surrender to it, exposes a liberating current within itself, which is its source. What is exposed is a Star War’s like light saber that vibrates from the base of the spine to the third eye, center of the head, or crown, with the resonance becoming subtler the higher it goes. There is no movement of energy, but resonance. We are like a sitar or guitar string that the Divine can create melodies with!

STILLNESS BATH. As we get still inside that resonance, movement of energy slows down and vibrates into a single still point (center of the heart, center of the head) or the innermost channel of the central channel. We miniaturize ourselves into a simple yet incredibly vibrant single point. Its quite refreshing!

AWARENESS BATH. The subtlest resonance of energy, as we get still, expands into unbounded awareness. We immerse ourselves into the Ocean of Consciousness. “The essence of one’s own Self is freedom, bliss and pure consciousness. (The purifying) bath is said to be the penetration in all respects of one’s own Self into that essential nature.” Verse 152 of the Vijñānabhairava Tantra translated by Mark Dyczkowski.