Return to Portfolio

Lesson 2A Notes, About the Shilpins, Theory of Vastu Science

Copyright 2003-2009, Michael Borden, all rights reserved.

Just a note by way of "experience is the best teacher: "These principles are new to most designers. They create a new way of looking at how a building should be laid out. As you generate designs for yourself or for others keep in mind that the employment of the principles in their simplicity is usually the best solution. I visited Sthapati's house yesterday. It is the simplest of plans and the ambience is wonderful.

Clients will push for lifestyle preferences or views, etc., always try to guide them back to the simple solution in its completeness, or, warn them that they are not creating a pure energetic structure.

In one of Ganapati Sthapati's books, Temples of Space-Science, he offers a dedication and so I use it here also: (The quoted passages are from that publication. You can order it if you like.)

"To those shilpins (vedic artists) who shared their spiritual and aesthetical experiences with the society, through their technological expertise and hard labor, with the sole aim of bringing spiritual well being, physical welfare, material prosperity, peace and bliss to their doors and thereby preserving and maintaining the unique science and technology of Vastu, over the centuries, against odds and set backs, is this (seminar) dedicated."

In the winter of 1998 I made my first visit to two of India's greatest temples, Chidambaram and Srirangam. Sthapati sent me there because he considers them "seed" temples. In other words, they are originals, models of Vastu architecture. They house, as it were, they DNA of Vastu Science. He said, "These temples have been, all through the ages, right from their emergence, functioning as veritable living beings and have ... been keeping alive both the spiritual and physical well being of humanity. "

My visit to each temple was a confirmation once again of a professional belief that buildings can be life giving, inspiring, energetically alive. As I sat in the inner courtyard at Chidambaram late one sultry night and early into the morning during a Shiva celebration I realized that I was experiencing a peace and energetic ease (and even coolness) that was like a swim in a peaceful temperate pool. I had no urge to go anywhere or do anything. I sat in peace, on the stone, surrounded by Indian families. I was awash in the blessing of the sacred Vastu space created there. I was reminded of Sthapati's first words to me about Vastu architecture: the buildings are visible musical forms based on the grammar of rhythm and scale and mathematical order of the universe. We all have had the experience of how music can inspire and sooth the soul. These buildings are frozen, visible music in harmony with universal law.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to design the buildings we are going to talk theory for a while. The temples are the rocket science of Vastu architecture. In Tamil Nadu alone, where I am studying, there are over 35,000 temples identified and registered and probably twice this in total. The temples are the axles around which traditional life in India revolves. One finds them as nuclei for the regions, cities, towns and villages. Also, smaller temples are sprinkled throughout the land and are treated every bit as sacred as the larger ones.

Chidambaram and Srirangam encapsulate the basic principles of Vastu science. Chidambaram is a dedicated to Lord Shiva as Nataraja and Srirangam to Lord Vishnu as Rangaraja. These are the two main images of the Supreme Divinity or Universal Law, however you wish to view it. Nataraja is seen in the image of the dancing Shiva and Rangaraja as the peaceful sleeping Vishnu.

The main goal of the ancient vedic artists (shilpins) was to give concrete expression to the laws of the universe: to express the truth of cosmic order and form, to celebrate our connection with all life. The shilpins were architects, culptors, musicians, poets and dancers. To communicate spiritual bliss and truth was their life work. They preserved and passed on the knowledge of Vastu Science through practice and oral transmission. (Actually, when I go to the sculpture yard and watch the sculptors work, it looks like almost nothing is transmitted orally, only by example.) The ancient shilpins realized the Supreme Truth of Existence as the substance "Vastu". They viewed God as embodying the science of Vastu itself. Existence is Vastu is the universe is God is all that we know and are. Nothing is outside of Supreme Truth of Existence. The temples are the pure expression of laws of the universe: the temple is a Divine incarnation, solid and real. They are microcosms of the universe. "There is scientific reality behind them," as Sthapati puts it in his book, Temples of Space Science.

Sthapati talks of two types of science: Gross and Subtle. " Having seen the external features and analyzed external functions of Nature, scientists have shifted its subtle and internal structures and mechanisms. They have subjected them to the relevant and fitting mathematical laws. To bring out new creations according to the derived mathematical laws and utilize them for the well-developed material life is the motive of the first type of scientific system. I think 'Science is the more apt term to denote this type, the reason being that it is the system that has grown completely based o rational thinking. This type of scientific system is of the nature of changing rapidly and proliferating extensively...The second type of scientific system is eternal and immutable. It is directly related to the Self, which is beyond the reach of rational thinking. This is a system centered on the Spirit. We may call it the science of Spirit or Energy or the science of Space.

"To go directly into the very heart of Nature, to know its features and functional processes, to frame them into mathematical laws so as to constitute an infallible grammar, to infuse the very Nature into those objects so as to be in total harmony with it--all these are the significant aspects of this second type of scientific system."

This system of Space Science came into being thousands of years ago. It was cognized and realized by the great architect seer Mayan. (More on that later) Instead of calling it spiritual science the shilpins call it the Science of Vastu and the Science of Vaastu. (More on that later also) The vaastu tradition holds that there are five gross elements-- earth, water, fire, air, and space. All of these elements are present in the vast space of the universe as well as in all living being and worldly objects.

"Space is the fundamental source and energy for all things, for their origination and for their existence. This important scientific concept, the tradition of Vaastu has been holding with it from the Vedic period and, in fact, from the period even prior to Vedic times. It maintains that SPACE itself turns into spatial forms and it has it's own mathematical order or dynamics for changing into aural and visual forms. In Indian civilization, all temples, sculptures, architectural constructions ... are the creations by shilpins of the tradition of Vaastu Science. Being born of this tradition, these creations render not only physical pleasure but also spiritual bliss and well being. This spiritual science ... moulds us and directs us to experience the inexplicable spiritual bliss by effecting a communion between its own artistic creations and spiritual consciousness.

Modern science, based on rational analysis, is not able to accept the Indian view that space is the primal and foremost element, or that is even exists as an element. "For modern science it is not possible to analyze and realize the innate nature of space and to speak about its essential characteristics. Nor is it possible for it to apply the principles of space and to derive the benefits thereby. So, according to this empirical tradition of science, there are only four elements. ... It also refuses to accept the view that for all things space is the origin, basic source and place of existence and of movement. It is not possible for modern science to subject Space to scientific experiment.

According to Vaastu Science, space is vibrant and conscious and turns into spatial forms. By employing this principle, Vaastu Science brought into existence cities and towns, palaces and houses, temples and sculptures, vehicles and bedsteads. All these have been created by Vaastu Science to appear not as spiritless forms but to exist as living and vibrating organisms. Each object created by it is a breathing substance. The houses and buildings are endowed with specific features that enable us to be in harmony with the outer world and also with the indwelling spirit.

"The basic idea of these two kinds of science, material or intellectual and spiritual or space science could be summarized as follows: The modern science, being material in pursuit, searches for energy in matter and utilizing this energy it creates new object. These objects are meant for material welfare only. Vastu vijnana, being essentially spiritual, searches for matter in energy and utilizing this matter it creates energetic, animate and vibrant substances which are ultimately useful for spiritual welfare.... Vastu Vijnana creates our houses so as to be the actual living organisms and musical forms and enables the indwellers of these houses to experience their musical charm and spiritual bliss.

"Spiritual calmness and spiritual bliss - these are always the ends that are much sought after by the human race. These are the two spiritual fruits that are offered by the buildings created by the science of Vaastu ...through the external structural embellishments, and the internal configuration of living spaces. For the purpose of effecting these, there is a unique mathematical formula or order in the tradition of Vaastu. This is known as Vaastu rahasya (secret of the Vaastu tradition). (We'll get to it)

"Space is energy filled or energy stuffed. If this energetic space gets limited or enclosed by four walls then the building becomes a living organism, having rhythmic vibrancy. Like the inner space enclosed with-in our bodies, the house also feels and vibrates. This rhythmic vibration is made to resonate with our inner vibrations and by this resonance the indweller of the house is able to be in harmony and communion with the universal space (Paramatma) and to experience spiritual bliss.

"The built house should be on par with a temple which is the home as well as the form of God. This concept is what you perceive in the Chidambaram temple. What you experience there is the exact operation of this concept. It is actually a house. Unlike an ordinary temple, it is exactly a small house standing on a raised and rectangular plot. The enclosing walls are made of wood. The covering roof is also made of wood. It is a house whose roof is covered with gold tiles. In order to preserve this 'house' in its entire scientific conceptual frame, Diksitas, 3000 in number were employed by a Tamil king.

"What is that which is found inside the house (Chidambaram)? A space; simply a space housing nothing concrete within itself. We call this space "Akasha". (Nowadays there is a statue of the deity in the inner sanctum, but Sthapati tells me that the Brahmin priests without the Shilpi's involvement put it there. Originally, there was nothing but a sacred space that itself was worshiped.) Akasha is of the nature of consciousness itself. Close your eyes and what do you experience: Space-unbounded: consciousness. "By its own innate nature it feels, it vibrates. It manifests its consciousness through its vibrant waves, through the waves of ever-going throbs. The vibrant waves emerge according to a mathematical order or formula. The measurements of the architectural constructions (as well as the poetry, sculpture music and dance) are defined and determined by the mathematical order. A person who stands before that 'house' or 'enclosed space' called 'AMBALAM' get infused and kindled with vibrant waves and subjected to their pronouncing impact. If the vibrations of his inner space and those of the 'ambalam' are in resonance, then he becomes one with the 'ambalam' or space, one with the vibrant consciousness...just like the musical harmony that manifests when two vina instruments are tuned to one and the same pitch. This kind of harmonious response is called 'bhakti'. This is the definition of Bhakti in terms of science. Where there is no harmonious response, there cannot be bhakti. Bhakti, which is also known as love, bestows on us spiritual health, calmness and bliss.

Lesson 2B