Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 113 - Bliss, Ecstasy, and Divine Love
Date: Tue Feb 10, 2004 4:41pm
Q: Can you explain the difference between bliss and ecstasy?
A: Let’s look these two words up in the dictionary.
Bliss means, “complete happiness, heaven, paradise.”
Ecstasy means, “overwhelming rapturous delight.”
They seem a bit similar, but not the same. In terms of how we interpret these two words in advanced yoga practices, the difference is in where these two experiences originate. This is the key to understanding how we use them in the lessons, and how they relate to specific practices we are doing. There is also a tie-in with the inner divine romance we have been discussing recently, and also our steps along the path to enlightenment.
We are putting names on experiences we have during and after our practices. So, the words are experience-based here, like everything else we discuss in the lessons. They are words we use to describe what is happening inside us. The experiences comes first, then the words. Not the other way around.
Bliss is associated with the “pure bliss consciousness” we experience in meditation and gradually more and more in our daily life as we continue to meditate. It comes up as a pleasant, peaceful silence, a sort of unending inner smile, if you will. It is happiness that comes out of nowhere inside us as we take the mind and body to stillness over and over again in meditation. Is inner silence we come in touch with during meditation “complete happiness, heaven, paradise?” As its presence grows in us it comes pretty close. It is unshakable, always positive no matter what is going on around us, and it has the feel of eternity in it as well. Most important, it is our awareness standing alone, independent of body, breath, mind, emotions, senses and all external events. It is the proverbial “rock” that will not wash away in the storms of life. Once our sense of self has become that inner silence, where have we gone? Everywhere, and nowhere. Pure bliss consciousness is a mystery. Yet, it is what we are in our essential nature. We experience it as bliss, a complete unending happiness. Our consciousness is the source of bliss. Our consciousness is bliss. No one has to take my word for it. As we meditate each day, we gradually come to know what pure bliss consciousness is. As the psalm says, “Be still, and know I am God.”
Ecstasy, on the other hand, is an undoing. I mean, we get lost in a reverie of pleasure. “Overwhelming rapturous delight” is a good a description for it. Where does ecstasy come from? While bliss emanates from our consciousness, ecstasy arises in our body. Ecstasy is the result of prana ravishing us in delicious ways. You will recall that prana, the life force, is one of the first manifestations coming out of pure bliss consciousness. When prana moves in evolutionary ways in the nervous system it produces vibrations that we experience as overwhelming pleasure. Ecstasy is the goddess moving in us. Ecstasy emanates from an awakened kundalini, which we know comes from our sexual energy, our great storehouse of prana.
Now comes the tie-in, the relationship between bliss and ecstasy, which sometimes causes us to jumble meanings together into phrases like “blissful ecstasy,” or “ecstatic bliss.” What is going on here? Is Yogani confused when he uses these phrases? You bet. Who isn’t when lovemaking is going on?
The truth is that bliss and ecstasy want to merge in us. Metaphorically, pure bliss consciousness is shiva, present everywhere in us as inner silence. At least if we have been meditating he is. If we have awakened kundalini shakti with spinal breathing and other advanced yoga practices, she is on the hunt for shiva in our nervous system. We know she is because we can feel her moving through us as ecstasy (or fire), cleaning house as she goes. At some point we have inner silence stabilized inside us, and ecstasy moving around inside us as well. What happens?
Activation of the experiences of bliss and ecstasy through advanced yoga practices corresponds to the first two stages of enlightenment, which have been discussed in previous lessons – the rise of inner silence and the rise of ecstasy, best done in in that order. The third stage of enlightenment comes following the union of bliss and ecstasy in divine romance inside. While this is going on, we tend to get the descriptions jumbled, because both pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy are present at the same time, joining inside us!
What comes out of this union of the masculine and feminine polar energies inside? We have described the third stage of enlightenment as “unity,” where we see all as an expression of the One that we have become. That One is pure bliss consciousness coexisting within all the (ecstatic) processes of nature. When it gets to this stage, we become a channel for an unending flow of divine love. We act for the good of all, expecting nothing in return, because we perceive all as an expression of our own self. In this stage, personal need is expanded to encompass universal need. This is enlightenment, divine love naturally manifesting through us, born of the union of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy inside us.
Advanced yoga practices are for facilitating this evolutionary process of transformation in our nervous system. Everyone is born with the ability to make this glorious journey.
The guru is in you.