What is Vaastu Shastra?
Vaastu is the science that integrates invisible energies in a living space to create well being for the occupants. Indian traditions say that universe is a system of varied elements existing in a symbiotic relationship with each other.
For instance, according to Yoga, “for a human being, the physical body, praana and field of activity are intrinsically connected”. Similarly, according to Vaastu- “a building or a residence is considered as an extended organism connected to both the cosmic energies present in that space as well as the energies of the occupants”.
Vaastu is all about unveiling these subtle connections to provide a design that is in perfect harmony with the environment. By understanding the science and philosophies of Vaastu, the relevance of Vaastu for any type of construction becomes clear.
The way Vaastu is applied depends on what sort of construction is being carried out – a new construction, slight modification of existing design or a complete renovation!
Science of Vaastu Shastra differentiates the approach and methodologies used for each of these as follows:
Types of Vaastu Design
Ancient text books classifies Vaastu Vidya into three – Srishti, Chikitsa and Vardhamana. This design classification is based on the act of creation (new design), healing (correction to existing design) and extension (addition and restoration).
Srishti Vaastu (New Designs)
New designs usually involve an empty land and hence whatever that is being erected there need to blend in to the existing surroundings. This new design must also adhere to the physical features of the land – including terrain, water table, soil fertility, directions and weather. Scientifically, a vacant plot has an existing natural order and environmental energies live untapped there. While designing for a new construction in such a vacant plot, the nature of this energy has to be understood.
The science of Vaastu Shastra points out that a construction that adapts to these can aid in a good living conditions for the occupants.
Chikitsa Vaastu (Correction to existing design)
The occupants of an existing building, sometimes seek for a healing to get the life in order. Such feeling of discomfort and dissatisfaction among occupants affect the building as well. Since these energies are very much in resonance, correcting the building or design can alleviate the problem.
For instance, ailments which are obesity based, insomnia and tension related can be improved by working on the ventilation and light within the building – along with modifying the diet and lifestyle of the family. The corrections in the existing building has to blend in with the energy system of the current design.
Chikitsa Vaastu is not just implementing quick fixes to correct Vaastu. Instead, it involves carrying out a detailed introspection to the lifestyle of occupants to nourish the harmony and togetherness. The challenging part of Chikitsa Vaastu is to blend the new changes with the energy system of the current design. Altogether, it results in a perfect healing of the building.
Vardhamana Vaastu (Addition and Restoration)
Vardhamana Vaastu pertains to restoration of historical buildings and improvisation of existing building in the form of additional space, enhancement of facilities and change of usability by minimal alterations. It can be carried out by understanding the existing building system, associated energy, aesthetics and the lifestyle and relationship of the occupants.
By implementing enhancements to the building which are multiples or fractions of the existing module itself, coherence is achieved that affects the occupants in a positive manner.
Essentially, the role of a Vaastu designer is to create building design that takes care of the needs of the occupants very well, and follow the principles of Vaastu while blending the visible and invisible energies. This intrinsic wisdom of Vaastu is in accordance with the Indian Philosophy of Vedanta as well.
Philosophies of Vaastu
Indian tradition is supreme as it integrates complex philosophies into daily lifestyle of ordinary people. This makes life simple at the same time quite fulfilling. The following philosophies of Vedanta have close connection with the intelligence of Vaastu.
- Paramatman/Jivatman – The Cosmic Spirit and Individual Spirit
Essence of Vedanta is that every individual (or atman) is in alignment with the collective larger order. But it becomes evident to the atman only in some magical moments and then the individual is raised to a greater plane of consciousness. This certain configuration can be achieved through architecture which consists of forms, space, proportion, energy points and aesthetic features put together to create an enhancement and enrichment of occupants’ consciousness.
Aitareyopanishad says that Jivatman is what makes an individual experience worldly matters; at the same time everything on earth is guided by Paramatman. This connectedness of individual spirit and cosmic spirit is the basis for Vaastu.
Manushyalaya is the place to discover and hone Jivatman whereas Devalaya is the space for Jivatman to try to attain harmony with Paramatman. Such a place that can emanate positive energy to transform the individual is called as Siddham. In such places, the buildings also bestow spiritual powers or Siddhi to the occupants.
- Prakara Beejam – Central Point or Brahmasthana
In a quest to attain Siddhi, an individual concentrates his attention and energy to the point of inward divinity called bindu or Prakara Beejam. This is also called the Brahmasthana. This central point must be nurtured and protected so that every occupant will be deeply moved when he/she enters the space.
- Shivam/Shakti – Creation of something new
Individual consciousness or Shivam is suspended in the blissfull stillness called Satchit Anandam. A seed of a desire ‘to be’ is born that changes the timelessness to time or ‘Kaala’ and the process of metamorphosis progresses. This initiates movement of Shakti energy to fuse with Shivam to result in creation.
Vaastu says that every building design has to have the stillness of Shivam and the manifesting energy of Shakti equally. The stillness is the brahmasthana and the spaces and forms that move away from the centre are all manifestation of Shakti.
In simpler terms, the still land or bhoomi is Shivam where as the building that grows out of earth to create a form is the manifestation of movements of energy of Shakti.
- Panchabhoota – Elements of creation
The process of creation results in movement of energy through the elements of Panchabhoota viz, air, water, ether, fire and earth. Each element has its own characteristics and nature, hence and all the manifested objects also follow the same cosmic order of Panchabhoota. Apparently, every emanated objects will have a specific location, meaning and power as well.
In Vaastu, earth is centre, water is north-east, fire is south-east, ether or space is south-west and air in the north-west. Any construction as per Vaastu design initiates by restoring the land to natural state by defining panchabhoota there. Followed by seeking blessings, permissions and thanking the Lords for well being and mutual dependence.
Cosmology is an integral part of Indian tradition, each direction has a presiding Deva, a symbol and elements. By dividing the physical space into cosmological pattern, an abstract form is created that affect the physical form of the building. The direction to face, the energies that will enter and enrich the inner spaces, and the connection between the building and its environment are all part of the cosmology of the space.
As per Vaastu the following directions are associated with corresponding energies:
- Isaana (North – East) – Lord of Water, Direction of Nourishing energies
- Aditya (East) – Sun God, Direction of Life energy
- Agni (South – East) – Fire God, Direction of spiritual growth
- Yama (South) – Lord of Death, Direction of meaning of life and death
- Pitru (South – West) – Lord of Ancestors
- Varuna (West) – Lord of Water, Direction of Unknown
- Vayu (North – West) – Lord of Winds, Direction of Intellectual achievements
- Kubera (North) – Holder of Wealth and Medicine, Direction of Healing
- Brahma – Anchor of stillness, Nexus for the entire cosmic movement
The construction will blend in the natural environment if the designer and the occupant understand every aspect of each of the directions.
- Triguna – Characteristics of each Element
Vedanta principles treat each physical form as a composition of three characteristics or gunas known as Satvika, Rajasa and Tamasa. Rajasa is the vibrant, energetic and active element which translates to the speed and movement of the inner urge to achieve. Tamasa is the inertia, aggression and tenacity to hold back and gather together for action later. Satvika is the meditative and luminous quality that lightens up the pure intelligence of consciousness. The predominant gunas present in any object defines that object’s dominant character.
In Vaastu, each guna is characterised by a shape –
- Circle (elongated circle or ellipse) for Tamasa,
- Octagon( elongated octagon, pentagon or polygon) for Rajasa and
- Square (Rectangle) for Satvika
Residences and places for learning are ideally square of rectangle shaped as it contains energy that is most stable and in equilibrium. Polygon shaped structures contain higher energy than square and rectangle and hence suited for centres of highly active areas like offices. Circular or elliptical structures contain very high energy and is suitable for stadia, amphitheaters and entertainments.
- Dvaitam/Advaitam – Harmony
The two paths to achieve dissolution of Jivatman in Paramatman are mentioned in Bhagavad Gita as Dvaitam and Advaitam. Dvaitam is the philosophy that says that there is a ‘me’ as the body in the inner consciousness and ‘He’ as Lord in the outer consciousness. Devotion to Lord through prayers, chanting, meditation, music and dance along with complete surrender results in sublimation of ‘me in Him’.
Advaitam says that there is no me inside and He outside, but it is only one – both me and He are One. Meditate, Chant and worship by knowing that the individual consciousness is integrated to the Paramatman, leads the person to the sacred space of Divine Intelligence.
The influence of Dvaitam and Advaitam in architecture is vividly visible in religious buildings. The temple precincts and sanctum is essentially an environment for the individual to search for the divine either within self or outside the self, leading to salvation.
Even in a residence, workplace or an educational institution, the environment can guide an individual to larger collective through architectural mastery with Dvaitam and Advaitam principles. Dvaitam invocation is suitable for buildings with collective identity like workplace or prayer hall. And Advaitam invocation is relevant for buildings like educational institutions as individual excellence is significant.
- Purusha/Prakriti – Vaastu Purusha
What we see and feel on earth are the manifestation of energy on universe of reality or prapancha. This form of Shivam and Shakti on prapancha is called Purusha and Prakriti respectively. The Purusha or the visible world, which is cosmic energy itself, replicates cosmic order on earth. This is what we call Vaastu Purusha or the earth being.
Every human action, be it building a house, a school, or a playground is carried out on the sacred body of Vaastu Purusha. Vaastu Purusha is a cosmic being who has come to reside with us. Hence we bow to him in gratitude before the start of any endeavour by offering flowers, incense, mineral, metals and herbs accompanied by music and chanting.
All the energy from the cosmic space undergoes a series of transformation and manifests itself as the energy within the material space. Hence it becomes extremely important that the built in spaces of a building as created in accordance with the highs and lows of the earthly energy.
A deeper understanding of these philosophies can help the house owner to know the inner meaning of each procedure carried out by the Vaastu designer.