What Is Hridaya, the Spiritual Heart?

Our Essential and Ultimate Nature

The Ineffable Dimension of Our Being

Hridaya, the Spiritual Heart, is our essential and ultimate nature. It is the ineffable dimension of our being. It is another name for atman (the Supreme Self). The Spiritual Heart is the Supreme Consciousness, the ultimate Subject, the pure “I.” It is the Witness Consciousness, that intimate observer of all our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the entire Universe in both its inner and outer dimensions.

The Spiritual Heart is not just a spark of God—the Spiritual Heart is God.

Perceiving the Heart

The Heart can be felt when attention is directed to the chest area. The very fine and discreet vibration that is awakened there, in the absence of any thought, in the quietness of the mind, is the beginning of the Sacred Tremor, spanda, the most direct experience of the Spiritual Heart. When we relax, take our time, and close our eyes we allow this vibration to arise….

This subtle calling of Infinity that radiates from the chest area is the most expressive and intimate representation of the Heart. Contained within it is the communicative warmth of Truth. Without it, all teachings would only be more “food for the mind” or lifeless information. The real essence of the Spiritual Heart lies exactly in this tremor, this very intimate vibration.

In the simplicity of this vibration lies the freshness of revelation—a revelation that comes from “inside” even when the information seems to come from “outside.” This vibration, this Sacred Tremor of the Heart, is the “spirit” of this kind of information.

Revealing the Spiritual Heart

From a practical point of view, an increasingly subtle understanding of the real significance of the Spiritual Heart will be revealed through meditation.

This process usually follows a few stages:

  1. At the beginning of spiritual practice, the Heart is an object of meditation (the Heart Center), a place in the chest area where the attention is focused.
  2. Then, it is revealed as being not just an inert point of attention, but a living reality, a sui generis inner organ of knowledge about our soul. Thus, when meditation goes deeper, we start feeling longing or love or pain or nostalgia or joy. In different spiritual traditions, this sensitivity of the Heart is known by different symbolic names, including “the Eye of the Heart,” “the mirror of the Heart,” and “the Fire of the Heart.”
  3. Eventually, the ultimate reality of the Heart is revealed as the very source of our awareness and of the meditation itself. It is revealed as our most intimate “I.”

Therefore, during this inner journey, the Heart successively becomes the object of knowledge, the instrument of knowledge, and, ultimately, the source of attention (the knower). This kind of meditation is a process that starts in the Heart and returns to the Heart. In a paradoxical way, the solitude and intimacy of the Heart reveal the essential Unity and Oneness of all existence. The Heart exudes a sense of Truth, a sense of Pure Existence. By using the heart as a symbol of sacredness, many religions have indeed expressed this very idea.

Usually, the Heart is considered the seat of feelings and psychological activity. But, this is just a relative and individual dimension of the Heart. The world of individual emotions (the human soul) is to be overcome through detachment in order to attain the revelation of the true universal significance of the Heart. So, atman has no physical or mental dimensions as such and expresses itself essentially as a subtle tremor endowed with transfigurative qualities.

The Relationship between the Mind and the Heart

The relationship between the mind and the Heart is beautifully expressed by Theodore Darrel, “If we can speak of an essential move, then it is that which helped to transform man into a vertical spiritual being, with a voluntary stability. A being whose zeal for ideals, whose prayers, whose uplifting and pure feelings rise up to the sky like frankincense. From this being, the Supreme Being, made a temple within a Temple, a microcosm within the Macrocosm. And for this, He, endowed men with a heart, in other words with a powerful point of support. He endowed men with a center of movement that can keep man close to his origins, resembling so with his first Cause, God. In the same time, it is true, man was endowed with a brain; but this brain is an element common to the whole animal kingdom and belongs to the category of secondary movement. The brain is an instrument of closed worldly thinking and a transformer for the use of the world and for man.

It is only the heart, through its secret exhalation and inhalation, that while remaining united with God, allows man to be alive thinking. And so, thanks to this regal pulsation, man is able to maintain his divinity and act under the dominion of the Divine Creator, obeying His Laws, happy in a bliss that only he can rob himself of, when straying from the mysterious path that leads from his heart to the Universal Heart, the Divine Heart…

Fallen to the animal level, even if he thinks himself right to call it superior, man can now only use his brain and its annexes. Thus, he feeds from cerebral thinking, directed towards the world, but he is unable to use that thinking which is alive, divine…

He only needs to want, and his attention focused on the heart can reestablish in him, balance and help him find happiness once more… At the end of his power, he instinctively folds in over himself; having recognized his own futility, he takes refuge yet again in the heart, and timidly tries to climb down into her silent crypt. It is there that all the vain noise of the world is quieted… The world and man are one. And the Heart of man and the Heart of the World are a single heart.”

Hridaya Yoga and the Spiritual Heart

Hridaya Yoga and the Hridaya Silent Meditation Retreat start from the premise that traditional ideas about the Spiritual Heart can and should be applied in very concrete and practical ways. The Heart, seen as an organ of direct knowledge, can and should be constantly trained in order to increase its purity and capacity to Love, witness, and surrender… In this way, the borders of individuality fade away and, through the recognition of its fundamental attribute as a gateway to Infinity, the Supreme Self is revealed.

“The only beauty that lasts is the beauty of the Heart.”

-Rumi