Memorization, Symbolization and Yoga
A novice practitioner of Yoga, especially Kundalini Yoga, often comes across
symbolism that he finds difficult to understand. When you don't know meaning of
something you either tend to label it as fake or merely as an arbitrary
symbol without any specific meaning. This symbolism found in abundance in the
field of Yoga and spirituality has a good intention. It is based on natural
principles of how we remember things.
Modern education system often expects us to mug up textual information. As a
students we all have done and experienced this during our school and college
days. Students learn subjects for the sake of examinations. Examinations require
you to write elaborate answers to questions. These answers are required in
textual format because text is the common platform that a student and his
teacher can understand. In the process, however, we forget one important thing -
Textual information is nowhere found in nature! This is an extremely important
point that one needs to understand. Throughout the nature everything is
graphics, images and / or sounds or audio. Mother nature doesn't know a concept
called text. Mountains, flowers, rivers, birds, animals everything is graphics
and expresses itself as image-video-audio. Textual data is man-made. As human civilization progressed, man
found it necessary to develop a common and standard platform through which ides
can be expressed and described. Any sort of graphics, images or sound is
basically a creative process and often lacks standardization for obvious
reasons. For example, I can express my thoughts to you on this website through
text but I cannot do so with images or video because "my" images may not be
understandable by "your brain" and to explain them I need some text anyways. Of
course, I can put that explanation as an audio rather than text but they may not
be always possible. To overcome this difficulty man devised textual data. Textual data is
also easy to store, publish and protect. But in all this process we forget an important
thing - Human brain is not specifically designed for storing and
processing textual data!
That means we are using our brain for a purpose which it has not designed for.
This is precisely the reason that many people find reading study books or long text
boring but everybody finds watching video or listening to audio an interesting
activity. That is why kids like picture books over textbooks. As
they grow people around them train them to remember text data. This is also the
reason why we remember faces easily than names. Knowing that our
brain stores and processes graphics better than text is the key to learn and
remember things in a better way. Modern
professionals (such as Software Developers) who require to learn new things
every now and then will find this technique extremely
helpful in their professional as well as personal
There are sophisticated techniques developed based on this fact such as Mind
maps. Of course, one can learn such techniques from some professional expert in
this field but even without going to any professional training program you
yourself can apply this fact in your life with little bit of observation and
Now, let's come back to the relation between symbolization, memorization
and Yoga. The understanding that human brain is more suitable for graphical information
than textual information is not new. Ancient Rishis and Yogis knew this
fact thousands of years ago. In fact the symbolism found in Yoga is based on this
very principle. Many concepts and ideas of Yoga are elaborative and at times
esoteric. A practitioner may not be able to remember all these concepts and
ideas in textual fashion and that too while performing his sadhana. Hence, they codified them as symbols and diagrams. The
six Chakras found on the spinal cord are very good examples of this
symbolization. To understand this with an example let's take Anahata Chakra
or heart center. The following figure shows the symbol and its
description for Anahata Chakra.
(Image source: Internet)
The Anahat Chakra is described thus - Anahata Chakra is a lotus with 12
petals, it is blue in color, syllables Kam to Tham reside on
its 12 petals, at the center there is a hexagon with Yam letter inside it,
Bana Linga is situated at the center of the lotus, animal for
Anahata Chakra is an antelope etc. etc.
Now this description is difficult to understand for ordinary minds. In fact
many books on Kundalini Yoga available in the market merely describe the Chakras
without explaining the real meaning of various aspects involved. Let's de-codify
Anahata chakra is located on the spinal cord opposite to heart region.
Kundalini Yoga is an integral part of Shaivism and theory of Nada (Spanda) or sound
or vibrations is
one of the important teachings of Shaivism. Now,
if you count the number of petals of all the chakras starting from Mooladhara to
Ajna it comes to 4 + 6 + 10 + 12 + 16 + 2 = 50. This is same as number of
primary letters in Sanskrit alphabet! Thus entire Sanskrit alphabet is
distributed across the spinal cord in six energy centers or Chakras. In Sanskrit, a letter is called as
Akshara which literally means indestructible. A letter is indestructible
because it is based on sound vibration. When you speak some letter, it is
simply manifesting via your vocal cord at that point of time but the root sound vibration was always
there. This is the secret of "Lotuses" and their "Petals". It will take a
separate article to explain the theory of Nada so I skip going into those details
here. Now, heart center is the primary center of Air element (Vayu). Hence
it is assigned blue color (there are some variation in different texts about the
color but the
point is to understand the symbolism). An antelope is known for its speed and
unsteadiness. Anahata is considered as the seat of mind and just like an antelope
mind can travel with tremendous speed and is unsteady due to thought waves.
Thus an antelope represents Mind. In Kundalini Yoga union of
Shiva and Shakti is considered very important. In Kundalini Yoga and Mantra
shastra, a downward pointing triangle represents a Yoni or Shakti or cosmic
feminine principle whereas a triangle pointing upwards represents Linga or Shiva
or cosmic male principle. Anahata is the center where this union begins in a
true spiritual sense and hence it has that two triangles intersecting each other
thus forming a hexagon. The central letter Yam is the bija or seed mantra of Air element.
The Bana Linga indicates Vishnu Granthi or knot of emotional
attachments that a practitioner needs to pierce through Yogic techniques.
Now, all the information mentioned above has been codified in a symbol as
shown in the figure. As we say "a picture is worth a thousand words" this symbol
of Anahata Chakra speaks so many concepts and ideas to a Yoga
practitioner that would have otherwise taken pages textual explanation.
To summarize, if you wish to remember things in a better way learn
to symbolize them. Instead of remembering text data try to remember its
graphical equivalent. At places remembering huge information in graphical form
may not be possible (a complete reference manual for example) but in such cases
remember graphical "pointers" to the information. If you regularly try this
technique you will find that it helps you a lot in memorizing things in
professional as well as personal life. Some points to note are as follows:
- Remember data in audio-video-graphic format rather than pure text
- When you take notes jot them down as symbols, figures, images instead of
- Be creative when you device your symbolism. Each one of us are different
and visual patterns of one person may not match with the other.
- Make symbols as vivid and attractive as possible. Brain remembers
- This is not a "once in a while" kind of technique. You need to practice
it regularly to master it.
- Do not expect tremendous benefits from day one. First pay attention to
mastering this art of symbolization. Benefits will follow automatically.
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