By Anastacia Mott Austin
The practice of bhuta shuddhi is an advanced technique of meditation in which the five bhutas, or elements are purified (shuddhi stands for purification). The five elements correspond to the five lower chakras, or energy centers of the body.
According to the ancient text the Bhuta Shuddhi Tantra, the body is a shrine, and the practice of bhuta shuddhi will purify and prepare the body and mind for further meditative practice. Bhuta shuddhi is also a fundamental facet of tantra and kundalini yoga.
While there are seven recognized chakras, the bhuta shuddhi is practiced on five of them. Many people like to perform their practice and include the sixth and seventh higher chakras, but this is not considered necessary.
The practice of bhuta shuddhi works by focusing energy on each chakra, and by utilizing bija (seed) mantras, which are said to be the core sounds of the chakras.
Some experts feel that this meditation is too difficult for beginners and do not recommend trying to incorporate all the aspects until one has become more advanced in one's practice. They recommend that someone undertaking the bhuta shuddhi should at least have a familiarity with the philosophy of yoga, tantra in particular, and kundalini. Experience meditating is also recommended.
If one does have the experience to do so, the bhuta shuddhi can be a deeply cleansing and purifying practice. Below is a beginner's guide to a simple bhuta shuddhi:
After a preparatory relaxation has been done, one is ready to proceed with the chakra meditation:
The first chakra area represents earth element. Focus your energy on the perineum, the area between genitals and anus. The mantra "Iam" (pronounced like "Tom") should resonate into your mind. Repeat the mantra in whatever way you wish, slowly or quickly, silently or aloud. Some advise that the bijas be repeated "no less than sixteen times each." The body's physical and mental energy should ground into that space. You can think of the earth if you wish, and its qualities. Colors may come to mind. Those more familiar with bhuta shuddhi can utilize the karmendriya and jnanendriya aspects. At this level, the karmendriya aspect is elimination, and the jnanendriya is the sense of smell.
The karmendriyas correspond with the functions of the bhuta (such as elimination or procreation), and the jnanendriyas have to do with the five senses. Each of these can also be focused on or visualized during the meditation, but to some that might feel like too many thoughts, so saving these aspects until one is comfortable with the meditation is a good idea. Some experts do not recommend trying to incorporate all the aspects until one has become more advanced in one's practice.
The second chakra area resonates with water energy. Bring attention to an area approximately halfway between the first chakra and the navel. The mantra for this chakra/bhuta is "vam" (also pronounced like "Tom"). Allow it to manifest into your consciousness gradually. Manifest and visualize the energy of water.
The third bhuta corresponds to the area at the navel and represents fire. The mantra for this bhuta is "ram," and should manifest itself as is comfortable. Imagine and feel the energy of fire. The karmendriya is motion, the jnanendriya the sense of vision or seeing.
Move up to the fourth chakra, the heart center. It is located at the center of the sternum, where you feel your heart to be. The elemental energy for this bhuta is air. Imagine a strong air energy centered here. The mantra is "yam." The karmendriya is holding, or grasping, and the jnanendriya is the sense of touch.
The fifth chakra is at the throat. Move your focus up to this area. The element for this bhuta is space, and it is the place in which all the four other elements (earth, water, fire, and air) can come together and be expressed. Imagine an empty space, as the mantra "ham" resonates in your consciousness. The karmendriya is of speaking, the jnanendriya here is the sense of hearing.
If you wish to continue with chakra meditation after these five, move the energy next to the third eye chakra, or the area on the forehead between the eyebrows. All elements come together here, and all the karmendriyas and jnanendriyas as well. The sound of "Aum" is used here, and imagine that everything is joined and unified in this space.
The seventh, and final chakra, is focused on the crown chakra, at the top of the head. It is here that we are beyond sense, thought, and elements. Pure consciousness rests here. The mantra to focus on is silence, in which all sound, sense, and function originate.
After the seventh chakra, you will slowly reverse the process of the meditation, moving down from the crown to the third eye, then to the throat, and so on. It will be a briefer, though not rushed, return to each bhuta, in order to complete the process.
It is recommended that after the bhuta shuddhi, one may move on to another technique of meditation, as the mind and body will be tranquil, open, and prepared for additional practice.