Yoga and Kabbalah

 The kabbalistic tree of life and the Ten Sefirot  

There are many similarities between the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah, and other Eastern philosophies.

In kabbalistic lore,there are ten Energy Centres (Sefirot), which correspond to parts of the earthly body. They are, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (glory), Netzach (victory), Hod (majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkut (sovereignty).

The ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of the spiritual world. Focussing on a particular centre is said to greatly enhance the physical, emotional, and spiritual life.

The ten Sefirot are usually represented as in the diagram above. This diagram is commonly known as the Tree of the Sefirot, or the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. There is great significance to the position of these various attributes and their interconnectedness. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe. Thus they are both a reflection of the individual’s spiritual life, and that of the whole of humanity.

Sages have spent millennia discussing these spiritual pathways, so I dare not presume a fuller explanation, after only two years of Kabbalistic study! This post is a very simplified comparison of the Energy Centres in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and the Chakras in Yoga Philosophy.

Energy Centres in Yoga 

Similarly to Jewish mysticism, Yoga is informed by the Hindu religion. The  energy centres in yoga are called chakras, and bear a remarkable resemblance to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. In ascending order, they are:

The Muladhara,  situated at the base of the spine, which governs your family ties and feelings of survival, belonging, and guardedness.

Svadhisthana, in the pelvic region,  corresponds with  the reproductive and sexual organs, and represents fluidity, creativity, and fertility.

Manipura in the solar plexus,governsself-esteem and confidence to take action and be productive.

Anahata, or the heart chakra, heals past wounds by reopening your heart, learning to love unconditionally, and forming healthy relationships.

Vishuddha,corresponds to the throat region. When this chakra is open and stimulated, the voice moves through space to help communicate emotions.

The crown chakra (Sahasrara), connects to beauty itself and the spiritual realm.  It is not located in the body but actually hovers above the crown of the head. When it’s closed, happiness seems  come from the outside. Working on this chakra helps you to feel free in any situation.

Meditating on the chakras is  said to be a powerful way to reach self-fulfilment.

There are countless more parallels between Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious and philosophical systems of belief. Do you know of others?

 

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Kabbalah and the Seventh Heaven

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Image courtesy wikipedia

I’ve had the privilege recently of attending a course on the ancient texts of the Kabbalah, presented by Rabbi Dr. Orna Triguboff. These mystical teachings have long been a fascination of mine, particularly after I discovered, while researching  my novel ‘Capriccio’, about  the poet Ted Hughes, that he drew  inspiration and poetic imagery from the texts of Kabbalah.

Our talks with Rabbi Orna range from discussions about angels, to the study of sleep and dreams, which to me was fascinating. We learned that the Kabbalists see sleep as one sixtieth part of death, in which the soul leaves the body to seek salvation, and returns purified on waking. Thus sleep is like a mini-death, in which we shed the dross of the day to be restored through our dreams. What struck me most forcefully was the sheer beauty and lyricism of the language, which even in its English translation has a musical and poetic quality. kabbalah_for_healing

In Rabbi Orna’s own words: The Kabbalah can be understood as the mystical side of Judaism, which began thousands of years ago. Some of the texts, parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, were lost and only rediscovered in the twentieth century. Jewish mysticism only really became known as Kabbalah in the Eleventh Century. People from other traditions and religions have been inspired by Kabbalah, and understand it in different ways. 

Each week we accolytes sit around a table sipping coffee laced with chocolate, nourishing body and brain with her jewels of wisdom. To take in the meaning of texts over 2000 years old in these little sips is a challenge, but one I welcome with eager anticipation.

I am proud that my own grandfather, who came from Sfad, the centre of Kabbalistic study in israel for many centuries, was a kabbalistic scholar, and left a legacy of writings in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

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Tapestry of Divine Letters. Artist David Friedman,    Selected artworks copyright © David Friedman.

The main text of the Kabbalah is called the Zo’har, which records the mystic’s ascent through the seven sacred halls to reach ‘the Holiest of Holies’ – the seventh and highest hall. This heirarchy of levels or spheres range from the earthly to thespiritual. The phrase ‘In Seventh Heaven’ comes directly from these teachings.

There are overtones of Hinduism and other Eastern Religions throughout these texts. There are also links to the chakras or energy centres in the Sanskrit teachings of yoga.

It is no wonder that the poet Ted Hughes found the study of Kabbalah so compelling, and incorporated so much of its mythology into his poetry, particularly the ‘Capriccio’ sequence. In these poems he addresses his lover  Assia, whose background was Russian-Jewish, as the divine feminine ‘Shekinah’ but also as the dark force, Lilith.

we have been given  by Rabbi Orna have influenced my own sleep patterns, mostly for the better. Before sleep I surrender my spirit to the Infinite, and on waking say a short prayer of gratitude (Modah Ani) for the return of my soul. I sleep deeply and peacefully, knowing my many flaws will be forgiven and healed, and wake with greater respect for the messages of my dreams.

TREE OF LIFE
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life, by Artist Richard Quinn

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