The Anatta Upanishad

Understanding the Three Phases of the Heart

and Penetrating the Five Sheaths of Illusion


Preface      I. Gautama's Gift      II. The Three Hearts

III.  The Kosha Epistemology of Self-Understanding


II. The Three Hearts


Ehvam: Thus I have heard.

''Human'' is rooted in ''hummus, rich soil'' (like adam, ''dust''). From this sensory, earthly point of view, spirituality is often emotionally imaged as a vertical path -- wherein your urge to go up and up (the tree of life) takes you to the fruit of God, absolute happiness, the wonderful heart-truth. Great intelligence has been applied in the efforts to discern such a procession or spectrum of existence. Seven chakras, kundalini, God in heaven, and all such symbols and concepts, call us to grow beyond our limitations. However, the procession of humankind doesn't go merely up and up (as the ''snake'' would have you believe), but rather integrates more and more, adding greater and greater dimensions to the heart. So in addition to vertical descriptions of spectral subtlety, we also find (in sources ranging from ancient Vedic texts to Ramana Maharshi and Adi Da) the horizontal Way of the soul's undoing in the causal.

Simpler and more integrated than the paths of spectral ascension is the penetrating understanding of the source-cause of the self itself. Such intuitive understanding of our primal self-creation is not just a philosophical insight; it is by  understanding that we cease disturbing love's flow. Then allowing love's flow more and more, we become over time transformed, balanced, and thereby sublimed, at last free to attend to the root of attention itself -- to the very source of the soul's identity, where the radiance of reality Witnesses even the self and its objects of attention.

Unlike yogic highs, the horizontal description of the Way remains rapturously attentive to the essence of the heart. Thus it is said that the soul or self develops and dissolves across three hearts --left, middle, and right. These three stations of the heart correspond to the gross, subtle, and causal dimensions, respectively. Likewise, there are correspondences to the states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping, but in every case the heart is the core consideration.

The Left Heart

The left heart implies or includes the physical heart, the home of the gross body and pranic or etheric energies surrounding and pervading the physical. Here we inherit the rich earth and animal urges, limbic resonances and fascinations, pranic and erotic swells, sentimental dreams and romantic promises, conventional psychologies and consoling therapies, enthusiastic religions, and conventional, immature spirituality. In other words, the left heart is as big as nature, and unfortunately, holds all of nature's capacity for delusion (even as it unconsciously grows the very Heart Itself).

When we see sexual potential and feel the dreamy heat of the evolutionary urge, we growl out our animal ''love'' for our prey. A ''kill'' often follows, and our heart is found to be sinister (Latin, ''left''). When we ''fall in love'' and romance seems to promise fulfillment, that's the left heart. A broken heart always follows. When we take entertainment to be experience and stimulation to be the ideal, that's the left heart temporarily reflecting the dazzle of eternal reality itself. Therein we find the common mass. When we are consumed in energies, sensitivities, and soaring emotion, that's the left heart yearning for the Heart of hearts. The ''New Age'' enthusiast follows. When we are the soft new age guy and the really feeling feminist, and think we are on to something and that we are basically enlightened now in the heart ... yes, but we are mainly in the left part. When we are newly struck with the superficiality of the physical and common world and Sisyphian desire, we find the promise of charismatic religions and fascinating spirituality --that's the idealistic left heart intuiting the real Heart. Believers, seekers, and the disenchanted follow. When we're really ''getting somewhere'' in therapy, often that's the left heart and social mind sensing the middle and growing into it. Existentialism often follows, or a lifetime of working on ''it'' (and a few come to love's core). When anything other than eternal Life is ''one's life'', that's the left side again. Therein we find the ten thousand dreamy lives.

The left heart is deluding, and remains so until the limits and immaturity of the left side are clearly seen. Until then, the left heart (and social mind) confuses romance with love, the precious with the sacred, the naive with the native, emotionalism with real feeling, righteousness with morality, and sentiment and sentence with sentience.

The power which drives the left-sided delusion, however, is its intimacy with or reflection of the Heart of hearts. Because of the left heart's closeness with the very Heart, much of the left-leaning sentiments are blessed. But because the left is weak and incomplete, sinister impulses and actions, as well as all merely egoic affections need to be understood in order that we may grow beyond them.

The Middle Heart

Ehvam: Thus I have heard.

The middle heart says ''I love you'' without sentimentality, without needing a response or feeling the sense of promise. Coming to the middle heart from the left, we intersect the vertical (chakric) description of spiritual development; for the middle heart is the same as anahatta, the fourth chakra -- real human maturity and integral existence.

The middle heart is sacrificial rather than fulfilling, and here we find saints and servants of full force, such as Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, Ramakrishna. We also notice hundreds of other greats --as well as countless ordinary humans and artists touching and breathing the central heart in the beginnings of real love.

The middle heart integrates the ''lower'' spectrum of the left heart by progressive responsibility, consistent self-forgiveness, and wise compassion. This active, adult loving provides the foundation for raptures above the heart and adorations of love-bliss in the heart. In the middle of the chest, this central heart is the cup that overflows into the world of relations. The middle heart is the beginning of the sacred sphere of divine love.

In the same spirit as the early Christian discernment between the fascinated highs of eros and the deep transformations of agape, to distinguish between the ''hearts'' is to gain a depth of self-understanding and grow beyond self-limitations into Real God, Real Happiness, Real Truth, True Love.

The Middle Heart is analogous to the Holy Spirit, beside the Father and Son on the right. The Middle Heart is the precinct of the Blessed, the epiphany and adytum where the Presence of the Divine Person on the right forever baptizes devotees coming from the left.

The middle heart is the heart of Orpheus, before he loses Eurydice. We recall how on the voyage of the Argo, even the sinister Siren voices fell silent to hear his joyful music. But the middle heart is still in duality -- as the beloved of the middle heart still has a sense of otherness -- like Orpheus and Eurydice, or I and Thou. This duality is the schism wherein Eurydice fell back into death, thus revealing the binding tension of the Orphic middle heart. And the theological duality is unmasked when we understand the religious revulsion of the body and its animal nature.

Orpheus's lesson is the lesson of the middle heart. To grow beyond the limits of human love, social idealism, object dependency, and religious deification is the fruit and fullness of understanding the Orphic error and the middle heart's lesson of duality.

One may grow from the middle heart in ascending raptures, set the throat free in blissful ravings, point to the bliss above, and yogically go there. This fulfills the evolutionary urge of eons and deeply grounds our spiritual maturity. Here we find hundreds of great yogis, mystics, and realizers such as Muktananda, Nityananda, Ramakrisna, and Yogananda demonstrating great heart-power and the wonder of the whole spectrum.  Here we mystically see and rightly understand the Tankas of Tibet, Mandalas East and West, tribal celebrations, the Mysteries of Hellas, the sacraments of Christ, the secret of the Golden Flower, the Peyote of the Mayans, the Paradiso of Dante, and the concertos of Mozart.

Upon, after, or beside this acme, one may be sagely instructed on the limits of human love and the fearful error of the mystical, away-from-the-body ascent, and move intuitively to the heart on the right by grace.

The Heart on the Right

Ehvam: Thus I have heard.

The heart on the right is an esoteric secret, revealed by those who have exceeded animal lows, humanistic logic, and the yogic highs. Two finger-widths to the right of center, the heart on the right is called the seat of the soul, the source of identity, and the intuitive place we point to when we say ''I''.

Ramana: “When asked who you are, you place your hand on the right side of the breast and say ‚ ‘I am.’ I have been saying all along that the Heart centre was on the right, notwithstanding the refutation by some learned men that physiology taught them otherwise.

The Heart is used in the Vedas and the scriptures to denote the place when the notion "I" springs. Does it spring only from the fleshy ball? It springs within us somewhere right in the middle of our being. Truly, ‚'I' has no location, Everything is the Self. There is nothing but That. So the Heart must be said to be the entire body of ourselves and of the entire universe, conceived as ‚'I'. But to help the practiser, we have to indicate a definite part of the Universe, or of the Body. So this Heart is point as the seat of the Self. But in truth, we are everywhere, we are all that is, and there is nothing else.” -- Ramana Maharshi

You may cut off your finger and still be the person you presume yourself to be. You could lose a number of body parts and still be you. You could even stop breathing and not lose identity. It is the heartbeat which grounds identity in the pulsing body. Souls are on this side of the heartbeat, this samsaric shore. But when the heart stops beating, the anchor of attention is uprooted, and you resolve more into the native awareness of all-pervading consciousness. (Obviously, if the heart is made to beat again, attention again regathers. And it is this diffusion of attention that is behind the stories of near-death experiences, inward tunnels, and mystic ascent.)

Interestingly, science has shown that the heart, taken still beating out of an animal (including human animals), will beat on its own --and, given sufficient nutrients, beat for a very long time. Furthermore, if the heart itself is cut up into a thousand pieces, each piece will continue to beat --on its own --and, given sufficient space, each to its own drummer. But if two differently beating pieces are brought close, one will give up its ''own'' beat and keep rhythm with the other. And if many pieces are drawn together, they will all synchronize to a single piece. In fact there is a tiny area in the heart, the sinoatrial node, which is the pacemaker for the whole heart.

The pacemaker does not answer only to the mechanics of the body for its beat --even though the mechanics of the body-mind affect the rhythm --but intercourses with the all-pervading life directly. The body's other muscles respond mostly to the nervous, endocrine, and other systems, but the heart --and most especially the origin of the heartbeat -- is deeply attuned to the vibrant, all-pervading, eternal Life. The pacemaker is the epiphany or intersection of divine life and mortality; this may be both observed and felt to be true.

The self, once defined by lonely identity, submits to relationship as the way ''back'' to perfect communion. All paths for psyches to take depend upon identity and attention, and this self-definition soulfully throbs to the source of the heartbeat.

This root tension is the stroke of identity, and the pulse of attention seeking release. Desire and the objects of desire are unmasked as the very action of tensing and the (resultant) sense of promise. Thus it was that Gautama Buddha recommended the understanding of desire.

Because the heart lies tilted to the right in the chest, this pacemaker is about two finger-widths right of center. In the upper right chamber of the right atrium of the heart, the heartbeat begins the primal contraction at the core of the being, the heart's source and attention's essence. Upon this tiny spot the painful source of identity intersects with the spout of inherent happiness. When this tensing is witnessed, tension finally rests, attention resolves into awareness, and identity and separate I dissolves and resolves into heart consciousness itself, Sat-Chit-Ananda.

This esoteric ''cave in the heart'' can be seen in yogic light, revealing the blissful nature of deepest soul.

Jivatman [jiva-atman], the individual soul, abides in the Bliss Sheath situated in the space of the heart, within the reservoir of blood . . .  It can be seen by divine vision that this human body, which is like a castle, contains the heart, of the size of a pear, or like the lotus bud drooping downwards. Inside this heart is a hollow of the size of a small seedless grape. Inside this hollow is the Bliss Sheath, luminous like a golden egg, an aggregate of six luminous orbs. It is very pleasant to see and appears like an oval mass of light.  --Swami Yogeshwaranand Saraswati, Science of Soul

And from the Srimad Bhagavatan (see also Mahanarayana Upanishad):

In the heart, the perfect seat of meditation, there burns a fire which is the great support and foundation of the universe.

In the core of the heart, there is a tiny orifice in which all are firmly supported.

In the middle of that core, there is a great fire with innumerable flames blazing on all sides...

At the source of those flames, there is tongue of fire which is extremely small. That tongue of fire is dazzling as a streak of lightning in the midst of a dark cloud, and as thin as the awn of the tip of a grain of rice, golden bright and extremely minute.

In the middle of that tongue of flame, the Supreme Self abides firmly.

He is God, He is the immortal, the Supreme Lord of all.

Gautama's night under the bodhi tree is marked by Siddhartha's visitation of all his previous incarnations, so it is reported, and then to the formless, unborn Condition in which everything arises. Such is a perfect description of the travel across the hearts, whereby the soul understands itself as contracting -- then desiring to be free, and the hearts and every feeling resolve into the Heart of hearts. Attention and its objects are unmasked and unclothed, and awareness is naked.

When all previous lives and energies do not sway attention from dissolving in its source, the Witness-Consciousness abides in bliss of the tamed soul. Where even the highest rapture point of yogic attainment does not hold or justify attention, all objects lose importance, and the subjective, inherent feeling of being can be found in the heart on the right. Abiding thus, the unborn radiance of the Heart is everywhere, and the Buddha opens his eyes into the Brightness of Nirvana.

Attention is felt as the root of egoity, and as the causal stress that pounds identity. The root of mind, therefore, scratches this itch, as it seeks the heart it leaves. The source of the heartbeat is the root of identity, the seat of the soul, and the root of mind. (''Think'' and ''thanks'' intersect in thanc, Middle English for ''a grateful heart'',  according to Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?).       

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left. --Ecclesiastes 10:2

The middle heart's mystic raptures revealed the yogic way to the Source above the world and spectrum of existence. But what is the way to this deeper right heart?

The way of the sage is not the way of the mystic or yogi, but of clear discrimination, Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle, the lighting bolt of insight, jnana, higher-knowing, viveka, gnosis, the way of awareness itself.

Traditionally, the sage cuts through all that is not the Real -- Neti, neti (not this, not this), as she or he dismisses partial solutions and strategies of attention as unsatisfying. This ''neti, neti'' can be heard in Adi Da,

Be the ''Witness'' Only, Not separate, Not related, Not needing, Not Seeking, Not following after, Not gaining, Not stressful, Not angry, Not reacting, Not emoting, Not Full of pain, Not desiring, Not Fulfilling, Not avoiding, Not escaping, Not attached, Not losing, Not sorrowful, Not lost, Not Wondering, Not thinking, Not knowing, Not Full of mind, Not perceiving, Not experiencing, Not Right, Not bewildered, Not Complaining, Not Wrong, Not fearing, Not changing, Not Afflicted, Not empty, Not Satisfied, Not Deluded, Not ''attentive'', Not Moved, Not Discovering, Not ''I'', Not embodied, Not Released, Not Even Understanding, but Only (or ''Merely'') Being the One Who Is the ''Witness''. -- The Love-Ananda Gita, 1986

And Ramana Maharshi likewise speaks clearly,

Manana (or ''thinking deeply about the Self-Truth'') is to constantly return attention to the ''Witness-Consciousness'', indifferent to objects or conditions of the body-mind.

You know that you are. Where are you? You are in the body and not out of it. Yet not the whole body. Though you pervade the whole body still you admit of a centre where from all your thoughts start and wherein they subside.  Even when the limbs are amputated you are there, but with defective senses. So a centre must be admitted. That is call the Heart (Hridaya).

The Heart of the Upanishads is construed as Hridayam, meaning: This is the centre. That is, it is where the mind rises and subsides. That is the seat of Realisation.

The Heart is used in the Vedas and the scriptures to denote the place whence the notion  'I' springs. Does it spring only from the fleshy ball? It springs within us somewhere right in core of our being. The 'I' has no location. Everything is the Self. here is nothing but that. So the Heart must be said to be the entire body of ourselves and of the entire universe, conceived as 'I'. To help the practitioner we have to indicate a definite part of the Universe, or of the Body. So this Heart is pointed out as the seat of the Self.  -- Talks with Ramana, 1957

Here in the heart's source are no objects, but the very ground of inherent happiness, inherent being, the feeling of being, true happiness without cause or object. In spiritual maturity, no matter what arises in body or mind, attention stays in the heart of inherent being, persisting in yielding to Happiness Itself. Attention is returned again and again to the smaller-than-small inherent light of mere being, and this practice stabilizes with spiritual growth. Spiritual maturity is the point of the moral, balancing life, so that one may meditate deeply on the inherent source of Real Happiness. To rest attention in inherent being is the anattic passage to nirvana. In the words of Buddha Adi Da's The Hymn of the Master (1982),

When there is meditation in the infinitesimal locus of the right side of the heart, the feeling of being is magnified as Transcendental Consciousness.

Ehvam: Thus I have heard.

The Amrita Nadi, the Current of Immortal Sweetness, sprouts from the heart on the right and rises in rested rapture into infinity. The heart on the right is the passage from the finite I to the infinity of the Heart Incarnate. To pass through the heart's source is to bow in the Heart itself, which holds the left, middle, and right and all and All.