The very classes of the śikharins—requiring initiation—are preceded by three pre-classes, not requiring such an initiation. The adepts of these pre-classes are not called śikharins. The śikharin’s first class thus begins with the class of the newborn child, by which he or she is reborn for the Teaching.
Adepts get invited to pre-classes and classes by a teacher on the grounds of mutual trust. In the first pre-class such trust is rather at its beginning; however, it is expected to gradually grow. The teacher sets up the instructions according to the adepts’ capabilities for which he or she employs a multitude of methods, for example haṭha and body-movement techniques, meditations, mantra recitations, bhakti elements, etc.
The concept given here is deliberately not articulated too precisely, because it is the job of the teacher. The purport of this article is to outline the basic framework upon which pre-classes and classes are built by describing their boundaries, what can and what should not be taught in a particular pre-class or class.
(1) Pre-class of the fertilized egg
The egg, after being fertilized, travels in the oviduct on its way to the uterus. This takes about a week.
This pre-class can be characterized by the phrase ‘on the path.’ Here the student is ‘impregnated’ (fertilized) by a spiritual goal, and realizes that it is not an unachievable bookish generalization but a real one, to which there is a path. By taking the first steps, he or she decides to set out on the path. This, little by little, goes hand in hand with the notion that regular dedication is needed, otherwise there is no progress in spirituality. The student thus seeks to be anchored at the base of the Source (is guided on the way to be nested in the uterus).
The student discovers the importance of a moral code, in which he or she achieves improvements step-by-step. He or she is introduced to the inner space of the body by means of āsanas and guided relaxation techniques, or by alternative methods (e.g. by disciplines derived from martial arts).
As a result of deepening the ethical teachings of different traditions, the student begins to be interested in religious and spiritual literature. He or she learns how to sit firmly, how to breathe the right way, how to focus the mind and how to open up by singing mantras. In this pre-class the student attends the group at least once a week and even works on the idea of making a daily practice at home happen. The student realizes that meeting with similar-minded people and sharing the struggle of spiritual life together is a platform where he or she feels at home.
This pre-class is mostly characterized by emphasis on body movements, by which the student learns to understand his or her body including the inner space.
From the standpoint of the śikharin, the student here falls to the category of beginners.
(2) Pre-class of the embryo
The fertilized egg is nested in the lining of the uterus and connects itself to the mother via the placenta. Organs and limbs are in a germinal state, but are quickly developing. This process lasts about seven weeks.
The student here is firmly ‘nested’ in the Source. The Source can be imagined in many ways, but being a student in this particular pre-class, he or she follows its lead, in this respect. This is accompanied by a thorough insight that sādhanā is key for achieving spiritual maturation.
Gradually the student arrives at the conclusion that although body movement techniques are good for health and for having a pleasant feeling in the body, and also to feel it from inside, to some degree, they alone are not capable of bringing the seeker to the depth of spirituality. Without meditation there is no serious spiritual endeavor. But because to move towards meditation the student needs to advance in prāṇāyāma, this pre-class emphasizes learning the know-how of the flow of the breath through the entire body, which itself requires focused attention and initial visualization to be developed. The student is acquainted with a map of the microcosm, but is not introduced to maṇḍala sādhanā yet. A systematic effort on visualizations for beginners is pursued.
This pre-class convinces the student that earnest sādhanā is impossible without advanced techniques. Although these are only outlined here, the student should have a good insight into them and make a choice for further steps.
The student increasingly progresses in the field of ethical conduct and is more immersed in the study of spiritual traditions. A daily practice of mālā should already be a matter of course. Having a home altar and singing mantras—if the household allows it—is also obvious at this stage.
From the standpoint of the śikharin, the student here falls to the category of mature beginners.
(3) Pre-class of the fetus
Between the 8th and 12th weeks, organs and limbs including fingers acquire their final form, and gender is differentiated. On a reduced scale, everything that constitutes a human is already here. The fetal period ends with birth.
As the first pre-class was characterized by being conscious of the body mainly by its focused movements, and the second pre-class by directing the prāṇic flow, this third pre-class epitomizes all the previously learned techniques and focuses its aim at immersing into meditation, leading gradually to maṇḍala sādhanā. At this level the student learns all the basic techniques which constitute a solemn sādhanā: prāṇāyāma, attention, microcosm, maṇḍala, and visualization. Ideally this pre-class ‘gives birth’ to a śikharin; in other words, students here are step by step brought closer to the challenging practice of śikharins. If the kulācārya sees great potential in the student, he or she prepares such an aspirant for the conditions in the class of the newborn child.
An aspiring kulin in this pre-class is well acquainted with prāṇāyāma (8+8 mātrās) and other related techniques. Cakras (chakras) in the sense of the bhuvanas (but not the bhuvanas themselves) are learned for the purpose of building the esoteric inner space. This practice is, of course, accompanied by meditation, visualization, mantras, etc. The kulin needs to be able to maintain attention for a longer period of time and handle a sādhanā with a strict time-count (with a timer/metronome). With introduction to maṇḍala sādhanā, the kulin is introduced also to the fourfold division of the ritualistic space of practice itself, upon the embodied protection of which he or she enters into and departs from the maṇḍala.
In this pre-class it should be obvious that a kulin already knows how to sit for meditation, and that ethical and related principles are not topics about which he or she would ask questions such as ‘why, for what reason.’ The kulin here is supposed to have a very close tie to Indian traditions, therefore, it comes naturally that he or she studies Indian philosophy, at least to some degree, of which the sāṃkhya system and the śākta-śaiva schools are the most important. The kulin practices mālā two times daily, which should come from the heart and not from obligation (i.e. from the mind), being virtually incapable of starting the day or getting to sleep without it.
From the standpoint of the śikharin, the student here falls into the category of advanced beginners.
Now the very classes of the śikharins are discussed.
(1) Class of the newborn child
Here the kulin is already called a śikharin. The śikharin’s spiritual horizon is widened to an extent that he or she realizes why the previous pre-classes are but preparatory. The śikharin now has entered life as a newborn, whose being is expressed by daily sādhanā.
The śikharin is introduced to the navanava teaching. This is a ‘new’ (nava) teaching for the ‘new’-born comprising of two sets of ‘nines’ (in Sanskrit also nava, thus being a play on words). The first nine constitutes the nine bhuvanas and the second one the nine vimānas. Cakras (chakras) are abandoned—being too simplistic to describe the microcosm—and are replaced by bhuvanas.
In the beginning, the śikharin dedicates a lot of time in an effort to theoretically understand the bhuvanas, their meanings, correspondences, etc. Simultaneously, its practical application in a maṇḍala is also pursued in a strict meditation system of 108 (9×12) ādhāras. The ādhāras must be visualized in the right way and their mantras memorized. This maṇḍala sādhanā is a basic framework in our school, upon which many other concepts are built and described.
Later, if the śikharin’s practice is stable, the technique of the controlled deflection from the axis in the complex of inner and outer quadrants is learned.
By ‘scanning’ the microcosm in the realm of the maṇḍala, the śikharin finds all the karmas. Those which can be retrieved easily are subsequently dealt with, especially with the help of the so-called three-point system of solving karma promulgated by our school.
As a result of the knowledge of the bhuvanas, the śikharin is introduced to the theory of paribhāvas, which serve as a superordinate concept over the theory of karma. Karmas as such are taken to be part of paribhāvas. Understanding paribhāvas goes hand in hand with the practical and theoretical knowledge of the bhuvanas.
If, after a long period of ardent practice, the śikharin is ready to proceed further, he or she may be introduced to the nine vimānas. From the vimāna viewpoint, under each vimāna nine bhuvanas can be distinguished, leading to eighty-one such principles, which the śikharin must be able to concretize and work with. On this level the śikharin begins to understand the world, people, himself or herself, because it shows a clear structure into which anything—from within or from outside, abstract or concrete—can be incorporated.
In this class the śikharin is interested in biology, anatomy, embryology, evo-devo and similar scientific subjects. In higher classes a detailed knowledge in these fields will be prerequisite.
The śikharin here also tries to move on in kālajāla, to be able devote himself or herself for sādhanā for a whole day every week. To achieve such dedication, the śikharin must rethink his or her whole life, what is a priority and what is not.
(2) Class of the infant
Like breastfeeding babies, the śikharin in this class is mesmerized by the divine Source (breast), from which he or she ‘suckles’ Life itself. But the śikharin cannot do it on his or her own. To be fed by the Teaching, the caressing and supportive arms of the teacher are needed. The śikharin is incapable of recognizing mother, everything is still foggy, only basic spiritual instincts are present.
The śikharin is introduced to the practice of the bhuvāṅgakas, which connects the limbs to the head-trunk in a specific way. In the first stage, each limb (arm and foot) has nine correspondences with the bhuvanas. In the second stage, correspondences of the vimānas to the fingers are added. In the third stage, each finger is divided into subsequent ‘nines.’ This scheme is deeply analyzed in the microcosm with the help of different connections in the maṇḍala. On the basis of these connections, the number of ādhāras critically increases to many hundreds. For the śikharin, each ādhāra is absolutely exact, expressed by its unique mantra and location. The fourth stage merges into the world of the sahasas. In this class the ādhāras are not inhabited by divinities yet.
Besides visualization of the imaginative esoteric maṇḍala, building a maṇḍala of anatomical organs is promoted. In its first step, the anatomical organs need to be visualized in their precise places inside the body, i.e. not by projecting them somewhere in space in front of us. If this type of visualization is done properly, feedback from the inner receptors is apparent. Later the śikharin tries to visualize all the vertebrae and spinal segments, familiarizes himself or herself with the bones and to some extent also with the skull. In this class the biological maṇḍala is not interconnected with the esoteric space yet, therefore they need to be practiced separately.
(3) Class of the toddler
As a result of the previous class, here the śikharin already has mystically well-trained limbs, so he or she, like a toddler, can already toddle. The śikharin is on the big path of observations of the multidimensional space created by the maṇḍala, and of the world, the real world, which was closed to perception and thus inaccessible till now.
As a toddler the śikharin must still be guarded and directed by the parent (teacher), otherwise he or she can fall down, inflicting injury. The śikharin still doesn’t understand the world well and is thus incapable of seeing its esoteric pitfalls.
Further details have not been made public yet.