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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces: Two Harmonious Directions in Life

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    From: http://www.swamij.com/centripetal-centrifugal.htm (There are useful graphics here that cannot be put in the Yahoo newsletter format.) CENTRIPETAL AND
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2006
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      Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

      There is a principle in physics that is also applicable to human
      beings, and which is extremely useful to understand and put into
      practical use. That is, there are two forces at play; one is moving
      outward, while the other is moving inward. To have only one, without
      the other, can lead to being out of balance, to either being lost in
      the world or to living a life of escapism. To fully experience them
      both, and to have them in a harmonious balance is a very high way of


      There are two forces at play with a satellite in orbit or a rock
      swung in a circle on the end of a string. One force would have the
      satellite or rock continue its journey away from the center; this is
      the centrifugal force. The other force pulls the object inward
      through gravity or the strength of the string; this is the
      centripetal force. To have the two forces in balance is what allows
      the satellite to stay in its orbit and the rock in its circuitous arc.


      There are also two forces at play with human beings. One force is
      that of consciousness ever moving outward, manifesting through
      intellect, ego, mind, senses, and actions. The other force is that
      inner draw or pull for all of these to recede, so that the
      consciousness might rest in its own true nature, which is called Self-
      Realization. To have the highest inner Realization while engaging in
      the world is the highest goal.


      In spiritual life and the path of enlightenment, it is not that there
      is a discrete "I" as a collection of mental and emotional traits who
      travels from here to there, from this realm to that realm, and on to
      the next realm. Rather, our consciousness, soul, spirit, or whatever
      else you want to call it manifests outward through individuation,
      intellect, ego, mind, and sensory-motor instruments so that we may
      engage the external world. Then, on the return journey, all of these
      recede back into one another. The sensory-motor instruments, mind,
      ego and intellect all recede back into that from which they
      originally emerged.

      In this way latent impressions manifest as dreams or unconscious
      mental process, and then spring forth into actions in the world.
      After the actions or the dreams have played out, those images all
      recede back into the latent bed of the unconscious mind from which
      they had emerged. So too, when we turn inward from the actions of the
      world, withdraw the senses, allow the mind to recede into rest, it is
      a process of receding rather than a process of a discrete "I" taking
      a journey.

      In both the processes of being and acting in the world and the
      processes of dreaming, there are two underlying processes. One is the
      expansion or manifesting outward, and the other is that of receding.
      Ornaments manifest out of gold, though the gold does not travel
      anywhere. Pots manifests out of clay, though the clay does not travel
      anywhere. Ornaments may recede back into being only a piece of gold,
      though the gold did not travel anywhere. Pots may recede back into
      being only a lump of clay, though the clay did not travel anywhere.
      So too, we manifest outward through individuation, intellect, ego,
      mind, and sensory-motor instruments, though the deepest being who we
      are does not travel anywhere. So too, the sensory-motor instruments,
      mind, ego, intellect, and individuation recede back into our true
      essence, though that essence did not travel anywhere.

      Outward and inward, manifesting and receding; those are the two
      directions, like the centrifugal and centripetal forces, while never
      is there any traveling of the innermost essence.


      These two forces (centripetal and centrifugal) are contained in
      virtually all of the conceptual systems of meditation and
      contemplation, including the three streams of Yoga, Vedanta and
      Tantra (see the article on the Three Streams).

      SANKHYA-YOGA: In Sankhya, which is the foundation for Yoga, there is
      Purusha, consciousness, along with the many manifestations of
      Prakriti, the subltest "matter." (See Sankhya)

      VEDANTA: In Vedanta, there is the Atman, the individual Self and
      Brahman, the absolute reality, along with the appearances of sheaths
      manifesting out of Maya, the illusion or unreality. (See Sheaths)

      TANTRA: In Tantra, there is Shiva, the latent, formless masculine
      essence, along with Shakti, the beautiful, creative feminine force
      that plays its way into manifestation. (See Shiva-Shakti)

      While each of these three have their own perspective, the seeker of
      Self-Realization will see how they work together, or play together,
      and that in all of them, there are two forces in action; one is
      outer, centripetal, and the other is inner, centrifugal. This is one
      of the ways in which the three streams of Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra
      are companions on the journey to Self-Realization.


      There is somewhat subtle point about rocks on a string and the
      journey of humans. Once this point is understood, it is extremely
      practical in daily life and the seeking of Self-Realization.

      First, the physics part. If you are swinging a rock on a string and
      the string breaks, the rock flies away. Most of us would say that
      this flying away is caused by the centrifugal force, the outward
      pull. However, the Newtonian physicists explain that it is not the
      outward pull that does this, but instead, it is the cessation or
      removal of the centripetal force, the release of the inner pull that
      allows the rock to fly outward. They explain this in the context of
      Newton's laws of motion. If you are curious about the details of this
      process, internet searches of centripetal and centrifugal forces will
      lead you to further explanations.

      Second, the life part. It seems that the vast majority of people turn
      to meditation and contemplation, the journey of Self-Realization, out
      of a sense of having lived in the external world and finding it
      lacking something. Often, people run into painful experiences, which
      drive them to seek within, turning away from the world. It can seem
      that it is the world and the other people who are causing the
      suffering, just as it can seem that it is the centrifugal force that
      causes the rock to fly away. That's not really a complete explanation
      of what leads to the suffering. What is more true is that the
      cessation or removal of our connection to the inner source, who we
      really are, is the bigger problem, as in the case of the string and
      the rock.

      Often, people get the impression that living a life of meditation and
      contemplation means not enjoying life in the external world, as if
      everybody is supposed to give up all their belongings and
      relationships and go live in a cave. It can seem as if texts and
      teachers are all saying this, that they should not have fun in life,
      that they should become boring people. However, it is not the world
      and its attractions that is the problem. Rather, like the rock and
      the string, the cause of the suffering was forgetting to maintain a
      constant awareness of the center of consciousness, cutting ourselves
      off from the Atman, the Self. When that awareness is cut off, like
      the removal cessation or removal of the centripetal force with the
      rock and the string, we can easily suffer as we naturally fly off
      into the allurements of worldly life.

      The solution is simple; maintain a constant awareness of seeking the
      highest Reality, the highest Truth, the direct experience of the
      Absolute, the center of consciousness, the Self or Atman. Here, we
      are not talking about whether you have or have not yet actually
      realized that Self. Rather, we are talking about the fact that the
      gently constant awareness of seeking it acts like the string in
      relation to the rock. That constant awareness keeps life in the
      external world in balance. It brings equanimity, peace of mind, or
      contentment, which is called santosha in Sanskrit. This santosha is
      part of rung two, the niyamas, of the eight rungs of Yoga, as
      described in the Yoga Sutras (Yoga Sutras 2.26-2.29, 2.30-2.34, 2.35-
      2.45). To keep a sense of contentment, don't remove the string, the
      connection with the innermost center of consciousness. Keep a gentle,
      yet steady awareness of that innermost source. That awareness is the
      centripetal force that keeps the centrifugal force of worldly life in

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