From the elephant’s autumn 05 issue
Conjure up a beautiful old house from India or the Middle East. The image that arises is of a home surrounding a wonderful inner courtyard. A feeling of expansion pervades the entire dwelling.
In such homes, there is a deliberate intent to create beauty and openness in the center of the space. When empty space is enclosed by walls, and thus given form, a thread of awareness manifests, and the space becomes imbued with the same quality of life that enlivens a living being. The recognition of the importance of energy in spaces is called Vaastu Shastra in India.
The science and art of Vaastu is said to have originated on an island that existed long ago, just south of the southernmost tip of India. On this island lived a great scientist, poet, architect, and linguist called Mayan, how first recorded the principles of Vaastu. Mayan understood that consciousness permeates all of life, and he recognized that, from this silent presence, that what is naturally good in all of us—Divine—expresses its power and its beauty. Thus the creation of a beautiful and balanced space attunes the inhabitant’s life to the Divine. When properly integrated, Vaastu Shastra creates a sense of harmony that brings health, joy and success to those living in the space.
Vaastu is considered to be a precise science that translates the Divine into material form—governing the construction of buildings and honoring the energies present within them. While Vaastu Shastra is immensely complex and should be considered from the earliest stages of planning a house, what is most important is to cultivate a harmonious relationship with our homes.
Begin with the understanding that our homes have an inherent quality that we effect, and that has a profound effect on us. To create a space that reflects our deepest intentions and expresses harmony, balance and vitality, we must view our homes as a sort of living presence in our lives. We can create a healthy relationship with our homes by keeping it as clean and orderly as we can—and by expressing gratitude in whatever way feels most natural.
The essential tenet of Vaastu involves the center of your residence. The grid on which a home is built is called the Vaastu Purusha Mandala, and the center of the mandala is where the god Brahma, the creative principle of the universe, is said to dwell. This is where the connection between the home, its inhabitants and the Divine is strongest. This spot is thought to join Heaven and Earth, generating a force that spreads throughout the home. This energy is considered so intense that it is traditionally left open, allowing the connection to be pure and flowing. In traditional Indian homes, this is the place for a beautiful courtyard with the various rooms flowing from it, symbolizing our connection to that central Divine energy. In designing this central space, honor it by keeping it clear, free of heavy objects and clutter so that the home may receive light and vitality. If we have a central space such as a staircase, we’ll want to minimize energy being blocked or flowing too frenetically. Use lighter colors, and keep the space as open as possible. Windows and skylights above a central staircase invite light, and this also helps to keep the energy of the home moving freely.
We can also honor the central area of individual rooms—or of a particular room—according to Vaastu’s guidelines. If you can find a way to clear space in the center of at least one room, this will certainly create changes in the overall energy flow of the home. Consider placing a beautiful rug in the center of a space and moving aside heavy objects. This will invite a focus of beauty and expansion. Make sure that there is enough negative space between the rest of the objects in the room so that the energy can flow between them. The objects placed on the periphery of the center should be proportionate to one another, and evenly distributed. By grouping the objects, the eye has places to rest and you will feel a sense of well-being in this space.
In our modern culture, we have increasingly separated ourselves from the play of nature.Vaastu offers us simple ways of reconnecting, beginning with the materials we use to build our structures and what we place inside them. First of all, bring in plenty of plants. Use furniture made of natural materials. Homes built of stone, wood and earth carry with them the Sattvic qualities present in nature. Integrate flowers, stone, wood and bamboo and use them throughout the space. In your bedroom, focus on materials such as beautiful linens, cottons, and silks. Choosing natural materials over synthetics is a wonderful and simple way to shift the energy of a home and align it with nature. Fine works of sacred art—paintings or statues of deities or ritual objects, when serving as focal points of a room, can transform both the space and inhabitant with their presence.
One of easiest aspects of Vaastu to integrate into Western design has to do with the directions. Each corner and side of the home is said to be best suited for a specific use. Bathrooms and a staircase (if necessary) would generally be placed outside of the main Vaastu Purusha Mandala. The placement of rooms has to do with the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Space. The ideal location for a kitchen is the southeast corner of the mandala, because this is where Fire is most present. It is also the best location for electrical
devices. So if your kitchen is not in the southeast, try moving a lamp, radio, computer, or television to this side of a room and see how it affects the feel of the space. The northeast corner is the dwelling place of the Water element. Meditation spaces thrive in this location, offering a sense of peace and serenity. Energize this corner of the house or room by making it a sacred space, creating a simple altar, or having an indoor fountain. Colors that evoke the ocean or a still pond will balance energies and encourage a sense of calm to your home. The southwest corner is where Earth is most present, and is the ideal location for the master bedroom. In designing your bedroom, placing the headboard to the North is not recommended. If your bedroom is not in the Southwest, you can bring in the Earth element by using plants and objects made of clay, wood and stone. This corner anchors the home (and yourself!) so placing a cozy, comfortable chair here that is inviting is recommended. Air rules the northwest corner. This is not the best place for a young child to spend too much time as the moving energy may prove overwhelming— however an
office or storage space is fine here. Air is mutable, pervasive, and fast, and so this area can be utilized in a number of ways. We can use wind chimes and soft, chiffon-like fabrics here to evoke the Air element. The fifth element, Space, is honored by the open central area.
Vaastu Shastra is centuries-old. The power of the Vaastu principles aligns us with the movements of the universe— encouraging optimal health, wealth, and well-being. By making a few simple adjustments we can transform our homes into deeply sacred spaces that are beautiful, practical, and inviting.
Lorell Frysh is a transpersonal psychologist and an interior architect and designer—vocations that frequently
coincide. Siddhartha V. Shah is a sacred art dealer, and lifelong student of Vaastu Shastra. They can be contacted at [email protected]