By Rajeshwari Prakash July 2000 Ancient wisdom across civilizations laid great stress on good living through creating healthy interiors and buildings. This wisdom was based on the complete understanding of the mysterious energies that surround us and their interaction with the human body There is a growing preference among people worldwide for using natural materials, fabrics, even paints and colors in interiors, which stems as much from ecological consciousness as spiritual belief. There is talk of geopathic stress related to manmade disturbances to the earth’s electromagnetic field, of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in synthetic paints, furnishing fabrics, poorly ventilated cooking appliances, clothing, pesticides, household cleaning agents, all of which cause ill-health, and thereby, some say, misfortune. The quest for a harmonious environment has also seen the resurgence of the ancient systems of vaastu shastra and feng shui. Kirti Betai, an expert in pyramid energy systems and vaastu and feng shui corrections, based in Agra, India, says that for harmonious and healthy interiors, you need a harmonious exterior. He defines the exterior as your personality, home and business, while the interior is your body, mind and soul. ‘ Meditation is the only method of achieving harmony between your energy field, the energy fields of other life forms and all the other inanimate things in your network. But meditation cannot be practiced if your external or internal interactions are not harmonious.’ The technosavvy Mahesh Yogi, founder of transcendental meditation system, has a huge construction company selling vaastu or Sthpatya Veda, the ancient wisdom of India, in a contemporary package. He believes that most of our problems today emanate from poor or non-existent vaastu in our lives. Buildings face the wrong direction, living spaces are not oriented to vaastu principles, and this, he argues, is why we don’t succeed in our efforts. The Maharishi says that among some of the benefits of a home designed using vaastu are an improvement in health of the inhabitants, increased creativity and intelligence and thereby prosperity and success, harmony in relationships, spiritual growth and increase in the inhabitants’ respect for nature. Dr Prabhat Poddar, geo-biologist and architect based in Pondicherry, India, says that there is an invisible energy that flows through the universe—through our body, the food we eat, our home and work place and the air that surrounds us. It is known as prana in India, chi in China and ki in Japan. There seems to be an invisible equation that operates between the elements outside, the elements within the individual and his living and working space, and any imbalance in the interplay of these forces can result in chaos. While the first two are near constants, the third is a variable. Poddar believes that we can design better buildings if we understand the effectiveness of these natural forces and learn how to manipulate them to the desired intensity. Poddar goes on to say that there is a scientifically proven connection between the body and the building. ‘There are four critical factors that contribute to and affect the energy levels of a structure: the earth’s energy grid, the human energy axes, colors and the five elements. The human body exhibits four basic energy axes-the vertical, horizontal, perpendicular and diagonal. These axes are affected by the earth’s energy grid and other energy influences, mainly that of the sun and moon.’ Interestingly, recent scientific studies reported in the Journal of Neuroscience show that the neurons in our brain actually fire differently depending on the direction we are facing. There are also ‘place neurons’ in the brain, which signal our body’s orientation in a room or environment. So how healthy is your home? Poddar says our well-being is related to the direction we face, the material used to build, color, decorative plants, flowers and objects that we use inside and outside our homes, our reaction to situations, stress, the food we eat, the gems, jewelry and clothes we wear. He quotes Sri Aurobindo in The Foundation of Indian Culture: ‘A true happiness in this world is the right terrestrial aim of man, and true happiness lies in the finding and maintenance of a natural harmony of spirit, mind and body. A culture is to be valued to the extent to which it has discovered the right key of this harmony and organized its expressive motives and moments.’ The ancient systems of vaastu shastra, feng shui and European Freemasonry are all overflowing with the knowledge and mastery of the mysterious energies that surround us. But, while their knowledge is precise about how to build, there are no answers to the question ‘why’. How can we achieve that shelter without disturbing the harmony of the cosmos and enjoy the abundance that is there in the universe? Especially as most of us have little control over the spaces that we occupy. Money, the availability of space, proximity to schools, places of work-these are the parameters generally kept in mind while choosing a home. While the new breed of vaastu, feng shui and geo-biology pundits say there is no need to despair-there are corrections that may make it unnecessary to break or re-build, designers and consultants have varying viewpoints on how to go about achieving a balance. Vaastu expert Mukul Kumar Mehrishi, who boasts an impressive list of clients, is clear that everything you use in your home or office space should be ‘suited’ to you. His is a combination of vaastu, astrology and gemology. ‘Vaastu certainly helps you lead a life of harmony and abundance. Corrections according to vaastu need not be expensive. Simple things like having a tulsi plant at the entrance to purify the thoughts of those coming to see you, or correcting the negative energy of an anti-clockwise staircase using green plants, keeping the heaviest pieces of furniture in the south-west of the house and sleeping with the head to the south-are all simple enough to be put to use.’ However, materials, finishes and colors depend on what ‘suits’ the individual, and therefore, no general rule can be applied. A lot of people comment on the peace they feel when they walk into designer Seema Agrawal’s first construction project, The Gnostic Center in Delhi, India. This she attributes to the setting being perfect, the use of natural materials, the care with which it was designed and constructed, and the fact that the entire construction team began the day with meditation. Her philosophy is that of Sri Aurobindo, and she believes that inner harmony is dependent on the balance of our physical, mental and spiritual self. While she does not put into practice either feng shui or vaastu, natural materials, lots of greenery and neutral, earth colors are what work for her. But she does not disrespect her client’s choices either. ‘I go by gut feeling and every space, however different, is equally important to me. And when my client is happy with the end result, so am I.’ Polish garment designer and tarot card reader Maria Weber says that white is in fashion today, a spiritual color representing the angel or spirit. But, she hastens to add, there is no one rule that can be applied. She believes that when the physical structure of the building, your psychological frame of mind and your inner being are in tune, you feel content—the space is yours for you to make it speak a language that makes you feel harmonious. Delhi architect Sanjay Prakash agrees: ‘A harmonious environment helps to maintain harmony and abundance in us too. As long as you are happy in that space, the environment will reflect your happiness, regardless of it being against or in accord with the principles of feng shui, vaastu and so on.’ Two of his favorite buildings, the Mirambika School and the Gnostic Center, have both been built using natural materials and designed with very close interaction with the clients. Architect couple Sumeet and Vishaka Saxena say: ‘The number of people who are aware of the basic principles of vaastu and feng shui is increasing. Architecture school has already taught us the principles of site planning and orientation and the client’s insistence on vaastu just ensures that these are implemented. But to incorporate vaastu in the design of an interior is often difficult. Luckily, most clients believe that the judicious use of vaastu is far more important than just mindless ritualism.’ Today, most of us live in homes where control over amiable vaastu conditions is negligible. Vaastu shastra is still not applied much in interiors, which is the only thing most of us have some control over. This has led to the popularity of feng shui and other forms of energy corrections. Poddar has come up with the process of ‘energy rectification’, a non-destructive approach, after many years of research in vaastu and geomancy. ‘There are powerful energies in your environment that are dependent, among other things, on how the space has been planned and designed, the objects and materials that you use to decorate. These energies need to be located and measured using specific tools, and then corrected.’ He says that misalignment of these energies has far-reaching consequences, and thus, this is something that can only be done by an expert. According to Poddar, the energy of all things in the house or office needs to be balanced-electrical wires, electronic gadgets, cooking appliances, the furnishing fabric, even your Ganesha collection. ‘While it might be in fashion to collect Ganeshas, if positioned wrong, the collection could be at variance with the various radiations already existing in
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