Welcome to the Sandhi
Sandhi, or the gap, is a gateway to living presence and is central to all direct realization practice.
Welcome to the Stargate, erm I mean the sandhi
Sandhi is a Sanskrit word—pronounced sund-hee. The sandhi is a nondimensional “space” of infinite potentiality, a dynamic gap where one thing is becoming another, but has not quite arrived.1
The sandhi can best be described as a juncture or portal between the manifest and the unconditioned. To be living from within this unconditioned spaciousness of infinite potentiality is the fruit of all direct realization practice.
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People practicing in direct realization spiritual traditions such as Trika Shaivism and Dzogchen explore and meditate on various sandhis. By doing so, we encounter the fundamental openness, intelligence, compassion, and creativity of Reality. Eventually, we discover the sandhi is everywhere.
Some of the sandhis we practice with are:
The sandhi between day and night and at noon and midnight - we try to do our daily sadhana during these sandhis.
The sandhis between inhalation and exhalation - many mantra and kriya yoga sadhanas utilize the sandhis of the breath. We breath in and out an average of 25,000 times a day. That is 50,000 opportunities to experience the sandhi at the beginning and end of every breath.
The sandhi of the heart space in the center of the chest
The sandhi between one thought and another - when we do mind training, we identify the sandhi that “sits behind” or underneath, giving rise to all thoughts.
The sandhi between one mantra repetition and another
The sandhi between closely fitting objects, for instance between your body lying on the floor and the floor, or between your closed upper and lower eyelids
The chakras—the sandhis from which you come into manifestation
The sandhi of sushumna nadi, your central, or “middle” channel
Imagine yourself riding a large Ferris wheel. The wheel turns inexorably, moving you to the apex of your circuit. In one moment, the upward movement is slipping out of being, while downward movement is slipping into being, but nothing has definitively completed or begun. At the top of the wheel, there is a feeling of suspension, of a gap, or of greater spaciousness.
We feel dynamically suspended in the middle of a pause that cannot really be a pause because the wheel has not stopped turning. Yet, the Ferris wheel sandhi has duration, texture, pregnancy, spaciousness and an indefinable specialness. We all wait for that very moment. It is almost the reason why Ferris wheels exist. This is sandhi.
Living in the sandhi
The many natural sandhis we experience every day help us to recognize and remember the indescribable reservoir of unconditioned life from which all forms of manifestation emerge. Through the gateway of the sandhi, we get re-acquainted with unconditioned, enlightened reality.
“Living in the sandhi” is one way to describe self-realization.
In the spectacular Amritanubhava, the 13th century Maharastrian poet, philosopher and yogi, Jñanadeva, wrote:
The non-dual one enters of his own accord the courtyard of duality. And the unity deepens along with the growth of difference.2
A person immersed in the natural state, who has recognized the real nature of things, returns to live in the courtyard of duality. The courtyard is a liminal space between inside and outside. It is a sandhi where all of life in its glorious diversity can be experienced, but from inside the gap, immersed in the single living presence.
Every moment is a bardo
“Bardo” is the Tibetan word for sandhi. A central teaching in Tibetan Buddhist traditions is that every moment is a bardo. All beings and all worlds emerge and subside. Impermanence is an experience of continual passage. Every moment, then, is a sandhi, an in-between. Like the Ferris wheel, we are continually turning.
When we relax our efforts to solidify a false sense of permanence and discover the sandhi, we encounter the eternal, self-aware livingness. Then we can better enjoy the magical and glamorous display of the ephemeral.
The mercy of this alive aware reality reveals itself in the many ways we can encounter the absolute right in the midst of everyday life.
with infinite love,
A sandhi is somewhat like a stargate. Stargate is an old science fiction tv show where people move from one world to another through a silvery, diaphragmatic gateway. While from the outside, the stargate looks nearly two dimensional, the person within discovers a space of infinite dimension.
The Amritanubhava of Jñanadeva, “The Secret of Natural Devotion, shloka 29”, transl. B.P. Bahirat, Sirur Printing Press: 1963, p. 85.