Editor's Choice

Cool Breeze (Ruach) experiences of those born of the Spirit


Judith Coney: Sahaja Yoga
"One spring afternoon in 1992, a Norwegian friend who was living in my village for a year whilst he completed a Master of Business Administration at Bath University dropped over for coffee. After exchanging the usual set of pleasantries about the weather and a few comments about the local primary school, he introduced a new topic into the conversation. Knowing my interest in new religions, he said, was I aware that some people in the next village were 'giving cool breezes'? I confessed my ignorance and pressed him for details. One, a woman called Jane, he continued, had given him a sort of massage and as a result he had felt a cool breeze on the top of his head. 'I really did, you know!' he went on, looking slightly uncomfortable, as he did not quite believe it himself. 'What's it all about?'

This book is my attempt, as a sociologist of religion, to answer the question raised by my friend that day. It is about Sahaja Yoga, the new religious movement (NRM) whose member was responsible for the 'cool breezes' which he felt."

Judith Coney, Sahaja Yoga (Introduction page)
Publisher: RoutledgeCurzon; 1 edition (May 24 1999)
Judith Coney is a lecturer in the Department of Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


Cool Breeze (Ruach) experiences of those born of the Spirit

Judith Coney: Sahaja Yoga
"The result, in all three settings [Royal Albert Hall, local meeting or private house], is that many people do feel a cool breeze. The coolness which is felt is usually associated with other sensations as well. Typically, the pupils of the eyes can be observed to dilate and the person will feel very relaxed and 'centred.' However, it is notable that, despite the very similar ways in which individuals 'get their realisation'—and even in the same setting—not everybody feels exactly the same thing. Sri Mataji teaches that the vibrations of kundalini can be felt as cool breeze on the palm of the hands and above the head. Sometimes breezes, in line with the teachings, are felt on the hands and head specifically. For others, the experience is more generalized:

The experience was extremely timeless, because I felt that it only lasted for about five minutes but somebody came behind me and said 'would you like a cup of tea' and I thought, 'this is silly, what's all this about tea?; But it turned out that it was about three quarters of an hour later. And I felt a strong cool breeze. I was actually told; you will probably feel some coolness or some nice feelings inside' but I felt coolness not just in my hands, where I was told it would be, but all over and I felt incredibly peaceful.

Generally, the feeling of coolness on 'realisation' seems to be discernible, but relatively weak. As with Kakar's description of his own 'realisation', many newcomers are left with the feeling that they felt something but they are not sure what:

Mataji grandly announced, 'He is realised' ... 'Sit in meditation for some time' she told me as I sat up. 'Do you feel a cool breeze on the top of your head and on your palms?' Indeed I did, though I could not distinguish the coolness due to kundalini from the gutsy breeze coming in from the sea. I felt well, though, calm and deeply relaxed. (Kakar 1984, 195-6)

A few, however, have an extremely strong experience. One such incident was described by one of the participating Sahaja Yogis:

He felt really cool, not just on his hands but all over. He said: 'This isn't a breeze, it's a wind'. We all felt it really strongly too. Then we picked up Mother's photograph and held it in front of him and he felt loads of vibrations coming from that. But I think the whole thing was so strong that it frightened him. He was very high and positive for two days, he brought us some flowers, and then he became wary and never came to [the ashram] again.

Others still, in contrast, do not feel much, if anything, on their first session. This lack of feeling on their part, however, may not be shared by the Sahaja Yogis 'working on them', who may remark enthusiastically about how cool the individual feels, and may also be at odds with the view of Sri Mataji herself. Here is the description of his initial contact with Sahaja Yoga by one such follower. He first went to a meeting at which Sri Mataji gave 'realisation' en masse, but felt nothing. Nevertheless, he was persuaded to go to a smaller workshop a few days later.

I really didn't feel anything there at all either but I was told by Mataji herself-she said 'Who hasn't felt it yet?' and I put my hand up with a few others. Mataji said 'Come forward' and then she said to me 'You've got it, you know'. And I said 'Have I?' and she said 'Yes, go through to that room and ask some Sahaja Yogis to work on you'. So that was my introduction to Sahaja Yoga.

It was only with repeated sessions that he developed the ability to feel a cool breeze. There are also those, a few, who may feel more calm, possibly as a result of sitting quietly for some time, but otherwise feel no different and never feel any sort of breeze. This is often explained by Sahaja Yogis as being because the chakras have been too badly damaged by negativity in the past (Rajasekharan and Venkatesan 1992, 98).

Kakar (1984, 208), a trained Freudian psychologist, having witnessed Sri Mataji's delivery of 'realisation' both en masse and on a one-to-one basis, concluded that much of this experience is built on suggestion and 'hypnotic induction':

Needless to add, because of the emotional pressures created in a group setting, the tendency to identify with the experience of other group members and the intense desire to please the leader, only a handful of people hold out against this mass suggestion. (ibid., 209)

Such a conclusion would undoubtedly be rejected by a Sahaja Yogi, convinced that they have experienced their Spirit through the grace of Sri Mataji. It is not within the remit of my present enquiry, however, to seek to establish the 'real cause' of a cool breeze felt by an individual, but to try chart the social dynamics involved. Just as Goodman commented, in relation to religious experience:

The religious practitioners argue for it, either because it is part of their dogma, or because, as they affirm, they have 'been there', they have experienced it. The hard scientists take the opposite position, again as a matter of conviction. As social scientists, our situation is a happier one: at least we can state that, without any doubt, the alternate reality is a social one. (Goodman 1988, 43)."

Judith Coney, Sahaja Yoga
RoutledgeCurzon, 1999, pp. 55-58



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