Handling Personal Trauma and Civilizational Violence: Systems in Ancient India

Handling Trauma and Violence

India with its antiquity and complicated history has its fair share of civilizational trauma in the modern world. However, this was not the case always! Ancient India and ancient Indians developed a highly sophisticated system of energy work, so violence in society would not manifest as trauma for the individual and the civilization, and vice versa.

While temples were created as energy centers to help manage trauma at minimum levels; violence was managed within society through several learning systems, linked to the temple science and deities or devatas that were consecrated, to minimize trauma in family lines.  So, the energy work was highly personalized for an individual and specialized at the social level!

The evolution of one’s action is always violent initially; as evolution progresses, the action becomes intense and subtle. So, basically emotion moves from a violent reaction, to a state of restraint, and then becomes intense and subtle. This has been demonstrated well in dharmic traditions as evolution of emotional consciousness through dashavataras and puranic tales; like the evolution of a highly emotionally reactive Parushurama into a restrained Rama, and then into an intensely loving Krishna, and a subtle Buddha.

The tragedy of modernity is in its inability to accept the human condition in its entirety. Violence is inherent to us, by rejecting it we invariably make it a rather prominent part of us. Rejecting violence is of no fruitful consequence; it makes a person more violent. Evolving violence into a more sophisticated form of engagement is the secret to managing violence. Violence can only be managed; it cannot be eliminated; the ancients understood this very well!

Evolution towards intensity and conscious presence is there in everyone; different people are pursuing it in varied ways, based on their conditioning.  Refinement of physical, verbal, mental, and emotional action is at the heart of every individual’s effort. Some are seeking wealth, some power, a few are looking for fame, some for a better life through material comforts.

Everyone is seeking to expand in different ways; and that is at the crux of the clash of nature of expansion, when individuality sets in. This is the source of violence, emanating from successive accumulation of unresolved trauma that has developed due to the rise of individual interests over collective and personalized well-being.

Trauma and Ancient India:

Ancient India was an interdependent culture with various clans and kulas supporting each other in multiple ways. On my journey to identify my ancestors and my roots, I reached Shri Rangam with several questions and found several answers there.

I traced my paternal family roots to Shri Rangam and understood the nuances of my kula. My grandparents were cousins; and so were my parents. However, my mother’s clan were merchants, while my father’s clan were warriors. Likewise, there were several other deviances from the modern narrative created about caste.

I researched and understood that they were from different varnas or social clans, but belonging to the same kula or trauma system. Ancient India had a kula for each deity, based on the chakra blocked by trauma. E.g. Vaishnavas are kula that are struggling with a blocked fourth chakra and work with Anahata chakra through their Kuladevata.

So, the ancient Indian society had several kula based on their trauma work. Each kula supported the other, to complement what the other could not accomplish themselves. The trick to running an interdependent society is to minimize trauma. Which is why temples were built as energy centers to minimize trauma in different kula.

Each kula worked with a certain deity with a particular temple or set of temples, to minimize trauma within their clan. Every kula had their own varna embedded within it! So, the Brahmins of a particular kula catered only to that kula, and specialized in minimizing a certain type of trauma.

The jati (occupational diversity) within each varna catered to different job responsibilities. So, the various jati of the varna, Brahmins fulfilled different roles and responsibilities, and had specializations like temple priests, or priests for death rituals, or for rituals at home, etc. Some of these can be seen even today.

Likewise, every varna had its own classifications into jati (as seen in illustration); the warriors had their specializations, and so did the merchants, and skilled workers. As various kula worked on minimizing trauma within their own varna and jati, some kulas allowed marriage between the varna, and some did not; based on the nature of trauma and its resolution. Similarly, the movement between varna was also based on the trauma work, certain kula allowed movement between varna, and some did not.

Handling Trauma and Violence

Trauma and Temples: Personalized Energy Work

Ancient India was a collective society that was constructed on the principle of interdependent existence. Learning and opportunity was very personalized; but not individual. There is a striking difference there! In modern societies, the focus is on the individual, and ideology based individual rights; but the ancient society in India valued a collectivist, yet personalized approach to learning and life! It is based on this principle that trauma work, also became a highly personalized domain of lived experience.

Schools of tantra identified distorted desire, fear, anger, guilt, overcompensation, shame, attachment, and grief as the major attributes of trauma; and created deities corresponding to respective spaces within the body. These deities were consecrated as geometric patterns in the energy domain at the universal level (Samashti); that would manifest in response to sound or space at the personalized level (Vyashti).

Different deities were consecrated to address different aspects of trauma at a personalized level, as well as at the level of family lines. The personalized deities were called Ishta Devata, and the ones for family or clan lines were called Kula Devata. So, trauma could be addressed at a personal level, as well as at the level of trans-generational and inter-generational trauma.

Trauma and Astrology: Personalized Energy Work

Astrology was used as a trauma mapping system rather than a prediction tool for the future! The premise of astrology was to be able to identify the psychological trauma, that a person and his/her family line was enmeshed in; so that appropriate energy work would be identified to clear them from the bondage of those unresolved emotions.

Over time, as the focus shifted from trauma work and shedding personalized conditioning, towards the individualistic goals; free will which was a consequence of trauma shedding, shifted into predictions based on conditioning. So, essentially a tool that was developed to aid in understanding trauma to be able to shed conditioning, became grounded in predicting future based on conditioning.

Violence and Ritual: Collective Energy Work

While, trauma was being addressed at a personalized level; violence was addressed at a social level! Rituals in the form of Yajna and animal sacrifice were conducted at regular intervals, to keep social consciousness with minimal baggage of violence.

This was based on the understanding that the human body mimics the cosmos; and all of the physicality of evolution is embodied by it. Trauma occurs due to survival instincts rooted in fight or flight reactions; and manifests as unresolved emotions in the form of distorted desire, fear, anger, guilt, overcompensation, shame, attachment, and grief.

When such trauma gets compounded at a social level, it turns into violence. Rituals were developed at the personalized level, as well as the collective. While, the personalized rituals catered to specific deities; the collective rituals to minimize violence were offered to Agni or fire, as it is the element that consumes everything.

Out of the hundred and eight chakras in the body, sixty-four were identified to be associated with animal instincts and tendencies. Rituals such as Pashubandha were constituted to offer sixty-four animal species associated with such instincts, in a physical act of violence to be consumed by fire; so that the society at large was satiated by its need to engage in violence, and thereby minimize destruction.

Yoga took this expression of physicality further into the personalized domain through an in-depth understanding of animal instincts known as vritti.

Violence and Yoga: Personalized Body Work

As trauma sets in family lines, violence is the outcome for the society. Initially, the approach to all energy work was personalized. It was clear that while trauma is in the domain of unresolved emotions; violence is in the capacity of the mind. It renders every aspect of existence of human well-being to break apart. There was a conscious effort to bring the locus back into the body, through a thorough understanding of the body.

Several schools of Yoga that were situated in the kundalini activation and chakra system of learning, identified thirty-two vrittis distributed between the first four domain chakras, viz., Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, and Anahata. Muladhara has four vrittis, Svadhisthana has six vrittis, Manipura has ten, and Anahata has twelve animal instincts. When these instincts are addressed at both samashti and vyashti levels of consciousness, it results in sixty-four manifestations of the same.

The understanding of the body in later stages moved into deciphering the body through its desire. Desire is a fundamental and primal instinct; the ancients explored this side of human existence. Desire is central to procreation, as well as the merger of the individual into the universal. Physicality was then used to move beyond sexuality, and the unpredictable nature of the mind.

Violence and Desire: Personalized Body Work

Jiddu Krishnamurti mentions in his commentaries on living, series 1, chapter 25 “The understanding of conflict is the understanding of desire”. This was understood by the Kaula schools of Shakta-tantras engagement to address the violence within! Of these traditions the Yogini Circles or Chausath Yogini tradition of Natha sampradaya is the most popular to have engaged in addressing violence, through an understanding of desire and sex.

The Chausath Yogini Temple of Hirapur near Bhubaneshwar, Odisha is a testament to this philosophy, of addressing violence and civilizational trauma through desire, dance, yoga, and sex. Chausath Yogini tradition is known to have come into existence with Matsyendranath of Natha tradition in Odisha and Assam.

Kamakhya Shaktipeetha in Assam is also a practitioner of the Yogini tantra developed by Matsyendranath in 9th -10th century CE. The sixty-four Yoginis of Yogini sampradaya are deities representing thirty-two vrittis as described above in the violence and Yoga segment. There are thirty-two deities for each vritti in Vyashti (individual plane) and Samashti (Universal plane) making it a total of sixty-four. These sixty-four deities are also linked with emotions associated with the vritti, as well as various art forms practiced in ancient and medieval India.

While, the management of violence at a personalized level was ongoing, society was going through a flux; due to external invasions, and a shift in social attitudes, and unpredictability.  It was then, that a need for continuity of collective dissipation of trauma set in. Individualization of Collective dissipation of trauma, and minimization of violence then became the norm.

This is how animal sacrifice became individualized form of violence management, from a collective effort. There is a context to the establishment of rituals around animal sacrifice. While the Vedic traditions have shunned it in the context of modern life; Tantra actively continues the practice to address violence at an individualized level.

Once the ancient idea re-conceptualizes, and the understanding of trauma at the personalized level of the self, and that of violence at the collective level resurfaces, the individuation of violence and associated trauma will descend, and transform into collective and personalized efforts once again!

We welcome your comments at