Editor’s Note: Some of the more technical Vaastu concepts have been simplified to make the following interview more accessible to readers unfamiliar with Vaastu.
Q: Alex, what is Vaastu?
AF: Vaastu is the science of bringing Spirit into physical manifestation in the form of a building. A building designed and constructed according to Vaastu principles becomes “alive” with prana or life force. Cosmic energy bathes the entire building, and the building functions much like a radio that can only receive and transmit beneficial energies.
Q: How did you first become interested in Vaastu?
AF: I became interested in Vaastu while living in Ashland, Oregon. Although I have a master’s degree in architecture and have done architectural work, I had become frustrated with the building styles of modern architecture. When I first learned about Vaastu I did a little online research but much of what I found tended to be somewhat formulaic: “If you do A, then B happens,” and bore no relationship to what I knew about architecture and science.
But I thought it might be possible to uncover more of the original Vaastu science, so I took a three-day introductory Vaastu course in Ashland offered by Ron Quinn, a Vaastu teacher from Colorado. Later, when Quinn returned to Ashland, I took a two-week course. Studying with Quinn, I began to see that there was much more to Vaastu than I had realized.
I have always been interested in the spirit behind the building, and in architectural designs that facilitate the flow of human activities within a building. Vaastu, as a form of architecture, suited me perfectly because it focuses on the intention of the building — what it’s there for.
Q: How did Ron Quinn acquire his expertise in Vaastu?
AF: Ron Quinn, who had been a building contractor, studied Vaastu with V. Ganapati Sthapati, the foremost Vaastu practitioner in India. Dr. Sthapati was a member of the Shtilpi clan, the group that designed and constructed all buildings in India before the advent of the British. Dr. Sthapati traveled all over the world building temples, which are the highest form of Vedic architecture. He passed away recently.
Q: I understand that when you and your wife moved from Ashland to Ananda Village you designed and built a house according to Vaastu principles. Since, as you said, Vaastu focuses on the intention of the building, can you explain how the intention of your house guided your approach to designing and building your home?
AF: With Vaastu the intention of the building is not just important, it’s the key. Different types of buildings — temples, residential, commercial, or industrial – are based on different sets of Vaastu principles and rules because the intention behind each type of building is different.
My wife and I had a very clear spiritual intention for our house. We didn’t want a house that would make us fabulously wealthy, or a house that would support a driven, success-oriented lifestyle. Finding God is our main goal in life and we wanted a house with a feeling tone that would enhance our spiritual progress. In the design and construction of the house, we worked with our spiritual intention in an intensely focused way.
Q: Can you explain how you did that?
AF: As a first step, we surrendered the entire project to God and Guru, saying, “OK, this is your house. Do with it what you want. If it never gets finished, we’re OK with that.” After laying out the site, we asked two Ananda ministers to lead a blessing ceremony at the site. With the ministers and a group of friends, we chanted and prayed as we walked along the circuits in the same directions the energy would move within and outside the house.
As we moved forward with the project, we would pray and seek guidance from our Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and also from the “devas,” those angelic beings that support human creativity. For each important issue or decision, whether it was design, engaging contractors, or money, we would seek guidance from our Guru and the devas, who we thought of as our team.
Q: How did your team help you?
AF: The most dramatic physical example of assistance from our team occurred when the contractor was grading the building site. After starting the grading process, we discovered a boulder at least six feet deep right in the middle of where the house was to go. We had no choice but to get rid of that rock. I suggested that the contractor knock it into pieces with the bulldozer blade, but he refused saying it would hurt the blade. Instead, he called in a friend to dynamite the rock.
At that point my wife and I went into our small house adjacent to the site and prayed: “Master! Devas! We know you want us to build this house. There’s a rock in the middle and we don’t want to dynamite it, for the injury it might do to the trees, plants, and our nearby well. If you don’t want it dynamited then you need to do something. But whatever happens, we’ll do what’s needed to get the house built.”
After praying we went back out to the site. The contractor was in the process of completing the grading. At that moment, the contractor lost control of the bulldozer. The bulldozer slid over the edge of the excavation around the boulder and a corner of the blade hit the rock and smashed it to pieces.
Q: That sounds like a miracle.
AF: We thought so too.
Q: How strictly did you adhere to your spiritual intention and the Vaastu principles in building of your house?
AF: Very strictly, because building a Vaastu house requires that kind of discipline. There are five main Vaastu principles, and we adhered strictly to all of them. Three, in particular, are especially important.
Q: What are those three principles?
AF: The first is siting, determining where the building will go. For the house to resonate with planetary force fields and energies, the house has to be properly aligned with these energy fields. The lot size and shape are also relevant, whether there’s a slope or perhaps water moving under the site. Some things are positive and others are negative, but they all affect whether the vibration of the house will be nourishing or draining to the occupants.
The second is: who will live in the house? The people living in the house are very important vibrational elements in the overall Vaastu picture. Each of us has what is called a “nakshastra” or a birth moon, which is configured astrologically and is reflective of our karma. Some nakshastras are compatible with other nakshastras but some are in conflict.
When I was first learning Vaastu in Ashland, I had a client who wanted a Vaastu home. He was very wealthy and he hired me to design a huge house for him and his fiancée. However, when working on the design, I could not get their two nakshastras to work together compatibly, no matter how hard I tried. The couple ended up deciding not to get married, which I believe was the right decision, and the man decided not to build the house.
Q: What is the third principle?
The third and most important principle involves determining whether the six elements in a Vaastu home are favorable or unfavorable. We do this mathematically by an exacting process involving what’s known in Vaastu as a “mother wall, a “mandala” and the “perimeter.”
By this process I was able to determine the basic characteristics of the home that would bring our intentions into manifestation. Using the mandala, for example, I located the main entrance to our house in a north-facing direction, which represented eminence in divine activities and obviously supported our spiritual intention.
The mother wall and mandala together enabled me to calculate the exact measurement of the “perimeter” of the kind of house that would support our spiritual intention. Armed with the perimeter measurement, I was able to determine that if the foundation of the house was more than one and three-eighths inches longer or shorter than the intended perimeter, the house would not have the intended vibration. All of the characteristics of the house would change — and not in a good way.
Q: How did you make certain that didn’t happen?
AF: I worked very closely with the people who did the foundation. Each day I emphasized the importance of doing it very carefully. As the foundation was going up, I measured it over and over again. The builders were very conscientious, and we had to redo several sections before it was right, but they did get it right.
Q: I understand that the center of a Vaastu house is the most important part of the house. Did the Vaastu principles require you to work with the center in a specific way?
AF: Yes. The center of the house is referred to as the “sacred center” and it functions as the “engine” for the flow of energy throughout the entire house. To continue bringing cosmic energy into the house, we can’t place anything in the sacred center, not even bookshelves. We can gather, sing and chant there, but we can’t sleep there.
Ideally, the sacred center should have light coming in from above and from all four directions but variations are also possible. The sacred center might have only a skylight; it can also be outside in the middle of the house as with a courtyard.
Q: Open courtyards are common in many cultures — South America, the Mediterranean countries, the ashrams in India. Might these courtyards reflect a vestige of this sacred center principle?
AF: It’s possible. Archeologists have uncovered ancient cities in India where every house was constructed according to these principles, and many had an open courtyard.
Q: How is your spiritual intention reflected in the finished house?
AF: Our spiritual intention is reflected in the feeling tone of the house. Sensitive people feel a quiet strength and rejuvenation just from being in the house. When Swami Kriyananda first visited our home, he said, “I like your house….” I was very relieved since Swami Kriyananda can “read” energy quite well.
Before deciding on the housing site, we asked our team, where we should locate the northeast corner. This is the key corner in a Vaastu house because the energy of the cosmos enters from that corner. We placed our meditation room in the northeast corner; to meditate there is very powerful.
We believe our spiritual intention also enabled us to finish the house. There were many challenges, and many potential obstacles to completing the house. Even so, we were able to finish the house and to finish it well.
Q: Did you find the exactness of the Vaastu science challenging?
AF: Yes, I found it very challenging but eventually I thought, “we do Kriya Yoga a certain way because the technique has a rationale. Similarly, the Vaastu science has a very clear rationale.”
Q: How do you see the future of Vaastu in the West?
AF: I think Vaastu, like all energy-related fields, will unfold during Dwapara Yuga and by the end of Dwapara Yuga, will be widely used. It is believed that Vaastu originated 6000 years ago in Treta Yuga, and some researchers push it back to 13,000 years ago in Satya Yuga.
Dr. Sthapati often said that Vaastu had to be brought to the West to be re-discovered as the powerful science it truly is, and then taken back to India. He predicted that once Vaastu gained acceptance in the West, modern-day Indians who have rejected the old traditions will be more willing to embrace it.
Our challenge in the West, however, is to be careful not to adulterate the core essence of Vaastu with our tendency to seek “a quick fix.” We need to be careful not to become impatient with the time and effort demanded by the deeper scientific aspects of Vaastu. The Vaastu energy formulas affect the well-being of everyone living in a structure, and we would be doing ourselves a great disservice if we tried to replicate the science without a deep understanding.
I’ve tried to find out how authentic practitioners like Dr. Sthapati practiced Vaastu and, more importantly, why they did certain things? Sthapati didn’t talk much about the why. I suspect he was highly intuitive and he knew when certain deviations from the principles were right or wrong. My goal is to go more and more deeply into all aspects of Vaastu, including the intuitive.
Alex Forrester is a consultant for projects at Ananda Village and elsewhere.