Mudra (Mudhra) is a word in Sanskrit language that is used to signify a gesture, or a mystically significant position using the hands or body posture. The word Mudra is derived from the Sanskrit words Mu (as in Mudhaavaham or welcome) meaning bliss, and dhra meaning dissolving, Mudra is that which dissolves duality and brings together the divine and the devotee. Mudras are meaningful gestures with a specific attitude or frame of mind, performed with the hands, eyes and head position, body postures, with bhandans (locks as in hands or legs locked in a particular positon) and adhara (how they support their body in a particular position) and are used in a process of expansion of awareness. Mudras influence the mind through direct stimulation of the brain via the nervous system, and indirect stimulation through the brain via a manipulation of the prana (life force). Mudras in a spiritual context, are not a mere creation of an inventive mind of some Yoga teacher, but originally came spontaneously to spiritual adepts (adept = expert or someone very proficient) and still occur today in a jeevanmukta, or a liberated person.
However, the mudras used in Abhinaya or emotive dances are different from those used in spiritual practices where each postures or gesture that is held in repose expounds a different meaning.
Below we see Acharya Vimal Krithi in that Shambhavi Mudra or Agochari (which in Sanskrit means unknown) - in what is called the Awakened Gaze where the eyes are unseeingly open, the eyes focused towards the front somewhere at the level of their brow center. This is possible when the Guru's full grace is upon that person. Once man realizes God within his own body, he automatically realizes Him in others too.
Acharya Vimal Kirthi - In Shambhavi Mudra or Awakened Gaze
Acharya is the equivalent of a Professor, only it means much more in spirituality and is a term that brings up reverence; Vimal means Purity; Kirthi is Fame; Hence, Vimal Kirthi is someone who is Famous for (Inner) Purity; Shambhavi is the Consort of Lord Shiva, and represents a higher state of consciousness. Shambhavi Mudra or Awakened Gaze being a spontaneous representative of an inner state, we will often notice the eyes looking at the eyebrow centre, depicting the ecstatic state of saints.
In laya yoga, shambhavi mudra is defined as a pratyahara technique, or that which leads to sensory withdrawal. Shambhavi steadies the wandering mind, leading it to focus with accuracy. Wherever the eyes go the mind follows, so when the gaze is fixed on a single point, the mind also becomes single pointed and the thoughts are aligned. Thus shambhavi mudra is also a form of trataka and a means to achieve dharana, the meditative state of relaxed concentration. Therefore, shambhavi mudra forms a bridge between hatha yoga and raja yoga. It is both a technique and a state of attainment.
The beginner does a meditation, or sadhana (practices) in various forms that are simple or complex, varied over time, formal, regular or periodic, because he or she is training the vehicles of the living consciousness. In senior devotees or advanced adepts when bhakti or devotion deepens (such as in Acharyas, and Dasajis or monks of Oneness Movement), sadhana while remaining outwardly formal, inside it would become spontaneous, measureless, essentially formless, and continuous.
Effect of OM inside in the form of Inner Light
Above you can see the effect of the sound OM which shows up as a light inside a part of the brain with practice. The yogis of ancient India used to repeat mantra OM in kutashta - about 1 mantra OM every 5 seconds. Kutastha is a Sanskrit word that means immortal soul. Kutastha also means kuta the highest, summit; + stha standing. The OM sound in the form of inner light is kutastha. Later, after a lot of practice, one can remain quiet fully focused in kutashta without mantra OM and what is called the Awakened Gaze where the eyes are unseeingly open. Kutastha is the saakshi or witness of all activities.
By the aid of these mudhras or techniques, some of the yogis let the karmas or motivating and latent tendencies tend to fall apart, or dissolve. All kinds of spiritual realizations which are described in ancient Indian texts and traditions begin to happen when one is in these mudhras - visions, trances, mystical raptures, cosmic consciousness, states of profound meditation and downloading of transcendental knowledge, thus opening of the flood gates of divine bliss, and all encompassing love. We are indeed fortunate that we were able to witness and indeed capture such a great moment when Acharya Vimal Kirthi was in that Awakened Gaze or Shambhavi Mudra, and our profound thanks and blessings to the photographer (Alas, whose name we do not yet know)!