ARVINDUS

Contemplationam

Jatamansi in Agni Yoga

JATAMANSI IN AGNI YOGA

In the Agni Yoga publications of Helena Ivanovna Roerich (1879-1955) is the use of valerian often promoted. Here we shall contemplate towards the plausibility of 'valerian'  having reference to the plant jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi) instead of valerian (Valeriana officinalis).

Before setting course towards 'valerian' having reference to jatamansi in Agni Yoga mention must be made of the argument why 'valerian' there simply refers to valerian and not to any other plant. This argument says that the name used is simply 'valerian' and not 'jatamansi'. Helena Roerich's works were written originally in Russian and translated from there into English. Now as in English language a distinction is made between valerian and jatamansi with the words 'valerian' and 'spikenard' so does the Russian language know such a distinction too. In Russian the words 'valeriana' ('валерiана'), 'būlderyаn' ('бyлдырьянъ') and 'maun' ('mаyнъ') are used to refer to valerian1 and 'laynda' ('лaъендa'), 'ipdyskiy' ('ипдѣйckiй') and 'nard' ('нардъ') to refer to spikenard2. And in the Russian publications of Agni Yoga only the word 'valerian(a)' is used. So it can be fairly argued that if Roerich had wished to refer to spikenard she would have chosen her word of reference differently.

It must be noted however that outside the Himalaya region, where jatamansi has its habitat,3 even up to the present day there is much confusion in reference to jatamansi.4 Often jatamansi is confused with tagara or the Indian valerian (Valeriana wallichii) which shares jatamansi's Himalayan habitat.5 And in the past jatamansi was classified under the genus of Valeriana as 'Valeriana jatamansi'. It is this confusion of jatamansi with Indian valerian that has given it the name 'false valerian'.

One may oppose that the valerian referred to in Agni Yoga must be the European or true valerian (Valeriana officinalis) since jatamansi and tagara are not indigenous to Russia. However Helena Roerich and her husband Nicolas (1874-1947) traveled much in the Himalaya's, which was also the place where their Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute was established.6 Much reference to the Himalaya's is made in the Agni Yoga teachings. Not in the last place because the Himalaya's are considered by Helena Roerich as the place of residence of the Himalaya masters (or saints)7 from whom she received her teachings telepathically8. Two important points must be noted here. The first is that Roerich received the Agni Yoga teachings telepathically and that the Russian in which she wrote these teachings is not necessarily the most primal language of the teachings and the second is that the Agni Yoga teachings originate from the Himalaya's. The Russian 'valeriana' then may very well be a convenient (or confused, given the above information) Russian translation for the plant that is recommended in Agni Yoga. And this plant may also very well be growing in the Himalaya mountains from which the teachings originate.

That the Agni Yoga teachings find in the Himalaya's a more primal origin than in Russia is not the only pointer towards 'valerian' not referring to European valerian. Another pointer is found in the context in which 'valerian' is used. 'Valerian' is often advised together with musk (of the musk deer) and cedar tar.9 Now the combination of musk (of the musk deer) and cedar tar is to be obtained primarily in the Himalaya regions since the musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) has its habitat there together with a species of cedar tree (Cedrus deodara).10, 11 It is then in the line of expectancy that the 'valerian' mentioned in one breath with the other two is found in that same Himalaya region. This probability is enhanced to a likeliness when we consider the statement that 'valerian' is used in ayurvedic medicine.12 For European valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is not used in this Indian based medicine.

When after considering the above the likeliness of 'valerian' not referring to European valerian is accepted still the two possibilities lay open for it to refer to Indian valerian or to jatamansi. For both plants are used in ayurveda.13 To come to a judgment about to which of these two plants is referred we may compare the qualities of 'valerian' as described in Agni Yoga with those as described in ayurveda. In Agni Yoga 'valerian' is said to keep the respiration pure,14 restore energy,15, 16 calm agitation and promote serenity,17, 18 renew the nerve centres,19 kindle and sustain the fires,20, 21 protect against 'the fiery sickness', cancer and other fiery ailments,22, 23 and finally it is considered to be a tonic and life-giver to be used for prevention of many diseases.24, 25, 26 In corresponding qualities in ayurveda both jatamansi and Indian valerian can follow up to a certain extend. Both work on the respiration, are calmative, restore nerves, and also kindle fire (be it according to ayurveda primarily the fire of digestion).27 The major difference between jatamansi and Indian valerian however is that jatamansi is considered to be sattvik and Indian valerian tamasik. Sattva is of the nature of lightness and rhythm and tamas of darkness and inertia,28, 29 and thus is jatamansi conductive for meditation and spiritual aspiration and valerian obstructive for this.30 This places jatamansi then in the position of being the best candidate for being the plant of reference in usage of the name 'valerian' in Agni Yoga. For the teachings of Agni Yoga are meant for the spiritual uplifting of humanity31 and the tamasik quality as found in Indian valerian is refuted.32 The mentioned increase of awareness that jatamansi brings about then can be interpreted as the increase of psychic energy in Agni Yoga.33 And also is jatamansi the only of the two ayurvedic plants to be mentioned as being a tonic, as it is also in Agni Yoga.

Also two language related hints of 'valerian' in Agni Yoga referring to jatamansi can be mentioned here. The first hint can be found in jatamansi being in English (among other names) called 'muskroot'.34 Jatamansi has a musky scent, very likely corresponding to musky properties. And musk is one other panacea being praised in Agni Yoga.35 The second hint can be found in the etymology of 'jatamansi'. In an earlier contemplation with jatamansi as subject it was found that etymologically the plant is closely related to the (matted haired) yogi's and ascetics of the Himalaya.36 And this connects well to the idea of Himalayan masters advising spiritual aspirants to use this plant.

Taking all of the above in consideration it may be concluded that it is very plausible that 'valerian' in Agni Yoga refers not to European valerian (Valeriana officinalis), also not to Indian valerian (Valeriana wallichii), but to jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi). May an increased awareness and psychic energy help us to the right insight into the actual reference of 'valeriana' in Agni Yoga.

Notes
  1. A. Alexandrow, A New and Complete English-Russian Dictionary, David Nutt, London, 1884, p. 658.
  2. Ibidem, p. 486.
  3. Swami Sadashiva Tirtha, The Āyurveda Encyclopedia, Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity, Ayurveda Holistic Center Press, Bayville, 2005, p. 89.
  4. 'An Etymology of 'Nardostachys jatamansi'', Index: 201402112.
  5. The Āyurveda Encyclopedia, p. 104.
  6.  A Treasury of Terms and Thoughts, From the Agni Yoga Teachings, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 2002, p. 212, 213.
  7. Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume II, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1981, letter d.d. 30 August 1935. "However, I must oppose your remark, and must state that there is only one Hierarchy of Light, which is of course, the Trans-Himalayan Hierarchy. […]. Not one teacher, living on Earth in ordinary earthly conditions, can be compared with the great Himalayan Masters."
  8. Benjamin Creme, Maitreya's Mission, Volume I, Share International Foundation, London, 2010, p. 46, 300, 301.
  9. Helena Roerich, Agni Yoga, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1997, Sl. 38. "Thus, say to the physician, "You can show resourcefulness in applying musk, valerian, and cedar tar.""
  10. Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, (CD-ROM), Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago, 2010, under 'musk deer'.
  11. The Āyurveda Encyclopedia, p. 83.
  12. Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume II, letter d.d. 7 January 1937.  "As regards the accusation pertaining to valerian and musk- these remedies are used in Ayur-vedic medicine."
  13. See notes 3 and 5.
  14. Agni Yoga, Sl. 172. "The yogi must keep his organs of respiration pure. For this, hot milk, valerian, and mint are prescribed."
  15. Ibidem, Sl. 241. "Can a yogi feel fatigue? Of course he can; he can even become ill. But he will know that a new store of energy must then be gathered. He will know where energy was overspent and will, without losing equanimity, make use of valerian and musk."
  16. Helena Roerich, Fiery World, Book Two, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1978, Sl. 180. "Do not confuse fatigue with intensity. These two states, notwithstanding their complete difference, can produce similar symptoms. But fatigue must be overcome by a change of work, whereas tension must be actually increased. It would be a mistake to allow oneself to dissipate tension. One must nourish this manifest fiery power as a precious gift. Each tension is a sharpening of consciousness. Each weariness is a dulling, but in either case let us not forget to take musk. Ur. has wisely established the combination of musk with soda and valerian. Certainly the very speedy accumulation of musk by means of soda is useful, as it is also the continuation of the reaction to valerian. All three ingredients are of a fiery nature. Not without reason was soda called, in antiquity, ashes of divine Fire, and fields of soda deposits were called sites of Devas' encampments. Likewise valerian is especially effective in combination with musk. While musk kindles Fire, valerian sustains it as a static condition. In fatigue this fiery remedy is absorbed in order to renew the nerve centers; but in the striving of intensity there is need of prolonged combustion, in order to avoid explosions and shocks."
  17. Helena Roerich, Heart, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1982, Sl. 548. "When agitated it is best to eat little. Valerian and milk with soda are also good. The heart should be eased."
  18. Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume I, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1979, letter d.d. 5 March 1935, "Try to preserve serenity, and particularly avoid any kind of irritability. Valerian is excellent, and in some cases one should take it twice or thrice daily, but of course not so strong."
  19. See note 16.
  20. Helena Roerich, Fiery World, Book One, Agni Yoga Society, New York, p. 69, Sl. 381, 1969, "Valerian, on the other hand, kindles the fires."
  21. See note 16.
  22. Agni Yoga, Sl. 323. "Also, do not hesitate to stress that valerian can be a powerful protector when one is suffering from the fiery sickness."
  23. Fiery World, Book One, Sl. 386. "Among the prophylactics against cancer and other fiery ailments one may advise valerian. If often speak of this tonic and preventive remedy, […]."
  24. Ibidem.
  25. Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume I, letter d.d. 28 August 1931. "Valerian remains in the category of "life-givers" and its significance is equivalent to the significance of the blood in the body."
  26. Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume II, letter d.d. 8 June 1938. "In general, soda is useful in almost all diseases and is a preventative of many illnesses, therefore, do not be afraid of taking it, as well as valerian."
  27. See notes 3 and 5.
  28. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, translated by Swami Swarupananda, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2007, Ch.XIV, Sl. 6, 8. "6. Of these Sattva, because of its stainlessness, luminous and free from evil, binds, O sinless one, by attachment to happiness, and by attachment to knowledge. […]. 8. And know Tamas to be born of ignorance, stupefying all embodied beings; it binds fast, O descendant of Bharata, by miscomprehension, indolence, and sleep."
  29. Alice A. Bailey, 'The Externalisation of the Hierarchy', in: Twenty-Four Books of Esoteric Philosophy, (CD-ROM, Release 3), Lucis Trust, London / New York, 2001, Section One – Introductory Remarks, The Work of the Seed Groups. "1. The effort to understand the nature of prana or of vital etheric energy, and the three qualities which distinguish it; these are (as you well know) inertia, activity and rhythm or—giving them their Hindu names—tamas, rajas and sattva."
  30. See notes 3 and 5.
  31. Helena Roerich, Leaves of Morya's Garden, Book One, The Call, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1998, Sl. 38. "By Us and by you, together, is the spiritual culture built.
    The Truth of the world will stand firm,
    And the Light will penetrate the darkness—I attest.
    The Gates of the Spiritual World are thrown open."
  32. Heart, Sl. 548. "It is intolerable that a man should bow like a blade of grass under the turbid waves of Tamas."
  33. Helena Roerich, Brotherhood, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1982, Sl. 472. "An outflow of psychic energy is not at all susceptible to treatment by blood transfusion, but by valerian, musk, and milk with bicarbonate of soda. These basic remedies are supplemented by the psychic energy of the physician-the latter is quite essential."
  34. See note 3.
  35. Agni Yoga, Sl. 172. "The yogi must keep pure the all-pervading soma, for which he must make use of musk."
  36. See note 4.
Bibliography
  • 'An Etymology of 'Nardostachys jatamansi'', Index: 201402112.
  • A. Alexandrow, A New and Complete English-Russian Dictionary, David Nutt, London, 1884.
  • Alice A. Bailey, 'The Externalisation of the Hierarchy', in: Twenty-Four Books of Esoteric Philosophy, (CD-ROM, Release 3), Lucis Trust, London / New York, 2001.
  • Benjamin Creme, Maitreya's Mission, Volume I, Share International Foundation, London, 2010.
  • Helena Roerich, Agni Yoga, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1997.
  • Helena Roerich, Brotherhood, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1982.
  • Helena Roerich, Fiery World, Book One, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1969.
  • Helena Roerich, Fiery World, Book Two, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1978.
  • Helena Roerich, Fiery World, Book Three, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1980.
  • Helena Roerich, Heart, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1982.
  • Helena Roerich, Leaves of Morya's Garden, Book One, The Call, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1998.
  • Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume I, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1979.
  • Helena Roerich, Letters of Helena Roerich, Volume II, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 1981.
  • Swami Sadashiva Tirtha, The Āyurveda Encyclopedia, Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity, Ayurveda Holistic Center Press, Bayville, 2005.
  • A Treasury of Terms and Thoughts, From the Agni Yoga Teachings, Agni Yoga Society, New York, 2002.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, (CD-ROM), Encyclopædia Britannica, Chicago, 2010.
  • Srimad Bhagavad Gita, translated by Swami Swarupananda, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2007.