The Three Granthis in Yoga: Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra Knots Explained
Granthi is a Sanskrit word that translated to a “knot”. The three granthis – Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi, and Rudra Granthi – are three psychic knots situated in the astral body. They block the chakras and obstruct the flow of Kundalini energy.
A simpler way to understand granthis is to think of each knot as a silo of our complexes, unconscious fears, and mental/emotional/physical conditioning. They create impulses upon which we act, box us in our identity, and bind us to our limitations.
The environment creates conditioning. Conditioning creates behaviors and preferences. Preferences create identity, and identity governs the ego. It is a grand and glorious scheme to stay trapped in the Individual Self.
Hatha Yoga puts forward the use of pranayama and bandhas to unravel the three knots. The practice of yogic locks (bandhas) is the most accessible way to negotiate with our doubts and challenge our limitations.
That said, there are many tantra yoga kriyas or practices to pierce each knot. They are permutations of pranayama, meditation, asana, mudras, and mantras. These practices must coincide with a healthy lifestyle, proper diet, and following Yama and Niyama.
Let's look at each of the three knots in more detail.
#1 Brahma Granthi – The Knot of Brahma Granthi
Governs: Primal/Instinctual and survival patterns
Chakra: Mooladhara (Root) and Swadisthana (Sacral)
Tendency: Tamas – chaos, lethargy, anxiety, apathy, and ignorance
Brahma Granthi is located between the Root and Sacral Chakra. It sits at the base of the spine, functioning as a primitive brain to guarantee survival. When the Brahma Granthi obstructs Kundalini energy, the mind becomes attached to mundane things.
The Knot of Brahma knot keeps us engaged with basic needs such as food, shelter, procreation and sensual pleasures, and other material self-interests. At this level of consciousness, an individual functions under the influence of ignorance, anxiety, and apathy.
The world is perceived through the lens of flight, fight, fear, and food. Vitality is subservient to the fear of death, survival anxiety, and teeters with a complete lack of grounding. In an extreme sense, it can result in hopelessness, guilt, shame, and selfishness.
In Hatha Yoga, Mula bandha and pranayama are practiced as a part of various kriyas to remove this blockage. Once the Brahma Granthi is pierced, Kundalini ascends the Root and Sacral Chakra into the Solar Plexus and Heart Chakra - a more subtle realm. The ascension unbinds the individual from instinctual patterns, fear, and selfishness.
#2 Vishnu Granthi – The Knot of Vishnu
Governs: Love/Passion and emotional patterns
Chakra: Manipura (Sacral) and Anahata (Heart) Chakra
Tendency: Rajas – individuality, egoism, passion, and self-centeredness
Vishnu Granthi is located between the Sacral and Heart Chakra – two energy centers concomitant to emotional bondage, attachment, and psychic abilities. It keeps a person tied to self-cherishing his/her accumulations in a never-ending quest for power.
At this level of consciousness, individuals are governed by the Ego with a tendency to be overly passionate and ambitious. They are bound to self-importance, pride, and an attachment to siddhis. It is an intoxicating dichotomy wherein one is benevolent but also feels holier than thou.
Despite compassionate actions, an individual still sees himself are separate from others – the trap of duality. They seek fame, material possessions and remain chained to individuality.
In Hatha yoga, the Uddiyana bandha (Abdomen Lock) is used to pierce the Vishnu Granthi. It merges the Prana, Apana, and Samana Vayu (three of the five sub-energies of prana). The piercing is symbolic of breaking the chains of individuality and self-servitude. It allows Kundalini to move to the next level of consciousness and into the Anahata (Heart) Chakra.
#3 Rudra Granthi – The Knot of Shiva
Governs: Intellectual pride and mental patterns
Chakra: Vishuddhi and Ajna Chakra
Tendency: Sattva – purity, balance, harmony, creativity, and positivity
Rudra Granthi is located in the region of the Ajña (Third-Eye) chakra. The knot of Rudra is the final hurdle to overcome for a yogi. It resides in the Ajna Chakra, where the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna merge to enter the Crown Chakra. It inhibits Kundalini from entering the highest self by binding it to mental attachments.
At this level of consciousness, animal desires have been transcended in the pursuit of intellectual growth. The intellect isn’t capable of differentiating between self-knowledge and intellectual accumulations. It leads to being highbrow, opinionated, prejudices, and other dark aspects of intellectual pride. It can be pierced with self-knowledge.
Piercing the Rudra Granthi signifies the dissolution of the ego and overcoming the individual Self. In Hatha Yoga, Jalandhara bandha, Kechari Mudra, and Shambhavi Mudra are practiced to lift the veil of 'otherness' to experience cosmic consciousness. It leads to the highest level of awareness by opening the Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra. At this moment – the NOW – the individual attains an enlightened state as the Individual Self merges into the Universal Self.
The Three Lingas of Shaivism
The three lingas – Swayambhu, Bana, Itara – in the tantric traditions of yoga correspond to the three knots/Granthis in Hatha yoga.
Swaymabhu Linga – Located at Muladhara Chakra
Bana Linga – Located at Anahata Chakra
Itara Linga – Located at Ajna Chakra
Just like the chakras, the lingas are not physical or physiological. They are located in the astral body and are an esoteric representation in Kundalini theory.
The goal of Kundalini Awakening is to awaken the dormant Kundalini energy and move it from the lowest center (Root Chakra) to the highest center (Crown Chakra). Movement from the primal to emotional to intellectual self and finally beyond into spiritual blossoming.
If Kundalini remains in any of these centers, an individual gets attached to temporality, finding delight in evanescent things that lures them away from higher pursuits and attainments.
In Tantra Yoga, it’s theorized that the Root, Heart, and Third-eye chakras have an opening in the form of these lingas. Kundalini can enter Sushumna (the central channel) through these openings. There are, subsequently, several yoga kriyas to facilitate this ascension.
Tantra Yoga texts state that the granthis play the role of safety valves to shield the sensitive sheaths of the body from being overwhelmed with Kundalini energy. The premature awakening of Kundalini can shock the mental, emotional, and intellectual mechanisms of an individual.
As Kundalini travels upwards, it pierces and activates the chakras causally and systematically. All seven chakra are associated with distinct qualities. An energized chakra stirs the corresponding qualities and changes our outlook, perception, and experience of life.
We hope you could relish this post by itself. We recommend reading up on the following concepts to understand the subtler aspects of the three granthis -
Pranamaya Kosha (The five body sheaths)
Kundalini and the 7 Chakras
The Five Prana Vayus or Sub-energies of Prana
The Three Bandhas (Jalandhara, Uddiyana, Mula)
The Kundalini Shakti – Swami Narayananada