Vastu vs. Feng Shui: Difference and Similarities
Our home, our domain. The one safe retreat for us when we are hurt, upset or threatened. Nothing can happen to us there.
So imagine someone coming and telling that your haven can cause miseries, especially if you keep certain wrong things in the wrong direction? Yet that's what people are being told today, making them change everything they have so far been used to.
Because with the economical and cultural globalisation, the Chinese Feng Shui has entered also Indian homes. Suddenly everything that was previously done was pooh-poohed. Everything, right from the pictures in your house to your sleeping positions were changed. You had to have lights on every beam and wind chimes in every nook, brass turtles on your floors and your favourite idol of Goddess Lakshmi got replaced by toads! The ancestral houses were no longer 'good' for the inhabitants. The direction of everyone's entry into the house was changed. People started investing in fortune bamboos and laughing buddhas.
Then, not to be kept under wraps of old-fashionedness, Vastu lifted its head. Soon two camps were formed, and after much mud slinging ( Feng Shui -ites called Vastu the outdated, unfashionable idea and Vastu loyals called Feng Shui unreligious Chinese Vastu ), people began to wonder - which was the right one, who would give them good days?
Vastu v/s Feng Shui
To find out who's more authentic and beneficial, we must know everything about the two first. Vastu , which literally means to live, works on the premise that the earth is a living organism, out of which other living organisms emerge. This life energy is known as Vastu Purusha. The Vastu Shastra works for a bounded premise i.e., a house, building, industrial area or shop. The main aim is to form a balance between the outside atmosphere and the atmosphere within the premise. Vastu makes use of five elements - prithvi (earth), agni (fire), tej (light), vayu (wind) and akash (ether), the earth's magnetic fields i.e. the north and the south pole and the sun's rays. Feng Shui literally means wind and water, is based on the idea that individuals should live in harmony with their environment. It was believed that if we live in balance with the order of the world, we could attract fortune and prosperity.
This science makes extensive use of the wind and the water - the former is supposed to carry the energy and the latter is supposed to retain it. In addition, Feng Shui also makes use of five elements - earth, fire, water, wood and metal.
So even as the basic premise of both seems to be the same - living in harmony with the environments and seeking equilibrium with it - both sciences have vast differences in the way they operate. Probably due to the fact that they have originated in two geographically and culturally different areas, and different times.
Vastu dates back to the times when the sages lived - probably 6,000 and 3,000 BC. The mention of Vastu can be found in ancient scriptures like the Rigveda, Atharvaveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Mayamatam, Manasa saar, etc. Ancient Indian architecture depended on this science for the building of almost all the palaces and temples. Although the exact origins of Feng Shui are debatable, it is thought to have originated about five thousand years ago. Scholars have recorded various aspects of Feng Shui as early as the Song Dynasty (960 BC). However, the basic principles of Feng Shui were first written down during the Han dynasty (25 AD).
How Vastu works
Vastu works on three principles of design that cover the entire premise. The first one is Bhogadyam, which says that the designed premise must be useful and lend itself to easy application. The second is Sukha Darsham, in which the designed premise must be aesthetically pleasing. The proportions of the spaces and the material used, in the interiors and exteriors of the building - ornamentation, colour, sizes of the windows, doors and the rooms and the rhythms of projection and depressions - should be beautiful. The third principle is Ramya, where the designed premise should evoke a feeling of well being in the user.
Also, Vastu is a complicated form of science put together by seventeen sages. There are certain rules that should be followed while building a house or a building. For instance, the building's underground water tank or well should be situated in the northeast direction. But, if the building has an overhead tank then it should be placed in the southwest direction. Also, more space should be left to the north and the east of the building compound and less on the south and the west. Open space should be kept around the building and if the plot has a road on the east-north directions, it is better for the inhabitants.
In the kitchen, the platform should be placed in the east with the cooking stove on the right hand side and the sink and the water on the left. The mandir of the house should be in the northeast direction. The permanent or the heavy items should be kept in the south and southwest side of the building and so with equipments like TV, radio or any other entertainment device. Sleeping in the right direction is also an important factor in Vastu ; the head should be in the east or the south directions.
Vastu Shastra, in addition, also says what kinds of plants and trees are good for the family residing in the building.
It is believed that if a house is built on these few rules, then that particular house will never face serious health and money problems and the family members will live in harmony.
How Feng Shui Works
In practice, Feng Shui is optimising one's space in a specific period of time. Traditional Feng Shui gives equal importance to Time, Space and Action. So it is important to have a mix of the right action, in the right place at the right time to do well. The most important principles therefore are 'earth luck', the energies that are present in your space and time. The second is the 'man luck', which are your own actions and free will. So how you use the available opportunities make a difference in your life. The third one is 'heaven luck', which is your fate and destiny and least in your hands.
These three principles make it easy for us to understand why different people moving into the same house can do varied things in their lives.
Also, the traditional Feng Shui has two main systems of application - the eight mansions or the Pachai and the flying stars or the Xuan Kong meaning time and space. The former is very simple and most popular; it is usually done if you do not know the year in which your building was constructed which is important in the latter. It is a less detailed system and gives you 80 per cent results as compared to the other.
The flying stars however is a very complex system, it is actually making a horoscope of your house, and is much more effective. Since the stars change every two years, so do the cures of Feng Shui . The difference between the two is same as the difference between your weekly horoscope appearing in the newspaper and your janampatri.
Even if Vastu and Feng Shui both mean to harmonise you with your surroundings, they have totally different philosophies. It is very difficult to say which is better, but the fact is that both are encompassed in the blanket of misconceptions. People believe that Feng Shui means changing everything that they had done around their homes earlier. But it is not true. In fact, the real masters say that if you have been having a satisfactory life in the terms of health, wealth and relationships, your house is utilising all the energies properly, so do not disturb it. Also, they warn against generalising of the good and the bad directions, as these directions vary from house to house and person to person. Therefore following these directions and putting up cures, especially the water ones, can do more harm than good as water is a very strong cure and is quick in showing both good and bad effects. And lastly, laughing buddhas, fortune bamboos, wind chimes and a few other Feng Shui items are not necessary. A good Feng Shui master will tell you affordable and simple alternatives that are very much Indian and pleasing to the eye. So if you believe that an idol of Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth, you install it in your wealth corner and not the three-legged toad.
Vastu is also a victim of misunderstanding. It is believed that as Vastu is done at the time of the construction of the house, what happens latter, good or bad is inevitable and cannot be changed. But Vastu Shastra believes that just like humans, a building has a life that weakens after some years. Therefore, to rejuvenate it, the resident must do a Vastu puja every 30 years. Whatever the differences, both these methods have proved that there is a definite science involved and should not be taken lightly.