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Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Pacha and the Three Worlds

This post will serve as a lead-in to one of my favorite meditations from the Andes. It is another meditation that I have learned from don Americo Yabar. The meditation involves connecting with the three levels of existence, the ‘Three Worlds’, of the Andean Cosmovision. They are the ‘uju pacha’ (the ‘lower world’), the ‘kay pacha’ (the ‘surface world’) and the ‘janaq pacha’ (the ‘upper world’). I have given these Quechua words the spelling they would have if written in Spanish. Phonetically in English they would roughly be ‘ukhu pacha’, ‘kie pacha’, and ‘hanak pacha’.

Like all of the meditations I have shared, this meditation is quite simple. As I began exploring it, however, I found that I wanted to have a better understanding of what the meditation was all about. In searching my notes I found only the briefest descriptions from Americo concerning the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha. I decided to turn to what literature is available on the Andean Cosmovision to see if I could flesh out my understanding of these terms. What I found has helped me to hone my intent with the meditations, and I have really enjoyed the results. I would like to share with you what I have found (but keep in mind the fallacies I posted earlier).

The three worlds of uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha are so fundamental to the Andean Cosmovision that there is actually a fair amount of information available concerning how the Andean people interpret these terms. These interpretations, however, vary widely across the sources I have found.

Part of the breadth of meaning of the three terms comes from the 500 years of Christian influence on the Andean culture. It takes no great conceptual leap to link the uju pacha (the lower world) with the Christian concept of hell, and the janaq pacha (the upper world) with the Christian concept of heaven, and this has changed the meaning of the terms in the post-conquest culture. Even the Q’ero, the people with whom I have worked and who are viewed by many as being among the purer ‘keepers of the flame’ of the indigenous Andean Cosmovision readily identify themselves as being Christian (see Wilcox, 2004). What they exactly mean by this is hard to say. It brings to mind my hearing the women in Mollamarka, Peru sing about Apu Jesucristo (loosely translated as ‘Jesus the Sacred Mountain’).

If we look at the conceptualization of the three worlds which predates the Christian conquest of the Andes then a very different understanding emerges. Even then, however, there are still some differences among sources concerning how these terms are to be interpreted. When faced with a multitude of interpretations of the nature of the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pacha, what did I do? I picked the one I liked, the one that fit my understanding of the Andean Cosmovision, and ultimately the one that enhanced the power of the meditation.

The following description of the nature of the uju pacha, kay pacha, and janaq pachca is based upon a chapter entitled ‘Andean Cosmology and Cosmography in the North-Peruvian Shamanic Mesa’, written by Mario Polia, in the book Mesas & Cosmologies in the Central Andes, edited by Douglas Sharon (2006). An understanding of these three terms depends upon an understanding of the word ‘pacha’.

The Quechua word ‘pacha’ does not correspond directly to any term or concept we have in the West. It is, instead, a bringing together of three of our concepts, an integration of place, time, and consciousness. One facet of ‘pacha’ encompasses the concept of space/earth/world/place. We have already in this blog run across Pachamama as the great Being who is the planet Earth. A second facet of ‘pacha’ involves time/era/period. The term ‘tarpui pacha’, for example, is the time for the sowing of seeds. ‘Pacha’ thus encompasses both place/location and time/period, a particular location at a particular time, but there is a third element involved in ‘pacha’, namely consciousness. In the Andean Cosmovision consciousness is an inherent, immanent, aspect of the Cosmos, if we are talking about a time and a place then we are talking about consciousness as well. Now let’s take this idea of ‘pacha’ and develop a useful understanding of the ‘uju pacha’, ‘kay pacha’, and ‘janaq pacha’.

In terms of a world, or location, or place the uju pacha is the lower world, the world below, the interior world, a place associated with the depths of the planet. When the Andean people want to communicate with the uju pacha they may go to a spring or to a crack in the earth’s surface that provides a conduit into the interior of the world. The uju pacha is the deeply interior world, closer to the surface is the ‘urin pacha’, where seeds are planted to take root and grow. The uju pacha also refers to time, in this case it is the past, the distant past (uju pacha) and the recent past (urin pacha). The uju pacha is the time of our ancestors and before. I like to think of the urin pacha, the more recent past, as the time when seeds were planted in our lives that have blossomed into who we were, who we are now and who we are about to become. Connection with the uju pacha is accomplished by connecting to the interior world (e.g. the interior of the planet) and intrinsically tied to that act is the connection with the past, both distant and recent. Consciousness exists outside of all of our mind’s constructs of space and time so whatever consciousness is it is there and then as well.

The kay pacha is the surface world, the world in which we live, and it is also present time, not necessarily this exact moment of Now but the general neighborhood of time around it.

The third world, the janaq pacha, is the superior world, the world above. The near above, the realm of the majestic mountain peaks, is known as the janan pacha. The janaq pacha is the highest zone, the realm of the stars, ‘the seat of archetypal forms of spiritual principle of all living things’ (Polia, pg 35). The janan pacha and janaq pacha also refer to the future, the near and distant future respectively. Connection with the janaq pacha is accomplished by connecting to the sky above, possibly as far as the stars themselves, and this is intrinsically tied to connecting with the future. If connecting with the uju pacha connects us to the seeds that have blossomed into who we were, who we are now, and who we are about to be, connecting with the janaq pacha is a connection to who we are in the future as Beings in harmony with the archetypal forms of the spiritual principle of all living things. And of course, consciousness, which is outside of time and space, is there and then too.

As Beings we are older than the Grand Canyon, but not as old as the stars.  don Americo Yabar.

Next post, a meditation which brings this into blossom.


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1 Comment

  1. Tessa Eagle Swan

    October 15, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Im enjoying this. Thank you. I do a connection with the three worlds too, Don Americo taught me that. I love his teachings

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