Isn’t it a gift that in our modern world we have access to study the ancient wisdom of many cultures? Two such gifts are the teachings of feng shui and vastu shastra, both of which provide guidance on how to look at our homes as an extension of our bodies, minds, and hearts. This is a guide to compare some basic principles of both practices.
However, please keep in mind that one is not better than another, and we do not recommend you appropriate or mindlessly mix and match the two practices. Instead, we invite you to explore this overview of some of the similarities and differences between feng shui and vastu shastra with respect. If you choose to do so, we welcome you to work with one that resonates with you.
Origins in China and India
Feng shui (translates to “wind and water”) was developed in China, while vastu shastra (translates to "science of architecture") originates in India. Both are large countries with civilizations that were subject to their environment such as floods and natural disasters. It’s likely that the differences in the two systems arise from their different geographical origins. Even within China and India there are different terrains and natural patterns.
Most ancient cultures have their own practices of connecting with the environment such as how to site your home in the most advantageous way for longevity, abundance, and harmony for your family. Vastu shastra and feng shui were also both used to create venerated sacred sites such as temples and palaces. The foundations of feng shui are rooted in Taoism while vastu shastra comes from the Vedas. Both examine the spaces around us as a way to connect the cosmos to the humans that reside on the earth.
Qi and Prana
At the heart of feng shui is the concept of qi, life force energy that animates and gives life to humans, animals, nature, objects, and space. Similarly, vastu shastra places importance on the same idea of life force energy which is called prana. Both qi and prana are connected to the breath, however it is not the same as the breath itself. Qi and prana enliven even inanimate objects. All beings, objects, and spaces are interconnected and interdependent in these two practices. Therefore they both consider our spaces as a way to balance and find support as we move through our lives.
Connected to Nature and Her Elements (the Five Elements)
Both feng shui and vastu shastra find guidance from the natural world to inform our built environments. Feng shui uses the five elements from Taoism which includes the elements: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire. From the Vedic system, vastu shastra also uses a slightly different set of five elements which include: water, fire, earth, air, and space. The attributes of the two five element systems are not the same.
Mandala Principle and the Directions
The Sanskrit word mandala literally translates to “circle.” But that doesn’t mean a mandala is a circle! A mandala is often a geometric symbol with a center. In the case of both vastu shastra and feng shui, their mandalas are created with eight areas around a center. The feng shui bagua map is a mandala. The word bagua means “eight areas”. These mandalas radiate eight main areas around a center. The eight areas relate to the cardinal (north, east, south, and west) and inter-cardinal directions (north-east, south-east, south-west, and north-west). Each direction relates to their respective five element systems, but also an endless array of other meanings. For instance vastu shastra overlays the planets, deities, colors, and so forth.
The feng shui and vastu shastra mandalas can be overlaid on your home’s floor plan to provide insight and instructions on how to best organize your living spaces. But both vastu shastra and feng shui place importance on the center of their mandalas. The vastu mandala is connected to space, while the feng shui center impacts the entire mandala. It’s worth noting that the mandalas are not equivalent, nor do they necessarily have the same meanings nor applications.
Importance of Bedroom, Bathrooms and Front Door
Finally, feng shui and vastu shastra both look at the importance of types of rooms in the home. Both offer great attention to the bedroom, the bathroom and entry of the home. But in this case, we invite you to see which system piques your interest and dive into the design details of the practice that connects with you. Both offer great value and wisdom that we can harness to reconnect us to our spaces.