SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS

For serious spiritual seekers.

Pranayama

Introduction

From a small incident last weekend, I learnt something profound. There was a girl walking through the road. She has got very beautiful hair. I was behind her. I was simply admiring in my mind the beauty of her hair. After some time she slightly looked back. Then she started dressing her hair. She again looked back at me and again dressed her hair. As if by some unknown force she came to know that I am admiring her hair. I was dumbfounded. I have triggered an action just by thought. I started wondering, had I done the same thing in my company with my colleagues, how much we could have achieved.

I had a similar realization some time back. I saw that by looking down upon somebody we can trigger bad feeling in them. So I concluded that by thinking highly about somebody should trigger positive feelings in them. I have read that by thinking also we can do good to others. So I would try to think ‘tat tavam asi’ whenever I saw somebody. But I was not able to do so much effectively. Also, I never thought it could trigger action. That it could do so much good to my life and others life as well with whom I work. This experience opened for me a whole new horizon of possibilities. So I started exploring it.

I also thought a lot of things. Like how in history small army defeated huge armies. The leader of such armies must have propagated his thought in such a way that he got everybody’s mind in sync. Like in a man’s body his hands legs work in sync. Similarly every soldier’s body must have got synced that they became one giant body and dealt deadly blow to the opponent. So I decided to explore it further to understand how to do this thing more effectively.

Raja Yoga

I remembered Swami Vivekananda saying: The gigantic will-powers of the world, the world-movers, can bring their Prana into a high state of vibration, and it is so great and powerful that it catches others in a moment, and thousands are drawn towards them, and half the world think as they do. Great prophets of the world had the most wonderful control of the Prana, they had brought their Prana to the highest state of motion, and this is what gave them power to sway the world.

So I started exploring the PRANA chapter in Raja Yoga. Swami Vivekananda writes: Prânâyâma is not, as many think, something about breath; breath indeed has very little to do with it, if anything. Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real Pranayama. Pranayama means the control of Prâna.

According to the philosophers of India, the whole universe is composed of two materials, one of which they call Âkâsha. It is the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form, everything that is the result of combination, is evolved out of this Âkâsha. It cannot be perceived; it is so subtle that it is beyond all ordinary perception; it can only be seen when it has become gross, has taken form.

By what power is this Akasha manufactured into this universe? By the power of Prana. Just as Akasha is the infinite, omnipresent material of this universe, so is this Prana the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe. At the beginning and at the end of a cycle everything becomes Akasha, and all the forces that are in the universe resolve back into the Prana; in the next cycle, out of this Prana is evolved everything that we call energy, everything that we call force. The knowledge and control of this Prana is really what is meant by Pranayama.

How do we control the Prana? The man, who has controlled the Prana, has the power of bringing it into a certain state of vibration, which can be conveyed to others, arousing in them a similar vibration. You see that in everyday actions. I am talking to you. What am I trying to do? I am, so to say, bringing my mind to a certain state of vibration, and the more I succeed in bringing it to that state, the more you will be affected by what I say. All of you know that the day I am more enthusiastic, the more you enjoy the lecture; and when I am less enthusiastic, you feel lack of interest.

How to control the Prana is the one idea of Pranayama. All the trainings and exercises in this regard are for that one end. Each man must begin where he stands, must learn how to control the things that are nearest to him. The little wave of Prana which is working this mind and body is the nearest to us of all the Prana in this universe. If we can succeed in controlling that little wave, then alone we can hope to control the whole of Prana.

The most obvious manifestation of this Prana in the human body is the motion of the lungs. If that stops, all the other forces in the body will stop. Pranayama really means controlling this motion of the lungs and this motion is associated with the breath. Not that breath is producing it; on the contrary it is producing breath. This motion draws in the air by pump action. The Prâna is giving motion to the lungs, the movement of the lungs draws in the air. So Pranayama is not breathing, but controlling that muscular power which moves the lungs. When the Prana has become controlled, then we shall immediately find that all the other actions of the Prana will slowly come under control.

In this universe there is one continuous substance on every plane of existence. Physically this universe is one: there is no difference between the sun and you. There is no such thing as my body, or your body, except in words. Of the one huge mass of matter, one point is called a moon, another a sun, another a man, another the earth, another a plant. So it is with the mind. Matter is represented by the ether; when the action of Prana is most subtle, this very ether, in the finer state of vibration, will represent the mind and there it will be still one unbroken mass.

In reality there is no distance in the sense of a break. Is there any break between you and the sun? It is a continuous mass of matter, the sun being one part, and you another. Is there a break between one part of a river and another? Then why cannot any force travel? There is no reason against it. The Prana can be transmitted to a very great distance.

Conclusion

Now to trigger action in somebody and achieve something substantial together, one needs to act on two planes- the conscious and the subconscious. The reason being, every human being takes decision to act depending on their thoughts and impulses. It isn’t the conscious thoughts of reasons only that trigger decision. But the subconscious impulses of fear also trigger decision. So acting on both the planes alone can guarantee results. 

We can manipulate the conscious reasons through words. But the subconscious impulses can be manipulated only through thoughts. And there can’t be any other more potent idea to invigorate the subconscious, than the mantra ‘tat tavam asi’.

But the idea must hit strongly the other persons mind. Herein comes the practice of pranayama. Without the pranayama practice it will hit feeble. Pranayama delivers the power to hit hard. How does that happen? Well I think this can be explained through the Newton’s cradle experiment.

When the 1st pendulum hits the sequence of pendulums, none of them moves, only the last one swings. Similarly when we hit the Prâna close to our end of mind, it travels through, and delivers the power at the other end of mind.

Summary

Swami Vivekananda concludes the PRANA chapter like this:

You will find that wherever there is any extraordinary display of power, it is the manifestation of this Prâna. Even the physical sciences can be included in Pranayama. What moves the steam engine? Prâna, acting through the steam. What are all these phenomena of electricity and so forth but Prâna? What is physical science? The science of Pranayama, by external means. Prâna, manifesting itself as mental power, can only be controlled by mental means. That part of Pranayama which attempts to control the physical manifestations of the Prâna by physical means is called physical science, and that part which tries to control the manifestations of the Prâna as mental force by mental means is called Raja-Yoga.

Thus Raja Yoga is the spiritual way to become a Raja (king) i.e. attain to prosperity. It is the way to work together to attain mutual prosperity and well-being.

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Thus, I complete the work of my Gurudev Vivekananda, which he undertook a century ago, as can be seen in his letter to Mr. ET Sturdy dated 13th Feb 1896. Where he explained his newly developed ideas of Âkâsha and Prâna. And said:

I want to work all this out carefully, but you will see at a glance that I am on the right track. It will take more study in physiology, but I have clear light now, free of all hocus-pocus. I want to give them dry, hard reason, softened in the sweetest syrup of love and made spicy with intense work, and cooked in the kitchen of Yoga, so that even a baby can easily digest it.

(CW/V5/Epistles_-_First_Series/LVII_Blessed_and_Beloved)

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