The Crown of Life

continued ...


He who knows prana, knows the Vedas. - SANTIS

    Before dealing with pranayam, it is necessary to know what the pranas (the vital airs) are, their classification and functions, etc., in the body and how they act and the things allied with them. Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the Universe, the sum total of all the forces in Nature. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism, gravitation, etc., are all manifestations of prana. All forces, all powers and even the pranas themselves spring from one and the same source--the fountainhead of atman. Pran tatwa is much superior to manas tatwa or the mind-principle, of which Nanak says:

He who conquers the mind, conquers the world.
    The motor power behind the mind-stuff, as said already, is that of prana and hence the regulation and control of prana, the primal force in the Universe, is of prime importance and far above other psycho-physical disciplines. In the Gorakh Samhita it is said that he who knows the secret of prana knows the secret of yoga, for in the rhythmic regulation of prana lies the practical aspect of yoga par excellence.
    Pranas are classified into five important categories according to the nature of their functions:
(a) Prana is concerned with the respiratory system. It is the breath of life and,
     like a bird in a cage, gives vitality to the human system. Its seat is said to be
     in the region lying between the two eyebrows, called chid-akash, up to which
     place the field of its operation extends.
(b) Apana helps the excretory system, as it has a tendency to flow downwards.
     It operates in the region below the navel.
(c) Samana aids the digestive organs. It is so called as it conducts equally the food
     to the entire system. Its seat is in the navel and it spreads on all sides, nourishing
     the body as a whole.
(d) Udana is connected with deglutition; it is named from its quality of ascending,
     drawing or guiding breath. Its movement is perceptible between the navel and
     the head. Its seat is in the neck and it has a tendency to fly upwards.
(e) Yyana helps in maintaining the circulatory system in the entire body. It affects
     internal division and diffusion and is so called from its pervading (vyapati) the body
     like the ethereal element.
Besides these primary pranas, there are five other kinds of lesser importance, namely:
 (i) Naga which helps belching or eructation.
 (ii) Kurma is connected with the eyes, and helps the blinking process
     and induces sleep.
(iii) Krikala pervades through the facial muscles and spreads out
     in the act of sneezing.
(iv) Deva-datta brings about yawning and takes one into a gentle sleep.
(v) Dhanan-jay is associated with the work of assimilation.
These vital airs pervade the skin, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and the like.

Plexuses and chakras

    Wherever several nerves, arteries or veins interlace each other, that point or center is called a plexus. Similarly, there are plexuses or centers of vital forces in the Suksham or subtle nadis and these are called chakras or padmas. The nadis are the astral tubes made up of astral matter, and serve as passages for subtle pranas through which they operate in the subtle body as do the nerves, arteries and veins in the gross physical body. All these subtle tubes or nadis spring from Kanda or the center where the Sushmana Nadi meets the Muladhana Chakra at the base of the spine. Of these nadis, Ida, Pingala and Sushmana are the most important. All three nadis are within the spinal cord. Ida and Pingala are on the left and right side respectively of the Sushmana or Sukhman. The Ida (Chandra canal) flows through the right. Breath generally flows through each for about two hours alternately. But when it flows through the Sushmana (Agni canal), the mind becomes steady. This steadiness or Unmani Avastha, as it is called, is the highest state in Raja Yoga, for in this state there is wonderful meditation. The practice of Pranayam is necessary for purification of the nadis, as with impurities in them, the breath cannot pass through the middle nadi.
    Gross prana travels in the nerves of the physical body, but the subtle prana moves in the astral tubes (nadis). The breath is an external effect of the manifestation of the gross prana.
There is a very close and intimate connection between the gross and the subtle prana. If the mind and the prana cease to vibrate, no thought-waves will arise.

The mind functions through prana,
It is from prana (life) that everything proceeds.
                                CHHANDOGYA UPANISHAD
    When prana departs from the body, all organs cease to function, for in the body there is no greater force than bio-energy (prana).

Pranayam: Elementary exercises

    Hatha Yoga Pradipka lays great stress on yogic breathing for "all life exists only from breath to breath," and it said that "he who breathes half, only lives half." We must therefore  develop air-hunger. For "vital airs," says Hippocrates, "is the real pabulum vitae." Deep breathing is a great, positive aid to self-culture and helps in retaining health, youth and longevity. The habit of conscious deep breathing gives a good exercise to the respiratory organs and ensures a free circulation of blood. Respiration consists of alternate expansion and contraction as the air is drawn in or expelled out from the lungs, and these are termed inhalation (inspiration) and exhalation (expiration) respectively. Each of these is followed by a suspensory pause within and without. Thus pranayam has four processes, namely: Puraka or inhalation, Antar Kumbhak or retention within, and Rechaka or exhalation followed by Vahya Kumbhak or Sunyaka, i.e., expiratory pause. This can be done through both the nostrils very, very slowly, and should be repeated ten to twenty times in the morning and in the evening for about three months. One may start with Puraka and Rechaka and after some time add the other two practices of standstill pauses (Antar and Vahya Kumbhaka) for a few seconds. By practice and perseverance, one can acquire efficiency in yogic breathing. The suspending of breath at will after in-breathing or out-breathing, is called Kevalya Kumbhaka.

Sukh Purvak Pranayam
(Easy and comfortable form of pranayam)

    Sitting on Padam or Sukh Asana, one should close the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand and exhale the air slowly and rhythmically in one long and unbroken expiration through the left nostril. Now the left nostril is also to be closed with the little or ring finger of the right hand and the Vahya Kumbhak be maintained as long as possible without the least discomfort. Then the breath is to be inhaled, very, very, slowly, through the right nostril after removing the thumb
which is to be followed by Antar Kumbhak. Then the order is to be reversed. All these eight processes constitute one pranayam. One ought to commence with five to ten pranayams in the morning and in the evening, on an empty stomach, and gradually increase the same to twenty, together with increased Kumbhak or retention without causing any inconvenience. While doing pranayam, one should think that Divya Sampardie (Niyamas) like mercy, compassion, love, peace and joy, are being absorbed in the system and Asuraya Sampardie (Yamas) like anger, lust, greed and selfishness, are being discarded and ejected by the system. It would be well to do Simran, if one may like, during the pranayam.
    In the higher stages of Pranayam, the vital breath rises in the Sushmana Nadi and flows toward Sahasrar. The movement is felt in the first instance like that of an ant, and gradually grows into that of a frog, till with the clearing and purification of the nadi through continued practice, the prana begins to fly like a bird.
There are different types of breath-controlling processes, e.g.:

(i) Out-breathing and in-breathing through both nasal channels combined
      with Kumbhaka.
(ii) Out-breathing and in-breathing through one of the nasal channels at a time
      followed by Kumbhaka. It is called Surya Bhedana and Chandra Bhedana,
      when performed through the right and left sides respectively.
(iii) In-breathing through both and out-breathing though one of the nasal passages
      at a time.
(iv) Shitkari and Shitah: These are two forms of sipping and sucking the air through
      pouted lips, along the tongue (after closing both nostrils) and after holding the air
      a little deep down, to release it through the nostrils. This is just like drinking the
      vital breath through the crow-beak.
 (v) Bhasrika: It consists in taking breaths in quick succession through one channel at
      a time, and then slowly exhaling the last breath through the other channel and vice
      versa. It is just like working the bellows and hence is called bellows-breathing or
    Pranayam, or yogic breathing, can be practiced profitably and successfully under the guidance of a Guru or an adept in the method and by those who observe truthfulness, continence, temperance, moderation in diet, humility and patience, are not given to any kind of addictions, and above all, are free from heart and lung diseases and congenital disorders.
    The great achievement of pranayam is to awaken and bring into full play the coiled serpentine energy of Kundalini, lying in a dormant state at the spinal root-center. As it rises higher and higher in the Sukhman, the various subtle centers in the subtle nadis get illuminated, till it reaches Sahasrar, the fountain of light. With the destruction of the veil over the Radi-ance of Eternity, the mind gets quickly absorbed and concen-tration follows of itself.
    The muscular and nerve control by the practice of asanas is but a preparatory stage, and the real technique of yoga begins with the harnessing of the vital pranas or the ten engines in the body.
    Pranayam brings Chit Shudhi, Manas Shudhi and Nadi Shudhi and thereby steadies the mind and helps in concentration, and in destroying the coverings or koshas on the soul. It removes all desires, improves designation and helps in maintaining brahmcharya (continence) and attaining ekagrata (one-pointedness) and kumbhaka (state of peace), with or without purak or rechaka, or the inhaling and exhaling processes.
    Pranayam should be done after answering the call of nature and after thorough cleansing of the nares or nasal channels with pure and tepid water, and by gargling the throat.
    It should be practiced all alone in a sitting posture in a room with open windows to let in fresh air and with the mouth closed. After fifteen minutes of the practice, a cup of milk does good. Bathing is to be avoided immediately after such exercises.
    The object of pranayam is to restrain the vritis of the mind and to make the mind-stuff steady, like the jet of a lamp in a windless place. All abhyas or practice whatsoever is directed to driving the mind to its source--Hirdey Guha--and to get it absorbed in atman.
    The evil vritis of the mind can be removed by cultivating good vritis, so as to replace lust (kam) by continence (brahmcharya), pride (madha) by humility (nimrta), greed (lobh) by contentment (santosh), niggardliness by magnanimity, delusion by discrimination, dishonesty by honesty, fickleness by determination, arrogance by politeness, jealousy by nobility, attachment by detachment, enmity by friendliness, and so on.
    The Vedantic method consists in cutting the branches of sankalpa from the tree of the mind (manas), and then destroying the tree itself by cutting the roots in the ego.

Pranayam as a form of yoga
(The Prana Yoga)

    The importance of pranayam as an integral part of Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga is so great, that some have come to regard it as an independent form of yoga in itself and have given it the name of Prana Yoga.
    As explained already, the Ida and Pingala nadis starting from svadhistan chakra, the center of life-breath, run spirally round the central nadi, Sukhmana, and end in the left and right nostril respectively. Ida is is influenced by the moon, while Pingala is influenced by the sun. Ida has in abundance the moisture of the moon and represents the female principle, while Pingala has the energy of the sun and represents the male principle in nature. Both of these nadis, the negative and the positive, work under the action of prakriti and purush, i.e., matter and soul combined.
    When the Pingala Nadi, which is influenced by the energy of the sun, is in active motion, the food taken is easily and quickly digested. When the Ida Nadi starts, it brings in strength and vitality to the system and helps in the development of the body and bodily muscles, etc. It is under the active influence of both these heavenly bodies, as operating through these nadis, that further growth takes place both in nature and in the human species, both female and male. The moisture of the moon helps the production of raj in women, and the life-giving energy of the sun that of viraj or semen in men.
    During the daytime, the solar nadi (Pingala) operates for most of the time, and hence the food should be taken while the live energy of the sun is in active motion so it will get easily dissolved in the system and thus become the source of strength. Food taken at night after the setting of the sun is likely to increase body bulk and fats and to create digestive disorders, which may lead to disturbance in the equilibrium of the elemental constituents in the body, like kaf (phlegm), safra (heat) and sauda (gaseous vibrations), etc.

Pranic discipline

    This discipline, in brief, consists in setting up:

(a) Some center within the body, say at the plexus of the heart or the region of the
     vital airs, where the mano-mai-atman dwells.
(b) Some center outside the body.
(c) One has to work at both the centers within and without and to do pranayam in
     between the two centers.
(d) The practice of tratak or the discipline of the vision (sight), by gradually bringing
      the attention from without to within, and keeping it fixed on one of these inner
      centers for some time.
    In setting up centers outside the body one has to sit in solitude and make a yellow spot on a white paper, which is to be placed on the table or hung on the wall on a level with the eyes. Tratak or the fixing of the gaze is then done on that spot while the pingala nadi is in action. The attention is also to be fixed on and gradually absorbed within the Anahat Sound. After practicing this for a few days, the outer spot is to be changed to blue, to red, to bluish white, and lastly into a brilliantly white color, after some days of practice at each colored spot. The object of the tratak practice (spot-gazing) is to have a clear vision of the elemental colors which are representative of the colors of earth, water, fire, air and ether, respectively. For quicker results, this is to be done for at least two or three hours every day. It improves eyesight and serves as a great aid in influencing others.
    Again, one has to take care of the distance between the spot and the organ of sight. To begin with, the spot is to be located at a distance of about two feet; after practicing for a few days, the distance is to be reduced to one and three-fourths feet, to one foot and then to half a foot. When this tratak develops into a kind of exhilarating absorption, it may be brought still nearer to the tip of the nose. Then begins the real sadhna and gradually the attention is to be brought to the root of the nose between the two eyebrows. The importance of this practice is that the scattered vritis are to be controlled from wandering without, collected at the still-point in the body or the seat of the mind, and inverted within to bring them in contact with the Anahat Sound. This also brings about, of itself, rhythm in the pranas,  both the vritis and the pranas simultaneously get adjusted of themselves. By the process of tratak, the mind and the pranas become harmonized, and the soul escapes through the mano-mai and pran-mai koshas, or the covering sheaths.

Advantages of Prana Yoga

    The practice of Prana Yoga helps in developing all the sense faculties, viz., perception, audition, olfaction, touch and taste. A yogin can, by his thought-force, attract to his aid from the atmosphere all the powers that he may like, by relating them to his thought. In bitter cold winter, a sadhak may sit in sidh asana with his chin fixed on his chest, think of the sun, and start the practice with pingala or the solar nadi. Heat would generate of itself and cover him with perspiration. In the same way one can, in the mid-summer heat, have the experience of cold. All this depends on thought-force, provided one knows how to fix his attention at the seat of the soul. This is the height of Prana Yoga. One can develop all these powers by bringing the mind and the pranas to one common level. Thought-force springs from the mind, and Prana Yoga consists in bringing the prana into unison with the mind at the level of the soul, or the divine plane.


    This means withdrawal of the senses from the sense-objects. The mind is rendered pure by the practice of yamas, niyamas and pranayama, while pratyahara gives supreme mastery over the senses. The control of the senses, therefore, is the primal factor in the yogic science. Unless the sense steeds are controlled and checked in their mad career in the fields of enjoyment and pleasure, the mind cannot possibly be stilled. The senses have, therefore, to be withdrawn from the sensory plane and protected from taking in all outer impressions and influences. Visual perception and audition are the two main inlets from which we derive no less than 88 to 95 per cent of our impressions, and the remaining five per cent or so come from the other senses. Thus, it is of paramount importance to close down the sluice-gates of the eyes and ears to prevent the outer floodwaters from entering and inundating the lake of the mind. To shut the mind resolutely against the onslaughts of the senses, it is necessary for the student of yoga to retire for some time every day into the "monastic cell" of his heart, for it is a matter of common experience that muddy water becomes clear of itself if it is allowed to stand for some time.
    One can practice pratyahara (control of senses as a preliminary to attaining a state of reverie or sensory withdrawal) through discrimination and discernment. With the knowledge of the true values of life, we come to disregard the unhealthy and unworthy food in which otherwise the senses indulge, and thereby come to control the mindstuff. It is tantamount to dislocating the sense traffic in the world by dynamiting the fields of illusory pleasures with the power of discrimination. Pratyahara is very essential for achieving success in yoga. With the senses inverted, a yogin can work for the consciousness within him. By its practice, the mind becomes purified, grows strong in self-reliance, and is enabled to lead a strictly austere life.
    In the Bhagavad Gita we have:

Let him hold all these (senses) in constraint and concentrate upon me; for he who has his sense instruments under his sway has wisdom abidingly set.
    The above five factors--yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayam and pratyahara--constitute a preparation for progress in yoga. They are but accessories to, and not the main elements of, the yogic system. They help in purifying the body, the pranas, the mind and the indriyas.
    Now we come to the direct internal aids to yoga. These are three in number, viz., dharna, dhyan and samadhi, which constitute Antarang Sadhna or inner discipline.


    Having controlled the pranas through pranayam, and the senses through pratyahara, the student of yoga has now to fix his mind on something. It may be fixed on something without, like an idol or a picture, or any other kind of representation; or it may be fixed on something within, on any of the bodily centers in the pind, or on any idea or on any of the astral centers in the und. Dharna, then, consists in fixing the mind on a particular place, object, idea or center, as one may find convenient. Any type of dharna helps in making the mind steady and is beneficial in its own way.

(i) Dharna on any of the sense perceptions provides steadiness to the mind by
    collecting the wandering wits at the focal point.
(a) On the tip of the nose, it gives an experience of divya gandh or divine
      fragrance. It is called varta siddhi.
(b) On the tip of the tongue, it gives the experience of the taste of divya
      essence or divine-stuff; manna and nectar. The divine knowledge of
      taste is known as asvadan.
(c) On the middle of the tongue, it gives the experience of the divya touch
     or proximity of the sublime presence. The divine knowledge of touch is
     known as vidana.
(d) On the root of the tongue, it gives the experience of divya sounds or holy
      harmony. It is called sravana.
(e) On the palate or roof over the tongue, it gives the experience of the
      divya colors or elemental brilliance. This divine knowledge of sight is
      called adarsha.
(ii) Dharna on the luminous mental state at the seat of the mind: It is practised first
     by inhaling and then exhaling the breath, together with the thought of turning into
     an upward position the eight-petaled lotus below the heart, lying at present face
     downwards, and then fixing the attention on the effulgent light in the lotus through
     which passes the Sushmana or the Brahm Nadi.

(iii) Dharna on Master-souls like Buddha, Christ or preferably still, a living Master,
      who are freed from all desires also frees one from all desires, mental attachments
      and the bondage of mind and matter.

(iv) Dharna or samyam on external objects: Dharna on heavenly bodies like the sun,
      the moon, the planets, etc., gives supersentient experience, e.g.:

(a) On the sun it gives the knowledge of the Brahmand consisting of
      fourteen bhavans or regions; seven upper or higher worlds or lokas
      (bhur, bhuva, swah, maha, janah, tapah and satyam ), and seven
      lower or nether lokas ( sutala, vitala talatala, mahatala, rasatala, atala
      and patala).
(b) On the moon, it gives the knowledge of the stars.
(c) On the pole-star, it gives the knowledge of the movement of the stars.
(d) On the elephant or hanuman, it gives strength and valor.
(e) On the form of the body, it causes disappearance of the body itself, as
      the power of comprehension is checked and the connection between
      the light and the eyes is severed.
(v) Samyam on internal centers, the self, and indriyas: Dharna or samyam may be
      practiced on anything like virtues, internal centers, chakras and nadis, as
      for example:
(a) On the nabhi or navel (manipura chakra), it gives the knowledge of the
      construction of the body.
(b) On the pit of the throat (vishudhi chakra), it gives freedom from hunger
     and thirst.
(c) On the Sahasrar, it gives divine visions and darshan of the siddhas.

    The method of the last is by concentrating on Brahmarendra or the whole of Brahma, which is an aperture within the mundhu or head through which divine light flows downwards. Nirgun upasakas carry on their abstract meditation on this center, which is also known as Sahasrar.

(d) On the anhat chakra at the heart, it gives the knowledge of the mind.
(e) On kurma nadi (the astral tube in the chest, below the throat, and
      through which kurma or the sub-prana works the eyelids), it gives
      steadiness to the body.
(f) On the inner light of the heart, it gives the knowledge of the subtle
    (clairvoyance), the obscure (buried treasures), the remote (far and wide).
(vi) One may do samyam on one's own self. It gives clairvoyance, clairaudience, and
      other transcendental powers, also higher touch, higher taste and higher smell,
      etc., all through intuition or pratibha, without any of the other specialized

    By samyam on one's own essential nature (the cognitive powers), one gets the power of pure cognition without the outer aids of the senses and the sense-organs. With the indriyas lying dormant in their respective centers, one enjoys ineffable bliss (anand) in a state called Sanand Samadhi.

(vii) By samyam or dharna on certain features of the body, such as the complexion,
       the voice, or any other thing, one begins to understand the state and the nature
       of the minds of others.
(viii) By samyam:
(a) On mind (or mental thoughts), one knows the contents of the mind.
(b) On time, one gets knowledge of everything.
(c) On air and ether or on the relation between the two, one is endowed
     with the divine hearing (shabd), and can hear any subtle sound from
     any distance simply by his will. Similarly, by contacting the
     adhistana-bhutas (vayu tejas and prithvi, etc.), one can develop
     powers of other organs to their fullest capacity.
(d) On the relation between ether and body, or on the lightness of cotton,
     comes the power of flying through ether or air, for the body becomes
     extremely light, and one can move anywhere in space like a bird and
     can even ride on the rays of the sun.

    A yogin having siddhi in Kechari Mudra can also fly in the air. (One who knows Sammohan Vidya or Indra Jala can also move through space, but this is jala or a trick only, and not something real, for he actually remains on the ground and if you were to photograph him, you will not get the photo of such a man flying through the air.)

(e) On the three modifications of mind, comes the knowledge of the past
      and future.
(f) On videha, one can pass out of the body at will and function without the
     body, feel the all-pervading nature in its full omnipresence and can
     perform kaya parvesh, i.e., can enter into the body of any other human
     being and operate through his body and mind.
(g) On samskaras (impressions of mind), comes the knowledge of previous
(ix) By mastery over:
(a) Udana vayu, one ceases to have any contact with water, mud or thorns,
     and can end his existence at will, for through udana, one can separate
     his astral body from the physical body and travel through space.
(b) Samana vayu, comes effulgence and one can create fire and flashes of
     light from one's body.
(x) By samyam on virtues:
(a) On friendliness and other virtues, comes the power to transmit the same
     to others.
(b) On discrimination (on the distinctive relation between satva or purity and
     purusha or the soul), comes the power of omnipotence and
(c) On shabda, comes the knowledge of the sounds of all living beings
     (including those of animals and birds).
(d) On the karmas, one gets the knowledge of the time of his death.

    When the mind becomes extremely pure and is filled with satva through and through to its very roots, spontaneous illumination dawns. The mind has five states:

(a) Kshipta, or the wandering mind, with mind-stuff in a state of continued dispersion.
(b) Mudha, or the mind that is dull and forgetful and knows next to nothing. In it, the
     mind is in a state of confusion and stupidity.
(c) Vikshipta, or the mind that collects and gathers in momentarily and then fritters
     away. It is a state of imperfect stability.
(d) Ekagrata, or tile mind gifted with one-pointed attention and fixity of purpose.
(e) Nirodha, or the mind that is disciplined, controlled and well-restrained.
    No yoga is possible in the first three states. It is possible only in the fourth and fifth states.
    In addition to the above, there are eight kinds of siddhis, or powers, which siddhas or the superior beings generally exercise:
(a) Anima -- capacity to penetrate into all things, even an anu or atom, so
     as to see into its inner structure.
(b) Laghima -- capacity to acquire lightness, so as to ride even on the rays
     of the sun. It is often made use of in levitation and translevitation, in spite
     of the laws of gravitation.
(c) Garima -- capacity to become as heavy as steel and to make any object
     immovable. It is the opposite of laghima.
(d) Mahima -- capacity to acquire extensive and all-pervading magnitude
     like space, and to see the working of universal order and far-off things
     like solar systems.
(e) Prapti -- capacity to reach anywhere, even to the moon. It endows one
     with a sense of all pervasiveness.
(f) Prakamyam -- capacity to have all desires fulfilled.
(g) Vasitvam -- capacity to command and control all creatures and
     elemental forces, like the wind and the rain, etc.
(h) Ishitva -- capacity to play the creator, the preserver and the destroyer.
Besides these, there are many subsidiary attainments which one gets by the simple process of self-control and concentration, also called samyams, e.g.:
(i) To understand the language of birds and beasts.
(ii) To know one's previous births and to have fore-knowledge of death.
(iii) To read the innermost thoughts of others.
(iv) To know of secret and subtle things from afar, like the planets and the stars.
(v) To foretell future events.
(vi) To transport oneself to any place in the world.
(vii) To heal by touch.
(viii) To gain bodily perfections in rupa (form), ranga (complexion), bala (strength
        and fortitude), sanhanan (steadiness) and lavanya (physical charm), etc.

    It is necessary here to give a word of caution regarding riddhis and siddhis, or the supernatural powers that one very often comes to acquire in the practice of yoga sadhna or yogic discipline. They are to be scrupulously avoided, as they are positive obstacles in the way of true spiritual progress and the attainment of self-realization and God-realization, which are the aim and end of the yoga system. The devtas very often get jealous of the human soul traveling on the Spiritual Path. They come to greet with smiles the yogins who find an ingress into higher regions, invite them with sweet and cunning words, and try to bring about their downfall. Even the great yogin Vishvamitra was allured by the beauty of a celestial being, a maiden, sent by Indra to tempt him. He unwittingly fell into the snare and fell from the Path. These temptations assail one in the second stage of the journey, but prove of no avail to one who adheres to the Path, and is firm and steadfast in his sadhna.

Give up siddhis and destroy the seeds of bondage,
And attain Kevalya, the state of perfect ease and independence.
Be not allured by the winning smiles of the celestials,
And avoid contact with all that is undesirable.

Dharna as a form of yoga (Mansik Yoga)

    Fixity of attention is the essential primary element in the internal yoga sadhna, and its importance cannot be overrated. "When the senses are stilled, the mind is at rest, and the intellect wavers not--that, say the wise, is the highest state." (Katha Upanishad II: iii-10). It is because of the fact that it occupies a pivotal position in the system, that it is regarded by some as a form of yoga by itself, and they give it the name of Mansik or mental yoga (the yoga of self-absorption).
    Most of the students devote themselves wholly and solely to the strict observance of yamas and niyamas only, and as such hardly make any headway on the Path of yoga proper, which aims at self-realization and God-realization. Those who do go ahead a little, do not get further than yogic postures (asanas, mudras, and bandhas), and are preoccupied with body building processes and muscular development, making them the sole aim of all their endeavors. They confine themselves to the physical culture aspect of yoga, so as to defy disease, senility and an early death. A few fortunate souls who progress to pranayam make it the be-all and the end-all of the yogic sadhna and, taking pleasure in contracting their pranas in the Brahmarendra, spend most of their time like a tortoise in their shell in yoga nidra, regarding inertness as the highest form of samadhi. All of these are but means to the higher purposes of yoga and should only be practiced as such. The goal of yoga is self-realization by a regular process of self-analysis and withdrawal, so as to enable one to rise above body-consciousness into higher cosmic and super-cosmic consciousness.
    True yoga is a natural process with no artifice in it. It should be readily intelligible and easy to practice. But for lack of proper teachers, well-versed in the theory and practice of yoga, it has become a burdensome thing and an intricate affair, too difficult to understand and still more difficult to practice. Today, life has grown too complex to allow any man the leisure and the opportunity to master all the branches of yoga (each of which has grown more specialized with the passage of time), and then to proceed to the final goal. The result is that aspirants begin to mistake this or that branch of yoga as the ultimate, and fritter away their energy in its pursuit, content merely with the acquisition of physical or magical powers.
    In actual experience, the mind in a state of sushupti (or deep slumber) does come to coincide in some measure with the lower blissful plane (anand) and the lower cognitive plane (vigyan), for on waking up, one carries with him into consciousness the impression of the undisturbed and unalloyed bliss enjoyed in the deep sleep. But this is an involuntary experience in the pind or the sensory plane and not one consciously acquired at will. With a proper understanding and practice of the real sadhna, one can boldly lift the veil and have a dip in the fount of bliss on a spiritual level, whenever he may like, and may remain internally in contact with the life-current itself, which is the very source of true bliss and happiness. Just as by pranayam, one can contact the pranas with the mind, so in the same way by pratyahara and dharna, one can contact the mind-plane with the plane of cognition in the higher spiritual centers above.
    The term pratyahara means "restraint," and hence it de-notes restraining the mindstuff and the senses from flowing out into the world and running about in search of sense pleasures from sense objects. But this is hardly possible unless the senses and the mind are provided with something akin to, or more pleasing than, the worldly objects, which may serve as an anchor to keep the senses and mind fixed within. This is called dharna, which means "to accept" and "to be absorbed" in the object of concentration. Pratyahara and dharna go together; for on the one hand the mind is to be weaned away from the worldly pleasures without, and on the other hand, is to be provided with something more attractive within.
    The yogins, while sitting in some asana, first control the navel plexus and then drawing the pranas to the heart plexus, bring them to coincide with the mind-plane, after which, by various practices like tratak on some higher center, they try to invert the mind and make it recede. The first part is called pratyahara and the second, of recession and absorption in the higher center, is called dharna.
    The mind, by sheer force of habit extending over ages upon ages, has acquired a tendency to run after pleasures. The pleasures of the world may be categorized into five classes as follows:

(a) Rup and rang, or beautiful forms, designs, and colors which may attract the eye.
(b) Shabd or melodies, tuneful and enchanting, as may capture the ear.
(c) Ras or delectable victuals and viands as may captivate the palate
(d) Gandh or fragrant scents as may directly appeal to the olfactory sense.
(e) Sparsh or physically pleasing sensations as come from touch
    In a waking state with the senses alert, one enjoys the physical aspects of the pleasures as enumerated above. In a dream state, which is more or less a reflex of the astral or subtle, one enjoys sound the most, for in that state it has a direct appeal to the mind, In the dreamless and deep sleep state, which is a reflex of the causal or seed state, one gets cognition of deep absorption.
    One has, therefore, to draw himself within to the heart center by means of tratak on different elemental colors connected with ether, air, fire, water and earth, and they will grow into enchanting refulgence. Bv regular practice, the yogins acquire supernatural powers and capacities to taste all the five pleasures mentioned above in their subtle form from a far distance. These powers come naturally with the coincidence of pranas with the mind.
The practice of pratyahara and dharna can be still further developed with the help of tratak, until one can move and recede inwards and upwards from the heart center to the thyroid or throat center (kanth chakra) and thereby contact the cognitive plane. This movement from a lower center to a higher one results from the practice both of pratyahara, which enables one to leave the center below, and of dharna, whereby one takes hold of and gets absorbed in the next higher center. This process continues until one reaches aggya chakra, which is located behind and between the two eyebrows, the headquarters of the soul as it functions in the physical world in the waking state.
    As the sensory currents collect together and gather at this center, and one, forgetting about himself, rises above body-consciousness, there dawns in him by degrees, the inner spiritual light, which with great absorption or dharna grows into greater effulgence. With perfection in dharna or complete absorption at this stage, all the centers down to the mul or guda chakra at the rectum, become illumined.
    In this connection, we may here refer to the physiology of the yoga system. The cerebro-spinal system is the mainstay of the body. The spinal column in yogic terminology is called Meru or Brahm Danda. According to the Shiva Samhita, there are in the human system as many as 350,000 nadis, and out of these, the following ten play an important part:
(i) Ida: Starting from the lowest plexus (guda chakra), on the right side of the
   spinal column, it extends spirally around the sushmana and goes as far as
   the left nostril.
(ii) Pingala: Starting from the same chakra on the left side of the spinal column,
   it extends spirally as far as the right nostril.
(iii) Sushmana or Sukhmana: Is the central nadi in between the ida and pingala
   nadis and runs through the spinal column from the guda chakra to the Great
   Aperture, known as Brahmarendra, behind and between the eyebrows.
(iv) Gandhari: Comes to the left eye, after rising from the front of the central nadi.
(v) Hastijivha: Comes to the right eye, after rising from the rear of the central nadi.
(vi) Pushpa: Comes to the right ear from the central nadi.
(vii) Yashvini: Comes to the left ear from the central nadi.
(viii) Alambhush: Stretches to the root of the arms.
(ix) Kuhu or Shubha: It goes down to the tip of the generative organ.
(x) Shankhni: It goes down to the rectum.
    The first three, the ida, pingala and sushmana nadis, are the most important. The ida and pingala nadis, before entering into the base of the nostrils, cross each other and are known as gangliated cords.
    The third one, the sushmana or sukhmana, or the central nadi, passes through the spinal column and runs through six plexuses or centers as follows:
(a) Muladhara (Basal Plexus) with a four-petaled lotus, extending on four sides.
(b) Svadhishtana (Hypogastric Plexus) with a six-petaled lotus, extending on four
   sides plus one below and the other above.
(c) Manipuraka (Solar Plexus) with an eight-petaled lotus, having four additional
   sides in between the original four sides.
(d) Anahata (Cardiac Plexus) with a twelve-petaled lotus. It is a lotus of the
   unstruck sound as the name denotes.
(e) Vishuddha (Pharyngeal Plexus) with a sixteen-petaled lotus, being an
   all-pervasive ethereal lotus. It is a center of great purity as the name indicates.
(f) Aggya (Cavernous Plexus) with a two-petaled lotus, also called Ajna Chakra,
   meaning the center of command.
    Besides the above plexuses, there is the Antahkaran (consisting of chit, manas, budhi and ahankar), with a lotus of four petals, thus making in all fifty-two petals, corresponding to the fifty-two letters of the alphabet in Sanskrit, the mother of all languages. We have, however, to rise above all Akshras to a state beyond called Neh-akhshra para, which is eternal and ever-abiding and of which Kabir says:
The three lokas and the fifty-two letters are one and all subject to decay,
But the eternal and the everlasting holy Word is quite distinct from them.

Chart of the Chakras or Plexuses

No.      Seat of the Gang-      Presiding Deities     Associated      Representative    Functions of                 Merits of
            lionic Centers           (Hindu & Sufi)         Elements             Colors           Each Center          Meditation Thereon

1        Guda (rectum)           Ganesh                   Earth                Yellow            Purification of        It rids one of all ailments
                                                                                                                     the body               and grants the capacity to
                                                                                                                                                 fly in the air (levitation)

2       Indri (generative          Brahma (Michael)     Water                Blue              Creation of            Fearlessness, freedom from
                      organ)                                                                                      species                all bondage

3       Nabhi (navel)              Vishnu (Israel)          Fire                   Red               Sustenance &       Lord of all desires; heal all
                                                                                                                      Preservation of     diseases; seer of hidden
                                                                                                                      species               treasures; ability to enter
                                                                                                                                                 into the bodies of others.

4       Hirdey (heart)             Shiva (Gabriel)          Air                   Bluish - white   Disintegration,       The past, present and
                                                                                                (smokey)        decay & death of    future reveal all their
                                                                                                                      species.                secrets.

5       Kanth (throat)            Shakti (Great Mother Ether                 White             The all-controlling    Enables one to become
                                         of the Universe)        (all pervading)   (spotless)          power through the   a yogishwar and knower
                                                                                                                      three Regents ment- of the Vedas, and to live
                                                                                                                      ioned above with      a life of a thousand years
                                                                                                                      their specific func-

6      Aggya or Ajna             Atman - the dis-       The active life    Radiance and   All in all, immanent  Confers the highest gift
     (located behind and      embodied spirit freed  principle; the     Luminosity in    in everything, the     possible, with all powers
     between the eyebrows  from all raiments        very soul of       full splendor;     Alpha and Omega of  both natural and
     with Antahkaran or                                       creation            ineffable            all that is, visible      supernatural.
     the mind)                                                                                                    and invisible.

    Each of the two plexuses (see chart) together make a granthi or a tie and these are: Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi and Shiva Granthi.
    The path of the yogins as described above is concerned with meditation at these six centers, beginning from the lowest and gradually rising from one to the next higher by means of pratyahara and dharna as already explained. In this process, one also calls to his aid the kundalini shakti, or the great serpentine power lying dormant in three and a half folds in the vagus nerve, in a coiled state like a serpent. This latent energy or power is awakened with the help of pranayam. A yogin tries to collect together all the vital airs in the body at the center of the navel plexus and in this process awakens the latent power as well. From the Ajna Chakra he takes hold of the anahat sound and reaches Sahasrar, the highest heaven of the yogins. It is quite a long, tedious, and difficult path. At each of the centers, one has to work hard for years before one can successfully subdue and pierce through it and ascend to the next higher center. One cannot take to this arduous discipline without a strong and robust physique, capable of withstanding a sustained and strenuous effort for a long time.
    As a preliminary step, a yogin has to cleanse the Augean stables with herculean strength and for this, recourse is to be had to hatha-yoga-kriyas, or exercises like dhoti, basti, neoli, gaj karam and vajroli, etc., with a strict diet control. Again, for the control of the mind, he has to take to pranayam or well-regulated breathing exercises such as puraka, kumbhaka, rechaka and sunyaka, all of which require great care, attention and skill, under the guidance of an adept.
    The yoga process, as described above, is fraught with innumerable difficulties. It is a process akin to that of controlled death, a forcible extraction not only of the spirit current from one center to the other, but of the pranas as well, which makes it all the more difficult. It actually follows the process of dying, being the reversal of the life current as it descends from center to center, in the process of creation. In the death process, the earth element rises up from guda chakra to the indri chakra and gets dissolved in the water there, thus rendering hands and feet lifeless. When the water element rises up to the nabhi chakra, it is transformed into a vaporous state by the fire at the navel region and the generative organ gets paralyzed; next, the fire element itself gets extinguished in the air element at the heart plexus, rendering the region below the heart stark cold. When the air element gets etherealized at the kanth, the seat of the ether, it renders the heart and the pulse motionless. (It may be pointed out that under this system, heart failure does not mark the end of life but only precedes it.) Even in the practice of the Sehaj yogic system, one has to traverse and to follow through exactly the same process, except that the second method is natural, while the first method is deliberate and controlled and therefore extremely difficult to perform. Each of the tatvas in turn gets merged in its source; the anna in the pranas, the pranas in the manas, the manas in the vigyan and the vigyan in the kanth plexus. (It may be mentioned that the Vaishnavites and Kabir Panthies wear tulsi leaves and the Shaivites wear shivling around the neck, to remind themselves of the kantha chakra which they set up as their goal.) Instead of this difficult reverse process of yoga from the basic plexus backward and upward to Sahasrar, the region of the thousand-petaled lights, how much easier it would be to ignore the pranas (as we do in our everyday life), collect the sensory current at the seat of the soul at the ajna chakra, where we always are in our awakened state, and move upward straight-away with the help of the Sound Current (to which the yogins gain access after a hard-won battle over the six ganglionic centers in the pind or body) to reach Sahasrar. The Sound Current has a magnetic pull, too difficult to resist, when the soul rises above body-consciousness under the guidance of some able and fully competent living Master, capable of awakening the life-impulse within us.

continued next posting

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