Prana is the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of the supreme consciousness. The different kind of energies and forces of the universe are the manifestation of the prana. It is the prana that is manifested as the attraction and repulsion force, as the energy in the body, as the nerve current and as thought force. When the motion of the prana disturbs the impressions in the mind, then the thought arises. Thought is the finest and highest action of prana. The total sum of all the forces in the universe is the manifestation of prana.
Prana is omnipresent; it existed even before the manifestation of the universe, but in an impotent state. When the supreme consciousness was in an unmanifested state, Prana remained silent without motion. When the manifestation started, different energies manifested from prana. Prana is a very subtle power.
Akasa, one of the basic elements of the universe is a manifestation of the prana. The four other basic elements of the universe air, fire, water, and matter evolved from akasa. All the forms and the three states gas, liquid, and solid of the material world also evolved from akasa. The different forms of the world are the different combination of these basic materials. Akasa is very subtle and it is beyond the sense perception. When akasa evolves further as air, liquid, or solid then it is subject to sense perception. When the akasa combines with the other basic elements such as air, fire, water, and matter, then it takes a form and it can be seen. It is the akasa, which accommodates all the forms of the universe. At the end of the evolution cycle, the energies that hold the form becomes weak and the forms disintegrate and the basic elements resolve back to akasa. Then akasa exists without motion. Finally, akasa resolves back to its source, prana. The energies, which lost their power, resolve back to prana. They remain in an impotent state and finally they resolve back to its source, the supreme consciousness. After this cycle, only the supreme consciousness exists, with all its power in a seed state (evolution and dissolution is a complicated process, only an abstract idea is given here to show the importance of prana).
At the beginning of the next cycle, the supreme consciousness manifests its power, prana. Then prana manifests the akasa. Prana and akasa goes on evolving further and further. Various energies manifest from prana, and various forms evolve from akasa. It is the prana, which is the cause of this creation. It is the same prana, which is acting as a vital force in the body. The Yogi understands the prana in the body; by this, he understands the whole creation. When a Yogi becomes perfect, he will understand the secrets of the prana residing in him, and he will be able to access the universal prana. In the supreme conscious plane, the Yogi will know the unknown. By pranayama, the prana pushes the mind to the super conscious state. The power of the Yogi can control the other minds. Great philosophers believe that there is no difference between the different manifestations. They may appear as different, but their vital force is the same prana. The differences in the mental vibrations give a different appearance to the manifestations.
The whole universe is one constantly changing mass of matter. In the huge mass of matter, one point is called the moon, the other point is called the sun, and another point is called the man etc. Matter will become concrete and again it will disintegrate. The whole universe is an ocean of subtle vibration of thoughts and each manifestation is a group of thoughts, with a mass of matter called body. The total energy of the universe neither increases nor decreases from its sum total.
We can control the prana, through pranayama. Prana has two dimensions, one is physical, and the other is spiritual. When prana is used to control and stabilize body functions or when we use prana to realize the physical plane, then prana is used in the physical dimension. When a Yogi uses the prana to attain samadhi, then he is using the spiritual dimension of the prana. Pranayama can be used to know the physical as well as the spiritual dimension of the prana.
When prana is controlled, the body comes under control. Prana is the vital force in the body and it is responsible for all the actions in the body. Many people misunderstand breath as prana. Actually, by conscious breathing we can control prana. Prana is the power of the muscles, which moves the lungs. The movement of the lungs sucks air. This action goes on unconsciously throughout the life.
Pranayama means controlling the motion of the lungs, and this motion is associated with the breath. We can control the power, which moves the lungs i.e prana, by pranayama. While doing pranayama, we consciously inhale and exhale a huge amount of air, so that the motion of the lungs is controlled by breath. The motion of the lungs in turn controls the prana. To put it in nutshell, the prana moves the lungs and by this, the air is sucked in. However, when we do pranayama, we consciously inhale and exhale air, by this, the motion of the lungs is controlled by breath, and this in turn controls the prana. It is only by regularized breathing, we access and control the prana, and by no other means we can control the prana. When we control the prana by breath, the other actions of the prana in the body will gradually come under control. Pranayama controls the nerve currents and the muscular movements in the body. The energies in the body will flow freely and the disease is cured.
The respiratory system has a control over the nerve currents. Rhythmical breathing tends to move all the molecules in the body in the same direction. This increases the nerve current in the body. When the mind has tremendous will power, the will power is also transformed into nerve current. When the nerve current increases, it arouses the coiled-up power in the muladhara, called the kundalini. Kundalini is a tremendous power, coiled up at the muladhara centre, which is situated near the end of the spine. It is normally in an inactive state, but is present in all beings.
The nerve fibers carry all the sensations and motions of the body. The sensory fibers in the spinal cord are called ida and the motor fibers in the spinal cord are called pingala. If the nerve current passes through the center channel, sushumna, then that person will have universal knowledge. This center channel is closed at the lowest point, in an ordinary person. The Yogi by practice, opens it and makes the nerve current to travel through it. When the nerve current increases, the region of muladhara chakra gets heated up. This activates the kundalini. When the Kundalini becomes active, it rises up through the sushumna channel. At each center, many things are perceived. When the energy reaches the final chakra in the brain, the whole brain reacts and there will be a full blaze of illumination, the perception of the self. The Yogi perceives the cause of the creation. The rousing of the kundalini comes in various ways, through love of God (Bhakti yoga), by reasoning and analysis of the supreme consciousness ( Jhana yoga), through pranayama (Raja yoga). Any kind of worship leads to the arousing of kundalini. The Yogi declares that, the power we worship outside is the real power, which is coiled up in every being. The Yogi perceives everything in his mental space called the chitakasa.
The Yogi says that, when the prana is dual, it performs the bodily function, the kundalini lays asleep and dormant at the base of the spine, and the chakras are closed. Prana has to be made unitary by pranayama (alternate nostril breathing). Then only prana can be used for higher states of consciousness. The sushumna channel opens only for the unitary prana. Pranayama should be done in a thoughtless state. The aim of the spiritual pranayama is to develop the unitary prana, in which the fluctuations and disturbances of the breath ceases and one can access the inner energy of consciousness, beyond breath. This breathless state is called Kevala kumbhaka. In this state, there will be no breath, but all the functions of the body will be perfect. To attain this, we have to balance the breath between the ida and pingala (anilom vilom pranayama). After the pranayama the prana becomes unitary for a period of time. There will be no inhalation or exhalation during this period. There will be a flow of energy in the region of the third eye. Subtle vibrations will be emanating from this region. When the prana becomes unitary, it activates the kundalini. The sushumna channel opens up and the unitary prana pushes the activated kundalini to each chakra. At each chakra the mind realize the different level of existence. When the chakra reaches the sahasrara, the Yogi realizes his infinite nature and exists as the supreme consciousness. The prana can also be made unitary by deep meditation or devotion.
Pranayama brings each part of the body under perfect control. A person who has controlled the prana, can bring the prana to a high state of vibration, by this he can influence the other people, arousing in them a similar vibration. Great prophets of the world had brought their prana to the highest state of vibration and by this, they were able to influence others by their thoughts. Prana influences thoughts; when the prana is controlled, the thoughts are controlled. All the manifestations evolve out of the same prana, but with different rate of vibration. Manifestation with a particular rate of vibration can recognize each other. If the rate of vibration is lower or higher than that level, then we cannot recognize the manifestations in that plane. When we increase the rate of vibration of the mind by elevated thoughts or meditation, then we can access the manifestations in that plane. It is just as we increase or decrease the scope of vision of the camera to get a clear picture, the mind is adjusted to get access to the manifestation of the different plane.
According to the Yogis, the human body is a combination of three bodies, namely the casual body, the subtle body, and the gross body. The subtle and the casual bodies are not visible. The gross body is the physical body. The subtle body is also called the energy body. Three channels in the spinal cord ida, pingala, and sushumna are present in the energy body. Sushumna is the most important of the three channels. The seven chakras exist in the sushumna channel. Sushumna receives the life energy from the universal consciousness. When we breathe through the left nostril, then ida is functioning, and the mind will be calm. When we breathe through the right nostril, then pingala is functioning, and the mind will be agitated. When sushumna is active, we are in a meditative state. In anulom vilom pranayama, we breathe in through ida and breathe out through pingala.
Human body is a complex energy form. It has 72,000 nadis or energy channels, along which the vital energy or prana moves. The nadis meet at different points in the body; they form a triangle, which we call as chakra. The chakras are energy centers. There are 114 minor chakras and 7 major chakras in the body. The 7 chakras are the muladhara, swathisthana, manipuraka, anahata, vishuddhi, agna and sahasrara. These chakras are very powerful. At different levels, these energy centres produce different qualities in human beings. The Yogis who practice kundalini yoga says that, when we concentrate on the chakras, it gets activated. By deep meditation, devotion, or pranayama these chakras will open and we will realize the power of each chakra. It is a lifetime task to conquer atleast one chakra. The Yogi who has the power to access the chakras is very powerful and he must be matured enough to deal with that power, else he may get the tendency to misuse that power. If the chakras are opened without proper purification, it will cause harm to that person. Opening of the chakras is not the precursor for God realization because the chakras can also be used in the physical dimension. If the Yogi uses the chakras in the spiritual dimension, then he will become enlightened.
The power of each chakra in the physical dimension is explained below.
1. Muladhara – it is the foundation of life. If this chakra is dominant in a person, then food and sleep will be the predominant factors in his life. These chakras are in the subtle body; their corresponding position in the gross body is the end of the spine.
2. Swathisthana – If this chakra is dominant in a person, then that person will be a pleasure seeker. He acquires the power of love. Love can be expressed as an expansion of divine awareness or it can be expressed as pleasure. When a person concentrates on the divine love and awareness, then the impurities are transformed into purity. In the gross body, its corresponding position is above the genital organs. It is called the spleen chakra.
3. Manipuraka – If this chakra is dominant in a person, then he will be a highly active person. He will conquer sorrows and sufferings. The corresponding position in the gross body is the position just below the navel.
4. Anahata – If this chakra is dominant in a person, then he will experience divine love and deepest bliss of oneness with God. The corresponding gross body position is the heart area.
5. Vishuddhi – If this chakra is dominant in a person, then he becomes a very powerful person. This does not refer to his status or money. That person gets associated with various levels of consciousness. All forms of art are the expression of this center. That person may be a poet, singer, writer etc. The corresponding gross body position is the throat pit.
6. Agna – If this chakra is dominant in a person, then he will be an intellectually enlightened person. He is not yet fully liberated, but his psychic powers defy all limits. He can see the past and future. The outside world will not disturb him. This chakra is called the third eye. The gross body position is the point between the two brows.
7. Sahasrara – If this chakra is dominant in a person, he becomes ecstatic and he is always in bliss and infinity. Infinity, eternity, and immortality go together in his consciousness. The source and the manifestation becomes one for him. In the gross body, this chakra is in the top of the brain. Some Yogis say that this chakra is just outside the body, at the top the head. By regular pranayama and meditation, we can experience the subtle vibrations of this chakra.
A person in a more evolved state can realize the spiritual dimension of the chakras. The Yogi uses each of these chakras to attain spiritual gain. Each chakra helps to know the unknown. When the energy reaches the saharara chakra, the Yogi attains spiritual illumination. He will attain the samadhi state. He is not aware of his individual existence. He becomes infinite. This can be attained with the help of a yogic guru.
THE FIVE VAYUS
Vayu, is the power of air; it is another manifestation of prana, which helps to maintain the body. Vayu manifests as five different powers in the body and each vayu power is responsible for a particular function in the body.
1. Prana vayu is the most important vayu. This vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs the other four vayus. Prana vayu is situated in the head and centered in the third eye (agna chakra). Its energy pervades the chest region. The flow of prana vayu is inwards and upwards. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs the reception of food, air, senses, and thoughts.
2. Apana vayu is situated in the pelvic region and its energy pervades the lower abdomen. The flow of apana vayu is downwards and out and its energy functions the organs of digestion, reproduction, and elimination. Apana vayu governs the elimination of all the unwanted substances from the body.
3. Vyana vayu is situated in the region of the heart and it flows throughout the entire body. It moves from the center of the body to the periphery. It governs the circulation of all substances throughout the body and assists other vayus in their function.
4. Udana vayu is situated in the throat region and it has a circular flow around the neck and head. It helps to hold the head erect and governs speech, self-expression, and growth.
5. Samana vayu is situated in the abdomen with its energy centered in the navel. The samana vayu moves from the periphery of the body to the center. It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances like food, air, experience, emotions, and thoughts.
Paranayama controls the five vayus and this enables the smooth functioning of the body. Paranayama is a powerful tool to realize the prana and the chakras. When we disturb the prana in our body, then there will be atleast a very minute change in the universal prana, because it is the same prana, which pervades the universe. Prana is the life force, by which we exists in this universe.
Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, Kolkata, Advaita Ashrama, 2003.
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