Pranayam is part of Yog. This is a well-discussed term. People come from foreign countries to India to learn Pranayam and saints go abroad to teach it. It shows that Pranayam is a subject that evokes curiosity and reverence among common people everywhere. So, it is noteworthy.
Let us try to know what actually Pranayam stands for.
What is its real import?
At first, the question arises What is Pran? According to Sanskrit etymology, the root of this word is ‘Un’ which means ‘to breathe’. When the prefix ‘Pra’ is joined with the root ‘Un’ the word Pran comes coined.
In the thirteenth incantation (Richa) of the ninetieth Sookt (Group of Mantras) of the tenth part of the Rigved (Which is well-known as Purushsookta) it is mentioned that ‘Pranadwayurjayat’ which means the wind born of Pran of the Supreme being. The word Pran does not mean only breath or act of breathing, it means actually the life force that impels the inhalation and exhalation of breath and which in different ways in this world invigorates the powers of speech, hearing, smelling, seeing, and the functions of the mind and which is the ultimate source of all energy.
For this very reason, all the creatures are known as Prani – animate beings.
The Signification of Pran has been elaborated in the Atharv Veda.
In the Chandogya Upanishad Pran has been hailed as ‘Jiyesht’ (Oldest) and ‘Shrestha’ (Superb or noble).
In the Brihadranyank Upanishad Pran has been called a Force.
In Prashnopanishad there is an ornate description of the Universe as Pran and Velocity (Rayi).
Pippaladi Rishi has answered in a sequence,
the six questions of Sukesha and the other six Rishis in this Upanishad.
Out of six questions, the third question was put by Ashwalayan of Koshal who asked –
“O Lord! Wherefrom this Pran comes?
How does it enter the body?
How does it get established after dividing itself?
How does it depart from the body?
How does it embody the external world?
And how remaining under the control of the soul it covers up the distance,
till the self-realization is achieved?
Ultimately how is it lodged in the soul? “
The Maharishi answered that Pran is born of the Supreme Being.
It appears out of the broodings of the mind – (Manokriten Aayati).
It remains in the body, dividing itself into five parts – Pran, Apan, Saman, Vyan, and Udan.
The Pran places Apan in the anus and the pelvic region below the point of the navel
which regulates the discharge of stool and urine.
So far as Pran itself is concerned it moves through the mouth and nose and subsists in the eyes and ears. Saman Vayu is situated in the central part of the body.
It digests the food, burnt in the fire of Pran and circulates its essential juice equally,
in all the parts of the body which strengthens the seven minerals.
Vyan Vayu while existing in the heart moves in the seventy-two thousand nerves of the body,
and regulates them properly.
Udan Vayu prevails in the mental region, mounts up, and moves there.
It takes men to the world of virtues if they perform virtuous deeds,
but it can throw them to vile and ignoble worlds if they perform sinful deeds.
Men performing mixed deeds of virtues and sins are taken to the human world.
The functions of the five Prans i.e., digesting the foodstuff, circulating the essential juice in the body, regulating the discharge of stool and urine, and breathing process are common,
among birds and the animal world.
All the creatures take food and water and draw energy through them.
These are natural functions and are not at all connected with Pranayam.
Pran implies operations or the thought process of the mind, which is to be regulated,
and turned beyond the world of matter towards the Supreme being.
This is the technique of Pranayam.
When the flow of thoughts becomes tranquil and steady it is known as Pranayam.
Bhishma, the grandsire, while narrating to Yudhistir about the dialogues of Karal named Janak and Maharishi Vashisht in the sub-section – Moksha Parva of the Chapter Shanti Parva of Mahabharat said that Meditation is the Prime duty of yogis. There lies their strength.
The savants of Yoga have divided Meditation into two kinds – first the concentration of mind and second, the Pranayam. Pranayam is further divided into two kinds: Qualified and unqualified Pranayam.
The Pranayam in which the mind is related to the qualified or the attributes is known as Sagun Pranyam
and the Pranayama in which the mind gets connected with the unqualified
or the Attribute less is known as Nirgun Pranayama.
The Hindi letter ‘Sa’ implies the Supreme Being, God.
When the flow of thought of the mind remains with the attributes of God, it is Sagun Pranayama.
But when these attributes melt away and fuse gratuitously, this spontaneous state or the state of effortlessness is known as Nirgun Pranayama.
Except for the time consumed in ablution and lunch or dinner all the time, one must engage oneself in the Practice of Yoga. An intelligent Yogi should get mentally purified and keep his mind and senses away from sensual objects. When the senses are restrained, the mind becomes free from the contact of senses. At such a time the mind and the mental inclinations should be propelled towards God, totally rising above the world of matter which constitutes twenty-four elements. We have heard from our gurus that those who practice Pranayama in such a way, are rightly entitled to know Parambrahama Paramatma, the Supreme being. In short, turning the thoughts of mind from the material world to the direction of God, is Pranayama.
Shrimad Bhagavad Gita: –
Lord Krishna in the first source book – The Gita elaborating on Pran and Creation, says in the twenty seventh shloka (Couplet)
सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि प्राणकर्माणि चापरे ।
आत्मसंयमयोगाग्नौ जुह्वति ज्ञानदीपिते ॥
sarvāṇī’ndriyakarmāṇi prāṇakarmāṇi cā’pare,
ātmasanyamayogāgnau juhvati jñānadīpite
O! Arjun! “sarvāṇī’ndriyakarmāṇi/ सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि”, It is the senses which work,
and ‘prāṇakarmāṇi cā’pare /प्राणकर्माणि चापरे,’ it is the Prans which work (ātmasanyamayogāgnau juhvati jñānadīpite/आत्मसंयमयोगाग्नौ जुह्वति ज्ञानदीपिते ). The actions of Pran are burnt in the Yogic fire which shines with the illumination of knowledge, reading of some books, and increasing one’s own intellectual level through it, which can never be called the acquisition of real knowledge. Real knowledge according to the Gita is the efflorescence of the voice of the soul and the way of living under its directions.
The Gita says –
एतज्ज्ञानमिति प्रोक्तमज्ञानं यदतोऽन्यथा॥
etajjñānamiti proktamajñānam yadato’nyathā||13-11||
Continuously living and working under the direction and protection of the soul and the direct perception of God is real Knowledge. All other kinds of knowledge (except this) in this world are sheer ignorance or nescience. Laying emphasis on such knowledge, the Lord says that the operations of the Prans and those of all the senses, illumined with knowledge are burnt in the soul, in the yogic fire of self-restraint remaining fully conscious of the directions of God. The senses operate outside but the mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego work in the internal world. The stream of their performance is called Pran. The process of thinking and its modifications goes on regularly in Pran. They do not have any set schedule or system but all the time they remain active. Channeling them all in the direction of God is called Pranayam.
How to regulate them, is given in the next couplet (shloka) –
अपाने जुह्वति प्राणं प्राणेऽपानं तथापरे ।
प्राणापानगती रुद्ध्वा प्राणायामपरायणाः ॥४-२९॥
apāne juhvati prāṇam prāṇe’pānam tathā’pare,
prāṇāpānagatī ruddhvā prāṇāyāmaparāyaṇāḥ (4/29)
Some yogis offer or sacrifice Apan Vayu in Pran while others sacrifice Pran in Apan.
By doing so they restrain the movement of Pran and Aapan and thus acquire the skill of Pranayam.
Pran means the breath you take Apan is the breath which you exhale. In other words, the act of inhalation and exhalation is known as the sacrifice of exhalation and inhalation. When the mind’s eye passes through the breath, it should stay on the Apan (the act of exhalation), similarly when it rises from the Apan it should stay on the Pran (inhalation) Pran is poured into the Apan, and the apan into Pran – no interpolation of any other thought or emotion in this act should be allowed. When the breath is inhaled one should mentally utter ‘Om’, when it is exhaled one should repeat the utterance of ‘Om’. This is how inhalation and exhalation are regulated. ‘Om’ and Pranav are synonymous. When the practice grows subtle by and by,
‘prāṇāpānagatī ruddhvā/प्राणापानगती रुद्ध्वा ‘- The act of inhalation and exhalation is totally suspended. When thoughts do not intrude from inside or outside, the state of Pranayam begins.
Now the transactions of breath are stopped – the breathing is channelized.
Such a channellisation is called Pranayam.
Innumerable are the waves of thoughts in one’s mind. One fails to get peace due to the presence of these thought waves. Many a time people are deprived of sleep. But there are some such thought waves which guard us and so have godly attributes; they transmit divine experiences. But there are some such thought waves, which have devilish properties and are the cause of spiritual fall. Hence, they are to be dropped. In this way through the subsidence of the recurrence of both knowledge and Nescience through regular practice, the flux of breathing becomes steady- This is the zenith of Pranayam. Pranayam is nothing but consigning our thoughts to the flow of Pranav,
or to any tiny name of God like OM or to the mechanism of yoga.
Out of such a restraint the result of the Yagya (Sarifice) is born-that is the realisation of Eternal Brahm (God), the contact with Him is now stabilised.
यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम् ।
नायं लोकोऽस्त्ययज्ञस्य कुतोऽन्यः कुरुसत्तम ॥४-३१॥
yajnaśiṣṭamṛtabhujo yanti brahma sanatanam,
nā’yam loko’sty ayajnasya kuto’nyaḥ kurusattama (4/31)
At the time of the culmination of Yagya or in other words at the time of the restraint of mind and its dissolution, whatever the Yagya (Sacrifice) leaves behind as residue is nectar. Only God is Beyond the grip of Death, only He is immortal. The person who performs such a sacrifice gets entrance into the region of immortality. Only God is the eternal truth, He is everlasting, and He transcends Time. He is all-encompassing, so He is called Brahm. The performer of this yagya is bestowed with the nectar of knowledge and gets acquainted with that Immortal Element which is called God.
After knowing Him he lives in Him.
Now the question may crop up Who is authorized to perform Pranayam or this Yagya (Yogic method)?
Lord Krishna says,” O Arjun! if a man does not perform such a yagya, he is not provided with a second chance of getting the human body and hence gets deprived of peace hereafter. In other words, only human beings with corporeal frames can claim the right to perform yagya. No animal and no bird can avail of the facility to perform yagya. Only human beings with the rare gift of the human body can get this advantage wherever they are born. People born at the North Pole, in India, in the Arab world, or in Australia, all have equal potential to perform this Yagya. This is the mandate of the Gita which belongs to an age when caste, Creed, Sects, and communal organizations had no existence. The Gita offers methods for the alleviation of mental worries and all kinds of miseries. It speaks of a procedure to attain divine bliss, eternal life, never-ending Peace, and everlasting prosperity. “
Yogeshwar Shri Krishna again throwing light on the mode of Pranayam says,
स्पर्शान्कृत्वा बहिर्बाह्यांश्चक्षुश्चैवान्तरे भ्रुवोः ।
प्राणापानौ समौ कृत्वा नासाभ्यन्तरचारिणौ ॥५- २७॥
sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāmś cakṣuś cai’vā’ntare bhruvoḥ,
prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracārinau (5/27)
“sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāmś/” means after abjuring the external contacts (contact of the senses with worldly objects), fixing the eyes in between the two eyebrows on the front point of the nose (where the glance falls straight there the vision is to be kept steady) the mind’s eye is to be placed stable. it is not the eyes but our thoughts that see, it is our mind’s eye that sees. So, this mind’s eye is to be diverted to witness the process of breathing carefully to see how the breath is inhaled and how it is exhaled.”nāsābhyantaracārinau / नासाभ्यन्तरचारिणौ” means – try to see the breath moving in and out and hear what does it spell? You have only to witness the breathing and hear what it says. The breath of a devotee does not utter any word except “Om” or Pranav. After converting your mind into a non-aligned witness centralize it on the resounding word-sound emanating from the process of breathing. People do not inhale only air. They inhale the thought waves also floating in the atmosphere. Similarly, while exhaling the breath, they do not only exhale carbon dioxide, but they also exhale the waves of good and bad thoughts along with the breath. So, keep an eye on the inhaling and exhaling of the breath and be watchful that nothing except the ‘Naam’, the name of the Lord Shuttles on the breath.
During the beginning period of Sadhna, the sages have laid emphasis on the practice of INTOING of any name of the Lord, but Pranayam is an advanced stage in which the name of the Lord has not to be diluted in the breath separately, it is already blended with the breath. So, in the Pranayama only an eye is to be kept on the movement of the breath – how it comes and how it goes. There is no need to contract or expand or withhold the breath. You have only to ward off other thoughts except the name of the Lord.
विगतेच्छाभयक्रोधो यः सदा मुक्त एव सः ॥५- २८॥
yatendriyamanobuddhir munir mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ,
vigatecchābhayakrodho yaḥ sadā mukta eva saḥ (4/28)
That Muni (saint) is always emancipated who has conquered his mind, intellect and senses and is above desires, fears and wrath, but what does he get out of his emancipation?
भोक्तारं यज्ञतपसां सर्वलोकमहेश्वरम् ।
सुहृदं सर्वभूतानां ज्ञात्वा मां शान्तिमृच्छति ॥५- २९॥
bhoktāram yajñatapasām sarvalokamaheśvaram,
suhṛdam sarvabhūtānām jñātvā mām śāntim ṛcchati (29)
“That entity in which all yagya, penance, canons, abstinence merge is no one else but ‘I’ and the return which one gets after observing them is nothing but my sumtotal O! Arjun! The fellow inhabits in Me and attains My immortal form”. (Zanati Tumahi Tumahi Hoi Jai!)
‘After knowing Him the individual merges with Him’.
Thus, the Gita also enjoins that Pranayama is nothing but the blending of thought waves with Pranava through the contemplation of the inhalation and exhalation of breath.
No body can do Pranayama on his own strength till God explains it.
In the Gita the Lord says –
अहं वैश्वानरो भूत्वा प्राणिनां देहमाश्रितः।
प्राणापानसमायुक्तः पचाम्यन्नं चतुर्विधम्॥१५-१४॥
ahaṁ vaiśvānaro bhūtvā prāṇināṁ dehamāśritaḥ|
prāṇāpānasamāyuktaḥ pacāmyannaṁ caturvidham||15-14||
*O! Arjun! I am present as Vaishwanara in the heart of all the creatures.
I assume the form of fire to digest four kinds of grains wrapped with Pran and Apan.
All living creatures take different kinds of food.
A lion is carnivorous, even the vegetarian elephant takes food in great quantity,
it seems it is God alone who from inside manages the digestion of food.
But it is not true! Aahar (food) is that which nourishes the body, so it is called Aahar.
But that which nurses the soul is nothing but Bhajan which is the only food of it.
“Annam Brahmeti Vyajanat” (Taittiriya Upanishad/Bhrigu Walli Ist Mantra) –
“The grain is Brahma. Bhrigu Rishi obeying the instruction of his father Varun took grain, Pran.
Eyes, ears, mind, and speech are to be the gates of Brahm attainment.
He undertook penance with the faith that grain is God. For a devotee Brahma alone is Anna (grain)
All fourteen kinds of fires like Sanyamagni (fire of restraint) and Yogagni (fire of Yog and others) referred to in the fourth chapter of the Gita are collectively known as Gyanagni (fire of knowledge).
God seated in the region of the heart transmits knowledge and digests
all four kinds of combined grains (Ann) through inhalation and exhalation of breath.
The same name passes through Vaikhari, Madhyama, Pashyanti and Para. The four ways develop, get ripened, and attain the state of Paravani. We do not know when our Naam jap is correct and when it is on the wrong track if God does not point it out. God says that it was actually He who makes the grains assimilated. Whatever one gains through Bhajan is the gift of God.
‘Jakey Rath par Kesho’, Taa Kahan Kaun Andesho’!
To sum up our Pran in its natural form is unregulated uncontrolled,
to direct its flow in the channel of Pranav is Pranayama.
According to Maharishi Patanjali, the author of Yogdarshan – there are eight parts of Yog – Yam, Niyam Asan, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharana Dhyan and Samadhi. Pranayama is the fourth in order. When we devote ourselves to the contemplation of the self, Pranayama is the fourth terminal which has no use in the worldly life. During spiritual Pursuits, the order of Pranayama comes after Yam. Niyam, and Aasn, are mastered well, so those who practice Pranayama from the very beginning.
and wish to derive physical and material benefits are in utter delusion –
There are five kinds of Yam – Ahimsa (non-violence) Satya (Truth) Asteya (non-stealing) Brahmacharya (Celibacy) and Aparigraha (Possessionlessness) Himsa (Violence) is one of those disorder that causes degeneration of the soul. The process of the ennoblement of the soul is switched on by Ahimsa. The physical body is nothing but an outer garment. The devotee has to be firm in his efforts to know the truth and maintain celibacy. Renunciation of possessions is very important and unavoidable. If you want to amass wealth, amass the wealth of God in your heart. After going through all these stages of yog the observance of the directions of Shauch (Cleanliness), Santosh (Contentment), Tap (penance), Swadhyay (Study of Self), and Ishwar Pranidhan (meditation) starts. By following these directions, one achieves capability for Aasn. In the forty-sixth maxim ‘स्थिरसुखम् आसनम्/sthira sukham āsanam.’ Maharshi Patanjali says that Asan means a stable and convenient mode of sitting. Many a trader sits from morning to evening in one position and feels pleasure in it. But this is not the attainment of the perfection of the sitting posture. Real pleasure depends on the mental state. of a man, never on the postures of his physical body. Despite all the material wealth at the command of King Dasharath, his eyes were full of tears pining for a nap, Mother Kaushalyas’s last days were spent only in shedding tears.
Notwithstanding the abounding provisions, sometimes the mind gets hurt
that men retire into seclusion and do not come out for days together,
but this in no way can be termed as steady Asan.
There is no feeling of delight in such forced Asanas.
While explaining the way of natural Asan the Maharishi directs:
(प्रयत्नशैथिल्यानन्तसमापत्तिभ्याम् / “prayatna śaithilya ananta samāpattibhyām”) / (2/47)
When all the efforts put in mastering Yam and Niyam get loosened or in other words become spontaneous, perfection of Asan is attained, and the mind then gets attached to God. To be clearer, the Asan is perfected only when the mind is linked with God. If Asan means placing the body in one sitting posture where is the need of devoting the mind to God? Aasn is not at all connected with the twisting of limbs, demeanors, or poses. There was a great saint named Ashtavakra, whose limbs were crooked in eight places. He could not straighten his hands and feet. What asanas could he perform? But despite all such physical deficiencies, he became the top Mahapurush, Yogeshwar, and Seer of his age. Our grand gurudeo, the guru of our guru Maharaj had a broken leg. it could not even bend. But Gurudev was divinely directed to go to the temple where he was sitting to meet him as he was destined to be his guru, even in the pitch-dark night the great guru could be traced out. He was a real spiritual luminary. He had the unique capability to kindle the spiritual candle of Yog-Sadhana in others. He had mastered, the skill of transmigration of his soul into the souls of others. Despite such attainments, he never practiced any physical exercise. Actually, the Asan gets perfected only through the devotion of the mind to God and the gradual release and unlocking of
Yam-Niyam which happens with practice.
It is possible through spontaneous concentration. The mind becomes stable unwavering and steady.
तस्मिन्सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः/ “tasmin satiśvāsa praśvāsayoḥ gativicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ” (2.49)
Pranayama is nothing but the stabilization of inhalation
and exhalation of breath after mastering the Asan.
We inhale breath and exhale it. When we inhale, we inhale the divine properties like Yam, Niyam, etc. and when we exhale, we exhale disorders like lust, wrath, love, hate, etc. When their egress and ingress subside in other words, when the thoughts do not germinate in the mind or when the good or evil ideas from the
outer world do not enter, only then the Pranayama becomes possible. It is nothing but the subsidence of passions born of the movement of the inhalation and exhalation of breath.
Pranayama is not done or articulated; it only happens. Yam and Niyam are meant for practice. When the practice is perfected, the state of Asan comes and the moment Asan is accomplished, Pranayam occurs. Pranayam means steadiness of the process of breathing which results in inner and outer thoughtlessness. The Pran starts flowing in one direction and modifications of the mind stop,
That is our goal.
Since Pranayam is our goal, the Maharishi tells us the method of Pranayam –
बाह्याभ्यन्तरस्तम्भवृत्तिर्देशकालसंख्याभिः परिदृष्टो दीर्घसूक्ष्मः/
“bāhya ābhyantara stambha vṛttiḥ deśa kāla
saṁkhyābhiḥ paridṛṣṭah dīrgha sūkṣmaḥ”.
‘While observing the inhalation and exhalation of breath witness the wanderings of the mind. Outer impulses are those impulses that lead to external disorders, to the world of matter to the world of darkness and attachment. The internal, impulses lead to Discernment, Renunciation, Sublimation, Power of Retention, and Trance’.
The suspended thought becomes stationary, a thought that assumes the identity of Name or Form.
When we view it with reference to time place and numbers it grows deep and subtle.
If you watch the wanderings of the mind in the regions of lust, wrath, attachments, hatred, and numberless desires and passions, you will find that as the mind moves in regions of attachment, it identifies itself with them. You should also watch till what time it stayed there. ‘Sankhyabhih Paridristo’ – Count the moments it spent there. You should force your mind to revert to the practice of meditation, to retained stationary thoughts, or to the Name or the Form of the Lord; you hold it there. If the mind or thought is inward you analyze whether it is lodged in Discernment, Renunciation, or in other areas of the like. If the mind moves in the area of Renunciation, you will find that it adopts the place. With the help of numbers, you can count the moments, or minutes of the time the mind stayed there, then again pull it to the retained thought. In this way the wanderings of the mind are controlled, the thoughts flow in one direction and Pranayam becomes easier, deep, and subtle.
Throwing light on the accomplishment of Pranayam Maharishi Patanjali says—
‘बाह्याभ्यन्तरविषयाक्षेपी चतुर्थः/ ‘bāhya ābhyantara viṣaya ākṣepī caturthaḥ’/ (2.51)’ ———— “When the waves of inner and outer world subside, the fourth stage of Pranayam comes. There is no reference to this fourth state in the popular proposition of three- staged Pranayam – Purak, Kumbhak, and Rechak. When the effort is made to regulate the thoughts and when they flow in a natural way undisturbed, that is the fourth stage of Pranayam. Where all the convulsions of mundane or spiritual thoughts sleep,
there lies the matured state of Pranayam.
Thus, we see that for Pranayam we have to quieten the leanings, stop the flow of ideas, and direct the movement of the mind in one direction. It is never the twisting of our breath. Breathing in children is found to be like children, in old men it is like old men, in young persons it is like young ones, in diseased men, it is like diseased people. Natural breathing is the routine of the corporeal body, which is constituted by Kshiti, Jal, Pavak, Gagan, and Sameer. It is an old saying that the human body is nothing but a bubble of water. Scientists have come to the conclusion after research that the human body consists of ninety-four percent of water, and only six percent of it is solid. So, it is correct that it is a bubble of water. The body has the elements of earth, water, space, fire, and wind. Breathing makes life possible. Please! do not obstruct the system provided by nature by increasing or decreasing the flow of breath. This would in no way help the attainment of Pranayam because Pranayam requires restraint of leanings and thoughts,
a spurt of material or non-material ideas in the mind. It is the chain of un-channelized concepts arising from the act of breathing, which is to be restrained, not the act of breathing itself. If too much twisting of breathing is done, it is sure to cause some physical ailment. What you have to do is only to pledge the movement of your breath with the ‘Name’ or ‘Pranav’ and fix your mind at the feet of the Sadguru or in Brahm Vidya. All the systems of yog are comprehensively found in it.
There is no other place where you can take your mind except this trio. By stabilizing the breath
and coursing its flow towards self-realisation you can master Pranayam.
“ततः क्षीयते प्रकाशावरणम् / “tataḥ kṣīyate prakāśa āvaraṇam”
The moment Pranayam is accomplished, the curtain of Sanskaras (impressions) between you and the Light or God (whose form is light) stands thinned. There is one more benefit from Pranayam.
”धारणासु च योग्यता मनसः/”dhāraṇāsu ca yogyatā manasaḥ”/ (2.53). The mind develops the power of retention. Generally, people use Pranayam for curing physical ailments but the author of Yog-Sutra, Mahrishi Patanjali ordains clearly that Pranayam smoothens the path of God-Realisation and develops the mental power of Retention. In the beginning, the mind has neither the ability of restraint nor retention. As you start counting the name within the twinkling of an eye the mind slips out and starts roaming. It cannot retain the Name nor the Form but when the Mundane or outward-flowing thoughts get quietened and start flowing with Pranav, when the obstructions do not block the way at such a time mind gets the power of retention. After the state of Pranayam, if you wish to manage your mind to stay in Name, you can do so, if you want to tie it up with Form you can do it also, the mind’s eye would stand still. Just as you see your reflection in the mirror, you can see your own Form clearly and distinctly.
Maharishi Patanjali holds the same view about Pranayam which the Gita propounds. For Pranayam, you should neither shorten nor lengthen the breath. Only you sit in a calm posture and try to be aware of the ingoing and outgoing breath, how much time it stays inside and how much outside. When the mind starts observing it, drop the Name in the stream of contemplation quietly. When you inhale you should utter “Om” and when you exhale repeat it. For some days it is to be regularly practiced.
Thereafter there is a stage of contemplation known as Pashyanti Vani Jap.
When it comes the Name gets blended with the breath and the Name gets activated.
The breath does not utter anything except the Name. You have only to keep your mind upright witnessing objectively the transaction of breath as how it enters, how much time it takes in staying, and how it goes out. The moment the Name blends with the breath, gets activated and the mind’s eye fixed,
sweet music automatically emerges. The Jap would flow in a natural rhythm.
Lord Buddha: –
Generally, people think that Lord Buddha has evolved a new technique known as Vipashyana or Pranapansati but this is not so. He also talks about inhalation and exhalation, the same thing which our ancient scripture, the Gita expounds or which Maharishi Patanjali or any other accomplished saint advocated. When the Father of Gautam Buddha fell sick, he expressed his desire to meet and have Darshan of Tathagata. Lord Buddha went there and said,” O King! you practice Jap of Pranav and concentrate your mind on your breathing. We also do it. You should not feel grieved or sorrowful.
Try to concentrate on Panapan (breathing)”
Sufi Saint: –
There is a direction in the preachings of Sufi Saints and the Koran too that one should restrain and regulate the ‘Nafsha’- (senses) If even a single breath moves without the Name of the Lord, it means it is lifeless.
In other words, it is your virtual death.
Thus, we see that all the Mahapurshas who treaded this path of divine practice, reach the same conclusion. When unaccomplished, immature saints occupy their places, they create friction and fissures in society.
Ram Charit Manas: –
Goswami Tulsidas has presented a metaphor of Pranayam in Ram Charit Manas. When Hanuman came back after locating Sita, Ram asked- “O’ Hanuman did you see Sita? Is she alive? How does she protect her life? (Kahahu Taat Kehin Bhanti Janki, Rahati Karati Raksha Swapran Ki / कहहु तात केहि भाँति जानकी। रहति करति रच्छा स्वप्रान की॥), – Hanuman replied – (Nam Paharu Diwas Nisi / नाम पाहरू दिवस निसि) “O! Lord! your Name constantly guards her (Dhyan Tumhar Kapat / ध्यान तुम्हार कपाट) – “Her mind is fixed at your feet”
(Lochan Nij Pad Jantrit Pran Jahin Kehi Bhat / लोचन निज पद जंत्रित जाहिं प्रान केहिं बाट ) – Her mind’s eye is fixed at her goal i.e., the revered God, that has locked it. No other thoughts can enter her mind.
Under such conditions how and from where the life breath of Sita can slip out?
This is an example of true Pranayam.
Lord Buddha says “O! my disciples! live in the yog-tight compartment as long as you are waking. When you retire for sleep, sleep with the constant echo of it, so that no untoward things happen, and no other thoughts or disorders creep into your mind to defile it. If you happen to see dreams, see the projection of your practices of the Sadhana of God only. Thought must flow in one direction.”
Swami Parmanand Ji. :-
The revered Maharaj Ji used to say “ Jaagat Mey Sumiran Karey, Sowat Mey Luv Lai, Surat Dor Lagi Rahey Taar Tuti Na jai” – you should remain engaged with the remembrance of God as long as you are waking when you retire for sleep, you should after tying your mind to the contemplation go for sleep so that while you get up you find your mind’s eye clung to the same point. You should keep guard so that the chain of contemplation does not break. The Surati should remain all the time on its toe
linked with the soul discarding the material world.
Before coming under the refuge of Gurudeo, one gentleman had informed me that his uncle could withhold his breath for one hour. I enquired from him how long he could withhold it. He replied, “Fifteen minutes”. Out of curiosity, I further enquired. “How did you practice it?” He informed “You should retain your breath inside for as much time as you take in inhaling, it is taking almost the time in exhaling it. When you inhale your breath you should chant- ‘’Om Bhurbhuvah Swah tatsaviturava rendyam’’. When you retain your breath you should chant – ‘’Bhargo devasya dhimahi’’. While exhaling your breath you should chant “Dhiyoyo Nah Prachodayat “. In this way, you have to chant the Gayatri Mantra in three parts. As you inhale breath- think of God Brahma, at the time of its retention- think of God Vishnu
and while you exhale it- think of God Mahesh”. I had not seen God Brahma, so how could I think of him?
I could not translate his teachings into action.
After joining the order of Gurudev, I met one of his household devotees who used to perform some practices in the name of Yoga. He told me that a number of practices were to be made for Pranayam, for example taking a breath from the left nostril, retaining it inside then exhaling it outward. There after placing tight teeth over teeth, the breath is to be inhaled swiftly swelling and contracting the belly. After this pull out a bit of your tongue making your lips globular, now Inhale cool air inside this is called Sheetali Pranayam. Exhaling breath with a humming sound like bees is called Bhramari Pranayam. Thus, we find different kinds of Pranayam like Suryabhedi, Ujjai, Bhastrika, Moorchha, Kewali, Plavini, Kaki, Bhujangi, and Kavi. Some people practice Moolbundh some Jalandhar and some Uddiyan. Some adopt shadmukhi Mudra and some khechari while doing Pranayam. But our Guru Maharaj never taught us any of them, he did not even mention their names to us. Forcible intervention with the movements of breath is not our goal,
We aim to restrain the interpolation of extraneous disorderly thoughts
in the flow of meditation and take it to be Pranayam.
People generally believe that through the exercise of breathing, they can protect themselves
from mental disorders. But such safeguards are possible from any physical exercise. Such physical performances and postures might have medicinal use when one is afflicted with ailments but wasting time in learning Kumbhak etc. While we are healthy is not useful. It is as premature an act as bandaging the feet before they get hurt. In the modern age of advanced medical facilities, the operations of Hath yog for removing physical impurities have no use. On account of such occult activities, words like Yog, Asan, and Pranayam have lost their original connotation and utility. They create confusion in pursuit of yoga and deform society. It appears in one sentence like “śvāsa-praśvāsayor gati-vicchedaḥ”. The suspension of the act of breathing has misled the devotees. The sentence has wrongly been construed. Actually, it means the suspension of egress and ingress of thoughts, it means the suspension of the vocation of mind, it never means suspension of breath. All the words and phrases like Shwas, Prshwas, Pranapan, Vahya- Abhyantara, vritti, have the same connotation and aim at the same goal. Pranav stands for God; it is also known as ‘Om’. You should chant ‘OM’. Gradually the vocations of the mind would subside leaving behind the stability in your contemplation. You would attain the state of Pranayam.
Maharaj Ji used to narrate an anecdote in this reference. There was an industrialist who used to purchase at discount value all the goods of other traders who by evening failed to dispose of them. One day a trader approached him to sell his goods. The industrialist enquired about the merchandise. The trader replied that everybody made only inquiries about it, but no one came forward to buy it. The industrialist asked “What was the price of your commodity? The trader quoted Rupees five hundred and said that the merchandise was corked into a bottle because it was a ghost who is to be always kept engaged
in some kind of work, otherwise, it would devour its master.
The industrialist thought that he had so many factories in so many countries, the business also was flourishing, under such conditions, he needed a person who should remain engaged in the work all the time. He instantly paid one thousand instead of five hundred and bought it.
When the bottle was opened by the industrialist, the ghost jumped out and asked “Any service Sir? The industrialist gave it a list of undone and half-done jobs which now he had to finish. The ghost finished all the jobs allotted to him within two days and presented himself again with his usual remark “Please! Order for some other work”. The industrialist was now worried because he knew that if he failed to allot work to it, it would devour him. The frightened businessman ran towards the jungle where he met a saint in his Ashram. He humbly said to him about his problems. He requested him to accept the ghost free of charge in addition he was ready to pay an honorarium too. The saint asked where the ghost and the ghost were turned up. Promptly the ghost submitted “Any service Sir”? The businessman replied henceforth the saint would allot the work as he had been transferred to him. The ghost said, “O.K. let the saint now allot the work. If he fails to do it, I will devour both of you”. The saint asked it to bring a big bamboo which it brought. He ordered the ghost to fix it firmly in the ground. The ghost complied with the order. Now the saint directed him to run up and down on the bamboo like a shuttle cock. Sometimes he used to direct him to sweep the Asharam with a broomstick, or to bring firewood or put the rosary from one place to another. He directed it to go on serving thus and when it was free it had to shuttle up and down on the bamboo stick. The ghost performing the endless jobs got emasculated, it fell down and died.
Explaining the allegory of this story Maharaj Ji used to say that it is our mind which is in the above story represented as the ghost, and the breath is represented as the bamboo stick. The Mahapurushas activate breathing with spiritual vigor. In the beginning, the mind remains fickle, so it has to be collected from worldly objects and devoted to the chanting of breathing. He directed to chant the Name with the breath. When you inhale, you chant ‘OM’ when you exhale you chant ‘OM’, keep watch so that no other thought enters the mind. You can serve the master also when it is needed but soon after finishing the service get again engaged with your jap. Gradually by doing it, the mind would get tardy, and languid. Only then it would become tranquil and lose its existence. Such was the practical form of Pranayam
preached by Maharaj Ji. He used to explain and elaborate but never uttered the word Pranayam.
In his daily preachings also the revered Maharaj Ji used to prescribe the practice of Pranayam but never under the name of Pranayam. He never wanted to attach unnecessary importance to it. On the occasion of Guru Purnima which used to be celebrated at Ansuiya Asharam, often a number of devotees even when the celebration was over were unwilling to go back to their homes. Maharaj Ji used to persuade them to go back, so their household duties were not ignored.
He advised them to return physically but remain there mentally.
After such instructions, some devotees used to return to their homes,
still few stubborn followers stayed.
After some days, when Maharaj Ji marked that they were now growing gradually less interested in further prolonging their stay and had become homesick, he instructed them to return. The homesick mind would not allow them to pursue their devotion there anymore. So, they were asked to go to their homes and chant ‘OM’ or Ram or any diminutive name. It is so because in the future it has to be chanted with breathing. Then longer prayers like ‘OM’ Bhurbhuvah Swah or ‘Om Namo Bhagwatey Basudevay Namah’, or ‘OM Namah Shivay’ would not be possible to blend with the breathing, Tulsi Das says- Mantra Param Laghu Jasu Bas Vidhi Harihar Sur Sarv/ मंत्र परम लघु जासु बस, विधि हरि हर सुर सर्व :- The mantra for Jap should be tiny like ‘OM’ or ‘Ram’. “Select one Name and chant it and contemplate keeping in mind my form every morning and evening at least for five minutes, you would attain realization while remaining at your home. I would grant it even from my seat here.”
Bhajan is nothing but an awakening, it cannot be written, nor can it be narrated.
It gets activated by some accomplished Sadguru only –
‘So binu Sant Na Kahoo Payi’/ बिनो संत न कहू पाही –
No one can get it without the help of any saint. ‘’
Thus, Maharaj Ji used to instruct for letting the breath cosigned to the flow of ‘OM’. Practice is not to be done for Pranayam, it is to be made for chanting ‘OM’ through the breath. The breath is not to be held or retained, only the thoughts of worldly objects or the operations of the mind born of breathing are to be held. Pranayam is the result of the suspension of the flow of thoughts. It is a testimonial. Practice is to be made to master Yam and Niyam. Pranayam is a stage that comes after the restraint of thoughts.
It is never the last stage of Bhajan; it is only an encampment, a halting place.
~Swami Adgadanand Jee Paramhans. ©