Praana is an invisible and unmanifest Force and part of the Being. The Being is Brahman, Jehovah, Allah and is given different Names. Praana, also called Mukhyapraana to distinguish IT from many other Praanas, descends as a Upa-avataara – Hanuman is Tretaa yuga.Madhwaachaarya and Samartha Raamadas were Upa-avataaras in recent times. Also called Amshaavataara. All Avataaraas are partial, as all attributes of God do not manifest. Krushna was a Poornaavataara, the descent being in full resplendance with all Kalaas manifest.
Mukhyapraana is subtler than Boson, named after Aachaarya Satyendranaatha Bose, which itself is subtler than quarks and the next less subtle atom.
Basically, God as Sacchidaananda resides in us. With God, Mukhyapraana also is a resident of our bodies. He splits into five-Panchapraanas and performs functions differently. As Praana and Apaana together they inhale and exhale air, namely the process of breathing. Diaphragm contracting and lungs expanding and air rushing in is a physical phenomenon. As Vyaana, blood circulation and distribution of food is achieved. As Samaana , surveillance of body as a whole is accomplished. As Udaana excretion/ procreation is directed. There is spiritually no difference between excretion and procreation. Well, Science is dumb on breathing mechanics and has cunningly covered up its ignorance by calling breathing as an involuntary function. If I am not breathing than who is breathing for me? Perhaps, I cannot help breathing is a statement nearer to truth to the modern man than the positive statement that I breathe.. We know Praana and Apaana are at work!
Praana is not breath. It is not air either. Praanadvaayurajayata, says Purushasookta. Vayu was born of Praana. This Vaayu is not air as we know it, namely not a mixture of Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide and a few other gases. It is subtler than the subtler element science knows of.
Mind is gross form of breath. They both originate from same root. If one is controlled the other is concurrently controlled. Praanaayaama is a method to control breathing. This enlightens the mind and strengthens the physical frame. Kundalini is activated. Siddhis come your way and a temptation is there to perform miracles and make name and fame. This is destructive as it is playing with cosmic Nature. Destiny should be allowed to run its course. Sages ,who get the powers even if not prayed for or hoped for, care a rap for utilizing such powers. Since pleasure and pain are equally transitory and unreal, they do not act when they see men in sordid love for the pelf. Those who misuse the power, will get angry if people do not call them a god for the miracles they perform and get peeved if a greater Yogi performs greater miracles. It is like seeing the king and asking for a pair of brinjals. Or again like gaining entry into heaven and being lost to beautiful gardens and to the looks , songs and dances of Apsaraas. They would go further and enter God’s chambers and take delight in His Presence. Thus attaining Siddhis and equipped with an activated Kundalini is of no consequence if the thirst to meet God is not quenched. It will not make a man any better of a man.
Mind has four functions- Intelligence(mind), Discretion (Viveka or Buddhi),Ego (Ahankaara) and Memory (Chitta). Praanaayaama touches only the intelligence. A fool who practices Yoga may succeed but with lack of discrimination he will be respected fool. Nothing more. A rich man if he thieves will not be called a thief but will be talked of as suffering from kleptomania. But that does not make him free of the sin of thefts. In Kannada proverb tells that- Ane kaddaroo kalla, adike kaddaroo kalla. Steal an elephant or an areca nut, you are called a thief. Mano buddhyahamkaarachittani naaham, sings Shankaraachaarya. Mind with its fourfold faculties is my tool and not ME.
Praanaayaama is using force to gain control over breathing and consequently the mind. When you take other paths like devotion, service etc the mind cools down and breathing gets regulated simultaneously. A bull has tasted green grass from an adjacent field. Praanaayaama is like holding the bull by horns and forcing it back to the shed. You have to keep it tethered. When left free, it rushes out. Praanaayaama yields transitory relief. Devotional approach is like coaxing the wayward bull with lush green grass. The bull will not go out even if left free.
Praanaayaama is one of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yogasootras, aphorisms. Patanjali stops short of guiding the Saadhaka beyond, once powers are acquired. More stress is laid on miracles, near a hundred of them. Becoming invisible, walking on water, producing materials out of thin air etc. Raamakrushna said that for a paisa one can ferry across a river and it is foolish to waste a lifetime on yoga to become able to walk on water. Ashes and even wrist watches are produced out of nothing. Watches with HMT markings does not mean they were hidden under the sleeve and with a sleigh of hands it was exhibited. The watch, wherever it was, was first broken into atoms by yogic power and reconstructed in the palm. Traveling hundreds of miles in a trice is also merely this trick.
Praanaayaama must be practised under able supervision lest health gets badly affected. As far as control of mind is concerned, the simple and safe method is just to watch breathing process. Watch the airflow as it enters the nose and gets out. With the controlled mind, go on for meditation. Praanaayama is a tool and not an end in itself. Mind control is more important. Watching the breath, mind quietens and one can hear the air’s rustling movements inside the throat and lungs. Then blood rushing through veins could be heard. Finally comes the clear sound of OM, the primordial sound, the Mother of all Creation. Those whose mind is able to slip into meditation easily do not try Praanaayaama before meditation.
About the levels of consciousness , mentioned in the book published by Vivekaananda Centre, Consciousness has no levels. Experience has levels. Pleasure is taste of our inherent nature of Bliss, but momentarily. Happiness is more pleasures in a given frame of time. Bliss is perennial pleasure without any outside stimuli. As you refine your mind, pleasure is experienced more often. Happiness is experienced for longer periods. Consciousness remains unchanged. Consciousness remains aware of its natural state of bliss for longer periods. Raamakrushna told that union with God is like experiencing sex in every pore of hair on the head and body. Max Muller thought he was vulgar. But was he? He lived with his youthful wife, looking upon her as Mother.
Sex gives maximum pleasure at physical plane. In our scriptures, it is said the pleasure experienced by a dog and a bitch is same as that enjoyed by Indra and His consort, Shachee. God decided so out of His wisdom. If not, His creation would have ended long back with nobody thinking of propagation of species. Our Seers were all house-holders. Vishwaamitra went to forest for penance along with his wife. He returned fully invigorated, with wife and four sons and the Sacred Gaayatree Mantra! Some of our temples have sculptures considered vulgar. Not so in the eyes of a devotee of Hindu culture. What cannot be seen by God cannot be practised by man. Eating meat behind God is duping yourself.
Renounce and rejoice, says Ishopanishad. Be grateful to God and enjoy His creation.
Watching the movement of air during breathing gives sufficient strength to the mind to take on meditation. From health point of view, the safest method of Praanaayama is now explained. Lift right palm to the nose. Hold the nose between forefinger and thumb. With forefinger, close left nostril and inhale from right nostril. Close right nostril with thumb and, releasing forefinger, breathe in via left nostril. Then close left nostril and exhale from right. Repeat the cycle. We normally breathe through the two nostrils not equally. More air is inhaled through one or other nostril. Equalising the air flow gives much benefit.
Why is Yogaasana a better way of exercise? Physical exercises generate heat and you feel tired, having lost much energy. In Yoga. energy consumption is least and you rise up after Aasanas cool and refreshed. The brain eats up most of Oxygen. During exercise, body requires more Oxygen and the brain still takes its normal share. In yoga, the brain feels fully relaxed and Oxygen requirement goes drastically down. Less heat is generated.
Rigorous Praanaayaama slows down rate of breathing to Zero! Requirement of Oxygen is made good by osmosis. Heart beat will come down to near deathlike. I read the Yogaachaarya Iyer breathes once a minute!
Yoga is a physical exercise but useful in spiritual Saadhana until mind is harnessed. Miracle mongering is going at a tangent.
A man is born with propensities brought in from previous births. Thus, some will go for Yoga. It is just like different aspirants taking to different Paths which are congenial to them. A Harikathaakaara once told about habits. A boy has broken a footruler. The reaction of the father is conditioned by his interest. The soldier father will ask his son whether he has killed many enemies. The teacher father would like to know what great lesson is learnt by breaking the ruler. A businessman will ask what profit has accrued. Each person has his point of interest. Some take to Yoga.
In our Gurukjulas, the Charvaaka Samhitaa was also taught. Charvaaka was an out and out materialist. Eat ghee even if you have to go for loans to purchase ghee, he said. His book is given the status of Samhitaa. Arguments supporting his materialistic views are so logically presented that the student is coached in the art of counter arguments to get his intellect sharpened. Thus Yogashastra will continue to be taught and practiced. But seeker of God can overlook it unless the mind refuses to try green grass.
A man who has burnt his fingers will definitely heed when told to heed some hot object. Others begin arguing and learn it the hard way. Guru’s words are understood and acted upon immediately by a chelaa whose mind is attuned. Others take time. Petrol ignites at the sight of fire. Charcoal, coal and dry wood would take time. Wet wood may not light up at all. If the Guru is a wet match box or strikes the wrong end of the match stick, the poor chelaa is left in a dark pit.
A healthy and beautiful body is desirable. Yoga helps. But, God sees beauty of heart.