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Spiritual Science of Pranayama




Breath is the connecting bridge between us and the Universe. Without breath, there will be separation. This connection is dynamic and ever flowing. When this connection is broken, we are dead. It is like a live current of energy.

It is a highly incomplete understanding to term the air we breathe in consists of oxygen. Oxygen is only a material name as per the atomic science. The term ‘Prana’ means much more than just oxygen. It is life itself. Every single movement in the cosmos is a movement of the Cosmic Breath. In our own individual cosmos of the physical body and mind as well as all the subtle bodies, everything is a movement of Prana. Breath is the life process itself. Our attention focused on the breath causes its potential to manifest in the way sunlight causes the petals of a flower to open. It is the key to life on the cosmic level.

Breath exists on all the planes of manifestation. It is the connecting link between matter and energy on the one hand and consciousness and mind on the other. Without breath, our consciousness can not connect to matter through the medium of mind alone. It needs the presence of a dynamic breathing process to connect consciousness and matter. Similarly, Matter in association with energy cannot affect consciousness on its own. It needs the medium of breath to effectuate. This is the reason breath is found on all the planes.Breath is necessary for the vitalization and functioning of all the vehicles of consciousness.

Cosmic Breath is the original impulse which begins, sustains and completes all evolution. It is verily the dance of creation itself. Cosmic Breath is within us as well as outside us as the cosmos. Prana is vital energy. It manifests here as breath. It is the cosmic as well as the individual life force. All existence is formed of Prana, that is breath. It reflects the individual souls. It changes and modifies itself as they evolve.

Prana is the whole of energy manifesting in the Universe. The Universe proceeds in the form of waves. It rises, subsides, melts away and then again it returns. It goes on like this in a form of pulsation. All solid and liquid and gaseous matter is the product of one primal matter called Akasha. The primordial force is the origin of all the force we see manifested or latent in nature. It is Prana. Prana acting upon Akasha creates this universe. There is a period of rest after the end of a cycle. Then again it rises. This goes on eternally.

The Akasha permeates everywhere in the Cosmos. It is the source material from which all other materials are made. We are floating in the sea of Akasha like pieces of ice floating in a lake. In the same way we are permeated by this vast ocean of Prana - force, energy. It is this Prana which we breathe. It causes circulation of the blood.It is the energy in the nerves and in the muscles. And also in thoughts and the mind. Every force is the manifestation of the same Prana just like all the matter is a different manifestation of the same Akasha.

The root cause of the gross phenomenon is found in the subtle level. The perception of our Universe at gross level has its origin in the thought. Behind thought also there is another subtle cause. Similarly in our physical human body, our outward movement is controlled by nerves, even though we can not have direct perception of them through our senses of seeing, hearing or feeling. But still we know it to be true. The cause of these nerve movements is our thought. And behind thought also there is another finer cause. It thus gets finer and finer. Ultimately behind all this is our soul, the Self, the Atman. Therefore in order to have understanding of our Self, we need to make our perception finer. No external microscopic instruments will enable us to see our Self.

Through the process of Yoga, an instrument is created for the study of his own mind. That instrument is in the mind. The mind of Yogi attains to powers of finer perception which no physical instruments will be able to accomplish. The starting point of our journey will be at the gross level. As we gain power of finer and finer levels of perception we can go deeper and deeper inside our own nature.

In this process, as a first signpost, all the gross movements will start becoming tangible to us. Then the finer movements of our thought will become tangible. We will be able to pin our thoughts before it arises, then trace it where it goes and where it ends. In our untrained state, when a thought arises, our mind is not able to know how it began or whence it comes. Our mind is like an ocean. When a wave rises on the ocean, we can see the wave coming. But we do not know from where the wave has come or how it has arisen. When we progress in our Yoga, our perception becomes finer and finer. Then we see this wave long before it comes to the surface. We are then able to trace it for a long distance after it has disappeared. This is the beginning of a true understanding of psychology.

First step in our journey is to understand our own mind. Unless we do this, there is no point in just theorizing about it. Realization is the first necessary step. Scientific enquiry is based on facts. Unless we have these facts, there is no point in just having theories, and then theories based on theories. Raj Yoga says that the first thing essential is to know about your own mind. Have a first hand experience, not just a theory. This can only be done by analysing our own mind and developing its finer powers of perception of our internal mental processes. This process finally leads to the realization of our inner Self. And then behind this Self is the Universal Self or the Supreme Self. Then we realise the Unity of all the Cosmos. This is achieved through the practice of Pranayama.

The finer movements that are going on inside our body are connected with the breathing process. We need to get hold of this breathing process and regulate it. Then we enter into the realms of the mind.

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Source : Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda , Ramana Maharshi , Buddha

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