Thursday, September 29, 2011




Like ASAN (आसन) this is again a highly abused concept by the spiritualistic world. To find out we must first know what all Patanjali has said about PRAN (प्राण) and PRANAYAM (प्राणायाम)

(सूत्र I-34) – प्रच्छर्दन विधारणाभ्यां वा प्राणस्य

PRAN (प्राण) can be recognized by the movements and holding of breath.

(सूत्र II-49) – तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गति विच्छेदः प्राणायामः

Various dimensions of PRAN are known by putting breaks in the speeds of inhaling and exhaling.

(सूत्र II-50) – बाह्याऽऽभ्यंतर स्तम्भ वृत्तिर्देश काल संख्याभिः
परिदृष्टो दीर्घ सूक्ष्मः
(सूत्र II-51) – बाह्याऽऽभ्यंतर विषयाऽऽक्षेपी चतुर्थ

In the above two sutras he mentions that the breaks can be put in the following four ways that can be for short time (SUKSHM सूक्ष्म) or long time (DIRGH दीर्घ) and can be calculated according to place of break (DESH देश), period of break (KAAL काल) and number of times (SANKHYA संख्या) the breaks are to be applied:
• BAHYA VRITTI (बाह्य वृत्ति) – where the break is after exhaling
• ABHYANTAR VRITTI (अभ्यंतर वृत्ति) – where the break is after inhaling
• STAMBH VRITTI (स्तम्भ वृत्ति) – where the break is anytime during inhaling or exhaling
• BAHYA ABHYANTAR VRITTI (बाह्य अभ्यंतर वृत्ति) – where the break is after a complete cycle of inhaling and exhaling.

In Patanjali YOG SHASTRA there are no names like RECHAK (रेचक), KUMBHAK (कुम्भक) or PURAK (पूरक) for kinds of breath. But for the above names there is no mention of any kind of PRANAYAM that are being sold today with the names like KAPAL BHATI (कपालभाति), ANULOM VILOM (अनुलोम विलोम), NADI SHODHAN (नाड़ी शोधन), BHASTRIKA (भस्त्रिका), SHEETLI (शीतली), NYOLI KRIYA (न्यौली क्रिया) SUDARSHAN KRIYA (सुदर्शन क्रिया), KUNDALINI (कुण्डलिनी) etc. Neither Patanjali has mentioned any blockage techniques like JALLANDHAR (जलंधर), UDYAN (उड़यान) or MOOL BANDH (मूल बंध). There is no mention of use and uses of right or left nostrils and mouth. All these are either the afterthoughts or experiments conducted by VASHISHTH (वशिष्ठ) and GORAKSHNATH (गोरक्षनाथ) in different periods of history with a view to adding pearls to the treasure of spiritual knowledge as it was an established highest form of knowledge. The aim was to promote these as tricks or the earnest highest forms of effort through such breathing techniques in the eyes of naive and knowledgeable alike in order to achieve some unverifiable highest state of trance known as SAMADHI where a person comes to know all the secrets of nature. It does help in swelling the ranks of spiritualism today and creating a fictitious halo around a person to be revered as YOGI with non-verifiable miraculous powers. But the scientific truth hinted in the above sutras is stranger than fiction. What is it?


For that we must understand PRAN (प्राण) first, the root word for the concept of PRANAYAM – a compound word made up of PRAN (प्राण) and AYAM (आयाम). The simple meaning of AYAM is the dimension. Hence PRANAYAM means “the dimensions of PRAN”. That is exactly what Patanjali is trying to explain in the above sutras. What is so significant about PRAN? As per Vedic theory of creation there is no concept concrete or abstract that is not made up of VRITTIS. The PRAN also should be a VRITTI only. Patanjali has used the word VRITTI with BAHYA (बाह्य) and ABHYANTAR forms of PRAN in the above sutras. As a VRITTI it must be with definite functions and purpose i.e. ANVAYA (अन्वय) and ARTHVATTVA (अर्थवत्त्व) in Patanjali language as discussed earlier under the concept of VRITTIS. It must have a structure (SWARUP स्वरुप) and must exist in discernible (STHUL स्थूल) and non-discernible (SUKSHM सूक्ष्म) forms. The hints are given in the above formulas to find out these dimensions. The first hint is that the PRAN has a property of making breath moveable (PRACHCHHARDAN प्रच्छर्दन) and hold-able (VIDHARAN विधारण). With this hint PRAN does not remain breath only as generally understood that keeps me alive but it becomes something that makes me alive to the functions of the body like breathing. The extension is that it may make me alive to all mental and physical functions of the body that are summed up as originating from the mind MANSAH (मनसः), from the speech VACHSAH (वचसः) and from the actions KARMNAH (कर्मणः), or all cognitive, conative and affective functions of the brain or all actions of MAN (मन), SATTVA (सत्त्व) and CHITT (चित्त). This hint of PRAN having the ability to move inside and outside the body also gives an idea of either its ability to stretch or all pervasiveness. The words BAHYA (बाह्य) mean outside and ABHYANTAR (अभ्यंतर) meaning inside also suggest all pervasiveness. As some phenomenon that is all pervasive it must be making all VRITTIS of nature i.e. PANCH TATTVA (पञ्च तत्त्व) of air, water, fire, earth and space also ALIVE TO DO THEIR RESPECTIVE FUNCTIONS as it is doing in the case of human beings. Does it mean that instead of FIVE TATTVAS we can consider these to be only ONE TATTVA (एकतत्त्व)? Then it becomes the life force – meaning a force responsible for any creation animate or inanimate and its sustenance. Yes, it is. That’s the reason in VEDAS, the PRAN has been equated with father, mother, brother, teacher and friend all in one. To find out secrets of any creation we must deliberate upon its life force PRAN, the place (DESH देश) at which it has come into existence, the period (KAAL काल) it belongs to, the form like volume, size or quantity (SANKHYA संख्या) and the duration for which it appeared to be in existence like long (DIRGH दीर्घ) and short (SUKSHM सूक्ष्म).
Having discovered that we are immersed in an ocean of PRAN we must make use of this ‘life force’. Can we make use of it in planning any kind of action? Can we make use of it in negating the obstacles or distractions that come in our way? For that to happen we must know its various dimensions. These sutras give hints only of finding out these dimensions that can help in eradicating the obstacles or distractions mentioned under CHITT VIKSHEP (चित्त विक्षेप). To begin with it appears to be a bizarre suggestion that we can come over various obstacles by just indulging into various breathing techniques. The spiritualist explanations stress the gimmickry of breathing exercises as great efforts calling it SADHNA (साधना) or penance; not to come over the obstacles enumerated under CHITT VIKSHEP, but considering these as side or fringe benefits that may or may not accrue in the overall process of soul meeting the GOD in the state of trance called SAMADHI- the ultimate aim of YOGA. This approach suits them well as many known YOGIS of modern times suffer from this or that ailment – VYADHI (व्याधि), the first distraction or obstacle under CHITT VIKSHEP in the path of any planning. On the other hand Patanjali explanations suggest that no faultless planning is possible if a person is suffering from not only any disease but any of the remaining eight symptoms. In other words a YOG expert, not a YOGA expert is free from all these obstacles in the path of planning. In another sutra Patanjali expresses it as ANTRAYA ABHAV (अंतराय अभाव) meaning deficit in distractions. For this Patanjali suggests acquisition of knowledge about PRAN and the dimensions of PRAN – the all pervading life force that he most probably also calls as EKTATTVA manifest in all the five TATTVAS and responsible for entire creation and the functions of all VRITTIS that include the functions of curing, creating conditions that do not permit the operations of already mentioned obstacles or impediments. Can this knowledge be acquired with the help of breath? Theoretically yes if breath has some relation with PRAN. It is simple logic. If PRAN can heal and the functions of PRAN can be found out by breath, then breath can appear to be a healing agency while the actual mechanics is being done by PRAN through breath. Patanjali is reiterating this relation only in the above sutras that PRAN and all its dimensions of functioning can be found out with the help of breath. As long as breath is there, body is functional. A breathless body is fit only to be interred or consumed by ashes. Instead of experimenting with breath and finding out how and why of healing or other functions of PRAN, the spiritualists delved into fantasies of never verifiable breathless bodies going into trance called SAMADHI, experiencing union with GOD, entering someone else’s body, taking birth at will and vesting an YOGA expert with all those imaginary powers and yet ordained to desist from demonstration. I have already discussed these as bluffs under THIRD BLUFF – YOGA and subsequent articles. In modern age SWAMI RAMDEV happened to accidentally stumble upon the healing properties of various techniques of breathing and he justifies them as mentioned by Patanjali only under the concept of PRANAYAM. It was a hitherto inexperienced phenomenon or at best accepted as a fringe benefit not worth pursuing by spiritualism and definitely an anti-thesis of final aim of spiritualistic SAMADHI that had been eulogized in more or less a breathless state. But it spread like a wild fire with phenomenally large population world over vouching benefits and swelling the coffers of RAMDEV in an unprecedented way and all the time presuming it to be another marvel of spiritualism. The confused spiritualists thought it better to either jump on the band wagon or keep quiet. Nobody thought of finding out the scientific reasons of this miracle. No effort was made in finding out the concept of PRAN or its any dimension, the reasons or the exact mechanism of its effect on human biological system. No new VRITTI or any function of any VRITTI was discovered. Rather, it was proved once again that ignorance spreads faster than knowledge. Perspiration – the only route for gaining knowledge was again sacrificed on the altar of gimmicks of YOGA.

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