Prana vidya is a method of meditation by which the higher self can be realized. It is a method to control the vagaries of the mind and direct awareness into deeper spheres of being. People suffering from tension, emotional conflict, worry, anxiety, indecisiveness and other problems associated with disturbances of the mind benefit greatly from the practice of prana vidya.
Meditation gives the practitioner the opportunity to introspect and look at the problems of the personality. In modern society, the tendency is to remain extroverted. There is little chance to pause, reflect and look within. In the same way that the physical body needs rest, proper evacuation, diet controls, wash and refill, so also the mind requires the servicing and attention of meditation. The mind is constantly active, and takes most of the strains of life. Prana vidya and other meditation techniques rest and revitalize the mind. Meditative introspection washes away the accumulated waste products in the mind.
Meditation awakens the latent or unused faculties of the mind. The mind is connected to a huge reservoir of power and knowledge, but it is usually blocked by memories of past experiences, anxieties, problems etc. which divert attention and use up much of its energy. Meditation unblocks the mind so that awareness and energy can be directed to explore the dormant areas which have not yet been switched on. Transcendental knowledge is gained by harmonizing the mind.
Diseases and functional disorders of the nervous system can be successfully treated by meditation. Scientific studies and research into the effects of meditation upon the metabolism, its EEG effects in relation to relaxation, etc. are gradually asserting the efficacy of meditation in nervous disorders. Prana vidya and other meditation techniques serve as a prophylactic to disease. The therapeutic value of meditation with respect to physical disease has yet to be fully realized. Many diseases are psychosomatic and can be treated and often cured through meditation. Prana vidya and yoga nidra specialize in the treatment of psychosomatic illness. Indian rishis and yogis have always claimed that illness originates in the mind. Meditation clears the mind of mental obstructions, the basis of many physical illnesses. It also develops the willpower and arrests the ability of the mind to create new fears and phobias by the simple expedient of awareness. By resisting mental disturbances, disorders and tensions, the body is better able to resist physical disturbances. In sickness, the energy levels of the body drop. Healthy people are characterized by high energy levels. Meditation techniques and prana vidya in particular, restore the body to its high energy level.
Problems can also be solved through meditation. It has been found that deep, one-pointed attention to and concentration on a problem results in the releasing and exhausting of pent-up neuroses as well as giving insight into day to day problems.
Meditation techniques, including prana vidya, follow the pattern outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. This is comprised of the eight limbs of yoga. The first four outer limbs are yama, control; niyama, observances; asanas, postures; and pranayama, breathing exercises. The four meditational or inner limbs commence with pratyahara and lead progressively through dharana and dhyana to culminate in samadhi.
Before meditation can begin, pratyahara or sense withdrawal must be achieved. Specific techniques are utilized to calm and disconnect incoming sensations through the ears (auditory), eyes (ocular), taste buds (gustatory), nose (olfactory), and skin (tactile). This leads to extinction of awareness of the outside world.
When a person is extroverted, there is sensory knowledge of the external environment. Pranas are extended to the limits externally. With the initiation of pratyahara, prana begins to withdraw from the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, and becomes internalised. This is the first stage of meditation and prana vidya which leads directly to dharana, the next stage. Dharana arises when the pranas become concentrated. Awareness is directed towards one psychic symbol, ishta devata, without being disturbed by any mental patterns. This too is an integral part of prana vidya. Dharana leads directly to dhyana, defined by Patanjali as 'unbroken flow of thought towards the object of contemplation'.
In prana vidya, the flow of prana within the body is visualized. This acts as a base for awareness. With practice this visualization is converted into personal experiences of the flow of prana. At first one may experience small, very fine streaks of light. Gradually the pranas are withdrawn and concentrated. This leads to dharana and then spontaneously to dhyana and samadhi, where prana and consciousness merge in sahasrara.