Five Keys of Prana Vidya

Paramahamsa Niranjanananda

There are five keys by which we can unlock the doors of our bio-plasmic body.

The first key is the awareness of the psychic breath The experience of the breath can be both gross and subtle. The gross experience is the physical process of inhalation and exhalation! we breathe in, we breathe out, we become aware of the breath in the nostrils, in the lungs, in the lower abdominal region, and in the chest. Manipulation of this gross manifestation of breath through willpower, through concentration and the practices of pranayama is one aspect of the breath.

The other aspect of the breath is psychic, the movement of inhalation and exhalation in the form of ujjayi pranayama. Awareness of the deep sound we make in ujjayi pranayama during inhalation and exhalation is awareness of the psychic breath. Awareness of the psychic breath is not an unnatural or unconscious process, but involves the practice of awareness, concentration and actual physiological contraction of the throat muscles. When you practise ujjayi breathing, which you perform with kechari mudra and nasikagra drishti, instead of watching the normal flow of the breath in the nostrils, you simply become aware of the breath passing in through the throat and the sound that it makes.

How can this awareness open up the door of your bio-plasmic body? It is very simple. When you observe the breath in the throat with total involvement of the senses then the mind relaxes. The activities of the brain slow down and new forms of experience shape themselves within the personality. When you practise ujjayi the actual physiological experience is a feeling of tranquillity, relaxation and one-pointedness. This is the gross experience of ujjayi pranayama.

Then there is the psychic experience. With the practice of ujjayi the prana begins to move. The first manifestation of maha-prana, the prana located in the chest, begins to move. As you practise this psychic breathing utilising prana moving within, in the form of a stream of light particles, you experience a sort of tickling or burning sensation in your throat, in the upper thoracic region, chest and lungs. That is the first physiological experience that you may have of pranic awakening. As the concentration becomes deep and intense you will experience it. In the practice of psychic breathing you try to actually change the flow of prana.

The second key of Prana Vidya is psychic sound. According to the science of Nada yoga, sound manifests within us and we also experience sound outside, subtle and gross. There is no need to discuss the outside sounds, you are well aware of them. We will just have a brief look at the inner sound. There are practices of Nada yoga which involve the withdrawal of auditory perception so that we do not hear external noise. With the awareness completely withdrawn to the centre of the head, (at ajna chakra) we become aware of any sounds that may arise spontaneously from within.

The usual experiences of this sound are a siren, a whistle, the chirping of birds, bells, a waterfall or the sound of something rushing inside. They will begin in a very subtle way and gradually the intensity of the sound will increase. You will actually hear a piercing whistle even with the ears completely blocked, and if you try to hear the same thing outside you will hear nothing, but the whistle goes on inside the head. You will hear the chirping of birds even if there are no birds outside. That experience is inside you.

After you are able to bring all the auditory sounds to the surface, then a deep throbbing sound will take place as if you are in a deep cavern or cave with a tunnel. At the other end of the tunnel someone is playing music, drums, a flute or many other sounds, so you will feel the vibrations. They will begin on a very low key but the pitch will gradually increase, and after some time it will gradually begin to decrease. At the end you become aware of the nada. Nada is the inner sensation, the inner movement of physical atoms.

Although the practice sounds complicated you can have these experiences very quickly, in a few sessions, depending on the intensity of your concentration and awareness, and on your ability to remain awake. In order to withdraw the mind, we utilise the practice of bhramari pranayama, where we make the humming sound of a bee.

The third key is awareness of the psychic passage. There are two passages which we become aware of in the practice of Prana Vidya. The chakras are located along the spine and we experience their awakening along the spine, but we can also experience them along the front of the body. The frontal passage and the frontal experiences of chakra awakening take place in what we call the chakra kshetra, the trigger-point of the chakra. The location of the experience we have along the spine itself is known as the chakra sharira, the body of the chakras. Chakra sharira within the spine; chakra kshetram, in front of the body. When we begin to move the prana, awareness of these passages is very helpful.

According to the concept of Prana Vidya, energy is stored in mooladhara, revitalised or energised in manipura, distributed to the body from ajna and purified in vishuddhi. These are the four chakras that we use in the practice of Prana Vidya: awakening, generation and revitalisation in manipura, the navel centre; purification in vishuddhi, the throat centre; distribution from ajna, the eyebrow centre; storage at the end of the practice, at mooladhara in the perineum.

The awareness of the passage in the chakra kshetram is between the navel and the eyebrow centre. When we breathe in, the breath follows this passage up the front of the body from the navel to the throat. When we breathe out, breath awareness continues to go up from the throat to the eyebrow centre, then again the awareness jumps back to manipura. This is one process of frontal passage awareness.

In the actual practice of Prana Vidya, the energy which is generated in manipura is brought to ajna with inhalation and distributed with exhalation. When we are becoming aware of the psychic passage, inhalation and exhalation both happen with the ascending awareness. We breathe in from the navel to the throat and out from the throat to ajna. We visualise the passage in the form of a transparent tube inside the body which stretches from the navel all the way up to ajna.

The second psychic passage is along the spine. Inhalation begins from mooladhara at the base of the spine, the tip of the coccyx bone, and follows the contour of the spinal cord. The visualisation of the psychic passage itself takes the form of a transparent tube. We inhale from mooladhara all the way up to ajna inside the head where the spinal cord enters the brain, the area of the mid-brain. With exhalation we simply follow the breath along the frontal passage back to mooladhara. So, in the second passage there is only ascending awareness. There is only inhalation, while the exhalation is back down the front of the body and then again, there is awareness of the passage with inhalation up the back, and exhalation down the front of the body.

The fourth key is the psychic symbol and it involves the practice of concentration. The symbol can be anything on which you can fix your mind. It can be an abstract symbol, an image of scenery, something that you enjoy, something that agrees with you. It can even be a psychic abstract symbol in the form of a yantra or mandala. It can be the experience of seeing the sun, the moon, a flame, fire, a cloud, or anything. Of course, here we are dealing with psychic symbols, not just any symbol and psychic symbols are usually yantras.

If you look closely at the chakras you will find that they are composed of various symbols circles, triangles, squares, hexagons, pentagons, etc. These are the symbols which we use in Prana Vidya. Depending on your personality or astrological sign, a symbol is given to enable you to concentrate and go deeper into your own personality. This symbol is usually given by the Guru at the time of mantra diksha. If you have a symbol then you can concentrate on it. If you do not have a symbol there are two symbols best suited for Prana Vidya. One is fire and the other is a downward flowing stream or column of light.

The fifth key is the awakening of the chakras. Now, believe me, you will find this quite hard, but with the practice of Prana Vidya the chakras are awakened quite quickly. Of course, you will have to make the effort, it will not just happen spontaneously. You will have to try through the practices of concentration, visualisation, willpower and having a purpose in your mind. All the chakras are centres of pranic energy and you are stimulating and controlling the prana. In order to do this you have to awaken the chakras.