Much More Than Breath

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

When you are chanting, you can only do it while breathing out. However, you can whisper, during inhalation, exhalation and retention. You can whisper at any point of the breath. There are two movements: one is the breath movement, the other is the pranic movement. The awareness has to shift from the breath to the pranic movement. In the whispering mode, it is the pranic movement which is becoming more active.

There are people like Swami Nadabrahmananda, who have mastered the science of pranayama. He could hold his breath for one hour without breathing and have normal body functions, as verified by scientific research.

The pranic movement is a totally different dimension and therefore in yoga there is the pranamaya kosha, existence in the pranic dimension.

Nadi shodhana

The only practice which can lead one there is nadi shodhana pranayama, nothing more. Not surya bheda, not chandra bheda, not kapalbhati, not bhastrika. The only practice that will take one from the awareness of annamaya kosha to pranamaya kosha is the perfection of the stages of nadi shodhana. The other pranayama practices are activating or internalising, like sheetali and sheetkari. The only balancing one which one can sustain for a long time is nadi shodhana. There is no end to the practice. One can keep increasing the ratio and the capacity of the lungs.

In nadi shodhana, the first thing that one needs to do is equalize the flow, the in and out going flow. There has to be equal mastery of the process of breathing. When one is exhaling and acting, moving, working, the prana shakti is more in harmony with one’s actions and performance. It becomes part and parcel of it. When one is inhaling, the prana shakti is held back from expressing itself.

This was proved by a research study in schools. When children are inhaling the instruction should be given at that moment they are absorbing. The teacher should be silent and not say anything when the children are breathing out. The researchers regulated the children’s breathing with the movement of a pendulum of a grandfather clock. When the pendulum swung to one side, the children breathed in, and when the pendulum swung to the other side, they breathed out.

The teacher would give instructions according to the swing of the pendulum, whether it was math, history, geography or any other subject. They found that retention and memory of information improved considerably. When you are breathing in you are absorbing. When you are breathing out you are expressing. When you are holding the breath, you are enforcing whatever is there. Holding the breath, especially the in-breath, will give you the feeling of solidity from inside, of being well packed from the inside.

Cosmic breath

Adi Shankaracharya said, “Breathing in, I am Brahman. Breathing out, all the rest is maya.” This is the concept of anuloma viloma, breathing in and breathing out. This idea of breathing in and breathing out and the reference that with each breath of Brahma, creation and dissolution take place can be found in the scriptures. When the universe is expanding, it is the outgoing breath. When the universe is collapsing, contracting, it is the inward breath. That is the breath of Brahma.

You are breathing in Brahma, for duality is dissolving and you are coming back into singularity, merging everything, dissolving everything, vilaya. From laya has come the word loma, as in anuloma viloma. When you are breathing in, there is contraction of space. When you are breathing out, there is separation, expansion of space. And that is maya.

This world and every activity is a reflection of activity happening at the cosmic, universal level. The experiences which you have in your body also happen in the universal dimension. If a star glows, if a planet dies, it is not an isolated incident. The impact of it is felt everywhere.

A mosquito bite on your little toe is felt in your body, but your hands act on it either to scratch or to swat. The mosquito has bitten you on your toe, the pain is there, but the action is in the hands. The mosquito bite is not an isolated incident.

Cosmic Unified Field Theory

From this has come the Unified Field Theory. Just as you experience the mosquito bite in your body, the cosmos, the universe experiences it, however, at a different level and to a different degree.

Are you able to understand what the ultimate in pain for an ant is? Are you able to understand what the ultimate in pain for a gazelle is that is being chased and hunted down by a hungry lion and who sees itself being dismembered and dying a slow death?

There are different levels. People are too caught up in their own head-trips, to even know the vast spectrum of an experience that can begin from a minute and miniscule thing and turn into something which is an experience beyond compare.

In the vedic thought process the universe is alive, it is not a dead place. If a star system goes out in some galaxy, the impact of that will be felt everywhere. If a sun dies, the impact of that will be felt throughout its zone of influence.

That is the Cosmic Unified Field Theory. According to the vedic concept, birth, emergence, decay, death, the tattwas, the life forms, the material and the sentient form part of a universal blue print. Today science is coming to the same conclusion. Science is not merely looking at planets, stars and galaxies, to ascertain whether there are gases, water, carbon, methane or oxygen, whether life is possible or not. Now science is looking beyond all that.

The sap of life

Decay and sustenance go hand in hand. The Vishnu tattwa and Shiva tattwa are the most active tattwas in life. Cells begin to decay, the moment they are born. The moment birth takes place, the cells are in the grip of death. The grip of death is decay. The strength to survive for a period of time, the life time of that particular thing is the Vishnu element. Just as a twig can lose its greenness and remain brown for some time, without falling off the tree, in the same manner, one can also lose touch with the senses. The greenness can go and the dry brownness will remain. The rasa, the sap, which will dry out, is the vishaya vritti, known in yoga as raga and dwesha as stated in Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (2:7 and 8):

Sukhanushayi ragah.
Dukhanushayi dweshah.

Raga is the liking accompanying pleasure.
Dwesha is the repulsion accompanying pain.

That is the sap of life – pleasure in attachment and pain in detachment. Seeking security, comfort, care, protection, these manifestations are emerging from the mind, as a result of the cosmic raga and dwesha.

Due to cosmic raga and dwesha, creation has taken place. The separation of elements is dwesha, which will lead to pain. The coming together of elements is raga, attraction and attachment.