Controlling the life force in the body enables the yogi to switch off the current from the sensory nerve telephones, thus making it impossible for disturbing sensations to reach the brain and distract the attention from its march toward the Divine Goal.
Breath is not life, but it is necessary to ordinary physical existence because dark venous blood has to be purified by oxygen. Breath is the cord that ties the soul to the physical body. One who can live without breath can free his soul from slavery to the breath and hence from imprisonment in the body.
Because of the vital link between breath and life force, many persons think that pranayama--life-force control—consists in holding the breath for long periods. This is untrue. The mortal breath that binds the soul to the body cannot be made to stop by forcibly holding it in the lungs, which is dangerous. Rather by stopping decay (the normal process of cellular breakdown) in the system, and by developing calmness and practicing spiritual exercises such as Hong-Sau, yogis achieve the breathless state in a natural way. It is life force that governs breath, heartbeat, sensory impressions, and motor responses—all the functions of the body. Pranayama means control of that life force, and - hence control over all the functions of the body.
If the battery in an automobile has gone dead, it can be reactivated only by newly charging it with electricity from an outside source. Similarly, a dead body battery can be revived only by a fresh charge of life force from the cosmic source. It is useless to fill the stomach of a dead person with food, or to pump oxygen into his lungs; food and oxygen sustain life only if life force is already actively present in the body.
A storage battery could be used indefinitely if recharged by electricity, and if the physical characteristics of its positive and negative plates and the electrolyte did not change. Similarly, by higher training the body may be sustained by the intelligent life force alone, which acts as the recharging electricity and also prevents the deterioration of the physical properties of the body battery.
The fact that human beings and animals in states of suspended animation can maintain life indefinitely by spinal and mental energy, shows that life force itself is the only essential to sustaining life. Hindu saints have been buried alive beneath the ground for as long as several months—even years—without food or oxygen, and after disinterment have regained consciousness and resumed normal life.
In mortal existence, however, the life energy in the body, instead of drawing directly upon its source—the inexhaustible Cosmic Energy—distills energy from food, and thus comes to depend on being sustained by food. But food is not the cause of the presence of life force in the body; it is merely one of the conditions by which mortal life exists.
Without light, reading a book is impossible; but the reading matter is not caused by the light. Likewise, without food, existence is ordinarily impossible; yet food is not the cause that creates life. Through the habit of incarnations the body has become used to depending upon food and breath to maintain life. The more the body is trained to live by life force, the less it need depend upon food and oxygen.
The greater the amount of venous blood, the greater the necessity for breath. If there is no venous blood in the body (as in suspended animation when, through the prevention of waste-creating activity of bodily tissues, conscious rest is given to the bodily cells) there is no necessity for breathing. For this reason the Hindu masters taught control of the life force in the heart by stopping cellular deterioration in the body, producing the resultant breathless state.
When one arrests cell decay—the cause that creates venous blood-- the functioning of the heart becomes unnecessary for the time being. Yogis accomplish this by eating only pure foods that produce little waste in the body, and by practicing scientific spiritual methods of calming the physical and mental processes.
The yogi who has thus calmed the heart also finds that the absence of venous blood in the lungs, and the state of suspended animation of the bodily tissues, makes superfluous the absorption of oxygen from the air into the bloodstream. Breathing simply becomes unnecessary.
Watching the breath is the preliminary step in controlling it; then the consciousness gradually realizes itself as distinct from the involuntary bodily function of breathing, and separates itself from the breathing function. The yogi who has gained breath-control is then able to recognize that consciousness is the only thing that is real about his existence. By training his consciousness according to the method to be described in this Lesson, the student begins to realize that his life is not dependent upon bodily functions, and that his real nature is spiritual and immortal. Thus he understands the delusive nature of ego consciousness which causes us erroneously to identify ourselves with the body instead of realizing the divine nature of our being: satchitananda—eternal existence (sat), eternal consciousness (chit), eternal joy (ananda).
The following important results follow upon attainment of the
1. The heart calms down and switches off energy from the five sense telephones, thus helping concentration.
2. The noise of the bodily machinery is stopped.
3. The process of cellular decay in the internal organs is stopped. 4. One realizes that the body lives by cosmic energy coming through the medulla oblongata.
5. One learns to live by Cosmic Consciousness and not by "bread" or breath alone.
6. The soul is released from bodily bondage and breath slavery.
When practicing this technique of concentration, it is a good idea to sit on a straight-backed chair with a woolen blanket placed over it. The blanket should run down under the feet, insulating the body from earthly magnetic influences and disturbances. Face east and sit erect, without touching your spine to the back of the chair. Always keep the spine and head in a straight vertical line during practice. The body should be relaxed, with the hands resting palms upward on the thighs.
As the breath comes in, mentally chant "Hong" (rhymes with song), at the same time move the index finger of your right hand toward the palm. As the breath goes out, mentally chant "Sau" (rhymes with saw) and move the index finger away from the palm.
The movement of the index finger is only to help you to differentiate inhalation from exhalation, as we are ordinarily not accustomed to noticing which is taking place. If you have no difficulty in mentally differentiating inhalation and exhalation, or in chanting the right word with each ("Hong" with inhalation, "Sau" with exhalation), the movement of the index finger is unnecessary.
There should be no movement of the tongue as you mentally chant the words "Hong" and "Sau."
Every sound in the universe has a different mental correspondence and mental effect. "Hong" and "Sau" are two sacred Sanskrit chant words that have a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath. The mental repetition of "Hong" with the inhaling breath and of "Sau" with the exhaling breath has a markedly calming mental effect and thus helps the student to concentrate in this exercise of watching the incoming and outgoing breath.
By correct, continued practice you will feel a great calmness; gradually you will realize your true identity as soul, superior to and existing independently of your physical body.
Restless movements of the eyes reflect the restlessness of the thoughts in the mind; and if the eyes are gazing about taking in various objects or scenes, these sight perceptions give rise to further restless thoughts.
In leisure moments, you may even lie down on your back, if you wish, and practice Hong-Sau, though in the supine position one is more susceptible to falling asleep. As a general rule, however, Hong-Sau should be practiced in the correct upright meditation posture.
Therefore it is best to practice this changelessness-producing technique (Hong-Sau) at these four periods of the day to obtain satisfactory scientific results. Meditate between 5 and 6 a.m., 11 and 12 a.m., 5 and 6 p.m. , and 10 and 12 p.m. (or between 11 and 12 p.m. ) . The purpose of Hong-Sau practice is to gain conscious passivity, and to free the attention from sense entanglements. Under the spell of maya—cosmic delusion--man identifies himself with the physical body, which lives in and requires the atmosphere of air, just as a fish needs the environment of water. Breath is the cord that binds the soul to the body. When man learns to rise above the need for breath, he ascends into the celestial realms of angels.
As he watches the course of the incoming and outgoing breath, the yogi finds that his breath naturally slows down and calms the relatively violent action of the heart, lungs, and diaphragm.
In sleep we experience sensory relaxation. In death, complete relaxation involuntarily takes place, owing to the stopping of the heart's action. If one can learn to control the heartbeat, he can experience conscious death, as did St. Paul ("I die daily"--! Corinthians 15:31) and many yogis of India who have practiced this Hong-Sau Technique, and through it achieved mastery over the action of the heart. Since ancient times India's great yogis have known how to leave the body voluntarily, honorably, and gladly; they were not thrown out roughly, or taken by surprise by death at the expiration of the leases on their body temples.
When the heart rests, breath becomes unnecessary. Life energy then withdraws from the heart and sensory nerves into the spine and brain. This disconnects the telephones of the five senses, whose incessant messages from the outside world ordinarily keep the ego continually dis turbed and the attention scattered. Through sensory disconnection by practice of Hong-Sau, sensations cease to arouse thoughts, which in turn cease to arouse the subconscious mind by associated thoughts. The attention thus becomes scientifically free from all distractions, and the student is ready to go on to advanced concentration and meditation practice. * * *
Cultivation of Hong-Sau practice during leisure periods will augment the good effects of your other spiritual practice. Indeed, practice of the Hong-Sau Technique should never be forsaken. The purpose in practicing the Hong-Sau Technique is to produce the divine ecstasy that deep practice gives.
Twenty-four hours of prayer or meditation by any other technique will not produce as much spiritual advancement as one hour's practice of Hong-Sau.
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