You may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 3.
So lets’ take the plunge in trying to realize P. It would be, by no means, an easy journey – or even the journey where anyone can guarantee that you would eventually realize P; nevertheless, the rest of the benefits I mentioned in my earlier blogs do apply 🙂 Further however, note that since P is all about consciousness, your thoughts, belief, zeal, discipline and strictly adhering to this text into practice would go a long way in realizing certain stages towards realization of this important knowledge itself.
Now, this P has different names in different regions of the world, so I would expand it to the name as established since ancient times in my country – India – and this name is ‘Praann‘ (this is the nearest English equivalent to the way it is pronounced). Please note here that the name itself has nothing to do with the religion Hinduism and hence it is religion-agnostic, though references of it may be found in such religious texts.
Why I revealed this name now is because the practice to realize Praann is named as ‘Pranayam‘. The root of these words lies in the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit’, which I will not cover here though. The word Pranayam is composed of two words – Praann (consciousness) and Ayaam ([to realize by] self) – and hence, the practice.
Note – Praann does not mean ‘life’ as it typically is construed certain Indian languages, but is a broader concept of consciousness itself. Further, I would mention below certain terms that come from Sanskrit, and these are not to be construed as any religion-specific totems, practices or tricks.
The practice of Pranayam
The practice has eight stages as follows, whereby the first four needs to be practiced simultaneously in a physical manner. The rest four are more of realization states or stages, achieved mentally, which the fourth one leads to. Even though it may at first seem that you can directly jump on to stage four, it will not help in reaching any of the states we aspire to.
1. Yam – the daily general practice of being good to others; helping people at times of need; giving proper time to your family, work, and yourself; and not playing bad politics. Why is this important? Because, this will help you to be more stable and emphatic mentally. From a practice standpoint, you need to simply be good as you perceive “goodness” to be.
2. Niyam – the daily general practice of having a bath, taking limited quantity of food while you eat (and not gulping or gorging), having mild exercises for general fitness and getting a sound sleep every night. Why is this important? Because, of the reason that since pranayam is all to do with your mind, your mind needs to be calm and stable. From a practice standpoint, a good time to do pranayam would be early morning (4:00am is ideal; however, even 6:00am would work if you can find a calm place without noise and distractions). For such time, a basic minimum of brushing your teeth and washing your face with water would be the prerequisite.
3. Aasan – since the practice of pranayam would at first seem to be both physically and mentally taxing, it would need you to sit in a proper posture to reduce any bodily strain while you practice it. Aasan refers to such posture. From a practice standpoint, you sit with your head and back straight – comfortable and not stretched – legs folded, hands stretched with the back side of your palms kept on your knees; palms being open. Alternatively, follow the sitting position of Lord Buddha (as you find in pictures and idols).
4. Pranayam – this name is same as the overall practice as this is the most important step through which you connect to your inner world (what this means will become apparent as you practice). I will expand on the actual practice in my next blog, as it also incorporates not only physical actions but also what you should think while practicing it.
5. Pratyahar – it is a state in which you do not feel your body’s existence, however have a feeling of ecstasy which is purely a personal experience. It is a stage you can practically achieve.
6. Dharana – it is a state achieved when you mentally pick up any object and try to give a form, shape and behavior to it. This requires a lot of concentration, and would able to visualize the object as if it is a part of you (or the other way round).
7. Dhyan – it is a state achieved when you concentrate on this object and seem to control its form and behavior mentally; this and the previous step get more refined with practice as you start realizing multiple objects and in turn, multiple spheres of knowledge.
8. Samadhi – it is a state achieved – and the last one where you achieve higher consciousness – with no bounds to the degree of knowledge that you gain through continued practice; true yogis are said to attain it. All the branches of knowledge – mathematics, pure sciences, religion, vedic, the knowledge of past and future, occult sciences – are realized and attained. Unbelievable, but as I said earlier – do not say it’s nonsense unless you yourself have practiced it.
Now, before I go on to explain the above, an acknowledgement is deserved at this point. Whatever I am writing here through these blogs form a part of the larger texts on lectures by Swami Vivekananda on the concept of Vedanta. He had been a practitioner of this, and has successfully demonstrated the knowledge not only in India, but also across the world.
However, there is a propensity for any person following the religion of Hinduism to claim this as a ‘Hindu practice’, which is gravely erroneous. Vedanta is a philosophy (leading to a set of practices, including pranayam) irrespective of any religious group, and defines the universal human/non-human identity. And to know it, you do not have to become a member of any religious cult or group. It is more science that religion as the word “religion” is construed today.
I will expand the steps in my next blog, so you may watch out for the actual practice lessons subsequently! More blogs will follow to talk about the ‘science’ behind Vedanta, and why the philosophy is important to your work and life.