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Towards Inner Harmony: I Am A Man (I)

Published: 21.05.2004
Updated: 12.11.2009

To climb high one needs a prop. In Sanskrit literature there occurs a dictum that a vine, a scholar and a woman - all need for their growth a support, some refuge or patronage. In the process of development, a living being requires a foundation. 'I am a man', is the greatest support. There are two categories of existence in the world - inanimate and animate. That which is endowed with life force, where there is the vibration of breath, is animate. And existence without the vibration of breath is inanimate. We belong to the animate world. We breathe. Our hearts beat. There is in us the vibration of the life force. This vital force is a characteristic of the living. Again, life is one thing and knowledge quite another. All living beings do not attain to consciousness of knowledge. In ancient language, knowledge means - the reasoning mind (vivek chetna) or experiential consciousness. In today's language, knowledge means development of experimental consciousness or result-oriented consciousness.

This consciousness is not available to every living creature, only to man. We are human beings - that is a strong foundation for achieving higher levels of consciousness. What distinguishes a human being from other living creatures, from the vegetable and the animal kingdom, is a developing consciousness, the reasoning power and rational judgement, and a capacity for experience. Only man is capable of rational judgement, he alone is capable of a special kind of experience. We are human beings. Therefore, progressive development of consciousness is possible for us.

Bhartrihari drew a dividing line between man and animal. He said, "Food sleep, fear and sex - there are common characteristics; they are to be found both in animal and in man. No distinction between man and animal is possible on this basis. If there is a dividing fine between the two, it is religion. On this basis, man can be distinguished from an animal."

The word has its own power. The meaning of a word is liable to change. It is capable of development or decay. Those conversant with the rules of linguistics know how old meanings disappear and new ones take their place. The meaning of the word 'religion' has undergone a change. Today's man does not quite follow what is meant by religion. The word, for him, is inextricably linked with certain stereo-typed conventions. In terms of the current idiom, we shall have to discover a new word for religion and this word could be 'science'. Science is what distinguishes a man from an animal. An animal has no science; it has no power of discrimination. This is what constitutes the fundamental difference between a man and an animal. An animal does possess fife, but it is incapable of any further development of the life force in it. For thousands of years, it has been carrying loads. There has been no development - neither of consciousness, nor of the vital force. Man, on the other hand, has evolved further in respect of both the vital life force and the power of discrimination. During the last two centuries the world has undergone a massive development with reference to social problems, economic problems and the problems of conduct and character. As regards the life style, and in the field of politics, there is some development at every step. All this because man is endowed with the power of discrimination and science.

Merely being alive is something great. From the non-living to the living, from the inanimate to the animate, there has been a wonderful evolution. However, just being alive, just to be a human being, is not so great an achievement as the development, along with life, of a scientific consciousness. The development of the power of consciousness along with that of the life force, the opening up of new dimensions and directions is a tremendous thing. The statement, 'I am a man', comprehends both these aspects. I am a man, therefore I can develop my life force; there is a possibility of new manifestations of life and new directions of consciousness.

Life has many currents, many powers. Of these, four are permanent - the power of the body, the power of the tongue, the power of the mind, and the power of breath. Man has been able to extend all these four powers. Animals have a great deal of brute force, but this power remains what it is at the outset. However, man can increase his power manifold. He can go very far in fast races; he can establish new records in weight-lifting. A good runner, a good weight-lifter, an athlete, one who can break a chain on his throat - a heavy iron chain which even an elephant cannot break, a good gymnast ties it round his waist and pulls, and lo! it snaps! - All these are examples of a great extension of man's physical power. Because man is endowed with a developing and discriminating consciousness, he cannot help thinking of growth in every direction if man had not possessed discrimination, he would have been dominated by animals. Before the brute force of a camel, or that of a horse, or of a buffalo, man's power pales into insignificance. Yet man controls the camel, the horse and the buffalo, and he can even put the lion into a cage. This is because the development of his consciousness is an ever-continuing process. For ever man is confronting new problems and seeking ways and means to resolve them.

Once a man experienced within him a strong determination to carry a gigantic ox in his arms. Was it possible? Before the weight and power of an ox, a man's weight and power are insignificant. How could the man then carry an ox? It seemed impossible. However, with the awakening of intelligence, even the impossible becomes possible; nothing is difficult. The man deliberated and found a way. He began with carrying a new born calf. It was quite possible for him to carry a calf. Next day, he carried it again, and again on the third day. He went on with it, day after day without a break. This constant practice made him so accustomed to the task that even when the calf grew up to be an ox, the man could carry it without any difficulty. Continuity is a great thing. If a man can perceive his breathing continuously for five minutes, without distraction of thought, he would feel his physical organism so renovated, so charged, as to directly experience within the throbbing currents of light, life and energy. As if there had been an explosion of energy! The power derived from continuity is not to be compared with that derived momentarily. The force of a drop is nothing as compared to that of the mighty current. Imagine rainfall in droplets - one drop falls, after two minutes another falls. The first drop dries up before the second falls; the second also dries up before the third falls and so on. The sizzling earth and sand absorb the drops as soon as they fall. But a continuous heavy downpour is different. It means an incessant and mighty flow which soon gathers force and takes the shape of a brook or a stream.

So continuity is a great thing - to experience continuously. The man, who has learnt to perceive his breath continuously, has learnt the secret of developing bodily strength, the strength of mind, and the power of speech.

The biggest drawback of modern times is that people have almost forgotten the significance of persistent effort, of the power of the incessant flow. A government official revealed today that he had recently returned from abroad after completing a one-year course in sports. He expressed astonishment at the fact that the Western people have now added Yoga to their sports course. It sounds strange that we have now to go abroad even for training in sports and yoga. Yoga was exported from India to the Western countries; now a necessity is felt for importing it from there. It is because we have lost continuity; there is no concentration on anything. Every thing is done here by fits and starts. It is as if we have lost the very conception of a current, of a regular flow. If the vital force flows continuously in one direction, abundant national talent would be available for export in almost every field - be it sports, education or science. However, owing to lack of concentration and continuous practice, things have come to such a pass that though India might have occasionally got a golden medal in the past, today even the winning of a silver or bronze medal occasions surprise. A country of sixty million and such a pitiable state! It sounds so amazing. Yet, there is really no cause for surprise, because we seem to have lost sight of the very means, the fundamental secret of success. We are faced with a similar problem in the field of education. Whether it is a teacher or a student, or somebody else, there is no development of discipline, or of character, as is requisite, because there is no willpower, no determination, no concentration and no continuity of practice. Only the brain is stuffed with words. The word, of course, has a role to play, a certain power, and whatever development is possible through the word, will be there, undoubtedly. But how do we go about developing the uniqueness, the special capability, the efficiency that is a must for great achievement 'in any field. It is one thing to accomplish work somehow, but quite another to develop a certain capacity or high proficiency for it. How do we bring about increased efficiency, quite apart from high excellence, the question whereof does not arise for the moment? Expertise is not got through books; it comes through developed consciousness, through intelligence, which in itself is the result of a close collaboration between consciousness and books. Books alone, without sensitivity, will not bring about increased efficiency. The basic problem is that of continuity, of perseverance, of concentration.

This involves the perfection of effort, of discernment and of consciousness. Karate and judo were evolved in Japan- an example of the development of bodily strength. The hand is hardened to such a degree as to withstand successfully the onslaught of a sword. Only man is capable of such growth. It involves the development of the vital force. The life force is so triumphant that no weapon can do it any harm. We saw for ourselves how a friend drew in a complete breath, held it still, spread out his arm. Ten persons hung on that arm, but could not bring it down. This illustrates the development of the vital force. Only man can develop his bodily strength in this way, because he has intelligence. Because of this, man is capable of amazing feats of physical endurance. Even today, this tradition is not altogether lost but we no longer give it as much importance as we should. We do not seem to be fully alive to the significance of the techniques by which bodily strength could be developed to the highest degree.

The development of moral strength is also necessary - such a high morale that we never give in before the most exacting problem. A little difficulty presents itself, and man loses confidence in himself. It is a very serious problem. Most people feel all right as long as every thing goes well, but the moment anything goes wrong, they immediately lose heart and are lost in confusion, which shows a complete absence of moral strength. So low is their morale indeed, as to leave no room for endurance. They are not able to stand up to any situation. In the world we inhabit, there is heat as well as cold, there is good as well as bad, there is prosperity as well as poverty. Nothing continues for long. There is no monopoly of one or the other; both are found in equal measure. We must develop our powers so that we can bear the heat as well as the cold. To bear heat is not easy; to endure cold is equally difficult. Both prosperity and adversity pose an equal challenge. Indeed, sometimes it seems that as compared to adversity, prosperity is even more difficult to endure. When things go well a man is greatly excited and filled with pride. He cannot stand too much success; in a moment of great and unexpected joy, he often forgets himself; there is even a risk of heart-failure.

To maintain one's equanimity in favourable circumstances is most difficult. We can bear with hatred, not with love; endure unpleasant experiences, but find it difficult to endure the pleasant ones. We must develop such power as to get along with both. Our moral fibre should be so strong as not to yield before prosperity or adversity. Such development of character is possible. There are many examples of such development of physical or moral power in the Indian consciousness; and of such marvellous moral strength as to be hardly imaginable by a common man. If India did not possess this moral strength, it would have been impossible for her to pit herself against a mighty imperialism without using a weapon and wrest her lost glory, her independence, by purely non-violent means. This very singular occurrence was made possible by great moral strength. There may be other factors, too, but the greatest is moral strength. We do not seem to be fully aware of its significance.

The power of language is no less stupendous. If life force be combined with language and its force enhanced, the word escaping a man's lips cannot but succeed. We have in India the doctrine of the word made perfect. Whatever a perfected man utters, must come to pass. Even the material world is affected; the atoms are all astir and undergo a transformation to make the particular saying of a great man come true. Even today, we come across people, from whose lips every word falls like inevitable fate. The 'word' is invested with an extraordinary power and this is made possible through the development of the life force. In conjunction with the life force, the power of the body can be increased to an unimaginable degree; combined with the stream of the life force, the power of the word is enhanced a thousand fold, and likewise the power of the mind and the power of breath. The present situation is extremely pitiable. What use is it to talk of the power of breath, when we do not even know how to inhale it properly! In correct breathing, it is the stomach that swells first. If only the chest expands, it is not right breathing. The chest would expand of itself, but the vibrations of each breath must reach down to the belly. The diaphragm goes down slightly, and the belly expands while breathing in, and it contracts while breathing out. As we take in a breath, there goes into the lungs about 5-6 litres of air. Under the pressure of this air, the belly expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation. It is plain commonsense. But we deny ourselves even this complete breathing. When the breathing is not thorough, the power of breath is not adequate. There can be no fire without fuel. The power of the body, the power of the mind, the power of the tongue - all these constitute the oven of energy and this oven will give out heat only when the fuel of breath is available to it. The fire will bum when it gets its oxygen, the vital breath. The power of the body is not fundamental, nor the power of language, nor moral strength; the really fundamental thing, the basic reality, is the power of breath, right breathing.

When the breath is complete and thorough, the power of the body will grow. Here is something which you can experiment upon and find out for yourself. If you want to strengthen a particular part of the body, if you want to heal it and do away with disease, sit quietly for 10 minutes. Take deep breaths continuously, regulate your breathing and concentrate your attention on that part which you want to cure and make strong. After some days, you will see that that particular part is gradually gaining in strength, its power is being developed and the diseased condition, the feebleness, is also coming to an end. Of course, it is not possible to accomplish all this within a day or two. But if you persevere and practise continuously for a long time, you will definitely experience that a change is being gradually effected. For that you need the support of breath, the necessary fuel. Shortage of fuel is today's foremost problem. Indeed, energy is the world's problem number one. If we could have light without energy, all present day research in the field of energy would have lost its raison d' etre. What an astonishing amount of research on energy is being conducted today! New sources of energy are being discovered. Energy provides the fire for our ovens. Without energy, no food could be cooked, no bulbs would give out light, no fans would run and we would have no current of air. We need sources of energy for everything. Breath is the source of our vital energy. Unless this source is fully explored and understood, the furnace, whether of the body, or of the mind or that of the tongue, would not burn. Therefore, first and foremost, we must concentrate our attention on the energy inherent in breath.

Let this breath-energy be awakened; let this power grow. Deep breathing is the way to increase it. The man, who takes short breaths, cannot develop breath-power. But where is complete breath to be found? People inhale short breaths, very short indeed. Some people take 20-22 breaths in a minute. Instead of progressing in the direction of slow breathing, more and more people are breathing very fast. If the movement of the breath is slow, its duration would be longer, and the number of breaths per minute will go down. As the number of breaths goes down, the vital power would increase; man would live longer, and the power of the body will grow; likewise the power of breath. On the other hand, as the rate of breathing goes up, involving greater expenditure of energy, life-expectation goes down. During sleep, the rate of breathing is greater than during waking hours. If, while awake, we take 15-16 breaths per minute, the number goes up to 20-22 during sleep. In a state of excitement, the rate of breathing goes up still higher. This means that life-force is impaired, extra energy is expended. For the man who wants to lead a sane life, who wants to live longer, who does not want to die before his time, the practice of deep breathing is most important and valuable. If you practise deep breathing and decrease the rate of breathing from 15 breaths per minute to 10-8-7-5-2, your breath-power will greatly increase, and the expenditure of energy will be greatly reduced.

A great misunderstanding persists in the world of education. We look upon the history of science as the history of the last four centuries, and we regard the Westerners as being scientific. We do not treat the Indians as being scientific at all. An Indian scientist is rarely mentioned; although we have produced hundreds of scientists who made great scientific discoveries, they find no mention in the history of science. Only recently, a few names have come into the limelight. In some universities, Indian scientists are now beginning to be associated with great scientific discoveries and here and there a department of ancient sciences has been established. By and large, however, we seldom treat ancient Indians as being scientific.

However, ancient Indian scientist-ascetics made astounding discoveries which even advanced medical science of today can hardly match. Our nervous system embodies in itself two separate orders - one voluntary and the other autonomic. The functioning of the voluntary nervous system involves expenditure of energy; so does the running of the autonomic nervous system. The ancient ascetics made an important discovery that we can regulate the working not only of the voluntary nervous system, but also that of the autonomic system. We can hold our breath, for instance; we can also reduce the body-temperature. We can slow down the metabolic process. We can even stay the palpitation of the heart and diminish its rate of beating. In other words, we can exercise control even over the autonomic processes of the body, which means we can withhold and regulate the expenditure of energy thereon.

Research is being conducted today, and there is a likelihood of an astounding development in the near future when it would be possible to freeze a' man by a process of "deep freezing." His body could' then be kept in cold storage (very much like fruit), for five, ten, twenty years or more. And whenever it is desired to restore him again to life, the frozen mould would be exposed to heat and the man would come alive. The span of his life would thus be prolonged by 50 years, which means his vital life force could be perserved for 50 years; the expenditure of energy stayed altogether. But the ancient ascetic-scientists had made this discovery thousands of years ago: the functioning of the autonomic nervous system was stayed for a particular period and the life force preserved and the span of life increased by an equal period. It was a very important discovery which we later let fall into oblivion; in complete oblivion, indeed, beyond the hope of restoration. Today, we know not how to moderate our breathing, or how to control the nervous system, or to decrease the temperature, or slow down the process of metabolism. Dismissing the knowledge of these processes as useless, we have quite forgotten them.

Let us return to the past. It is good to live in the present. The awareness of the present is very essential. Indeed, the process of dhyana is a movement of living in the present. The more a man lives in the present, the greater his power. However, the present alone would not serve our purpose. It is necessary sometimes to return to the past, or to delve into the future. Our life is lived on the basis of memory, meditation and imagination. Memory alone, meditation alone, imagination alone would not do. Memory is a process of returning to the past; imagination, a process of living in the future, and meditation, a process of living in the present. What we need is a synthesis of the three. The past has its own utility. We can return to it to find out what methods had been employed by our ancestors for the development of energy.

We have been discussing ways and means of developing vital power. This development has three aspects: the power of the body, the power of the tongue, and the power of the mind. To develop all these, the power of breath is an essential requisite. One means of enhancing breath-power is deep breathing. As the practice of deep breathing continues, a new dimension in education is opened up, giving a new direction to the student's life. The student, then, would no longer rest content with merely intellectual development. The development of the intellect is very necessary, but intellectual development by itself is not adequate. Other factors must be taken into consideration. The intellect may be developed, but if the body remains undeveloped, nothing much can be accomplished. Only today we saw a man who had lots of money and power. He owns property worth cores of rupees, but his body has become a wreck, utterly useless, terribly diseased. I said to my fellow ascetic, "This man has plenty of money but he is undergoing extreme suffering. What is the use of his wealth?" One-sided development does not make for a wholesome life; what is needed is total development. Intellectual development is good but it must be accompanied by the development of the power of the body, the power of the mind and that of the tongue. The first step in the development of these powers is the strengthening of breath-power, and the first step in the development of breath-power is the practice of deep breathing.


Published by: Kuldeep Jain for "HEALTH & HARMONY" An imprint of: Jain Pubilishers (P) Ltd, New Delhi

Reprint 2006

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