Towards Inner Harmony: Control Over Breathing

Published: 08.05.2004
Updated: 02.07.2015

A participant in the shivir said, "At the start of the prekshadhyana session, it was said, 'Perceive the soul through the soul.' I was delighted at the prospect of perceiving the soul, thus realising a long cherished dream. Man has 'in him an immortal longing to perceive the soul. Every individual wants to see it; every individual wants to find God. He wants to see God with open eyes, face to face. It therefore felt thrilling to know that I was going to meet my soul at last. Yet, the dhyana began with an exhortation to 'perceive your breathing'. I felt disappointed. I came here to perceive the soul and I was being led only to become aware of my breathing. A cherished dream seemed to disintegrate. Perception of the soul and perception of breathing seemed far apart! I wonder if perception of breathing was the be-all and the end-all of the shivir-experiment. If so, why should one come to participate in the shivir at all? Breathing is an involuntary thing -a reflex action; it goes on day in and day out, while at home or in the office, while asleep, sitting or standing. One could perceive' breathing anywhere. Why take the trouble to come to the shivir for that? And why then did the session start with the exhortation, 'Perceive the soul through the soul!'"

Logic is logic. Every argument leads to counter-argument; a weak plea opposed by a stronger one. However strong a contention may be, it could be refuted by a still more powerful contention. Every argument has its contrary. At first it looks as if a particular argument is irrefutable. But there is no such thing as an irrefutable argument. Only direct experience is irrefutable. Logic is never so. Logic is the play of intelligence. Whatever relates to the intellect can never be irrefutable. On the other hand, experience is related to consciousness and it takes upon itself an aspect of the eternal truth. Logic is not so invested.

I was not caught in logic and I was not so caught because only yesterday my perceptor told me, "No one ever got to truth through logic. Argument never led to the supreme." So I was not perplexed. I heard what the participant had to say and kept silent for a moment. Then I said, Brother! I do not want to refute your argument by presenting you with a counter argument. I only wish to relate a tale. An argument is dull and dry, but a story makes interesting reading. Why drag in dullness in a fascinating tale. The doubt in your mind arose because you are not acquainted with the law. If you knew the law, the problem would not have arisen. As long as we do not know the law, everything becomes a problem.

A man was on the run. Behind him ran a dog. The man was fleeing in fear of the dog. So, we have a man running ahead, followed by a dog. Why are they running? One could rightly answer this question only after one has grasped the rule. The man is running because of fear. In the moment of fear, the man's adrenal gives out larger secretions. The dog smells the adrenal from afar, and runs after it. The dog chases not the man, but the smell. If the man should abandon fear and suddenly confront the dog, the dog would lose the smell and automatically come to a halt. The fleeing man makes the dog chase him. Attracted by the smelt the dog cannot help chasing the man.

Man does not know how to keep still. That is why he is followed by many a phantom. If he learns how to stand still, no one would chase him. If he stands still, those following him would also halt. But we do not know the law. A verse from Dashvakalik Agam reads: "Exercise restraint of hand, of foot, of tongue." The meaning is quite obvious. And yet when one knows the law, one finds this verse to be full of profound and hidden significances. The directions given therein are very important. One of the laws contained in this verse has already been discussed at length in my book entitled, "Aura". Today, I should like to dwell on another aspect.

The verse refers to three things, restraint of hand, restraint of foot, and restraint of tongue. Through exercising these restraints one could acquire full mastery over one's senses. The question arises, how?

The restraint of hand results in victory over the sense of touch. All the senses are interlinked. An acquaintance with the law governing their relationship makes it easier to conquer them. The masters of Ayurved have written: "If the eye aches, massage with oil the toes of the foot; it would instantly relieve the eye." How strange! one might say. Can one conceive a relationship between the camel and the donkey? Similarly it is difficult to conceive of a relation between the eye and the foot. And yet there is a relation. The eyes and the feet are both related to the fire-element, the sense organ of which is the eye, and the action-organ of which is the foot. The laws governing the two are interdependent. When you know the fundamental principle, the relation between the eye and the foot excites no surprise. When we walk in the hot sun, our feet get hot, and the eyes get hot too. When the eyes are swollen, keeping the feet in cold water affords relief. The air-element has skin as its sense organ and the hand as its action organ. So the hand and the skin are interrelated. Exercising restraint over the hand results 'in control over the sense of touch. Thus, an important fact stands revealed. And there are easier ways of achieving mastery over the other senses. Shut the eye, and you will see no more. Block the ear with your finger, you cease hearing. Push a flock of cotton in your nostrils, you stop smelling. But how to achieve control over the sense of touch? No easy means could be found. It was an intricate problem. But the very first direction in the maxim, "Exercise restraint of hand", offers an effective resolution of the problem. Restraint of hand leads to mastery over the sense of touch. By moderating the movement of the hand, the electricity thereof can be directed inwards and this would result in victory over the sense of touch. The air-element is related to the sense of touch and it is also related to our hands. For those troubled by the wind, making them more and more restless during the meditation-session, a special posture is prescribed for controlling the air-element. The sadhak is advised to sit in Padma Asana, placing his little fingers at the lowermost thumb-joints. Keeping this posture for some time helps mitigate the fury of the air-element.

Moderation of foot results in control over the eye. The restraint of the tongue restrains hearing; both are connected with the element of space, which has the ear as its sense-organ, and the tongue as its action-organ.

When we are acquainted with all these laws, the verse in question seems to embody highly significant truths. In the absence of such knowledge, the exhortations in the couplet appear to be rather trivial. Exercise restraint of the hand! What kind of restraint? Shall we not move the hand at all? We are not slapping anybody, are we? What more is required? Exercise restraint of the foot! Well we are, not kicking anyone, are we? Then what kind of restraint? When we are not acquainted with the law, many problems arise. When we know the law, all problems dissolve by themselves.

I then said to the camper who was interested in perceiving his soul but who was disappointed at the adjuration to perceive his breathing, "You are raising this question because you do not understand the law. If you come to know the law, the problem would not arise."

A man invited a jeweller to his house. He said to the jeweller, "I have a most valuable diamond ring. I should like you to assess its worth." The jeweller went along with the marl. As they reached the first door, the man said, "Look at this Rajasthani sculpture. What fine workmanship! How wonderfully has the sculptor carved this statue!" At the second door, the man said to the jeweller, "Do you see that beautiful ventilator. Look at the painting! How beautiful and grand are the figures in it! The whole of the painter's art is exhibited therein" The dealer said, "Dear Sir! I have no time to see or appreciate these things. I have come here to assess your diamond ring. Let us please get to it soon." The man replied, "Have some patience, my friend. Now that you are here, why not look at everything? Why must you insist or- -seeing the diamond ring alone? I'll show you all

As both of them entered the third door, the man said, "Sir Dealer! Look at that beautiful building! You will not find such a design elsewhere."

Thus, the man took the dealer round, expatiating on the beauties of his house. "This is our guest-house, this our drawing room. Here's the dining room and there the bed-room. -Pray be seated in the drawing room, and let us have some refreshment. Now that you are here, I cannot let you go away without partaking of a meal."

Thus, he kept the jeweller with him for a long time. He offered him refreshments. Then he took him to the roof, "Have a view of the town." Later he took him to a vault underground. He offered him a comfortable seat, opened an almirah, took out a tiny casket and opened it. There lay the ring in the casket, well wrapped. Gradually, he took off one wrapping after another and then held out the ring and said, "Here's my diamond ring, Sir."

I put it to my questioner, "Was the jeweller a fool that in the course of a visit to assess a diamond ring, he suffered himself to witness hundreds of other things as well." My questioner said, "Oh no! We could not call him a fool. He followed the right, order. Had he not entered the first door, how could he reach the cellar? The access to the cellar lay only through several doors which he had to pass one after another. If the almirah was not opened, how could they find the little casket which contained the ring? In order to accomplish anything, one has to go through a sequence of movements. Each one of us has to observe a certain order. This is no foolishness; on the contrary it is simple commonsense.

I then pointed out to him the contradiction involved in his question. Can the soul manifest itself can there be any self-knowledge without perception of breathing? Breath-perception is the first door. Would you reach the cellar without entering the first door? It is impossible. You cannot directly jump into the cellar from outside. In order to reach the innermost cell, one has to pass through several doors one by one. That is the appointed order. You will have to cross seven doors before you can perceive the soul. First, you must perceive your breath, then the body. Later you must perceive the chemical changes taking place in the body; you must also perceive the electrical impulses which energise the body, and the changes in the brain wrought by those electrical impulses. You have to become aware of each and every cell and the movement therein. Then you must go beyond the gross organism to the subtle body (taijasa sarira). You must perceive' and grasp the vibrations taking place there. Still you must move on to the most subtle body (karma sarira), the motivating force behind the whole mechanism. It is a tremendous thing. The number of agents at this point is legion. They regulate every movement. You have to perceive the entire system, the whole of this most subtle body. You have to become aware of its functioning in its minutest detail. Only then is there a possibility of a new door opening to total light, to the manifestation of full consciousness, the perception of the Soul, seeing God Himself Here's the diamond-ring, along with the whole process of reaching it.

You want to perceive the soul to meet God face to face without ever entering the first door. It is not so possible. There is a regular procedure for self-realization, which must not be violated. This mansion of the body is truly colossal enclosed within seven ramparts. Without crossing these, there is no getting into the mansion. Inside the mansion there is a vast Organisation. Without comprehending it fully one can never secure admission inside. All talk of a big jump is futile. The evolutionists did talk of a jump. Some people still talk of it and believe in it. But on the grand spiritual path, on the path of devotion, the talk of a jump is not at all meaningful Here one has to proceed in a particular order. One reaches the destination gradually by crossing one barrier after another.

I said to my questioner, "Do you now see that the perception of breathing is the door to the perception of the soul? Is it possible to separate the house from the door? Never! The door in itself does not constitute the house. Nor does a particular room, be it the outer or the inner. If the door and the rooms taken singly do not constitute the house, then what does constitute it? Where and how does the house exist? Pull off the door, pull down the rooms; there would be no house worth the name. The door is part of the house, so is the courtyard, and the rooms -together they make a house. Pull them apart, and the house will cease to exist. Do hands by themselves constitute the body? Oh no, a man's hand grows septic and is cut off. The body is still there. So, the hand is not the body. Nor does the foot in itself constitute the body, Nor the head? Then what is it that we call the body? There is no complete body without the head, the hand and the foot together. Each limb is connected with other limbs. So linked, each limb is the body; if not linked, it ceases to be the body. The linking is important.

Breath is soul. Perception of breath is perception of soul. It may sound strange, yet it is the whole truth. Does a corpse breathe? Never. Only that which is alive can breathe. Only he lives who has consciousness. Only he is conscious who has a soul. Without the soul there is no consciousness; without consciousness there is no life, and without life there is no breath. There is the movement of breath, but who is the conductor of this movement? The conductor is the soul. When die soul departs, breathing stops. Is not then the perception of that which is conducted by the soul the perception of the soul itself. To be sure, it is. We do not only perceive the breath, we also perceive the life force that moves it; we do not only perceive the life force, we also perceive the consciousness which inspires it; we do not only perceive the consciousness, but we also perceive the soul the abode of consciousness. Thus, it may be said that to perceive the breath is to perceive the soul. Breath-perception is soul-perception. Thus, the purity of breath is as important in the process of spiritual training as the purity of food and sense-purification Without purity of breath, perception of the soul remains a dream. In Manonushasanam four methods are prescribed for the achievement of pure breathing: pranayam, samavrtti svasa, dirgha svasa and kayotsarga. The purity of breath opens the door to the perception of the soul.

The first method is pranayam, regulated breathing. It literally means: 'add to the dimensions of, give scope to prana, i e. life, vital breath, soul' As long as vitality is limited, there can be no purity of breath. Breathing is a process. Right breathing develops both aspects of our personality, the inner and the outer; it maintains an equilibrium between them. It regulates them both it influences the inner and the outer world at one and the same time. It is a bridge. He who does not grasp the significance of breathing, cannot make much progress. He who wants to maintain intellectual equilibrium and yet ignores breathing is living in a fool's paradise. The equipoise between the body and the mind cannot be attained without regulation of breathing. That is why pranayam is very essential..

The other method is dirgha svasa, i.e. deep breathing. As a matter of fact, deep breathing is natural breathing. Man does not know how to breathe properly. Breath must never be short; it should be long. That is why the term deep breathing is employed. Natural breathing means taking full deep breaths. Man does not know how to do it. I have heard that many text books prescribe right breathing as that in which the chest expands and the belly contracts. How did it come to pass? What is its basis? Actually, while breathing, the belly should expand along with the chest. Breathing 'in which the belly does not expand, is not right. The breath-vibrations should extend to the belly. It is true that breath cannot go- beyond the lungs. Below the lungs there is a muscle -the diaphragm beyond which the breath cannot proceed, there being no passage. Yet, its pressure extends up to the navel. Observe a child breathing while he is asleep. With every inhalation his belly expands. That is correct breathing. However, as the child grows up, and becomes subject to strong impulses and emotions, his breath gets gradually shortened, I misdirected. Violent impulses and emotions greatly affect breathing. Anger cannot descend upon a man without first shortening his breath. Violent agitation or emotion is not possible without short breaths. The normal rate of breathing is 15 to 17 breaths per minute. In a fit of frenzy, it increases up to 30, 40, 50, 60 breaths per minute.

The established rule is that for anger to intensify, breath must become shorter. Or there is no soil for anger to develop. How can any violent emotion appear without the requisite condition? In a state of deep breathing, anger is just not possible. The right breath is the deep long breath. It reflects strangely on our society and science that a lesson which ought to have been taught on the very first day in the Classroom, is never taught throughout life, and never properly learnt. Because the very first lesson is neither taught nor learnt, all subsequent instruction becomes dangerous and disturbing. Right breathing is a must for the proper development of a man's personality; incorrect breathing leads to disintegration.

It is in this context that the Tulsi Adhyatma Nidam proposes to make available the science of living to every earnest seeker. Almost in all schools, research centres, educational institutes, various subjects are taught. The pupils make a thorough study of these subjects and finally come out of the institutions as specialists. However, the science of living is sadly neglected everywhere.

The man who does not study the science of living, can never be free of problems. A situation arises when he tries to appropriate to himself other people's rights and properties, and becomes a victim to many a vice.

A youth came running and accosted a doctor, thanking him warmly for the treatment of his sister-in-law. The doctor enquired after the patient's welfare and wanted to know if she had fully recovered.

The youth said, "O, yes, Doctor! She is now free of all diseases. Not only is she rid of diseases, but of life itself.”

"Why do you come to thank me then?"

"O Doctor, don't you know I'm her heir. All her property has come to me. You treated her so well that she did not last long. Otherwise I would have been obliged to wait another 3-4 years for my inheritance. You have done me a good deed. Thanks.”

That is how a man unversed in the science of living behaves.

The third means of achieving pure breathing is samavrtti svasa that is, even breathing. Even breath implies even time for inhalation and exhalation, neither more nor less. The practice of even breathing is most desirable.

The fourth means is kayotsarga, complete relaxation. The word, kayotsarga has two meanings - to relax the body and to awaken consciousness. Man today lives under the great pressure of his emotions. He knows not how to relax. He cannot abandon himself. He only knows how to make himself tense; he is incapable of letting go. This everlasting tension is his greatest problem. Something enters his brain and he is obsessed with it for ever. Something happens and he cannot get it out of his mind. He hears something, and the knot thereof stays in his mind for ever. The brain becomes awfully tense. Everything, all that happens, adds to the tension. And something or the other is happening all the time; one cannot withhold the cycle of life. Something is always happening. But the individual who knows the process of breath-purification, is never tied to any event. An event occurs; one experiences it to the full; it passes away without leaving any residue. It is like writing on water or in sand, which leaves no enduring trace behind. You draw a line, but it does not subsist for long. The line drawn on water disappears immediately; the one drawn in sand lasts only till the blowing of the breeze. But when a thought or an event becomes a line carved in stone, there is no saving. In modem times every little happening leaves a permanent scar on the mind.

To get rid of tension, kayotsarga is the only way. Kayotsarga means relaxation, to become tranquil and clear so as never to allow any event to leave a mark on the mind - never a line carved in stone, only a line drawn on water or in sand which dissolves as soon as it is formed. During the practice of kayotsarga breathing becomes pure and relaxed of itself

So the fourth way of achieving pure and relaxed breathing is kayotsarga. All the four means are employed in the practice of preksha dhyana. As the breath gradually becomes cleaner, it gets holier and purer till the jewel of self-perception becomes more and more transparent. A day comes when you find yourself standing on one side, your transparent soul on the other, with your eyes looking steadfastly thereon.


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

Reprint 2006

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Adhyatma
  2. Agam
  3. Anger
  4. Asana
  5. Aura
  6. Body
  7. Brain
  8. Consciousness
  9. Dhyana
  10. Dirgha Svasa
  11. Fear
  12. Karma
  13. Kayotsarga
  14. Perception of Breathing
  15. Prana
  16. Pranayam
  17. Preksha
  18. Preksha Dhyana
  19. Prekshadhyana
  20. Rajasthani
  21. Sadhak
  22. Samavrtti Svasa
  23. Sarira
  24. Science
  25. Science Of Living
  26. Shivir
  27. Soul
  28. Space
  29. Taijasa sarira
  30. Tulsi
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