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Sankhya Philosophy Arriving at Pranayama as the Solution to Human Existence

Sankhya is the scientific philosophical system behind the practice of Pranayama. Sankhya defines the paradox of human existence and from all the methods of solving that dilemma points to Yoga as the most effective technique to combat human suffering and mortal limitations. Sankhya is termed a science because while it posits many far-reaching and sometimes far-fetched ideas, the laboratory for the ancient Sankhya philosophers was strictly in experiential data. That is, Yogis who teach their students Sankhya as the basis for all Pranayama practice ask for no blind belief but rather for the student to practice the scientific psychophysical techniques of Pranayama and experience for themselves the veracity of Sankhya statements. Sankhya maintains that Truth is not a question of belief. The scientific attitude is one which strives to experimentally determine whether an idea is or is not true. There is no room for blind belief or stubborn disbelief. Belief, even in a truism, may yield a false sense of satisfaction and hence a laziness where actually experiencing that truth is concerned. Disbelief, even in a falsehood, yields a laziness in determining for oneself that an idea is indeed false. History bears witness to the countless atrocities done in the name of beliefs which are later found to be baseless. So the first step in becoming a Yogi is to deny the mind the convenience and comfort in deciding to believe and disbelieve in any and every idea that comes in an attempt to catagorize and file away information that arrives through the senses.

Sankhya, also written Samkhya, means "insight." Through the insight gained by investigating the nature of the world and Self, the Yogi arrives at an understanding which is able to differentiate between what is of the Self and what is not of the Self. Sankhya has minutely classified the twenty-four principles upon which creation and our existence and experiences are based. Renunciation is generally asscociated with Sankhya, but in fact, it is not necessary to renounce possessions since we do not actually own anything. We must renounce the sense of possession and attachments to the sense objects. Similarly, renouncing name is not as to the point as renouncing the idea of egoity. For this reason, the practice of Yoga, and not merely third party testimony, is essential. Yoga means the mastery and stilling of the mind and prana in order to attain the state of samadhi, ecstasy (or, more precisely enstasy, for it is an internal and transcendant Bliss).

What was common knowledge to the ancient Yogis and seers concerning atomic theory, the wave nature of matter, and various astronomical principles is now being discovered as true by modern physicists. The modern super-string theory, for example, is in fact an ancient discovery of the Vedic seers who realized that behind the ocean of atoms and electrons lies a vast ocean of pranic waves. Finer than prana, however, is the ocean of thought. Ultimately, waves of Bliss lie behind all manifestation. The difference between the Vedic Rishis and the modern physicist lies in the method of determination and the resulting difference in the personal experience of the scientist. The modern physicist uses external experiments and a relatively undeveloped intuition with mathematical tools to prove or disprove a theorem. It does not follow that the physicist becomes one with his knowledge. Sankhya points to Yoga because it is the only system that unites the knower, knowledge, and the known. For this reason was this system termed “Yoga,” or “Union.” For example, a gravity theorist may study and conceptualize gravity, but the Yogis experience gravity not simply as weight but understands and unites with its underlying principles. Accounts of Yogis defying gravity are therefore not uncommon. The super-string theory may conceptualize the unit of prana behind all atomic manifestation, but the Yogi, through Pranayama learns to control and master prana and become one with all the prana in the cosmos. Yogis sing a song that runs, “control the little pranayama (wave of prana in the body), become all-pervading pranayama (attain omnipresence).”

Casual observation reveals that the earth is seemingly flat. However, if one looks a great distance and discovers that the farthest clouds are at eye level, the spherical nature of the earth is revealed. By looking at the horizon one can discern a slight curve. Simply by viewing other heavenly bodies like the moon, the sun, and the planets one can draw the conclusion that our planet too is spherical. Why is it then that something as obvious as the spherical nature of the earth did not dawn on Western minds until but a few centuries ago? When a few daring individuals made efforts to look skyward they were chastised or killed. Sankhya philosophers have looked to the farthest stars and to the deepest core of the Self and discovered that the whole universe is but a pinhead in comparison to the cosmogonic vastness of the awakened human consciousness. The spherical nature of the earth is spoken of in ancient treatises as an obvious truth. Highly involved astronomical calculations were performed ages ago to determine what we are only now beginning to discover. Systems of mental mathematics were devised that make some of our fastest computers seem primitive. Advancements in medicine were achieved after centuries of experimentation with herbs and roots. Only today are we beginning to appreciate these findings. Blindness and dogma have kept the human race in darkness for millenniums. Even the coming of the dark ages was calculated by the ancient philosophers as lasting from 3100 B.C.E., or the start of the descending Dwapara Yuga, to 1700 C.E. which marks the beginning of ascending Dwapara Yuga. However, now is the time in the history of humanity for us to regain the knowledge that is our birthright. To the Yogis, their most prized possession in their wealth of knowledge was the science of Pranayama. Now individuals have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to practice Pranayama deeply and regularly. Only such a practice can fully pave the way for the higher, more enlightened ages to come.

According to Sankhya cosmology, the earth and the entire material creation in which it resides is but the lowest rung on the seven-runged ladder of the cosmos. Like the cosmos, the human being also has seven "rungs" of consciousness in the spine. These are the seven plexuses. Yoga science is designed to elevate the consciousness from sense consciousness centered at the base of the spine and the five senses to superconsciousness housed in the brain. With this ascent of energy the mind unfolds and eventually realizes its nature as but another prana or energy vibration. Consciousness expands to encompass the entire cosmos and the divisions in Reality caused by the illusions of time and space are removed. This is an herculean feat. Yogis call Yoga the attainment of that which is truly unattainable. Such is the power of Yoga and of the individual who practices Pranayama. This realization, however, cannot be grasped through the medium of the senses. In fact, it cannot be understood with thought. Realizing that the superconscious state was marked by a cessation of thought and breath, the Yogis codified the system of Pranayama as a means to attaining the breathless state. Those who have control over prana can still the breath at will. Breathlessness has nothing to do with simply holding the breath, a feat a child could preform. Breathlessness is the unforced cessation of breath and heartbeat. Many hearing this conclude that breathlessness means death as the brain is then starved of oxygen. However, the reverse is true. Breathlessness is deathlessness for through Pranayama tremendous amounts of energy are absorbed into the body and brain through the medulla oblongata electrifying the body and keeping it in a state of suspended animation. The breath stops because there is no carbon waste in the blood to eliminate. When cells perform their work and die to be replaced by other cells the result is carbon-filled venous blood and hence breathing. Breathlessness signifies the stilling of the bodily cells and hence a deathless state. Freedom from breath frees the consciousness from the limitations of breath, the senses, and the mind to regain an unlimited state. This is the ideal of Sankhya and the goal of all life.

Beyond the atoms lies the vast ocean of prana. Physicists say that the strings of energy signatures, which the ancient rishis called the waves of prana, are as small compared to the atom as a spaghetti string is compared to a solar system. So to control ("yama") prana or practice Pranayama literally means to gain mastery over the energy which structures the atoms, the planets, and the whole creation. At the lowest level of creation prana manifests as matter but at higher levels of vibration prana is experienced as light, vibration, sound, pure thought, or even more subtley as knowledge, power, and ultimately bliss. Human suffering begins when an individual mistakes the passing pleasure derived from the senses for the lasting bliss of superconsciousness. Actually, there is no mistaking the two if one has in fact experienced the real bliss of the breathless state. However, due to habits of living and ignorance, most people of this earth in its present state of development are never even introduced to the possibility of transcending the mind and the thralldom of the senses. Yogis ask students not to believe in the possibility but rather to practice Pranayama and make it a reality. Bliss is the true nature of consciousness, whether it be bottled in the body of a human, an animal, or a tree, but only the human being can practice Pranayama and still the breath. The dog cannot transcend breath and mind. The plant cannot practice Pranayama and still the flow of life giving water and prana through its veins. Only the human body was endowed with the capacity to awaken the potentially unlimited power locked up in the spine and brain. Sankhya philosophers point to Pranayama as the means to unlocking that infinite potential and point to human beings as the species which has the obligation to achieving bliss.

While prana may seem to be infinitesimally small, its control is accomplished by observing and regulating its most gross manifestation in the human body: the breath. The nature of prana is similar to intelligently guided electricity. Human beings, like all creatures on this earth, do not have to think about every breath they take. Nature, to use a generic term, digests food, keeps the heart beating, and breathes for us. The intelligence of nature comes from prana. The intelligence of prana comes from nothing less than bliss. For this reason the Yogis state that when a human being attains bliss, he or she can do no wrong. Therefore, the Yoga student knows that he or she is gaining control over prana when bliss is discernibly felt. Prana breathes for us when we keep the mind and body limited by the continuous flow of sensory stimuli. Breathing naturally lessens when we sleep which itself can be joyous especially when one is extremely tired, but the Yogi uses scientific means to completely stop the breath and attain an unqualified joy beyond the comprehension of the mind. The mind is in fact a very small part of the brain. An awakened brain realizes its power to control prana and puts the body in a state of super-relaxation, thus freeing the little prana of the body to become the all-pervading prana of the cosmos. Many Yogis point to various steps on the Yogic path. However, the first and last step, the only real attainment and goal of Yoga and the one thing strived after is breathlessness. Once that is attained, mortal breath-bound limitations drop away and human misery vanishes as if it had never been.

The most important moral precept in the system of Sankhya is the conservation of the vital fluids of the human body. Seminal fluids must be preserved for Yogic activity and/or the procreation of the human race. Aside from this, a healthy diet which is composed of an abundance of fruits and vegetables and little to no flesh is advised. Students of Pranayama may also regularly fast for one to three days but must engage in exercise daily. Stealing, lying, and violence of any kind must be avoided, and lastly, students must learn to develop devotion to the quest for truth and bliss. In that quest for truth, many assertions may be made by Yogis which are impossible to verify through the senses. These statements should be taken as challenges, not as dogma. Sankhya philosophy speaks of planet after planet in our galaxy that is peopled with intelligent human-like life. Not even our most powerful telescopes can prove or disprove this concept. However, the awakened Yogic vision can and will reveal all things beyond the range of the senses. Yogis speak of higher ages and civilizations of this planet long gone, of the rebirth of the soul, of karma and the nature of miraculous powers. Believe nothing, but discover everything through the awakened intuitive perceptions of the consciousness elevated through the daily practice of Pranayama. In the experience of bliss lies all knowledge and power. Realize that we can and must truly emulate only those who have found a deeper joy than we have. Why wish to have another person's money or talents or possessions or partner when that person is no more happy than anyone else? Behind every desire is the desire for that lasting bliss. Once that is discovered, more effort will be made in Pranayama to experience the real bliss rather than to search throughout the medium of the senses.

Inducing Calmness

Techniques designed to achieve a state of calmness are very common, but most techniques of meditation lack two key factors. First, most meditation techniques cannot bring the practitioner to the most profound levels of stillness as they simply lack the power to do so. In other words, they do not take in all the bodily factors which result in restless mental habits. Second, meditation techniques are generally practiced in a set fifteen to twenty minute period with the meditator given the laconic advice to try and mantain the state of calmness throughout the day. The following techniques include a highly advanced method from within the system of Raja Yoga to attain stillness, and further an advanced technique which can be used throughout the day as a means to maintaining an internal state of calmness and silence.

Restlessness arrives in the mind through the medium of the sense. While sensory introversion is the ultimate aim of Pranayama, it is difficult to attain the ability to disconnect the mind from the senses in a short period of time. The Yogis discovered ways to close off the channels though which the mind and emotions are disturbed by outer distractions. They discovered that the heart and mind are like radios, broadcasting and receiving impulses from the surrounding environment. If these two instruments could be retuned and fine-tuned to ignore the lower vibrations of restlessness and pick up the higher vibrations of expansiveness and profound silence, then discovering a method to accomplish this would be valuable in one's quest for happiness and peace of mind. Here is the technique.

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi PranayamaSit on a chair in the Pranayama posture with spine straight. Perform jalandhara bandha by lowering the head and placing the chin on the breastbone. Apply tension as if you were holding a sheet of paper between your chin and your collar bone. Pull the shoulders back and puff the chest out as if you were a proud warrior. Fold the palms at the heart and lift the tongue so that the tip of the tongue is touching the palate. Breathe in very, very slowly through the nostrils making a slight sibilant sound. If you are not sure of the correct sound, attempt to feel the air cooling the palate. Your epiglottis will then partially close. As the sound is created by your exceedingly slow breathing, listen to the sound intensely. Exhale in a similar fashion making a slight aspirate sound as the warm air courses along the palate. Again, listen to the sound of your exhalation and keep the mind totally occupied with that sound.

The keys to success in this technique are to breathe very slowly, to keep the inhalation and the exhalation at about the same duration, and to listen to the sounds of the breath. The breath should in no way be made to sound choppy. Breathing must be fluid and fine. Once this technique is mastered one may easily and in almost any environment pull the tongue up, slow the breathing, and make the proper sounds without lowering the neck. This can be done throughout the day with the greatest benefit to one's state of calmness, peace of mind, longevity, and all-around success and happiness.

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