Wednesday, 26 May 2021

THE PROCESS OF PRANAYAMA | BHAVISHYA PARVA SECTION - 21

CHAPTER XXI

(THE PROCESS OF PRANAYAMA)

Pranayama

Vaishampāyana said:—Persons, who have controlled their senses and anger, wearing matted locks and deer-skin, concentrate their mind on the junction-place between nose[1] and eye-brows for knowing the pure Brahman (1). This spot on the fore-head is the essence of bones and is not destroyed even after the destruction of the body. It is encircled by the vital breath Prāna. The vital breath goes here through tubes producing wind, cough and phlegm. This is the place where Brahman can be perceived and is freed from all thorns of miseries. Here the three tubes and five vital breaths have been united. So fixing their mind on this place the Yogins strive to realize the presence of the great Brahman. The Brāhmanas, who recite the seed of mantras Om and celebrate sacrifices and who are immersed in their soul full of felicity, only keep one fire of vital breath and divide it into five. The Munis, well read in the Vedas, divert this fire into three channels namely (Puraka, Kumbhaka and Rechaka). So dividing this one into three and practising Puraka and other processes they acquire the true knowledge of Atman (2-5). 

[1] This chapter is purely allegorical. It deals with a process of Yoga called Pranayama i.e. the suppression of vital breath. The word in the text is Pitamaha which literally means Grand-father. Allegorically it means the father of the father of action i.e. father of the cause of action which is Pure Brahman. In this way every word has an allegorical meaning. As the whole chapter is allegorical we think it better to translate freely this and the subsequent chapters placing before our readers only the allegorical interpretation as some commentators have done. We need not say that a literal rendering will not make out the meaning intelligible. This whole Parva seems to be an interpolation as it bears no connection with the original plot of the book. It merely deals with Yoga and cosmogony.

One great fire spreads itself through oblations. In the shape of Swadhā it produces the successful fruits of Mantras[2] (6). Then was born of himself the Divine Daksha, ever successful and honouring creatures, Brahmā, the creator of Brāhmanas and the grand-father of all[3] (7). He is Dandi,[4] Charmi,[5] Shari,[6] Khargi,[7] Shikhi,[8] and has a face like a lotus. He was by nature shorn of sorrow and had controlled anger and other passions (8). United with Medhā Brahmā is adored in Pushkara and the Saman verses sung by Indra are recited by the Brahmavadins[9] (9). Clarified butter, milk, barley, etc., are dedicated to the external sacrifices, but in the spiritual sacrifice all the productions of the mind are sacrificed at the altar of the great soul through mental concentration (10). Having churned the fuel (of selfishness) consumed with the fire (of the disappearance of deity) and collected from the Shami tree (bodily pleasure) one, conversant with Brahman, brings the Great Soul there (11). In an inferior sacrifice insignificant articles are thrown into fire—and according to their changes heaven or inferior place is distributed to persons; but such is not the case in a mental sacrifice[10] (12). In the inferior Yajna the fruits are attributed to the fire, but in the Atmā-yajna the Brahmavadins[11] attribute it to spiritual exercises (13). Vrihaspati acquired the four Vedas in six months when the Brahma Yajna was undertaken at the cost of the Brahma wealth[12] (14). He instructed the pupils of his own school in this Veda, of the form of Saraswati endued with letters highly charming and set to music (15). That sacrifice, described by the word Brahmana, as mentioned by Brahmā appears like the second Brahmā region[13] (16). The sacrifice, brought out from Brahmā's mouth by the word Veda, shorn of any doubt regarding its proof, prospers as if speaking through various articles dedicated for his celebration (17). (Ordinary) sacrifices are performed with fuel, moon-plants, ladles and other sacrificial vessels, beggars and other persons who pray for money, barley and other articles and vessels full of water (18). The sacrifices are performed with dedicating riches and gold to the great Brahman, and with cows and calves (to the Brāhmanas) (19). The recitation of Saman verses, accompanied with the chanting of the Vedas, and continued with the limb of Karma full of the knowledge of Brahman, is united with the science of worship (20). Brahmā, in the shape of Yajna formed by the fuels imagined in the mind, along with Maruts, offers oblations of fire to those objects which are separately sprung from Brahman and exist by nature in Atman (21). According to the rites laid down in the Vedas Brahmā, the Lord of all creatures, does not celebrate sacrifices in honor of and touch Brahman in the shape of pure intelligence (22). Having churned the fiery wood produced from Shami tree the omnipotent Brahmā propitiates first the gods with Agnisthoma sacrifice (23). At the time of the celebration of the sacrifice the meeting is adorned with courtiers and the Chamasa and Adhyarju priests recite sweet verses while the performance goes on (24). O king, with ascetics, effulgent like the sun and moon, who have mastered the Vedas and their auxilliaries that great sacrifice was adorned (25). With the loud recitation of the Vedas that sacrifice appeared like the second Brahma region. The gods came down on earth. That great sacrifice was honored in heaven and earth by the god-like, humble and ascetic Brāhmanas who were conversant with Vedas and their limbs and with the knowledge of Brahman (26-27). That great sacrifice, undertaken by the Brāhmanas, burning like the three fires lighted up in the sacrificial ground shone like the Brahma region. In that great sacrifice the Brahmavadins recited the Sāman verses sung by Indra and the Yajur verses sanctioned by the Sastras. As soon as they were thought of in mind the truthful, self-controlled and ascetic Munis, devoted to Brahman, came there (28–30). Having assumed different forms the ancient Brahma-begotten Vrihaspati, the most worshipful amongst the great theologians, acted in that sacrifice as Hotā and Brahmā (31). After the termination of the sacrifice the sacrificer dedicated the fruits of action to Vishnu and took his birth from Aditi whose last conception was brought about through ascetic energy (32). Being divested of birth, ignorance and its action he, conversant with the knowledge of Brahman, attained to Vishnu's feet divorced from happiness and misery and from which Indra and many other gods have emanated and which can be obtained by undecaying spiritual exercises. The Munis, who are freed from senses and their objects which are the causes of bondage, are identical with Him (33-34).

[2] He, who practises the process of Pranayama namely the suppression of vital breath, should, according to the going down and coming up of the vital breath, draw the air to Brahmarandhra forehead; and then drawing it back from there he should place it between the eye brows; and then drawing it through eyes, he should place it on the root of the nose. From there he should draw it to the root of the tongue. From there he should transfer it to the heart, thence to the organ of procreation, thence to the body, thence to the organ of excretion, thence to the root of the thighs, thence to the middle of the thighs, thence to the knee-joints, thence to the root of the arms, thence to Jangha, (half thighs), thence to the ankle, thence to Angustha and thence to the feet. Thus he, who draws the fire of Prana (vital air) from one place to another, is freed from all sins, has his soul purified, and lives so long as the moon and stars exist. To hold the vital breath in one's own body is Swadha. Through this physical process of Yoga one can suppress completely his vital breath. One, who thus practises Pranayama, is freed from all disorders of wind, cough and phlegm.

[3] Daksha-successful in all works undertaken i.e. endowed with lordly powers. It is an attribute of Brahma. Bhuta: always successful.

[4] While practising the process of Puraka, he filled himself with vital air through the nostril and was at that time as stiff as a rod and therefore he is called Dandi i.e. rod-like.

[5] While practising the physical process of Kumbhaka he was filled like a leather-bag with vital air and so he is called Charmi.

[6] And while practising Rechaka he became as thin as a reed and therefore he is called Shari.

[7] He was sharp as a sword for cutting the tree of worldliness.

[8] He was pleased in the shape of Daksha.

[9] In this sloka Pushakara means own soul and medha the intellectual faculties. Indra means the man who has seen his own self. The Saman verse is "I am food and food is me." The self-controlled Rishis, who are gifted with spiritual insight, celebrate sacrifices for increasing their powers of mental concentration. Although the Atman always appears in a body still casting off attachments for the body He manifests himself as Iswara.

[10] Yoga is compared to a sacrifice. In a mental Yajna i.e. Yoga one need not dedicate inferior articles to fire as oblations. Though the Yogin does not observe the practices of the external but inferior sacrifice he however acquires similar fruits. The Sruti says that if the Yogins wish to see the region of the dead their ancestral manes appear before them. When a Yogin attains to a consummate stage he sees unseen and unheard of objects. The ordinary persons, who celebrate sacrifices, are not entitled to know the Great Atman; they are allowed to know Isvara. Atman is the Real Absolute God and Isvara is the God endued with Maya or creative energy. In the inferior sacrifices there is the difference of fruits proportionate to the excess and absence of reverence but in the Atma-yajna i.e. Yoga there is no such thing for the common object of all is the attainment of salvation.

[11] In the ordinary sacrifices of the world people enjoy fruits as they offer various articles. But the Yogins, according to their spiritual culture, attain fruits in the Brahma region. The Munis, who have seen Brahman in this world, have acquired many lordly powers.

[12] i.e. A qualified man acquires the consummation of his Yoga practice within six months.

[13] The sacrifice (ordinary) which is an outcome of Pravritti (tendency for works), appears like spiritual Yoga.

The various objects of senses are produced by passions, which, on account of the pristine actions, completely overpower the mind. So with great care one should subdue these passions (35). The Munis, although they enjoy various objects of sense, are not brought by them under their control. Self-control is regarded as the greatest characteristic of the learned (36). The mind, of Brahmavadins who have acquired the true spiritual knowledge through instructions delivered by the word Om, is not possessed by learning (37). The Brāhmanas who always recite the Vedas consider that loka as the best where the pious and the celestials live (38). O Bhārata king, that is the best loka where the gods, nourished with sacrificial offerings, do not meet with extinction and attaining which through his Karma the sacrificer lives happily with his wife shorn of anxiety (39). The persons, who see differences (of caste, position), cannot use this body firm as rock for the purposes of emancipation[14] (40-41). O king, the Brāhmanas who are busy with Karma are driven away from heaven after they had enjoyed the fruits of their actions, and live on earth having their faces discoloured and their minds possessed by illusion (42). The sweet speeched, wise precepter of a calm form, the foremost of those who remove sins, addressed the following instructions of Vedanta to those twice-born ones:—"You consider this body and senses as self and therefore fight with one another. Save emancipation, you will not be able to cut with force this rock of attachment for the body even within hundred celestial years. When through mental concentration you will perceive that you are all the one Atman (self), you will ungrudgingly make friends with all creatures and simultaneously destroy your false notion that this body is the self (43-45). The two passions anger and jealousy increase the energy of conquering nature; and the energy, divorced from anger and envy, increases devotion unto Brahman (46). While by my pure understanding I will abstain from enjoyments, both here and in the next world, while fire, water and food which build up this body huge like a mountain of crystal and their actions words, vital air, and mind will be destroyed, while the holes of wife and others, the mental faculties, the Sastras and the passions will be shattered, I will then order you to cut this mountain of bodily attachment. You will also then be able to cut it." Hearing those sweet words of their preceptor the Brāhmanas observed silence (47-49).

[14] True emancipation cannot be acquired unless a man sees all persons as identical with himself.

Source: https://archive.org/details/AProseEnglishTranslationOfHarivamsh

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