Monday, December 13, 2010

Raja Yoga : Swami Vivekananda i am legend

In 1895-96 Swami Vivekananda gave Raja Yoga classes in New York (228 W. 39th St.). The "Beginners' Classes" form the first part of Swamiji's book Raja Yoga. The second part of the book is a combination of Swamiji's dictation to Ms. Waldo and J. J. Goodwin's transcripts of Swamiji's quot;Advanced Classes"--all much edited by Ms. Waldo, Swamiji himself and, later on, by E. T. Sturdy.
His talk on "Prana" is one of the Beginners' Classes and was given on December 21, 1895. It is included in the book Raja Yoga as also in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 1, pp. 147-159.

Akasha and Prana


Pranayama is not, as many think, something about breath. Breath indeed has very little to do with it, if anything. Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real Pranayama.
Pranayama means the control of Prana. According to the philosophers of India, the whole universe is composed of two materials, one of which they call Akasha. It is the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form, everything that is the result of combination, is evolved out of this Akasha.
It is the Akasha that becomes the air, the liquids, and the solids. It is the Akasha that becomes the sun, the earth, the moon, the stars, and the comets. It is the Akasha that becomes the human body, the animal body, the plants, and every form that we see everything that can be sensed, everything that exists.
Akasha cannot be perceived. It is so subtle that it is beyond all ordinary perception. It can only be seen when it has become gross and has taken form. At the beginning of creation there is only this Akasha. At the end of the cycle the solids, the liquids, and the gases all melt into the Akasha again, and the next creation similarly proceeds out of this Akasha. 


By what power is this Akasha manufactured into this universe? By the power of Prana. Just as Akasha is the infinite, omnipresent material of this universe, so is this Prana the infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe. At the beginning and at the end of a cycle everything becomes Akasha, and all the forces that are in the universe resolve back into the Prana. In the next cycle, out of this Prana is evolved everything that we call energy, everything that we call force.
It is the Prana that is manifesting as motion. It is the Prana that is manifesting as gravitation and as magnetism. It is the Prana that is manifesting as the actions of the body, the nerve currents, and as thought force. From thought down to the lowest force, everything is but the manifestation of Prana. The sum total of all forces in the universe, mental or physical, when resolved back to their original state, is called Prana. When there was neither aught nor naught, when darkness was covering darkness, what existed then? That Akasha existed without motion. (1) The physical motion of the Prana was stopped, but the Prana existed all the same.
At the end of a cycle the energies now displayed in the universe quiet down and become potential. At the beginning of the next cycle they start up, strike upon the Akasha, and out of the Akasha evolve these various forms, and as the Akasha changes, this Prana changes also into all these manifestations of energy. The knowledge and control of this Prana is really what is meant by Pranayama. 


This opens to us the door to almost unlimited power. Suppose, for instance, a man understood the Prana perfectly, and could control it, what power on earth would not be his? He would be able to move the sun and stars out of their places, to control everything in the universe, from the atoms to the biggest suns, because he would control the Prana. This is the end and aim of Pranayama. When we become perfect Yogis, there will be nothing in nature not under our control. If we order the gods or the souls of the departed to come, they will come at our bidding. All the forces of nature will obey us as slaves. When the ignorant see these powers of the Yogi, they call them the miracles.
One peculiarity of the Hindu mind is that it always inquires for the last possible generalization, leaving the details to be worked out afterwards. The question is raised in the Vedas, "What is that, knowing which, we shall know everything?" (2) Thus, all books, and all philosophies that have been written, have been only to prove "that" by knowing which everything is known. If we want to know this universe bit by bit we must know every individual grain of sand, which means infinite time; we cannot know all of them. Then how can knowledge be? How is it possible for us to be all-knowing through particulars? The Yogis say that behind this particular manifestation there is a generalization. Behind all particular ideas stands a generalized, abstract principle; grasp it, and you have grasped everything.
Just as this whole universe has been generalized in the Vedas into that One Absolute Existence, and those who have grasped that Existence have grasped the whole universe, so all forces have been generalized into the Prana, and those who have grasped the Prana have grasped all the forces of the universe, mental or physical. Those who have controlled the Prana have controlled their own minds, and all the minds that exist. Those who have controlled the Prana have controlled their own bodies, and all the bodies that exist, because the Prana is the generalized manifestation of force.
How to control the Prana is the one idea of Pranayama. All the trainings and exercises in this regard are for that one end. Every one of us must begin where we stand and must learn how to control the things that are nearest to us. This body is very near to us, nearer than anything in the external universe, and this mind is the nearest of all. The Prana which is working this mind and body is the nearest to us of all the Prana in this universe. This little wave of the Prana which represents our own energies, mental and physical, is the nearest to us of all the waves of the infinite ocean of Prana. If we can succeed in controlling that little wave, then alone we can hope to control the whole of Prana. The Yogi who has done this gains perfection; no longer is he or she under any power. The Yogi becomes almost almighty, almost all-knowing.
We see sects in every country who have attempted this control of Prana. In this country there are Mind-healers, Faith-healers, Spiritualists, Christian Scientists, Hypnotists, etc., and if we examine these different bodies, we shall find at the back of each this control of the Prana, whether they know it or not. If you boil all their theories down, the residuum will be that. It is the one and the same force they are manipulating, only unknowingly. They have stumbled on the discovery of a force and are using it unconsciously without knowing its nature, but it is the same as the Yogi uses, and which comes from Prana.
The Prana is the vital force in every being. Thought is the finest and highest action of Prana. Thought, again, as we see, is not all. There is also what we call instinct or unconscious thought, the lowest plane of action. If a mosquito stings us, our hand will strike it automatically, instinctively. This is one expression of thought. All reflex actions of the body belong to this plane of thought.
There is again the other plane of thought, the conscious. I reason, I judge, I think, I see the pros and cons of certain things, yet that is not all. We know that reason is limited. Reason can go only to a certain extent, beyond that it cannot reach. The circle within which it runs is very limited indeed. Yet at the same time, we find facts rush into this circle. Like the coming of comets certain things come into this circle; it is certain they come from outside the limit, although our reason cannot go beyond. The causes of the phenomena intruding themselves in this small limit are outside of this limit.
The mind can exist on a still higher plane, the superconscious. When the mind has attained to that state, which is called Samadhi-perfect concentration, superconsciousness- it goes beyond the limits of reason, and comes face to face with facts which no instinct or reason can ever know. All manipulations of the subtle forces of the body, the different manifestations of Prana, if trained, give a push to the mind, help it to go up higher, and become superconscious, from where it acts.
The Ocean of Existence

The Ocean of Gross Matter

In this universe there is one continuous substance on every plane of existence. Physically this universe is one: there is no difference between the sun and you. The scientist will tell you it is only a fiction to say the contrary. There is no real difference between the table and me: the table is one point in the mass of matter, and I another point. Each form represents, as it were, one whirlpool in the infinite ocean of matter, of which not one is constant. Just as in a rushing stream there may be millions of whirlpools, the water in each of which is different every moment, turning round and round for a few seconds, and then passing out, replaced by a fresh quantity, so the whole universe is one constantly changing mass of matter, in which all forms of existence are so many whirlpools. A mass of matter enters into one whirlpool, say a human body, stays there for a period, becomes changed, and goes out into another, say an animal body this time, from which again after a few years, it enters into another whirlpool, called a lump of mineral. It is a constant change.
Not one body is constant. There is no such thing as my body, or your body, except in words. Of the one huge mass of matter, one point is called a moon, another a sun, another a man, another the earth, another a plant, another a mineral. Not one is constant, but everything is changing, matter eternally concreting and disintegrating. 

The Ocean of Subtle Matter

So it is with the mind. Matter is represented by the Akasha: when the action of Prana is most subtle, this very Akasha, in the finer state of vibration, will represent the mind, and there it will be still one unbroken mass. If you can simply get to that subtle vibration, you will see and feel that the whole universe is composed of subtle vibrations.
        Sometimes certain drugs have the power to take us, while as yet in the senses, to that condition. Many of you may remember the celebrated experiment of Sir Humphrey Davy, when the laughing gas overpowered him--how, during the lecture, he remained motionless, stupefied and, after that, he said that the whole universe was made up of ideas. For the time being, as it were, the gross vibrations had ceased, and only the subtle vibrations, which he called ideas, were present to him. He could only see the subtle vibrations round him; everything had become thought; the whole universe was an ocean of thought, he and everyone else had become little thought whirlpools.

The Ocean of Consciousness

Thus, even in the universe of thought we find unity, and at last, when we get to the Self, we know that the Self can only be One. Beyond the vibrations of matter in its gross and subtle aspects, beyond motion there is but One.
Even in manifested motion there is only unity. These facts can no more be denied. Modern physics also has demonstrated that the sum total of the energies in the universe is the same throughout. It has also been proved that this sum total of energy exists in two forms. It becomes potential, toned down, and calmed, and next it comes out manifested as all these various forces; again it goes back to the quiet state, and again it manifests. Thus it goes on evolving and involving through eternity. The control of this Prana, as stated before, is what is called Pranayama. 

Pranayama and Breathing

The most obvious manifestation of this Prana in the human body is the motion of the lungs. If that stops, as a rule all the other manifestations of force in the body will immediately stop. But there are persons who can train themselves in such a manner that the body will live on even when this motion has stopped. There are some persons who can bury themselves for days and yet live without breathing. To reach the subtle we must take the help of the gross, and slowly travel toward the most subtle until we gain our point.
Pranayama really means controlling this motion of the lungs, and this motion is associated with it is producing breath. This motion draws in the air by pump action. The Prana is moving the lungs and the movement of the lungs draws in the air. So Pranayama is not breathing, but controlling the muscular power that moves the lungs. Prana is the muscular power that goes out through the nerves to the muscles and from them to the lungs, making them move in a certain manner.
When the Prana has become controlled, then we shall immediately find that all the other actions of the Prana in the body will slowly come under control. I myself have seen people who have controlled almost every muscle of the body; and why not? If I can have control over certain muscles, why not over every muscle and nerve of the body? What impossibility is there? At present the control is lost and the motion has become automatic. We cannot move our ears at will, but we know that animals can. We have not that power because we do not exercise it. This is what is called atavism.
Again, we know that motion which has become latent can be brought back to manifestation. By hard work and practice certain motions of the body that are most dormant can be brought back under perfect control. Reasoning thus we find there is no impossibility but, on the other hand, every probability that each part of the body can be brought under perfect control. This the Yogi does through Pranayama.

Pranayama and Healing

Perhaps some of you have read that in Pranayama, when drawing in the breath, you must fill your whole body with Prana. In the English translations Prana is given as --breath,-- and you are inclined to ask how that is to be done. The fault is with the translator. Every part of the body can be filled with Prana, this vital force, and when you are able to do that, you can control the whole body. All the sickness and misery felt in the body will be perfectly controlled; not only so, you will be able to control another's body. Everything is infectious in this world, good or bad. If your body is in a certain state of tension, it will have a tendency to produce the same tension in others. If you are strong and healthy, those that live near you will also have the tendency to become strong and healthy, but if you are sick and weak, those around you will have the tendency to become the same.
In the case of one man trying to heal another, the first idea is simply transferring his own health to the other. This is the primitive sort of healing. Consciously or unconsciously, health can be transmitted. A very strong man, living with a weak man, will make him a little stronger, whether he knows it or not. When consciously done, it becomes quicker and better in its action. Next come those cases in which a man may not be very healthy himself, yet we know that he can bring health to another. The first man, in such a case, has a little more control over the Prana, and can rouse, for the time being, his Prana, as it were, to a certain state of vibration, and transmit it to another person.
There have been cases where this process has been carried on at a distance, but in reality there is no distance in the sense of a break. Where is the distance that has a break? Is there any break between you and the sun? It is a continuous mass of matter, the sun being one part, and you another. Is there a break between one part of a river and another? Then why cannot any force travel? There is no reason against it. Cases of healing from a distance are perfectly true. The Prana can be transmitted to a very great distance; but to one genuine case, there are hundreds of frauds.
This process of healing is not so easy as it is thought to be. In the most ordinary cases of such healing you will find that the healers simply take advantage of the naturally healthy state of the human body. An allopath comes and treats cholera patients, and gives them his medicines. The homoeopath comes and gives his medicines, and cures perhaps more than the allopath does, because the homoeopath does not disturb his patients but allows nature to deal with them. The faith-healer cures more still, because he brings the strength of his mind to bear and, through faith, rouses the dormant Prana of the patient.
There is a mistake constantly made by faith-healers: they think that faith directly heals a person. But faith alone does not cover all the ground. There are diseases where the worst symptoms are that the patients never think that they have that disease. That tremendous faith of the patient is itself one symptom of the disease, and usually indicates that the patient will die quickly. In such cases the principle that faith cures does not apply. If it were faith alone that cured, these patients also would be cured.
It is by the Prana that real curing comes. The pure person, who has controlled the Prana, has the power of bringing it into a certain state of vibration, which can be conveyed to others, arousing in them a similar vibration. You see that in everyday actions. I am talking to you. What am I trying to do? I am, so to say, bringing my mind to a certain state of vibration, and the more I succeed in bringing it to that state, the more you will be affected by what I say. All of you know that the day I am more enthusiastic, the more you enjoy the lecture; and when I am less enthusiastic, you feel lack of interest.
The gigantic will-powers of the world, the world-movers, can bring their Prana into a high state of vibration, and it is so great and powerful that it catches others in a moment, and thousands are drawn towards them, and half the world think as they do. Great prophets of the world had the most wonderful control of the Prana, which gave them tremendous will power. They had brought their Prana to the highest state of motion, and this is what gave them power to sway the world. All manifestations of power arise from this control. People may not know the secret but this is the one explanation.
Sometimes in your own body the supply of Prana gravitates more or less to one part; the balance is disturbed, and when the balance of Prana is disturbed, what we call disease is produced. To take away the superfluous Prana, or to supply the Prana that is wanting, will be curing the disease. That again is Pranayama--to learn when there is more Prana or less Prana in one part of the body than there should be. The feelings will become so subtle that the mind will feel that there is less Prana in the toe or the finger than there should be, and will possess the power to supply it.
These are among the various functions of Pranayama. They have to be learned slowly and gradually, and as you see, the whole scope of Raja-Yoga is really to teach the control and direction in different planes of the Prana. When we have concentrated our energies, we master the Prana that is in the body. When we are meditating, we are also concentrating the Prana. 

Pranayama and Evolution

In an ocean there are huge waves, like mountains, then smaller waves, and still smaller, down to little bubbles, but back of all these is the infinite ocean. The bubble is connected with the infinite ocean at one end, and the huge wave at the other end. One may be a gigantic person, and another a little bubble, but each is connected with that infinite ocean of energy, which is the common birthright of every animal that exists. Wherever there is life, the storehouse of infinite energy is behind it. Starting as some fungus, some very minute, microscopic bubble, and all the time drawing from that infinite storehouse of energy, a form is changed slowly and steadily until in course of time it becomes a plant, then an animal, then a human being, and ultimately God.
This is attained through millions of aeons, but what is time? An increase of speed, an increase of struggle, is able to bridge the gulf of time. That which naturally takes a long time to accomplish can be shortened by the intensity of the action, says the Yogi. We may go on slowly drawing in this energy from the infinite mass that exists in the universe, and perhaps we will require a hundred thousand years to become a Deva, and then perhaps five hundred thousand years to become still higher, and perhaps five million years to become perfect. Given rapid growth, the time will be lessened.
Why is it not possible, with sufficient effort, to reach this very perfection in six months or six years? There is no limit. Reason shows that. If an engine, with a certain amount of coal, runs two miles an hour, it will run the distance in less time with a greater supply of coal. Similarly, why shall not the soul, by intensifying its action, attain perfection in this very life? We know that all beings will at last attain to that goal. But who cares to wait all these millions of aeons? Why not reach it immediately, in this body itself, in this human form? Why shall I not get that infinite knowledge and infinite power now?
The ideal of the Yogi, the whole science of Yoga, is directed to the end of teaching us how, by intensifying the power of assimilation, to shorten the time for reaching perfection, instead of slowly advancing from point to point and waiting until the whole human race has become perfect. All the great prophets, saints, and seers of the world--what did they do? In one span of life they lived the whole life of humanity, traversed the whole length of time that it takes ordinary humanity to come to perfection. In one life they perfect themselves; they have no thought for anything else, never live a moment for any other idea, and thus the way is shortened for them. This is what is meant by concentration, intensifying the power of assimilation, thus shortening the time. Raja Yoga is the science which teaches us how to gain the power of concentration.
Pranayama and Samadhi
What has Pranayama to do with spiritualism? Spiritualism is also a manifestation of Pranayama. If it is true that the departed spirits exist although we cannot see them, it is quite probable that there may be hundreds and millions of them around us whom we can neither see nor feel nor touch. We may be continually passing and re-passing through their bodies, and they do not see or feel us. It is a circle within a circle, universe within universe.
We have five senses, and we represent Prana in a certain state of vibration. All beings in the same state of vibration will see one another, but if there are beings who have Prana in a higher state of vibration, they will not be seen. We may increase the intensity of a light until we cannot see it at all, but there may be beings with eyes so powerful that they can see such light. Again, if its vibrations are very low, we do not see a light, but there are animals that may see it, as cats and owls. Our range of vision is only one plane of the vibrations of this Prana.
Take this atmosphere, for instance; it is piled up layer on layer, but the layers nearer to the earth are denser than those above, and as you go higher the atmosphere become finer and finer. Or take the case of the ocean; as you go deeper and deeper the pressure of the water increases, and animals that live at the bottom of the sea can never come up or they will be broken into pieces.
Think of the universe as an ocean of ether, consisting of layer after layer of varying degrees of vibration under the action of Prana; away from the center the vibrations are less, nearer to it they become quicker and quicker; one order of vibration makes one plane. Then suppose these ranges of vibrations are cut into planes, so many millions of miles one set of vibration, and then so many millions of miles another still higher set of vibration, and so on. It is, therefore, probable that those who live on the plane of a certain state of vibration will have the power of recognizing one another but will not recognize those above them. Yet, just as by the telescope and the microscope we can increase the scope of our vision, similarly we can through Yoga bring ourselves to the state of vibration of another plane and thus be able to see what is going on there.
Suppose this room is full of beings whom we do not see. They represent Prana in a certain state of vibration while we represent another. Suppose they represent a quick one, and we the opposite. Prana is the material of which they are composed, as well as we. All are parts of the same ocean of Prana, they differ only in their rate of vibration. If I can bring myself to the quick vibration, this plane will immediately change for me: I shall not see you any more; you vanish and they appear. Some of you, perhaps, know this to be true. All this bringing of the mind into a higher state of vibration is included in one word in Yoga--Samadhi. All these states of higher vibration, superconscious vibrations of the mind, are grouped in that one word, Samadhi, and the lower states of Samadhi give us visions of these beings. The highest grade of Samadhi is when we see the real thing, when we see the material out of which the whole of these grades of beings are composed, and that one lump of clay being known, we know all the clay in the universe.
Thus we see that Pranayama includes all that is true of also spiritualism. Similarly, you will find that wherever any sect or body of people is trying to search out anything occult and mystical, or hidden, what they are doing is really this Yoga, this attempt to control the Prana. You will find that wherever there is any extraordinary display of power, it is the manifestation of the Prana.
Even the physical sciences can be included in Pranayama. What moves the steam engine? Prana, acting through the steam. What are all these phenomena of electricity and so forth but Prana? What is physical science? The science of Pranayama, by external means. Prana, manifesting itself as mental power, can only be controlled by mental means. That part of Pranayama which attempts to control the physical manifestations of the Prana by physical means is called physical science, and that part which tries to control the manifestation of the Prana as mental force by mental means is called Raja Yoga. 

Pratyahara and Dharana

In 1895-96 Swami Vivekananda gave Raja Yoga classes in New York (228 W. 39th St.). The "Beginners' Classes" form the first part of Swamiji's book Raja Yoga. The second part of the book is a combination of Swamiji's dictation to Ms. Waldo and J. J. Goodwin's transcripts of Swamiji's "Advanced Classes"--all much edited by Ms. Waldo, Swamiji himself and, later on, by E. T. Sturdy. His talk on "The Control of Psychic Prana" is one of the Beginners' Classes and was given on January 11, 1896. It is included in the book Raja Yoga as also in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

The Need to Control One's Mind

You know how perceptions come. First of all there are the external instruments, then
the internal organs acting in the body through the brain centers, and there is
the mind. When these come together and attach themselves to some external
object, then we perceive it. At the same time it is a very difficult thing to
concentrate the mind and attach it to only one organ; the mind is a slave.
We hear "Be good," and "Be good," and "Be good,"
taught all over the world. There is hardly a child, born in any country in the
world, who has not been told, "Do not steal," "Do not tell a
lie," but nobody tells the child how he or she can help doing them. Talking
will not help them. Why should these children not become thieves? We do not
teach them how not to steal; we simply tell them, "Do not
steal." Only when we teach them to control their minds do we really help
All actions, internal and external, occur when the mind joins itself to certain
centers, called the organs. Willingly or unwillingly it is drawn to join itself
to the centers, and that is why people do foolish deeds and feel miserable,
which, if the mind were under control, they would not do. What would be the
result of controlling the mind? It then would not join itself to the centers of
perception and, naturally, feeling and willing would be under control. It is
clear so far.

Faith-healing and Hypnosis

Is it possible? It is perfectly possible. You see it in modern times: the
faith-healers teach people to deny misery and pain and evil. Their philosophy is
rather roundabout, but it is a part of Yoga upon which they have somehow
stumbled. Where they succeed in making a person throw off suffering by denying
it, they really use a part of Pratyahara, as they make the mind of the person
strong enough to ignore the senses. The hypnotists in a similar manner, by their
suggestion, excite in the patient a sort of morbid Pratyahara for the time
being. The so-called hypnotic suggestion can only act upon a weak mind. And
until the operator, by means of fixed gaze or otherwise, has succeeded in
putting the mind of the subject in a sort of passive, morbid condition, his or
her suggestions never work.
Now the control of the centers that is established in a hypnotic patient or the
patient of faith-healing, by the operator, for a time, is reprehensible, because
it leads to ultimate ruin. It is not really controlling the brain centers by the
power of one's own will, but is, as it were, stunning the patient's mind for a
time by sudden blows which another's will delivers to it. It is not checking by
means of reins and muscular strength the mad career of a fiery team, but rather
by asking another to deliver heavy blows on the heads of the horses, to stun
them for a time into gentleness. At each one of these processes the person
operated upon loses a part of his or her mental energies, till at last, the
mind, instead of gaining the power of perfect control, becomes a shapeless,
powerless mass, and the only goal of the patient is the lunatic asylum.
Every attempt at control that is not voluntary, not with the controller's own mind, is
not only disastrous, but it defeats the end. The goal of each soul is freedom,
mastery--freedom from the slavery of matter and thought, mastery of external
and internal nature. Instead of leading towards that, every will-current from
another, in whatever form it comes, either as direct control of organs, or as
forcing to control them while under a morbid condition, only rivets one link
more to the already existing heavy chain of bondage of past thoughts and past
superstitions. Therefore, beware how you allow yourselves to be acted upon by
others. Beware how you unknowingly bring another to ruin.
True, some succeed in doing good to many for a time, by giving a new trend to their
propensities, but at the same time, they bring ruin to millions by the
unconscious suggestions they throw around, rousing in men and women that morbid,
passive, hypnotic condition which makes them almost soulless at last. All those,
therefore, who ask anyone to believe blindly, or drag people behind them by the
controlling power of their superior will, do an injury to humanity, though they
may not intend it.
Therefore use your own minds, control body and mind yourselves, remember that until you
are a diseased person, no extraneous will can work upon you. Avoid everyone,
however great and good he may be, who asks you to believe blindly. All over the
world there have been dancing and jumping and howling sects, who spread like
infection when they begin to sing and dance and preach; they also are a sort of
hypnotists. They exercise a singular control for the time being over sensitive
persons--alas!--often, in the long run, to degenerate whole races. Ay, it is
healthier for the individual or the race to remain wicked than be made
apparently good by such morbid extraneous control.
One's heart sinks to think of the amount of injury done to humanity by such
irresponsible yet well-meaning religious fanatics. They little know that the
minds which attain to sudden spiritual upheaval under their suggestions, with
music and prayers, are simply making themselves passive, morbid, and powerless,
and opening themselves to any other suggestion, be it ever so evil. Little do
these ignorant, deluded persons dream that whilst they are congratulating
themselves upon their miraculous power to transform human hearts, which power
they think was poured upon them by some Being above the clouds, they are sowing
the seeds of future decay, of crime, of lunacy, and of death. Therefore, beware
of everything that takes away your freedom. Know that it is dangerous and avoid
it by all the means in your power.
If we have succeeded in attaching or detaching our minds to or from the centers at
will, we have succeeded in Pratyahara, which means, "gathering
towards," checking the outgoing powers of the mind and freeing it from the
thraldom of the senses. When we can do this, we shall really possess character;
then alone we shall have taken a long step towards freedom; before that we are
mere machines.

Pratyahara: The Method to Control One's Mind

How hard it is to control the mind! Well has it been compared to the maddened
monkey. There was a monkey, restless by his own nature, as all monkeys are. As
if that were not enough some one made him drink freely of wine, so that he
became still more restless. Then a scorpion stung him. When we are stung by a
scorpion, we jump about for a whole day; so the poor monkey found his condition
worse than ever. To complete his misery a demon entered into him. What language
can describe the uncontrollable restlessness of that monkey? The human mind is
like that monkey, incessantly active by its own nature. Then it becomes drunk
with the wine of desire, thus increasing its turbulence. After desire takes
possession comes the sting of the scorpion of jealousy at the success of others,
and last of all the demon of pride enters the mind, making it think itself of
all importance. How hard to control such a mind!
The first lesson, then, is to sit for some time and let the mind run on. The mind is
bubbling up all the time. It is like that monkey jumping about. Let the monkey
jump as much as he can. You simply wait and watch. Knowledge is power, says the
proverb, and that is true. Until you know what the mind is doing you cannot
control it. Give it the rein. Many hideous thoughts may come into it; you will
be astonished that it was possible for you to think such thoughts. But you will
find that each day the mind's vagaries are becoming less and less violent, that
each day it is becoming calmer. In the first few months you will find that the
mind will have a great many thoughts, later you will find that they have
somewhat decreased, and in a few more months they will be fewer and fewer, until
at last the mind will be under perfect control. But we must patiently practice
every day.
As soon as the steam is turned on, the engine must run; as soon as things are
before us we must perceive. To prove that we are not machines, we must
demonstrate that we are under the control of nothing. This controlling of the
mind, and not allowing it to join itself to the centers, is Pratyahara. How is
this practiced? It is a tremendous work, not to be done in a day. Only after a
patient, continuous struggle for years can we succeed.

Dharana, or Concentration

After you have practiced Pratyahara for a time, take the next step: Dharana, or
holding the mind to certain points. What is meant "by holding the mind to
certain points"? It means forcing the mind to feel certain parts of the
body to the exclusion of others. For instance, try to feel only the hand, to the
exclusion of other parts of the body. When the Chitta, or mind-stuff, is
confined and limited to a certain place it is Dharana. This Dharana is of
various sorts, and along with it, it is better to have a little play of the
imagination. For instance, the mind should be made to think of one point in the
heart. That is very difficult; an easier way is to imagine a lotus there. That
lotus is full of light, effulgent light. Put the mind there. Or think of the
lotus in the brain as full of light, or of the different centers in the Sushumna
mentioned before.

Rules and Benefits of Yoga

Those who want to be Yogis must always practice. They should try to live alone; the
companionship of different sorts of people distracts the mind. They should not
speak much, because to speak distracts the mind. They should not work much,
because too much work distracts the mind: the mind cannot be controlled after a
whole day's hard work. One observing the above rules becomes a Yogi.
Such is the power of Yoga that even the least of it will bring a great amount of
benefit. It will not hurt anyone, but will benefit everyone. First of all, it
will tone down nervous excitement, bring calmness, and enable us to see things
more clearly. The temperament will be better and the health will be better.
Sound health will be one of the first signs, and a beautiful voice. Defects in
the voice will be changed. This will be among the first of the many effects that
will come.
Those who practice hard will get many other signs. Sometimes there will be sounds, as
a peal of bells heard at a distance, commingling, and falling on the ear as one
continuous sound. Sometimes things will be seen, little specks of light floating
and becoming bigger and bigger; and when these things come, know that you are
progressing fast.


Those who want to be Yogis, and practice hard, must take care of their diet at first.
But for those who want only a little practice for everyday business sort of
life, let them not eat too much; otherwise they may eat whatever they please.
For those who want to make rapid progress, and to practice hard, a strict diet
is absolutely necessary. They will find it advantageous to live only on milk and
cereals for some months. As the organization becomes finer and finer, it will be
found in the beginning that the least irregularity throws one out of balance.
One bit of food more or less will disturb the whole system. When one gets
perfect control, one will be able to eat whatever one likes. When one begins to
concentrate, the dropping of a pin will seem like a thunderbolt going through
the brain. As the organs get finer, the perceptions get finer. These are the
stages through which we have to pass, and all those who persevere will succeed.

Give up all argumentation and other distractions. Is there anything in dry
intellectual jargon? It only throws the mind off its balance and disturbs it.
Things of subtler planes have to be realized. Will talking do that? So give up
all vain talk. Read only those books that have been written by persons who have
had realization.
Be like the pearl oyster. There is a pretty Indian fable to the effect that if it
rains when the star Svati is in the ascendant, and a drop of rain falls into an
oyster, that drop becomes a pearl. The oysters know this, so they come to the
surface when that star shines, and wait to catch the precious raindrop. When a
drop falls into them, quickly the oysters close their shells and dive down to
the bottom of the sea, there to patiently develop the drop into the pearl. We
should be like that. First hear, then understand, and then, leaving all
distractions, shut your minds to outside influences, and devote yourselves to
developing the truth within you.

Perseverance: "Stop Nibbling"

There is the danger of frittering away your energies by taking up an idea only for its
novelty, and then giving it up for another that is newer. Take one thing up and
do it, and see the end of it, and before you have seen the end, do not give it
up. The person who can become mad with an idea sees light. Those that only take
a nibble here and a nibble there will never attain anything. They may titillate
their nerves for a moment, but there it will end. They will be slaves in the
hands of nature, and will never get beyond the senses.
Those who really want to be Yogis must give up, once for all, this nibbling at things.
Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life--think of it, dream of it, live
on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full
of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success,
and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced. Others are mere talking
If we really want to be blessed, and make others blessed, we must go deeper. The
first step is not to disturb the mind, not to associate with persons whose ideas
are disturbing. All of you know that certain persons, certain places, certain
foods, repel you. Avoid them; and those who want to go to the highest, must
avoid all company, good or bad. Practice hard; whether you live or die does not
matter. You have to plunge in and work, without thinking of the result. If you
are brave enough, in six months you will be a perfect Yogi. But those who take
up just a bit of it and a little of everything else make no progress.

It is of no use simply to take a course of lessons. To those who are full of Tamas,
ignorant and dull--those whose minds never get fixed on any idea, who only
crave for something to amuse them--religion and philosophy are simply objects
of entertainment. These are the unpersevering. They hear a talk, think it very
nice, and then go home and forget all about it. To succeed, you must have
tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. "I will drink the ocean,"
says the persevering soul, "at my will mountains will crumble up."
Have that sort of energy, that sort of will, work hard, and you will reach the

Six Lessons on Raja-Yoga

These lessons are composed of class talks given by Swami Vivekananda to an intimate audience in the house of Mrs. Sara C. Bull, a devoted American disciple. The notes were preserved by her and finally printed in 1913 for private circulation. This text, available in a booklet, can also be found in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 8: 36-52.

Raja-Yoga is as much a science as any in the world. It is an analysis of the mind, a gathering of the facts of the supersensuous world and so building up the spiritual world. All the great spiritual teachers the world has known said, "I see and I know."
Jesus, Paul, and Peter all claimed actual perception of the spiritual truths
they taught.
This perception is obtained by Yoga.
Neither memory nor consciousness can be the limitation of existence. There is a superconscious state. Both the superconscious state and the unconscious state are "sensationless", but with a vast difference between them--the difference between ignorance and knowledge. Present Yoga as an appeal to reason, as a science.

Concentration of the mind is the source of all knowledge.
Yoga teaches us to make matter our slave, as it ought to be. Yoga means "yoke", "to join", that is, to join the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, or God.
The mind acts in and under consciousness. What we call consciousness is only one link in the infinite chain that is our nature.
This "I" of ours covers just a little consciousness and a vast amount of unconsciousness. Over it, and mostly unknown to it, is the superconscious plane.
Through faithful practice, layer after layer of the mind opens before us, and each reveals new facts to us. We see as it were new worlds created before us, new powers are put
into our hands, but we must not stop by the way or allow ourselves to be dazzled
by these "beads of glass" when the mine of diamonds lies before us.
God alone is our goal. Failing to reach God, we die.

Three things are necessary to the student who wishes to succeed. (1)

Give up all ideas of enjoyment in this world and the next, care only for God and
Truth. We are here to know truth, not for enjoyment. Leave that to brutes, who
enjoy as we never can. We humans are thinking beings and must struggle on until
we conquer death, until we see the light. We must not spend ourselves in vain
talking that bears no fruit. Worship of society and popular opinion is idolatry.
The soul has no sex, no country, no place, no time.

Intense desire to know Truth and God. Be eager for them, long for them, as a
drowning man longs for breath. Want only God, take nothing else, let not
"seeming" cheat you any longer. Turn from all and seek only God.

The six trainings: First--Restraining the mind from going outward.
Second--Restraining the senses. Third--Turning the mind inward.
Fourth--Suffering everything without murmuring. Fifth--Fastening the mind to one
idea. Take the subject before you and think it out; never leave it. Do not count
time. Sixth--Think constantly of your real nature. Get rid of superstition. Do
not hypnotize yourself into a belief in your own inferiority. Day and night tell
yourself what you really are, until you realize (actually realize) your oneness
with God.
Without these disciplines, no results can be gained.
We can be conscious of the Absolute, but we can never express It. The moment we try to express It, we limit It and It ceases to be Absolute.
We have to go beyond sense limit and transcend even reason, and we have the power to do this.
[After practicing the first lesson in breathing for a week, the student reports to the
First Lesson
This is a lesson seeking to bring out the individuality. Each individuality must be cultivated. All will meet at the center. "Imagination is the door to inspiration and
the basis of all thought." All prophets, poets, and discoverers have had
great imaginative power. The explanation of nature is in us. The stone falls
outside, but the concept of gravitation is inside us, not outside. Those who
stuff themselves, those who starve themselves, those who sleep too much, those
who sleep too little, cannot become Yogis. (2)

Ignorance, fickleness, jealousy, laziness, and excessive attachment are the
great enemies to success in Yoga practice.
The three great requisites are:
Purity, physical and mental. All uncleanness, all that would draw the mind down,
must be abandoned.
Patience. At first there will be wonderful manifestations, but they will all
cease. This is the hardest period, but hold fast; in the end the gain is sure if
you have patience.

Perseverance. Persevere through thick and thin, through health and sickness,
never miss a day in practice.
The best time for practice is the junction of day and night, the calmest time in the tides of our bodies, the zero point between two states. If this cannot be done, practice upon
rising and going to bed. Great personal cleanliness is necessary--a daily bath.
After bathing, sit down and hold the seat firm, that is, imagine that you sit as firm as a rock, that nothing can move you. Hold the head and shoulders and the hips in a
straight line, keeping the spinal column free; all action is along it, and it
must not be impaired.
Begin with your toes and think of each part of your body as perfect; picture it so in your mind, touching each part if you prefer to do so. Pass upward bit by bit until you
reach the head, thinking of each as perfect, lacking nothing. Then think of the
whole as perfect, an instrument given to you by God to enable you to attain
Truth, the vessel in which you are to cross the ocean and reach the shores of
eternal truth. When this has been done, take a long breath through both
nostrils, throw it out again, and then hold it out as long as you comfortably
can. Take four such breaths, then breathe naturally and pray for illumination.
"I meditate on the glory of that being who created this universe; may he illuminate my mind."(3)
Sit and meditate on this for ten or fifteen minutes.

Tell your experiences to no one but your Guru.
Talk as little as possible.
Keep your thoughts on virtue; what we think we tend to become.
Holy meditation helps to burn out all mental impurities. All who are not Yogis are slaves; bond after bond must be broken to make us free.
All can find the reality beyond. If God is true, we must feel him as a fact, and if there is a soul, we ought to be able to see it and feel it.
The only way to find if there be a soul is to be something which is not the body.

The Yogis class our organs under two chief heads: organs of sense (or knowledge) and organs of motion (or action).
The internal organ or mind has four aspects. First--manas,
the cogitating or thinking faculty, which is usually almost entirely wasted,
because uncontrolled; properly governed, it is a wonderful power. Second--buddhi,
the will (sometimes called the intellect). Third--ahamkara,

the self-conscious egotism (from aham, or "I"). Fourth--citta,
the substance in and through which all the faculties act, the floor of the
mind as it were; or the sea in which the various faculties are waves.
Yoga is the science by which we stop citta from assuming, or becoming transformed into, several faculties. As the reflection of the moon on the sea is broken or blurred
by the waves, so is the reflection of the Atman, the true Self, broken by the
mental waves. Only when the sea is stilled to mirror-like calmness, can the
reflection of the moon be seen, and only when the "mind-stuff", or the
citta, is controlled to absolute calmness is the Self recognized.
The mind is not the body. The mind is matter in a finer form. It is not eternally bound by the body. This is proved as we get occasionally loosened from it. We can learn to do this
at will by controlling the senses.

When we can do that fully, we shall control the universe, because our world is only what the senses bring us. Freedom is the test of the higher being. Spiritual life begins when
you have loosened yourself from the control of the senses. When our senses rule
over us, we are slaves.
If we could entirely stop our mind-stuff from breaking into waves, it would put an end to our bodies. For millions of years we have worked so hard to manufacture these bodies that in
the struggle we have forgotten our real purpose in getting them, which was to
become perfect. We have grown to think that body-making is the end of our
efforts. This is Maya. We must break this delusion and return to our original
aim and realize we are not the body, it is our servant.
Learn to take the mind out and to see that it is separate from the body. We endow the body with sensation and life and then think it is alive and real. We have worn it so long
that we forget that it is not identical with us. Yoga is to help us put off our
body when we please and see it as our servant, our instrument, not
our ruler. Controlling the mental powers is the first great aim in Yoga
practices. The second is concentrating them in full force upon any subject.
You cannot be a Yogi if you talk much.
Second Lesson

This Yoga is known as the eightfold Yoga, because it is divided into eight
principal parts
These are:
This is most important and has to govern the whole life; it has five divisions:
1st. Not injuring any being by thought, word, and deed.
2nd. Non-covetousness in thought, word, and deed.
3rd. Perfect chastity in thought, word, and deed.

4th. Perfect truthfulness in thought, word, and deed.
5th. Non-receiving of gifts.
The bodily care, bathing daily, dietary, etc.
posture. Hips, shoulders, and head must be held straight, leaving the spine

restraining the breath (in order to get control of the prana or vital
turning the mind inward and restraining it from going outward, revolving the
matter in the mind in order to understand it.
concentration on one subject.

illumination, the aim of all our efforts.
and niyama are for
lifelong practice. As for the others, we do as the leech does, not leave one
blade of grass before firmly grasping another. In other words, we have
thoroughly to understand and practice one step before taking another.
The subject of this
lesson is pranayama, or
controlling the prana. In Raja-Yoga breathing enters the psychic plane
and brings us to the spiritual. It is the fly-wheel of the whole bodily system.
It acts first upon the lungs, the lungs act on the heart, the heart acts upon
the circulation, this in turn upon the brain, and the brain upon the mind. The
will can produce an outside sensation, and the outside sensation can arouse the
will. Our wills are weak; we do not realize their power, we are so much bound up
in matter. Most of our action is from outside in. Outside nature throws us off
our balance, and we cannot (as we ought) throw nature off her balance. This is
all wrong; the stronger power is really within.

The great saints and
teachers were those who had conquered this world of thought within themselves
and so they spoke with power. The story of the minister confined in a high
tower, who was released through the efforts of his wife who brought him a
beetle, honey, a silken thread, a cord, and a rope, illustrates the way we gain
control of our mind by using first the physical regulation of the breath as the
silken thread.(4)
Pranayama has three parts:
1st. puraka--inhaling.
2nd. kumbhaka--restraining.
3rd. recaka--exhaling.

There are two currents passing through the brain and circulating down the sides of the spine,
crossing at the base and returning to the brain. One of these currents, called
the "sun" (pingala), starts from the left hemisphere of the
brain, crosses at the base of the brain to the right side of the spine, and
re-crosses at the base of the spine, like one-half of the figure eight.
The other current,
the "moon" (ida), reverses this action and completes this
figure eight. Of course, the lower part is much longer than the upper. These
currents flow day and night and make deposits of the great life forces at
different points, commonly known as "plexuses"; but we are rarely
conscious of them. By concentration we can learn to feel them and trace them
over all parts of the body. These "sun" and "moon" currents
are intimately connected with breathing, and by regulating this we get control
of the body.
In the Katha Upanishad the body is described as the chariot,
the mind is the reins, the intellect is the charioteer, the senses are the horses, and the objects of the
senses their road. The self is the rider, seated in the chariot. Unless the
rider has understanding and can make the charioteer control his horses, he can
never attain the goal; but the senses, like vicious steeds, will drag him where
they please and may even destroy him. These two currents are the great
"check rein" in the hands of the charioteer, and he must get control
of this to control the horses. We have to get the power to become moral; until
we do that, we cannot control our actions. Yoga alone enables us to carry into
practice the teachings of morality. To become moral is the object of Yoga. All
great teachers were Yogis and controlled every current. The Yogis arrest these
currents at the base of the spine and force them through the center of the
spinal column. They then become the current of knowledge, which only exists in
the Yogi.
Lesson in Breathing:
One method is not for all. This breathing
must be done with rhythmic regularity, and the easiest way is by counting; as
that is purely mechanical, we repeat the sacred word "Om" a certain
number of times instead.
The process of pranayama is as follows: Close the right nostril with the thumb and then slowly inhale
through the left nostril, repeating the word "Om" four times.

Then firmly close both nostrils by placing the forefinger on the left one and hold the breath in,
mentally repeating "Om" eight times.
Then, removing the thumb from the right nostril, exhale slowly through that, repeating "Om"
four times.
As you close the exhalation, draw in the abdomen forcibly to expel all the air from the lungs.
Then slowly inhale through the right nostril, keeping the left one closed,
repeating "Om" four times. Next close the right nostril with the thumb
and hold the breath while repeating "Om" eight times. Then unclose the
left nostril and slowly exhale, repeating "Om" four times, drawing in
the abdomen as before. Repeat this whole operation twice at each sitting, that
is, making four pranayamas, two for each nostril. Before taking your seat
it is well to begin with prayer.
This needs to be practiced a week; then gradually increase the duration of breathing, keeping the
same ratio, that is, if you repeat "Om" six times at inhalation, then
do the same at exhalation and twelve times during Kumbhaka. These exercises will
make us more spiritual, more pure, more holy. Do not be led aside into any
byways or seek after power. Love is the only power that stays by us and
increases. Those who seek to come to God through Raja-Yoga must be strong
mentally, physically, morally, and spiritually. Take every step in that light.
Of hundreds of thousands only one soul will say, "I will go beyond, and I will penetrate
to God." Few can face the truth; but to accomplish anything, we must be
willing to die for Truth.
Third Lesson

Realize the soul not as matter, but as it is. We are thinking of the soul as
body, but we must separate it from sense and thought. Then alone can we know we
are immortal. Change implies the duality of cause and effect, and all that
changes must be mortal. This proves that the body cannot be immortal, nor can
the mind, because both are constantly changing. Only the unchangeable can be
immortal, because there is nothing to act upon it.
We do not become
immortal, we are immortal; but we have to clear away the veil of
ignorance that hides the truth from us. The body is objectified thought. The
"sun" and "moon" currents bring energy to all parts of the
body. The surplus energy is stored at certain points (plexuses) along the spinal
column commonly known as nerve centers.
These currents are
not to be found in dead bodies and can only be traced in a living organism.
The Yogis have an
advantage; for they are able not only to feel them but actually to see

them. These currents are luminous and so are the great nerve centers.
There is conscious as
well as unconscious action. The Yogis possess a third kind, the superconscious,
which in all countries and in all ages has been the source of all religious
knowledge. The superconscious state makes no mistakes, but whereas the action of
the instinct would be purely mechanical, the former is beyond consciousness.
It has been called
inspiration, but the Yogi says, "This faculty is in every human being, and
eventually all will enjoy it."
We must give a new
direction to the "sun" and "moon" currents and open for them
a new passage through the center of the spinal cord. When we succeed in bringing
the currents through this passage called sushumna, up to the brain, we
are for the time being separated entirely from the body.

The nerve center at
the base of the spine near the sacrum is most important. It is the seat of the
generative substance of the sexual energy and is symbolized by the yogi as a
triangle containing a tiny serpent coiled up in it. This sleeping serpent is
called kundalini, and to raise this kundalini is the whole object
of Raja-Yoga.
The great sexual
force, raised from animal action and sent upward to the great dynamo of the
human system, the brain, and there stored up, becomes ojas or spiritual
force. All good thought, all prayer, resolves a part of that animal energy into ojas
and helps to give us spiritual power. This ojas is the real power and in
human beings alone is it possible for this storage of ojas to be
accomplished. One in whom the whole animal sex force has been transformed into ojas

is a god. Such people speak with power and their words regenerate the world.
The yogi pictures
this serpent as being slowly lifted from stage to stage until the highest, the
pineal gland, is reached. No man or woman can be really spiritual until the
sexual energy, the highest power possessed by human beings, has been converted
into ojas.
No force can be
created; it can only be directed. Therefore we must learn to control the grand
powers that are already in our hands and by will power make them spiritual
instead of merely animal. Thus it is clearly seen that chastity is the
cornerstone of all morality and of all religion. In Raja-Yoga especially,
absolute chastity in thought, word, and deed is a sine
qua non.
The same laws apply to the married and the single. If one wastes
the most potent forces of one's being, one cannot become spiritual.
All history teaches
us that the great seers of all ages were either monks and ascetics or those who
had given up married life; only the pure in life can see God.

Just before making
the pranayama, endeavor to visualize the triangle. Close your eyes and
picture it vividly in your imagination. See it surrounded by flames and with the
serpent coiled in the middle. When you can clearly see the kundalini,
place it in imagination at the base of the spine, and when restraining the
breath in kumbhaka, throw it forcibly down on the head of the serpent to
awaken it. The more powerful the imagination, the more quickly will the real
result be attained and the kundalini be awakened. Until it does, imagine
it does: try to feel the currents and try to force them through the Sushumna.
This hastens their action.
Fourth Lesson

Before we can control the mind we must study it.
We have to seize this
unstable mind and drag it from its wanderings and fix it on one idea. Over and
over again this must be done. By power of will we must get hold of the mind and
make it stop and reflect upon the glory of God.
The easiest way to
get hold of the mind is to sit quiet and let it drift where it will for a while.
Hold fast to the idea, "I am the witness watching my mind drifting. The
mind is not I." Then see it think as if it were a thing entirely apart from
yourself. Identify yourself with God, never with matter or with the mind.
Picture the mind as a
calm lake stretched before you and the thoughts that come and go as bubbles
rising and breaking on its surface. Make no effort to control the thoughts, but
watch them and follow them in imagination as they float away. This will
gradually lessen the circles. For the mind ranges over wide circles of thought
and those circles widen out into ever-increasing circles, as in a pond when we
throw a stone into it. We want to reverse the process and starting with a huge
circle make it narrower until at last we can fix the mind on one point and make
it stay there. Hold to the idea, "I am not the mind, I see that I am
thinking, I am watching my mind act", and each day the identification of
yourself with thought and feeling will grow less, until at last you can entirely
separate yourself from the mind and actually know it to be apart from yourself.
When this is done,
the mind is your servant to control as you will. The first stage of being a yogi
is to go beyond the senses. When the mind is conquered, the yogi has reached the
highest stage.
Live alone as much as
possible. The seat should be of comfortable height; put first a grass mat, then
a skin (fur), next a silken cover. It is better that the seat has no back and it
must stand firm.
Thoughts being
pictures, we should not create them. We have to exclude all thought from the
mind and make it a blank; as fast as a thought comes we have to banish it. To be
able to accomplish this, we must transcend matter and go beyond our body. The
whole our life is really an effort to do this.
Each soul has its own
meaning: In our nature these two things are connected.
The highest ideal we
have is God. Meditate on Him. We cannot know the Knower, but we are He.

Seeing evil, we are
creating it. What we are, we see outside, for the world is our mirror. This
little body is a little mirror we have created, but the whole universe is our
body. We must think this all the time; then we shall know that we cannot die or
hurt another, because everyone is our own. We are birthless and deathless and we
ought only to love.
"This whole
universe is my body; all health, all happiness is mine, because all is in the
universe." Say, "I am the universe." We finally learn that all
action is from us to the mirror.
Although we appear as
little waves, the whole sea is at our back, and we are one with it. No wave can
exist by itself.
Imagination properly
employed is our greatest friend; it goes beyond reason and is the only light
that takes us everywhere.
Inspiration is from
within and we have to inspire ourselves by our own higher faculties.
Fifth Lesson
and Dharana: Krishna
says, "All who seek me by whatever means will reach me", "All
must reach me." Pratyahara is a gathering toward, an attempt to get
hold of the mind and focus it on the desired object. The first step is to let
the mind drift; watch it; see what it thinks; be only the witness. Mind is not
soul or spirit. It is only matter in a finer form, and we own it and can learn
to manipulate it through the nerve energies.

The body is the
objective view of what we call mind (subjective). We, the Self, are beyond both
body and mind; we are "Atman", the eternal, unchangeable witness. The
body is crystallized thought.
When the breath is
flowing through the left nostril, it is the time for rest; when through the
right, for work; and when through both, the time to meditate. When we are calm
and breathing equally through both nostrils, we are in the right condition for
quiet meditation. It is no use trying to concentrate at first. Control of
thought will come of itself.
After sufficient
practice of closing the nostrils with the thumb and forefinger, we shall be able
to do it by the power of will, through thought alone.
Pranayama is
now to be slightly changed. If the student has the name of his Ishta
(Chosen Ideal), he should use that instead of "Om" during inhalation
and exhalation, and use the word "Hum" (pronounced Hoom) during kumbhaka.
Throw the restrained
breath forcibly down on the head of the kundalini at each repetition of
the word Hum and imagine that this awakens her. Identify yourself only with God.
After a while thoughts will announce their coming, and we shall learn the way
they begin and be aware of what we are going to think, just as on this plane we
can look out and see a person coming. This stage is reached when we have learnt
to separate ourselves from our minds and see ourselves as one and thought as
something apart. Do not let the thoughts grasp you; stand aside, and they will
die away.

Follow these holy
thoughts; go with them; and when they melt away, you will find the feet of the
Omnipotent God. This is the superconscious state; when the idea melts, follow it
and melt with it.
Haloes are symbols of
inner light and can be seen by the yogi. Sometimes we may see a face as if
surrounded by flames and in them read the character and judge without erring. We
may have our Ishta come to us as a vision, and this symbol will be the
one upon which we can rest easily and fully concentrate our minds.
We can imagine
through all the senses, but we do so mostly through the eyes. Even imagination
is half material. In other words, we cannot think without a phantasm. But since
animals appear to think, yet have no words, it is probable that there is no
inseparable connection between thought and images.
Try to keep up the
imagination in yoga, being careful to keep it pure and holy. We all have our
peculiarities in the way of imaginative power; follow the way most natural to
you; it will be the easiest.
We are the results of
all reincarnations through karma: "One lamp lighted from another,"
says the Buddhist--different lamps, but the same light.
Be cheerful, be
brave, bathe daily, have patience, purity, and perseverance, then you will
become a yogi in truth. Never try to hurry, and if the higher powers come,
remember that they are but side-paths. Do not let them tempt you from the main
road; put them aside and hold fast to your only true aim--God. Seek only the
Eternal, finding which we are at rest for ever; having the all, nothing is left
to strive for, and we are for ever in free and perfect existence--Existence
absolute, Knowledge absolute, Bliss absolute.
Sixth Lesson
Sushumna: It
is very useful to meditate on the sushumna. You may have a vision of it
come to you, and this is the best way. Then meditate for a long time on that. It
is a very fine, very brilliant thread, this living passage through the spinal
cord, this way of salvation through which we have to make the kundalini

In the language of
the yogi, the sushumna has its ends in two lotuses, the lower lotus
surrounding the triangle of the kundalini and the top one in the brain
surrounding the pineal gland; between these two are four other lotuses, stages
on the way:

6th. Pineal Gland.

5th. Between the Eyes.

4th.Bottom of the Throat.

3rd. Level with the Heart.

2nd. Opposite the Navel.

1st. Base of Spine.

We must awaken the kundalini,
then slowly raise it from one lotus to another till the brain is reached. Each
stage corresponds to a new layer of the mind.

The Control of Psychic Prana

In 1895-96 Swami Vivekananda gave Raja Yoga classes in New York (228 W. 39th St.). The "Beginners' Classes" form the first part of Swamiji's book Raja Yoga. The second part of the book is a combination of Swamiji's dictation to Ms. Waldo and J. J. Goodwin's transcripts of Swamiji's "Advanced Classes"--all much edited by Ms. Waldo, Swamiji himself and, later on, by E. T. Sturdy. His talk on "The Control of Psychic Prana" is one of the Beginners' Classes and was given on January 11, 1896. It is included in the book Raja Yoga as also in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

We have now to deal with the exercises in Pranayama. We have seen that the first
step, according to the Yogis, is to control the motion of the lungs. What we
want to do is to feel the finer motions that are going on in the body. Our minds
have become externalized, and have lost sight of the fine motions inside. If we
can begin to feel them, we can begin to control them. These nerve currents go on
all over the body, bringing life and vitality to every muscle, but we do not
feel them. The Yogi says we can learn to do so. How? By taking up and
controlling the motion of the lungs. When we have done that for a sufficient
length of time, we shall be able to control the finer emotions.

We now come to the exercises in Pranayama. Sit upright. The body must be kept
straight. The spinal cord, although not attached to the vertebral column, is yet
inside of it. If you sit crookedly you disturb this spinal cord, so let it be
free. Any time that you sit crookedly and try to meditate, you do yourself an
injury. The three parts of the body, the chest, the neck, and the head, must be
always held straight in one line. You will find that by a little practice this
will come to you as easy as breathing. The second thing is to get control of the
nerves. We have said that the nerve center that controls the respiratory organs
has a sort of controlling effect on the other nerves, and rhythmical breathing
is, therefore, necessary. The breathing that we generally use should not be
called breathing at all. It is very irregular. Then there are some natural
differences of breathing between men and women.

Pranayama Exercises

Exercise One
The first lesson is just to breathe in a measured way, in and out. That will
harmonize the system. When you have practiced this for some time, you will do
well to join to it the repetition of some word as "Om," or any other
sacred word. In India we use certain symbolical words instead of counting one,
two, three, four. That is why I advise you to join the mental repetition of the
"Om""or some other sacred word" to the Pranayama. Let the word flow
in and out with the breath, rhythmically, harmoniously, and you will find the
whole body is becoming rhythmical. Then you will learn what rest is. Compared
with it, sleep is not rest. Once this rest comes the most tired nerves will be
calmed down, and you will find that you have never before really rested.

The first effect of this practice is perceived in the change of expression on one's
face: harsh lines disappear and, with calm thought, calmness comes over the
face. Next comes beautiful voice. I never saw a Yogi with a croaking voice.
These signs come after a few months' practice. After practicing the
above-mentioned breathing for a few days, you should take up a higher one.

Exercise Two
Slowly fill the lungs with breath through the Ida, the left nostril, and at the same
time concentrate the mind on the nerve current. You are, as it were, sending the
nerve current down the spinal column, and striking violently on the last plexus,
the basic lotus that is triangular in form, the seat of the Kundalini. Then hold
the current there for some time. Imagine that you are slowly drawing that nerve
current with the breath through the other side, the Pingala, then slowly throw
it out through the right nostril.
This you will find a little difficult to practice. The easiest way is to stop the
right nostril with the thumb and slowly draw in the breath through the left;
then close both nostrils with thumb and forefinger, and imagine that you are
sending that current down, and striking the base of the Sushumna; then take the
thumb off, and let the breath out through the right nostril. Next inhale slowly
through that nostril, keeping the other closed by the forefinger, then close
both, as before.
The way the Hindus practice this would be very difficult for this country [USA],
because in India they do it from their childhood and their lungs are prepared
for it. Here it is well to begin with four seconds, and slowly increase the
duration. Draw in four seconds, hold in sixteen seconds, then throw out in eight
seconds. This makes one Pranayama. At the same time think of the basic lotus,
triangular in form; concentrate the mind on that center. The imagination can
help you a great deal.
Exercise Three
The next breathing exercise is to slowly draw the breath in, and immediately throw
it out slowly, and then stop the breath out, using the same numbers. The only
difference is that in the first case the breath was held in, and in the second,
held out. This last is the easier one. The breathing in which you hold the
breath in the lungs must not be practiced too much. Do it only four times in the
morning, and four times in the evening. Then you can slowly increase the time
and number. You will find that you have the power to do so, and that you take
pleasure in it. Very carefully and cautiously increase to six instead of four
when you feel that you have the power. It may injure you if you practice it

Of the three processes for the purification of the nerves, described above, the
first and the last are neither difficult nor dangerous. The more you practice
the first one the calmer you will be. Just think of "Om," and you can
practice even while you are sitting at your work. You will be all the better for
it. Some day, if you practice hard, the Kundalini will be aroused. For those who
practice once or twice a day, just a little calmness of the body and mind will
come, and beautiful voice. Only for those who can go on further with it will
Kundalini be aroused, and the whole of nature will begin to change, and the book
of knowledge will open. No more will you need to go to books for knowledge; your
own mind will have become your book, containing infinite knowledge.

Ida, Pingala, Sushumna
I have already spoken of the Ida and Pingala currents, flowing through either side
of the spinal column, and also of the Sushumna, the passage through the center
of the spinal cord. These three are present in every living creature: whoever
has a spinal column has these three lines of action. But the Yogis claim that in
most people the Sushumna is closed; its action is not evident while the action
of the other two-Ida and Pingala-is carrying power to different parts of the
The Yogi alone has the Sushumna open. When this Sushumna current opens and begins to
rise, we get beyond the senses, our minds become supersensuous,
superconscious-we get beyond even the intellect, where reasoning cannot reach.
To open the Sushumna is the prime object of the Yogi. According to Yoga, along
this Sushumna are ranged these centers or, in more figurative language, the
lotuses, as they are called. The lowest one is at the lower end of the spinal
cord and is called Muladhara, the next higher is called Svadhishthana, the third
Manipura, the fourth Anahata, the fifth Vishuddha, the sixth Ajna and the last,
which is in the brain, is the Sahasrara, or "the thousand-petalled".
Of these, we have to take cognition just now of two centers only, the lowest,
the Muladhara, and the highest, the Sahasrara. All energy has to be taken up
from its seat in the Muladhara and brought to the Sahasrara.
The Yogis claim that of all the energies that are in the human body the highest is
what they call "Ojas". Now this Ojas is stored up in the brain, and
the more Ojas is in a person's head, the more powerful he or she is, the more
intellectual, the more spiritually strong. Some may speak beautiful language and
beautiful thoughts, but they do not impress people; some others speaks neither
beautiful language nor beautiful thoughts, yet their words charm. Every movement
of theirs is powerful. That is the power of Ojas.
Now in every one there is more or less of this Ojas stored up. All the forces that
are working in the body in their highest become Ojas. You must remember that it
is only a question of transformation. The same force that is working outside as
electricity or magnetism will become changed into inner force; the same forces
that are working as muscular energy will be changed into Ojas.
The Yogis say that the part of the human energy that is expressed as sex energy, in
sexual thought, when checked and controlled, easily becomes changed into Ojas,
and as the Muladhara guides these, the Yogi pays particular attention to that
center. He or she tries to take up all the sexual energy and convert it into
Ojas. It is only the chaste man or woman who can make the Ojas rise and store it
in the brain; that is why chastity has always been considered the highest
virtue. We feel that if we are unchaste, spirituality goes away, we lose mental
vigor and moral stamina. That is why in all the religious orders in the world
that have produced spiritual giants you will always find absolute chastity
insisted upon. That is why the monks and nuns came into existence, giving up
marriage. There must be perfect chastity in thought, word, and deed; without it
the practice of Raja-Yoga is dangerous, and may lead to insanity. If people
practice Raja-Yoga and at the same time lead an impure life, how can they expect
to become Yogis?

The Psychic Prana
In 1895-96 Swami Vivekananda gave Raja Yoga classes in New York (228 W. 39th St.). The "Beginners' Classes" form the first part of Swamiji's book Raja Yoga. The second part of the book is a combination of Swamiji's dictation to Ms. Waldo and J. J. Goodwin's transcripts of Swamiji's "Advanced Classes"--all much edited by Ms. Waldo, Swamiji himself and, later on, by E. T. Sturdy. His talk on "The Psychic Prana" is one of the Beginners' Classes and was given on January 4, 1896. It is included in the book Raja Yoga as also in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

Ida and Pingala
According to the Yogis, there are two nerve currents in the spinal column,
called Pingala and Ida, and a hollow canal called Sushumna running through the spinal cord. At
the lower end of the hollow canal is what the Yogis call the "Lotus of the
Kundalini". They describe it as triangular in form in which, in the
symbolical language of the Yogis, there is a power called the Kundalini, coiled
up. When that Kundalini awakes, it tries to force a passage through this hollow
canal, and as it rises step by step, as it were, layer after layer of the mind
becomes open and all the different visions and wonderful powers come to the
Yogi. When it reaches the brain, the Yogi is perfectly detached from the body
and mind; the soul finds itself free.
We know that the spinal cord is composed in a peculiar manner. If we take the
figure eight horizontally, there are two parts that are connected in the middle.
Suppose you add eight after eight, piled one on top of the other, then that will
represent the spinal cord. The left is the Ida, the right is the Pingala, and
the hollow canal that runs through the center of the spinal cord is the Sushumna.
Where the spinal cord ends in some of the lumbar vertebrae, a fine fiber issues
downward, and the canal runs up within that fiber, and is even finer than
the fiber. The canal is closed at the lower end, which is situated near what is
called the sacral plexus, which, according to modern physiology, is triangular
in form. The different plexuses that have their centers in the spinal canal can
very well stand for the different "lotuses" of the Yogi.
Psychic Centers or "Lotuses"
The Yogi conceives of several centers, beginning with the Muladhara, the basic, and
ending with the Sahasrara the thousand-petalled lotus in the brain. So, if we
take the different plexuses as representing these lotuses, the idea of the Yogi
can be understood very easily in the language of modern physiology. We know
there are two sorts of actions in these nerve currents, one afferent [bearing
impulses towards a nerve center], the other efferent [conveying impulses to an
external organ]; one sensory and the other motor; one centripetal and the other
centrifugal. One carries the sensations to the brain, and the other, from

the brain to the outer body. These vibrations are all connected with the brain
in the long run.
Several other facts we have to remember in order to clear the way for the explanation
which is to come. This spinal cord, at the brain, ends in a sort of bulb, in the
medulla, which is not attached to the brain but floats in a fluid in the brain,
so that if there be a blow on the head, the force of that blow will be
dissipated in the fluid and will not hurt the bulb. This is an important fact to
remember. Secondly, we have also to know that, of all the centers, we have
particularly to remember three: the Muladhara (the basic), the Sahasrara (the
thousand-petalled lotus of the brain) and the Manipura (the lotus of the navel).
The Aim of Pranayama
Next we shall take one fact from physics. We all hear of electricity and various
other forces connected with it. What electricity is no one knows, but so far as
it is known, it is a sort of motion. There are various other motions in the
universe; what is the difference between them and electricity? Suppose this
table moves--that the molecules that compose this table are moving in different
directions; if they are all made to move in the same direction, it will be
through electricity. Electric motion makes the molecules of a body move in the
same direction. If all the air molecules in a room are made to move in the same
direction, it will make a gigantic battery of electricity of the room. Another
point from physiology we must remember: the center which regulates the
respiratory system, the breathing system, has a sort of controlling action over
the system of nerve currents.
Now we shall see why breathing is practiced. In the first place, from rhythmical
breathing comes a tendency of all the molecules in the body to move in the same
direction. When mind changes into will, the nerve currents change into a motion
similar to electricity, because the nerves have been proved to show polarity
under the action of electric currents. This shows that when the will is
transformed into the nerve currents, it is changed into something like
electricity. When all the motions of the body have become perfectly rhythmical,
the body has, as it were, become a gigantic battery of will. This tremendous
will is exactly what the Yogi wants. This is, therefore, a physiological
explanation of the breathing exercise. It tends to bring a rhythmic action in
the body, and helps us, through the respiratory center, to control the other
centers. The aim of Pranayama here is to rouse the coiled-up power in the
Muladhara, called the Kundalini.
Everything that we see, or imagine, or dream, we have to perceive in space. This is the
ordinary space, called the Mahakasha, or elemental space. When a Yogi reads the
thoughts of others, or perceives supersensuous objects, he or she sees them in
another sort of space called the Chittakasha, the mental space. When perception
has become objectless and the soul shines in its own nature, it is called the
Chidakasha, or knowledge space.
When the Kundalini is aroused, and enters the canal of the Sushumna, all the
perceptions are in the mental space. When it has reached the end of the canal
that opens out into the brain, the objectless perception is in the knowledge
space. Taking the analogy of electricity, we find that we can send a current
only along a wire,(1) but nature
requires no wires to send her tremendous currents. This proves that the wire is
not really necessary, but that only our inability to dispense with it compels us
to use it.

The Rousing of the Kundalini
Thus the rousing of the Kundalini is the one and only way to attain divine wisdom,
superconscious perception or realization of the spirit. The rousing may come in
various ways, through love for God, through the mercy of perfected sages, or
through the power of the analytic will of the philosopher. Wherever there was
any manifestation of what is ordinarily called supernatural power or wisdom,
there a little current of Kundalini must have found its way into the Sushumna.
Only, in the vast majority of such cases, people had ignorantly stumbled on some
practice that set free a small portion of the coiled-up Kundalini. All worship,
consciously or unconsciously, leads to this end.
Those who think that they are receiving response to their prayers do not know that the
fulfillment comes from their own nature, that they have succeeded by the mental
attitude of prayer in waking up a bit of the infinite power that is coiled up
within them. What people ignorantly worship under various names, through fear
and tribulation, the Yogi declares to the world to be the real power coiled up
in every being, the mother of eternal happiness, if we but know how to approach
her. And Raja-Yoga is the science of religion, the rationale of all worship, all
prayers, forms, ceremonies, and miracles.

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