Chapter 78 — Techniques of Meditation, Pranayama and Inquiry

Vasishta continued:—

Like a swirling firebrand describing a circle of sparkling fires, so the revolving mind depicts the apparent circumference to the sky as the real circle of the universe. Similarly, rolling waters make curves in the sea that appear to be something other than water. The turning of the mind forms many ideal worlds seeming to be bodies other than itself. As you see strings of pearls in the sky by the twinkling of your eyes fixed upon it, so these false worlds present themselves to view by the pulsation of your mind.

Rama said, “Tell me sage, how does the mind have its vibration and how it is repressed, so that I may learn how to control it?”

Vasishta answered:—

Know Rama, as snow is accompanied by whiteness, sesame seeds are associated with oil, fragrance is attendant upon flowers, and flame is inherent with fire, so the mind is accompanied by its fluctuations hand in hand. They are virtually the one and same thing, though passing under different names by fiction. Of the two categories of mind and its pulsation, if either is extinct, the other is also extinguished. The properties of a thing being lost, their subject likewise ceases to exist. There is no doubt of this.

There are two ways of extinguishing the mind: yoga and spiritual knowledge. Yoga is the suppression of mental powers. Knowledge is the thorough investigation of all things.

Rama asked, “How is it possible, sage, to suppress the vital airs and thereby attain that state of tranquility which is filled with endless joy?”

10 Vasishta replied:—

There is an energy circulating and breathing through the lungs and arteries of the body called the vital breath (prana) or life, just as water flows through the veins and pores of the earth. 11 The fluctuation of this energy impels and gives force to the internal organs of the body. This energy has various names such as prana and apana depending on its position and motion. 12 As fragrance resides in flowers and whiteness in frost, so motion is inherent in the mind. Mind and motion are one and the same.

13 Now the vibration of this vital breath excites the perception of certain desires and feelings in the heart. The cognitive principle of these perceptions is called the mind. 14 The vibration of vital air gives pulsation to the heart strings which causes their awareness in the mind. It is similar to the motion of waters giving rise to the waves rolling and beating on the shore. 15 In the Vedas, the learned say that the mind (chitta) is the movement of the vital breath (prana), and this prana being suppressed or controlled quiets the mind. 16 The action of the mind being stopped, the perception of the existence of the world becomes extinct. It is like the extinction of worldly affairs at sunset.

17 Rama asked, “How is it possible to stop the course of the energy (prana) perpetually circulating through the cells of the body, like the unnumbered birds flying in the air to their nests?”

18 Vasishta replied:—

It is possible by study of the scriptures and association with the good and wise, by habitual dispassion, by the practice of yoga, and by removal of reliance in every transaction of the world.

19 The best way to suppress the vital energy is meditation on the desired object, keeping that single object in view, and firm reliance on that one particular object. 20 Next is by suppression of breath in the acts of inspiration and respiration in such a way as to not cause pain. This together with fixed meditation makes it possible to suppress the vital energy. 21 Uttering the syllable Om, reflecting upon its meaning, and dormancy of the perceptive senses, are also ways to suppress the breath.

22 The practice of breathing out (rechaka) serves to purge the body of impurities. By leaving the nostrils untouched, the vital energy is suppressed altogether. 23 The practice of breathing in (puraka) tends to fill the insides like clouds fill the sky. Then when breathing is stopped, its vibrations are also stopped. 24 With the practice of holding of the breath (kumbhaka), the vital air is shut up in a closed vessel and this serves to stop the course of breathing.

25 The tongue carried to the opening of the roof of the mouth, and the tip of the tongue attached to the guttural bulb at the beginning of the throat, prevents the vibration of the breathing. 26 Again, the mind rid of its flights of fancy and becoming as vacant as empty air prevents the course of breathing by its fixed meditation of itself, samadhi. 27 Again, as the vital energy ranges within twelve inches from the tip of the nose, this region should be closely watched by the eyesight in order to prevent the going out and coming in of breath. 28 Moreover, the practice of stretching the tongue twelve inches above the roof of the mouth and sticking the tip of the tongue to the cavity called brahmarandhra serves to make one unconscious of himself and stop his breathing.

29 The eyesight being lifted upwards and fixed in the cavity between the eyebrows exhibits the light of the intellect and stops the vibrations of breath. 30 As soon as the spiritual light dawns over the soul and the mind is steadfastly fixed to it, without any mixture of dualism, there is an utter stop of breathing.

31 The lifelong practice of seeing a simple emptiness within one’s self and freeing the mind from all its thoughts and desired objects, serves to stop the fluctuation of breath.

32 Rama asked, “Sage, what is this thing called the human heart which receives the reflections of all things like a large mirror?”

33 Vasishta replied:—

Listen, my good Rama. The hearts of all animals in this world are of two kinds: the superior and inferior. Learn their difference.

34 The inferior heart forms a part of the body. It has a certain dimension and is a piece of flesh inside the breast. 35 The other is of the nature of consciousness. It is called the superior mind because it is both inside and outside the body, yet it is situated in no part of it. 36 The superior part is where all this world is situated. It is the great reflector of all things and the receptacle of all good.

37 The consciousness of all living creatures is also called their heart, though it is not any part of the animal body, nor is it a dull inert substance such as a pebble or stone. 38 Now the vibrations of vital energy of this conscious or sensitive heart, which necessarily is the same as the thinking mind (chitta), cease when it is purified of its internal desires.

39 These methods, as well as many others adopted by others and taught by many sages, equally serve to suppress the breathing. 40 These methods of yoga meditation are to be slowly adopted by continued practice for the redemption of the good from this world. Otherwise, their hasty adoption may prove detrimental to life. 41 Long practice perfects a man to the rank of a monastic and hermit, so the gradual suppression of breath is attended with equal success, and the repression of desires is accompanied by many happy results.

42 By continued practice the vital breath is compressed within the confines of twelve inches about the cavities of the brows, nostrils and palate, like a floodgate confining a body of water. 43 Through repeated practice, the tip of the tongue should be brought to contact the gullet of the throat, through which the breath passes both in and out.

44 These are the various modes which, by constant practice, lead to samadhi when the mind has its fullest tranquility and its union with the Supreme Soul. 45 By practice of these methods a man is freed from sorrow and filled with internal bliss becoming enrapt in the Supreme Soul. 46 The vibration of vital energy, being suppressed by continued practice, brings a tranquility to the mind which is like its extinction.

47 Human life is wrapped in desires. Release of the mind from these is liberation. Breathing is the operation of life and its suppression is the path to its extinction or nirvana. 48 The vibration of breath is the action of the mind that produces the error of the existence of the world. The breath and mind being brought under control dispels this error.

49 Removing the knowledge of duality shows the existence of only unity, an experience that no words can describe except by attributes that are ascribed to it. 50 In whom and from whom is all, and who is all in every place. Yet who is not this world, nor does such a world as this abide in him, nor has the world come out from him. 51 Owing to its perishable nature, its situation in time and space, and its limitation by them, this material world cannot be a part of or identical with that immaterial spirit which has no attribute or likeness. 52 It is the moisture of all vegetables and the flavor of everything that can be eaten. It is the light of lights and the source of all desires rising in the heart, like moonbeams coming from the lunar disc. 53 It is the wish-fulfilling kalpa tree yielding all earthly delights as its fruits which are constantly carried aloft only to fall down with their juicy flavors of various tastes.

54 The high minded man who depends on that boundless spirit and rests secure in its bosom is truly called wise and liberated in his lifetime. 55 He is the best of men whose mind is free from all desires and cravings and who has found his rest from the thoughts of his fancied good and evil. He remains without any inclination amidst all the cares and concerns of this life.