Chapter 25 — Bhushunda on Pranayama: the Inward and Outward Breaths and the States in between (Samadhi)

Vasishta said:—

Listen Rama. When the bird had said this much, I interrupted him and said, “Tell me, O ancient seer, how and what is the nature of the course of vital airs?”

Bhushunda replied:—

O sage, how is it that you who knows everything should ask this question of me, as if in jest? But as you ask as this of me, I must tell you all that I know.

O brahmin, the vital breath by nature is a moving energy. It is always in motion. It pervades both inside and outside the bodies which its animates. The apana emitting air is also a self motive power that is in constant motion, both inside and outside the living body in its downward or receding direction. 5 It is good for livings being to restrain these vital breaths, both in their waking and sleeping states. Now hear me tell you, O learned sage, how it is to be retrained for the best gain.

The internal vital energu (prana) extends from the lotus-like heart to the crevice in the cranium. The wise call its effort to come out (by the mouth and nostrils) exhalation (rechaka). The meeting of breaths twelve inches from and below the nostrils is called inhalation (puraka). Puraka is also when the breath passes from outside and enters the inner apana (downward breath; the abdomen) without any effort, filling the inside from the heart to the head. When the apana air has subsided in the heart and prana breath does not circulate in the breast, it is called the state of holding the breath (kumbhaka) which is known only to yogis. 10 All these three sorts of breaths (inhale, hold and exhale) are perceived at the place where the apana takes its rise. This is twelve inches below and outside the tip of the nose.

11 Hear now, O great minded sage, what clear minded adepts have said about the natures of the ever continuing and effortless. 12 The air inhaled from twelve inches outside of the tip of the nose is called puraka (inhalation). 13 As the outer part of a pot planted in the earth appears to sight, so the downward breath apana stretching twelve inches outside the tip of the nose is perceptible to the yogi and is called kumbhaka by the learned. 14 The exhaling air which rises from the heart and extends to the tip of the nose is called the primary and external puraka (taking in) breath by adepts in yoga practice.

15 There is another (or secondary) external puraka air known to the wise which arises at the tip of the nose and extends twelve inches outside of it. 16 After the prana breath sets outside the nostrils, and before the apana downward breath has risen, this interval of the entire suspension of both is known as the state of perfect equalization, the external kumbhaka. 17 The air which breathes out in the heart or pulsates within it, without raising the apana breath, is called the external rechaka (exhalation) in the yoga system. Its knowledge confers perfect liberation to man. 18 The rechaka rising twelve inches is called the strong rechaka. 19 There is another kind of puraka (taking in) which is on the outside of the apana and when it stretches inside of the navel within, it is known under the names of kumbhaka and others. 20 The intelligent man who meditates day and night on the eightfold nature and course of prana and apana, the inhaling and exhaling airs, is not doomed to be reborn anymore in this miserable earth.

21 I have described the various courses of the vital airs or energies. Restraining this life force in the waking and sleeping states of man, whether sitting or waking, produces his liberation. 22 Though these energies are very fleeting in their natures, yet they are restrained by the good understanding of man, even when he is employed in work or eating. 23 However, a man who practices suppression of breathing (kumbhaka) cannot be employed in any action but must remain calmly in this act of suppression by giving up all external thoughts and actions. 24 A few days practice of this yoga, by renouncing all outward objects from the mind, enables a man to attain the state of his unity with the sole Being that is God.

25 Intelligent men have no fondness for worldly things, but bear an aversion to them like a holy brahmin has against sweet milk contained in a skin bag. They remain regardless of visible objects, their eyes closed against them like a blind man who takes no heed of outward appearances. 26 They are in possession of all, which is the sum total of what is to be had as the best gain. Whether they are awake, asleep, walking or sitting, they never lose sight of that true light which leads them to the other world. 27 Those who have obtained the knowledge of the course of his breathings have rid themselves of all delusion and rest quietly within themselves. 28 Whether intelligent people are employed in a busy life or sit inactive at home, they are always quiet and at rest by following the course of their breathing.

29 O brahmin, I know the exhaling breath rises from its source in the lotus-like heart and stretches twelve inches outside where it sets and stops. 30 The apana of inhaling breath is taken from the same distance of twelve inches and is deposited in the cup of the lotus situated in the human heart. 31 As the prana respiration is exhaled out in the air twelve inches from the heart, so the inhaled apana energy is taken into the heart from the same distance in the air.

32 The prana or exhaling breath runs towards the open air in the form of a flame of fire. The inhaled breath turns inward to the region of the heart and goes downward like a current of water. 33 The apana inhaled breath is like cooling moonlight refreshing the body from without. Prana exhalation resembles sunshine or a flame of fire warming the insides of the body. 34 Every moment the prana breath warms the region of the heart, like sunshine inflaming the sky. Then it burns the atmosphere before it by the exhalation of breath through the mouth.

35 Apana air is like the moonlight before the moon. Inhaled inward, it washes the sphere of the heart like a flood, then in a moment it refreshes the whole inside. 36 When the last phase of the moon, like apana inhaling breath, is swallowed by the sun of prana exhaling breath, it sees the Supreme Spirit and has no more cause for affliction. 37 So also when the last portion of the sun-like prana exhaling breath is swallowed by the moon-like apana inhaling breath, then Brahman visits inside and the soul is emancipated from further reincarnation in this world.

38 The prana exhaling breath assumes the nature of solar heat both inside and outside the body. Afterwards it becomes and remains like cooling moonlight. 39 The prana expiration forsakes its nature of the cooling moon and in a moment turns to assume the nature of the hot sun that dries and sucks up everything before it. 40 As long as the prana exhalation is not converted to the nature of the moon after forsaking its nature of the sun, it is considered unconditioned by time and place and free from pain and grief.

41 He who sees the seat of his soul in the mind situated within his heart and at the confluence of the sun-moon prana and apana breathings in the kumbhaka retained breath is no longer subject to be reborn and die. 41a He who feels the sun and moon of his prana and apana breaths ever rising and setting in the kumbhaka retained breath with his heart, truly sees the seat of his mind and soul placed at their confluence and is freed from further birth and death. 42 He truly sees the soul in its full light who beholds this bright sun (prana) shining in the sphere of his heart in conjunction with the rising and setting apana moonbeams in his mind.

43 This light never fades or grows faint at anytime, but dispels the darkness of the heart and produces the completion and perfection of the meditative mind. 44 As the dispersion of outward darkness presents the world to view, so the disappearance of inward obscurity gives out the light of the spirit before the mental sight. 45 The removal of intellectual darkness produces the liberation of the soul and shows the rising and setting sun of the vital breath vividly to view. 46 When the moon of the apana inspired breath sets in the cavity of the heart, the sun of the prana exhalation breath rises immediately to flow out of the heart. 47 The apana inhaled breath having set in the cell of the lotus-like heart, the exhaling breath of prana rises at that very moment to come out of it, just as the shadow of the night is dispersed when the bright sun of day ushers his light.

48 As the prana expiration expires in the open air, in a moment the inhaling breath rises and rushes, just as light having fled from the horizon is immediately succeeded by deep darkness. 49 Intelligent men know that the apana downward breath becomes extinct where the prana upward breath comes to be born, and prana is lost where apana takes its rise. 50 When prana breathing out has ceased and apana has its rise downward, then one supports himself upon the kumbhaka retained air and does not depend on two other passing breaths.

51 On completion of the apana breath in and before the rise of prana breath out, one relying on the kumbhaka air within himself is exempt from pain and sorrow. 52 By depending on the rechaka exhaled breath and practicing the suppression of kumbhaka breath sixteen inches from the apana, a man has no more to be sorry for anything. 53 By making the apana a receptacle of rechaka, filling the prana inside, and finding himself filled with the puraka all within his body, a man has no more to be born on earth. 54 When a man finds the perfect tranquility of his soul by subsidence of both prana and apana within himself, he no longer has to sorrow for anything whatever. 55 When a man reflects upon his prana breath overcome by apana air both inside and outside himself, and loses his thoughts of time and space, he has no more any cause for sorrow. 56 He who sees his prana breath devouring the apana air, both inside and outside himself, together with his sense of space and time, has no more his mind to be reborn on earth.

57 When prana is swallowed up by apana, or apana by prana, both inside and outside the adept, together with his thoughts of time and place, 58 then at that moment the yogi finds his prana set down and his apana to rise no more. Though the interval between the two is common to all animals, only yogis know it. 59 The kumbhaka suppression of breath taking place of itself on the outside is known as the divine state, but when it happens to occur inside without any effort on the part of the adept, it is said to be the state of the most supreme.

60 This is the nature of the Divine Soul and this is the state of Supreme Consciousness. This is the representation of the eternal spirit, and one who attains this state is never subject to sorrow. 61 Like fragrance in the flower, there is an essence dwelling within the vital energies and this is neither prana nor apana but the conscious soul which I adore. 62 As taste dwells in water, so is there an essence immanent in apana, and it is neither apana nor not apana but the intelligent soul which I adore. 63 At the end of the extinction of prana, and beyond the limit of the exhaustion of apana, and situated in the interval between the extremities of both of these, there is that which I always adore. 64 That which forms the breathing of breath and is the life of life, what is the support and bearer of the body, is the intellectual spirit which I ever adore. 65 That which causes the thinking of the mind and the reflection of the understanding, as also the egotism of egoism, is the conscious soul which I have learnt to adore. 66 That which contains and produces all things, which is all as everything is evolved from itself, and what is changed to all at all times, is that mind which I adore forever. 67 What is the light of lights, what is holiness and the holy of holies, and what is unchangeable in its nature, is the consciousness which I adore.

68 I adore that ray of pure intellectual light that rises at the juncture of the setting of the apana and springing up of the prana breath. 68a I adore that consciousness which moves around on the tip of the nose, at the point where the prana sets in and the apana has not yet taken its rise. 69 I adore the consciousness that rises at the time when both prana and apana breaths have stopped, and when neither of them has taken its rise. 70 I adore that consciousness which appears before the yogi and supports him when he has reached the setting of prana and apana breaths, both within and without himself. 71 I adore that consciousness which is force of all forces and rides in the car of prana and apana energy breaths, and when both energies are compressed in the heart of the yogi. 72 I adore the lord consciousness which is the kumbhaka breath in the heart and the apana kumbhaka on the outside, and a part of the puraka left behind. 73 I adore the essence of that consciousness which is attainable by concentration upon breath, and which is the formless cause of our intelligence of the natures of the prana and apana breaths, and also the motive principle of their actions. 74 I adore the essence of that consciousness which is the cause of causes and the main spring of the vibrations of vital energies, the giver of the joy derived from the vibrations of breath.

75 I adore that prime and Supreme Being Brahman who is worshipped by the gods bowing down before him, who makes himself known to us by his own power, and who is known by the particles of vital energies under the name of Spirit.