The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Gnostic Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
"One can hardly attain to this degree [of vigilance and comprehension of divinity] until one has emptied oneself through muhasabah, self-observation and inner accounting. The person who has taken account of what he has done in the past and improved his state in the present has attached himself to the path of the Truth. In this relationship with God Most High, he has learned how to keep a heedful heart. He has guarded his breaths for God [through pranayama] and turned his attention to God in all his states. So he knows that God is watchful over him—close to his heart, knowing his states, seeing his acts, hearing his words. Whoever is neglectful of all this is far from the beginning of contact—how far, then, from the realities of nearness to Him? " —Al Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We’re continuing our course on the science of meditation, specifically outlined within the eightfold steps of yoga as described by Patanjali.
So far we have discussed Yama and Niyama, restraint and observances, as well as asana, posture. Yama, known as restraint or ethics, signifies “to yoke, harness, or control” the mind. Niyama means precepts, ethical discipline, trainings or observances by which the consciousness controls the mind and develops serenity. Stability of mind is achieved when we learn to stop performing harmful actions, which produce disturbances in the mind with all its negative consequences.
To have a body that is suitable for meditation, we must cease agitating the body, and to have a body that is receptive and pliant, suitable for our meditative discipline, we must cease agitating the mind. Our physicality manifests the conditions and influences of the mind, the psyche. If our mind is filled with desire, with egotism, with negativity, it will be impossible to learn meditation, since the body will be tense along with our intellectual and emotional centers.
To engage in fruitless activities, to commit theft, murder, acts of violence and anger within our consciousness, disturbs the mind and body. Hence the need for restraint of mind, to stop harmful mental, emotional, and physical actions.
Many people do not believe that they kill, but it is very true that when one is consumed by anger, by malice, one is killing one’s neighbor through the emotional center. Likewise, people may not steal physical things, but energy, attention, to feed one’s vanity. While many devotees believe that the different commandments of religions focus on outward behavior, such instructions more importantly relate to the consciousness, to psychological states of being, which we must work upon to achieve true change. Hence the need for precepts, codes of spiritual conduct that help to develop the virtues and positive qualities of the consciousness.
Ethics is developed by comprehending and working with the law of karma: cause and effect. Negative actions from the ego produce suffering, while positive actions from the consciousness produce equanimity.
It is impossible to meditate with a chaotic mind, and it is impossible to develop serenity if you are feeding your egos every moment of the day through identification. What does it mean to identify? It means that you, as a free consciousness, give your energy to whatever defect takes over the five centers of your human machine: intellect, emotions, movement, instincts, and sex. When anger emerges, you as a consciousness think and feel that you are that anger. You invest it with energy and power. You fortify and empower it by thinking and saying whatever that sense of “I” wants in a given moment, until another ego emerges in reaction to fluctuating external circumstances.
Feeding the ego produces pain, since the “I,” desire, is a condition, a conglomeration of shells, a state of suffering that traps our full conscious potential.
To restrain our mind from doing what it wants every second of the day is the work with ethics. It is knowing how to consciously work with the law of cause and effect. As we explained in the previous lecture on “Ethics, Karma, and Interdependence,” how you behave in body, speech, and mind determines the quality of your life. Disciplining the lower self, the ego, desires, or nafs within Sufism, is the definition of the spiritual path:
“The lower soul (nafs, which etymologically signifies ‘breath’) is always engaged in inspiring your imagination to pursue evil acts or thoughts, every moment striving to cast you down into the abyss of pride, hypocrisy, and egotism. Each moment thus demands that you overcome and repulse such evil thoughts and false conceptions, constantly regaining your faith afresh and reaffirming your belief, and never imagining yourself safe from the lower soul’s deceit even for a second.” —Lāhījī, Mafātīḥ
Nafs in Arabic means “breath, vitality, vigor, or soul.” The egos, nafs, or desires within us have trapped or conditioned our essence, our consciousness. Every ego, defect, or desire, traps the energy of the consciousness within states of suffering. Every naf, like anger, pride, fear, laziness, gluttony, etc., squanders the energies of the psyche in atomic explosions of hatred, lust, and desire.
Meditation begins when we learn how to stop wasting energy: mental, emotional, volitional, sexual. You enact the initial stages of ethical discipline when you, as a consciousness, are observing your mind, heart, and body, your egos, seeing them as something inferior and separate from your consciousness. The deeper part comes through transformation, when you consciously choose not to give your ego what it wants. It is essential to develop the sense of self-observation in a very clear and strong manner, to be able to separate from the “I” in all its tenebrous multiplicity, to see and watch our defects in action, and to not act upon their impulses no matter how strong.
Each ego is a false identity, a false sense of self, which has nothing to do with our spiritual nature. The “I” has nothing to do with the Being, as well as the unconditioned, free consciousness. Each ego or false sense of self has trapped our consciousness, and now it is our work to extract the consciousness trapped in those errors by comprehending our defects and eliminating them.
The nafs, lower selves, or different “I’s” within us are the infidels mentioned throughout the Qur’an, Islam, and Sufism.
"There are two types of warfare (jihad): outward and inward. The outer battle is against the infidel (kāfar, or black magicians in the astral and mental planes) while the inner war is waged aggressively against the lower soul (nafs). Warriors of the sword are threefold: the slayer who is rewarded, the battle-weary vouchsafed forgiveness of sins, and the martyr who is slain. Likewise, the warriors of the soul are threefold: one who exerts himself who belongs to the just and the pious (abrār), one who excels in struggle who sustains the spiritual hierarchy (awtād), and one who is victorious, who is numbered amongst the apostolic saints (abdāl). One who wages war against the unbelievers (fornicating black magicians, the infidels) obtains wealth, but one who wages war against the soul is enriched with the wealth of the heart… The Prophet called the war against the lower soul (nafs) the “greater war” because, while one may avoid conflict with an external foe, none is exempt from the struggle against, and combat with, the lower soul. Peace can be secured from all enemies through negotiation or conciliation, but if one attempts to negotiate and reconcile the [lower] soul, one is doomed to perdition." —Maybudī, Kashf al-asrār, IV 60
Samael Aun Weor wrote that we must be compassionate to all beings, even towards the sorcerers and demons of the black lodge, but merciless to our ego. If you ever give what your ego wants, you deepen your suffering. When you do not give your ego what it wants, you experience happiness. This is karma in action.
When you don’t give your anger what it wants by identifying yourself with its thoughts, desires, and impulses, you save energy; you become hermetically sealed. Remember that in any moment, a sense of self, a false identity emerges within your mind, heart, and body that wants to push you to think, feel and act a certain way. If you as a free consciousness are vigilant, watchful, you perceive these false, multifarious identities within you. The more you, as a consciousness, restrain the mind from acting in harmful ways, by learning to see the egos in action, the more psychic energy you save. Likewise, the less you identify with any ego or defect, the more energy you save, and the more serene your mind becomes.
Energy is essential for spiritual life. If you are wasting your energy through negative behaviors, thinking, and sentiments, you will never learn to meditate. But when you restrain the mind and follow the precepts of meditative discipline, you enter the doorway into genuine self-knowledge, because you have energy available to empower the consciousness and relax the body and mind.
Our asana, meditative posture, is based on how we fulfill Yama and Niyama, restraint of mind or ego, and observances. Swami Sivananda wrote that our asana should be like a mountain, immovable, firm. If your mind is restless and agitated from desire, your body will not be able to sit still. If you are constantly moving during your practice, then you are not practicing at all, because any physical movement agitates the mind and its energies, preventing you from going deep into the consciousness to receive the imagery of the internal worlds. And if you have no energy with which to meditate, you will fall asleep in your posture if you are too comfortable.
Your posture should help you relax, but to the point that you maintain conscious remembrance of what you are doing at all times. If your posture is too comfortable but your consciousness not alert enough, then laziness kicks in and you fall asleep, such as when you lie down to practice. This is not meditation, and this is why we recommend that students in the beginning practice sitting up, either in the Western style, in a chair, or on a meditation cushion in a half-lotus or full lotus, if your body is flexible enough. The point is that your posture should be relaxed and firm to the point that you are perfectly at ease and can remember what you are doing consciously, that you maintain your ability to focus and remain attentive. Your asana needs to be comfortable to the point that you can forget the body and work with the subtle energies of the mind and heart.
By fulfilling the restraints and observances of meditative discipline, and to aid in the relaxation of body and mind, we work with pranayama. By conserving our energies and transforming them, we harness the power of the soul with our breath, since the Arabic word nafs means “soul” as well as “breath,” and is modified into different types of expression in accordance with Kabbalah.
"Inspiration, nafas—literally “breath,” also “breathing space” or ample room—is the refreshment of hearts by the subtleties from the Unseen. A person who receives inspiration [from learning to aspire, or inspire, to inhale the vital breath through pranayama] is finer and clearer than a person who is open to mystical states [who is intuitive to a degree, but who does not practice this technique]. The person of the momentary inner experience is the beginning [meaning: the one who practices mindfulness, self-observation, and self-remembering], the inspired person is at the conclusion, and the person of [internal, psychological and spiritual states born from practice] is between the two. The states are means and inspirations are the end of progressive development. Moments belong to those who have hearts, states belong to those who possess spirit (ruh) [or Ruach], and inspirations belong to the people of inner being (sirr) [the Innermost Self / Atman]. The Sufis have said, 'The best act of worship is the count the breaths along with God Glorified and Exalted.'” —Al Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This lecture will explain the purpose of pranayama, how to practice it, and how it is taught within the teachings of Sufism, the writings of Swami Sivananda, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and the doctrine of Samael Aun Weor.
Prana, Transmutation, and Brahmacharya
To control the mind, we work with its energies, which constitute different modifications of prana. Prana, in Sanskrit and hatha yoga, relates to the breath, to breathing, the air. Pranayama etymologically signifies, “to harness the wind” or “yoke” the life forces of the body.
Prana is much more profound than just breath. It is the force of “life, spirit, energy, and vitality” within air and our physical body. Prana is the life-force of divinity that we assimilate through our breathing, and which we find condensed and modified within the different elements of the cosmos and of nature.
"Prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe. It is the sum total of all the forces in nature. It is the sum total of all latent forces and powers which are hidden in men [and women] and which lie everywhere around us. Heat, light, electricity, magnetism are the manifestations of prana. […] Whatever moves or works or has life is but an expression of manifestation of prana. The prana is related to mind [Hod / Netzach] and through mind to will [Tiphereth], and through will to the individual soul [Tiphereth / Geburah], and through this to the Supreme Being [Chesed / Atman in Kabbalah]. If you know how to control the little waves of prana working thorough your mind, then the secret of subjugating universal prana will be known to you." ―Swami Sivananda
Pranayama also is described within the gnostic tradition by the term transmutation, which is “The action of changing or the state of being changed into another form.”
Within our body is the most potent force of the universe, the sexual energy, the capacity to create life, which is found in a germinal state within the physical semen. This physical matter or semen can be used to create a physical child, but in spiritual sadhana, spiritual practice, we conserve the semen and transform this matter into energy, precisely through the exercise of controlling our breath, being fully concentrated, prayerful, and attentive, with the mind restrained.
As described in the book of Genesis, the spirit or breath of God hovered over the face of the waters. What spirit? The Ruach Elohim in Hebrew or ruh in Arabic, otherwise known as prana in Sanskrit, the divine forces that generate life. The prana, the energies of divinity, can be directed to yoke the sexual waters in our body, to transform that water into light. For as Genesis teaches us, “God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.” That light is consciousness and comprehension in meditation.
The word trans is a prefix used with the meanings such as “across,” “beyond,” “through,” and “changing thoroughly.” Mutation comes from mutate, “to change or cause to change in form or nature.” Transmutation is the science of changing the sexual water into light, carrying it up within our spine to the brain, mutating that semen into energy. This is accomplished through yoking the vital winds, the energies of our breath, mind, body, heart, and semen.
Prana is not only in the air, but in all the elements of nature and our body, within the aerial nature of our thoughts, the fires of our emotions, and solidity of our physical earth or body, and most importantly within the waters of our sexual organs. Prana condenses into multiple forms of matter and energy, most importantly sexual, which we transmute from the physical, brute semen, to feed our consciousness with light.
It’s important to remember that it is impossible to develop the consciousness without energy, and that the most important form of energy is sexual. Sexual energy is prana, the “vitality, power, vigour, and life” that can awaken our full potential.
The word prana bears similar etymological meaning as the Arabic word for soul, nafs, which can be lower [egotistical] or higher [conscious] depending on our work. How we harness energy is determined by the quality of practicing pranayama.
It’s interesting that the term prana can signify the sexual organs, which demonstrates that to work with pranayama is to control the creative energy and use it for our spiritual development. This is why chastity is emphasized by Patanjali, the yogis, and all genuine practitioners of every spiritual tradition. Chasity means restraint and transmutation of the sexual energy, the prana. This science has been known by the term Brahmacharya in the East, which is a Sanskrit word composed from:
Everyone in these times want to know how to meditate, but when instructed to restrain and control the sexual energy, to restrain the lower selves, egos, nafs, or desires, they run away. This is sad, because without harnessing the vital winds, the sexual energy, without going against the grain of one’s habits, one cannot learn meditation. To feed desire, our egos, lust, through identification, produces suffering. By expelling the very energies that can give life, we hinder our spiritual life. Meditation is impossible for individuals who have no prana, no energy, in their body that can empower the consciousness.
"Brahmacharya literally means Achara or conduct that leads to the realization of Brahman or one’s own Self. It means the control of semen [the sexual matter within both men and women], the study of the Vedas (scriptures, as well as the sexual teachings of any religion) and contemplation on God. The technical meaning of Brahmacharya is self-restraint, particularly mastery of perfect control over the sexual organ or freedom from lust in thought, word and deed." —Swami Sivananda
The beginning of the path of meditation is to restrain the sexual energy, to not expel it in any form whatsoever. This energy must be conserved and transformed to give us spiritual life. Lustful people who ejaculate the sexual energy have no energy with which to calm the mind and learn meditation.
The scripture Siva Samhita describes seminal retention and transmutation as the basis of all meditative realization:
"Ejaculation of semen [orgasm] brings death, preserving it within brings life. Therefore, one should make sure to retain the semen within. One is born and dies through semen; in this there is no doubt. Knowing this, the Yogi must always preserve his semen. When the precious jewel of semen is mastered, anything on earth can be mastered. Through the grace of its preservation, one becomes as great as me [Shiva]. The use of semen determines the happiness or pain of all beings living in the world, who are deluded [by desire] and are subject to death and decay." —Siva Samhita
Feeding desire, lust, only agitates the mind and psyche, for as Padmasambhava explained to Lady Tsogyal:
"Lustful people do not enter the path of liberation."
This is of course the difficult thing, but fundamental to any progress.
"Junayd was asked: "What is union with God [religion, religare, Yoga]?" He replied: "To renounce passion [fornication: the animal orgasm]," for of all of the acts of devotion by which God's favor is sought none has greater value than resistance to passion, because it is easier for a man to destroy a mountain with his nails than to resist passion [fornication]." —Al-Hujwiri, Kashf al-Mahjub, Revelation of the Mystery
The next steps include controlling lust in the heart and mind, which is of course more difficult. Students must fight against adulterous and lustful tendencies, the desire to look at the opposite sex with desire. As Jesus taught:
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." —Matthew 5:27-28
"The most manifest attribute of the lower soul is lust (shahwat). Lust is a thing that is dispersed in different parts of the human body, and is served by the senses. Man is bound to guard all his members from it [particularly the sexual organs, to train the body not to fornicate], and he shall be questioned concerning the acts of each. The lust of the eye is sight, that of the ear is hearing, that of the nose is smell, that of the tongue is speech, that of the palate is taste, that of the body (jasad) is touch, and that of the mind is thought (andíshídan). It behoves the seeker of God to spend his whole life day and night, in ridding himself of these incitements to passion which show themselves through the senses [by correctly transforming impressions in meditation], and to pray God to make him such that this desire will be removed from his inward nature [through contemplation and comprehension in meditation], since whoever is afflicted with lust is veiled from all spiritual things." —Al-Hujwiri, Kashf al-Mahjub, Revelation of the Mystery
First we conserve the sexual energy, learn to transform it in our body. With further discipline we no longer entertain lustful thoughts and desires in the heart. Pranayama is especially important for controlling lust, because if the consciousness has no energy, it has no strength by which to work against the monsters of desire. Pranayama will help you to acquire energy by which you can comprehend and annihilate the ego. As described by the ancient teachings of Manu:
"Let the defects be burnt up by Pranayama." ―Manu
Students are therefore taught, within ethical discipline, not to fornicate, and why Buddha taught his disciples that one is no longer a disciple if they do not fulfill the observances and restraints of chastity. Pranayama and sexual purity, therefore are essential in the eightfold steps of meditation and yoga, since the subsequent principles of meditation are founded on this. Attempting to perform pranayama without fuel, without sexual energy present, is like trying to pump fuel from a gas station when there is none. No water, no fuel, no light. Yet by practicing sexual purity, one can enter very rapidly into the science of meditation.
“With the practice of Pranayama, the mind of the student is prepared for Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.” —Samael Aun Weor
Energy and the Kabbalistic Tree of Life
The nature of prana must be analyzed, by gnostic students, through the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life. This Tree of Life maps out for us the varying modalities and condensations of matter, consciousness, energy or prana, the Christic force, which is manifest throughout the entire cosmos, as Swami Sivananda and Samael Aun Weor have explained very well.
This map has ten spheres or Sephiroth, translated from Hebrew as “emanations,” which are organized into three trinities with a single sephirah or sphere at the bottom, named Malkuth, the physical body or kingdom.
Our body is a kingdom with many elements, forces and principles, that we must harness if we want to ascend this graphic, to perceive more refined and profound levels of consciousness, indicated by the higher spheres of this tree.
Don’t think about this glyph as something outside of you, but within. This image maps out states of perception, in more refined or gross levels, from the most subtle above to the most dense below. This has nothing to do with vertical space, in the true application of this graphic.
The Tree of Life emerges from the Abstract Absolute Space, the Unknowable Seity or Ain. From within the Ain, the Nothingness of cosmic, abstract space, is our own particular supra-divine star, the Ain Soph, the Limitless. And from the Ain Soph emerges the Ain Soph Aur, the Limitless Light, the Cosmic Khrestos or Christ.
This light manifests into the universe as the top trinity of this graphic. This undifferentiated light of the Ain Soph Aur is the Prana in its most rarified state, which, in order to be developed, needs to enter into the universe to create its diverse regions and forms, unfolding into more material states of matter, energy, and experience.
The top trinity is known as the Logoic triangle, the Christic forces of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah, or Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Christian terms. These three spheres are not people, but energies. This trinity is the power of creation, genesis, which are three aspects of one light or force; prana, in other words. Because this power is in a refined state, it is elevated, superior, rarified, yet for that power to develop, it must materialize, condense, descend to the lower regions of this tree, to be worked upon consciously.
Prana condenses into other forms of matter, energy and perception, represented by the Sephiroth below. To work with prana above, we must work with that energy below, within the lower aspects of our being. We can analyze the nature and modifications of prana in different ways, especially in accordance with the septenary constitution of the human being, which is:
7. Atman: the Innermost Being, our Inner Buddha or God [Chesed]
6. Buddhi: the consciousness, the Divine Soul [Geburah]
5. Superior Manas: the Human Soul, Willpower, Causal body [Tiphereth]
4. Inferior Manas: the mind, Mental body [Netzach]
3. Kama Rupa: the body of desires, the Astral body [Hod]
2. Linga-sarira: the Vital (Ethereal) body [Yesod]
1. Sthula-sarira: the physical body [Malkuth]
—Samael Aun Weor, Kundalini Yoga: The Mysteries of the Fire
Atman, Buddhi, and Superior Manas constitute the middle trinity, the Ethical triangle of the Tree of Life, relating to our genuine humanity and the spiritual principles of our inner divinity that guide us in the work. This trinity is the real Being or inner spirit [Chesed], divine soul [Geburah], and human soul [Tiphereth], the latter sometimes referred to superior manas, superior mind in Sanskrit.
Our consciousness is a fraction of the human soul, known as Tiphereth in Kabbalah. This middle sephirah in the very center of the Tree of Life is known by the term superior manas in Theosophy.
This term mind can be very vague in esoteric and spiritual circles. Superior manas, Tiphereth, is abstract, not concrete. It is our willpower. We know it’s there, but it is not materialized, visible. We can say that a person has tremendous will, because they have internal drive and a means of working, making a living, being disciplined in a specific type of endeavor, etc. Willpower is very real for us, but hard to pinpoint or concretize. It relates to a type of abstraction of the psyche, one relating to volition or will.
Our consciousness emanated from Atman-Buddhi-Manas, Chesed-Geburah-Tiphereth, and has entered the lower sephiroth: mind, heart, vitality, and physicality. This is in order to acquire knowledge and experience.
Our inner Being, spirit, Buddha, Atman, gives the consciousness intuitions and hunches, as well as inspiration to practice spirituality through learning to control the lower aspects of ourselves, the lower trinity in this glyph. Tiphereth, superior manas or willpower, must control the lower aspects of the psyche.
This is essential in pranayama, because to harness the prana, we must control our thoughts, feelings, and impulses, which are the vehicles of our ego.
The Inferior Manas is our mind [Netzach], which is more concrete. People have an easier time acknowledging thoughts than they do with comprehending will.
The Kama Rupa or desire / astral body [Hod] is the seat of emotions, which everybody acknowledges to a degree.
The Linga-sarira, or vital body [Yesod], is our vital energies that give life to our physicality. This vital body is the body of prana. It is the storehouse of all the prana that descends from the top trinity, descending through the Sephiroth and finally coalescing in our vital body, which exists in the fourth dimension. This vehicle sustains the chemical, biological, catabolic, metabolic, etheric, and vital processes of our physical body: the Sthula-sarira, Malkuth. Without the vital body and its circulation of prana throughout the physical body, we would not be alive.
These three lower spheres: Inferior Manas, Kama Rupa, and Linga-sarira, or Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, constitute the triangle of Priesthood. This triangle is the work with magic, from the Indo-European root word mag, meaning “priest” or “magician.”
Magic is not pulling rabbits out of hats, or impressing people with clever tricks. Magic is knowing how to consciously manipulate matter and energy, prana, within our tree of life, through willpower and visualization.
Pranayama is a form of magic, whereby we manipulate creative forces within our mind, heart, and body. To control the mind, with its racing, uncontrolled thoughts, the heart, with its surging emotions, and the impulses and instincts of the body, constitute the beginning of our meditative discipline. When you experience a calm mind through pranayama, you come to realize how magical this science really is, since it produces the serenity and clarity of the soul.
The prerequisites of meditation involve stilling the body, the vital energies, the heart, the mind, and our willpower, the lower five Sephiroth of the Kabbalah. Let us be very clear: stilling the mind is not meditation; it is the beginning. Genuine meditation is about receiving internal information about ourselves and the cosmos, the science of comprehension and understanding. This is an important distinction to make, because pranayama aids the practitioner in calming the psyche so that the waters of the mind can reflect internal principles.
See here the lower five spheres of the Tree of Life? These are all different aspects of our psyche, which need to be controlled and calmed through yoking prana. Mind is a form of prana. Emotions are a form of prana. And the sexual energy is condensed prana that serves as the foundation for meditation, since prana, the Linga-sarira or vital body, is the foundation of this graphic.
The mind or body of desires are controlled using vital energy, the vital body or Linga-sarira. Notice how this vital body, Linga-sarira or sphere of Yesod is the very center of the Tree of Life, as well as at its base or foundation. Yesod literally means “foundation.” Yesod is the basis of spiritual and physical life.
The word Lingam refers to the sexual organs, specifically the phallus, hence the strong correlation between prana or Linga-sarira and the sexual glands. The yoni in Hinduism symbolizes the uterus, and its union with the lingam represents the highest consubstantiation of divine love. Prana literally means “vital organs,” and refers to semen, since in certain rituals like the puja, the Hindus pour milk over the symbol of the Lingam-Yoni as an offering to divinity. That milk is semen, transmuted sexual energy, prana, which are found within the union of the lingam-yoni.
Our physical semen is condensed prana. It is vital energy in a material state. Through the science of pranayama, we yoke, transmute, and elevate the energies of sex, so that the body, mind, heart, and will become balanced and prepared for actual meditation.
While prana means “life,” yama means “restraint” or “death.” Yama is the deity of death in esoteric Buddhism. This is very interesting linguistically.
Samael Aun Weor wrote that if the seed does not die, the plant cannot be born. If you want to experience the entirety of the Tree of Life in meditation, you must give birth to that tree through the sexual seed. When the seed dies and is transmuted, it becomes a Tree of Life. This is well known by initiates in the science of alchemy or Da’ath.
Pranayama, therefore, helps to transform the seed, by destroying the matter, to convert it into energy. By this we do not mean that one can give birth to the entirety of the soul through pranayama. The solar bodies can only be created in a marriage. Instead, pranayama aids single practitioners in circulating the energies of sexuality, to a certain degree, to stabilize one’s concentration and mind in preparation for dhyana, meditation.
The mind must be united with its Divine Triad, together with the psychic extractions of the astral, vital and physical vehicles.
The inferior Manas together with the Kamas, Prana and Linga, reinforce the Divine Triad by means of fire. –Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
We reinforce the powers of the Being by working with prana. The inferior manas or mind, the emotions or body of desires, and the prana or Linga-sarira, reinforce the middle Triad through the work with sexual fire. Mind, emotions, and sexuality help to support the principles above through pranayama. Atman-Buddhi-Manas are strengthened through yoking the fires of sexuality below, which are contained within the waters of genesis, the sexual matter.
People who do not work with the creative energies have a weak connection with their inner Being. People who fornicate lose their connection with divinity. However, this connection can be re-established the more we work with transmutation. This becomes evident through internal experiences in meditation.
While pranayama works with sparks of fire, the sexual fire must be harnessed or yoked in a matrimony to fully develop the creative energies.
All this work of transmutation is performed with willpower, our human soul, the superior manas or Tiphereth. Our will must exert itself to control the sexual energy through spiritual inspiration, emanating from Atman-Buddhi. Prana then produces a profound calming effect on the mind, heart, and body below.
Pranayama, interchanging nostril breathing, requires a form of effort or will to perform. It also involves imagining the circulation of forces in your body and mind. This is the superior manas or willpower in action, in combination with our capacities for perception and imagination, known as Geburah in Kabbalah, the sphere of Buddhi, the divine consciousness.
We must perceive what we are doing in every practice, especially Pranayama and sexual transmutation. As we are going to elaborate upon in our discussion of “Spiritual Insight,” the capacity to perceive is imagination, to see internal, psychic things, the movement of energies. Pranayama involves willpower to control the energies, through our breath, serenity, and composure. We also need perception of those forces inside. These are abilities that the practitioner develops gradually through consistent discipline.
Energy, Nadis, and the Nervous Systems
We have an image here of the nervous systems of the body, which become charged with vitality when we learn how to circulate those forces with our willpower and imagination. Hinduism refers to energetic channels in the vital depth, the etheric body of Yesod, as nadis. There exist millions of nadis in our vital body, which are intimately related with the chakras of our ultra-biology, the latter composed of the internal chemistry of forces and energies that interdependently flow through our physicality and internal vehicles.
A nadi is a line or current of vital energy, and when two nadis intersect, you form a vortex, a wheel of energy, a chakra. People believe there are only seven chakras, which is wrong, because wherever two nadis join, you form a vortex or wheel of forces. While there are seven main chakras connected with the spinal medulla, we really possess hundreds of thousands of chakras throughout our body, each with their own purpose, role, and influence.
The cerebrospinal, grand sympathetic, and other nervous systems are physical conduits for etheric energies. Therefore, the nadis of the internal bodies, the vital depth, correspond to the physical, vital, and fluidic matter that circulates in our body. The nervous systems function because of the gelatinous and delicate fluids of the nerves, and it is well known in physical science that most of our body is composed of water. When we learn to conserve the vital waters of our body, the seminal matter and its concomitant energies, we can transmute those waters into another substance, into cognizance, conscious energy, and light.
Remember that we stated that our sexual waters, our semen, is a gelatinous substance or condensed prana. Prana, in its unmodified form, is light. That light descends the Tree of Life and enters Yesod, materializing to form the entity of semen. Now the work we need to do is to transform or transmute the sexual substance into cognizance, fire, and light with the sacred breath. This light saturates the brain and nervous systems, flowing within and upward to the brain up the different energetic channels.
Because the brain and spine are surrounded by nerves, it follows logically that the nadis condense and unite in innumerable spaces throughout the vital body, which penetrates within the material brain, spine, and nervous systems. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the vital body is separate from your physical body, because the vital depth gives life to your physicality, and is a biological vehicle that penetrates and co-penetrates every atom of the physical body, like a mirror image. It is made of etheric matter in the fourth dimension, matter which is pliable, elastic, and fluidic, relating intimately with the health of your brain and nervous systems. Without the vital body, we would not be able to physically exist, since it is the fourth-dimensional aspect of your material, physical, third-dimensional body, since every atom of your etheric body penetrates every atom of your physical body, giving you life. The day your vital depth disconnects from the physical body is the day you die physically, since without ether, prana, we would not have life.
Prana and the etheric body have been well documented by the Kirlian camera, a device developed by a Russian scientist that photographs the vital aura of people, plants, and even minerals. All living things have prana, even supposedly inorganic matter like metals and earth. This type of science demonstrates how the vital body of any living thing is inseparable from its material, physical form.
The Tree of Life in our physical body is our spine, so while there is a macrocosmic implication to studying the universe, our spine is how we have physical and spiritual life, especially when we learn how to circulate prana in our secondary or sexual system, as described by Master Morya in his Dayspring of Youth.
The two main energetic channels we focus on with pranayama are Ida and Pingala, or the lunar and solar currents. By the term “lunar,” what we mean are feminine, negative, or receptive forces in the body, whether we are male or female, and by “solar,” we mean the masculine, positive, or projective forces of the body, whether we are male or female. These forces originate within our gonads, the testicles or ovaries. In the same manner that an electrical current has a positive, negative, and neutral current, our sexual system likewise has masculine, feminine, and neutral forces and nadis. Through controlling and directing prana, we circulate vital force through the nadis Ida and Pingala up the spine in the form of an eight, the caduceus of mercury with its two entwining serpents, a representation of the solar and lunar energetic currents. While Ida is feminine and Pingala is masculine, the spinal column is the neutral, grounding current by which masculine and feminine cohabit, unify, and reconcile. The energetic nadi of the spine is known as Sushumna nadi.
When we learn to harness the energies contained within our waters with our breathing, with pranayama, we can raise and circulate such vital forces from the gonads up the spine, through Ida and Pingala, to awaken sparks of a third force in the base of the spine through the Sushumna nadi. This third force is known in the East as Kundalini and the West as the fire of Pentecost.
As Samael Aun Weor indicated in his writings:
"The yogi/yogini works with the Great Breath or Cosmic Chrestos that is deposited within the Christonic semen when they are practicing Pranayama. Pranayama (a practice that consists of making profound inhalations of air, and retaining the inhaled air as much as possible, and afterwards exhaling the air until emptying the lungs), also teaches about the poles of the energy: one masculine pole located in the brain (cerebrospinal nervous system) and the feminine pole in the heart (grand sympathetic nervous system). Thus, as when we form two poles in the space through a magneto, we create new energies and these forcedly are giving birth to a third pole; likewise, we affirm that the third pole is Devi Kundalini, which, from the union of the solar and lunar atoms, is born within the Triveni, situated in the coccyx. These two polarities, masculine and feminine—from the Great Breath—prove the sexuality of Prana and Kundalini. Kundalini is absolutely sexual." —Samael Aun Weor, Kundalini Yoga: The Mysteries of the Fire
Kundalini and Pranayama
Pranayama is absolutely sexual, in the same manner that Kundalini is the sexual potency. By working with pranayama, single persons yoke their creative energies to a certain, limited degree, while prana is fully activated throughout the spine and nervous systems through sexual magic between man and woman, husband and wife, who are simultaneously working to eliminate their defects through profound comprehension in meditation.
The Kundalini is the sacred sexual fire of the Holy Spirit. Individuals can awaken sparks of Kundalini within the base of the coccyx up the spine through the exercise of pranayama. To fully awaken Kundalini, one needs to be working in a matrimony.
Let us be clear about the nature of the Kundalini. Kundalini is the power of the Divine Mother, the enlightenment of God. Many people believe that the Divine Mother, the Kundalini, is a mechanical force, one that can awaken randomly and cause numerous psychological and spiritual problems, such as rising in the wrong way, causing delusions or mental imbalances, etc. People who attribute these phenomena with Kundalini awakening ignore their own destructive habits, ignore the law of karma, cause and effect, because Devi Kundalini harms no one. What is sad is that such people ignore that the Divine Mother is the wisdom of the universe, the cosmos, which is structured and maintained by divine intelligence.
The Divine Mother does not harm Her child. People hurt themselves, not because of the Divine Mother Kundalini. Our inner goddess only rewards virtues, chastity, purity, and ethical discipline. People develop imbalances and psychological problems due to fornication, which the Divine Mother does not reward. She can only awaken within a couple that is meditating and comprehending the ego daily, working on their defects and praying for their elimination; She emerges within people who develop virtue. She awakens within a couple that not only conserves and transmutes the sexual energy, but who are following the precepts (Niyama) and ethical restraints (Yama) of religion. The Kundalini is very demanding, since She only rises within the spine of the couple in accordance with the merits and qualities of the heart. As Paul of Tarsus stated in Corinthians:
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." —1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Observe your mind. Are you not filled with desire, with fornication, the lustful eye that craves sexual satisfaction with many women, with many men? Are you truly free from the adulterous eye that wants to copulate with others constantly, even if it is just in your imagination or fantasies? Are you sure that your mind is pure and filled with virtues, rather than vices? Do you abstain from alcohol, thievery of stealing of other people’s ideas, energy, belongings, money? Are you sure that you do not extort others to do what you want, even under the guise of sanctity, kindness, and generosity? Are you positive that you have never betrayed anyone, including your inner divinity?
Be sure that if you are filled with these qualities, and even when you practice sexual magic, the Divine Mother will not reward you. She only rises within the spine of the couple who are meditating every day on the ego, those who are working to eliminate the “I” first through discovery of defects in self-observation, then their judgment in meditation, followed by their execution through prayer. This is the fundamental law of action and consequence.
People have a lot of theories about the Kundalini, but none of it is factual or based on evidence, observed facts in one’s daily life. We mention this because in relation to the teachings of pranayama, ethical discipline is the same: if you want to transmute your energies through pranayama, you must be ethical, practicing restraint (Yama) and following specific observances (Niyama). While many religions have a lot of explanations about virtues and vices, the best of it all is synthesized in one simple principle: do not give the ego what it wants. Deny thyself, bear up your alchemical cross of sacrifice, and follow the example of your Intimate Christ, your real Being within you.
You learn to control prana by controlling your mind, by not feeding your egos from moment to moment. By controlling prana in its diverse modifications, we control the mind and the vital flow of energies in our etheric body.
"Kundalini is intimately related with the Prana that circulates throughout the 72,000 nadis or Astral conduits that nourish the chakras. The chakras are connected with the mind. Yogi and yogini have to christify their mind. Prana is life, and it circulates throughout all of our organs. Prana circulates throughout all of our nadis and vital canals. All the 72,000 nadis of our organism have their fundamental base in the nadi Kanda. The nadi Kanda is situated between the sexual organs and the anus. The Kanda collects all of the sexual energy that circulates throughout the 72,000 canals of our organism. The sexual energy is Prana, life. […] …The nadis Ida and Pingala are found side to side of the spinal medulla. These nadis entwine around the spinal medulla in similar shape to the number eight. The heavenly path is inside the nadi Sushumna. The Kundalini ascends throughout the Brahmanadi. The Brahmanadi is found situated inside another very subtle canal that runs throughout the length of the spinal medulla and is known with the name of Chitra. The seven chakras known with the names of Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishudda, Ajna, and Sahasrara are over this nadi Chitra." —Samael Aun Weor, Kundalini Yoga: The Mysteries of the Fire
When the Kundalini awakens, it rises within the Sushumna canal within the spinal column and awakens the main chakras of the spine. Likewise, the 72,000 nadis or circuits of the astral body, as well as the vital body, circulate. 72,000 is a symbolic number, because there exist many more nadis. 72 reminds us of the 72 sacred names of God in Kabbalah. Likewise, making the kabbalistic addition of 7+2 makes 9, the number of Yesod of Kabbalah. The ninth sephirah from the top to the bottom of the Tree of Life relates to the vital / etheric body, the linga-sarira.
Given the sexual nature of prana, it is logical that single disciples possess limited capacities for elevating the creative energies, prana, or fires of sex. A single person can awaken sparks of Kundalini through pranayama, producing certain mystical experiences, whereas married couples can awaken their full potential.
It’s important to reflect on these things and to clarify some misconceptions regarding this subject. Swami Sivananda once wrote:
“No Samadhi is possible unless Kundalini is awakened.” —Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
Samadhi is conscious experience, in meditation, devoid of the “me,” “myself,” the ego. Many students have misinterpreted this statement of Sivananda to indicate that one cannot have any spiritual experiences without working in the perfect matrimony, which is not true. What Sivananda explained is that whether single or married, the fire of Kundalini produces ecstasy in different degrees.
Many practitioners of yoga have also mistakenly attributed their work with pranayama to the full awakening of the Kundalini, because such disciples have many intense, spiritual, conscious experiences resulting from their practice, which they do not know how to explain except that their Kundalini has fully awakened.
Having such experiences is valuable and necessary, but it is not the end goal, nor is it an indicator that one is finished in the work.
Single persons can awaken sparks of that fire, but the full manifestation of the Divine Mother is only developed amongst couples working in chastity, meditation, and selfless service for humanity.
Remember that a man has one sexual polarity dominant and a woman has the other sexual polarity dominant. If an individual wants to awaken the full potential forces of their respective sex, he or she needs a sexual compliment, the opposite sex, to awaken the reconciliating force. Man and woman, husband and wife, when sexually united and harnessing the creative energy, awaken a third power, the serpent Kundalini, which typically lies dormant in the base of the spine, in the Chakra Muladhara, coiled three and a half times and awaiting the moment of its awakening through the science of love.
This does not undervalue the work of pranayama, but puts it in context. Single disciples can work with pranayama, can maintain their chastity, through these breathing exercises. When disciples are married they can take their practice further, applying the same principles of Yama, Niyama, and Pranayama but with the tremendously added force of sexual union, which is known in the East as tantrism.
Single people can light a candle up their spine, but husband and wife can awaken the power of millions of suns. This is the literal difference. Single disciples must learn to prepare for a matrimony through pranayama, which is why in ancient schools of yoga, many masters would train their disciples in Brahmacharya before giving them the ultimate secret of sexual alchemy, tantrism, marital union. This was obviously done in secret to avoid scandals and the fears of sexually degenerate people.
Once disciples have demonstrated their sincerity, prudence, and dedication to their spiritual exercises, to pranayama, then the master would unveil the higher mysteries.
Breath, Mind, Chakras, and the Circulation of Prana
So why all this explanation about the creative energies in the context of this course of meditation? If you want to still the mind, naturally and without force, you must practice pranayama and transmutation. Your mind or mental states are determined by how you use energy. If you use energy to feed desire, then the mind becomes provoked, stimulated, and distracted. Harnessing prana helps to calm the mind, and prana is intimately related with your virya or virility. Virya simply means sexual potency, which is the root word for virile (to possess sexual potency and strength) and well as virtue, since the virtues of the soul are born through the intentional use and practice of pranayama.
"Prana, mind, and virya (sexual energy) are under one sambhanda [connection]. If you can control prana, then mind and virya and controlled by themselves. If you control the virya by remaining as an akhanda bramachari without emission of even a single drop of semen (sexual energy, whether male or female) for twelve years, then mind and prana are controlled by themselves." —Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
By controlling the breath with willpower, by consciously visualizing the circulation of energies, the prana circulates throughout our nervous systems, stimulating the chakras, in the same manner that electricity flows through a circuit. These energies stabilize the lake of the mind in preparation for meditation. As Swami Sivananda explains in The Science of Pranayama:
"Breath is external manifestation of Prana, the vital force. Breath like electricity, is gross Prana. Breath is Sthula, gross. Prana is Sukshma, subtle. By exercising control over this breathing you can control the subtle Prana inside. Control of Prana means control of mind. Mind cannot operate without the help of Prana. The vibrations of Prana only produce thoughts in the mind. It is Prana that moves the mind. It is Prana that sets the mind in motion. It is the Sukshma Prana or Psychic Prana that is intimately connected with the mind. This breath represents the important fly-wheel of an engine. Just as the other wheels stop when the driver stops the fly-wheel, so also other organs cease working, when the Yogi stops the breath. If you can control the fly-wheel, you can easily control the other wheels. Likewise, if you can control the external breath, you can easily control the inner vital force, Prana. The process by which the Prana is controlled by regulation of external breath, is termed Pranayama. Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the Indriyas by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practising Pranayama. The chief aim of Pranayama is to unite the Prana with the Apana and take the united Pranapana slowly towards the head. The effect or fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or awakening of the sleeping Kundalini." ―Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
The energetic channels or nadis are typically filthy, blocked and closed in us, which is the source of many illnesses and conditions that make us suffer physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The circuitry of our vital body tends to be clogged with many negative psychic elements and riddled with impurities caused by unhealthy food, negative environmental influences, and most importantly, degenerated habits in the mind, heart, and body. Many students experience problems in controlling the sexual energy because the nadis are blocked and polluted. Such blockages stimulate the creative energies in a way that force them to flow from inside out, from within to outside the body, problems exemplified as nocturnal pollutions and unwilled seminal ejaculation during the sexual act. Many practitioners, when beginning sexual magic, have difficulty controlling the creative force. This is due to the poor circulation of vital energies.
As Swami Sivananda indicated, “Just as a goldsmith removes the impurities of gold by heating it in the hot furnace, by strongly blowing the blow-pipe, so also the Yogic student removes the impurities of the body and the Indriyas [the energetic roots of sensation] by blowing his lungs, i.e., by practising Pranayama.” As we explained, many practitioners in the ancient traditions of yoga would work with Pranayama for many years before working in a matrimony, precisely because to work with sexual magic, the practitioners should be firmly grounded and knowledgeable about how to transmute their energies as bachelors. It would be absurd for people who know nothing of transmuting their energies, practicing daily meditation, and working on the ego to begin sexual magic all at once. It is best if such persons learn pranayama in preparation for the greater mysteries of the fire, because pranayama helps to cleanse the impurities of the body and help the energy circulate properly. When the nadis are clean through the exercise of pranayama, the vital forces flow and rejuvenate the body and mind. In this manner, the sexual act is easier to take advantage of without risk of spilling the semen.
The word for wind in Sanskrit is Vayu. Vayu is a term for the element air in the body. Vayu apana relates to the bodily winds that help with the processes of excretion, urination, and menstruation, associated with the functions of the lower pelvis, the intestines, and the anus. Apana also relates to this part of the body, the energy associated with the abdomen, as well as the elimination of waste products from the body. Sivananda explained that with pranayama, we are uniting the prana from without with the apana within, mixing the vital energies in our breath with the vital energies of our coccyx and lower abdomen to slowly raise it to the mind. This process awakens sparks of the sleeping Kundalini.
We’ve included in this graphic an image of the main chakras of the body. Chakra literally means “wheel,” and the fly-wheels that Swami Sivananda references are the chakras. The chakras are vortexes of forces that flow by the power of prana, the vital breath or seminal energies. Chakras literally spin, like a water mill, when there is energy available, which is why Rumi, the great Sufi poet, stated:
"From the heart of the lovers, blood flows like a vast river. Our body is the windmill, and love, the water. Without water the mill cannot turn." —Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, Hidden Music
What waters make it possible for the chakras to spin? The sexual waters, the seminal energy. When yoked through pranayama, the chakras turn like a water mill, but if the seminal waters are ejaculated through lust, then the chakras remain dormant, asleep, incapacitated, without energy to circulate within them.
Prana, Christic energy, modifies into the tattvas, which are different condensations of this energy in the form of the main elements composing physical and spiritual nature. Through alternated breathing of our nostrils, we assimilate these modifications of energy in order to awaken consciousness.
"The respiration through the right nasal cavity is called Suria or Pingala. We cause through this respiration the ascension of the solar atoms from our seminal system.
"The respiration through the left nasal cavity is called Chandra or Ida. We cause through this respiration the ascension of the lunar atoms from our seminal system.
"We reinforce the Three Breaths of pure Akasha [the sacred sound and fires of Christ] with the exercises of Pranayama. These Three Breaths are combined with the solar and lunar atoms of our seminal system to awaken Devi Kundalini.
"Prana is the Vital Christ or Great Breath [the Ain Soph Aur]. That Vital Christ is modified into Akasha [the superior waters of Kabbalah and the fires of Da’ath], within which the Son, the First Begotten, the Purusha of every human being, is hidden.
"Akasha is modified into Ether, and the Ether is transformed into Tattvas. The Tattvas are the origin of fire, air, water, and earth. —Samael Aun Weor, Kundalini Yoga: The Mysteries of the Fire
These tattvas relate to the seven chakras in the following manner:
The four elements relate to our mind, heart, vitality, and body, or air, fire, water, and earth, respectively. Pranayama aids us in controlling the aerial nature of thought, the igneous powers of the heart, the aqueous nature of our vital energies, and the materiality of our earth, our physicality. While the four elements relate to our three brains and body in this way, the chakras have slightly different correlations as you see in this graphic.
Akasha is the primordial fire hidden within the cosmic space. Akasha is a force in nature that is divine, and can be designated by sound, light, and cognition. The power of the Akasha manifests in the throat, the Verb, through the alchemical knowledge of Da’ath.
Adi means light, relating to the prana, the Christic energy, which condenses and accumulates in the third eye chakra, Ajna, to develop spiritual insight, the subject of a future lecture. Samadhi tattva also relates to prana, since this is the power that grants omniscience and cosmic consciousness at the top of the head.
Conscious breathing, within Sufi schools, is synonymous with light, with illuminating the mind, the creation of the true human being. Regarding the intrinsic relationship of breath with light, Al-Qushayri wrote the following in his Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
"Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri was asked, “What is the origin of spiritual insight in the one who has it?” He answered, “It comes from the saying of the Most High, ‘And I breathed into him (Adam) of My Spirit’ (15:29).
"If someone’s share of this light is more perfect, his vision is wiser and his judgment based on his insight is more truer. Do you not see how the breathing of the Spirit into Adam made it necessary for the angels to prostrate before him? For the Most High said, ‘I formed him and I breathed into him of My Spirit, so fall down before him in prostration’ (15:29).”
"…In this mention of the breathing of the Spirit [Abu-l Hasan al-Nuri] was aiming to correct those who say that souls are uncreated. The situation is not as it might occur to the hearts of the weak. That to which this breathing (and union and separation) are properly attributed is liable to influence and alteration, which are signs of the transitoriness of created things. Yet God Glorious and Exalted has chosen the believers for perceptions and lights through which they come to possess insight. In essence, these are forms of the knowledge of God. This is the import of the Prophet’s saying, “The believer sees by the light of God”—that is, by a knowledge and inner vision for which God Most High has specially chosen him and by means of which He has distinguished him from others like him. To call these kinds of knowledge and perceptions “lights” is not an innovation, and to describe that process as “breathing” is not reaching far afield. What is intended is one’s created nature." —Al Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
The sexual energy creates insight, spiritual life. We create the soul through the sexual energy, a power that can produce experiences of astral projection, awakening within dreams, feats of jinn science, clarified perception, developed intuition and comprehension of problems, detachment from egotistical desires and worldliness, egotism, hatred, lightness of body and mind, health, vigor, etc. These are the different “lights” implied within Sufi language.
Pranayama and Sexual Magic in the Upanishads
The sacred Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads, also teach all this in synthesis. We are going to provide a commentary for the chapter 2, verses 6 and 8-17 from the Śvetāśvataropaniṣad, to emphasize the points we’ve previously made and to show some of the traditional basis for which this practice is elaborated.
We’ve included an image of Christ’s crucifixion in relation to this topic, because the cross is the sexual union of husband and wife through the vertical, phallic beam and the horizontal, uterine beam. Through union of masculine and feminine forces, the ego dies through the fire of the Kundalini and gives birth to the resurrected soul.
"Where the fire is rubbed, where the wind is checked, where the soma flows over, there the mind is born." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
When husband and wife sexually unite, their private parts rub and produce erotic fire. When their breathing is in check, controlled, when the prana is harnessed consciously, the seminal energies are transmuted.
The word soma means many things, such as body or plant juice, the latter being traditionally used as Vedic offerings during rituals. Soma is sometimes referred to as the drink or nectar of immortality, an ambrosia or milk of the gods. This is none other than the prana, the seminal energies.
The bodies of the soul are created through the alchemical cross, when the soma is flowing within the nadis or Sushumna canal. Soma literally means body in Greek and can refer to the solar bodies of tantrism.
"If a wise man holds his body steady with its three parts (chest, neck, and head) even, turns his senses with the mind inward to enter the heart, he will then in the boat of brahman [om] cross all the fearful torrents." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
Rubbing the fire of sexuality applies more so to a matrimony, but can refer to how individual yogis, who practice pranayama, awaken sparks of that fire in their spine through profound concentration and deep, unwavering prayer. In the same manner that a couple controls the breath and transmutes the soma, the prana, a bachelor or bachelorette performs transmutation on their own.
Pranayama must be performed with the chest, neck, and head steady, in a good posture. You cannot circulate the prana appropriately if your body is not firm, stable, and relaxed, with your head even with your torso and your spine straight.
What are the fearful torrents we must cross through pranayama? The assaults of lust, which have polluted our nadis and sexual waters. The boat of brahman is the ark of the covenant, the ark of Noah that carries us above the waters of degeneration in the mind.
"Compressing his breathings let him, who has subdued all motions, breathe forth through the nose with gentle breath. Let the wise man successfully restrain his mind, that chariot yoked with vicious horses [senses]." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
The Upanishads refer to the mind, emotions, vitality, and physical body as horses which the real Self, Atman, the Inner Buddha or charioteer, must control. He does this through the reins, his divine and human souls, through willpower. The senses also relate to the lower Sephiroth as well as how our sensual, material consciousness apprehends life.
"Let him perform his exercises in a place which is level, pure, free from pebbles, fire, and filth, delightful by its sounds, its water, and bowers, not painful to the eye, and is full of shelters and caves." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
I have known people who want to begin meditation while living in a filthy and dirty home. This is very difficult. The tidiness of our home reflects what we psychologically carry within. Your home should be your temple where you sit to practice, to devote yourself to God, your Being. Our practices are amplified when we dedicate a special room for our exercises of pranayama and meditation, since the energies we attract help to produce serenity and peace in our home. Pranayama cleans the mind and nadis, so to live in squalor will hinder our spiritual work, because the environment affects our practice, and vice versa.
"When yoga is being performed, the forms which come first, producing apparitions in brahman, are those of misty smoke, sun, fire, wind, fire-flies, lightnings, and a crystal moon." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
Students go through many experiences when pranayama is consistently practiced, frequently, every day, for prolonged periods of time. Remember the Sufi scripture I just read, that breathing is synonymous with lights? Smoke can refer to the cloudiness of the mind, which students apprehend when they initiate pranayama. They receive experiences from the internal planes that their skies, the mind, is filled with darkness. This is a crucial step to make, because it shows us what work must be done, and that we must persist in our discipline.
Sun, fire, wind, fire-flies, lightnings, and crystal moons represent different forms of light or insights we achieve through working with the creative energy.
"When, as earth, water, light, heat, and space arise, the fivefold quality of yoga takes place, then there is no longer illness, old age, or pain for him who has obtained a body, produced by the fire of yoga." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
Remember the chakras, the four elements, and the tattvas? These become amplified through pranayama, which produce longevity, health, youth, and life. The fire of yoga can relate to Tummo Yoga or inner heat yoga in Tibetan, representative of the work with the Kundalini.
"The first results of yoga they call lightness, healthiness, steadiness, good complexion, an easy pronunciations, sweet odor, and slight excretions. As a metal disc [mirror], tarnished by dust, shines bright again after it has been cleaned, so is the one incarnate person fulfilled and free from grief, after he has seen the real nature of the self [Atman]." —Śvetāśvataropaniṣad
Is your mind dull, torpid, dark, hard to control or perceive? Work with pranayama. The mind and heart are a mirror that need to be polished and cleansed through prana. In the words of Prophet Muhammad:
"There is an organ in the body that, if it is righteous, ensures that the whole system will be righteous; and if it is corrupt, the whole body will become corrupt. This organ is the heart.
"There is a polish for everything that takes away rust; and the polish for the heart is dhikr, the remembrance of Allah." ―Prophet Muhammad, The Hadith
“Guard your breaths against God Most High,” state the Sufis. When the mirror is clean, it reflects the genuine image of Atman, the Self, our Innermost God, so that we are free from pain and sorrow. Pranayama will help you with this.
Practical Applications and Benefits
Learning to control our breath aids in the yoking of the vital forces, but while I mentioned to you that prana is in the air and in our semen, our physical breath is only a vehicle for the forces we seek to manipulate.
"Pranayama is not, as many think, concerned solely with the breath; breath indeed has very little to do with it. Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real pranayama." ―Vivekananda, Raja Yoga
Circulating prana occurs through our willpower and imagination. Breathing is the vehicle through which we obtain the transmutation of our energies. While breath is a powerful and necessary component for our moment to moment existence, even more so are the faculties of perception, concentration, consciousness, attention, and prayer.
If you are performing pranayama but are not mindful of what you are doing, then you will not be successful. Pranayama involves working with each of the three brains of gnostic psychology, directing the energies consciously. “Wherever we direct attention, we expend creative energy” stated Samael Aun Weor. This is essential, since no practice is useful if we are not attentive of what we are doing.
Your mind, heart, and body must be relaxed and in control, which is not a state of rigidity, but calmness, composure, flexibility, and firmness. You must resolve to yourself to not needlessly move your body around during pranayama, nor let the mind wander to other things. You also must resolve to not let your heart distract you, but to devote yourself to profound prayer during your exercise. If you are thinking of other things while you are practicing, then you are not practicing. Likewise, if your heart is not at peace, if you are not praying to divinity to aid you, if your emotional center is filled with wrath, anger, or sentiment, ignoring the presence of divinity, you will find it very difficult to focus and have a good practice. Lastly, if your body can’t sit still, if it is agitated and nervous like an animal, constantly moving about, then you will not obtain stillness and the circulation of prana in your system, because the circulation of forces occurs when the waters of the body, heart, and mind are still.
Notice that when you cease throwing stones in a lake, the water gradually achieves stability and equilibrium; the surface becomes calm, whereby it can reflect the heavens above in a limpid, calm, and tranquil way. The same with pranayama and the mind. Your mind achieves stillness when you cease agitating it, by not feeding your desires. Pranayama also works to calm the mind when there is enough concentration and cognizance of what you are doing.
"And they have said, 'God created the hearts and made them mines of understanding of Him. After that He created the secret inner awarenesses and made them a place for declaring the Unity [which occurs once the multiplicity of egos are dead and the consciousness is unified in the Beloved, the Innermost]. Every breath that occurs without the guide of knowledge of God and the sign of Unity emerges from blind compulsion, and is a dead thing. The one to whom it belongs is accountable for it.'” —Al Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Here is how to perform a simple pranayama. Seated comfortably with your spine straight and neck and head relaxed, close your eyes and pray to your Divine Mother. Pray that she may help you transmute your energies to your mind and heart, to help you visualize and concentrate.
Imagine in your spine the two nadis Ida (Eve) and Pingala (Adam), connecting your gonads, testicles, or ovaries with your nostrils.
These nadis are polarized differently in men and women, as you can see in the following graphic.
• The lunar current, Ida (represented by Eve in the Bible), connects to the left nostril, characterized by lunar or silver atoms.
• The solar current, Pingala (represented by Adam in the Bible), connects to the right nostril, characterized by solar or bright, fiery yellow or golden atoms
In women this is reversed:
• The lunar current, Ida, Eve, connects to the right nostril
• The solar current, Pingala, Adam, connects to the left nostril
These polarities are switched in the different sexes because husband and wife, like positive and negative electrical currents, compliment and compensate for each other.
With your right hand, extend your forefinger and thumb while closing your other fingers into your palm. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale air through your left nostril. Take in as much air as you can without forcing your lungs or straining yourself. Breath naturally and relaxed.
Now close your left nostril with your forefinger, still holding the right nostril closed with your thumb. Retain the air as long as possible, again without straining your breath. Imagine the energy or prana of the air ascending to the brain through the respective nadi you are breathing through, which connects your nostril with the coccyx and gonads.
After retaining the air as long as possible, remove your thumb from your right nostril and exhale slowly, imagining the prana descending through the nadis connecting your head to your heart, with one nadi on each side of your face leading down to your chest.
Close your left nostril with your forefinger and inhale through your right nostril. Repeat the process of raising the prana to the brain through your inhalation, raising the energies of that nostril and nadi to the head. Retain the breath as long as possible by closing both nostrils with thumb and forefinger. Finally, lift your forefinger from your left nostril and exhale, imagining the prana descending against to your heart through the two nadis connecting your head to your heart, which descend from the face, down the throat, to your chest.
This process constitutes one pranayama. Perform seven pranayamas total. You can do more in accordance with your needs.
Here is some more practical advice for performing pranayama at home by the Master Sivananda:
"Pranayama can also be performed as soon as you get up from bed and just before Japa [mantra recitation] and meditation. It will make your body light and you will enjoy the meditation. You must have a routine according to your convenience and time.
"Do not shake the body unnecessarily. By shaking the body often the mind also is disturbed. Do not scratch the body every now and then. The Asana should be steady and as firm as a rock when you do Pranayama, Japa and meditation.
"Do not perform the Pranayama till you are fatigued. There must be always joy and exhilaration of spirit during and after the practice. You should come out of the practice fully invigorated and refreshed. Do not bind yourself by too many rules (Niyamas).
"Do not take bath immediately after Pranayama is over. Take rest for half an hour. If you get perspiration during the practice, do not wipe it with a towel. Rub it with your hand. Do not expose the body to the chill draughts of air when you perspire.
"You should not expect the benefits after doing it for 2 or 3 minutes only for a day or two. At least you must have 15 minutes’ daily practice in the beginning regularly for days together. There will be no use if you jump from one exercise to another every day." ―Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
When you perform pranayama, the important aspect of your breathing is retention. With inhalation, you want your lungs to take in a profound amount of air, in a relaxed and calm way, without forcing the lungs to expand beyond its limits. Your breathing should not be forced and loud, but silent and peaceful. I’ve known many people who make a lot of noise when performing pranayama, as if they were some kind of hydraulic engine. But nowhere in the teachings of yoga do we find any support for this tendency.
"Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound." —Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
“There should be no strain in any stage of Pranayama.” —Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
Pranayama is meant to relax the mind, heart, and body. Straining oneself is counterproductive and inhibits the free circulation of energy. With exhalation, your breathing should flow through your nostrils without noise. I know some people like to perform pranayama in a loud way, which is wrong. Breathing should be calm and natural, without force. There is more strength in relaxation than there is in bodily and mental exertion. This might seem counterintuitive for people in a culture that believe that one must conquer things with force. The opposite is most true for this practice: if you want to be effective in transmutation, tranquility and control is the key.
After your inhalations, you must retain the air as long as possible, again without forcing your lungs. Retention is the most important part of Pranayama, since this is how we internalize and accumulate energy within our etheric-physical laboratory in combination with willpower and imagination, visualization.
Your life is measured by how you control your breath, and breathing relates to how we modify and use sexual energy, the source of life.
"Regulation of breath is the stoppage of inhalation and exhalation." ―Patanjali
"Kumbhaka is retention of breath. Kumbhaka increases the period of life. It augments the inner spiritual force, vigour and vitality. If you retain the breath for one minute, this one minute is added to your span of life. Yogins by taking the breath to the Brahmarandhra at the top of the head and keeping it there, defeat the Lord of death, Yama, and conquer death. There should be no strain in any stage of Pranayama. Always inhale and exhale very slowly. Do not make any sound. A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths. Pranayama requires deep concentration and attention. Prana, mind, and virya (sexual energy) are under one sambhanda (connection). If you can control prana, then mind and virya and controlled by themselves. If you control the virya by remaining as an akhanda bramachari without emission of even a single drop of semen (sexual energy, whether male or female) for twelve years, then mind and prana are controlled by themselves. No Samadhi is possible unless Kundalini is awakened. The practice of Kumbhaka [breath retention] in Pranayama produces heat and thereby [sparks of] Kundalini [are] awakened and passes upwards along the Sushumna Nadi. The Yogic practitioner experiences various visions." —Swami Sivananda, The Science of Pranayama
To conclude, we will end with comments by Swami Sivananda, who expressed some of the benefits of pranayama. After having explained the technique, which we will practice together today at the end of this lecture, I will conclude with some explanations for why this is beneficial, since many students often write to us asking about some tangible, concrete results for working daily in this exercise.
"This body becomes lean, strong and healthy. Too much fat is reduced. There is lustre in the face. Eyes sparkle like diamonds. The practitioner becomes very handsome. Voice becomes sweet and melodious. The inner Anahata sounds are distinctly heard. The student is free from all sorts of diseases. He gets established in Brahmacharya. Semen gets firm and steady. The Jatharagni (gastric fire) is augmented. The student becomes so perfected in Brahmacharya that his mind will not be shaken even if a fairy tries to embrace him. Appetite becomes keen. Nadis are purified. Vikshepa is removed and the mind becomes one-pointed. Rajas and Tamas are destroyed. The mind is prepared for Dharana and Dhyana. The excretions become scanty. Steady practice arouses the inner spiritual force and brings in spiritual light, happiness and peace of mind. It makes him an Oordhvareto-Yogi. All psychic powers are obtained. Advanced students only will get all the benefits." ―Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga
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