Exploring mind over matter, A S Dandekar explores the interconnectedness of mind and matter in the light of our Yogashastras
"After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense."
W. Heisenberg, German Physicist
The last two centuries have seen physical science progress by leaps and bounds and impact the world radically. The introduction of several energies and utilitarian inventions have altered the way people live and work. It all began with steam which was initially used to drive locomotive engines and later on, to operate turbines for producing electricity.
The mode of generating and distributing electricity through hydel power, that came next, not only helped design very functional machinery but also brought about a major shift in general existence. The discovery of hydrocarbon fuels like petrol, diesel, etc., revolutionised the transportation system. Interestingly, it is observed that natural resources like coal, petrol, and diesel derive their power from the very basic source of energy, i.e., the Sun.
Most modern discoveries and inventions originated from the West, as the scientists explored the outer physical world. These life-enriching valuable finds, irrespective of their place of origin, carried with them no labels of either language, race, or nation, the only aim being the betterment of the world.
The East, especially India, is considered to be the birthplace of spiritual science. Yogis, rishis, munis, and saints or the spiritual scientists explored, primarily, the inner sphere and its relation to the outer world. Let us examine some of the basic principles and their applications from the viewpoint of our Yogashastras, which have a very scientific approach. According to this shastra or study, there are the following basic manifestations:
Aakash (Space/Ether) It implies the sky. However, here it has a different connotation and suggests a very fine and subtle substance prevailing all over the universe. It is that principal element from which all other matter known to us as solid, liquid, and gaseous, have evolved. Modern scientists refer to Aakash as ether.
Prana (Life force energy) Here Prana does not mean jiva or life entity as one may generally comprehend. It is the universal energy, the life force that permeates the Universe at all levels and manifests in different forms like heat, light,and magnetism.
Chitta (Mind) It is necessary to understand the nature of the mind. Commonly, we know the Mind to be the seat of thoughts; the Mind is where the thoughts arise. Contrary to what one may think, the Mind is not the brain. The brain is an organ located in the head and serves as the centre of the nervous system in the human body. The Mind operates at different levels and like Aakash and Prana, the Chitta or Mind is omnipresent.
Related to the consciousness at various levels, it exists in inanimate objects as it does in living beings—all plants, animals, and humans. As compared to other beings, it is more developed in humans, with evolvement being the highest in spiritual masters.
Let’s take this example: When a seed is planted in the soil, it absorbs water and nutrition from the soil, and as it slowly sprouts, the roots come first, followed by the stems, and with further nourishment from the sun and air, leaves, flowers and fruits start growing. The tiny seed, apart from having a physical form, also has Prana (Energy) and a little bit of Chitta (Mind). It knows how to obtain and process water, minerals, sunlight, and other elements needed for its growth.
This is true for all living beings as well as non-living things like minerals, liquids, as well as gases. It is there in the form of sensation and affinity. When hydrogen and oxygen are combined, two atoms of hydrogen mix with one atom of oxygen to form water (H2O). Scientists describe this as affinity. This is also a kind of expression of the Mind.
How it works
According to yogic philosophy, atoms are formed by the action of Prana under the direction of the Mind. An atom is really a whirlpool of Ether formed by the action of Prana upon Aakash i.e. the action of Energy on Ether. Aakash itself is very superfine and frictionless. Highly evolved yogis and masters possessed the knowledge that could turn iron to gold by simply transforming the vibrations of the elements. As every physical substance is a combination of Aakash, Prana, and Chitta (Ether, Energy, and Mind), people in command over these can perform wonderful miracles. With the diligent practice of various types of pranayamas (breathing techniques) and dhyana (meditation), it is easy for yogis to achieve complete mastery over Prana and Chitta.
There are seven energy centres or main chakras that align the spine in the human body starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. These energy centres, being subtle, are not visible either to the human eye or any machine. To visualise a chakra in the body, one may imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet. This invisible energy, called Prana, is the vital life force that energises all the organs and keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.
Mind over matter
The life force or Prana flows through the three nadis or channels known as Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. These nadis form the connecting link between the physical and the subtle body. Yogis energise all the chakras by directing the Kundalini Shakti through the Sushumna Nadi and raising it to the seventh chakra called the Sahasrara Chakra or the Crown Chakra, located at the top of the head. Once accomplished, they can attain the highest position and gain complete control over Prana and Mind. However, it is notable that they do not do this with any selfish motive or to gain supremacy by performing miracles. In fact, they are strictly advised against display and misuse of their power.
Atman (Spirit) is a spark from Paramatman, God, Parabrahma, or the Absolute—whatever one may address it as. It is believed that Paramatma, God, manifested in the form of the Universe through Aakash, Prana, and Chitta.
According to the Vedanta philosophy, “Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahma”: everything is the expression of Brahma. It is the only true reality. All other things we observe are relative, illusory, and not real.
Spiritual persons the world over, following different religions and belonging to different regions aim to reach that Supreme Power—God. In the process, they do acquire some authority over Prana and Mind, knowingly or unknowingly. They then happen to perform, what one may call, miracles. This comes but naturally, to many. The universal meeting ground of physical science and spiritual science is Prana or the life force energy.
According to modern science, everything in the world is nothing but a form of energy. All solids, liquids and gases are, in reality, energy blocks. The truth of science and the truth of yoga do not need to be at odds, as they belong to two different levels of understanding. Spiritual science can, in fact, guide physical scientists a step further by introducing to them Chitta (Mind) and its relationship with energy. It could be a common platform of work for scientists from both fields.
How to increase Prana
How can one benefit from the knowledge of spiritual science or yogic science? In several ways actually, health being the foremost. We get Prana from breathing. When our internal organs receive a properly balanced supply of pranic energy, it facilitates proper functioning of these organs and thereby ensures overall good health. Adequate sunlight and proper diet are the other important factors. Different types of yogasanas, bandhas, mudras and pranayamas can increase our Prana Shakti manifold and equally distribute it to all parts of the body. Negative thoughts obstruct the flow of pranic energy. For want of enough supply of Prana, vital bodily organs malfunction and ailments occur. Acupressure, acupuncture, and pranic healing—the current trends of healing— help restore the supply of pranic energy in the body.
Prana and Chitta are very closely related. Thoughts arise in our mind by the action of Prana. In Sanskrit, it is called vritti. Maharshi Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, defines yoga as “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha” It means that yoga is the removing of the fluctuations of the mind. Thoughts affect every living being, carrying with it some force akin to magnetic waves. Yoga teaches us the art of training the mind and reaching a state of ‘no- mind’ or thoughtlessness so that one can relax and have a balanced disposition. Some yogis can even see and read the thought patterns.Thoughts attract similar thoughts and further strengthen them. Depending on the intensity and nature, they can prove to be either productive or destructive. The intensity of repeated thoughts is very high.
If we enter a space in which an argument or a quarrel has taken place, we feel a certain heaviness in the air and also find it uncomfortable. It's because every space has vibrations, and our thoughts, words, and actions contribute to it. Whereas, when we visit some places of worship, ashrams, or holy places we get a very good, almost blissful, feel as they carry very good thought vibrations.
Regular practice of meditation, japa (chanting), satsang, and positive affirmations will ensure our mind is healthy and active. Pranayama is an important tool that helps in quietening the mind and keeping it focussed.
It is heartening and encouraging to know that in current times our spiritual science and yoga are getting their due recognition on the domestic front as well as worldwide. Yoga has found acceptance in the UN too, and June 21st is celebrated as International Yoga Day the world over. As mentioned at the outset, our Yogashastras or spiritual science is indeed the greatest gift of our country to the world. Once the scientific approach is understood, people will be more inclined to accept and practise it. Yoga, after all, has super benefits for all.
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