What is “Prana”?
“Prana”, also called universal energy, the energy of life, ki, qi, or divine energy, is the substance behind all creation.
It is the substance that allows objects to live in an inert state, as well as the essence of what makes living things live and move.
It is the one cosmic principle, the fundamental of life. Without it, nothing exists.
What evidence is there for the existence of Prana?
What is the most obvious evidence of prana?
On a scientific level, Kirlian photography which was discovered in 1939, shows that everything, even inanimate objects, have an aura that has nothing to do with lighting or a trick of the eyes. It is evidence that there is some ‘force’ within and behind things.
More concrete science that is publicly accepted, also points towards the existence of prana. On a subatomic level, electronics move with velocity. How do they move of their own accord and how do they seem to never run out of the energy that allows them to move? Electrons do borrow energy from one another, but if there were no sustained energy that was more particulate than the electron’s potential and kinetic energy, the universe would collapse from lack of energy as each electron would borrow from every other electron and everything would cease to exist.
There is also significant research that shows that one can observe the flow of prana, and even control its movement. “Energy healing” is a common practice today. The fundamental idea behind energy healing is that disease creates a state of low energy or prana in the diseased part of the body (or in the diseased mind or emotions), and that by guiding prana through subtle practice and concentration, one can intensely increase the rate of healing and even cure the disease. There is a lot of research that credits this theory.
The Spiritual Aspect of Prana – Its Origin and Purpose
How did prana come to be? Why does it exist?
It has been said, after deep contemplation by millions of people of the past and today, that the universe existed as a tiny contraction of existence no larger than a pin-point billions of years ago. This thinking is also mirrored by modern science in the ‘big bang theory’.
Prana existed in a state of non-activity and self-union. It was prana resting within itself, with no will or intention.
Then, at some point, this consciousness decided to express a will. It said something in the order of ‘I am one. Why not be many? I exist without movement. Why not move?
And so, there was an explosion of consciousness and the fabric of the universe expanded instantaneously to create creation. Prana started experiencing itself as myriad forms. By becoming many, it became self-cognizant, and fundamental meaning came into existence. For what Is the point of something capable of existing at all, if it cannot experience itself? It is like diamonds buried beneath the earth. Better it be on pendants and wedding rings.
The Spiritual Aspect of Prana – Conscious Spirituality
All forms of spirituality are an act of seeking. It is the seeking of prana to experience itself in a more deep and thorough way. Only through refining its self-consciousness can it give meaning to its own existence. That is the mystery of existence.
Those practices that deal directly with prana, such as Yoga or Qi Gong, seek to unite prana with itself in the most conscious way. They seek to first be aware of prana, then direct this awareness – which is nothing but prana in itself – towards prana more and more over time.
This results in ultimate self-cognizance. Illumination. Or from the perspective of the universal consciousness, self-illumination.
The Spiritual Aspect of Prana: Ancient Indian Texts and Traditions
Ancient Indian texts and understandings are very close to this practice and comprehension of spirituality.
They have many terms that do not exist in Western languages, for ascribing meaning and giving direction to aspirants who wish to be closer to the great mystery of the universe.
“Chitta” is the self-conscious aspect of prana. It is consciousness. It is the evolution of prana to the state where it can cognize itself. Prana is the substance of chitta. Chitta is beingness, awareness, and knowledge – the memory, present, and future of prana as self-awareness.
Both prana and consciousness must exist for life to exist. Prana on its own existed at some point. It was a state of existence where nobody lived. Then it became conscious of itself – and living beings were born. In between prana and chitta is “vasana” or desire. Without the desire to become self-aware, there would have been no direction in the evolution of prana that made it conscious. A living being is called a “prani”.
Humans as Prana
The quantum of prana of each individual is indicated by the power of their personality and depth of their souls – which is a direct reflection of their capacity to wield prana. Some people are more fascinating, commanding, and fascinating due to the level of their prana, the strength of their self-consciousness, and the length of the memory of their consciousness of themselves. This is not to be confused with ordinary memory, but the deeper memory of the soul wherein it remembers when it came to be and for how long it has been.
How is our Prana impacted by us?
Positive thoughts, higher emotions and yogic practices generate higher levels of Prana and obliterate pockets of low Prana in our systems.
On the other hand, negative or dull and repetitive thoughts, base emotions and heavy drinking or smoking or perverted sexual conduct greatly reduce our level of prana and create pockets of low prana that become blockages in our systems.
When the sexual urge and its energy are transformed from base carnal desire to love, Prana is conserved within our system and becomes ‘Ojas’ – a subtler form of energy. This energy accumulates in the brain and becomes a force for creative and spiritual development.
Yoga and the ‘Yogi’
In its essence, Yoga is a conscious attempt at connecting with spirit and transforming oneself into a more pranic being. Thus, there are many forms of Yoga – ‘bhakti’ or devotion, ‘karma yoga’ which has to do with performing acts in daily life that align oneself with prana and the higher principle of existence, ‘jnan’ yoga which involves meditating to directly illuminate the cosmic principle with one’s mind, and so on and so forth. A ‘yogi’ is one who practices some form of Yoga.
A yogi stores an abundance of prana within himself, just as a battery stores electricity.
The luminosity of his prana radiates strength, health and wellness to all around him.
Interactions of Prana in everyday life
At the material level one also receives prana from the environment – food, water, sun and the air.
Ancient Indian scriptures categorize foods by the quality of their prana. There are three kinds of food: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Sattvic food has a neutral, healthy prana that nourishes the body deeply and affects the mind and emotions in a gentle, positive way. Tamasic foods have a less desirable amount of prana and affect the body-mind by dulling and slowing it. Rajasic foods also have less prana, but due to the way it impacts the body-mind, they are classified as foods that cause restlessness and agitation.
Pure air is essential not only for oxygen, but for the prana it provides.
The quality of air that one breathes affects one’s energy level directly.
The exhilaration and vitality one experiences near a waterfall or high in the mountains is because the quantum of prana in the air is significantly higher in these places.
On the other hand, when one is exposed to pollution or recycled or ‘canned’ air, the energy level quickly begins to decline.
Working with Prana
Prana is not received solely from external sources; it is also self-generated and its quality can be refined and directed. One can work with one’s own prana to enhance vitality and strength, cure diseases, boost capability and efficiency, and evolve to a higher consciousness.
The breath is the external manifestation of prana. A slower, longer exhalation indicates that prana is being more efficiently utilized by the body – more prana is being consumed from each atom of oxygen.
This is why yogic practices attach importance to different breathing practices, called ‘pranayama’.
The Brain and Prana
In the biological system, the brain uses the most prana. If the brain is not supplied sufficiently, the mind becomes restless and disturbed, constantly engaging in negative thoughts. This explains why when one is hungry or ill, one becomes irritable. The level of prana in the brain is greatly reduced.
As one works with prana through pranayama, its quality and quantum increases. The average human utilizes only one-tenth of his brain. Pranayama activates the dormant brain because huge amounts of prana are required to activate the whole brain and this practice is an enabler. Thus it awakens the genius in any individual.