“Without breath we cannot live.  What we breathe during normal time is different from manipulation of our breath during breathing exercises.  When breathing is deep and slow, you are bound to be active.  When your breath is shallow and fast, you are bound to be sedentary. If you breathe in the proper way, your prana will become more potent, which would cause your kundalini to rise.  In a nutshell, your spirituality begins with good breathing techniques. Breathing pattern is always related to your eating pattern.  Fruits, fresh vegetables, dry fruits, honey, milk products are all good for health. 

“Generally speaking you should be breathing around twelve times a minute, both inhalation and exhalation included. If you breathe slowly, lesser than ten times a minute, your mind will become calm, and if it exceeds more than twenty times, your mind will become agitated.  If the mind is calm, you do not have many thoughts and if your mind is agitated, there will be clash of thoughts, making your mind incapable of taking right decisions. If you seriously want to pursue spirituality, the primary requirement is to control your breath and with the help of controlled breath, you begin to control your mind.  God can be realised only in a calm and purified mind. 

“The level of your mind can be studied scientifically.  Scientists can evaluate your mind with instruments and yogis can evaluate your mind without any instruments.  They can penetrate and read your mind and aura.  You cannot hide anything from a yogi.  He will find out. There is a direct connection between your mind, your breathing and your brain.  Your brain functions according to the state of your mind and your mind according to the quality of your breath.  Your brain also pulsates.  Pulsation is an important aspect of creation, as anything without pulsation becomes inert.  An inert object cannot cause creation and as you know well that the brain is the most important component of our activities.  Without activity, there cannot be creation.

“Let us take a scientific study of human brain. It is always better to synthesize science and spirituality.  During active state, your brain pulsates more and in the deep sleep state, your brain pulsates less.  When you run you gasp for breath and when you are sedentary, you breathe slowly.  When you are in tension, you breathe hard.  From the way you breathe, a yogi can evaluate you. During your active state your brain pulsates around fifteen to thirty five times per second.  Please note that it is per second and not per minute.  Imagine how fast your brain could be functioning when you are in fully active state.  This pattern of waves is called beta waves.  Even though you are awake, you may not be fully active.  You could be relaxing, but not sleeping.  During this time the pulsation of the brain comes down to around twelve times per second.  This state is called alpha state and this is the state that is important for all the spiritual aspirants.  This is the state where you can begin your meditation, make positive affirmations and divine visualizations.  From the state of alpha, you move to theta state, where the brain pulsates five or six times per second.  This is the state your clairvoyance begins to operate. There is an ultimate state of deep sleep known as delta state.  This is to do with your consciousness and all out of body experiences happen only in this state.  Here the brain hardly pulsates, may be two or three times per second. If you are blessed with a dreamless sleep, your delta wave may even go down to one, but it cannot be zero.  If it is zero, then you are dead. 

“But how do you bring down pulsation of the brain from higher to lower numerals.  You can practice spirituality only in beta state and emerge as a yogi in theta state.  These states are nothing but the waves generated in the brain.  The state of brain can be altered with the help of breathing exercises called pranayama. The air that we inhale is different from prana.  Prana is the vital force that is essential for life, like the air that we breathe in.  Air is available in plenty in the atmosphere. But the source of prana is restricted to sun, air and earth.  Air cannot go beyond the lungs, whereas prana is absorbed through different parts of the body called as chakras.  Chakras are like wheels and predominantly psychical in nature.  They are not totally psychical in nature as these chakras are also related to certain endocrine glands and clusters of nerves.  You will know more about this in due course. By manipulating your breath, you can increase the level of prana in your body.  Both air and prana are required for our sustenance, but to control the mind, control of breath is required than prana.  Prana is required to keep the energy body active, as without proper energy body, your physical body cannot function effectively.  Energy body is outside your physical body.  Your physical body is between your energy body and your subtle body.  Your energy body is ethereal in nature and can be viewed through clairvoyant eyes.  Every yogi has clairvoyant eyes. 

“In our normal breathing we do not inhale air to the full capacity of our lungs.  The average capacity of human lungs is around six litres.  This varies between men and women.  Men have more capacity and women have lesser capacity.  During our normal breathing, we never inhale to fill the entire lungs. Assuming that you have lungs of six litre capacity, you inhale to fill up hardly 60%.  In the same when you exhale, you do not breathe out the entire inhaled air.  Let us understand this in a better way.  Your lung capacity is 100.  During your normal breathing, you inhale to fill up only 60% capacity.  When you exhale, you are supposed to exhale the entire inhaled amount of 60%.  But you do not exhale the entire 60%, but exhale only 50% retaining the balance 10% in the lungs itself.  Thus the lungs hold the impure air within and mix it with the freshly inhaled air.  Thus the entire air in the lungs is contaminated.  This is where breathing exercises come to your rescue. 

“You have already been told about abdominal breathing, also known as duodenal breathing.  Abdominal breathing is one of the best ways to inhale to fill up the entire lungs and exhale the entire impure air, leaving nothing in the lungs.  Instead of inhaling and exhaling in quick successions, if you hold your breathe for a few seconds in the lungs, purification of blood happens thoroughly. With this brief introduction, let us know proceed to some practice.

“Sit erect.  Your spinal cord should be erect with your head slightly tilted backwards. How far you should tilt your head backwards depends upon the tension in your front neck area (back of the neck is known as nape of the neck).  There should be no tension in your neck area. If there is tension in the neck area, it could cause stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Now inhale deeply as slow as you can by pushing your diaphragm down.  In order to push your diaphragm down, you have to inflate your abdomen.  Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale very slowly by compressing your abdomen.  When you compress your abdomen, diaphragm moves up causing the constriction of lungs.  This ensures that all the air you have inhaled is expelled. Your entire concentration should be on your breath alone.  You should not be attentive to any sound.  You should be comfortably seated.  You should not change your posture, once you are seated.   Ease your mind and enjoy your breathing.  Pranayama should not be practiced on closed doors or air-conditioned rooms.  There should be plenty of natural air around.  You should have an empty stomach. I have already told you about your eating pattern.  You should keep your body relaxed without any tension in any part of the body.  The entire body should be relaxed.  Any tension in any part of the body will block the movement of prana. 

“You should formulate a pattern for your breathing exercise. Always begin with kapalbhati. Kapala means skull and bhati means light.  This pranayama cleanses the brain and illuminates it. Inhale through both the nostrils. Do not hold and exhale rapidly through the nostrils. During inhalation, your duodenum should go down, so that air can fill your entire lungs.  During exhalation, pull your abdomen towards you, so that the entire air inside the lungs is eliminated.  You can do this for about 10 to 15 rounds.  In the initial few rounds, expel with force and later learn to expel slowly.  Your concentration during this pranayama should be on the point between your two eyebrows. This place is called ajna chakra or the third eye.  You should not do this more than 15 times per session” Baba finished and asked us to perform this for the next few minutes.

“The next is nadi sodhana.  Nadi refers to innumerable nerves in our body and sodhana means cleansing.  By doing this pranayama, you can cleanse your nervous system. Keep your left hand comfortably on your lap.  Now close your right nostril with your right thumb exhale all the remaining air in the lungs through the left nostril.  While closing the right nostril with the right thumb, keep your index and middle fingers in the ajna chakra and the ring and little fingers by the side of your left nostril.  After exhaling through your left nostril, inhale through your left nostril.  Do not remove your thumb from your right nostril.  Now close your left nostril.  After a couple of seconds, remove your thumb and exhale through the right nostril.  Again inhale through right nostril, hold for a few seconds and exhale through left nostril.  This forms one round.  The important aspect of this pranayama is that both inhalation and exhalation should be of same duration.  If you take more time in exhalation and inhalation, then it means you are improving.  Never hold the breath for long.  Maximum permissible limit is to the count of five.”  He asked us to repeat the exercise.

“Our next exercise is to keep the body cool in warm climatic conditions and keep the body warm in cold climatic conditions.  You take this place, Haridwar.  The temperature varies from 40+ degrees to 5 degree Celsius.  Let us first take shitala pranayama. Shitala means cooling.  Now fold your tongue making a U in the middle of the tongue for the air to travel through and extend your tongue outside your mouth.  Now inhale air through the folded tongue, which will cause sssssss sound.  Bring your tongue back to the normal position and close your mouth holding the breath for a few seconds within and exhale very slowly through both the nostrils.  This forms one round. When you inhale air through the folded tongue, you will feel the cold air going in.  Visualise that the cold air that you breathe in cools your brain.  This will keep your body cool when the climate is hot outside.

“Even though kapalbhati heats the body, surya bheda is the best one for heating the body.  Surya refers to the sun and bheda means breaking through.  This is a simple exercise.  Close your left nostril with your right little and ring fingers. Now inhale through your right nostril, close the right nostril with your thumb and hold for a few seconds and exhale through the right nostril.  Remember that both inhalation and exhalation happens only through your right nostril.  If you inhale through your right nostril, your body is heated and if you inhale through your left nostril, your body is cooled.  If you inhale and exhale through both the nostrils, your body temperature can be maintained at a particular level.

“These are the major breathing exercises.  There are plenty of other exercises that are only variants of these basic exercises.  Now you can practice and we will meet in the evening.  Once you are done with your routine, you can visit the city temples.” Baba got up and left for his room. 

The cold weather is far from over now.  I was told that we should practice till seven in the morning.  It is quarter past six now.  We practiced pranayama for another forty five minutes. I started learning everything easily.  I have no problems in communicating with other mutt mates.  The three men who are employed there have begun food preparations.  We have a systematic menu.  As soon as we finish our bath, we are served with a cup of hot cow’s milk.  No sugar is added.  At about eleven in the morning, we have our lunch.  In lunch we have dhall, roti, green salads, rice, one curry and curd.  Dhall and roti are delicious.  Curd is thick.  Curry is made of any green vegetables, not deeply fried.  Generally boiled and fried lightly.  Not much of oil is mixed. A spoon of ghee is also served along with rice and dhall.  Some days we have sambar. They add only green chillies.  They do not use red chillies at all.  They use more pepper.  Generally, the food is very good with less salt. By four in the evening, they serve hot milk.  By seven in the evening a bowl of fruits is served.  No rice or wheat in the night.  By nine in the night we have another cup of hot milk. There is no restriction in quantity.

I have not much of work to do in the mutt.  Guruji was not to be seen from the morning.  I thought that he should have gone to Haridwar city.  I have decided to take a walk to the city and I left the mutt after informing my colleagues.  I wanted to take bath in the Ganges again.  The crowd is not much because of the chilly weather.  After remaining immersed in the river for about half an hour, I came back to the steps and sat there for a few minutes.  You have to walk down a few steps to the river.  The steps are neatly made of rocks and well maintained.  There are a number of Shiva and Vishnu temples on the banks of the river. Temples, though small should be existing for centuries.  I won’t say that temples are well maintained.  But this is what they can do.  People flock the temples after taking bath.  Elsewhere it is said that none should visit temples with wet clothes on.  But going in with wet clothes is only for their convenience.  For example, I have not taken any change of clothes.  Obviously, I have to go with wet clothes to the temples.  There are many people like me.  Priests of the temples do not care for them as they do not give him any money.  Not because they don’t want to, but they do not have money.  They are monks.  They do not accept money from anybody.  There are several ashrams where food is served free.  They sleep in any place they like.  They do not talk to anybody.  A very old person was observing me going to the temple.  When I returned from the temple, he called me and asked me to sit by his side. He looked at me very carefully.  He looked above my head and smiled to himself.

“One day you will become a great spiritual teacher.  I can’t say that you would become a spiritual guru.  But you are born to serve the humanity.  You are going to have spiritual realization in another few days.  You will have the vision of Shiva in His full effulgence.  At that time, you will faint.  You will remain in that state for sometime till a girl of nine years will come and wake you up. The girl was your father in your present birth.  From that day, you will undergo a huge transformation.  You will not be the same Shankara.  You will not return to your village.  You will remain only in Himalayas till your last breath.  Your association with Himalayas has just begun.” After having said this he walked into the crowd and I tried to follow him, but, in vain. 

I am now confused.  It is a difficult choice to make, either to believe him or not to believe him.  I have my guru and now Baba.  They would have known my future.  But they have not told me anything like this.  I sat again in the steps of the river seeing the blessings of Mother Ganges. Thoughts about my place, my rocky bench, my mother, and my land riddled my mind and disturbed me a lot. At the same time, I begin to enjoy my spiritual life. I thought that at this point I should not be distracted from my spiritual life.  I walked back to the mutt, this time watching the buildings and not the river.  Most of the buildings are pretty old and remain uncared. Almost at every building men with saffron clothes were either sleeping or chattering.  These places are not like the mutt I live.  Not only in these places, but also in the main city of Haridwar, there are a lot of men with saffron robes calling themselves as swamis or babas. Form their very looks one can say that they are not into spiritual path.  Most of them use drugs and drinks. They cause nuisance to the pilgrims.  There are more bogus swamis than the true ones.  It is difficult for a common man to differentiate between the real and unreal.  I recollected how Baba was saying that a true yogi can dissect a person and divulge everything about him.

The time should be close to eleven, and we will be served our lunch.  The words of that person were repeatedly reverberating in my mind. I gradually recollected his form.  I have missed something important in him, but I am not sure what I have missed. I thought that I should discuss this with guruji.  I have not developed a close rapport with Baba yet, like the one I have developed with my guruji.  But I was curious to know the relationship between Baba and guruji, which I wanted to know from guruji.

When I reached the mutt, guruji was waiting outside anxiously.  He appeared relaxed on seeing me.  When I met him, he told me that Baba wants to meet me.  I became jittery.  Probably he might have known about my fortuitous meeting with that man in the temple. At the entrance of the mutt, there is a tap.  We should enter the mutt only after washing our feet, hands and mouth.  At the entrance, instead of footrest, there is a dried gunny bag.  We have to dry out our feet before entering inside.  After observing all these formalities, I looked at guruji signalling that I am ready to meet Baba.  Guruji led me to Baba’s room.  We quietly stood before Baba’s room and Baba was in a deep meditative state.  Fire was burning in the pit in front of him.  We stood there for sometime.  Without opening his eyes Baba asked us to come in.  We entered and sat by his side.  The time could be close to eleven in the morning, the time for lunch at the mutt.  I was hungry.  Whenever you have river bath, your hunger is bound to increase.  If you take cold water bath, your hunger will increase marginally.  When you take hot water bath, you tend to doze off. Water works on our nervous system.  If you have headache, you can have hot and cold water bath alternatively ending up with cold water.  Your headache will be gone in a few minutes.

“Where did you go?” Baba asked me.

“I had bath in Ganges and went to Shiva temple.  Outside the temple, I met an old man.  He was talking to me for a couple of minutes and nothing else.”

“What did the old man say” asked Baba

I repeated what he had said. 

“So you are going to be a spiritual teacher. Being a true spiritual teacher is not that easy.  It is a long process and you should have complete knowledge about every aspect of spirituality.  There are very few true spiritual teachers in the world today. Divine forces are trying their best to create true spiritual teachers.  They are not able to succeed as the divine forces do not have the power to alter the destiny either of this world or its inhabitants, though they wanted to.  The present day world is proceeding towards self annihilation.  When the evil forces predominate, positive energy gets depleted.  Depletion of positive energy leads to serious of actions beginning from depleted prana.  Depleted prana causes various ailments, ill health and ultimate death. It is not necessary that one should do criminal acts to produce negative energies. Mere thought of negativities is enough to change the entire atmosphere around you bad.  Thoughts are highly potent than actions.  Thoughts cause desires and unfulfilled desires cause depletion of energy.  Though the sun is bright, dark clouds prevent the light of the sun.  In the same way, though positive energies are prevalent, too much of negative energy outdo the available positive energy. Negativism is more powerful than positivism. Negativism is called as demons and positivism is called as gods.  Gods should always prevail over the demons in order to maintain an orderly living.  

(to be continued)