Ch.3, v. 3d, subtle-breath (prāṇa), time

Ch.3, v. 3d      Haṭhayogapradīpika             subtle-breath (prāṇa), time

 “Emptiness is the pathway for prāṇa (subtle breath). For that reason it the principal path. Because of it, the mind does not depend on anything. Likewise (tadā), time (kālasya) is cheated (vañcanam) [of its effect].”

प्राणस्य शून्यपदवी तदा राजपथायते ।

तदा चित्तं निरालम्बं तदा कालस्य वञ्चनम् ॥ ३ ॥

prāṇasya śūnyapadavī tadā rājapathāyate |

tadā cittaṁ nirālambaṁ tadā kālasya vañcanam || 3 ||

Rev. Dr John Dupuche, is a Catholic priest, and Yogi Matsyendranath is from the Nath Yoga tradition. Father John and Yogi present teachings from their contrasting traditions, using as their starting point verses from the Haṭha-Yoga-Pradīpika.

These teachings are also made available by YouTube on

The first half line of Haṭhayogapradīpika 3.3 reads “Emptiness is the pathway of prāṇa (subtle breath).” It is followed by three further half lines, each starting with the word tadā, which has a number of meanings: ‘then’, ‘therefore,’ ‘because of it’, ’as a result’. In other words, the rest of the couplet elucidates the significance of the fundamental idea, that ‘Emptiness is the pathway for prāṇa.

We have come to the fourth half line of this couplet, and third effect of the teaching that the emptiness is the principal path for prāṇa. In this session, I would like to emphasise the third consequence: “Likewise, time is cheated [of its effect] (tadā kālasya vañcanam).”


Our practice is to become empty in the fullest way. Then it happens, as by magic, that prāṇa begins to manifest itself and have its effect. We receive the breath which arises spontaneously, and let it find the place where it wishes to operate. We do not control it, for subtle-breath springs from the absence of resentment and craving. The fire clears its way before it and leads to emptiness; the emptiness invokes the fire. Paradoxically the prāṇa enables us to allow the prāṇa to circulate and to have its effects.

It enhances and invigorates the faculties, like the light of dawn which makes the lotus flower open and show its beauty. The fire of the rising prāṇa invigorates the chakras and the faculties. It enlivens and brings to fullness. It is transfiguring.

It will also heal those parts of our soul and body that are sad or traumatised, depressed or cold. The power of this fire acknowledges and accepts, and ultimately turns the evil into good, so powerful is its transforming effect. As a result our thoughts and our mind open up, our heart begins to stir and we learn to love, we are freed of our inhibitions, we are softened and brought to peace. There is forgiveness and compassion.

It is a healing of our own trauma but also a healing of wounds that others have received. Thus, by allowing the prāṇa to circulate, we heal not only ourselves but all the long line of the wounded in history past and of history future. This is because we are not confined to one time or other; we are present to every time, we are eternal because of the fire in the void.

The fire which burns all up at the end of time occurs now. It is not the fire of time, that the inherent instability of things which makes things come and go. It is the fire which destroys time itself. It is the transforming fire which turns all into light and which purifies everything.


The text states that time (kāla) is cheated (vañcanam), a trick is played on time. Time is the source of all things and also their destroyer. It is the origin and end, and seems inexorable. Time seems to be all victorious, locking people in their experience, unable to shake off the trauma and fearful of what might happen. The threat of reincarnation and the endless cycle of time hangs over the human race. But the supremacy of time is overcome with the arrival of prāṇa, and can no longer operate. Time has been deprived of its victims. The inexorable path to death is halted. This spirit of life here restores us to our youth, or rather makes us live in a way that youth never knew, for youth is a brief flowering that is doomed to fade.

This fire that springs from the void, is more than the ‘fire of youth’, the ‘fire in the belly’, the ‘fire of passion’. They are lesser forms of ‘breath’ and are subject to time. They are limited outcomes of the prāṇa and lead give a hint of prāṇa’s power,but they are surpassed by the ultimate infinite prāṇa. This fire, this breath is able to do all. It is able to move mountains. So the practice is to feel the life-giving, the firing breath in the body and to let it go where it will.

We can with more deliberation focus the breath on certain parts of the body or mind or memory. If there is sadness, breathe into it the power of the transforming breath. If there is a physical injury or pain, breathe the transforming spirit into it. Ultimately the breath will take over and spontaneously go where it is most needed, things w did not realise.


The word kāla means ‘time’; it can also mean ‘black’. Therefore the goddess Kālī, the dark-hued goddess beautiful as a storm cloud, is also the goddess of time who destroys even as she blesses. The emptying and the fire are both her symbols, for she presides in the darkened cremation ground where all is consumed in fire. She is called Kālasaṅkarṣiṇī, ‘she who brings time to an end’.

Jesus, the guru

The question is therefore which is the greatest void, and which therefore is the most powerful prāṇic effect. the greater the void the more powerful the effect of the prāṇa. They correlate. The greater the emptying the greater the fire; and the greater the fire the more time is deprived of its seeming power. It is defeated.

Christian teaching holds that the great guru of the Christian tradition, Jesus of Nazareth, emptied himself in the uttermost way, for what could be greater than the emptying of divinity and the contradiction of a crucified and powerless God. And so from him came the most powerful of fires, the breath of the divine Holy Spirit. Time, which seemed to destroy him, has been tricked. Time only took him into the void so that from him could come the fire that destroys time and brings salvation. Transfiguration is available even now.

This Spirit has been given to us and, if we also empty ourselves because he did, then we acquire this immense power to enliven and to heal which we apply as we are inspired. His death/resurrection, is the moment when all creation is saved and the fullness is made available.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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