Ch. 4, v. 6, Haṭhayogapradīpika prāṇa (subtle breath), mind, equanimity
“When the ‘subtle breath’ (prāṇa) gradually disappears and the mind (mānasaṁ) is dissolved, then the state of equanimity (samarasatva) arises. It is the experience of samādhi.”
यदा संक्षीयते प्राणो मानसं च प्रलीयते ।
तदा समरसत्वं च समाधिरभिधीयते ॥ ६ ॥
yadā saṁkṣīyate prāṇo mānasaṁ ca pralīyate |
tadā samarasatvaṁ ca samādhirabhidhīyate || 6 ||
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 http://www.melainterfaith.org and http://www.nathas.org/en
The term prāṇa has many meanings. It can mean ‘vital force’, ‘subtle breath’, ‘exhalation’, ‘exteriority’. It is often contrasted with apāna, which can mean ‘interiorisation’, ‘inhalation’. Prāṇa has many sub-sets. There are, for example, the five breaths, prāṇa apāna, samāna, udāna, and vyāna. The many yogic texts use these terms variously, for the vital force has many aspects and is experienced in many ways.
In this text, the term prāṇa refers to all the activities of life, which are constantly varying and contrasting. When these cease to be diverse, they come back to their origin in all its fullness. The image is that of the sea. When it is turbulent, only waves can be seen. When the waters are perfectly still, the whole expanse of the sky is reflected and the depths can be seen. All is known.
According to the Samkhyā, there are three interior faculties, buddhi, ahamkāra, and manas. The buddhi is perception or understanding, which is as yet undifferentiated. The ahamkāra is the sense of self, in contrast to other selves or egos; it is a sense of individuality. This in turn leads to ‘mind’ (manas), the famous ‘monkey mind’ acting according to its nature, which is to think and plan, categorize and reason.
The mind, too, needs to come to stillness, and to cease its functioning, or rather the attention is diverted away from the mind to the higher state of awareness from which the mind arises.
Breath and mind are intimately linked, as this verse suggests. The stilling of the one is connected with the stilling of the other. There are many yogic exercises designed to quieten breath and mind. The focus of attention rises above their diversity and reaches the state of samrasatva.
The term rasa refers in the first instance to flavour or taste or emotion. Eight rasas or emotions are normally expected to be found in classical Hindu theatre: for example, joy, humour, pleasure, fear, horror, and so on. These are further divided into eight sets of eight, the 64 rasa of the stage.
These flavours and emotions are contrasting and sometimes mutually exclusive. The aim of the yoga is to go beyond these and come to a sense of equanimity, ‘same flavour’ (sama-rasa). This is not blandness. It is not a question of denying or suppressing the various emotions but of arriving at that state, which both surpasses them and gives rise to them. The emotions are experienced most fully when experienced in their source. Emotions, when differentiated, are limited. But when the beauty is seen in the horror and the horror is seen in the beauty, or joy in sorrow and sorrow in joy, then beauty and horror, joy and sorrow reach their full intensity.
In the Christian dispensation, the sight of the crucified Christ is the moment of horror, yet in this horror the beauty of self-sacrifice is visible, the beauty of love that is willing to die for others.
“… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. … and by his bruises we are healed.” (Is 53: 2-3, 5)
Many artists have tried to capture this meeting point of beauty and horror. When they have done so, the result is overwhelming, profoundly consoling.
The aim of samarasa is to sense of the unity of all things. It is the path of stillness, so that a person comes to equanimity in every circumstance. One experience is found in the other, one is intensified in the other; and at the depth of them all is found highest truth and beauty. The bliss that then arises is boundless. This is called samādhi, which is the principal topic of Haṭhayogapradīpika ch. 4.