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THE SCIENCE OF LIVING : ITS BASIS AND PROCESS

 Acharya Mahapragya

     There is a mechanism which governs human life. An effective mechanism is a must for the successful completion of any work. Associated with all human activity is controlling mechanism that comprises four basic elements : the physical body, breath, speech and the mind. These can be as much a help as a hindrance to human development. Well-trained, they are a help; untrained, they are a hindrance. The crucial thing is to practice train them.

     The most important part of the human body consists of the nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord. Our body has two poles. The upper pole is the brain and the lower pole is the lower end of the spinal cord. The brain radiates consciousness and the lower end of the spinal cord radiates energy. One of them is the unfailing means of storing energy and the other is that of storing consciousness.

     In our lives consciousness and energy are two important elements. Both are under the governance of the two poles, the one - the brain is the center of intelligence and the other - is the lower end of the spinal cord - is the center of energy. If they have a balanced development the management of our conduct can become both easy and spontaneous.

     The second important element which controls the body apparatus is breath. The importance of breath has not been fully recognized. It is, in fact, breath which is the instrument of infusing life into speech, mind and the nervous system. This important element is as much outside as inside us. We breathe out and breathe in. Breath constitutes a bridge between our inside and outside. As a process, its importance can not be underrated. It is only through it use that we are able to sustain our lives. We get oxygen in the act of inhaling and get rid of carbon dioxide through exhalation. The very life breath of our body cells is thus provided by breath. Not only this, it significantly contributes to our sensitivity and general awareness.

     The third element is speech, which defines us and largely decides our social being. Society, as we understand it, has been made possible only through speech. In Sanskrit a body of animals is called samaj whereas a body of human beings is called samaaj(Society).The main reason why animals cannot constitute a society is their lack of speech. Speech alone can bring about a base of society. This shows the critical importance of speech.

     The last and the fourth element is the mind. It is the mind which makes possible memory, imagination and thinking. But for these, life would be inconceivable. Absence of memory will make life unbearable; absence of imagination would render all development impossible; and absence of thinking would completely incapacitate us. And all these - memory, imagination and thinking - have their base in the mind.

     Thus our body, breath, speech and mind are the four pillars of our being, of all we do. Without them our activities cannot be properly managed. But they also act a hindrances, especially the mind. It is not uncommon to get bogged down by unwanted memories when one wants to do something. The work is delayed and in some cases even thwarted. It is clear that our memory can be as much as a help as a hindrance to our work. Likewise our imagination also plays a dual role. It can degenerate into useless fantasies and can wean a man away from the world of reality. Again thinking, when overdone, can become counterproductive. Excessive and endless thinking would hardly leave room for action. As regards speech, who does not know its abuses? One wrong or unpleasant word and even a friend turns into a foe. Indeed, mental activity is wholly dependent on speech or language. One would even go further and maintain that memory, imagination and thinking are all dependent upon language. Vocalization or verbalization can both be external and internal. The science of language (grammar), the science of mantras (sacred verses and their incantation), and the science of the mind (psychology) do all recognize this dual character of language. There are a large number of cases where internal verbalization goes on even in sleep. When language assumes a negative role it becomes the cause of mental stress. Similarly with breath. Uncontrolled breathing can be the major cause of excitement, including anger, egoism, lust, jealousy and hatred. Breath can be either long or short. In its natural form it is always long. Spontaneous breathing is none other than long breathing. Fifteen to sixteen breaths per minute are devoid of naturalness and spontaneity. Their number should be less. In accordance with our natural constitution one should not breathe more than 7-8 times a minute. The larger number, which seems to be the rule, is because of the simultaneous activation of our emotions since such activation results in short breaths. There is a close interaction between short breaths and excitement. For example, anger makes breaths short and short breaths act as a catalytic agent for anger. It is in this sense that breath is both a help and a hindrance.

     The nervous system helps us to govern all our activities both mental and physical. On its basis alone both the motor and the sensory nerves are operational. However, when the nervous system is not properly organized and disciplined, the flow of life becomes choked, resulting in many distortions in our body. Quite a few bad habits have their origin in the nervous system.

     It is thus clear that all the four elements of the controlling mechanism can play both a positive and a negative role. The crucial thing is how well they are trained.

      The important process or the very basis of Preksha meditation is the effort to make our body, breath, speech and mind truly accomplished or well trained. Unless we understand this basic fact we cannot get the right cure.

       When the instruments of cure themselves are diseased, how can they effect a cure? The body, the breath, the speech and the mind - these are the four elements that can bring about a cure. But problems arise when they are themselves in a diseased state. The answers to these problems lies in making the instruments healthy, strong and well trained. Now the question arises : In what way can they be trained ? The process of training consists of four parts : preksha (seeing or perceiving carefully and profoundly), anupreksha (contemplation), kayotsarg (total relaxation) and spiritual vigilance (awakening of the consciousness and its constant alertness). One must learn to observe, to produce sound waves, to relax and to be alert. Together, these four ways constitute complete education and can bring about lasting changes in the body, the breath, the speech and the mind.

     The first way relates to observation. Indian philosophy is based on observation or seeing. In fact, darshan (philosophy) means seeing or observing. Its meaning has changed now. The philosophy being taught in colleges and universities is based on inference and reasoning but in ancient times it stood for direct apprehension. Not inference, not abstract reasoning, not causation, not universality or pervasiveness, but sheer apprehension. Today, we have lost the power to see and we fail to distinguish between thinking and seeing.

     An illustration will make it clear. Once a philosopher and his friend were walking together. Just then they saw a cow and its owner coming from the opposite direction. The cow was tied with a rope, one end of which the owner held in his hand. The philosopher saw the whole thing and apprehended and internalized its import. He asked his friend to tell him whether the cow was tied to the man or the man to the cow. The latter thought that it was too simple a matter to need any serious thought. Since it was the man who held the rope in his hand it was the cow who was bound. Then the philosopher asked him what he would do if the cow broke loose and fled. Pat came the reply. He would run after the cow and catch her. If that was true, the philosopher said who was tied to whom - the cow to the owner or the owner to the cow. If the man ran away the cow would not run after him, but if the cow ran away the man would have to run after him. Who was tied to whom ? Superficial thinking would suggest the cow but philosophy would suggest the owner, the man. This is the basic difference between mere thinking and seeing or apprehending. Philosophy implies direct apprehension or seeing.

     Seeing then is something very important. One has to see the breath, the body, the psychic centers (chaitanya kendras). One may ask: What is there in breath to see? One breathes in and out and this goes on as long as one lives. So what is so special about it which observes seeing ? The answer is that it is by seeing the breath that one comes to recognize its immense worth, for it - seeing breath - is the best way to control one's thoughts or the wandering of the mind.

     The human mind is the most fickle and wavering. Seeing the breath or breath perception (to use a more common expression) is the best way to steady the mind. For it is our inner propensities and attitudes which cause the mind to waver. To control these propensities and attitudes is to control the mind and there is no better means of exercising this control than through the breath.

     The next element is seeing the body or body perception. It does not mean looking at its external form but seeing all those actions that go within it.

     Within the human body exist many chemicals, electricity, a large number of movements and vibrations. Many chemical changes take place within the body as a result of glandular secretions. Our brain also undergoes many chemical changes. The mind itself is a source of many chemicals. Seeing the body involves getting to know the manner in which these chemicals bring about subtle changes in our habits and attitudes, The first thing that we perceive after acquiring a steady posture of kayotsarg through the steadying of our breathing and turning our consciousness inwards is the body vibrations and their locations. Thus knowledge comes in stages and soon after we become aware of the chemical processes. As one becomes more practiced in the art of seeing or perception, one comes to know more and more about the human body. This is what we call body perception.

     The third element is seeing the psychic centers of which there are many in our body. Through the number of these centers is very large, under Preksha Meditation only thirteen of them are regarded as important. As soon as one starts seeing these centers, they become active and it is not difficult to see whether they are active or not.

     The seeing or the perception of the breath, the body and the psychic centers is subsumed under the first of the four processes mentioned earlier, viz. preksha.

     The second way is called anupreksha (contemplation). It involves thoughts, sounds as well as feelings. In a sense it is the use of self-hypnosis. Everyone knows how brave resolutions to give up bad habits and addictions either prove temporary or fail completely. The reason is not far to seek. Whereas our habits operate through the subconscious mind. Until the message of what we want to achieve reaches the subconscious mind, the activities that we habitually undertake consciously will not change. It is here that anupreksha or contemplation plays a crucial role.

     Experienced and scientifically inclined modern men resort to suggestion and auto-suggestion. A thing, when constantly repeated under proper conditions, can reach the subconscious mind. Whatever suggestions are given either by oneself or by others, in the state of kayotsarg or total relaxation, when the body is literally asleep, enter deep into the subconscious and are capable of radically changing old habits and addictions.

     The fourth way is kayotsarg that is total relaxation. In the present age medical science has fully revealed the truth that most of our problems are caused by mental stress. It lies behind most diseases, bad habits and distorted thinking. Through kayotsarg this stress can be effectively relieved. As the stress decreases, problems become less intractable. Since most psychosomatic ailments are caused by stress, lessening of stress automatically affects the psycho-physiochological condition. When the breathing becomes slow and undisturbed the body itself becomes relaxed and restful and this, in turn, brings about positive changes even in the case of hardened habits.

     The fourth way is spiritual vigilance, i.e. awakening of the consciousness and its constant alertness. We often act in a state of torpor. This sluggishness or nonalertness becomes the cause of many problems which we can avoid by being spiritually vigilant. Such vigilance has to be constantly practiced. If we learn to be vigilant during the time when we have to be awake, the vigilance continues even when we are asleep. This is in accordance with the science of yoga which recognizes two kinds of sleep - one in which we are unaware of the fact that we are sleeping and the other in which we have the awareness that we are sleeping. The latter is merely the result of spiritual vigilance and there is no better key to mental care than such vigilance or constant alertness. By following this method even the most complicated psychic diseases can be cured.

     It is thus clear that preksha (seeing or perceiving carefully or profoundly), anupreksha (contemplation), kayotsarg (total relaxation), and jagrukta (spiritual vigilance or awakening of the consciousness and its constant alertness) are the four basic and most important elements in the process of practicing preksha meditation. One who commands them well, is well-versed in them, becomes capable of enjoying life. It is through these again that one can enrich and intensify one's consciousness and energy. To be rich in consciousness and energy is to be adept in the practice of these four elements.

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