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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 2 - The Steps to Union
50. Right control of prana (or the life currents) is external, internal or motionless; it is subject to place, time and number and is also protracted or brief.

This is a most difficult sutra to understand and its meaning has been made purposely abstruse, owing to the dangers incident to the control of the bodily forces. The ideas and teaching conveyed fall into three parts:

I. The external, internal or motionless control [221] of the life currents of the body (dense and etheric). This concerns:

  1. The breathing apparatus and the use of the breath.
  2. The vital airs and their radiation.
  3. The centers, and their awakening.
  4. The kundalini fire and its right progression up the spine.

II. The astrological significance and the relation of the man to his group, planetary or otherwise. This is dealt with in the words "place, time and number."

III. The process of illumination and the production of response in the physical man via the brain to the higher impressions. This ability to respond to the voice of the ego and to become quiescent and receptive must precede the last four means of yoga which do not so immediately concern the dense physical plane or the etheric levels of consciousness.

It will be obvious that much of the teaching conveyed in this sutra can only safely be given directly by the teacher to the pupil, after a proper study of the bodily conditions of that pupil. It is not possible nor right to give in a book intended for the general public those rules, practices and methods which enable the trained disciple to bring his dense physical vehicle into instantaneous synchronization with his etheric body, to densify and irradiate his aura so as to produce certain magnetic results in his environment, and to awaken his centers so that certain psychic powers are displayed. The methods for arousing the kundalini [222] fire and blending it with the downpouring egoic force must also be left for direct teaching by a master in this science to his pupil. There is extreme danger attendant upon the premature awakening of the fire, and the consequent destruction of certain protective structures in the etheric body and the breaking down of the barriers between this world and the astral world, before the pupil is properly "balanced between the pairs of opposites". There is a menace in the premature growth of the lower psychic powers before the higher nature is awakened, and the effect upon the brain can be seen as insanity in some form or other, mild or the reverse. A few explanatory words can, however, be given which will enable the true occult student to gain that information which, if correctly used, acts as a key to the possession of more. This is ever the occult method. Let us, therefore, deal briefly with our three points.

I. The external control of the prana or life currents concerns those breathing exercises and rhythmic practices which bring the physical organs, allied with the etheric centers, into proper condition. These physical organs are themselves never specifically dealt with by the white magician or occultist. They are dealt with in black magic, and consist of the brain, the lungs, the heart, the spleen and the generative organs.

The black magician definitely utilizes these physical parts of the body to generate a type of force which is a mixture of etheric force and dense physical energy, to enable him to do certain [223] forms of magical work and also to produce effects on the physical bodies of animals and men. It is the knowledge of this which is the basis of voodooism and of all those practices which cause the depletion and death of men and women who obstruct the path of the black magician or are regarded by him as enemies. With these the aspirant to the mysteries of the Brotherhood of the great White Lodge has nothing to do. He brings about the merging of the two parts of the dense physical, and the synchronization of the rhythm of the two bodies and the consequent unity of the entire lower man through attention to the etheric breath and rhythm. This inevitably produces the "external control of the life currents!"

The internal control of the life currents is brought about in three ways:

  1. By an intellectual understanding of the nature of the etheric body and the laws of its life.
  2. Through a consideration of the types of energy and of their apparatus, the system of centers, to be found in the etheric body.
  3. Through certain developments and knowledge which come to the aspirant when he is ready (having attended to the previous means of yoga) and which give him the ability to tap certain types of forces, energies, or shaktis, to utilize them correctly through the medium of his own centers and to produce effects which come under the descriptive terms, illuminative, purificatory, magnetic, dynamic, psychic, and magic.

The motionless control of the life currents is the effect of the proper development of the other [224] two, external and internal control and must be present before the fifth means of yoga, withdrawal or abstraction becomes possible. It simply indicates perfectly balanced synchronization and the complete unification of the two parts of the physical body so that there is no impediment to the outgoing or incoming forces. When motionless control is reached, the yogi can withdraw from his physical body at will or can pull in that body and manipulate at will any of the seven great planetary forces.

It should be borne in mind that the ideal condition is here dealt with and that no aspirant can achieve this means of yoga without working simultaneously at the other means also. The study of the parallelism in nature is of value here.

II. The astrological significance is also hinted at here in the three words, "place, time, and number." In these words the universal triplicities must be recognized, and right control of the life currents must be seen to be related to karma, opportunity and form; there are certain words which when rightly understood give the key to all practical occultism and make the yogi a master of life. They are:

 
Sound Number Color Form
Word Life Light Body
 
and these are recognized as subject to the space-idea and the time-element. It should be borne in mind, in this connection, that "space is the first entity" (Secret Doctrine I, 583.) and that cyclic manifestation is the law of life. [225]

When this is recognized, the entity, expressing itself cyclically, will make its presence felt through differentiation, through the color or quality of the veiling form and through the form itself. These factors make up the sum total of the expression of any identity, God or man, and the appearance of any man in esoteric expression on the physical plane is dependent upon the rhythmic or cyclic outgoing or indrawing energy of the great Life in whom he lives and moves and has his being. This is the basis of the science of astrology or the relationship of the planet, or planets to the human being and of their relation to the stars and the various signs of the zodiac.

Some knowledge of this is essential to the right control of the life currents, so that the disciple can avail himself of the "times and seasons" wherein progress can be expedited.

III. The process of illuminating the lower man becomes possible through the right control of the pranas and this "illuminating process" is an exact science for which these four means of yoga have prepared the way. The fires of the body are justly arranged, the "motionless" condition can be somewhat reached, the vital airs in the head are "at peace" and the entire lower man awaits one of two processes:

  1. The withdrawal of the true or spiritual man in order to function on some higher plane,
  2. Or the bringing down into the lower brain consciousness, of light, illumination and knowledge from the planes of the ego. [226]
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