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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 3 - Union achieved and its Results
39. By subjugation of the upward life (the udana) there is liberation from water, the thorny path, and mire, and the power of ascension is gained.

Pervading the whole body is that sum total of nervous force, called by the Hindu, prana. It is controlled by the mind via the brain; it is the vitality which brings into activity the sense-organs and produces the outward-going life of the man; its medium of distribution is the nervous system through certain great distributing centers called plexi, or lotuses. The nerve ganglia known [329] to orthodox medicine, are the reflections or shadows of the more vital plexi. The student will not go far astray if he regards the sum total of prana in the human body as constituting the vital or etheric body. This etheric body is formed entirely of energy currents, and is the substratum of living substance which underlies the dense physical form.

One term applied to this energy is the "vital airs." Prana is fivefold in its manifestation, thus corresponding to the five states of mind, the fifth principle and to the five modifications of the thinking principle. Prana in the solar system works out as the five great states of energy which we call planes, the medium of consciousness; these are:

  1. The atmic or spiritual plane,
  2. The buddhic or intuitional plane,
  3. The mental plane,
  4. The emotional, astral or kamic plane,
  5. The physical plane.

The five differentiations of prana in the human body are:

  1. Prana, extending from the nose to the heart and having special relation to the mouth and speech, the heart and lungs.
  2. Samana extends from the heart to the solar plexus; it concerns food and the nourishing of the body through the medium of food and drink and has a special relation to the stomach.
  3. Apana controls from the solar plexus to the soles of the feet; it concerns the organs of elimination, of rejection and of birth, thus having [330] special relation to the organs of generation and of elimination.
  4. Upana is found between the nose and the top of the head; it has a special relation to the brain, the nose and the eyes, and when properly controlled produces the coordination of the vital airs and their correct handling.
  5. Vyana is the term applied to the sum total of pranic, energy as it is distributed evenly throughout the entire body. Its instruments are the thousands of nadis or nerves found in the body, and it has a peculiar definite connection with the blood channels, the veins and arteries.

In this sutra we are told that by mastery of the fourth of these vital airs, certain definite results can be achieved and it will be interesting to note what they are. This mastery only becomes possible as the Raja Yoga system is understood and mastered, for it involves the capacity to function in the head and to control the entire nature from the point within the brain. When a man becomes polarized there, then the nervous force or energy found in the top of the head becomes active and through its correct control and through mastery of it, the right direction of the pranas of the body becomes possible and man reaches liberation; through it, non-contact in the three worlds is brought about. The language used is necessarily symbolic and its meaning must not be lost through a materialising of its real significance. Levitation, the power to walk on water, and ability to withstand the gravitational pull of the earth is its lowest and least important significance. [331]

  1. Freedom from water is a symbolic way of stating that the astral nature is subjugated and the great waters of illusion can no longer hold the emancipated soul. The energies of the solar plexus no longer dominate.
  2. Liberation from the thorny path refers to the path of physical life, and is nowhere more beautifully referred to than by the Christ in His parable of the Sowers, where some of the seed fell among thorns. The explanation is given that the thorns are the cares and troubles of worldly existence which succeed in choking the spiritual life and in veiling the true man for so long. The thorny path must lead to the northern path and that in turn to the Path of Initiation. In one of the old books in the Archives of the Lodge, are found these words:
  3. "Let the seeker after truth escape from drowning and climb the river's bank. Let him turn towards the northern star and on firm ground stand, his face directed towards the light. Then let the star lead."

  4. Liberation from the mire refers to that mixed nature of kama-manas, desire and lower mind, which causes the unique problem of humanity. It is a symbolic way also of referring to the great illusion which snares the pilgrim for so long. When the aspirant can walk in the light, having found the light (the Shekinah) within himself in the Holy of Holies, then the illusion is dissipated. It is of value to the student to trace the analogy between the three parts of Solomon's Temple, and that of the "Temple of the Holy Spirit," the human frame. [332]

The outer court corresponds to those energies and their corresponding organs found below the diaphragm. The Holy Place is the centers and organs in the upper part of the body from the throat to the diaphragm. The Holy of Holies is the head where is the throne of God, the Mercy Seat, and the over-shadowing glory.

When these three aspects of freedom have been gained and the man is no longer dominated by the water, the mire or physical plane life, then "the power of ascension" is gained and he can ascend into heaven at will. The Christ or spiritual man can stand upon the mountain of ascension, having passed through the four crises or points of control from the birth to the crucifixion. Thus the "udana" or upward life becomes the controlling factor and the downward life no longer dominates.

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