P R A N A Y A M A
Selections from the Agni Yoga Series
Presented before the Agni Yoga Society, January 22, 2008
1. "Now, the science of Hatha Yoga rests upon the 'suppression of breath,' or Pranayama, to which exercise our Masters are unanimously opposed. For what is Pranayama? Literally translated, it means the 'death of (vital) breath.,'... Several impatient Chelas, whom we knew personally in India, went in for the practice of Hatha Yoga, notwithstanding our warnings. Of these, two developed consumption, one of whom died; others became almost idiotic; another committed suicide; and one developed into a regular Tantrika, a Black Magician, but his career, fortunately for himself, was cut short by death."
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 8 September 1934.
2. Some of the young may ask, "How should one understand Agni Yoga?"
Say, "As the perception and application in life of the all-embracing element of fire, which nourishes the seed of the spirit."
They will ask, "How can I approach that knowledge?"
"Purify your thoughts, and after determining your three worst traits, sacrifice them to be burned away in fiery striving. Then choose a Teacher on Earth and, mastering the Teaching, strengthen your body with the indicated medicines and pranayama. You will behold the stars of the spirit; you will see the flames of purification of your centers; you will hear the voice of the Invisible Teacher; and you will acquire those subtlest perceptions that transform life.
Agni Yoga, 185.
3. You may ask Me what physical exercises are useful in Agni Yoga. I advise a short period of pranayama in the morning, no longer than five minutes. One should abstain from meat, except smoked meats. Vegetables, fruit, milk, and cereals are always beneficial. All alcohol is barred, except for curative purposes. Narcotics, such as opium, are inimical to Agni Yoga. Cloudy skies are burdensome for an Agni Yogi. I advise insulating one's footwear with rubber and taking morning walks, avoiding smoky air. With courage must all events of life be faced, for it is impossible to decide where is the good and where the bad. He who brings the true Yoga into life fulfills his greatest mission. Thus, before us is the foundation of Agni Yoga.
Agni Yoga, 166.
4. Pure yogism is aware that the functioning of the center of the lungs can transmute everything in accordance with desire. Of course, the present-day yogis use pranayama as a method of kindling this center.
A higher yogi is not in need of pranayama. For him there exists a direct current with the Fire of Space. All such manifestations as walking on water and flights need pranayama, but there are higher missions.
Infinity I, 103.
5. Where, then, is attention directed? It must be understood that the process toward perfection lies at the basis of evolution. It summons one to simplification and to direct communion with higher worlds. It can be seen how pranayama and other artificial methods of various yogas can be replaced by a simple, fiery heart. Certainly this simplicity is relative. The flaming fiery path leads to it.
6. Pranayama of all kinds is directed essentially to the kindling of the fires of the heart. Indeed, of the multitudes who practice pranayama only very few receive positive results. Wherein lies the cause? Of course, in an indifferent attitude toward the heart. A complex exercise is devised, and the consciousness strives toward the calculation or alternation of bodily movements, in other words towards superficial methods? Of course, pranayama has been wisely established as an auxiliary means for hastening results. But as soon as the mantram of the heart lost its significance, pranayama also turned into a mechanical remedy against the common cold. Therefore, let us remember about the sacred heart as the path to the focal point.
7. The advice about disciplining small thoughts is the inception of bringing health to the heart. Do not rely upon a variety of outer pranayamas. The path of Agni Yoga is through the heart, but the heart must be aided by disciplining thoughts. Disorderly thoughts are like vermin, they injure the subtle substance. Often they carry deadly poison. Precisely the smallest thoughts are like madness, and they form the chief obstacle to the rapport of the subtle and dense worlds.
8. One must prepare oneself not only through diet, but also by other external and internal means. Food requirements are not complicated. The chief thing is to avoid blood, since it is an element which introduces emanations unfit for the refined organism. But even in case of extreme necessity, one can avoid blood by using either dried or smoked meat. Similarly, in planning cereal or vegetable diets, one should be guided by the condition of one's organism. Yet even without Yoga anyone can understand that any excess is harmful. And everyone knows about the vitamins in raw products. But all these conditions, like excessive pranayama, are nothing compared with the heart's comprehension.
Fiery World I, 188.
9. To assimilate in consciousness means also to assimilate physically. This connection of consciousness with the body is especially noticeable in the example of Fire, which causes a quite apparent physical deterioration if the Fire is not realized. Therefore, during illness, especially catarrhal ones, it is useful to perform a fiery pranayama. This pranayama is very simple—the usual inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth while directing the prana to the seat of the disease. But for intensification of the action one should keep in mind that the Fire of Space is being inhaled and the consumed Ur, exhaled. Thus, Fire is again the remedy, and the physician can alleviate the condition of the patient by assuring him of how easy it is to attract the basic energy. Fortunately, sickness strengthens one's attitude toward faith, and a seriously ill patient will accept the reality of Fire more readily.
Fiery World I, 369.
10. “Love one another”—this commandment was wisely given. Nothing can harmonize psychic energy better than love. All the higher communions have been based on the same feeling and are also beneficent for psychic energy. And light pranayama likewise strengthens the basis of the energy. Thus, people must collect and affirm everything useful for psychic energy. Each one must look after the store of psychic energy. Even a single sigh produces a renewal of forces.
11. One may ask, what is the best pranayama? What instills the best rhythm? What can kill the worm of depression? Only work! Only in work is the attraction to perfectment formed. During labor the Fiery Baptism will come.
Supermundane I, 102.
12. Urusvati knows how necessary it is to correct all misconceptions. We have mentioned pranayama, and at the same time have pointed out natural ways of ascent. Is there a contradiction in this? No, because We do not reject pranayama, and even point out its usefulness, for in certain cases pranayama may be a kind of remedy for the organism.
However, We always advise simple pranayama. Breathing is an important process, but, as in everything, a natural pranayama is the best and is in accord with contemporary conditions. People should not devote only a certain time of the day to the purification of breath, but should practice it frequently during the day. For instance, it is healing to inhale fresh prana several times before making an important statement. Public speakers often use this method, but they rarely do it consciously, and it is precisely the conscious inhalation of prana that will transform their breathing. Thus, the objector should understand that We approve of pranayama of a certain quality, but the ancient painful practices must be revised.
Supermundane II, 441.
13. Urusvati has mastered the Yoga of thought, which is what We sometimes call Agni Yoga, in order to affirm that thought lies in its foundation. Thought is fiery. Thought is limitless. No one can define the boundaries of the dissemination of thought, which is speedier than light. Thus, it can be understood that thought will be the best link with the Supermundane Worlds. Man’s thought should therefore be worthy of illumination by the fire of space.
The greatest pity is when the traveler in the Supermundane World feels that he must be ashamed of his former thoughts. The record of thoughts is ineradicable; it flashes before the eyes of the newly arrived one.
Yoga of thought could be preferred to the Yoga demanding physical suffering. A brief pranayama, light diet, and striving of thought gain free entrance. One can accustom oneself to constant pranayama, just as to constant communion with the Supermundane World. Then, the earthly life will not be an obstacle to one’s ascent. The Thinker repeated, “Thought is lightning.”
Supermundane IV, 920.
14. Even the development of the lower siddhis, to which the Hatha Yogis come by stubborn and terribly difficult mechanical exercises (Western literature has no idea about even half of these horrors) is not lasting, and in their next incarnations they may lose all these siddhis. Only those achievements are valuable and permanent that come naturally, for then they are the result of inner spiritual development and can never be lost. Only in such a way can the all-powerful manifestations be reached. Exercises in Hatha Yoga should not go beyond a slight and very careful pranayama, which strengthens health, as otherwise they might be dangerous and could lead to mediumism, possession and insanity.
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 6 May 1934.
15. No pranayama can give the necessary purification and high results if the consciousness does not correlate with the High Ideal. The higher forms of Yoga do not need pranayama. Every coolie in India knows about pranayama; the average Hindu performs it every day, but nevertheless they are far from spiritual achievement. Therefore, do not rely just upon pranayama!
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 6 May 1934.
16. Do not exaggerate the significance of pranayama. The science of breathing practiced by true Raja Yogis has little in common with ordinary pranayama! The Hatha Yogis are interested only in the control of the vital breathing of the lungs, whereas the ancient Raja Yogis looked upon pranayama as a mental breathing. Verily, only the mastery of this mental breathing brings the highest clairvoyance, restoring the function of the third eye and leading to the true achievements of Raja Yoga.
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 1 August 1934.
17. "It is much easier for people to give up certain excesses and to perform mechanically a pranayama than to restrain a single habit which is a stumbling block on the path of spiritual progress. But, as it is said, everything mechanical concerns only the outer man and cannot reorganize the inner man, and therefore is worthless; for the transformation of the inner man is the only aim of all true Teachings.
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 29 August 1934.
18. The advice is to be very cautious; brief, short pranayama, without overdoing breath control, should do no harm. But pranayama should not be performed in the manner adopted by some who have become acquainted with the instructions given in some of the books written by various pseudo-yogis and who also sometimes combine them with gymnastics. This sort of thing can suddenly lead to the most unexpected disastrous results!
Letters Of Helena Roerich I, 8 September 1934.