An Interview with Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)

During the Yoga and Ayurveda training program that Dr. Frawley conducted in Yogaville this past summer, he gave an in-depth talk on the sacred nature of prana. Here, he shares these insights and emphasizes that prana is the closest thing to divinity within us all.

We are various manifestations of prana. We live through breathing, which is an intake and release of prana. Even eating is an intake and release of prana, as is the intake of sensory impressions. Happiness is something we seek mainly through prana. How? We want to go faster and faster—whether it’s on water skis, on snow skis, in cars or in rockets—that experience of propulsion is nothing but prana. We spend all this money for recreation, entertainment and pranic sensory experiences.

But what does the yogi do? The yogi realizes that controlling the prana within, connecting to the pranic forces of the ananda (bliss) within—through pranayama—provides all enjoyment at no cost, with no dependency and no potentially adverse side effects or diseases. What Yoga teaches us is very simple: Our prana is caught in duality: attraction-repulsion, pleasure-pain and even inhalation-exhalation—the flow of the breath through the right and left nostrils, or solar and lunar nadis (energy channels). So, we’re not experiencing a unitary state of prana, we’re experiencing the divided, conflicted, dualistic state of prana.

It’s the same with our thoughts and awareness. Our emotions are caught between attractions and repulsions, likes and dislikes. Our minds are also caught, fragmented and broken by dualism. That’s what gets us agitated and causes us to look for happiness externally. It’s particularly difficult in our society today to focus or concentrate the mind because of the mass media. We’ve been taught to give our attention externally, which, is in effect, to give our prana awayand, thus, to give away our lives. In our society today we’ve become spectators. Our main choices in life usually involve what form of entertainment we will be seeking. Whereas our real question should be, why do we need to be entertained? Why do we need to have our minds occupied at all?

Yoga teaches we can be self-sufficient and happy within. There is a direct connection to the cosmic prana, and we can access the prana of nature. Most of us live on the prana of the media, which keeps us caught up in the social, political, economic world. I’m not saying they are not important, but that they shouldn’t overshadow our own inner reality. Through Ayurveda and Yoga, we learn to connect with the greater prana of nature—the sky, clouds, waters, the trees, plants, food and animals. The deepest and greatest prana comes from space and silence. The greatest renewal comes from inaction. Yoga, in the deeper sense, is not so much a way of doing, but as Swami Satchidananda says, it’s a way of undoing. We’re already doing too much and having too much done to us; we’re too caught up in all the busyness and we don’t have the space to be. We need the space to breathe.

One of the secrets of pranayama is to treat prana as sacred. Prana is the closest thing to divinity within you. After all, it’s prana that sustains the body during the state of deep sleep. It’s prana that keeps us going on all levels. One of the beauties of the breath is that it can be voluntary or involuntary. You can voluntarily work with the breath but, if you don’t, it doesn’t mean the breath stops. The breath is our organic connection to prana, to life and to cosmic intelligence. It’s a tremendous power. We can use the breath to draw in more energy from the outer world and to draw divine grace and blessings from the inner world.

All of us want to live forever. No one wants to die. Our primary and deepest motivation is life, is prana, is to connect to life more and more. We each, however, define life in a certain way: A musician finds life in music; a diver finds life under the sea. What is the deeper, universal life? We find that by moving within. We need to look for the sattvic prana, or the unifying prana. What happens when you are deeply engaged in something?….

Read the rest of this article in the Fall 2010 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.