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Indian Calendar Part 4 : The microcosm and the macrocosm


Prana and nadi

The three swara

Swara Yoga

-Swara and thithi

-Swara and rashi chakra

The breath, space and time

At the very begin­ning of this arti­cle (Part 1), a state­ment was made : The Hin­du way of time­keep­ing is a very deep sci­ence, for it relates the indi­vid­ual to the uni­verse, the micro­cosm to the macro­cosm.

We have seen how the Hin­du time­keep­ing is con­nect­ed to the solar and lunar cycles. But one might won­der, how does it relate to the human being?

Prana and nadi

Prana The breath is the medi­um of the cos­mic life force, called prana. The cos­mic prana oper­ates with­in the human being as prana vayu. Prana is a San­skrit word derived from two roots: “pra” is a pre­fix used to denote con­stan­cy, and “na” means move­ment. There­fore, prana is a force that is in con­stant motion, like a vibra­tion mov­ing to and fro with­out any inter­cep­tion. Prana is sub­tle elec­tro­mag­net­ic vibra­tion that ani­mates all life.

Nadi Nadis are path­ways for prana. The phys­i­cal body is struc­tured by an under­ly­ing sys­tem of nadis. They are much sub­tler than the ner­vous sys­tem. The nadis, 72,000 in num­ber, pen­e­trate the body from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head, car­ry­ing prana, the breath of life. They are thin, strand-like threads, sim­i­lar to those of the lotus stem, which emanate from the spinal col­umn.

Of these, the three 3 major nadis are ida, pin­gala and sushum­na, shown in Fig. 1

Fig. 1 — The three major nadis — ida, pin­gala and sushum­na

Ida orig­i­nates at a point just below the base of the spine, emerges from the left side of the base and spi­rals upwards inter­sect­ing at the oth­er four points in the spinal col­umn, and ter­mi­nates at the root of the left nos­tril.

Pin­gala emerges on the right hand side of the base of the spine, exact­ly oppo­site to ida. It spi­rals up the spinal col­umn, cross­ing ida at the four points and ter­mi­nates at the root of the right nos­tril.

Sushum­na emerges from the base of the spine, the same as ida and pin­gala, but with­out diverg­ing right or left, it trav­els direct­ly up through the cen­tre and unites with ida and pin­gala in the region of the medul­la oblon­ga­ta. Thus it is con­sid­ered to cor­re­spond with the Cen­tral Ner­vous Sys­tem (CNS).

The three swara

The alter­nat­ing breath When one observes the breath, one will find that one nos­tril usu­al­ly remains open for a cer­tain dura­tion of time and the breath­ing hap­pens only through that nos­tril only. Lat­er, this nos­tril clos­es and the alter­nate nos­tril opens.

The fact that we breathe alter­nate­ly is very sig­nif­i­cant because it allows dif­fer­ent pran­ic rhythms, called swara, to flow at dif­fer­ent times. The flow of swara changes at reg­u­lar inter­vals; it is not at all errat­ic. Every hour or every hour and 20 min­utes, the active nos­tril changes. When the swara changes, both nos­trils flow for about 1–4 min­utes. This rhythm reg­u­lates all the psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal process­es in the human being.

The 3 swara and 3 nadi

There are 3 swaras:

  1. Chan­dra (lunar) swara or flow of breath through left nos­tril, which acti­vates the ida nadi.

  2. Surya (solar) swara or flow through right nos­tril, which acti­vates the pin­gala nadi.

  3. Shoonya swara or equal­ized breath through both nos­trils, which acti­vates sushum­na.

Table 1. Ida and Pin­gala nadis

The Sushum­na nadi cor­re­sponds to the cen­tral or cere­brospinal ner­vous sys­tem (CNS). The CNS car­ries impuls­es to the whole sys­tem. It is one main sys­tem, run­ning from the base of the spine to the brain, and sushum­na is also locat­ed in the same posi­tion.

Sushum­na flows when the breath is equal­ized in both nos­trils. When sushum­na flows for a long time, the mind becomes one-point­ed and still and med­i­ta­tion hap­pens.

The swara can be changed at will depend­ing on the pur­pose at hand. The meth­ods to ana­lyze and reg­u­late the swara are explained in the tantric sci­ence of Swara Yoga.

Swara yoga

Swara Yoga is a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem of breath­ing prac­tices that takes into account the rela­tion­ship of the breath to the cycles in nature. Just as one choos­es the right sea­son to sow seeds so that the plant can grow to its fullest poten­tial, one can reg­u­late the swara to sup­port actions aligned with nature’s cycles that can lead to suc­cess.

Swara and thithi

Swara Yoga has a clear map­ping of the rela­tion­ship between the micro­cosm and the macro­cosm. It explains how the swaras (pin­gala and ida) are con­nect­ed to the solar and lunar cycles.

Accord­ing to the Shi­va Swar­o­daya,

  1. Dur­ing the first 3 thithis of Shuk­la pak­sha, the chan­dra swara (ida) flows from the time of sun­rise and con­tin­ues till the time span of 2 and 1/2 ghatis ( 60 min­utes). The swara then alter­nates.

  2. While, con­verse­ly, dur­ing the first 3 thithis of Krish­na pak­sha, the surya swara (pin­gala) flows from the time of sun­rise and con­tin­ues till the time span of 2 and 1/2 ghatis (60 min­utes). The swara then alter­nates.

  3. So, these two swaras flow alter­nate­ly for a peri­od of 2 and 1/2 ghatis (60 min­utes) through­out the 24 hours of a day.

The rela­tion­ship between swara and thithi is shown in Fig. 2

Fig. 2 — Rela­tion­ship between swara and thithi

Swara and rashi chakra

Shi­va Swar­o­daya also explains how the swaras are relat­ed to tran­si­tions of the 12 rashis in the sky over the course of a day.

  1. Dur­ing the peri­od of one day and night (24 hours), 12 rashi tran­si­tions occur.

  2. Tau­rus, Can­cer, Vir­go, Scor­pio, Capri­corn and Pisces tran­sit in the chan­dra swara (ida).

  3. Aries, Leo, Aquar­ius, Libra, Gem­i­ni and Sagit­tar­ius tran­sit in the surya swara (pin­gala).

Fig. 3 — Rela­tion­ship between swara and rashi chakra

The breath, space and time

A nor­mal healthy human being breathes 15 times a minute. Is this num­ber 15 a ran­dom num­ber? Or is it close­ly con­nect­ed to the astro­nom­i­cal cycle?

In 1 side­re­al day (naksha­tra aho­r­a­tram) the entire 360° of the rashi chakra pass­es over the hori­zon. The peri­od of the breath - one inhala­tion and exha­la­tionactu­al­ly con­nects our mea­sure of time to space, which is the degree of move­ment of the rashi chakra in the sky.

Study Fig. 4 for a few moments.

Fig. 4 — Space (Rashi chakra) and time rela­tion­ship

We see that 21600 arc min­utes of move­ment of the rashi chakra in the sky is equal to 216000 vipalas or 86400 sec­onds.

21600’ = 86400 s There­fore, 1’ = 4 s

Since a healthy human being takes 15 breaths in 1 minute (=60 s), 1 breath (inhala­tion and exha­la­tion) takes 60/15 = 4 s.

Hence, with one breath, the move­ment of the rashi chakra in the sky is 1’.

360° of the rashi chakra has 360 * 60’ = 21600’. Hence, a human being breathes 21600 times in a day.

The Indi­an cal­en­dar also uses a time unit called prana. 10 vipalas make 1 prana. Hence, 1 vipala is 1/10 of a prana.

Fig. 5 — Time unit prana

The num­ber 15 also relates arc minute (mea­sure of space) to minute (mea­sure of time). Con­sid­er Fig. 6.

Fig. 6 Rela­tion­ship between arc-minute and minute

21600’ = 1440 min­utes There­fore, 15’ = 1 minute

Hence, in 1 minute, the move­ment of the rashi chakra in the sky is 15’.

Sim­i­lar­ly, the num­ber 15 relates arc sec­ond (mea­sure of space) to sec­ond (mea­sure of time). Con­sid­er Fig. 7

Fig. 7 Rela­tion­ship of arc sec­ond and sec­ond

1296000’’ = 86400 sec­onds There­fore, 15’’ = 1 s

Hence, in 1 sec­ond, the move­ment of the rashi chakra in the sky is 15’’.

In this four part series, we have explained the basic con­cepts of astron­o­my and Hin­du (Vedic) way of time­keep­ing, and how it is based on the rela­tion­ship between the micro­cosm and macro­cosm. We have tried to explain in a sim­ple yet com­pre­hen­sive man­ner, so that one form a com­plete pic­ture of the essen­tial prin­ci­ples, with­out get­ting befud­dled by too many details.

We hope that this is use­ful to every­body who wish­es to explore the ancient knowl­edge tra­di­tion of Bhara­ta.


Swara Yoga : The Tantric Sci­ence of Brain Breath­ing by Swa­mi Muk­ti­bod­hanan­da

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