“Pranayam be thy Religion!”
I have a favorite chant that was frequently sung by Sri Yukteswar, Paramhansa Yogananda’s guru. It’s titled Desire, My Great Enemy:
Desire, my great enemy,
With his soldiers surrounded me,
Is giving me lots of trouble, oh my Lord,
Is giving me lots of trouble, oh my Lord.
That enemy, I will deceive,
Remaining in the Castle of Peace,
Night and Day in Thy joy, oh my Lord,
Night and Day in Thy joy, oh my Lord.
What will be my fate?
Oh Lord, tell me.
Pranayam be thy religion,
Pranayam will give thee salvation,
Pranayam is the Wishing Tree,
Pranayam is the Wishing Tree.
Pranayam is Beloved God,
Pranayam is Creator Lord,
Pranayam is the Cosmic World,
Pranayam is the Cosmic World.
Control the little pranayam,
Become all-pervading pranayam,
You won’t have to fear anything anymore,
You won’t have to fear anything anymore.
Pranayama (or pranayam) means in Sanskrit, “control of one’s life force, or energy.”
Most people think that pranayama describes various breathing exercises and yoga techniques. Yogananda explained that “pranayama is a condition, not a technique.” The very purpose of pranayama exercises is to give us complete control of the inner life force. This is the true meaning of pranayama.
Paramhansa Yogananda said that the author of the chant took poetic license by saying, “pranayam is Beloved God” and “pranayam be thy religion.” Even so, he emphasized that the words of the chant do describe the only way to union with God, through control of one’s energy.
What does control of one’s energy have to do with union with God? Yogananda said:
God answers all prayers, but restless prayers He answers only a little bit. If you try to give someone something that doesn’t belong to you, your gift won’t mean much to him, will it? However touching the gesture, it will be lacking in substance!
So is it when your mind is not your own. You may want to give it to God, but you can’t. Your prayers, then, are hardly more than a gesture.
Get control over your mind. When you can pray with concentration, the Lord will know that you mean what you are saying. He will answer you, then, in wonderful ways.
The Kriya yogi, through ever- deepening practice of Kriya, controls his life force to the extent that he can withdraw the energy that would otherwise go into restless thoughts and desires. As a result of that control, he can achieve final union with the divine in deep samadhi meditation.
Even if the Kriya Yogi falls short of the ultimate goal, he finds over the years that his meditations become ever deeper, and that God answers his prayers “in wonderful ways.” This has been true in my own life, and in the lives of countless other Kriya yogis.
P.S. The chant, Desire, My Great Enemy, is beautifully performed on the chanting CD titled Power Chants, available from Crystal Clarity Publishers.