Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


Swami Veda Bharati has written, "When you will have exhaled inwards and inhaled outwards twelve breaths without pause, you will have entered the Great Reservoir." Anyone would like to explain please?


From Michael Smith:

Over the years Swami Veda often quoted the classic texts on Yoga in which there were quantitative prerequisites given for attaining samadhi.

One text said that if a person could sit ABSOLUTELY still for such-and-such a period samadhi could be attained.  Swami Veda wrote, “Since my childhood I have heard and read from the yogis that if you can sit absolutely still, without the slightest flicker, for 3 hours and 36 minutes you will enter samadhi. Gurudeva Swami Rama has also confirmed the same many times.”

This seems like one of those quotations; however, I do not know the source.

What he is talking about, though, is samadhi coming from “effortless breath retention.”

At the 2001 Teacher Training Retreat in Milwaukee he said this:

“I have done several sessions from time to time about the meaning of closing the gap [in the transitions between breaths]. You have a tape from your center, and Ananta would have it. Actually I explained that in South Africa in Johannesburg. Then I did one session on that in Rishikesh and one in New Jersey.

“Kevala-kumbhaka, the sahaja-kumbhaka, the effortless retention occurs when you have learned to close that gap. Then, at a certain point, without any antecedent practice, without any follow-up, spontaneously, the breath will become . . . so subtle that it would seem to stop, and you will think that you're not breathing. And you continue with that, and then it will actually stop.

“And the difference between this kind of sahaja-kumbaka or kevala-kumbaka and the sahita kumbaka, [is that] sahita-kumbaka is where you train your breath, where you train your breath, where you have to train for retention. But all the saints sing of sahaja-samādhi bhali that which just . . . happens, by itself. And that, there is no training for it; there is no preceding practice, no preparation. It just happens, because the mind has become so . . . tenuous. The mind has become so tenuous. The kleshas have become attenuated – second Sutra of the Second Chapter.[1] The kleshas have become so attenuated, so thinned down, that the breath that is the barometer of the states of the mind automatically responds to that tenuousness of the mind-thread.

“And that is sahaja-kumbhaka or kevala-kumbhaka – easy retention. And it can happen before rechaka or before puraka or after rechaka or after puraka or in the middle of rechaka or in the middle of puraka. Just . . . there you are! In your breath, in your mind – it just happens! And that is a sure entrance to samadhi. That's why I keep emphasizing – Swami Rama has repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly said, ‘Learn to master the pause between the breaths. Learn to master the pause between the breaths.’

“So teachers, learn to master the pause between the breaths, if you want to be a master of the breath. [There is a break in the recording here.] . .. entrance to samadhi, learn to master the pause between the breaths. The mastery of that pause is almost synonymous with kevala-kumbhaka, also known as sahaja-kumbhaka. And what is the other kumbhaka, the one with the effort? That is called sahita-kumbhaka. Sahita-kumbhaka and sahaja-kumbhaka. And where the Ganga and Yamuna of exhalation and inhalation meet, what happens? Kumbhaka! The Kumbha Mela occurs there. I haven't included that in my paper on the Kumbha Mela. Okay? You become a full pitcher – kumbhaka. Kumbha means ‘a full pitcher.’ Alright.

“Do you understand the difference between sahita-kumbhaka and sahaja-kumbhaka? Sahaja-kumbhaka is also known askevala-kumbhaka. Kevala: ‘alone,’ related to kaivalya: ‘becoming solo.’ It is something that happens just solo, which is the real ‘solitude.’ And some years back, Joanne Sullivan dug out for me from the Oxford English Dictionary that the word "celibacy" is also derived from this ‘celes,’ related to kevala, related to ‘solo.’ [Celibate — Latin caelibatus, fr.caelib-, caelebs-, unmarried; akin to Sanskrit kevala alone] So you might want to call it ‘celibate breath.’”

[1] Yoga-sutras II.2 – Samādhi-bhāvanārthaḥ kleśha-tanu-karaṇārthaśh cha. “[Kriyā-yoga is practiced] for the purpose of developing and nurturing samādhi and for attenuation [and elimination] of afflictions.”

Editor’s Note:

Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali with the Exposition of Vyāsa, A Translation and Commentary, Volume II: Sādhana-Pāda, by Swami Veda Bharati is available for purchase from Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust, Amazon.com, and other book sellers.

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Michael Smith, E-RYT 500, has been teaching yoga for over 36 years and is currently a curriculum coordinator for HYT-TTP (Himalayan Yoga Tradition – Teacher Training Program).  He has also been certified by the Himalayan Institute Teachers Association and the Behram Guard School of Yoga Meditation (an Iyengar-based Hatha Yoga School).  He was a public school teacher for 35 years and also a professor of Comparative Religion at North Hennepin Community College.   He has edited and/or illustrated many books on yoga and has lectured widely on stress management (the topic of his Master’s Thesis) and also on holistic health.  He teaches regularly at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, and has faithfully been transcribing Swami Veda’s talks for many years.



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