I travel in a car driven by a trained driver. If my driver was not trained, you can imagine what terrible accidents might have occurred. Even if the driver is trained, but the car is not in order, I would not reach my destination. The case of the car and the driver also applies to every human being.
Training is necessary and it must be perfect training. We need training in engineering, in medicine and sports in order to achieve success. Do we have the proper training to guide our own minds, our own personalities? I would say, certainly not. This is one of the reasons why we have not been able to harness the potential of the mind.
Our mind is a very powerful agent through which we can achieve fantastic success in life. Systematic training of the mind in conjunction with our emotions is absolutely necessary. If you think that the intellectual training given in our academic institutions is the ultimate, then you have made a wrong assessment. Intellectual training is a part of life, but it is not everything. Work is important for an individual and the community. What is more important for a nation, however, is people with trained and disciplined minds. I don’t believe in the discipline which does not spontaneously arise from within. I am not talking about social discipline or civil discipline, but self-discipline and self-organization.
The practices of yoga definitely help to develop self- discipline. They also have many other profound effects on the mind and body; here is just one example among many.
Normally around the age of seven or eight, the pineal gland in children starts to decay, and by the time the child reaches adolescence, its role in the body diminishes. The pineal gland is a tiny organ situated at the point where the head and neck join, directly behind and in line with the mid-eyebrow centre. It is a very important gland and it is believed to control all other endocrine glands and to influence the pituitary gland by delaying the onset of puberty.
When the functions of the pineal body undergo regression, children begin to attain a stage in life corresponding with the awakening of the reproductive system that is called an emotional upsurge. If this phase can be delayed for eight to ten years, then the emotional upsurge can become a mature emotional expression. Otherwise, children generally have an unbalanced psycho-emotional personality and they suffer from a type of psycho-emotional obsession as they try to adjust to their new sexual role in life. Educators and parents must teach children the way to maintain the health of the pineal gland so that this premature sexual development leading to psycho- emotional imbalance can be avoided.
Today, unfortunately, most of our children continue to develop in a very unbalanced way. They are physically under-developed, mentally developed and emotionally confused. In yoga the most important practices for this problem are pranayama, mantra and surya namaskara. In the olden days when a child reached the age of eight, he was taught these three techniques in a ceremony known as upanayan. In the course of time, due to inadequate explanation and lack of scientific interpretation, there arose a great misunderstanding. Children thought that these were merely unnecessary religious practices.
Recent scientific investigation and research has discovered that the practice of pranayama at this age can maintain the health of the pineal gland for a further period of about ten years. If you can maintain the health of this gland for another ten years, I can assure you that you will not face emotional conflicts in your life, nor what we call sexual hallucinations or obsessions. These states are completely psychological and emotional that occur because the whole mechanism has gone out of control.
Pranayama is practised in the morning after you have finished your bath. Before beginning pranayama, sit down in a comfortable posture or asana, either padmasana, the lotus posture, or siddhasana, the accomplished posture. However, if padmasana or siddhasana are not possible, you can assume sukhasana, the easy posture. The important point is to keep the spinal column upright and straight. You do not have to sit like a statue, but sit in a comfortable position with the back straight throughout the entire practice. Next inhale through your left nostril, retain the breath for a few seconds, then exhale through the right nostril. Then inhale through the right nostril, retain for a few seconds, and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round. You should practise five rounds daily. This is the principle of pranayama. The breathing should not be forced in any way.
Surya namaskara is a combination of twelve postures. It is a dynamic exercise and the most ancient exercise prevalent in this country. The sun is the source of vital energy. It is the source of prana, knowledge and light. Scientifically, it is from the sun that we obtain many important radiations such as ultraviolet rays. The rising sun emits ultraviolet rays which are necessary for those people who suffer from deficiency of Vitamin D. They are also necessary for maintaining the health of bones and good eyesight. At sunrise, face the sun directly and expose your body to it. Of course, this does not apply in the chilly winter months. Practise the twelve surya namaskara postures. Six rounds will take you about five minutes. This practice will revitalize the whole body and mind. It activates the solar energy within us which is responsible for our vitality.
Pranayama is necessary for the mind and surya namaskara is necessary for the body. Pranayama develops the mental shakti and surya namaskara develops the prana shakti. What are you and I? We are a combination of mind and vitality. If there is no prana, there is no life; if there is no mind, you can’t think – you would exist as inorganic matter. When mind and prana come together, they make this dynamic and promising body.
At the same time, it is also necessary to note that if prana and mind are not in balance with each other, disease results. If there is an excess of mental shakti and lack of prana shakti, you will think, imagine and fantasize too much, but will not be able to accomplish anything. As a result, you may go crazy, become hysterical or even psychotic. There are many children and adults, who think too much but can’t do anything because they lack dynamism. They are not dynamic because there is no prana in them, no energy. This is one aspect.
On the other hand, what will happen if there is excess of prana but mental power is low? As an adult you will become a storm in society, as a child you will be the tempest in school, creating problems for your colleagues, teachers and society. With excess of prana, action in some form is necessary, but if there is nothing constructive to do, you just break and burn. Most people suffer from this imbalance in varying degrees. They have too much prana shakti or vitality, and not enough mental shakti to balance it.
In order to balance this excess of energy you will have to turn to the science of mantra. In ancient days the young children were taught the Gayatri mantra:
Om bhur bhuva swaha tat saviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat
This mantra has nothing to do with Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Communism. Anyone can practise the Gayatri mantra. It has a tremendous effect on the different centres of the brain – the centre of memory, reproduction, genius, understanding and the centre of interpretation. There are millions of ultrasonic and supersonic centres in the brain. Without these centres you would not be able to understand what I am saying to you at such a fast rate. It is like a computer that is always working. The Gayatri mantra has a composite and homogenous effect on the many centres in the brain. The last part of the Gayatri mantra contains the word dhiyo which means intelligences, in plural and not only one intelligence, but many separate faculties – memory, quick grasping, recall, intuitive insight and communicative ability. There are hundreds and thousands of innate forms of intelligence in us.
When you chant the Gayatri mantra you are creating a possibility of change in the structure of the brain, opening up areas such as nervous pathways and nerve secretions. The brainwaves undergo a change in formation, a change in pattern. When your brainwaves are adjusted and properly functioning, then your intelligence functions miraculously.
Lack of adjustment is exactly the reason why, although you have previously understood and learned everything, at the time of examination it cannot be reproduced. You are overcome by a fear psychosis and on account of this state the alpha waves diminish. When you are suffering from fear psychosis there is an associated high anxiety and the brainwaves undergo a state of delirium and derangement. This is the problem with many school children, it is the cause of poor mental efficiency and the reason for bad results in examinations.
The Gayatri mantra can definitely help to overcome these problems. It is equally useful and beneficial for young and old, believers and non-believers. Its effects have been scientifically proven. The Gayatri mantra will affect your brain as much as it will affect your mind because it is a concrete and objective power or influence in the same way as penicillin or streptomycin or any other type of antibiotic affects each and every person equally regardless of race, age or religion.
So remember these three practices – pranayama, nadi shodhana for five rounds; surya namaskara, from six to twelve rounds; and Gayatri mantra, maximum is up to you to decide and the minimum is thirty-two for boys, girls, elders and everyone.
Yoga can contribute so much to the total development and training of children. You are the children of a very unique culture and age. To be spiritually enlightened children, you must learn to understand life with insight, and aspire to all that is great and noble. When children live by this aspiration, there is no reason why the world will not look to them for examples. Even today, though you have so many shortcomings and personality difficulties, the whole world is looking to you for light.
Please remember that you are not being educated merely to become a part of industry, not only to become engineers and doctors, teachers and professors, priests, sannyasins or factory workers. The aim of education should be to develop into a personality, a person who will comprise one unit among millions of people. A time must come when your personality should contribute to the personality of your nation. The personality of all human beings, all the civilians becomes the personality of the nation.
There is a culture which is above military culture, which is above political culture and which is higher than a culture which is mainly dependent on economics and industry. That culture is known as a spiritual culture, and you are its harbingers. You are the messengers of peace who were born to spread the yogic way of life to every corner of the world. Even those of you who do not practise yoga today can understand these words, and tomorrow you too will be amongst those who carry this message.
February 1979, Vikram High School, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh