“You are the ancient born Rishi, the one ruler of the universe through the power of Ojas.”
RIG VEDA VIII.6.41
From Advaita Vedanta we learn, “We are not the body, we are not the mind”, while yoga teaches us how to create a travel-worthy vehicle for our inner journey to the ultimate goal of self-realisation. Yoga’s true goal is to transform, transcend and transmute the subtle energies of prana, tejas, and ojas. The body and mind must be capable of holding and working with these 3 energies. They are the building blocks of one’s yoga sadhana.
The 3 vital essences
Prana, tejas and ojas (PTO) are sometimes called the ‘three vital essences’ that undergird the three Ayurvedic constitutions of ‘vata, pitta and kapha’. The former is the root of the latter. The important thing to know is that the PTO control our psychophysical functioning or mind-body connection. They have immense power to control the well-being of not only our physical but also the subtle and causal bodies as well and hence our spiritual functioning. Therefore, PTO plays a vital role in sustaining life and positive vitality. They not only promote health, creativity and well-being but also provide support for deeper and yogic practices. If properly oriented, the PTO energizes higher spiritual potentials as well and this is where it is most important to all aspiring yogis.
a) Prana is the primal life-force without which there is no life. Prana sustains us not just because it is air we breathe but also a master force with intelligence that ensures coordination of breath, senses and mind. On a subtle level, prana is the master over the unfoldment and harmonization of all higher states of consciousness. Just like fire needs air, we need prana to ignite our inner agnis and koshas to transform our consciousness in order to link us back to God. Without this preparation, we will not be ready for the force of the kundalini. When it does rise, the kundalini emanates from our soul and course through the subtle bodies, chakras and nadis like a Christmas tree lighting up. This is the way home to the divine within. All true yogis seek to develop this yogic fire in his goal for self-realisation.
c) Ojas is the primal vigor responsible for our vital reserve of physical and mental endurance. In a sense it is the internalized essence of digested food, water, air, impressions and thought. It is also responsible for nourishing and grounding the development of higher faculties.
Our nervous system and the 3 vital essences
Prana and tejas are rooted in ojas. Tejas is the heat and light energy of ojas and is said to be like ghee, capable of sustaining a flame. Prana is the strength and energy that comes from ojas after it has been kindled into tejas. When seen from the viewpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine, prana is primordial chi, tejas is willpower (Yang) and ojas is endurance (Yin). Even though the yogi seeks to increase all 3 energies, they need to be in balance without one overpowering another. This is achieved through proper diet, exercise and meditation. Overall there is good health, strong immune system, vigor, enthusiasm and courage.
The nervous system is like a CPU of a computer, ensuring proper functioning of all bodily systems. Ojas plays a prominent role in providing the fluid that lines the nadis thus cushioning the flow of energy, prana, through the nerves. Tejas is the heat generated by the flow of energy. When you feel the heat from Ujjayi Breathwork, this is PTO in play. Similarly with any of the asanas. On any cold and wet day when you feel like you need a good work out but can’t step outside, that’s when yoga comes to the rescue. In no time at all, you can work up a good sweat. PTO do not just impact on a physiological level but also the psychological. The 3 energies play different roles in modulating our emotions, impulses, and responses.
The Vedas often refer to the soul as prana or tejas because of the role that prana plays in incarnation and tejas in our spiritual aspiration. The higher forms of PTO and the soul reside in the spiritual heart. This is the seat of the soul and in self-realisation, that’s where you return to, the home of the Divine.
Tantra and the 3 vital essences
The kundalini develops from the three energies of PTO. It is primarily the heightened energy of tejas carrying the awakened pranic force and sustained by a higher ojas. While tejas is Shakti, ojas is Shiva. It will descend as nectar aka amrit to feed the fire of kundalini as the latter rises. Some will feel the fire, while others will feel the descending nectar more. As tejas and ojas unite when the kundalini arises, the fire burns away any attachment to the birth-death cycle. This union also creates the higher prana or deep energy in the mind responsible for enlightenment and ultimate discrimination of the buddhi or higher intelligence. Until then, any meditation no matter how high or deep cannot be sustained. You will have glimpses and tastes of the ultimate but it will not stay.
a) Ojas can be increased through diet, herbs, Brahmachari or control of sexual energy and emission of sexual fluid, Pratyahara or control of senses and Bakti Yoga or devotion
b) Tejas can be increased through Tapas or control of speech and other austerities, mantra, concentration exercises, and Jnana Yoga or Yoga of Knowledge such as self-enquiry, “Who am I?” or the 3Qs.
c) Prana can be increased through pranayama, meditations on inner sound and space of the heart, and Raja Yoga or the integration of Raja Yoga with Bhakti, Karma and Jnana Yoga.
In our own personal experience with our yoga sadhana, what started as Raja Yoga slowly evolved into a combination of all four main yogas. We have also had the good fortune to meet and learn from some of the most accomplished spiritual teachers thus shaping our practice even further to include elements from Tantra and Kriya Yoga. This has helped to deepen our knowledge and experience with prana and the chakras.
Nadibhedam tatha pranatattva bhedam tathaiv cha
sushumna mishra bhedam cha yo janati sa-muktigah
One who knows the secrets of the nadis (their operation and effect), of prana, and of sushumna gets liberated from the cycle of life and death, being totally enlightened.
~ ॐ ~