The Bhagavad Gita I:12-13
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Habits & Restless Breath
Grandsire Bhishma, oldest and most powerful of the Kurus, with the purpose of cheering Duryodhana, blew his conch shell with a resounding lion's roar.
Then suddenly (after Bhishma's first note), a great chorus from conch shells, kettledrums, cymbals, tabors, and cowhorn-trumpets sounded (from the side of the Kurus); the noise was terrific.
— The Bhagavad Gita I:12-13
Until the yogi is firmly established in Self-realization, the Drona-Habit Tendency in him is a miscellany of both good, and evil samskaras, or habit tendencies brought over from past incarnations, most of which have manifested themselves as fixed habits in the present life. However, since Drona-Habit Tendency has presently sided with the evil Kurus, or body-bound sense habits and wicked mental tendencies, his concentration is on protecting those Kaurava forces against the threat posed by the invasion of good habits and habit-destroying discriminative tendencies.
The very nature of habit is automatic compulsion to do what one has become accustomed to do. Habits go on repeating their same old pattern, often ignoring a desire's new command.
When bad habits are challenged, their self-preserving instinct makes them behave as though they were sufficient unto themselves to crush opposing good habits and intentions, and have no time to pay attention to urgings to cooperate with a long-range and broader view of action. Bad habits are therefore ultimately self-defeating—circumscribed by their narrow fixity and shortsightedness, dependent for their very existence on the important parts played by Material Desire and Ego. For example, in a psychological battle between the habit of yielding to a temptation and the habit of self-control, if self-control is stronger it may easily subdue temptation. But good habits find it very hard to overcome the persistence of a constantly replenished army engaged in evolving endless new material desires, and in reinforcing the body-bound inclinations of the ego. Without Ego's attachment to the body, there would be no Material Desire; and without Desire there would be no Samskara, or Habit. Conversely, Ego can be slain if not protected by Habit and Material Desire.
The restless breath
keeps consciousness body-bound
Thus Ego, in his own defense, initiates the call to arms. In the context of this Gita verse, this means that during deep meditation, when the breath has become calm, producing a very enjoyable state of peace wherein the mind is withdrawn from the senses, the worried ego rouses in the devotee the thought of body identification, reviving the restless breath, which is like a lion's roar compared to the absolute stillness of the interiorized meditative state. As soon as the devotee resumes his "natural" practice of dependency on fast breathing (the "blowing of the conch shell" that produces the consciousness of material sounds through the vibration of the gross akasha or ether), the Material Desire of the body is aroused and cheered on to rally the senses against the powers of meditation.
The devotee should not be discouraged at this, which is due to a lack of long-continued practice of meditation. The truth is, in the earlier stages of meditation all devotees find their limited body-consciousness resisting expansion into Omnipresence. The Ego, through Material Desire and his sense army, uses all lands of tactics to drive away the blissful consciousness of Omnipresent Spirit that manifests only in meditative stillness.
Any vibration sent forth by Ego during meditation helps to awaken Material Desire to revive the consciousness of the body and dispel the consciousness of Spirit.
By deeper and longer concentration, the meditating yogi must learn to hold on to the hard-won territory of calmness of breath and senses, in spite of the efforts of Ego and the army of sense distractions of Material Desire.
...After the ego creates a material vibration, reawakening the thought of body consciousness and rousing the restless breath, the senses also begin to send out their various distracting vibratory sounds in order to disrupt the devotee's meditation. The vibrations of the senses (Kurus), which keep the devotee's attention upon the internal sounds of the physical body, are shrill and disturbing—comparable to shattering a quiet atmosphere with the clamor of drums, horns, and cymbals.
Vibratory sounds experienced as the consciousness passes from the material world to the spiritual realm through the intermediate astral plane
...In meditation, the return of the consciousness to the kingdom of the soul requires the yogi to pass from awareness of flesh to awareness of astral existence. That is, the way from body consciousness to super-consciousness lies through an intermediate world—man's astral or vital-electrical system. The 12th and 13th stanzas describe not only the gross physical vibrations emanating from the senses, but also the ugly agitated and agitating vibratory noises of the aroused astral nadis (subtle astral "nerve" currents) that incite sensory and other bodily activities. ...
Aspiring yogis know all too well from experience that during the first state of meditation the concentration may become deep enough to shut off the sounds of the external world, but the resultant inner peace is short-lived. When ego consciousness is still awake and blows the conch shell of breath, the sense organs of heart, circulation, and lungs make many peculiar thumping, throbbing, and purring sounds; behind these is a cacophony of their body-bound astral counterparts. But no fine astral music is heard. The mind becomes discouraged and unsteady, a prisoner of its own sense-enslaved nature. The body begins to complain and wants to break its meditation pose.
Great determination of will is required to win this first inner psychological battle to keep the concentration steady and interiorized.
Four factors in meditation:
mind, breath, vital essence, life force
The devotee will be aided in this if he recognizes the intimate interrelation of the four factors of
vital essence, and
bodily life energy.
When any one of the four factors is disturbed, the other three are also automatically disturbed, as is the case when the ego consciousness revives the senses by disrupting the calmness of breathlessness.
The devotee, therefore, who aspires to develop steadily in spirituality must calm the mind by the practice of the right techniques of concentration; must keep the breath quiet by pranayama and proper breathing exercises; must preserve the vital essence (generally the most abused of the senses) by self-control and by seeking only the company of good people; and must free the body from restlessness and aimless motions by conscious control of the life force, and by keeping the body in good health and training it by patient discipline to sit absolutely still in meditation.