A simple but highly effective technique that helps to develop one's latent powers of concentration. Through practice of this technique one learns to withdraw thought and energy from outer distractions so that they may be focused on any goal to be achieved or problem to be solved. Or one may direct that concentrated attention toward a deepening perception of the Divine Consciousness within.
The value of the Hong-Sau technique of our Gurudeva Paramahansa Yogananda is its remarkable effectiveness in calming the mind. I encourage all of you to practice it regularly; I never miss it. Whenever I have a few spare moments in my room, or when waiting for people, I practice this technique. By doing so, one arrives at a wonderful state of inner peace.
You can become adept at controlling the mind because your true nature is the soul—the perfect, peaceful image of God within you—which is beyond reach of the restless body and mind. The way to learn that mental control, and to contact that soul peace, is through patient practice of the Hong-Sau Technique. As often as the mind wanders, bring it back—again and again if necessary. Keep on with determination until the mind is riveted on practicing the technique. Think of it as a challenge, and make up your mind: "I am going to prove that I am the conqueror, not the slave, of my restless mind and body."
your mind and breath become perfectly synchronized;
it is as if they become forged into one razor-sharp sword
that suddenly severs the inner fetters that were binding you.
(Excerpts from talks by Sri Daya Mata)
Hong-Sau — "I Am He"
“Hong” and “Sau” are sacred Sanskrit words that have a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath and they have a calming effect on the breath. Breath and mind are very much interrelated.
"I am He"
— "I am Spirit"
Calm breath automatically brings about a calm mind. Restless breath creates a restless mind.
Just observing the breath will quiet it down. Hong-Sau is a mantra. It is very simple – basics are simple!
What to do when thoughts come? St. Teresa of Avila gave good advice:
When unwanted thoughts come,
pay no more attention to them than
to the words of an idiot.
If the mind wanders, don’t berate yourself – use it as a reminder to bring it back to the practice of the technique. If during the first few moments of meditation you can get a hold of the mind there will be far less problems. When practiced correctly the breath may slow down - it may even stop – and this is a very desirable state. That is a deep state of stillness. Just enjoy that deep feeling of peace when the breath is not flowing.
Don’t be concerned – the body will breath when it needs to, so don’t fret. And don’t get excited either, thinking, “I did it!!” Just relax and enjoy it. But don’t try to create it.
Don’t try to control the breath
– that is not practising Hong-Sau.
Daya Mata says of Hong-Sau: “I didn’t waste my time; I practiced it in spare moments of the day.”
We are trying to be the soul –
Remember, the techniques are just a means to an end. Don’t waste time. Whenever you have a few moments practise Hong-Sau and then feel the peace – talk to the Guru.
(Excerpts from a talk at 2004 Convocation by Brother Ishtananda)
Master called Hong-Sau the “baby Kriya”. Hong-Sau deals with the breath and the life force and it has a remarkable calming effect. ‘Hong’ and ‘Sau’ have a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath.
Yogananda said that
one hour of Hong-Sau
equals 24 hours of prayer and meditation
When man transcends the need for breath he ascends to the celestial spheres. When Master gave us the techniques he emphasized that it takes perseverance and regularity, and to remember that they are not beyond our scope, or he wouldn’t have given them to us. You can practice Hong-Sau before or after a meal, and any time when the mind is not engaged outwardly – for instance when you are a passenger in a car or waiting in the doctor’s office. But do not practice Hong-Sau when walking because it is a conflict – we need energy in the muscles in order to walk, not to take the energy inward.
(Excerpts from a talk by Sister Parvati)
Focus and Enthusiasm: Keys to Deep Meditation
Paramahansa Yogananda said: "All men and women should remember that their worldly life can be freed from endless physical and mental ills if they add deep meditation to their daily routine of living." Notice that he did not just say meditation, but deep meditation. To go deep in meditation requires focus; it requires concentration. That's why the first technique Guruji gives us is the marvelous Hong-Sau technique of concentration. Its practice intensifies our concentration and therefore our ability to practice all the meditation techniques effectively. In the resulting stillness and calmness we go deeper and deeper within. As all of us know who have made that effort, when we have a deep meditation life seems wonderful. But if we have a lackadaisical meditation, we get up afterward and wonder: "Well, what was I doing? That didn't seem to help at all."
In the beginning of our spiritual search, we're usually full of enthusiasm. We really make effort in our meditations, and often get very good results because of that. But as the years go by, there is a tendency to slacken a little bit and just go through the motions. You sit down to meditate and the mind says, "Oh, it's been a tough day!" And ten minutes later you're still thinking about what a tough day it's been; you haven't even started to meditate. In struggling against this myself, I've found that it can be overcome if I make an effort to get myself charged up for meditation, give myself a good pep talk: "OK, mind, we're going to meditate. I don't want any backtalk from you. Focus on the Hong-Sau technique, and don't even think about wandering off!" Summon up intensity; and you will find that the mind obeys, and you go deep quickly.
Keep on keeping on. That's the whole secret of spiritual success: Never give up! You are a divine soul; and the pressures and stresses you feel can never dim that radiant spark of divinity within you. They are simply challenges to be faced and overcome, joyously! You already have within you everything you need to do so; all you have to do is uncover it. So keep on uncovering; keep on simplifying; keep on going deeper, becoming more and more joyous—with God.
(Excerpts from a talk by Brother Achalananda - SRF Magazine 1996)
If you would like to learn the Hong-Sau technique please apply for the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. The Hong-Sau technique is taught as preparatory to Kriya Yoga.
Further Readings about Hong-Sau: Notes from SRF Convocations