The Mystery of Prana

The problem with language is that it may create a false familiarity with the things it is meant to index: having a word for something can lull you into the illusion of knowing what its referent really is. Take prana, for example.

“Prana” (प्राण) is a Sanskrit word that stands for “life force.” If you are an experienced meditator or have received a Reiki attunement, you are most likely familiar with prana as the subtle energy that flows in and around your body as well as pretty much everything else. Seekers and healers alike describe it as an energy of a subtle kind; in fact, many use the words “prana” and “energy” interchangeably. To some, prana is a physical sensation: a tingling or a flow similar to water; others, instead, perceive prana as a stream of light or the luminescence of auras. Its applications are just as manifold. To seekers keen on pursuing the realization of absolute consciousness, prana is the trail of breadcrumbs they must follow to find the way back home. To psychics, prana is the vehicle through which they obtain information inaccessible to most. Magic practitioners seek to bend prana (which they often call “power”) to their will for the sake of getting their work done. Keen on improving the lot of fellow human beings, healers channel prana for compassionate purposes. Martial artists, instead, use it in combat. There are many approaches to the use of prana as there are ways to perceive it; all of them, however, are only maps for a territory that is largely unknown. As denizens of a utilitarian, goal-oriented world, many of us have specific uses for prana; however, do our perceptions and routines really exhaust its potential?

Regardless of what prana feels like to you, you may realize that its behavior is not always predictable; in spite of what many believe, prana does not invariably bow to human will. Healers, for example, will often tell you that the “energy” they work with has an “intelligence” of its own. Is prana a living entity endowed with agency?

While this question has never received a definitive answer, Kashmiri Shaivites provided a useful map for this most elusive territory. According to them, there is a connection between prana as life force and Shakti as the active form of consciousness and the energy of manifestation: if prana is the trickle that holds things together, Shakti is the cataract shaping the universe into being. If prana feeds your intuition, Shakti has the power to project you into absolute consciousness. In conclusion: whether you are a healer, a psychic, or a martial art practitioner, by all means keep exploring prana and working with it in any capacity given to you. However, always do so with the respect that is due to an unknown force.  Tame though prana may superficially seem, it is still capable of tearing the veil of comfortable ignorance that separates you from your ultimate nature. Are you ready for a journey from which there is no return?

Photo by Greg Rakozy via Unsplash

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