It was a hot and sultry day, and a thirsty crow was circling the houses on the outskirts of a city in search of water. Spying a terracotta pot in a garden courtyard, she flew down for a closer inspection.
She perched on the rim and peered inside, to discover some water at the bottom. The pot was wide and round at the base, and the narrow neck had kept the water from evaporation. But she realised that she would get stuck, or worse still, trapped, if she tried to force her way inside. She was an intelligent crow, and tilting her head to one side, she began to think.
There were many small pebbles lying about, and the crow began to pick them up one-by-one and throw them into the pot. Eventually, as the pebbles settled, the water level rose until the crow was able to drink at the neck of the pot without danger. When she had satisfied her thirst, she returned to her nest.
‘It is an allegory. The crow is the human being,’ Guruji explained. ‘We spend much of our lives feeling thirsty, feeling like we are looking for something. Usually we do not realise that our thirst is spiritual.
‘The pot in the story is a symbol of the body, and the water is a symbol of our conscious level. It is very low. We have to apply our knowledge, even if it is low at the present time, to raise our level of consciousness. For this we need to learn a technique. When the body is filled with pranic energy (and in the story, the pebbles are a symbol of prana) then automatically the conscious level is increased and we will be relieved of our thirst.’
As the spiritual masters of Kriya Yoga have shown through example, the quickest and most effective way to raise the conscious level is through Kriya Yoga pranayama. Guruji also teaches some different forms of pranayama in his hatha yoga classes, and he was explaining after class one day that pranayama is a practice to balance the main airs in the body, prana and apana:
‘As human beings, we have limitations and problems. But we can realise in our human bodies that we have a mind, and we have a life force inside of us, in the form of prana. We can realise that something is witnessing (Atman, God, or whatever name you choose to give), and that there is something beyond this prana and mind.
‘Mind or chitta (lit. mind-stuff) is related to the left channel (ida nari) of the body, which is the negative force of the body. Mind controls and works the five sensory nerves: eyes, nose, tongue, ears and skin.
‘Life force or prana is related to the right channel of the body (pingala nari). The life-force controls and keeps the five organs of action in the body working: speech, hands, feet, the organs of reproduction and discharge. These five organs can only move because of that energy.
‘You can either try to control mind – or you can try to control your respiration. But if you try to control your mind without any method, you will find it is like trying to control a storm. The breath is grosser than the mind; therefore it can be more easily controlled than mind. And the breath can be controlled through yoga pranayama.