The Three Treasures of Life
The Three Treasures of life are: Body (essence), Prana (energy) and Mind (spirit). They comprise the three fundamental levels of existence for all living beings: physical, energetic and mental. The Three Treasures are regarded as precious gifts from Yoga, the natural legacy of life conferred upon all living beings at birth, and it is their relative strength and balance that determine human health and longevity.
Body: The essence of life:
There are three basic forms of essence manufactured within the body.
The first is blood-essence, which includes all the various vital elements carried in the bloodstream, such as red and white blood cells and nutrients absorbed from digested food in the small intestine.
The second is hormone-essence, which comes in two forms: life-essence and semen-essence. Life-essence includes all the vital hormones secreted by various glands throughout the body’s endocrine system, and which serve as master regulators for growth, metabolism, sexuality, immunity, aging, and so forth. Semen-essence refers to sperm and related male hormones in men, ova and related female hormones in women.
The third form of essence includes the heavy fluids such as lymph and the lubricants surrounding joints and other connective tissue (synovial fluid), as well as tears, perspiration and urine.
These three forms of essence, along with energy, are called the ‘Four Vital Bodily Humors’.
Essence and energy are intimately related: Energy is the general of the blood; if energy moves, then blood moves,’ Since blood follows breath, it stands to reason that correct breathing controls and enhances circulation, and this indeed is a basic goal of Yogic breathing exercise.
Prana: the energy of life
Prana is the vital force which pervades the whole cosmos. Prana literally means ‘breath’ and ‘air’ as well as ‘energy’ and is the exact equivalent to the term ‘chee’ in Chinese Tao. Though closely related to the air we breathe, it is not exactly the same thing. Prana is more subtle then air and can be defined as the energy essence that is within everything in the universe.
Traditionally, the prana (energy) in the body is divided into five elementary parts which are collectively known as the pancha pranas (five pranas). They consist of Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana.
Prana: This refers to the original burst of pure energy that occurs at conception and breathes life into the fetus in the womb. Prana may be compared to the potential energy stored in a battery. It begins to dissipate from the moment of birth, and the rate of dissipation determines one’s lifespan. One reason that children are so much more active and energetic then adults is that they have not yet polluted and dissipated their original primordial energy to the degree that adults have. That’s also why children don’t show as severe symptoms of poor diet and breathing as adults do: they are still protected by strong primordial batteries. But by drawing on these batteries to compensate for poor diet and other bad habits they accelerate the rate of energy dissipation and sow the seeds of chronic debility in adulthood. Prana may be tonified and enhanced through diet, herbs, proper Pranayama, regulated asana (yoga pose) and other Yoga disciplines aimed at recharging primordial batteries, retarding the rate of dissipation and thereby prolonging life.
Russian scientists conducted practical experiments, which clearly revealed the existence of a field of force around and within the body. They called it bioplasma; we call it prana. Others have called it the aura, among other names.
Prana energy travel by nadis(vital energy channels). It moves just as electricity moves through a computer- along well-defined ‘circuits’. In Chinese medicine these circuits are called ‘meridians’, and they form a weblike network of invisible channels that carry prana to every tissue in the body. Out of the large number of nadis in the psychic body, fourteen are more important, and of these, three are most important. These three are ida, pingala and sushumna nadis.
Mind: the spirit of life
The Mandukya Upanishad classifies the mind into three layers:
Jagrat- Conscious mind, waking state, surface thoughts and perception of the outside world, sthula (gross dimension).
Swapna- Subconscious mind, dream state, individual memory and mind skshma (subtle dimension).
Sushupti- Unconscious mind, deep conscious sleep state, memory, karana (causal dimension).
Yoga regards the spirit as the flowering blossom of the Yogic Trinity. With essence (body) serving as the roots and energy (prana) as the connecting stem. Only well-nourished roots planted in fertile soil generate strong stems and beautiful blossoms. Weak, undernourished roots and dry, brittle stems produce weak withered flowers.
In the most esoteric schools of Yoga, adepts transmute essence and energy into pure spirit during prolonged meditation and Pranayama. Followers of this path cultivate the Three Treasures entirely though internal methods, refining their own inner essence, and eventually forming a ‘mysterious pearl’ which grows with practice and confers health and longevity to the adept.
The aim of meditational practices is to direct our normally extroverted awareness into the domains of the mind. Consider the personal levels of the mind (i.e. the instinctive and the logical) as represented by the face of a wall. The bottom half depicts the instinctive mind and the upper half the rational mind. The area outside the wall stands for the suprapersonal mind, the super conscious realm being above and the collective unconscious below. It is night time, so you cannot see the wall or the surroundings; however, you have a torch and the light beam represents your awareness. The beam is small in diameter so that it does not light up the whole wall and surroundings, only a small area of the surface. During meditational practices the aim is to direct the beam of awareness downwards, so that it light up the lower mind or even the suprapersonal mind beyond the area of the wall.
Passive meditational techniques allow one to dive into the inner depths of the mind. The more one cleans out the personal lower mind, the happier one will become in interaction with the outside world during day-to-day life.
The Three Treasures of Life