Vital Energy in Tibetan Buddhism
Updated: Feb 23
Fundamental energy of life - Prana and its relation to the Lucid Dreaming Yoga
Dreaming is a dynamic process. The content of dream is formed by the mind, but the basis of the vitality and animation of the dream is the prana.
The literal translation of the Tibetan word for prana, lung, is "wind," but it is more descriptive to call it the vital wind force.
Prana is the foundational energy of all experience, of all life. The ancient Tibetan esoteric teachings describe two different kinds of prana: karmic prana and wisdom prana.
Although some Western psychologies believe that the dreamer should not control the dream, according to Tibetan teachings this is a wrong view. It is better for the lucid and aware dreamer to control the dream than for the dreamer to be dreamed. The same is true with thoughts: it is better for the thinker to control the thoughts than for the thoughts to control the thinker.
Karmic prana is the energetic basis of the karmic traces produced as a result of all positive, negative, and neutral actions. When the karmic traces are activated by the appropriate secondary causes, karmic prana energizes them and allows them to have an effect in the mind, body, and dreams. Karmic prana is the vitality of both the negative and positive energies in both side channels.
This is a simple practice one can do to balance the prana: Men should use the left ring finger to close the left nostril and exhale strongly from the right nostril. Imagine that all stress and negative emotions flow out with the exhalation. Then close the right nostril with the right ring finger and inhale deeply, very softly and gently, through the left nostril. After inhaling let all the air, the prana, pervade your entire body while you hold the breath for a short period. Then gently exhale and remain in a calm state.
Women reverse the order. Begin by closing the right nostril with the right ring finger and exhale sharply from the left nostril, emptying the lungs. Then close the left nostril with the left ring finger and gently and deeply inhale through the right nostril, breathing in the calm wisdom prana. Remain with calm pervading your body. Then gently exhale and remain in a calm state.
Developing mental stability is necessary on the spiritual path, to make the mind strong, present, and focused. In dream yoga, once we have developed the ability to have lucid dreams, we must be stable enough in presence to stabilize the dreams produced by the movement of the karmic prana and to develop control over the dream. Until the practice is developed, the dreamer will sometimes control the dream and sometimes the dream will control the dreamer.
Three Kinds of Karmic Prana
There are soft prana, rough prana, and neutral prana.
Soft prana refers to virtuous wisdom prana, which moves through the red wisdom channel.
Rough prana refers to the prana of negative emotion, which moves through the white channel. In this classification, both virtuous wisdom prana and emotional prana are karmic prana.
Neutral prana is, as its name suggests, neither virtuous nor non-virtuous, but it is still karmic prana. It pervades the body. Experience of neutral prana leads the practitioner toward experience of the natural primordial prana, which is not karmic prana but the energy of non-dual rigpa residing in the central channel.
The prana involved in this pure experiencing is the primordial wisdom prana, the energy that underlies experience prior to or free of grasping or aversion. This pure experience does not leave a trace and is not the cause of any dream. The wisdom prana moves in the central channel and is the energy of rigpa. This moment is very brief, a flash of pure experience of which we are usually unaware.