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The Main Arteries of the Subtle Body

It is in the Root center that all the subtle arteries are rooted. From it, seventy-two thousand subtle arteries spread throughout the body. Among these, three are most prominent; extending upwards Ida is on the left, Pingala is on the right and Sushumna in the center. Ida is said to correspond to the lunar principle, Pingala to the solar and Sushumna to the combined qualities of sun, moon and fire.

"In the middle of the body there is firmly established the Sushumna artery (nadi) in a state of stupor starting from the bulbous center and resembling the fine fiber of a lotus-stalk. Shaped like a tube, it proceeds straight upwards to the Principial aperture (the Brahmarandhra). Bright as a streak of lightning, this artery has Vishnu as its presiding deity and leads to the Principial Heaven (Brahma-loka) and also towards final dissolution. The two subtle arteries Ida and Pingala stand to its right and left. Taking its origin from the bulbous center, Ida ends in the left nostril, while Pingala, having its origin from the same (bulb), terminates in the right nostril. Two other subtle arteries Gandhari and Hasti-Jihva are also found there, in the front and rear of the Sushumna, proceeding towards the left and right eyes. The Pusha and Yashasvini arteries, taking their origin from the same (knot) reach the left and right ears. The Alambusa, reaches the root of the arms; the Shubha nadi going downwards stretches to the tip of the sex organ. Starting from the bulb and proceeding downwards and stretching as far as the big toes is the Kaushiki artery. Arteries which originate from the bulb are thus said to be of ten different kinds. Various (other) arteries and channels, big and small also originate from it. The big and small arteries are seventy-two thousand in number. Those branching out of the big ones, each having its own multiple course, cannot be counted, even as the big and small nadis spreading out in the leaf of the Ashvattha (sacred fig tree)." (Trish. Brah. Up. 67-76.)

Along the central artery, sushumna nadi, lie the six Centers or knots through which the central artery passes and in doing so is strangled at each. The main object of the practice of Laya Yoga is, as we have seen, to undo these knots so that the basic energy may rise freely through the central artery.

Ida and Pingala are, on the other hand, curved to go round the six knots.

The three arteries, starting together from the life-breath Center (svadhishthana chakra)(1) unite once more above the middle of the brows in what is known as the Principial Aperture or Brahmarandhra. The place of their reunion is named Triveni, the triple confluence.

"Ida is the Ganges of the lower world, Pingala the river Yamuna and between Ida and Pingala is Sushumna, the subtle river Saraswati."

The yogi who by the power of his yoga can bathe in this triple confluence attains liberation.

"It is said that to bathe in the confluence of the three rivers leads to the Great Result (liberation)."

"When, in the body of the embodied being, the life-breath reaches the junction of Ida (the lunar artery) and Pingala (the solar artery) then it is the new moon [when the living self and the Supreme Self are united]." (Jabala Upanishad.)

"The Ida artery on the left is white and corresponds to the lunar principle. She is the goddess or female principle whose form is energy and which is the embodiment of the true ambrosia (of immortality).

On the right is the Pingala artery, the male shape, the solar principle. Here the Arch-goddess appears as the Lord of Tears (Rudra=Shiva) of shining red, like the filaments of a pomegranate flower." (Sanmohana Tantra. Also quoted in the commentary of the Shat chakra Nirupanam, 1.)

(1) "By the word 'sva' is indicated the life-breath (Prana), the Sva-adhisthana Center is the abode of that life-breath." (Yoga Chudamani Up. 1, 11.)

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