While in Hawaii, I read a translation of an ancient Hawaiian song about mana, or “life force”:
For mana is divine power
And we Hawaiians have a keen awareness of this
Supernatural force running through all things.
For it is our natural consciousness to be psychic.
And we read signs and omens into elemental phenomena.
To us, there is nothing that isn’t alive.
For everything has mana in some form . . .
Rocks and plants and mountains, winds and sea.
And water in all its forms is the symbol for this
Mystical power called mana.
As I read this, I was struck by the similarity of mana to the yogic concept of prana. The techniques that Paramhansa Yogananda taught—his Energization Exercises and several techniques of meditation, most especially Kriya Yoga—are expressly designed to heighten our awareness of this subtle life force around and within us.Yoganandaji wrote, “I watch the roaring, shouting torrent of life-force moving through the heart into the body. I turn backward to the spine. The beat and roar of the heart are gone. Like a sacred hidden river my life-force flows in the gorge of the spine. I enter a dim corridor through the door of the spiritual eye, and speed on until at last the river of my life flows into the ocean of Life and loses itself in bliss.”
It isn’t only through the practice of techniques that the flow of prana can be experienced. To enhance our awareness of it, right attitude, also, is vitally important. Positive thinking and enthusiasm open the floodgates of our mind to an increased flow of energy. And a spirit of respect towards all people unites us with the great river of life.
There is a remarkable story that I read in a book about the ancient Hawaiian civilization. A Christian missionary came to the South Pacific in the late 1800s with a burning zeal to convert the “heathen.” One of his methods of “persuasion” was to condemn the traditional priests as charlatans and fakers.
One day after a particularly vehement tirade against the ancient ways, an elderly priest asked the missionary why he always attacked them when he had no knowledge of their true spiritual power.
“Because you are liars,” the missionary said defiantly. “If you have such great powers, why don’t you demonstrate them now for all the people to see?”
Thus mercilessly taunted by the missionary, the old priest finally shook his head slowly, and, in a quiet voice, said, “Go down this pathway into the jungle about one hundred yards. There you will find a fork in the road. Take the righthand fork, proceed a few more steps, then stop and look into the jungle.”
With the whole congregation watching, the missionary did as he’d been instructed and looked into the jungle. What he saw appeared to be an open window displaying a scene from another time and place. Through the window he saw his mother’s kitchen in Holland, where she stood—just as he often remembered her since leaving the family home—baking bread. Glancing up, she looked directly at her son, who fled screaming in fear of the extraordinary power that had been demonstrated to him.
This experience so changed him that he left the village, abandoned his missionary work, and spent the rest of his life studying the ways of the traditional religion. He later received a letter from his mother asking if he was well, because she also had seen him that day, and was concerned that perhaps what she’d seen was his ghost.
To feel the river of life within us, we need to see the Divine Life in all. As Swami Kriyananda wrote in his song, “Brothers”: “Though words and customs vary like waves upon the sea / One life beneath the surface binds everyone to me.”
United with you in spirit,