A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
and sound from his self-imposed ordeal ?i The body obeys certain
well-defined natural laws and any other man attempting to exist
stark naked under similar conditions would inevitably perish. Yet
Jnanananda seems to have suspended the operation of these laws at
his own sweet will.
What is the explanation?
I find some hint of it, from memory, partly in two ancient Hindu
volumes and partly in the statement of a Tibetan ascetic whom I met
at Buddha-Gaya years ago.
One of the volumes is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a Sanskrit text-
book for the use of those who are practising the Way of Body
Control. It describes a hard and difficult physical system of self-
discipline, involving tremendous efforts of will, and then promises
those who follow it the power to resist all changes of temperature.
The other book is the famous Bhagavad Gita, a manual of both Yoga
and philosophy, which counsels the practitioner to withdraw his
mind so completely into his deeper spiritual centre as to be oblivious
of bodily feelings. "Be beyond the pairs of opposites, heat and cold,"
are its words.
From the Tibetan I learned that among the advanced ascetics of
the Lama kingdom there are quite a number who specialize in
generating, by certain physical exercises and mental practices, an
internal heat, a subtle fiery force which they call lomo. In these
exercises deep breathing is coupled with efforts of the will and
imagination. First a secret invocation is chanted to receive the
requisite magical power, and then the power of visualization is
drawn upon and a subjective image of fire is produced. Then the
flames are drawn up, to the accompaniment of deep breaths, from
their supposed seat near the sex organ and sent to the head. The
theory of these ascetics is that this imagined fire warms the generative
sex fluid, which is then distributed along the arteries and nerves all
over the body by other practices. Finally the ascetic passes into a
trance in which he remains for some time with his mind fixed on the
fire-mirage which he has created. My Tibetan informant claimed
that this practice entirely drives off all sensation of cold from the
body, and enables the man to feel a pleasant warmth pervading it
although he be living in the depth of Tibet's hard rigorous winter.
In fact, he added, some ascetics deliberately sit in freezing water
when practising their exercises.
The clock must tick and the pages of the calendar must be
turned. Yogi Pranavananda wraps his orange robe a little tighter
1 The Tchri State Medical Officer, Dr. D. N. Nautyal, M.B., B.S., examined Swarai
Jnanananda after his return and found that his pulse-beat is now permanently set about
thirty degrees below normal, I am informed by a State official,