The Subtle Life Force
Ojas—The Foundation for Yogic Practice
Ojas means vitality, strength, power, or luster and comes from the root vaj, meaning “to be strong.” It is usually translated as “life force.” Ojas is a subtle energy that is distributed throughout the entire body and incessantly nourishes it—it is the highest form of energy associated with human life.
Our spiritual, intellectual, and social accomplishments are nourished and made possible by this energy. Without ojas, there is not a proper foundation for the practice of meditation and yoga.
According to the sacred text Rig Veda (8:6:41), “You are the ancient born Rishi (sage), the one ruler of the Universe through the power ojas.”
Ojas in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, ojas is seen as the quintessence of the constituents of the body (lymph, blood, muscles, fat, bone, spine and bone marrow, and semen). It provides our primal vigor—the basis for physical and mental endurance. It is the essence of digested food, water, air, impressions, and thought. At a deeper level, it is responsible for nourishing the development of all higher faculties. Ojas is also our latent creative potential, a storehouse of creative energy. It brings patience, consistency, and steadiness to the mind and promotes feelings of peace, love, calm, and contentment.
There Are Two Types of Ojas:
- Para ojas (“supreme” ojas), said to be eight drops in quantity and located in the Heart Center. It is the vital potential of the human being—its loss leads to death.
- Apara ojas (“non-supreme” ojas), the vitality that radiates all over the body. This type of ojas can be increased and regenerated in several ways, including proper diet, use of herbs, control of the sexual energy, control of the senses, the practice of Bhakti Yoga, and meditation on the Heart Center. We lose this vital potential through aging, misuse of sexual energy, and physical overexertion. When sexual energy is lost, the mind will be weak—controlling sexual energy results in controlling the mind. The transformation and sublimation of sexual energy into ojas via yogic techniques is one of the major aims of the practice of brahmacharya (spiritual abstinence or sexual continence). The transmutation of this energy enhances not only physical health, but also our level of consciousness.
The Taoist Equivalent of Ojas
In the Taoist tradition, “jing” (which can be equated with ojas) refers to the essential materials that support physical life. It is a form of potential energy that is primarily associated with sexual fluids. This potential is “preserved” in the suprarenal glands, in the reproductive organs, and in the sexual secretions. It is associated with the first “tan tien” (reservoir of subtle energy). In its ultimate nature, “jing” is immortal. In ordinary people, it usually manifests as the sexual impulse.