Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Concept of Prana

March 3, 2004

As I said earlier, the concept of prana has been originally given by our ancient scriptures, which makes such profound sense. Let us see what the rishis have to say about it. In Taittariya Upanishad the rishi says,tasmadva etasmaat anna rasamayaat, anyontara aatma pranamayah, te naisha purnah. Deeper or subtler or more essential than this (food or biological) self is the self in the form of prana. He is more complete than the food self. This is explained by Adi Shankaracharya in his commentary on Taittariya Upanishad as follows. The biological body is filled with the prana having the same shape as the biological body. The subtle body is more complete than the gross one.Further the Upanishad says, Pranam deva anu prananti, manushyah pashavascaye, which means that the forces like fire, etc (devah) depend on prana for their activity. This indicates that various types of forces within us have their activities based on prana. When the sage said, biological body is supported by the prana-body at subtler level, he meant that, the biological body and the biological forces alone may not decide, how much to spend for a certain activity. More of it is spent if this prana draws more of this energy and less and less energy is spent. So the performance of the other energies depends on prana. Therefore prana is more fundamental. This is what we have seen in the other examples how a person spends more energy than the other in doing the same amount of out put. But this prana depends on the mental body (Manomaya Kosa). This is the next observation. How can we relate the statement made by Upanishad sage? Let us try to understand the mental body. Our mental body desires to do some thing which may be a perceivable thought or may be non-perceivable idea which may be arising out of mind or mental personality. Prana has greater freedom than biological body or the freedom which we see in biological body is essentially due to the presence of Pranic body. Mind has power or authority over the prana because of which mind works its way through prana on body. When I desire to move my hand I let my mind influence prana which in turn moves the corresponding energy and the hand moves. We do not see all these things happening because we have such a speed between thinking and doing that we do not notice the gap.Subtler than biophysical body is prana, and when this prana becomes softer gentler and subtler it is mind. This prana is the cause for life. This prana is life. pranohi yasmat bhutanaam aayuh jeevanam, yaavat asmin shareere praano vassati taavat aayuh. As long as there is prana in the body, so long there is life. By relaxing the physical body or by experiencing the feeling of satisfaction at the body level one can go to prana level recognition. All those practices that we do at bio-physical body level are essentially to facilitate us to detach from the bio-physical level. Once when we detach and go to unconscious level it is sleep. But if we maintain consciousness and feel satisfied totally at bio-physical level we transcend to prana level, which is the cognition of only a gentle activity at a minimum level going on. Prana itself can not be perceived but its effect in the form of respiration or pulse or some other sensation goes on.From Prasna Upanishad what are the ideas of prana let us find out. In Prasna Upanishad it is said that like the spokes of the wheel holding the wheel taking all the burden of the wheel transmitting on the stationary axle, prana is one thing on which every thing in this universe is fixed. It is the prana which burns like fire, shines like the sun, rains like clouds, the wind, the earth and the moon. It is both form and formless! Prana is born out of Atma, the I as a shadow is born out of an object by the actions of the mind and has subdivided into five functions.
Prana cakshusrotra mukha nasikabhyam Aditya
Eyes, ears, nose and face
Apana paayupasthe pruthivyam
Genitals and anal track
Vyana naadenaam vaayuh
Nervous system
Udana urdhvam udaanat tejas
Upward activity
Samaana swayam pratishte madhye Akaashah
In the middle portion of body
Further it is described that prana with udana together with jeevatma (individual soul) is lead to the sankalpa loka (the will-domain). All these subtle elements and their subtle aspects, what can be seen and heard etc, mind and thoughts, ego and its objects, every thing rests in the state of sleep like birds in their nests.This is an interesting statement from the point of rebirth! Our memory is some thing which not only belongs to this body. Body undergoes changes every moment. Therefore body also means this moment, because this body is constantly undergoing changes. Memory belongs therefore to our past and future. This is important because memory connects us to future and past. Our memory is the one which carries us to the future. In other words our memory transcends this body. It carries the impressions in subtle layers deep within us and brings up from this subtle level when ever it is required. The above sutra tells us that this memory can go beyond this body along with Udana carrying the impressions into other world called Sankalpa loka. When this body is left by our soul or self, these Sankalpa desires also follow our soul but do not have an instrument called body in order to manifest in the form of activities. That is the bondage we have from the birth. In order to fulfill our deep rooted Sankalpa desires we will be doing several activities which in turn bring about newer desires. Thus the bondage continues.An anecdote which has some element of humor I would like to share. It was my very early job in a government organization, and I was still my probation period. I was very junior and I had a super boss who was a superintending engineer wanting to become chief engineer. His desire was so strong that if he comes across any temple he would go in to pray to god make me chief engineer. He would see any sadhu sit with him ask when he would become chief engineer. He became like a great joke in the office. One day I came a little late to the office and as soon as I entered lift I found this man alone in the lift. I greeted him good morning, and the lift started moving up to fifth floor of the building. We were only two in the lift and the door closed. Suddenly I was shocked to find this man falling at my feel and asking Raghuram, bless me I want to become chief engineer. I said in shock, sir, leave it. You are so senior and I am so junior what can I do! He replied, I heard people talking that you also meditate. May be you have powers to bless me! I said, oh my god what will people think if they see this, for which he said, that is why I am holding you in the lift so that no one will see us. As soon as the lift stopped in fifth floor and we came out he immediately became my boss in front of others and started asking me, Raghuram, why are you late? I was surprised! That is to show how much he was caught up in wanting to become chief engineer.As he was given to several vises, one day he became sick of jaundice and went into deep come. He was in ICU and we as colleagues were taking care of his body in coma as various machines were working around him. Even doctors also gave p hopes and we were waiting when the end will come peacefully. After nine days that evening he recovered some it of consciousness. Before death there will be sudden spark of life coming up! I was by his side and gave held his hand and in the process of giving positive feeling I said in his ears loud, sir dont worry you will become alright and once you are better we will go home. As if he heard he opened his lifeless eyes, and with feeble voice said, Raghuram, save me I want to become chief engineer! I was surprised to find that the thought has gone to such deep layers in sub-consciousness that the moment he got a bit of consciousness it surfaced. Consciousness belongs to body and sub-consciousness belongs to that part of prana namely Udana, i am sure that, this desire will definitely go with him life after life and the struggle continues!When a person looses his one of the limbs the memory of the limb happens to linger on for several days and he would be having pain or itch in that limb. It is also observed that he would be feeling like using that limb. When this can happen for a lost limb the scriptures say that even when a person looses his body, he, meaning his soul will still be around that place trying to express his self but unfortunately he does not have the body to manifest his expressions. That is the reason in the Hindu culture there are ceremonies of offering food and taking care of them to be performed for the departed persons by the people who are close to them. This will continue for twelve days with an idea by then the connection with body is slowly gone and the soul now departs finally from that vicinity. The food and other offerings may not reach the soul but the feeling of taking care by the family in Hindu thinking will certainly reach the person, the soul. So the offering is expected to be given with devotion and emotional feeling. Unfortunately the procedures are becoming these days as rituals and loosing the emotional touch.We can see how people store their deep rooted wishes and desires, angers and animosity etc, in their subtle and unconscious layers of mind that these are not going to get washed out just by leaving this body. Spiritually evolved are the people who do not have any of these bondages and so they have freedom and their souls are liberated. That is the reason our spiritual texts say that desires are our bondages so to have neither good nor bad desires. That is how we can free our Udana.

No comments: