While the first question dealt with the creation of the gross physical body, the second question concerned itself with the Prana which vitalizes the body and without which the body would disintegrate. The discussion between the students and the teacher on the Prana has reached that stage where a student felt like inquiring as to where does this Prana reside and from where does it operate?
Thus we enter into the third question where the student named Kausalya seeks further clarification on Prana – its origin, the entrance, functioning and departure from the body as also its importance both at individual and universal levels. In response, Pippalada first compliments Kausalya for the good question to encourage him. He then replies to each of the six segments of the question.
atha hainam kaushalyashhchaashvalaayanah paprachchha | bhagavan.h kuta eshha praano jaayate kathamaayaatyasmijnshariira aatmaanam vaa pravibhajya katham pratishhthate kenotkramate katham bahyamabhidhate kathamadhyaatmamiti || 1||
Then Kausalya, the son of Asvala, asked Pippalada: Sir, from where does this Prana born? How does it come into this body? How does it abide in the body after it has divided itself? How does it depart? How does it support what is without and what is within the body?
The enquiry is about where did this Prana come from? Prana here denotes vital breath which sustains the body. This Prana is the manifestation of the cosmic Prana or Prajapati. What is its source, the beginning? Who created the universe? Vedanta says that there is no such thing as creation. Something cannot be created out of nothing. If something exists, we assume something else was there before it. Vedanta says that Brahman is the substratum on which this universe rests. In fact, Brahman alone exists.
Then how does Prana enter the body and how does it leave? Previously under the Second Question (Mantra 3), Pippalada mentioned that Prana divides itself into five parts. How does this division take place and what are the functions of the various parts? How does the Prana make all the created beings operate? How does it support things pertaining to the body or outside the body?
tasmai sa houvaachaatiprashhchaan.h prichchhasi brahmishhtho.asiiti tasmaatte.aham braviimi ||2||
To him the teacher replied: You are asking difficult questions; you must be exceedingly devoted to Brahman. Therefore I will answer you.
The teacher was convinced that the student was showing genuine interest and seriousness in learning Brahma Vidya and that his questions were not out of idle inquisitiveness. In fact the nature of questions was such that they transcend the comprehension by persons of normal consciousness. Hence he promises him that he will reply them.
aatmana eshha praano jaayate | yathaishhaa purushhe chhaayaitasminnetadaatatam manokritenaayaatyasmijnshariire ||3||
This Prana comes from the Self, Atman. Just as a shadow is cast by the body of a person, so this Prana is, inherent in the Self, Atman and it enters the body by the activities of the mind.
We have seen in Mantra 2 under the previous question that Prana is continuously existent in the mind. This concept is elaborated under this Mantra with the help of a simile of the substance and the shadow.
When a physical body of a person casts its shadow, the shadow does not exist independent of the body as shadow is inherent in the body. The shadow is projected by the substance, so is the whole universe is a projection of the Self. The shadow has no intrinsic existence; it enjoys only a projected existence. A shadow is elusive for it can never be caught. It escapes the grasp of man for it is intangible indicating that the Self or spirit is present in the universe only in an intangible manner. Intangibility which resides in all the objects is the shadow cast by the Self and like shadow it remains beyond the grasp of man. That is the nature of Prana. Prana is projected from the Self, Atman. Prana is perceived to exist because of Atman which is its substratum. As there can be no shadow without substance so also is Prana and it cannot be independent. Prana is entirely dependent on the Self and in that sense it is unreal. It appears to be real because it rests on the reality, the Self.
How did Prana enter the body? It enters the body through the activities of the mind; that is to say through action arising from volition, desire etc., which constitutes the mind. The very existence of Prana in the body is dependent upon the movement of the mind. The senses are vitalized by Prana and in turn, Prana is impelled by the activities of the mind.
A man’s present life is the result of his thoughts in a previous existence. This body is fashioned by our own mind - by our volition, our desires, our decisions and resolutions during our previous life. According to the Upanishad the mind creates the body, that is to say that you are the architect of your own future life; as you think so you become. Our desires bring us back to this world again and again. Thus this text makes a reference to the doctrine of rebirth which is a very important concept in Vedanta.
Even under the Yoga system Prana follows Thought according to which the movement of Prana can be controlled by thought. It is possible to focus the attention of Prana on any centre of the body by clearly defined thought process.