Prasna Upanishad (Part-3)- How Does Life-Breath Function


Mantra 4

yathaa samraadevaadhikritaan.h viniyunkte | etan.h graamaanotaan.h graamaanadhitishhtasvetyevamevaishha praana itaraan.h praanaan.h prithak.h prithageva sannidhatte ||4||

As an emperor commands his  officials, saying; "You supervise these villages” so does this Prana  employ the other Pranas (various other vital-breaths), to their respective  functions.

The nucleus of all activities of  the body is the Prana, the Chief (Life-Force in the body)  which gets its work done through upa-pranas or secondary pranas just as a king gets his work done through his  subordinates like governors or subedars.   The activities of a living body can be classified under five different  categories or five pranas with their own nomenclature and a clear-cut division  of duties allotted to each of them. Each prana has got its own jurisdiction  wherein it functions with its specified headquarters fixed at a stipulated location  in the body. The secondary pranas function in the various sectors of the body  to contribute to the maximum experiences gained by the Chief-Prana.

It must be noted clearly that the  Vital-Breath or Prana is one and that it is known by different names on account  of different duties it discharges in the body. Prana is the vitalizing force  for the entire body but in and through different centers of the body it  discharges various functions. The five-fold nature of Prana is only a  functional division and we should keep in mind that there are no five different  vital-breaths.


Mantra 5

paayuupasthe.apaanam chakshuhshrotre mukhanaasikaabhyaam praanah svayam praatishhtate madhye tu samaanah | eshha hyetaddhutamannam samam nayati tasmaadetaah saptaarchishho bhavanti || 5||

Prana (life-breath) engages  apana (out-breath) in the organs of excretion and generation; he himself  (life-breath) moves through the mouth and nose and dwells in the eye and ear.  In the middle is samana (equalizing-breath); it distributes equally whatever  food is eaten. It also activates the seven flames (openings in the face).

Himself remaining in his own  nature as the Chief Prana in the mouth, the nose, the eye and the ear, he makes  them speak, inhale and exhale the air, see and hear respectively.  He makes the apana to occupy the  region of the anus and the organs of generation and causes them to throw out  the waste products of the body and initiates the process of procreation.  Between the prana and the apana,  in the region of the navel, is placed the samana which is given the  function of distributing equally to all the parts of the body energy and  vitality produced on account of the digestion of food and water by the Vaisvanara fire in the stomach. It is from this fire which rises afterwards up to the  region of the heart seven flames shoot up as it were in the form of two eyes,  two ears, two nostrils and one tongue in the mouth and enables the soul to have  the experience of forms, sounds, smells and flavors.

Mantra 6

hridi hyeshha aatmaa | atraitadekashatam naadiinam taasaam shatam shatamekaikasyaa dvaasaptatirdvaasaptatih pratishaakhaanaadiisahasraani bhavantyaasu vyaanashcharati || 6||

Self, the atman dwells in the  heart. It (heart) has a hundred and one arteries (nadi). Each of these has a hundred  smaller arteries. Again, each of these smaller arteries is divided into seventy  two thousand subsidiary branches. Vyana (diffused-breath) moves within them.

The lotus-like heart is the seat  of the subtle Atman known as ‘Lingatma’. From within the cavity or space  of the heart one-hundred-one main arteries are spread out every one of which is  branched out into one-hundred sub-arteries. Each of these sub-arteries is  branched off into extremely minute arteries numbering seventy-two-thousand.  Prana moves through all these arteries and on account of this all-pervading  nature it is known as vyana. As vyana moves all over the body it  gives power and energy to all the limbs and senses to perform their functions.

A word of caution is necessary  here. Based on our modern medical knowledge we should not to be over-concerned  about the actual number of arteries, nerve centers etc., but understand the  concept behind this picturisation of the human body system laid down in the shruti  dating back to the Vedic period.

Mantra 7

athaikayordhva udaanah punyena punyam lokam nayati paapena paapamubhaabhyaameva manushhyalokam.h || 7||

And then udana  (ascending-breath), ascending upward through one of these arteries, leads the  departing soul to the virtuous world, for its virtuous deeds; to the sinful  world, for its sinful deeds; and to the human world if the deeds are a mixture  of both (virtuous and sinful).

As for the Udana, it rises by the Susumna-nadi, which is  the only one amidst the various arteries which goes up to the top of the head  and taking the soul after it, departs from the body and reaches it either to  the regions of the blessed or to those of the condemned according to the man’s  good or bad actions on the earth during his life time. In case the merits and  demrits gathered during the life time balance each other, the soul is brought  back by Udana to the mortal world of humans to go through the cycle  again.

Mantra 8

aadityo ha vai baahyah praana udayatyeshha hyenam chaakshushham praanamanugrihnaanah | prithivyaam yaa devataa saishhaa purushhasya apaanamavashhtabhyaantaraa  yadaakaashah sa samaano vaayurvyaanah || 8||

The sun is verily the cosmic Prana.  It blesses the in-breath (prana) in the eyes. The divinity which is in the  earth supports a person’s out-breath (apana). The space (akasa) between the sun  and the earth is the equalizing-breath (samana). Air is the diffused-breath  (vyana).

This Mantra takes up the question  as to how the prana conducts the functioning of the body and the senses. Prana  (life-breath) in living beings is a manifestation of the cosmic life principle.  The principal prana or cosmic energy manifests itself as the sun, fire, space,  air and heat and upholds the deities controlling these elements. Prana, apana,  vyana, udana and samana are the internal manifestations of the principal prana  in the individual body. These five forms of prana enable the physical organs to  perform their functions.

Each of the five forms of  life-breath in human body is influenced by its cosmic counterpart. Sun  corresponds to prana which is active in the eyes. Earth corresponds to apana which regulates excretory and regenerative system. Space corresponds to samana which regulates the digestive system. Air corresponds to vyana which energizes  the entire body. Fire (teja) corresponds to udana which sustains  life. Thus there is a direct relationship between the universe and the  individual, between macrocosm and microcosm, between samashti and vyashti.

The chief prana in this way  supports both the external elements with their respective deities and the  internal organs with the life forces that control them. The individual  (microcosm or vyashti) himself is projected here as the total (macrocosm  or samashti). As such there are in the outer world of totality points  representing our own inner personalities and activities.  Pippalada illustrated as above the points in  the cosmos where we can visualize the same pranic forces that are functioning  in us in an enlarged and extended plane.

Mantra 9

tejo ha vaa udaanastasmaadupashaantatejaah | punarbhavamindriyairmanasi sampadhyamaanaih || 9||

Fire (teja) verily, is the  ascending-breath (udana). Therefore he whose fire of life has been extinguished  takes a rebirth, with the senses absorbed in the mind.

When a person dies his physical  body disintegrates, but the power or strength of his sense organs or pranic  vitality withdraws from these centers and become united with the subtle body,  the mind. The subtle body is conveyed to its next field of activity (for  rebirth in another body) by the energy called udana. Thus it is not just  our deeds but also our thoughts and words in this life that influence our next  life. (Ref: Gita 15.8)

So long as the udana exists in the body a person is alive and his body remains warm. When the udana leaves, the warmth is gone, the person is dead and the body is cold. Thus a  dead body is thing in which the flames are extinguished as this Mantra says.

Receive Site Updates