MANTRA 17 - 27

Then prana secured food for itself by chanting and transformed that food into different organs of the body. Anyone intending to defeat him (prana) in greatness and glory will become incapable of supporting his dependents. Prana is therefore called as ayasya angirasa, the essence of all limbs. Yes, the prana is the essence of the limbs. From whichever limb the vital breath departs, that limb withers away right then and there; therefore it is verily the essence of the limbs.

Prana is also Brihaspati (lord of the Rig-Veda). Speech is Brihati (Rig) and the vital breath is its lord (pati). Therefore it is called Brihaspati. It is also known as Brahmanaspati (lord of the Yajur-Veda). Speech is Brahman (Yajur) and the vital breath is its lord (pati). Therefore it is called Brahmanaspati. The point to note here is that Prana is equated with udgitha etymologically. The inseparable relationship between speech and the vital force is being established in these mantras.

Prana is Saman, too. Speech is, verily, sa and this (prana) is ama. Saman i.e., the chant of the Sama-Veda is known by that name (saman) because it is sa (speech) and ama (prana). Or because it (prana) is equal (sama) to the entire universe; therefore it (prana) is indeed the Sama-Veda. He who knows this vital breath to be such great value attains all happiness.

These mantras lay stress on the importance of articulated chanting of saman with sweet voice. He who has got expertise in this art of chanting is said to be wealthy and he is sought after by all to perform sacrificial rites for the reason that prana expresses itself through the medium of speech and the body.

It considers that the one, who succumbs to the evil tendencies and is engrossed in prohibited actions, as dead. As immortality transcends death, it is sought for in the mantras known as pavamana mantras.


This is the last mantra of this Brahmana. It contains the most popular prayer which in modern days forms part of the logos of many organizations particularly in educational field. Let us, therefore, study it in detail.

In a sacrifice called jyotistoma the priest called prastotri sings twelve hymns, of which the result of singing the first three goes to the sacrificer (Yajamana) while that of singing the remaining nine, goes to the priest. These hymns are called pavamana which are of purificatory and repetitive in nature (abhyaroha).

The priest has to chant the beginning of the saman. While he is chanting it, the sacrificer (Yajamana) utters the following texts:

asato ma sad gamaya;
 tamaso ma jyotir gamaya;
mrutyor ma amrutam gamaya”

(Lead me from unreal to the real;
from darkness to light;
from death to immortality).

When the mantra says: "Lead me from the unreal to the real," "the unreal" means death and the "real," immortality; so it says, "From death lead me to immortality," that is to say, "Make me immortal." When it says: "From darkness lead me to light," "darkness" means death and "light," immortality; so it says: "From death lead me to immortality," that is to say, "Make me immortal." In the verse when it says: "From death lead me to immortality," the meaning is direct and clear.

Thus the prayer is for taking us from death to immortality or to make us immortal. We have therefore to be very clear about the terms death and immortality. We have seen in earlier mantras that death means evil and immortality means goodness. Death is evil because it makes the man succumb to the evil tendencies and goad him to perform all prohibited actions. Hence such sense-identification is evil and is nothing other than death. Thus when the prayer uses the terms ‘unreal’, ‘darkness’ and ‘death’, they all mean death or evil only.

The terms ‘real’, ‘light’ and ‘immortality’ mean immortality. Immortality does not mean physical existence in this body for ever. But it means ‘a state of deathlessness wherein the individual soul is in communion with the Supreme Soul, Brahman’.

“Lead me from death to immortality” means a prayer for total cessation of all attachment and false identifications. Immortality cannot be achieved unless one is free from the lower impulses of lust, anger and other such demonic qualities. Unless these devils are blown off and divinity restored, until evil is annihilated and death is transcended by establishing purity in thought, word and deed, one cannot hope to attain immortality.

“Thus, the human heart here pours out in prayer. This is a prayer not of a particular people but of all human beings everywhere and in this Upanishad it has been so briefly and beautifully expressed. In this short prayer all the aspirations of the human heart have been included. We all want to go from darkness to light, from untruth to truth and from death to immortality”. – Swami Ranganathananda.

After chanting the remaining hymns the priest and the sacrificer obtain whatever objects were desired by them. Through this process of meditation one conquers the world (wins the Hiranyagarbha). He who thus knows this saman (the prana, or vital force) for him there is no fear of his becoming unfit for the world. The idea is that the prana cannot be defeated by Asuras the senses which are addicted to evil; the prana is pure, and the five senses finding refuge in him, recover their original nature. The prana is the Self of all things, also of the speech and the saman itself that has to be sung and sung well. The prana pervades all creatures and he who identifies himself with that prana obtains the rewards mentioned in the Brahmana.

This saman is the same vital force which destroyed the evils of attachment of the senses with their objects and made them free from defects. This vital force is the restorer of divinity in all bodies. It is present in all bodies.



[To be continued]

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