Essence of Prashna Upanishad: Part-3 of 6

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Prashna Upanishad comes from the Brahmana portion of the Atharva Veda, belonging to Pippaladasakha. It has 67 mantras spread over six chapters. Each chapter contains one question. Prashna means question.  The scientific approach of Vedanta is the basis of the Prashna Upanishad, where the teacher and the students are engaged in an enquiry into the nature of Universe.

This Upanishad leads the aspirant from the known to the unknown, from the manifest to the unmanifest, from the grossly materialistic mind to the Supremely subtle, Absolute and Pure Consciousness’.

Here we will discuss only about the Third Question (तृतीयः प्रश्नः). In this part, I have included Sanskrit version of the Mantras for the interested readers. The First Question and the Second Question have been discussed earlier in my previous blogs. The Links are here:

First Question: Essence of Prashna Upanishad: Part-1 of 6

Second Question: Essence of Prashna Upanishad: Part-2 of 6

तृतीयः प्रश्नः Third Question:

Verse: 3.1: Kausalya, the son of Asvalaya, put forward this third question:

1.From whom does this Prana take its birth?       

2. How does it get into body?                                     

3. How does it there after dividing itself?                                 

4. How does it get out of the body?                                     

5.How does it support all that is outside and all that is inside? 

अथ हैनं कौशल्यश्चाश्वलायनः पप्रच्छ । भगवन् कुत एष प्राणो जायते कथमायात्यस्मिञ्शरीर आत्मानं  वा प्रविभज्य कथं प्रतिष्ठते केनोत्क्रमते कथं बाह्यमभिधत्ते कथमध्यात्ममिति ॥ ३.१॥ तस्मै स होवाचातिप्रश्नान् पृच्छसि ब्रह्मिष्ठोऽसीति तस्मात्तेऽहं ब्रवीमि ॥ ३.२॥ 

Difficult Question:

Verse: 3.2:  Sage replied: ” Indeed the question is transcendental. You dig into the root. However, as you are an earnest seeker of Brahman (ब्रह्मिष्ठोऽसीति), so I shall explain it to you.”

आत्मन एष प्राणो जायते ।
यथैषा पुरुषे छायैतस्मिन्नेतदाततं
मनोकृतेनायात्यस्मिञ्शरीरे ॥ ३.३॥

यथा सम्रादेवाधिकृतान् विनियुङ्क्ते ।
एतन् ग्रामानोतान् ग्रामानधितिष्ठस्वेत्येवमेवैष
प्राण इतरान् प्राणान् पृथक् पृथगेव सन्निधत्ते ॥ ३.४॥

Verse: 3.3: How does prana come to abide in this Body?

 This prana is born of Atman(Self). (आत्मन एष प्राणो जायते ) Life falls from the Self as shadow falls from the man. (यथैषा पुरुषे छायै तस्मिन्नेतदाततं ) By the action of the mind, it enters into this Body.  (मनोकृतेनायात्यस्मिञ्शरीरे )

Prana is the basic Energy of the Universe. Prana originates from prana. Life originates from life. Prana has mind and wisdom. Prana decides to take birth.

It is the mind which makes the prana identify itself with a particular body only, and no other. Life and Self are interwoven, but Life comes into the body that the desires of the mind may be satisfied. [( Reason:- Causal ! Ref: BG: 8.5-6) ]

Following two are the Shlokas from Bhagavad Gita, Chapter: 8.5-6:

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम् |
य: प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशय: || 8.5||

Those who relinquish the body while remembering Me at the moment of death, will come to Me. There is certainly no doubt about this.[8.5]

यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् |
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावित: || 8.6||

Whatever one remembers upon giving up the body at the time of death, O son of Kunti, one attains that state, being always absorbed in such contemplation.[8.6]

Verse:3.4: Delegation of power:

As the king portions out his kingdom under different officials , lordly prana portions out and assign duties to his five other assistants to maintain respective departments.

Verse: 3.5: The Apana, prana and samana, the assistants:

पायूपस्थेऽपानं चक्षुःश्रोत्रे मुखनासिकाभ्यां प्राणः
स्वयं प्रातिष्ठते मध्ये तु समानः ।
एष ह्येतद्धुतमन्नं समं नयति तस्मादेताः सप्तार्चिषो भवन्ति ॥ ३.५॥

Five Pranas:

Apana : The organs of excretion and generation under the downward stream.  (पायूपस्थेऽपानं ) [ Relates with Earth~ gravitational pull for elimination] Prana: Sun maintains Prana of the eye. Functions of eye, ear, mouth and nostrils, where He lives himself under prana.(चक्षुःश्रोत्रे मुखनासिकाभ्यां प्राणः स्वयं प्रातिष्ठते ).  SamanaAir , filler of the all. Lying in the middle of the body(ध्ये तु समानः) is responsible for swallowing the food, distributing nutrients equally and kindler of the seven flames (प्तार्चिषो भवन्ति ) (2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils and mouth). 

हृदि ह्येष आत्मा । अत्रैतदेकशतं नाडीनां तासां शतं
शतमेकैकस्या द्वासप्ततिर्द्वासप्ततिः प्रतिशाखानाडीसहस्राणि
भवन्त्यासु व्यानश्चरति ॥ ३.६॥

अथैकयोर्ध्व उदानः पुण्येन पुण्यं लोकं नयति पापेन
पापमुभाभ्यामेव मनुष्यलोकम् ॥ ३.७॥

Verse: 3.6 The Vyana: Governs circulatory system.

Self lives in the heart.(हृदि ह्येष आत्मा )There are a hundred and one arteries,(अत्रैतदेकशतं नाडीनां ) from every artery start one hundred veins, from every vein seventy two thousand smaller veins.(तासां शतंशतमेकैकस्या द्वासप्ततिर्द्वासप्ततिः) All these are under the Vyana.(प्रतिशाखानाडीसहस्राणिभवन्त्यासु व्यानश्चरति )It governs the circulatory system.

Verse: 3.7: The Udana: Leads energy from lower to upper level of consciousness.

The special nerve mentioned here is Sushumna Nadi. Climbing through one of those 72 crores nadis, the upward stream, Udana leads the meritorious man to his reward; the sinful man to his punishment; if his merit and demerit are mixed, back to the world. (पुण्येन पुण्यं लोकं नयति पापेनपापमुभाभ्यामेव मनुष्यलोकम् )Leads from lower to upper levels of consciousness. Udana takes away the subtle body at the time of death.

आदित्यो ह वै बाह्यः प्राण उदयत्येष ह्येनं चाक्षुषं प्राणमनुगृह्णानः । पृथिव्यां या देवता सैषा पुरुषस्य
अपानमवष्टभ्यान्तरा यदाकाशः स समानो वायुर्व्यानः ॥ ३.८॥

तेजो ह वा उदानस्तस्मादुपशान्ततेजाः ।
पुनर्भवमिन्द्रियैर्मनसि सम्पद्यमानैः ॥ ३.९॥

Verse: 3.8-9: Coupling of inner with outer Upa-pranas.

The SUN is verily the external counter part of the Prana that rises up in this body. (आदित्यो ह वै बाह्यः प्राण उदयत्येष ह्येनं चाक्षुषं प्राणमनुगृह्णानः)  Rising Sun is the symbol of life. Sun maintains Prana of the eye. Earth draws down Apana. Air, filler of all maintains samana and external wind relates to vyana. That external Fire relates to this internal Udana.(तेजो ह वा उदानस्तस्मादुपशान्ततेजाः )When light is out, sense dissolves in mind, man is born again. 

यच्चित्तस्तेनैष प्राणमायाति । प्राणस्तेजसा युक्तः सहात्मना
तथासङ्कल्पितं लोकं नयति ॥ ३.१०॥

य एवं विद्वान् प्राणं वेद न हास्य प्रजा हीयतेऽमृतो
भवति तदेषः श्लोकः ॥ ३.११॥

Verse: 3.10: How Does Prana Go Out?

Udana united to the mind’s desire at the moment of death, returns to life and life. (यच्चित्तस्तेनैष प्राणमायाति ) Udana lighting the way, brings the soul to whatever place it deserves.(according to desires = तथासङ्कल्पितं लोकं नयति)

Verse: 3.11 : The fruit of knowledge on prana:

The man who knows this , knows the meaning of life, his children are never lost. 

उत्पत्तिमायतिं स्थानं विभुत्वं चैव पञ्चधा ।
अध्यात्मं चैव प्राणस्य
विज्ञायामृतमश्नुते विज्ञायामृतमश्नुत इति ॥ ३.१२॥

3.12: Shruti Quotation: A Summary:

“He who knows the sources and power of Life, how it enters, where it lives, how it divides itself into five, how it is related to the Self, attains immortality; yes!  attains immortality”

            इति प्रश्नोपनिषदि तृतीयः प्रश्नः ॥

It is believed that Prana controls the Universal energy. It moves the whole Universe. According to ancient Texts, the whole of the manifested Universe is divided into two:

1) Akasha: the ultimate or basic stuff, out of which all the gross forms, from galaxies to atoms, from microscopic cells to the major animals and Human. Takes shape, and into which they resolve, and dissolve at the end to it’s pristine condition. Akasha, the matrix of all forms, can not itself be perceived. It is experienced only as its gross effects or combinations.

Please visit the site: [ Particle physics of you** ]

2) Prana: What works upon the Akasha and shapes it into all forms or manifestations is called prana.

“Prana” is vital energy and invisible to us. It is like Electric Power ,which gives life to the machines and machines run, animates.  Same way this vital energy “Prana” animates us, the live bodies.  It runs the 1st layer the Physical body. This prana is external to further subtler energy which is Mind. The mind is so subtle and transparent, that  mind can reflect consciousness. 

Prana (Breath) is verily the life of beings and hence it is called the Universal life. It is matter of common knowledge that life becomes possible only so long as the vital energy keeps the different organs of the organism alive. ” Though this vital life force makes the body animated and actions are performed but this is not the Real Self. This Prana separates life from death once the “Prana” leaves the body. Prana as a whole is  composed of five Pranas (prana, Udana, vyana, samana, Apana). These pranas have their own importance to operate The Body perfectly. Through practice of Pranayama (pranayama is breathing exercise, part of Yoga as described in the ancient texts) , we can transcend to the next layer. Pancha Kosha Tattva (Wisdom of five sheaths explains about the layers before and after Pranamaya kosha.

Prana and Cosmic Vibration: 

To the Yogi, the whole Universe is his Body. The matter which composes his Body is the same that evolved the Universe. It is by the power of controlled prana, faith healing is effected due to certain state of vibration. Also remote healing of others can be made by conveying similar vibration. It is also the secret of the power of the great men of the world. Thought is the highest expression of prana. Its expression is three fold. Unconscious, Conscious and Super Conscious. All manipulations of the subtle forces of the body, which are different manifestations of the prana, give a push to the mind to assume vibrations, which reveal facts of subtle levels of existence. The whole Universe is one unbroken mass of matter in flux beaten into different states of vibration by the prana. When the action of prana on akasha is most subtle, it is mind. Mind is also one unbroken continuum. The Universal Mind. If one gets into that subtle vibration through the regulation of prana within oneself, then the whole universe is seen as composed of subtle vibrations of thought. Samadhi brings the individual’s mind to those vibrations which enable it to apprehend the facts of these subtle levels of existence. He who has grasped this Prana, has grasped the very core of cosmic life. Through Pranayama, Yogi controls the prana.

Conclusions: A Look : In the perspective of Modern Science:

Efficiency of the Human Body


Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite.**
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of Prashna Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. Prashna Upanishad By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  7. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary By Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  8. Information available on internet.

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Arun Singha

Retired from AIRPORTS AUTHORITY OF INDIA as Dy. General Manager (CNS).BSc(Mathematics Honors). Age 60years. Studying ancient Indian Philosophy along with modern physics and modern Biology. Follow Dr. Bruce H Lipton, Dr. JOE DISPENJA , Gregg Braden and Swami Sarvapriyananda among others. Writing consolidated articles on Upanishads, Advaita Vedanta and other ancient Indian Texts. Wish to work for the society to help people through personal guidance, motivation. Self has work experience of 36 years in the field of Air Navigation Service at different Airports in India. Gained vast experience in handling man and machine. Would like to reach to the people to share my life experiences, how I had overcome great challenges and difficulties at different times and positions.

4 thoughts on “Essence of Prashna Upanishad: Part-3 of 6”

  1. Sir, Adding further to your points Prana leaves body on death, Aatma is Chaitanyam (conscious) lends existence to all Anatma. It is part of Sukshma Shareeram and controls various functions as mentioned in this article. But it is referred as breath and sometimes as life. According to the context understanding differs. Prana is the life energy of all living beings which appears inert. As Pranadah, he is the giver of Prana, the strength, the life energy to all living beings. Thank you for these intellectual posts and happy to reflect and learn.

    1. Thank you so much for your inputs.
      Prana referred as breath and sometimes as life. Indeed it is true, but prana has greater role in sustainability of this Universe.
      In different Upanishads, prana is projected in different ways.
      We may consider this as Vital Energy which is keeping live, this universe. That is what it has been described in prashna Upanishad prashna-1.
      I understand this way that integrated life force is prana for which living things Exists, whether plant kingdom or animal kingdom or any other that we don’t know. But there is a relationship between Rayi (matter) and Prana(energy).
      Thank you so much for your comments which add value to these articles.
      Together we can gain more knowledge and sharing is learning.
      Best wishes 😊🙏

  2. Life originates from life
    To consider whole universe as one’s body as it is made of Same matter is of higher order of yoga , this very line of your post is driving me into a different thought process
    Great information excellent compiled 👌👌♥️

    1. Thank you so much Reena. You liked it and you have taken this thought process in Deep.
      Happy to know. Thanks again for your comments ☺️.
      Best wishes

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