Prana: Vehicle of the Mind by Gulab Kothari

Prana is the foundation of Aksara: the imperishable or immutable.
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Dr. Gulab Kothari is an Indian author, editor-in-chief of Rajasthan Patrika, and Chairman of the Patrika Group. Dr. Kothari is known for his contributions to Vedic Studies and was conferred with the Moortidevi Award in 2011 for his book “Mein Hi Radha, Mein Hi Krishna”. Dr Kothari is a member of the Institute of Spiritual Sciences Advisory Board.
Photo Copyright © 2024 Patrika Group.

Prana: Vehicle of the Mind
by Gulab Kothari

Prana and Reality
As yoga(1) gets widely publicized, the people across the world have begun to talk about Prana(2) curiously. Through the medium of yoga, pranayama(3) has become a mere part of yogic exercises. We have now many experts of pranayam. Yoga-Pranayam has become a big business these days. From a gross point of view the exhalation is called ‘prana'. It is one of the five gross pranas of the body (prana-apana-vyana-samana-udana) whereas prana is the foundation of the institution of Aksara - the pranic body – pranic sheath. Prana alone is hridaya (heart), a group of pranas consisting of Brahma-Vishnu-Indra. Nothing can be born without inanimate and conscious heart (center-navel).

Prana is not an independent tattva.(4) It always stays with mana (mind) and vak (sound-matter). All three together are called Atma (soul). The very exit or departure of prana is its proof. The gross prana is a part of the sheath made of anna (food) – body – annamaya kosha. Prana keeps all the three bodies – causal, subtle, and gross connected together. Prana is a dynamic tattva which follows mana (the mind), produces vak (sound-matter) and, also turns the subtle into gross.

Prana in the Vedas
Brahm has been described as Rasa and Maya as Bala. Both interface in three ways – Vibhooti, Yoga and Bandha. Three types of the institutions of Rasa come into existence. Interface with Vibhooti generates mana, interface with yoga produces prana, and interface with Bandha creates the institution of vak; all three are the institutions of Atma. Of these, only prana is a dynamic and immutable tattva of the institution of Akshara(5) since it is in the form of prana that Akshara is all-pervasive, the Lord of all. It gives rasa (juice/essence/flavor) to all categories of living beings and is the life of all. Devoid of shabda (word), rasa and gandha (smell) it does not occupy any space. Only that which makes all infused with prana is prana. It is also the material cause of all the activities.

Prana possesses the power of binding (bidharna shakti). That is why all the atoms of the soil blend together when water is mixed. Mud sticks to the wall. It does not fall down, even after the water dries up. It is called the power of binding (vidharna shakti). Prana is an action; it is in the form of contraction and expansion. Pranas do not have the power of binding themselves together. Their mutual relationship is that of companionship. The Vedas are the pranic creation. Therefore, the Vedas exhaled by Svayambhoo are apaurusheya (not created by humans) or of Divine origin, eternal and beyond the universe. Thus this pranic creation is called God's Mental Creation. In the Triad of the Vedas (Rik-Yaju-Sama) the yat part is prana and joo is vak (sound waves-matter). Yat is vayu (air) and the joo is the space. The prana is worshipped only in the form of Yajuha Yoga.

On account of the supremacy of prana, all material beings are combined with it in the form of Yajuha. Hence this form of worship is a way to merge with Yajuha. The aura (Sama) is there due to prana only. Prana alone is bala (young/powerful) and the living being becomes permeated with prana. In Brahm's heart a desire arises ‘ekoham bahushayama'. If mana didn't stay with prana, could Brahm's wish materialize? As a matter of fact, this very Vak is bahushayam (has a trait of multiplying). Hence, every Vak has its mana (mind) and there is nothing inanimate in the world.

The significant secret of Prana is that in customary practice it is Aksar Sanstha, a Supraphysical Energy or Deity, the approximate cause of Kshara. Prana alone is pitar, prana alone is rishi and prana alone is Brahm. We cannot see it, but the truth is that the progenitor of our body is also Prana. Pranayam's prana is a gross form of all these.

In the Gita Krishna says:

    samam kayashirogriva dharayannachalam sthiraha |
    sampreksya nasikagram svam dishashchanavalokayan || (The Gita 6.13)

“He should hold his/her head and neck erect and concentrate his mind on the tip of his nose without wandering and his heart should be immersed in me only.”

    prayanakale manasaachalena bhaktyayukto yogabalena chaiva |
    bhruvormadhya pranamaveshya samyak sa tam param purushamupaitidivyam|| (The Gita 8.10)

“Even at the time of death he/she also fixes his Prana between eyebrows through the power of yoga and with an unwavering mind remembers the Supreme Lord certainly attains Him.”

Both the slokas stated above refer to two different levels. The first sloka asks the aspirant to concentrate his mind on the tip of his nose and see his breath going in and coming out. This activity is associated with the gross pranas and tries to steady the sensual mind (indriya mana). The gross pranayam also asks the individual to concentrate his mind on breathing in and breathing out and contracting and expanding stomach. Pranas always flow downwards. In the other sloka pranas are concentrated on the eyebrows. The subtle pranas connect the aspirant to the supreme soul and shvovasiyas (pure) mind.

A Bridge to God
Prana alone is a maxim of life; prana alone is a bridge between us and God. Prana alone is Ishwara(6) and the world is subsumed in it. The aim of sadhana (a daily spiritual practice) is to enter the subtle from the gross. The basis of this entire journey is prana. The gross prana of the earth is called a beast. Therefore, all the earthly creatures are also called beasts. The beast means the one that is tethered to a noose or snare (ignorance-self-esteem-attachment-fear of death). It is avidya (ignorance or nescience) which is also the basis of our birth and incompleteness or imperfection.

Photo at left is of the sun partially obscured by the moon as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Oct. 7, 2010. Credit: NASA/SDO/LRO/GSFC

The moon's prana is Gandharva, the sun's prana is devaprana, Parmeshthi Loka has pitara prana and Svayambhoo Loka has rishi prana. The form of every loka's praja should also be discerned on this basis. Since in the process of the creation the rishi prana alone becomes gross gradually and assumes the form of animal prana, therefore, even in the process of counter-creation the animal prana grows subtler and subtler and ascends higher and higher. The only vehicle of the journey of the soul is prana if you move forward determinedly and in a concentrated manner. The pranas do not act without the desire of the mind.

Pranas Purify and Energize
Just as the Pranas keep changing the mind into activity and vak (speech/communication) and remain building the universe similarly they alone do the work of taking vak to the mind. Here vak is the food of the mind. Through the medium of the sensual pranas the vishayas (objects) reach the mind. In the body food too is carried to the mind by pranas only. It means that both mana (mind) and anna (food) keep mutating into each other with the help of pranas. By subduing the senses the permeation of the external food goes on diminishing. The direction of the mind is far removed from the creation.

The state of avidya (nescience/ignorance) is purified by vidya (righteousness-knowledge-detachment-divine majesty). Avidya also carries with it the covering of triguna-sattva-raj-tama (purity-passion-darkness). As vidya generated pranas purge avidya of its profanity, vidya also goes on being restricted. Vidya is no longer needed once the darkness of avidya is removed; “nistraigunya bhavarjuna” also attains a similar situation. Mana (mind) is completely detached from the gross world and begins to descend into the realm of vijnana (consciousness) and ananda (bliss). Mana is established in bhoo-madhya (halfway/the middle). Pranas alone go on making the mind dynamic as it moves ahead.

- Gulab Kothari

(1) Yoga (Sanskrit): means union or to unite. Yoga can be understood as a Vedic system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation practiced to promote physical, emotional, and Spiritual well-being.
(2) Prana (Sanskrit): literally: “breathing forth.” In Yogic and Vedic philosophy, Prana is the life force, energy, Spirit and vital principle that permeates all living things. In the human ‘energy body' prana is understood to flow through energy channels called ‘nadis.' “All that exists in the three worlds rests in the control of prana. As a mother protects her children, O prana, protect us and give us splendor and wisdom.” - Prashna Upanishad 2.13
(3) Pranayama (Sanskrit): is the yogic practice of focusing on breath. In yoga, breath is associated with prana, thus, pranayama is a means to elevate the prana-shakti, or life energies. Pranayama is described in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. - Source: Wikipedia.
(4) Tattva is a Sanskrit term meaning “principle” or “reality.” It is derived from the roots, tatt, meaning “that,” “quality” or “godhead”; and tvam, meaning “thou” or “individual.” It was developed as early as 2000 B.C.E. and was later reintroduced by Kapila, a sage belonging to the Vedic era, during the 700s B.C.E. Source: Yogapedia.
(5) Akshara (Sanskrit): refers to the imperishable/Eternal/Divine, and the concept of the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and the connection between soul, Spirit, and the ultimate reality, or Paramatman.
(6) Ishvara (Sanskrit): In Hinduism, God understood as a person, in contrast to the impersonal transcendent brahman.

Published at the Institute of Spiritual Sciences (ISS) by permission of author.
Edited and Footnotes added for publication at the Institute of Spiritual Sciences (ISS) by Ray J. Rousseau.
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