Prashna Upanishad (Madhva commentary)

by Srisa Chandra Vasu | 1909 | 11,393 words | ISBN-13: 9789332869165

The English translation of the Prashna upanishad (Prashnopanishad) including the commentary of Madhva called the Bhasya. It is one of three classical Upanishads associated with the Atharva Veda and contains six prashnas or ‘questions’ directed to Sage Pippalada. The text discusses topics such as creation, cosmogony and the unity of the microcosm an...

Chapter 3 - Third Prashna

Mantra 3.1.

1. Next Kausalya (called) also Āśvalāyana asked him. O Master! whence is this Prāṇa born? How does he enter this body? How does he abide dividing himself (into five parts)? By what passage does he go out (of the body)? How does he uphold the external (world), and how the internal (body)?—30.

Note.—This chapter shows that the Supreme Lord is not only the creator of the whole universe but as five-fold prāṇa rules the microcosm also.

Mantra 3.2.

2. He replied to him: Thou askest pertinent questions, thou must have reflected over the Vedas to ask such questions. Therefore, I shall answer thee.—31.

Mantra 3.3.

3. From the Supreme Self is born this Prāṇa. As when a man (walks) his shadow (also moves, no distinct effort is made to move the shadow, as in this man; this Manas without any effort is spread over (the whole body), so also the Prāṇa (without any effort) enters this body.—32.

Note.—The Manas and Prāṇa are shadows of the Jīvas. They always accompany the Jīva, therefore no separate cause of the Prāṇa’s entering the body should be sought.

From the Supreme Self is born this Prāṇa, as this shadow inheres in man, so in this Brahman is this (Prāṇa) spread out. By a mere mental act it enters this body.

From the Supreme Self is born this Prāṇa. As this shadow is entirely dependent on Man, so on this Supreme depend all these Prāṇas. By the command of the Great Mind (God), it enters the body.

Madhva’s commentary called the Bhāṣya:

The words “from the Ātman” mean from the Supreme Atman, from God. As in the Prabhañjana:—“From Viṣṇu came out Vāyu, from Vāyu were produced all other Shining Ones, like prāṇa, apāna, etc. The first begotten rules and commands them, as a king commands his officers. Himself being five-fold, the Lord thus gives salvation to men.”

Mantra 3.4.

4. As a king appoints his officers (telling them) “Rule ye over these particular territories,” so indeed this Prāṇa directs the inferior prāṇas of the senses to their separate objects.—33.

Note.—The pentad called Prāṇa is of two kinds, the Higher Prāṇa pentad and the Lower Prāṇa pentad. From the Principal Prāṇa are born, as His children, the Lower Prāṇa pentad. They are separate from the Prāṇa as individual entities. The Higher Prāṇa pentad is the five-fold aspect of the one and the same Prāṇa. As they are aspects of the chief Prāṇa, they are not separate and distinct from Him. The chief Prāṇa (which always means the Higher pentad) appoints these Lower Prāṇa pentads—prāṇa, apāṇa [apāna?], vyāna, samāna and udāna—each to his respective organ and function, and Himself guides them. Thus the Apāna aspect of the chief Prāṇa presides over the apāna of the Lower pentad; and so on.

Mantra 3.5.

5. The Apāna Vāyu presides over (1) defecation and (2) micturition, the Prāṇa itself presides over the (3) sight (4) hearing (5) taste and (6) smelling. In the middle is indeed Samāna (so called) because it assimilates all food offered to it. Therefore, these are the seven lights.—34.

[Note.—Samam, equally or similar. Makes the food eaten, similar to the tissues of the body: thus makes out of food tissues like muscles, bones, etc. This power of converting a heterogeneous food a homogeneous mass with that of the body is the function of samāna or the similar-making life-energy.]

[Note.—Etāḥ, these, the seven lights, i.e., the two ears, the two eyes, the two nostrils and the one mouth or taste, all depend upon the food digested by the gastric fire and carried to them through the nāḍīs.]

[Note.—Arciṣaḥ (Arcis), lights, the action of the Samāna Vāyu. From the gastric fire arise the seven flames called Kālī, Karālī, Manojavā, Sulohitā, Sudhūmravarṇā, Sphuliṅginī, and Viśvarucī, see Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, 11. These are the principal flames, their sub-divisions and ramifications are thousands in the body. The Vyāna flows in them. The seven modifications of the perceptive senses or organs of knowledge are also called seven flames.]

Note.—This verse shows the various localities where these vāyus have their residence. The spheres of action of these are thus defined and distinct. Much confusion exists as to the proper functions of these five Vāyus. But from this verse it would appear that apāna is the vegetative or digestive function throwing out the effete matter from the body. Or it may be called the excretory life function. The prāṇa is the sensory life function, since seeing, hearing, etc., depend upon it. The samāna is the assimilative function, by which the food taken in becomes assimilated to the tissues of the body, and would correspond with the lacteal circulation of the chyle.

Mantra 3.6.

6. In the heart verily is this Jīvātma. Here arise one hundred and one uadis. Each one of them has a hundred sub-nāḍīs. Each sub-nāḍī has 72,000 branch nāḍīs. The Vyāna moves in them.—35.

Note.—The phrase ‘hṛdi hy eṣa ātmā” is read by Madhva as part of the last verse, connected with the sentence “these are the seven flames or rays.” Does the Jīvātma perceive the external objects by directly coming in contact with them or through some intermediary? The verse answers this, by saying “the Jīvātma is in the heart”—it can never come in direct contact with an external object. The objects are, therefore, perceived through these seven rays or wires.

The remaining portion of the present mantra describes the vyāna. The description shows that it refers to the circulation of blood, and the nāḍīs are the arteries and capillaries. They are all connected with the heart.

The Vyāna would thus correspond to the circulatory function of the blood through the arteries and veins, and its oxygenation in the lungs.

Mantra 3.7.

7. But by one (of these 101 nāḍīs) the up-going Udāna leads by virtue of good deeds to the worlds of the good, by sin to worlds of the sinful, by both to the world of the men indeed.—36.

Note.—The udāna function, though a well recognised one, has no physiological centre ascribed to it by modern science. The existence of the suṣumnā is considered as mythical. But man goes to sleep every day, and the Jīva leaves the body in deep sleep as well as in death. The life-energy that takes the Jīva to the region of deep sleep and out of the body should be recognised as a form of Prāṇa. I have called it the hypnotic function of Prāṇa. It is a distinct and positive function and not a mere negative weariness of the nerves or exhaustion of vitality.

Mantra 3.8.

8. (The Cosmic correspondences are).—The Sun is (the reservoir) verily of the Cosmic Light or Prāṇa. He rises helping the ocular or the microcosmic prāṇa (to see objects). The goddess who presides over the Earth (is the Cosmic Apāna) and she helps man by attracting downwards the apāna of the person. The space which is between (the Earth and the Sun) is the Cosmic Samāna, (and it helps the samāna inside the man); the atmosphere or Vāyu is Cosmic Vyāna (and helps the vyāna inside the man).—37.

Note.—The Higher Prāṇa Pentad is cosmic, and governs through His five aspects the Lower Prāṇa Pentad in the Microcosm or the Jīva body.

Mantra 3.9.

9. The Cosmic Fire verily is Udāna. (It helps the udāna in man), therefore, when a person becomes exhausted of energy, he goes to another birth, with his sense-faculties merged in the mind.—38.

Note.—The five energies appear to be correlated with the five elements and the five planes. This is a tentative table of these correspondences.

Cosmic. Micro-cosmic. Cosmic Plane. Human Organ. Element.
Prana Prāṇa Atmic or Solar... The Light and other senses and optic and other centres of the senses in the brain and the whole brain. Light (ether or ākāśa).
Apana Apāna Earth or physical The intestines and other excretory organs. Earth.
Samana Samāna Astral or antarīkṣa. The assimilatory organs, e.g. stomach, liver, pancreas and lacteal circulatory vessels. Water.
Vyana Vyāna Buddhic plane... The heart and blood circulatory vessels. Vāyu or Air.
Udana Udāna Mental plane... The throat (?) Fire

Thus the five physiological prāṇas may be translated as 1. Sensory, 2. Excretory, 3. Assimilative, 4. Circulatory, 5. Hypnotic and Respiratory, or ejectory functions.

Mantra 3.10.

10. As is one’s idea at the time of death, such is his next incarnation; for with that idea uppermost, the Jīva approaches the Prāṇa. Then the Prāṇa joined with the Udāna energy, together with the higher self, carries the Jīva to that particular world which is desired by it—39.

Note.—The Jīva surrounded by the citta or mental body appears in the presence of the chief Prāṇa at the time of death. The Prāṇa joined with udāna and the Supreme Self carries the Jīva to the region desired and thought by it. The Jīva is endowed with a body appropriate to the plane where it goes. The udāna thus ejects the tenant soul from its house, the body. It may be called the ejectory function.

Mantra 3.11.

11. The wise one, who knows Prāṇa thus, becomes prosperous, and verily his line never becomes extinct, on this earth, añd lie becomes immortal. Therefore the following verse—40.

Note.—He who understands this mystery of Prāṇa, gets in this world prosperity—his line never comes to an end or becomes extinct, and he himself after death, becomes a Mukta and thus transcends death.

Mantra 3.12.

12. Having known the origin, the entrance, the localisation and the five-fold sovereignty of Prāṇa, as well as his physiological, physical, and celestial aspects, one enjoys immortality, indeed thus knowing, one enjoys immortality—41.

Note.—Having known the origin, the entrance, the localisation and the pervasion of Prāṇa in the Sun, Earth, etc., as well as the ascending of Udāna, and its being five-fold only, not more not less, both in the microcosm and macrocosm, and its physiological (and physical and celestial aspects—knowing these as functions) of Prāṇa alone, and not of the Sun, etc.,one attains immortality, one attains immortality (Śaṅkara).

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