Friday, February 15, 2008



Lots of scriptures of Sanatana Dharma ( Hinduism) talk about Prana (or Vital Force). You may ask, what is special in it ? Many other books also talk about it. Many medical philosophers also talked about it. What’s so special about Hindu scriptures talking about Prana ?

The answer is : Hindu scriptures were the earliest to discuss this topic. We can even say that the source of all other writings about Prana are the Hindu scriptures.

Works of Sanatana Dharma talk about Prana in a complete holistic manner while the derived works used it for some specific purpose. For example the Chinese system discusses it for medical purposes. Homeopathy , perhaps was the first western system that developed a healing doctrine based on the life force.

So , what is prana ? We shall see here.

What is Prana ?

Prana is a general term used to denote the life force or Vital force in Man. The discovery of Prana dates back to the Upanishadic times, which is before Bhagavad Gita period, which places it to before more than five thousand years. It is discussed in the Mundakopanishad(3-1-9). The Gita also mentions the five pranas.

The Upanishadic masters found out that the prana is in fact flowing inside the body in the form of “Vayu” (air currents). Their further discovery was that there were slight variations in it and they sub divided Prana into ten. They are

  1. prAna
  2. apAna
  3. samAna
  4. udhAna
  5. vyAna

The above five are the first five principal pranas. The below five are the next set.

  1. nAga
  2. krukara
  3. kUrma
  4. devadatta
  5. dhananjaya

Srila PrabhupAda, founder Acharya of Iskcon, writes thus on these ten Pranas as they are manifest in the human body.

“...The movements of the body are first generated from the heart, and all the activities of the body are made possible by the senses, powered by the ten kinds of air within the body. The ten kinds of air are described as follows: The main air passing through the nose in breathing is called prana. The air which passes through the rectum as evacuated bodily air is called apana. The air which adjusts the foodstuff within the stomach and which sometimes sounds as belching is called samana. The air which passes through the throat and the stoppage of which constitutes suffocation is called the udana air. And the total air which circulates throughout the entire body is called the vyana air. Subtler than these five airs, there are others also. That which facilitates the opening of the eyes, mouth, etc., is called naga air. The air which increases appetite is called krukara air. The air which helps contraction is called kurma air. The air which helps relaxation by opening the mouth wide (in yawning) is called devadatta air, and the air which helps sustenance is called dhananjaya air.

All these airs are generated from the center of the heart, which is one only.”

Cosmic equivalents of Five Pranas:

The further discovery of the Vedic seers is that the first five pranas have their cosmic equivalents. Prasna Upanishad ( Atharva Veda) says (3.8)

“the sun is the reservoir of the cosmic light or Prana. He rises helping the microcosmic Prana to see objects. The goddess who presides over the Earth (Bhumi) is the cosmic Apana and she helps man by attracting the downwards the apana of the person. The space which is between the Earth and the Sun (antariksa) is the cosmic Samana, (and it helps the Samana inside man). The atmosphere or Vayu is cosmic Vyana (and helps the Vyana inside man).”
Attributes of Prana as a whole:

Prana or life force is part of ‘apara’ meaning the relative part of creation. The ‘para’ being the absolute. This can be explained in this way : When the very life or the ‘Atman’ leaves the body, the prana inside withers. Prana does not leave the body. Except the Atman, the rest form part of Prakriti, the nature.

Nature is the combination five elements controlled by the three Gunas (attributes – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) and is subject to change. The vital force also is subject to change as it is strong in youth and weak in old age. Prana inside a living being is not renewable. A person with a sound prana is healthy and vice versa.

The prana counterpart of other living beings and also the cosmic prana can affect the individual prana. Thus disease spread from one to another. A diseased prana extends its sick aura to another. Conversely, the aura of a healthy or superior Prana affects a weakened one and rejuvenate it . That is how the healing methods like Reiki, Pranic healing etc become possible. The cosmic prana also can influence the individual prana. See how winds, rains, sun rays affect one’s health.

The Hatha Yoga and Pranayama are excellent routines in stabilizing and strengthening one’s Prana. Try doing pranayama late in the night. You will be wide awake in bed that night. This is the result of excess prana which made you fresh.

Where is Prana ?

There will still be a question about the possible location of prana. Given its air current like nature, can you pinpoint its location. Well, the Vedic seers answered that too. They found that the human body is made up of five sheaths. They are

a. The outermost is the Annamaya kosa , symbolizing the material body.

b. The second inner one is Pranamaya kosa , symbolizing the sheath of vital force or prana.

c. The third inner one is Manomaya kosa, symbolizing the sheath of the thoughts, the mana

d. The fouth inner one is the Vignyana maya kosa, symbolizing, the sheath of the intellect

e. The fifth and innermost is the Ananda maya kosa, symbolizing the sheath of Bliss.

Sickness, exists from the physical sheath to the mental level affecting the respective layers individually or collectively. It was Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homeopathy, who first pointed out the mental and psychical aspects of diseases. In other words , he found out that many purely physical diseases like a flu, a constipation or even cancer had an accompanying mental symptom showing the depth of the affection.

Medical aspect of Prana:

Ayurveda , Siddha, Unani , Traditional Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy are the primary systems that recognized Prana and have treatments accordingly. Homeopathy, though a western system, is 100 % based on the fundamental tenet that “ when a person is sick, it is his Vital force that is deranged”. ( In 1790, it was a revolutionary concept in Europe and the materialistic Allopathic school has been critical of them from then onwards. It continues even now and more vigorously.

The land that is Bharat

A typical Brahmin , when preparing to eat, says many mantras, for purification of the food and himself. Before eating , he tells , ‘prAnAya svAhA, apAnAya svAhA, samAnAya svAhA, udhAnAya svAhA, vyAnAya svAhA’ each time partaking a miniscule quantity of food and placing it deep in the tongue and swallowing it. I always wondered at the significance of this procedure. This procedure is as old as Hinduism itself. Roughly more than five thousand years !

Coming to the Brahmin’s eating ways, is it any wonder that the Brahmin remembers and honours the five fundamental pranas before eating ? Not only this, every ritual, even after some corruption over the millennia, still signify great scientific and spiritual temper. After all, they are from the land that is Bharat, that is the cradle of the greatest civilization the world has seen.
(Gita study group)


Anonymous said...

Dear Venkat Bhaiya - Thanks for the knowledge share..

senthil said...

venkat.. as usual, excellent article.. but, is there any relation of this prana, with our sidhar concept of vadha, kapam & pitham..

Anonymous said...

Thanks sooo much for your time and work..........

I like the idea of having the mantras on youtube.....

With Her Guidance

Anonymous said...


Dr Prabhat Tandon said...

Thanks for the enlightenment !It's so difficult to understand homeopathy for the modern world ....
होम्योपैथी नई सोच / नई दिशायें
Homeopathy-a new approach

Venkatasubramanian said...

Vadha, Pitha and kapha ( rheumatic, Bilious and Phlegmatic) are three states or rather constitutional states observed in man. Sometimes the make up is genetic, sometimes aquired.

The material body is so affected (of course no disease comes without prana disturbance)by external prana in the form of
1. Inheritance
2. Acute diseases
3. Aura of others
4. Natural phenomena

In Siddha etc, the type throws up the treatment plan. That is only a medical application.

Tacy said...

Good words.