Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at Springer.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pancha Prana - Maha Bharatha Series 72


Since I posted the earlier blog I realized that I had inadvertently left out some portions of the conversation between Bhrigu and Bharadwaja. Here they are.

There are interesting discussions on the theory of life, soul, rebirth and the universe based on the Samkhya philosophy. In one of them it is said that the space is vast, infinite and its limits cannot be ascertained. The rays of the Sun and the Moon cannot reach beyond the range of their rays and there are other luminary objects in those regions. They are also as bright as the sun. Even if it were possible to ascertain the limits of Space, it will never be possible to set limits to That which is limitless and infinite (Brahman and Manasa).

Bharadwaja asks: “If it is the air (wind) that keeps us breathing and moving, life seems to be worth little.  If it is the fire that digests our food, life is worth little. When an animal dies we cannot see “life leaving” it. Only the breathing stops and the warmth goes out. How can you say that there is life in this body? And when it leaves, where does it go? After it has left what does it see, hear and know? How will a person who dies and has his body eaten by animals and birds, who got burnt or fell off a mountain come back to life? When a plant dies, it dies. Only the seeds can survive and grow. All of this universe is the result of seeds in succession.”

Bhrigu disagrees, of course. He goes into the well-known concept of the soul (Jeevan, same as Atman when identified with a single body) surviving after the death of the physical body and taking rebirths to experience the result of Karma. He says that the Atman merges with the Brahman after several re-births and on realizing the non-duality of the universe. He says that the mind is also made of five elements and “the one internal Soul sustains the body”. Soul is a non-corporeal entity which controls all functions and there is no more breath or heat when it leaves the body. The statements use the words “life”, “breath” and “soul” interchangeably and thus are confusing.

That Soul is also called “creator Brahman”. When it is connected with the body, it is called Keshtragna. When it is free from the attributes of the body and flesh It is known as Paramatman or Supreme Soul. That Soul has consciousness and has attributes of life when connected with a living body. There is no death of the soul when the body dies. All these are standard teachings of the tradition; one may say standard dogmas.

It is not surprising that the definitions of prana, soul, life, self and consciousness are vague and mixed up. For example, prana is said to be the universal soul, the eternal being, the mind, the intellect and consciousness of all creatures. The idea of subtle channels called nadi seems to be based on a remark in one chapter which says that numerous subsidiary channels branch out from the gut (?chest).

When Bharadwaja asks how the five elements (panchabootha) maintain life and movement, Brighu answers as follows: “Prana (air or breath) and the heat (fire, energy) both of which reside in the head (?brain) are responsible together for all the movements and exertions of lives. Prana or breath makes it possible for creatures to move. Vyana gives them strength for action. Apana moves downwards taking away the waste. Samana resides in the “heart”. Udana moves upwards causing one to speak and eructate. Heat residing in the head protects the body”.




2 comments:

Ramesh said...

This set of conversations throws up interesting questions.

Is the concept of heaven where there is eternal happiness a possibility ? After all Utopia can be proved to be a curse rather than a blessing. Without sadness there can be no happiness as well. Perhaps what is meant is "peace", rather than "happiness" as an eternal concept to aspire to.

Every religion has talked about the concept of a soul. And yet we are utterly unable to find even the beginnings of an evidence from science. Bharadwaja's words are where we are with scientific understanding. Bhrigu's concept is what every religion teaches.

Balu said...

The main point for me is that our ancestors thought about all aspects of life and realities of the universe and from different angles. They presented both points of view about the soul. We need to think on our own and decide which one of these arguments in convincing.