The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 4
The Second Question
In the foregoing, the First Question, the ‘consumer’ status of Prāṇa, verily Prajāpati, was taught. In order to emphatically establish the Prāṇa’s status as Prajāpati and the consumerhood in the body the Second Question is commenced.
अथ हैनं भार्गवो वैदर्भिः पप्रच्छ भगवन्कत्येव देवाः प्रजां विधारयन्ते कतर एतत्प्रकाशयन्ते कः पुनरेषां वरिष्ठ इति ॥ १ ॥
अथ then ह indeed एनं the teacher भार्गवः of Bhārgava family वैदर्भिः Vaidarbhi पप्रच्छ asked भगवन् Sir कति how many एव are देवाः the gods प्रजां the created being विधारयन्ते support कतरे how many एतत् this प्रकाशयन्ते manifest the power कः who पुनः again एषां among them वरिष्ठः the paramount इति thus
Then Vaidarbhi, belonging to the family of Bhṛgu, asked him: Sir, how many gods support the body of the created being? How many of these manifest their power through it? And which one, furthermore, is paramount?
After the first question was answered, it is now the turn of the next aspirant. Vaidarbhi, who is of the Bhārgava lineage, posed his question to the Ācārya Pippalāda. ‘Respected Sir, how many deva-s, gods, hold, support, the body? How many devas bring to light the individual greatness of each of the sense and motor organs that constitute the body? Also, who indeed is the foremost among the various constituents of the body-mind complex?’
To him the Teacher replied:
तस्मै स होवाच । आकाशो ह वा एष देवो वायुरग्निरापः पृथिवी वाङ्मनश्चक्षुःश्रोत्रं च । ते प्रकाश्याभिवदन्ति वयमेतद्बाणमवष्टभ्य विधारयामः ॥ २ ॥
तस्मै to him स he ह verily उवाच said आकाशः ākāśa ह indeed वा surely एषः this देवः god वायुः air अग्निः fire आपः water पृथिवी earth वाक् speech मनः mind चक्षुः eye श्रोत्रं ear च and ते they प्रकाश्य having illumined अभिवदन्ति say वयम् we एतत् this बाणम् body अवष्टभ्य having resorted विधारयामः support
To the disciple he said: Space, ākāśa, verily is that god — the wind, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye and ear, as well. These, having manifested their glory, said boastfully: “We support this body and uphold it.”
To him who posed his question, the Ācārya said: The deva that is ākāśa (ether), air, fire, water and earth – the five basic elements that form the material with which the body is produced, the motor organs consisting of speech (etc.), the mind, the sense organs consisting of the eye, ear, etc. These gods that constitute the gross body and the subtle body, revealing their glory, competing with each other for pre-eminence, proclaim ‘We, like pillars of a palace, hold in place this body-mind aggregate, preventing its disintegration.’ Each of these divine beings thinks that it is the one that bears this body in place.
तान्वरिष्ठः प्राण उवाच मा मोहमापद्यथाहमेवैतत्पञ्चधात्मानं प्रविभज्यैतद्बाणमवष्टभ्य विधारयामीति तेऽश्रद्दधाना बभूवुः ॥ ३ ॥
तान् to them वरिष्ठः the foremost प्राणः prāṇa उवाच said मा do not मोहम् delusion आपद्यथ attain अहम् I एव alone एतत् this पञ्चधा five-fold आत्मानं myself प्रविभज्य dividing एतत् this बाणम् body अवष्टभ्य support विधारयामि uphold इति thus ते they अश्रद्दधानाः incredulous बभूवुः became
To them prāṇa, the foremost said: “Do not fall into delusion. I alone, dividing myself into five parts, support this body and uphold it.” But they were incredulous.
Prāṇa, the foremost among those organs which prided themselves, told them ‘Do not be deluded owing to want of discrimination. For, it is I alone supporting this body uphold it.’ When thus told, those organs could not believe those words as to how indeed could it be so.
सोऽभिमानादूर्ध्वमुत्क्रामत इव तस्मिन्नुत्क्रामत्यथेतरे सर्व एवोत्क्रामन्ते तस्मिंश्च प्रतिष्ठमाने सर्व एव प्रातिष्ठन्ते । तद्यथा मक्षिका मधुकरराजानमुत्क्रामन्तं सर्वा एवोत्क्रामन्ते तस्मिंश्च प्रतिष्ठमाने सर्वा एव प्रातिष्ठन्त एवं वाङ्मनश्चक्षुःश्रोत्रं च ते प्रीताः प्राणं स्तुन्वन्ति ॥ ४ ॥
सः he, Prāṇa, अभिमानात् with pride ऊर्ध्वम् above उत्क्रामत इव as if rising तस्मिन् upon his उत्क्रामति rising अथ then इतरे others सर्वे all एव too उत्क्रामन्ते rose तस्मिन् च् and upon his प्रतिष्ठमाने settling सर्वे all एव too प्रातिष्ठन्ते settled तत् this यथा just as मक्षिकाः bees मधुकरराजानम् the king bee उत्क्रामन्तं rising सर्वाः all एव too उत्क्रामन्ते rise तस्मिन् च and upon his प्रतिष्ठमाने settling सर्वाः all एव too प्रातिष्ठन्त settled एवं thus वाङ्मनश्चक्षुःश्रोत्रं the speech, mind, eye and ear च too ते they प्रीताः satisfied प्राणं prāṇa स्तुन्वन्ति praised
Prāṇa, out of pride, rose upward, as it were, from the body. Now, when it rose upward all the others rose upward also and when it settled down they all settled down with it. As bees go out when their king goes out and return when he returns, even so did speech, mind, eye and ear. They, being satisfied, praised prāṇa.
Finding that the sense organs were not ready to believe what Prāṇa told them about the former’s power, with a view to demonstrate the same, becoming indifferent, in indignation, prāṇa appeared to rise up. With the prāṇa rising, all the organs such as the eye, too rose up. And when prāṇa remained quiet, they too followed suit. What happened then is stated by an analogy. When the king bee rises, all the bees rise up too, and when he settles, all the others settle as well. Thus, the sense organs including the mind, giving up their incredulity acknowledged the supremacy of prāṇa and praised it with delight. How?
एषोऽग्निस्तपत्येष सूर्य एष पर्जन्यो मघवानेष वायुः ।
एष पृथिवी रयिर्देवः सदसच्चामृतं च यत् ॥ ५ ॥
एषः this अग्निः fire तपति burns एष this सूर्यः sun एष this पर्जन्यः cloud मघवान् Indra एष this वायुः vāyu एष this पृथिवी earth रयिः food देवः god सत् being असत् non-being च and अमृतं immortal च too यत् this one
It burns as fire, it is the sun, it is the rain; it is Indra, it is the wind, it is the earth, it is food. It is the luminous god. It is being and non-being; it is immortal.
This prāṇa as agni, fire, burns. Being the sun, the prāṇa, shines. In the form of cloud it rains. Also, as Indra, prāṇa protects the beings and also exterminates the asuras and rākṣasas (demons and ogres). This prāṇa is vāyu in its various currents such as āvaha, pravāha, etc. Further, prāṇa is the earth, food, the resplendent one, for the entire world. ‘Being’ (sat) is the formed, mūrtam, gross and ‘non-being’ (asat) amūrtam, subtle. It is also amṛtam, nectar that sustains gods. The idea needs no further elaboration.
अरा इव रथनाभौ प्राणे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् ।
ऋचो यजूंषि सामानि यज्ञः क्षत्त्रं ब्रह्म च ॥ ६ ॥
अराः इव as spokes रथनाभौ in the hub of the wheel प्राणे in prāṇa सर्वं all प्रतिष्ठितम् fixed ऋचो Rg यजूंषि yajus सामानि sāma यज्ञः sacrifice क्षत्त्रं kṣattriyas ब्रह्म च and brāhmaṇas
As spokes in the hub of a wheel, all are fixed in prāṇa, including the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sāma-Veda, sacrifices, the kṣattriyas and the brāhmaṇas.
Just as the spokes of a wheel are firmly fixed to the navel of a wheel, everything from śraddhā, faith, up to nāma, name, is fixed firmly in the prāṇa alone during the sthiti, sustenance, of the world, after creation. The set consisting of śraddhā up to nāma is stated in the sixth praśna, fourth mantra. Also the Rg, Yajus, Sāman – the three types of mantras – the sacrifice, yajña, accomplished by these, the kṣattriya and brāhmaṇa components of a society (these two have the eligibility in engaging in actions such as yajña), are all verily prāṇa.
प्रजापतिश्चरसि गर्भे त्वमेव प्रतिजायसे ।
तुभ्यं प्राण प्रजास्त्विमा बलिं हरन्ति यः प्राणैः प्रतितिष्ठसि ॥ ७ ॥
प्रजापतिः prajāpati चरसि moves गर्भे in the womb त्वम् you एव alone प्रतिजायसे are born तुभ्यं to you प्राण O prāṇa प्रजाः the beings तु indeed इमाः these बलिं offerings हरन्ति bring यः who प्राणैः along with the senses प्रतितिष्ठसि are dwelling
As Prajāpati thou movest about in the womb; it is thou, indeed, who art born again. To thee, O Prāṇa, creatures bring offerings, to thee who dwellest in the body with the organs.
Even though you are Prajāpati, it is you alone who move in the womb, as the offspring of the mother and father and thus born. Since you are the Prajāpati your being the parents is a pre-determined fact. Your identity hidden in the form of every body and the indweller of the body, you are the self of all. To you, O prāṇa, for your sake, these beings consisting of humans, etc. fetch offerings, through the sense organs. Since you abide in the body along with the sense organs, it is but appropriate that you are offered gifts. You are the bhoktā, enjoyer/experiencer, and by you alone everything else is the enjoyed/experienced.
देवानामसि वह्नितमः पितॄणां प्रथमा स्वधा ।
ऋषीणां चरितं सत्यमथर्वाङ्गिरसामसि ॥ ८ ॥
देवानाम् of the gods असि you are वह्नितमः the chief bearer पितॄणां of manes प्रथमा the first स्वधा offering ऋषीणां of the ṛṣis चरितं activities सत्यम् true अथर्वाङ्गिरसाम् atharvāṅgiras असि are
Thou art the chief bearer of oblations to the gods and the first offering to the departed fathers; thou art the true activities of the ṛṣis, of the Atharvāngiras.
You are the foremost bearer of the sacrifices that are addressed to the gods such as Indra. In the nāndīmukha śrāddha (obsequial rite) invoking the manes, pitṛs, the offering of rice/food is called the ‘first’ relative to the food offered to the gods. The idea is, the offering in honor of the manes takes precedence over the offering to gods. You, prāṇa, alone are the carrier of this offering to the manes as well. Moreover, it is you, prāṇa, that are the true, right conduct, consisting in the upkeep of the body. The organs of the body, such as the eye, are the essence of the body and are called ‘atharva-s’ according to the passage ‘Prāṇo vā atharvā’ (the prāṇa is atharvā).