Sharir – Tattvas Part III (contd.):
Prans – in General III
In the scriptures five major types of prans are described. In the Upanishads five prans are compared with five flames of a single fire. In the Prashna (Prasna) Upanishad: Question II, Shlok 3 – “Tānvarishthaha prana uvācha, mā mohamāpdhyathāhamevaitatpanchadhātmānam pravibhajyaitadbānamavashtabhya vidharayāmiti teashraddhānā babhuvuhu ||” (Pr. Up: Q 2, Shlok: 3) Meaning, Pran, the chief among indriya-antahkarans, says that: “Do not fall into delusion. I alone, dividing myself into five parts, support this body and uphold it.”
In the Chhandogya Upanishad: Chapter One: Vaishvānar-vidyā it is described that, the five prans are like the five tongues of a flaming fire. It is one single force that is working as five different vital energies. So, each tongue or each flame of the cosmic or universal fire is satisfied by the offering of a particular oblation, as it is done in the external sacrifice. Similarly, in the internal sacrifice (for example, eating), with each morsel of food five internal prans are satisfied.
When we breathe air it carries oxygen to the body and sustains life. When we eat food, it is ultimately digested and converted or metabolized into essential nutrients that provide energy to our body and its vital functions. Thus breathing, eating, drinking, etc. are important or vital for sustaining of our lives. And that is why, in Hinduism, these important activities such as offering of the food to the mouth (that is eating) or offering of air or oxygen to the lungs (that is breathing) are considered as sacred or vital acts and not just mechanical acts and are compared with performing a kind of Yagna. Just as Ghee (clarified butter), Jav or Aja (barley, oat, and rice kind of food grains), or Til (sesame seeds containing oil or fat) when offered to the holy external fire (also known as Vaishvānar Agni) are converted into external universal energy, food, when offered to the body or internal fire (also known as Jatharāgni), is also converted into the internal bodily energy. Similarly, just as the eating process is made sacred and is related with the offering or oblation called Prān-agnihotra, in the scriptures, the breathing process is also considered sacred and is considered as a part of the Ashtāng Yoga. Agnihotra means the sacrificial offering to the universal fire. So, when taking food mantras are also chanted as in agnihotra or yagna (also called yagya), for example, “Om, prānāy swāhā” (meaning, may the prān be satisfied or this morsel of food is for prān), “Om, apānāy swāhā” (meaning, may the apān be satisfied or this morsel of food is for apān), “Om, vyānāy swāhā” (meaning, may the vyān be satisfied or this morsel of food is for vyān), “Om, udānāy swāhā” (meaning, may the udān be satisfied or this morsel of food is for udān), “Om, samānāy swāhā” (meaning, may the samān be satisfied or this morsel of food is for samān), “Om, Brāhmane swāhā,” “Om, Brāhmane swāhā,” – repeated twice (meaning, may Brāhmana be satisfied or these morsels of food are for Brāhmana), “Neivedyamadhyepaniyam Samarpayāmi,” (meaning, “I offer this food at Your feet”.