Sharir – Tattvas Part III (contd.):
Prans – in General V
To understand the pran, let’s first understand the body. What is body? How does it function? According to Hinduism, body is the God given vehicle to attain salvation for the soul. The soul is firmly attached to the three kinds of body, just as the germ of the seed is attached to the three kinds of layers of the fruit. As long as it has this attachment, soul cannot go to the abode of God, because body cannot go there and so the soul firmly attached to it.
The purpose of the life, according to Hinduism, is not to be born, live for hundred years, and die, again and again, during which we gain something and lose something, we enjoy little and suffer more, and at the end we leave everything here on this earth and cannot take anything with us. This is not we were meant for. God gave us this life to help others, to enjoy the bliss of God and to let others enjoy the same, to attain freedom and liberation from the cycle of births and deaths by offering devotion to God and by serving to His devotees. So, let’s try to understand the body first to understand the pran.
Body can be compared with the factory producing energy in the form of carrier molecules. It has three major divisions. First, the resources division or “In” division: The raw materials are air and food. Air has oxygen in it and food has necessary nutrients and water in it. They are the key elements for survival of body factory. They are gathered and concentrated or breakdown in tiny pieces by two main systems: the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, governed by Pran and Udan, respectively. Second, the transportation and distribution division or the central transverse division: After gathering resources are then transported and distributed for processing by circulatory system governed by Saman. Third, the waste management division or “Out” section: After processing the resources, waste management is done by excretory system and the expansion or growth is done, if needed, by reproductive system both of which are governed by Apan. Finally, the end products are produced and utilized for specific purposes, such as, growth, movements, mobility, routine maintenance, repair, pleasure, cognition, etc. Since body cannot store the energy, the production and utilization of the end products are done instantaneously and side-by-side. The excess or surplus of raw material gathered or created are stored in different parts of the body for emergency uses. The whole production and utilization process is governed by Vyan. This summarizes, in short, the functions of prans in the body.
The most important vital elements, oxygen and nutrients, gathered and processed by the respiratory system and by the gastrointestinal system are governed by Pran and Udan, respectively, on one side. Pran controls respiration and Udan controls digestion grossly. Both together ultimately produce the most important energy in the form of chemical energy (ATPs) necessary for the growth and maintenance and in the form of chemical free energy (heat). The processes are known as cellular respiration and catabolism. The energy released is utilized instantaneously for growth and differentiation of cells and synthesis of complex molecules by anabolic pathways and the most toxic elements, carbon dioxide and waste products, such as lactic acid, acetic acid, ammonia, and urea, are removed from the body by the excretory system. Both are governed by Vyan and Apan, respectively, on the other side. Vyan controls overall metabolism and Apan controls overall excretion. Pran (also known as inward process) and Apan (outward process) functions oppositely from each other. Pran means inhaled breathing and Apan means exhaled breathing. Similarly, Udan (in Hinduism, known as upward process) and Vyan (in Hinduism, known as transverse process, in Greek catabolism means downward process – kata means downward and ballein means to throw and anabolism means upward process – ana means upward and ballein means to throw, both combined becomes the transverse process) also function oppositely from each other.
In the middle (known in Hinduism as Navel or central region) is Saman. Both sets of opposite processes or functions, for example, “in” and “out” of the resources and waste products, energy production and energy utilization, catabolism and anabolism, and growth and destruction of cells are balanced by Saman.
Prāns provide all the energy or vitality to our body. Prans control all the functions of our body. “All that exists here is under the control of pran.” “Pranasyedam vashe sarvam trideve yatpratishitam |” (Prashna Upanishad Prashna-II.13) Therefore, it is said in the Upanishads that, pran moves our hands and feet. Pran moves our eyes and tongue. Pran moves our lungs and the heart. Pran is responsible for all the actions in our body. Without pran the body cannot function.