Posts Tagged ‘Indriyas’

Body in Hinduism IX

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Sharir – Tattvas Part III (contd.):

Prans – in General II

It would be surprising to know that Hinduism describes pran merely on detailed observations and not on any pathophysiological or biochemical laboratory analyses. Not only that, Hinduism describes 10 prans, five major prans and five minor prans (upa-prans). Currently, the modern medical sciences also describe altogether about 10 to 14 major and minor important physiological systems of the body, namely, Circulatory or Cardiovascular System, Dermal or Integumentary System, Digestive or Gastrointestinal System, Endocrine (Glandular or Hormonal) System, Excretory System, Muscular System, Nervous System, Reproductive System, Respiratory or Pulmonary System, and Skeletal System. Immune System, Lymphatic System, Urinary System, and Sensory System are considered sub-system. Out of them five are major vital systems. Five main prans correspond to the body’s five most important vital functions or life-sustaining processes, especially at the cellular level, without which life cannot sustain for longer. Because of their life sustaining importance they are collectively called “prān”, meaning, “life”. Five prāns are namely, Prān (also spelled as prāna), Apān (also spelled as apāna), Vyān (also spelled as vyāna), Samān (also spelled as samāna) and Udān (also spelled as udāna). Five upa-prans are: Nāg (Naga), Kurm (Koorma), Krikar (Krikara) or Kukal, Devdatt (Devadatta) and Dhananjay (Dhananjaya).

Now, let us try to look at prans in little more detail. As we have seen the importance of prans in the old Vedic story, body still can function or sustain for much longer without any of the sensory organs (indriyas) and mental functions (antahkarans) but without prans it cannot sustain much longer, death is imminent.

From the modern understanding of science we can see that, the five main prans correspond mainly to five main vital functions at the cellular level. Moreover, they may also be found interconnected to more than one of the five main vital systems of the body, because they are all interrelated or interdependent to each other for their proper functioning. The five main vital functions of the body are respiratory function, circulatory function, digestive function, nervous or neuromuscular function, and excretory or urogenital function. The five very important vital systems of the body for the above functions are respiratory system, circulatory or cardio-vascular system, digestive or gastrointestinal system, neuromuscular system, and genitourinary system.

Among the prans or main vital functions, if genital or reproductive function is compromised life can sustain for years and if excretory function is compromised life can sustain for a few years with assistance; if the sensory functions, autonomic nervous functions (work at an involuntary or subconscious level and include sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric nervous functions that responds, respectively, to stress; maintain homeostasis by sending biofeedback on the condition of internal organs to the brain; and controls digestive movements and secretions), motor or musculoskeletal functions (work at conscious or voluntary level and include movements, balance, and coordination), and mental or cognitive functions, that is, functions of the psyche or antahkaran are compromised life can still sustain for much longer; if gastrointestinal system is compromised life can sustain only for a few months without food or only for a few weeks without water; but if respiratory function is compromised life can only sustain for a few hours or for a few days with assistance; and if circulatory or cardiac function is compromised life can sustain only for a few minutes. Cessation of brain functions means death.

Body in Hinduism VIII

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Sharir – Tattvas Part III (contd.):

Prans – in General I

According to Hinduism, the structural body (sthul sharir) of the jiv consists of five gross (sthul) elements called Panch-bhuts, namely, Pruthvi, Jal, Tej, Vāyu, and Ākāsh.

The functional body (sukshma sharir) of the jiv consists of nineteen elements: Five motor organ systems called Panch-karmendriyas, namely, speech organs – Vāk, upper extremities – Pāni, lower extremities – Pād, excretory organs – Pāyu, and reproductory organs – Upastha.; Five sensory organs systems called Panch-gnanendriyas, namely, ear – Karna, skin – Tvak, Eyes – Chakshu, Tongue – Jihvā, and Nose – Ghran; Four psyches called Antahkarans, namely, Man, Buddhi, Ahamkar, and Chitt; and five vital functions or processes called Panch-Prans, namely, Prān, Apān, Vyān, Samān, and Udān. Five prans are part of the five subtle elements called Panch-vishays or five tanmatras, namely, sound – Shabda, touch – Sparsh, light – Rup (Roop), taste – Ras (Rasa), and smell – Gandh.

Panch-prans are grouped under a common heading or common noun “pran.” Prans are important subtle elements of the body. They are important for sustaining the life. Just as Panch-vishays and Panch-tanmatras, Panch-prans are also considered as five subtle elements. As such, Panch-Vishays are not elements but they are processes of perceiving sensory stimuli by five types of sensory organ systems. They are neurological processes by which the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli are effected or resulted. Panch-vishays are also considered as the objects of enjoyments for the jiv via body. Similarly, Panch-prans are also physiological, but vital, processes for sustaining the life. Because of their subtleness, in Hinduism, both the panch-vishays and panch-prans are categorized under the heading of Tanmatras.

Hindu scriptures describe that, five prans are like five flames of one single fire collectively called as “pran”. Of all the 24 elements, pran is the main vital force of the body that is necessary for the life, through which all the functions of the functional body and its organs are carried out. From the Upanishadic story of pran one can easily conclude that pran is life of the body. So, could it be the soul (jiv)? From the ancient time Hinduism knows and explains that the pran, the vital force of the body, is different than jiv (soul), the life force of the body. Jiv is ontologically different entity than the pran. Both prān and jiv (soul) are quite distinct and different entities. So, prān as an element is prān and cannot be translated as “soul” or “jiv”. Pran (the proper noun) is also the name of one of the five prans. It represents the group of five prans. So, just like other proper names, Pran should not be translated. Sometimes pran, as an element, is translated as “vāyu,” “breath,” “energy,” etc. These kind of explanatory translations misrepresent the pran. So, it should also be avoided. Similarly, Apan, Vyan, Udan, Saman are also proper nouns or proper names and should not be translated also,


Prān and jiv (soul) are two ontologically distinct entities. Prān is decayable, destructible, able to cease, or able to stop functioning, whereas, jiv is eternal and sustain forever, not destructible, and not decayable. Jiv is called the knower of the pran. Prān is the vital force of the body that regulates other body processes. Without pran, jiv would leave the body instantaneously. Without pran life cannot sustain. Therefore, prān has become almost synonymous with the jiv. Hinduism describes 10 Prāns – five Prans and five Upa-prāns. Five Prans are: Prān (prāna), Apān (apāna), Vyān (vyāna), Samān (samāna) and Udān (udāna). Five Upa-prans are: Nāg (Naga), Kurm (Koorma), Krikar (Krikara), Devdatt (Devadatta) and Dhananjay (Dhananjaya). Prāns are superior to the Antahkarans (or mind in general) and to all the other elements derived from Mahattattva. When the new body is created around the soul or jiv, among the other non-divine things, prans are the first to enter or appear in the body and last to go. Dhananjay pran remain for a while even after death and is the last one to leave the body.

Chhandogya Upanishad describes Pran as the oldest and the greatest of all the functional elements of the body. “yo ha vai jyeṣṭha ca śreṣṭha cha veda jyeṣṭhaś cha ha vai śreṣṭhaś cha bhavati | prāo vāva jyeṣṭhaś cha śreṣṭhaś cha ||” Meaning, “He who knows what is the oldest and greatest becomes himself the oldest and greatest. The pran, indeed, is the oldest and greatest.” (Chhandogya Upanishad: 5.1.1.)

Prāns appear in the body first then the Antahkaran develops. After chitt (the site of basal instincts), ahamkar (self or ego) is evolved. Then, man and buddhi are evolved. During the deep sleep, antahkarans (mind) becomes inactive but prāns still remain active and functional. Prans play major vital role in the body compared to antahkarans (mind). Without cognitive functions (functions of antahkaran) a person can still survive or remain alive but without vital functions (functions of prans) the person surely dies.

Body in Hinduism IV

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Sharir – Tattvas Part I: 

Mahattattva and Ahamkar

Hinduism describes three types of body of jiv. On liberation jiv leaves its three types of body and goes to the abode of God called Brahmdhām. For souls those are not liberated remain attached to their Kāran Sharir (causal body) and is absorbed within Māyā. This kāran sharir is of a form of avidyā and carries accumulated deeds (sanchit karmas) of the jiv. The jiv and its kāran sharir have eternal relationship. On creation, those jivs that are not liberated from the cycle of birth and death and have resided in Māyā along with their kāran sharir get various types of bodies of organisms or creatures including plants and animals, according to their individual karmas, by God’s will. Just as the judge decides the final outcome of the case and sets the reward for the defendant and the punishment to be inflicted on a convicted person after consideration or liberation, God decides which jiv gets which kind of body depending on its deed or karma. This is the reason why, in Hinduism, God is also described as “karma-fal-pradātā”, meaning giver of the fruits of karmas. Both, the Sukshma and Sthul bodies are intimately associated and remained within Kāran body, just as a tree is remained within its seed.

Hinduism also describes that the body of a jiv consists of 24 different elements as enumerated in previous part. These 24 elements are not eternal because they are derived from three types of Ahamkārs, which in turn are derived from Mahattattva. Mahattattva is also not eternal. It is derived from Pradhān-Prakruti, which in turn is derived from Mul-prakruti or Mahāmāyā. According to Hinduism, this Māyā is eternal. Now, let us discuss some of the elements of the body in further detail.


Mahattattva is the primordial form of universe (brahmand). The entire world inherently resides in a subtle form within mahattattva, just as a whole tree resides in a seed or an entire human body resides in an embryo. Mahattattva is like the matter in the fireball from which the whole Brahmānd (Universe) is evolved. It is very bright or luminous (prakāshmān), crystal clear (swachha), without any deformities (nirvikār), without any kind of disturbances or activities meaning quiet (shānt), and is extremely neutral in qualities or gunas (shuddha sattvamaya). It is created from Pradhānprakruti and is a source of 51 elements, namely, three kinds of ahamkars (the source of all other elements), fourteen deities of indriyas and antahkarans, four antahkarans, ten indriyas, ten prans, panch-bhuts and panch-tanmatras. From Mahattattva three types of Ahamkār are evolved and from Ahamkars the 24 elements, the constituents of whole Brahmānd (Universe), are evolved. Mahattattva and chitt are indifferent (abhed). Just as Mahattattva is the primordial form of universe, Chitt is the primordial form of body (sharir). Just as the universe is evolved from Mahattattva, whole body of living organism is evolved from Chitt.


Ahamkar is evolved from Mahattattva. It is of 3 types. Ahamkār is equivalent to the primordial matter in three forms from which the remaining elements of the universe (Brahmānd) are evolved. Ahamkar is “trigunātmak” meaning, it carries the three intrinsic or inherent properties, qualities, or attributes of Māyā, namely, Sattvagun, Rajogun, and Tamogun. By nature ahamkar is quiet (without any internal activities) or passive (shānt), dense (ghor), and totally ignorant or without any physical or cognitive activity (vimudh). Ahamkār is the cause of gross and subtle physical elements (bhuts); indriyas, antahkarans, and their deities; and prāns.

A. Sāttvik Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of sāttvik-gun (sattvagun) is purity, awareness, wakefulness, goodness, neutrality or indistinctiveness, balance, tranquility, wisdom, knowledge, etc. From Sattvik ahamkar the man and the presiding deities (also called Pratyādhi or Devatās) of the indriyas, divine or higher elements, are evolved.

B. Rājas Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of rājas-gun (rajogun) is passion, incoherence, cloudiness, lack of clarity, lacking harmony, lacking connection, impurity, unintelligibility, etc. From Rajas ahamkar ten indriyas, Buddhi, and prāns, basic functional elements, are evolved.

C. Tāmas Ahamkār:

The main characteristic of tāmas-gun (tamogun) is darkness, unconsciousness, passiveness, emptiness, ignorance, etc. From Tamas ahamkar five bhuts (gross elements), and five tanmātrās (subtle elements), basic structural elements, are evolved.

Body in Hinduism III

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Sharir – Sthul, Sukshma, and Karan

Hinduism describes that the non-liberated soul are born (jiv) in “Mrutyu Lok” – the realm of the universe where life exists. They born, live, and die in this realm (lok), so, it is called Mrutyu (death) lok. Scientists have found that life can sustain even in the most extreme or harsh conditions. This is because of the superb structural and functional engineering of the body. Thus, body is an important unit of living being. In Hinduism, body is known as sharir, deh, tanu, or tan (ta´n). The Sanskrit word “tan (ta´n)” rhymes with man (ma´n means mind) and dhan (dha´n means money or wealth). Middle Persian language (3rd to 7th century BCE) also used to have word tan (ta´n) for the body. Hinduism describes all living beings have three kinds of body, namely, Sthul (gross), Sukshma (subtle or psychological), and Karan (causal). This body of living beings is consisting of 24 physical entities, called tattvas.

1. Sthul sharir: It is a gross physical body of the soul or jiv. Sthul body is made of different parts and organ systems called “Ang” and “Upāng” in Sanskrit. For the lower animals and microbes, their gross body is microscopic and they have tiny angs and upangs. Out of 24 elements, the sthul body of living beings consists of five gross elements known as Panch-bhuts. They are: Pruthvi, Jal, Tej, Vayu, and Akash. These five bhuts are created from Tāmas Ahamkār, which in turn is created, along with Rājas and Sātvik Ahamkārs, from Mahattattva. Mahattattva, which is equivalent to Chitt, is the primordial element of the body. Sthul sharir is perceptible by our five senses. According to Hinduism, an important function or the main purpose of Sthul sharir is to gain the ultimate knowledge of the Truth, to enjoy the bliss of God and God related spiritual pleasure in this very life, and to transcend to the abode of God after the death. But because of its nature of experiencing happiness and sorrow of panchvishays it has become an object or vehicle for Bhog-vilās (worldly pleasures) causing more attachments to them, instead of achieving moksh, detaching from worldly pleasures, or achieving the highest spiritually enlightened state.

2. Sukshma sharir: It is subtle, psychological or functional body. For higher animals it is psyche or mental body for the soul. It is not perceptible by our senses or sensory organs but its existence can be inferred and experienced in our day to day life. For the lower animals and plants sukshma sharir is functional and can be understood by their intelligence and activities related to survival and feeling of pleasure and pain, such as, food gathering, cell division and multiplication, mating, hibernation, running away from danger and developing bodily resistance against harsh environment, experiencing shock, sadness, crying, etc. Sukshma sharir carries with it the basic instincts for the protection and survival of a living organism, such as āhār (to eat food), nindrā (to sleep), bhay (to fear), maithun (to procreate), sukh (to feel pleasure), and dukh (to feel plain). In the modern time of luxuries we still feel unhappiness in our life. In the modern time of comfort we still feel that our world’s peace is at stake. This is because we are still harboring, in our sukshma sharir, the vices, such as, lust (kām), avarice (vāsanā), anger (krodh), greed (lobh), egotism (mad), infatuation (moh), jealousy (irshā), enviousness (matsar), hope (āshā), deep and intense desire or crave (ishnā, trishnā or trushnā), grudge or animosity (ver), etc. We create our own mental body around us. For example, I am such and such person of such and such race, with such and such name, with such and such nationality, with such and such skin color, with such and such qualifications, with such and such social and monetary status, and such and such creed. I am doctor, engineer, actor, or businessmen, etc. I am rich or poor. I am brother or sister, father or mother, uncle or aunt, etc. Even animals, tiny creatures, and microscopic organisms also create their own such mental (sukshma) body around their soul and that is why they recognize their kind and also stay, mingle, and mate with their kinds. When we call an animal by its name it will look at us and respond, because, the animal has created a mental body around its soul. Our sexual orientation, irrespective of our chromosomal, hormonal, or physical orientation is the result of our mental (sukshma) body. A common person may think of himself as a king and a king may think of himself as a common person and behave accordingly because of his sukshma body. Sukshma sharir consists of rest of the 19 elements, namely, five Prāns, Vishays, or Tanmatras; ten Indriyas, four Antahkarans, namely, Man, Buddhi, Chitt, and Ahamkar.

Panch-prān-mano-buddhihi dashendriya-samanvitam, a-panchikrut-bhutotham sukshma-angam bhog-sādhanam.

Man (Mana) and Buddhi are part of sukshma or subtle body. Sometimes Ahamkar and Chitt are not included as part of sukshma sharir, which makes the total of 17 elements for sukshma sharir. The reason may be, Hinduism also describes that both Chitt and Mahattattva has indifference (abhedpunu). Because, just as Mahattattva is the primordial form and cause of three kinds of celestial body of Ishwar, namely, Virāt, Sutrātmā, and Avyākrut; Chitt also is the primordial form and cause of three kinds of terrestrial body of  Jiv, namely, Sthul, Sukshma, and Kāran. If this is the case, then chitt obviously, as a cause of other bodily elements, could possibly the part of kāran sharir. From chitt, three types of Ahamkār are evolved and from ahamkārs rest of the 24 elements are evolved. Thus, ahamkar would also become the part of kāran sharir. Probably, because of this reason both Ahamkār and Chitt might not have been included, by some, in sukshma or subtle body, instead they may be included as a part of kāran or causal body. In short, Antahkarans – man, buddhi, ahamkar, and chitt (mind or psych as a whole) is the cause of attachment and detachment with the worldly objects and their relatives. “Man eva manushyam kāranam bandh mokshayoho.”

3. Kāran sharir: Hinduism has described Kāran sharir around our soul. It seems to be, the karan sharir of the soul has not been described before by any other religion except Hinduism. Kāran sharir is a causal body which is the sole cause for the gross and subtle bodies in the next birth of the soul that is not liberated or detached from the causal body. Causal body carries the information or knowledge acquired during the previous births. The infatuation and intense or deep desires for the worldly objects and pleasures, called vāsanā, goes along with it. Soul is firmly attached to this causal body or kāran sharir. Kāran sharir consists elementally of Māyā, so it has all the characteristics of Māyā. It is described to have attributes like, anādi (without the beginning and end), avidyā (ignorant in nature), and anirvāchya (indescribable or inexplicable). On death the sthul and sukshma bodies become “dust unto dust” or parts of natural physical elements. But the causal body or kāran sharir, after death, goes with the non-liberated soul (māyānvit meaning covered with maya) wherever the soul goes, unless, the soul is completely detached or freed from it. Once the soul is completely detached from its causal body made of Māyā, it goes to the abode of God called Brahmdhām.  This liberation of the soul is known, in Hinduism, as final redemption or “Ātyantik moksh”. Thus, final redemption in Hinduism is the detachment of soul from its three bodies consisting of maya and its attributes. It also means liberation forever from the cycle of birth and death, also known as Samsār chakra, because the soul has never have to come back to world again except for the God’s wish.