Posts Tagged ‘tattvas’

Darshan (Philosophy) XIX

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Brahm

Brahm, Akshar, or Aksharbrahm: Part I

After discussing the three distinct ontological elements, namely, jiv, ishwar, and maya, Swaminarayan philosophy discusses two more and the most important ontologically distinct entities or elements (tattvas), which are transcendental to all the three including maya (amāyik) and cannot be convinced, determined, or inferred just by guessing, arguing, or discussing; but only by experiencing personally by association with the Brahmanized Sant or by meditation (samādhi). These are: Brahm and Parabrahm.

1. Brahm, Akshar, or Aksharbrahm:

Brahm is, one and the only one (ekam and advitiyam), eternal (nitya), and penultimate reality. It is transcendental to all other realities, yet it is subordinate to the topmost, the Ultimate, and the Supreme Reality called Parabrahm. Brahm is the abode (dham) of Parabrahm Purushottam Narayan. Brahm is characterized as Sachchidanand (truth-, conscious or chaitanya-, and bliss- full) Brahm. As an abode it is also known as Brahm-mahol, Brahmdhām, or Akshardhām. As the topmost devotee (bhakta) and the humblest servant of God, as a role model for other devotees, or as a divine personified reality (tattva) the same abode of Purushottam (God) is known, in Vedas, Upanishads, and in Prasthantrayi, as Akshar, Brahm, or Aksharbrahm. It is known as param chaitanya (transcendental consciousness), satya-rup (true), gnan-rup (form of knowledge), anant (infinite), amāp (immeasurable) and adho-urdhva pramān-rahit (overall or all-around limitless). In Taittiriya Upanishad Brahm is described as, “Satyam (truth), Gnānam (knowledge), Anantam (infinite) Brahm.” (Taittiriya Upanishad: 2.1) It is shuddha (pure – without any impurities of maya), akhand (whole, undivided, and indivisible), avinashi (indestructible), vikār-rahit (without any deformity or changes) and without any characteristics (gunas) of maya. It is extremely cool and bright. This extremely cool (mahāshital), pleasant (sukhmaya), extremely bright (atishay tejomaya), infinite (anant), and limitless or beyond any limits (apār) luminescent light (tej) of Aksharbrahm is known as Chidākāsh. It is sarvādhār (all-supporter), sarva-vyāpak (all-penetrating), divine and characteristically most distinct (vilakshan) from other mayik elements. It is this abode of God, known as Akshardham, in which Purushottam (God) resides Himself forever, in His vyatirek (distinct from Brahm and other realities) and anvay (indistinct from Brahm and other realities as their essence or antaryāmi) forms.

The existence of Brahm and Parabrahm, according to Hinduism, is undeniable. Until the clarification by Shri Swaminarayan, the words Brahm and Parabrahm had become synonymous or having similar meanings. But if one studies the scriptural sayings very minutely one would immediately know that Brahm and Parabrahm are not the same but two different entities. In the scriptures, Brahm is described as the overall cause of countless brahmands or multiverse. He does that according to God’s wish. Parabrahm is described as the cause, essence, or soul of Brahm, Dham, Brahmdham, or His abode. Parabrahm is described as the ultimate cause of His creation. He does it by means of His four other realities, namely, Brahm, maya, ishwar, and jiv. The scriptures have never described anywhere Brahm as the cause or source of Parabrahm. “Mama yonir mahad Brahm, tasmin garbham dadhāmyaham | Sambhavaha sarva bhutanam, tato bhavati Bharat ||” (Bhagwad Gita: 14.3) Meaning, “My major pathway or source of creation or origin is through Brahm, in which, I place (dadhāmi) the seed or germ of the cosmos from which all beings are created or born, O, son of Bharat.” Because of the transcendental, subtle, all-pervasive, and infinite nature and description of Brahm, it can be easily misunderstood that Brahm could possibly be Parabrahm, but in the scriptures Brahm is never ever described to be transcendental to Parabrahm or to be the essence and master of Parabrahm.

Darshan (Philosophy) XVIII

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – Maya

Maya or Prakruti

Maya means matter, in modern terms. It is the material cause of the creation. Maya is described to be trigunātmikā. Just as particles have three inherent properties of mass, charge, and spin; maya also has three inherent qualities called gunas, namely, Satva, Raja, and Tama. These gunas or properties are described in the Moksha-dharma section of Shanti ParvaBook 12 of Mahabharat. Maya is full of darkness and ignorance. It causes illusion. It does not have intelligence. It is lifeless (achetan), insentient, and dead. Scriptures called it jad-chidātmak (analogous to matter and energy or particle and wave form). It is also called the Shakti or power of Purushottam (God). It is the root cause of ignorance (avidya) and attachment of the soul with its body and bodily relatives. It creates the feeling of aham (I-ness) for the body and mamatva (My-ness) for the bodily objects and bodily relatives. It causes attractions for the two objects. It causes bondage or attachment of the soul with the world and worldly things.

Maya in its primordial form is also known as Prakruti. The primordial form of universe is called Pradhān and the primordial form of multiverse or multiple brahmands is called Mahāmāyā or Mul-Prakruti.

3. Pradhan and Purush

Pradhān is a kind of Prakruti. Sometimes, it is also known as Pradhan-Prakruti to differentiate it from the Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan-Prakrutis are infinite in numbers. They are all evolved from Mul-Prakruti. Pradhan is described in the scriptures as the material cause of brahmand. Its essence is known as Purush, called Pradhan-Purush to differentiate him from Mul-Purush. From Pradhan, Mahattattva – the primordial form of brahmand (universe) is evolved. From Mahattattva, three types of Ahamkar are evolved and from them 24 kinds of elements (tattvas) are evolved. From these 24 elements all of the non-living and living beings of the universe are evolved. Pradhan-Purush or Ishwar is the essence of Pradhan and the efficient cause of universe. Virāt form of brahmand, also known as Virat-Purush, is evolved from Pradhan-Purush. All avatars manifest from Virat-Purush. Vāsudev Narayan enters into and resides in avatars through Purush. His presence qualifies the avatar. It is not possible for an avatar to manifest through Virat-Purush without the presence of Vāsudev Narayan (God).

4. Mul-Prakruti and Mul-Purush

Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) is mentioned in the scriptures as the root cause or the basic material cause of infinite numbers of universes (ananta koti brahmands). (Mahabharat: Book 12: Shanti Parva, Part 2-3: Mokshdharma Parva: Section: CCCLII) Scriptures describe that from a pair of Mul-Prakruti (also known as Mahamaya) and Mul-Purush (also known as Prakruti-Purush or Mahāpurush) infinite number of pairs of Pradhan and Purush are evolved. From each pair of Pradhan and Purush, each brahmand is evolved. Mul-Prakruti or Mahamaya is the final material cause of countless brahmands or multiverse. Prakruti-Purush or Mahapurush is the final efficient cause of countless brahmands or multiverse.

Mahamaya, Maya in general, is originated from a tiny portion of the luminescence (tej) of Brahm, which sustains in it all of the brahmands. “Vishtabhya aham idam kritsnam ekāmshena sthito jagat” (Bhagwad Gita: 10.42). Meaning, “I support (vishtabhya) this entire (kritsnam) cosmos (jagat) that is being existed (sthito) in a tiny portion or fraction (ekāmshena) of me (my body).” In the scriptures, Aksharbrahm is considered as the sharir (body) of Purushottam (Parabrahm) and Purushottam is considered Aksharbrahm’s shariri (essence or controller). “Yasyāksharam shariram…” (Subāla Upanishad: Khand-7) Meaning, “He, Narayan (God), whose body (sharir) is Akshar.”

Prakruti-Purush, Mahapurush, or Mul-Purush, as he is known by these names, is basically an aksharpurush or akshar-mukta, one of many akshar-like or akshar-rup purushas. This aksharpurush or Prakruti-Purush is desireless (niranna), already liberated (mukta), brahmanized, brahm-like, or has become one with Brahm (brahmrup), and is the cause or source of maya. He is fully contented, happy, and fulfilled (paripurna) with the bliss and happiness of Brahm, who is free from any desire to indulge in worldly or mayik pleasures. Even though he stays within maya he ever remains unaffected by maya. There are many such akshar-like, brahmrup Purushas who worship Purushottam Vāsudev Narayan (God). Mahapurush is born or arise (upajayate) from Aksharbrahm at the wish or will of Purushottam. Mahapurush is the cause of Mahamaya. Mahamaya, as such, is anādi (unborn) or eternal (without birth and death). But at the final dissolution (Ātyantik pralay) it becomes dormant, shrinks or dissolves in a tiny portion of Aksharbrahm, and remains embedded there until the next creation. It is the same Mahamaya that is reactivated or born from the tej or luminescence of Aksharbrahm by Mahapurush. Through Mahamaya, Mahapurush causes the rest of the creation of multiple brahmands. Thus, finally it is Purushottam Vāsudev who, in the form of Brahm, is both – the material as well as efficient cause of creation, sustenance, and dissolution of countless or infinite numbers of brahmands. Taittiriya Upanishad says, “Vignānam cha avignānam abhavat |” (Taittiriya Upanishad: Brahmānanda Valli, Anuvāka: 6) Meaning, “Brahm became the intelligence (sentient being) as well as the non-intelligence (insentient being) of the universe.”

Just as there is a difference between the jiv (an individual soul) and Purush (Virat-Purush or a universal soul and Prakruti-Purush or a multiversal soul), who is an ishwar, there is difference between ishwar and Brahm.

Aksharbrahm, the abode of Purushottam,  is the penultimate reality – the one and only. Purushottam is the Ultimate Reality. Aksharbrahm is the most sought for reality, for the yogis and the devotees of God who seek for the final resting place or the final liberation. The scriptures say that when the whole creation undergoes dissolution, there remains or exists nothing but God, His abode, and the liberated souls. This is the reason why it is called final liberation (Atyantik Kalyan or Moksh).

Darshan (Philosophy) XV

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Swaminarayan philosophy – in General III

From the beginning of the Shad Darshan until the advent of Swaminarayan philosophy only three fundamental realities, namely, soul, nature or universe, and Ishwar (God), were mainly defined and discussed from the Prasthan Trayi and other Hindu scriptures. As our understanding of the Prasthantrayi was broadened two new categories were emerged that did go beyond the above three categories of Shad Darshan and Vedanta. The addition of two new categories covers the whole multiverse – the groups and strata of brahmands and their super-souls (ishwars or purushas). New categories were needed to clearly define and include Ishwar, Purush, Brahm, and Parabrahm, in our complete understanding of all the realities. Maya or Prakruti as matter or material of the universe and soul as the essence of the life are clearly described, defined, and understood from the scriptures.

Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are described and discussed, in the scriptures, as the realities but were not categorized separately. Sometimes they were described synonymously, but, at other times they were described distinctly. So the scholars defined them according to their preferences. We can see from the other Vedanta philosophies that the confusion was still prevailing among the scholars. Shri Swaminarayan characterized them into three distinct ontological categories to clear the confusion. He clarified that Ishwar, Brahm, and Parabrahm are three totally different ontological elements or Tattvas and not just one reality or element with three names. Some of the characteristics unique only to Parabrahm (God) cannot be attributed or applied to Brahm and the characteristics of Brahm or Parabrahm cannot be applied to Ishwar. He placed Purushas into the Ishwar category.

In the scriptures, brahmands are described in multiplicities. So, their essences or super-souls, called Ishwars or Purushas, are also described in multiplicity, but Purushottam (the Supreme Being) is described as the topmost – one and only entity. Purushas or Ishwars cannot be fitted into the category of Purushottam or Parameshwar, nor can they be fitted into the category of souls because of their universal potential. Brahm (also known as Akshar or Aksharbrahm) is the abode of Parabrahm. It is described different than Parabrahm. Within this abode, Aksharbrahm, countless brahmands float like mere atoms. Parabrahm cannot be fitted into the category of Brahm. Parabrahm is the controller and the topmost cosmic authority and cannot be the permanent resting place to harbor millions and millions of brahmands and the non-liberated and liberated souls inside it. Parabrahm is the essence or soul of Brahm. In the scriptures Brahm is described as the body of Parabrahm in which He resides forever. The scriptures have described body and soul (sharir-shariri or kshetra-kshetragna) relationship with Brahm and Parabrahm, respectively. Parameshwar, Parabrahm, Purushottam, Narayan are different names of the single, most transcendental entity (tattva), known as the Supreme Being. Thus, we have to have minimum five eternal (shaswat) fundamental realities to explain everything that is discussed in the scriptures and also exists in this phenomenal creation of God.

Darshan (Philosophy) XI

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):

Achintya Bhedabheda philosophy (contd.)

Achintyabheda-bheda of Chaitanya (contd.):

Chaitanya tradition believes in Krishna as the source of all the incarnations of God. Krishna is worshiped as the Supreme Absolute Truth. The object of worship was still Krishna but as God Himself (Svayam Bhagwan) and not as one of the avatars. Krishna is also seen even as the source of Vishnu and not as his avatar – a different or newer than traditional type of understanding of that time. Similarly, Radha is viewed as the source of all other Shaktis, including Lakshmi and Sita. In other words, Lakshmi and Sita are viewed as avatars of Radha. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself was later on viewed as an avatar of Krishna and is worshiped as such.

 Krishna is worshiped as Svayam Bhagwan as per Shrimad Bhagwat Puran and Shri Bhagwad Gita. Ramanujacharya’s and Madhavacharya’s tradition view Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu. Radha and Sita are viewed as avatar of Lakshmi.

Ete cha amsha-kalāh pumshah Krishnas tu Bhagwan svayam indrāri-vyākulam lokam mridayanti yuge yuge ||” (Shrimad Bhagwat Puran: 1.3.28) Meaning, “Although all of the previously mentioned (in shlok 26, 27) innumerable incarnations and descendants (rishis, manus, demigods, descendants of manus, prajapatis, etc.) of Hari are either portions or sub-portions (amsha-kalāh) of Purush (Krishna), but, He Himself (Svayam Bhagwan), appears from time to time or periodically (yuge yuge) to destroy (mridayanti) the enemies of devas or good people (indrari – meaning, bad people or enemies of devas like Indra, also known as Asurs) causing trouble or agitation on this earth or mrityulok (lokam).”

Arjun uvācha, Param Brahm param dhām pavitram paramam bhavan purusham sāsvatam divyam ādi-devam ajam vibhum ahus tvam rishayah sarve devarshir nāradas tathā āsito devalo vyasah svayam chaiva bravishi me ||” (Bhagwad Gita: 10. 12,13) Meaning, “Arjun said, You are param brahm – the ultimate abode (dhām), the purest (pavitram), transcendental (paramam) divine resting place or lok (bhavan); eternal (sāsvatam) divine (divyam) purush; the original God (ādi-devam), the unborn (ajam) Lord or manifestation (vibhum); that is what all the rishis and the demigod of all rishis (devarshi) Narada, Asit, Deval, Vyas personally say about You. And now You are confirming me the same as it is.”

Chaitanya strongly believed in chanting or singing (kirtan) the holy name of God – Shri Krishna. He believed that the holy name of God is also an incarnation of God, but in sound form. He believed that since God is the absolute whole, there is no difference between His holy name and His transcendental form. By kirtan bhakti, chanting the holy name of God, one can directly associate with God through sound vibrations. He describes three stages of development: 1. Offensive stage, in which one may desire all kinds of material happiness. 2. Clearing stage, in which, one becomes clear of any material contaminations. 3. Transcendental stage, in which, one attains the most desired position of loving God, the highest position of perfection of human beings.

In Chaitanya’s Bheda-Abheda philosophy, God and His creation or cosmic manifestation (also known as maya, power, or “Shakti”) though look different, are one, meaning they have “Sun and Sunshine” relationship. The difference among God and His creation is that though both being the same God has the supreme control over His creation. Just as Sunshine cannot exist without the Sun, the creation cannot exist without God. In the similar way, according to this philosophy, jivas (living beings), as being considered as a part of the creation, are similar but different from the God in the extent, power, and potential. Though, different avatars are not considered different than God.

After Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the tattva-vada (philosophical aspect of Hinduism) was declined to the bhakti-vada (devotional aspect of Hinduism). Devotion to God was more stressed than going into the ontological detail of the philosophy, since, no scholars thought of possibilities of more ontological elements or realities. They also stopped at three ontological elements or realities (tattvas), namely, God, creation, and souls.

Darshan (Philosophy) I

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Shad Darshan – Sankhya and Yoga:


Since Hinduism has its base in Vedas and Vedas are considered words of God directly revealed to the great Rishis, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy. Hinduism is the Vedic way of describing the Absolute Truth. Vedas are considered eternal (without any origin), authorless (apaurusheya – means not the work of mankind or beyond human imagination), and infallible (never wrong). The directly revealed words of God are considered as the form of God. “mada vāni, mada rupam”, meaning, “My words are my form.” It is considered as one of the ways of understanding or claiming the Truth, just like any other religious philosophies. It will be surprising to know that almost all religious philosophies agree to believe that the “Truth” or “Absolute” is one, but it is equally surprising that the claimants or claimers are many! Because, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy but is considered as the first hand or direct information about the truth, the philosophies developed on the bases of the Vedas – the words of God, are called “Darshans.” Darshans are philosophies – philosophical interpretations about the Truth by the great scholars. Darshans literarily means the views, visions, or philosophies and are also known as “Tattvagnān” (also spelled as “Tattvagyan” or “Tattvajnan”). Hinduism is not the “Darshan” or “Tattvagnān.” “Shad” means six and “Darshan” means philosophy. The six major philosophies of Hinduism developed from Vedas and Upanishads are: Sānkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimānsā (Mimamsa), and Uttara Mimānsā (also known as Vedanta.”) All these philosophies were basically developed before the Common Era except the few major philosophies based on Vedanta.


Sankhya” is the oldest classical philosophical system of Hinduism founded by rishi Kapil. According to Sankhya, there are basically two realities: Prakruti and Purush. Prakruti means the Nature which consists of 24 elements (tattvas). Purush means the essence or the controller of Prakruti. It is ontologically and characteristically distinct from Prakruti and is considered as the 25th element that is transcendental to all other elements. The responsibility of exploring or knowing in detail and further describing the Nature or Prakruti has been taken up by the Science, The responsibility of knowing and describing God or Purush has been taken up by the Religion.

The objective of Sankhya is to obtain discriminative knowledge of the manifest (vyakta) nature (prakruti), the unmanifest (avyakta) nature (prakruti), and the knower (purush). “Tadviparitaha shreyān vyakta-avykta-gna-vignānāt ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 2) According to Sankhya, Vyakta prakruti includes Mahattattva, Buddhi, Ahamkar, five Tanmatra, ten Indriya, and five Mahabhut. Avyakta prakruti is Pradhān. The knower (gnaha) is known as Purush.

Sankhya philosophy maintains multiplicity of Purush. “janana-marana-karanānām pratiniyamādugapatpravruteshcha | Purushabahutvam siddhim traigunyaviparyayāshchaiva ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 18) “Everybody does not born at the same time, does not die at the same time, everybody does not do same activity (karma) at the same time, everybody does activities (pravrutti) according to their psychological state of mind (gunas), such as some do virtuous activities (dharma), some do wicked activities (adharma);  some do cultivate detachment from the worldly object (vairagya) some not; some gain knowledge (gyān), some not. These diversities themselves show the plurality of purushas.”

Sankhya does not separate jiv or soul from sharir or the body. It considers jiv or soul as a part of 24 elements of Nature (also called Pradhān Prakruti) because jiv is intermingled or blended with them so closely that it cannot be separately identified. The 24 elements along with jiv are considered as the field called “Kshetra” and Purush is considered as the fielder called “Kshetragna.” They have controlee and controller relationships, respectively. This can be compared to the Dualism. But, the dualism of body and its life force (soul, atma or jivatma) or the dualism of cosmos (Prakruti) and its super-soul (Purush) and not the dualism of body and mind (According to Hinduism mind or antahkaran is part of the body – ontologically same element or reality) as against Monism. In Sankhya, the intellect or conscious is called “mahat” (mahattattva). Sankhya describes three kinds of proofs or evidences called “Pramānas,” namely, “Pratyaksha pramana” meaning direct perception, “Anumāna pramana” meaning logical inference, and “Sabda pramana” means verbal testimony.

Sānkhya is the eyes (ānkhya) to visualize the Truth. The message of Sankhya is to utilized this material world for improving one’s understanding about the Truth, at the same time developing the detachment from it, and hence to uplift the soul considering that this material world is not that important, permanent, or giver of the happiness or the bliss. It can just give comfort at the most. It is called the Nature or Prakruti – the jad (lifeless), aparā (non-transcendental) Prakruti which is “nāshvant” meaning destructible. The real essence is its life force, motivating force, its cause, its controller called Purush, Ishwar, or God. One should cultivate the attachment with the Truth. Sankhya generally believes in unrestricted use of nature or the worldly products of the nature and then either to forget it or to rationalize it to remain permanently detached from it so that one always remains in the state of bliss and avoid pain and sufferings.

In Sankhya, the question of salvation remains open. If Purush is God and Prakruti is His creation then salvation of Purush is out of question. If Brahmand is Prakruti (Pradhān) and its chief controller is Purush and if there is only one brahmand then the separation of Purush from its brahmand happens at the dissolution. But it doesn’t explain multiplicity of Purushas. If there are many brahmands, and hence many Pradhāns then it explains existence of many Purushas. But then it does not explain the supremacy of one God. One needs to add or explain the existence of the supreme reality. If Prakruti is body and Purush is its essence, called Jiv or soul, then it explains many bodies and many souls – a separate soul for each living being. But then the soul becomes the 25th element and what about God? What about salvation? Who gets salvation and who gives salvation? If souls get salvation, then who gives them salvation? The above ontological questions or flaws in Sankhya philosophy creates the necessity of at least one more reality, either soul or God, which is explained by the next philosophy.


Yoga was developed by rishi Pātanjali for creation of the spiritual bonding or union of a soul with the God. But now it has taken a 360 degree turn to help built physical health globally. The principals of Yoga are mentioned in his text of “Yoga Sutra.” Patanjali’s yoga system accepts the principles and concepts of Sankhya about the 24 kinds of physical elements. Patanjali’s Yoga texts (Yoga Shāshtras) go one step further. According to yoga, soul or jiv is ontologically different than the 24 kinds of physical, material, or worldly elements. So soul or jiv can be considered as the 25th element and God automatically becomes the 26th element. God is still maintained superior to all that makes up the topmost transcendental element or fundamental entity constituting the creation. God in Yoga is personified, Supreme, and of the nature of soul, that is, purely spiritual. He facilitates the attainment of liberation of the souls of His devotees. He remains non-doer or “akrtā.” Meaning, He doesn’t do anything directly by Himself and remain detached from its creation. He is called “Ishwar.” In Yoga, Ishwar is described as one, “in whom there is the seed (bij) or source of unsurpassed (nirātishayam) quality of all-knowing (omniscience),” “Tatra niratishayam sarvagnatva-bijam” Meaning Ishwar is omniscient or all-knower (sarvagna) (Yoga Sutra: 1.25) and “Sa purveshām-api guruhu kālenānavachchhedāt” (Yoga Sutra: 1.26) Meaning, “who is Guru (mentor or the ideal) of also ancient ones (primary creators, such as Brahmā and others), for, He is unbounded (pierced) by time (for He has no beginning and end, meaning eternal, whereas others have beginning and end).” Ishwar is “Purush-vishesha” (Godhead) untouched, unaffected, and free from the “klesha” (afflictions), “karma” (deeds or actions), “vipāka” (fruits of the deeds or actions), and “āshaya” (intentions or desires). “Klesha karma vipākāshayair aparāmrushtaha purusha-vishesha ishwaraha” (Yoga Sutra: 1.24). Souls are pure, eternal, immutable, and are countless in number. They remain attached to the world and worldly things. Souls assume innumerable embodied forms in the cycle of birth and death. In Yoga, the intellect or conscious is called “chittva” (chitt). Unlike the unrestricted use of nature in the Sankhya system, Yoga believes in the restricted use of the nature or in the well controlled and willing (not the forceful and against one’s will) suppression (nirodh) of the thoughts (vruttis) of the conscious (chitt). To understand the elements let us take only one kind of element, say the “Pruthwi” element. It consists of particulate form of more than 112-118 elements of the periodic table. Yoga also describes perceptions, but only of two kinds: “Savikalpa” meaning relative and “Nirvikalpa” meaning absolute perception.

In Yoga, Ashtang Yoga or meditation (dhyān) is used as the means of communion with the Divinity or God. Divinity or self is the object of meditation. Yoga recommends considering the soul, jiv or atma as the distinct (chaitanya) entity from the physical or worldly (lifeless) objects or entities and to develop “Atmabhāv” or “Atma-realization”; and then to worship Paramatma (God) who has definite form (sākār). If we have a physical form, then God has to have, physical but divine (divya sakar), form otherwise the union cannot be strong and fruitful. This is called “sajātiya” union, meaning the union “of a kind” or “of the same kind,” because, Soul and God both are believed to share ontologically common traits. The message of Yoga, as compared to Sankhya, is not to utilize this material world at all or at the minimum necessary level to keep one’s body, mind, and soul healthy and long-lasting keeping in mind that it is just the vehicle in developing the union with the Truth called God or Narayan and attaining the liberation.

Thus, Yoga emphasizes for spiritually leveling or uplifting the “Atma to God” or “Jiv to Shiv (God)” or “one eternal to another eternal” (shāswat) objects, rather than downgrading oneself with the worldly, material, destructible (nāshvant) objects by thinking or being as a part of a physical elements. If a person thinks him or herself as a part of the material world and worships God then his or her union or bonding with the God does not become complete, strong, and permanent. There always remains a flaw or hanging sward over that union and ultimately it breaks with even a trivial reason.

Yoga philosophy explains three basic or fundamental realities and salvation of souls, but it creates one more issue. If one understands Ishwar from Yoga only, being defined as Purush form, God as a person gets many limitations in understanding. One cannot get it how personified God can be all-knower or omniscient (sarvagna), all-controller, inner-guide of all (sarva antaryāmi), all-pervasive (sarva vyāpak), present everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) and absolutely perfect (paripurna).

Yoga was meant for the union of the atma (self or soul) with Paramatma (God) and the object of meditation was self or God. But in modern period of times, the object of meditation is changed from the divinity to diversity and yoga has just remain one of the means of attaining or maintaining well being of the body only, not even of mind and the soul.

Body in Hinduism XII

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

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.

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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.

Body in Hinduism XI

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Sharir – Tattvas Part III (contd.):

Prans – in General IV

Also, in Hinduism, it is believed that, “Pindeshu Brahmānde,” meaning, “whatever is found in the universe is found in the body.” The physical processes of the universe are paralleled by the biological process in the human body. Just as there are molecular physiological processes or forces called bodily prans vital for the life of the body, there are also paralleled universal forces called universal prans vital for the sustenance of universe. These universal prans are also needed to be satisfied, meaning, balanced or conserved, for avoiding the problems of environmental imbalance and for maintaining universal peace and harmony. For that, Hinduism has also prescribed oblations or “āhutis” in the scriptures to satisfy universal prans.

Reference: Chhandogya Upanishad describes the above described oblations “āhutis” as follows:

Chhandogya Upanishad: Part V – Panchāgni Vidyā: Chapter (Khand) XIX – XXIII — Performance of the Agnihotra in Oneself – Shloks 1 and 2 in each Khand:

Chapter XIX — the Pran

 “tad yad bhaktaṃ prathamam āgacchet tad dhomīyam |

sa yāṃ prathamām āhutiṃ juhuyāt tāṃ juhuyāt prāṇāya svāheti |

prāṇas tṛpyati || ChUp_5,19.1 ||”

Therefore, the devotee of God (bhakta), should offer the food that comes first as an oblation. The first oblation (prathamām āhuti) that he (i.e. the eater) offers, should offered by saying: “Swaha to the Pran!” (Prāāya svāheti) Then the pran is satisfied (tpyati). (Ch. Up: 5.19.1)

 “prāṇe tṛpyati cakṣus tṛpyati |

cakṣuṣi tṛpyaty ādityas tṛpyati |

āditye tṛpyati dyaus tṛpyati |

divi tṛpyantyāṃ yat kiṃca dyauś cādityaś cādhitiṣṭhatas tat tṛpyati |

tasyānu tṛptiṃ tṛpyati prajayā paśubhir annādyena tejasā brahmavarcaseneti || ChUp_5,19.2 ||”

The pran being satisfied, eye – the sense of vision (cakus) is satisfied. The eye being satisfied, Āditya (the Sun deity) is satisfied. The Sun being satisfied, heaven – the abode of deities (dyaus) is satisfied. When both are being satisfied, whatever is under heaven the sun is satisfied. After they are being satisfied, the eater or sacrificer is satisfied with his offspring, cattle, food, etc. luminescence (tejas) of the body, and ultimately of Brahm is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.19.2)

Chapter XX — the Vyan

“atha yāṃ dvitīyāṃ juhuyāt tāṃ juhuyād vyānāya svāheti |

vyānas tṛpyati || ChUp_5,20.1 ||”

The second oblation that he offers should be offered saying: “Swaha to the Vyan!” (Vyānāya svāheti) Then the Vyan is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.20.1)

“vyāne tṛpyati śrotraṃ tṛpyati |

śrotre tṛpyati candramās tṛpyati |

candramasi tṛpyati diśas tṛpyanti |

dikṣu tṛpyantīṣu yat kiṃca diśaś candramāś cādhitiṣṭhanti tat tṛpyati |

tasyānu tṛptiṃ tṛpyati prajayā paśubhir annādyena tejasā brahmavarcaseneti || ChUp_5,20.2 ||”

The Vyan being satisfied, ear – the sense of hearing (śrotra) is satisfied. The ear being satisfied, the Chandramā (the Moon deity) is satisfied. The moon being satisfied, the astronomical or terrestrial regions or or geographical orientation on earth (diśas – cardinal directions) are satisfied. The directions being satisfied, whatever is in that directions and under the moon is satisfied. They being satisfied, the eater or sacrificer is satisfied with his offspring, cattle, food, etc. luminescence (tejas) of the body, and ultimately of Brahm is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.20.2)

Chapter XX — the Apan

“atha yāṃ tṛtīyāṃ juhuyāt tāṃ juhuyād apānāya svāheti |

apānas tṛpyati || ChUp_5,21.1 ||”

The third oblation that he offers should be offered saying: “Swaha to the Apan!” (Apānāya svāheti) Then the Apan is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.21.1)

“apāne tṛpyati vāk tṛpyati |

vāci tṛpyantyām agnis tṛpyati |

agnau tṛpyati pṛthivī tṛpyati |

pṛthivyāṃ tṛpyantyāṃ yat kiṃ ca pṛthivī cāgniś cādhitiṣṭhatas tat tṛpyati |

tasyānutṛptiṃ tṛpyati prajayā paśubhir annādyena tejasā brahmavarcaseneti || ChUp_5,21.2 ||”

The Apan being satisfied, tongue – the sense of speech (vāk) is satisfied. Speech being satisfied, Agni (the fire deity) is satisfied. Fire being satisfied, the earth (Pthivī – Pruthwi tattva) is satisfied. The earth being satisfied, what is under the earth and under fire is satisfied. They being satisfied, the eater or sacrificer is satisfied with his offspring, cattle, food, etc. luminescence (tejas) of the body, and ultimately of Brahm is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.21.2)

Chapter XXII — the Saman

“atha yāṃ caturthīṃ juhuyāt tāṃ juhuyāt samānāya svāheti |

samānas tṛpyati || ChUp_5,22.1 ||”

The fourth oblation that he offers should be offered saying: “Swaha to the Saman!” (Samānāya svāheti) Then the Saman is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.22.1)

“samāne tṛpyati manas tṛpyati |

manasi tṛpyati parjanyas tṛpyati |

parjanye tṛpyati vidyut tṛpyati |

vidyuti tṛpyantyāṃ yat kiṃ ca vidyuc ca parjanyaś cādhitiṣṭhatas tat tṛpyati |

tasyānu tṛptiṃ tṛpyati prajayā paśubhir annādyena tejasā brahmavarcaseneti || ChUp_5,22.2 ||”

The Saman being satisfied, mind – the psyche (manas, that is, antahkarans) is satisfied. The mind being satisfied, Parjanya (the rain deity) is satisfied. The rain deity being satisfied, the lightning (vidyut – Tej tattva) is satisfied. The lightning being satisfied, what is under the lightning and under the rain deity is satisfied. They being satisfied, the eater or sacrificer is satisfied with his offspring, cattle, food, etc. luminescence (tejas) of the body, and ultimately of Brahm is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.22.2)

Chapter XXIII — the Udan

“atha yām pañcamīṃ juhuyāt tāṃ juhuyāt udānāya svāheti |

udānas tṛpyati || ChUp_5,23.1 ||”

The fifth oblation that he offers should be offered saying: “Swaha to the Udan!” (Udānāya svāheti) Then the Udan is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.23.1)

“udāne tṛpyati tvak tṛpyati tvaci tṛpyantyāṃ vāyus tṛpyati |

vāyau tṛpyaty ākāśas tṛpyati |

ākāśe tṛpyati yat kiṃca vāyuś cākāśaś cādhitiṣṭhatas tat tṛpyati |

tasyānu tṛptiṃ tṛpyati prajayā paśubhir annādyena tejasā brahmavarcaseneti || ChUp_5,23.2 ||”

The Udan being satisfied, skin – the sense of touch (tvak) is satisfied. The skin being satisfied, Vayu (the wind deity) is satisfied. The wind being satisfied, the space or void (Akash tattva) is satisfied. Akash being satisfied, what is under the wind and under the Akash is satisfied. They being satisfied, the eater or sacrificer is satisfied with his offspring, cattle, food, etc. luminescence (tejas) of the body, and ultimately of Brahm is satisfied. (Ch. Up: 5.23.2)

Body in Hinduism X

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

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”.

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.