The Preeminence of Prana in Supporting and Upholding the Being

Sri Aurobindo translates Prashna Upanishad, Chapter 2, Verses 3-13:  “Then answered Breath, their mightiest: ‘Yield not unto delusion: I dividing myself into this fivefold support this harp of God, I am its preserver.’  But they believed him not.  Therefore offended he rose up, he was issuing out from the body.  But when the Breath goeth out, then go all the others with him, and when the Breath abideth all the others abide: therefore as bees with the king-bee:  when he goeth out all go out with him, and when he abideth all abide, even so was it with Speech and Mind and Sight and Hearing: then were they well-pleased and hymned the Breath to adore him.  ‘Lo, this is he that is Fire and the Sun that burneth, Rain and Indra and Earth and Air, Matter and Deity, Form and Formless, and Immortality.  As the spokes meet in the nave of a wheel, so are all things in the Breath established, the Rig-Veda and the Sama, and Sacrifice and Brahminhood and Kshatriyahood.  As the Eternal Father thou movest in the womb and art born in the likeness of the parents.  To thee, O Life, the world of creatures offer the burnt offering, who by the breaths abidest.  Of all the Gods thou art the strongest and fiercest and to the fathers thou art the first oblation: thou art the truth and virtue of the sages and thou art Atharvan among the sons of Angiras.  Thou art Indra, O Breath, by the splendour and energy and Rudra because thou preservest: thou walkest in the welkin as the Sun, that imperial lustre.  When thou, O Brath, rainest, thy creatures stand all joy because there shall be grain to the heart’s desire.  Thou art, O Breath, the unpurified and thou art Fire, the only purity, the devourer of all and the lord of existences.  We are the givers to thee of thy eating: for thou, O Matarishwan, art our Father.  That body of thine which is established in the speech, sight and hearing, and in the mind is extended, that make propitious: O Life, go not out from our midst!  For all this Universe, yea, all that is established in the heavens to the Breath is subject: guard us as a mother watcheth over her little children: give us fortune and beauty, give us Wisdom.’ ”

When any of the specific powers of perception or action begin to feel like they are supreme, it is important to remember that it was Prana, the Universal Energy, taking up, informing and controlling Matter, that creates all existence and life.  The Rishi here is explaining at great length the concepts set forth in the response to the first question, taking it from the universal formulation to the individual.  If the Life-Breath departs from the body, then the individual dies and the material form returns to its constituent elements.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads,  Prashna Upanishad, pp.297-315


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