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Home sjmtoc 2 Prana in Ayurveda

2.4 Prana, Agni and Soma

Even Brahma the creator, though he presides over the universe which is unimaginably vast and which is his body, exists in an atom; in fact, he does not occupy any space at all. . . . But in truth, O Rama, he us but pure consciousness. Because this consciousness becomes aware of motion, it experiences such motion or life-force. This is the prana and the apana whose whirling motion comes to be known as wind in the universe, which is the very heart of the universe. The exudations, as it were, of this prana are known as vata or wind, pita or heat and slesma (kapha) or moisture (the three humors of the body) and their cosmic counterparts - wind, sun and moon.

This clearly shows that prana is the source of the three Ayurvedic humors - vata, pitta and kapha. “First of all, there is a principle of energy that gives force, velocity, direction, animation, motivation . . . . The second of the triad of forces they perceived as a principle of light, or radiance.

The third of these forces was seen as a principle of cohesion . . . . These three are one; life is light, which is love. The energetic principle (life), possesses a radiance (light), which in turn has a bonding power (love)”. These three cosmic forces, in essence three different aspects of the same consciousness, can be described as life, light, and love, or as the wind, sun and moon metaphorically.

This description of energy, transformation, and cohesion really helped me understand the unity of Prana with the other primordial cosmic forces of creation - Agni and Soma. Gni (light) and Soma (love) can be related to the Chinese concepts of Yang and Yin respectively. The two polarities are always interacting and interrelating with each other because they are not two, but one. Prana can be related to the concept of Qi or Chi, that which empowers the other two. Agni relates to fire, the sun, transformation and expansion, the humor pitta, and it has masculine properties. Soma relates to liquid, the moon, cooling, unifying, feminine properties, and the humor kapha. Pure Consciousness is the source of these three universal principles or forces, but is not separate from them.

As stated before, the term “consciousness” is synonymous with God, not the God of any religion (Christian, Islam, Hindu or other), but rather the source of all these gods humans have created in their own limited ability to comprehend the unlimited, the uncomrehendable. In its purest sense, each religion defines “God” to be the source of all creation - simple purity of being. It refers to a state that is stateless yet completely aware and conscious.

One should contemplate the Lord in the following manner: he is the light illuminated by the solar force as well as the lunar force, he is the intelligence that eternally lies hidden in all material substances, he is the extrovert awareness that flows through the bodily avenues on to the external world, he is the prana that moves in one’s nose, he transforms contacts of the senses into meaningful experiences, he rides the chariot composed of prana and apana, he dwells in secret in the cave of one’s heart. He is knower of the knowable and the doer of all actions, the experiences of all experiences, the thinker of all thoughts.
As the basis for all the manifested creation, prana is worshipped as the “lesser Brahma” or Hiranyagarbha. This is the aspect of cosmic consciousness that - together with transformation and cohesion - actually starts the creation process.

The Lord of all creatures is Prana, whose movement in the womb of creation gives birth to the images of all beings in your likeness, yet remaining ever the one unchanging. It is you, prana, alone who endows the power to he senses, everything is perceived through you, for this all creatures bring you gifts.

Prana and the other two forces are always together and never function alone, although they can be perceived as separate. They are, in fact, one phenomenon that arises simultaneously out of consciousness. In Ayurveda prana is the controlling force in the body.

Ayus ( “life”) is the combination of body with Prana brought forth by adrsta ( “ the unseen or unmanifest”). Prana has twelve components - three dosas (humors) three gunas (qualities; sattva, rajas and tamas), five senses, and atman (individualized consciousness).

The biological humors are merely three different statuses or orientations of the life-force (prana).

Prana is perceived differently on many levels and the view changes depending on the stance you take. Therefore, the ancient scriptures provide many diverse names and actions that are attributed to the principle of energy or movement. As diverse as these names and actions may seem, there are several universal themes throughout all the different scriptures and texts over thousands of years. They are: prana is life, without prana there is no life on any level of existence; without prana everything else is inert; in the physical body, prana is interrelated to the mental process, or thinking; in the physical body prana provides the binding power, and at death the prana ceases to bind the soul to the body; prana controls he three humors, and prana is the dominant force in the body.

Vayu or vata is one of the three biological humors os the body, and as the most direct manifestation fo prana, it is the controlling humor. Vayu provides energy to the other two humors - pitta and kapha. Without vayu (prana) the other two humors are dead. Therefore, vayu is often called the most important humor. In the Caraka Samhita this is exemplified by te chapters titled “Eight diseases caused by Vata,” and “Forty diseases caused by Pitta”, and “Twenty diseases caused by Kapha”. These do not classify all the possible diseases, but do provide a listing of the most prevalent illnesses. As one can see, vata is double the quantity of pitta, and pitta is double the quantity of kapha.

Because prana is without substance, its manifestation in the body as vayu or vata is also insubstantial. This means it is also the most unstable; like wind it is ever changing. It is usually the first humor to go out of balance due to its special relationship with prana. Having now understood that prana is the source of the five elements and three biological humors, we can proceed to learn more about the specific manifestations of prana as the five states f matter and three humors.

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