From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CLXXXIV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Through the breath called PRANA a living creature is enabled to move. Through that called VYANA , they put forth strength of action. That called APANA moves downwards. That called SAMANA resides within the heart. Through that called UDANA one eructates and is enabled to speak in consequence of its piercing through (the lungs, the throat, and the mouth).
These are the five kinds of wind that cause an embodied creature to live and move. The properties of scent an embodied creature knows through the earth element in him. From the water element he receives taste. From the fire element represented by the eyes, he perceives forms, and from the wind element he obtains the perception of touch. Scent, touch, taste,vision, and sound are regarded as the general properties of every mobile and immobile object. I shall first speak of the several kinds of scent. They are agreeable, disagreeable, sweet, pungent, far-going, varied, dry, indifferent. All these nine kinds of scent are founded upon the earth element. Light is seen by the eyes and touch through the wind element. Sound, touch, vision and taste are the properties of water. I shall speak in detail now of the perception of taste.
High-souled Rishis have spoken of diverse kinds of taste. They are sweet, saltish, bitter, astringent, sour and pungent. These are the six kinds of taste appertaining to the water element. Light contributes to the vision of form. Form is of diverse kinds. Short, tall, thick, four-cornered, round, white, black, red, blue, yellow, reddish, hard, bright, smooth, oily, soft, and terrible. These are the sixteen kinds of form which constitute the property of light or vision. The property of the wind element is touch. Touch is of various kinds: warm, cold, agreeable, disagreeable, indifferent, burning, mild, soft, light and heavy. Both sound and touch are the two properties of the wind element. These are the eleven properties that appertain to the wind.
Space has only one property. It is called sound. I shall now tell thee the different kinds of sound. They are the seven original notes called Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Madhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada.
These are the seven kinds of property that appertains to space. Sound inheres like the Supreme Being in all space though attached especially to drums and other instruments. Whatever sound is heard from drums small and large, and conchs, and clouds, and cars, and animate and inanimate creatures, are all included in these seven kinds of sound already enumerated. Thus sound, which is the property of space, is of various kinds. The learned have said sound to be born of space. When raised by the different kinds of touch, which is the property of the wind, it may be heard. It cannot however, be heard, when the different kinds of touch are inceptive. The elements, mingling with their counterparts in the body , increase and grow. Water, fire, wind are always awake in the bodies of living creatures. They are the roots of the body. Pervading the five life-breaths they reside in the body.
Heat resides within the head (brain) and protects the body from perishing. The breath called PRANA, residing within the head and the heat that is there, cause all kinds of exertion. That PRANA is the living creature, the universal soul, the eternal Being, and the Mind, Intellect and Consciousness of all living creatures, as also all the objects of the senses. Thus the living creature is, in every respect, caused by Prana to move about and exert.
Then in consequence of the other breath called SAMANA, everyone of the senses is made to act as it does. The breath called APANA, having recourse to the heat that is in the urethra and the abdominal intestines, moves, engaged in carrying out urine and faeces. That single breath which operates in these three, is called UDANA by those that are conversant with science. That breath which operates, residing in all the joints of men's bodies, is called VYANA. There is heat in the bodies of living creatures which is circulated all over the system by the breath called SAMANA.
Residing thus in the body, that breath operates upon the different kinds of watery and other elementary substances and all bad humours. That heat residing between Apana and Prana, in the region of the naval, operates with the aid of those two breaths, in digesting all food that is taken by a living creature. There is a duct beginning from the mouth down to the anal canal. Its extremity is called the anus. From this main duct numerous subsidiary ones branch out in the bodies of all living creatures.In consequence of the rush of the several breaths named above (through these ducts), those breaths mingle together. The heat that dwells in Prana is called USHMAN.
It is this heat that causes digestion in all creatures possessed of bodies. The breath called Prana, the bearer of a current of heat, descends from the head downwards to the extremity of the anal canal and thence is sent upwards once more. Coming back to its seat in the head, it once more sends down the heat it bears. Below the navel is the region of digested matter. Above it is that for the food which is taken. In the navel are all the forces of life that sustain the body. Urged by the ten kinds of breaths having Prana for their first, the ducts branching out from the heart, convey the liquid juices that food yields, upwards, and in transverse directions. The main duct leading from the mouth to the anus is the path by which yogis, vanquishers of fatigue, of perfect equanimity in joy and sorrow, and possessed of great patience, succeed in attaining to Brahma by holding the soul within the brain.
Published with the kind permission of www.hinduism.co.za.
Their ‘Understanding Hinduism’ website is an award winning site featuring a whole host of various articles promoting Hinduism. It truly is a wonderful, thoughtful and thought provoking work and a true beacon for the promotion of Hinduism and Vedic culture in the world today.
Please visit their enlightening website at www.hinduism.co.za.
Copyright reserved by the author.