Prana and the Self part 2
Science has rejected the idea that the life-force is independent of the mechanical forces of nature; but she cannot tell us definitely the cause of vital energy.
There have been debates and discussions on this subject among the scientists of different countries at all times; still the problem is unsolved. If we can understand the life-force of the universe we have understood the living God; because, says Vedanta, that life-force is inseparable from the Being who is worshiped as God.
What is God ? He who keeps everything alive, and upon whom depend all other activities, sense-powers and the functions- of the gross physical body. Indra said:
” Prana alone having animated this body makes it rise up. It alone is the conscious Self. What is Prana is Prajna, self-consciousness; and what is self-consciousness is also Prana. They both live in the body together and together they pass out of it.”
"That life is the same as our self-consciousness." Have you seen self-consciousness where there was no life? It is impossible. Wherever there is self-consciousness there must be life; self-consciousness and life are inseparable. You may say there is no self-consciousness in trees and plants; how do you know it is not there ? Is it because they have no brain ?
They may not have the same self-consciousness as that of those who have brain, but they have nerves of their kind. How do you know a sensitive plant does not feel? All such dogmas of the theologians as that life is granted by the Creator to human beings alone, who would glorify His name, no longer appeal to us.
Even the scientists of today, like Ernst Haeckel, are beginning to realize that every plant has its soul, that every cell has its own life, that every atom has its soul; and wherever there is soul there is also intelligence, the source of self-consciousness.
It may be expressed imperfectly, it may be latent or waiting for proper manifestation; still wherever there is life there is some kind of intelligence; and wherever there is intelligence there must be life.
As we see in all living creatures, when life is gone, self-consciousness is also gone, so when life is in a state of abeyance, either in faintness or in swoon, when the life-force does not manifest itself in the form of organic functions or sense activities, self-consciousness at that time remains latent. Then Indra said:
“When a man goes into the deep sleep state, where he sees no dream whatever, his mind is absolutely at rest, is enveloped, as it were, with a veil of ignorance.”
Sometimes when you wake up after dreamless sleep you feel as though you have come out of a realm of deep ignorance in that state of sound sleep do you know what becomes of your sense activities,—the powers of seeing, hearing, smelling? They remain latent in Prana, they go back and take refuge in that life-force. When the life-force remains inactive, then other powers also become inactive. In deep sleep we do not speak, see or smell anything. If there be the noise of a gun right near our ear we do not hear, neither does our mind think or imagine; all mental and physical powers remain potential, and come out as we wake up.
The first awakening is visible in vital actions. In dreamless sleep (Sushupti), however, the life-force is not entirely separated from the central part of the body, because the subconscious activity of the Prana is then manifested in the heart beat, in the circulation, digestion and in the respiratory process. If that force which causes the motion of the heart and lungs stops, there is absolute separation of the Prana from the organs, then we do not wake. This is death.
But in deep sleep we become one with Prana, which absorbs all our conscious activities, and in the waking state they all return to their respective organs; the senses then begin to perceive and perform their functions.
Indra illustrates this by saying:
“And when he awakes, then as from a blazing fire sparks shoot forth in all directions, so the sparks of the various sense-powers proceed each toward its place and come in contact with external objects.*’
When a spark takes possession of the eye it illumines the object of sight, the form and color; another spark comes out and falls in the organ of hearing, it then illumines what we call sound. Similarly other sense-powers proceed from Prana like sparks.
The mind itself is another spark which performs various mental functions.” But “when a person is going to die, being ill and falling into weakness and faintness, all the sense-powers go back to their source; then people say ‘His mind has departed,’ he cannot hear or see, speak or imagine. Then he becomes one with Prana alone.” As the Prana leaves the body it takes with it all the sense-powers, which are dependent upon it.
The dying man carries with him the powers of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, seizing, moving, speaking, excreting, generating and the power of thinking as well as self-consciousness. All the vital forces and subconscious activities of the organs are also withdrawn when Prana leaves the body.
Along with these the objects, like color, sound, odor, etc., that are illumined by the senses, are also taken away. When the power of seeing, for example, is drawn away all colors and all forms, which can be perceived by the eye, go with it. We shall see presently that the objects of the senses are inseparable from these sense-powers; when the latter are withdrawn, the objects are taken with them. If all the sounds and words which we utter be stopped, then the power of speech will remain latent, and with it will go all the names which can be illumined by the power of speech.
For the same reason, when the power of smell is withdrawn, all the perception and sensation of odor accompany it; and all thoughts, percepts, concepts, memory, volition and ideas disappear when mind and intellect cease to be active. This absolute and complete oneness with Prana happens at the time of death. Since Prana and self-consciousness are inseparable, and since together they live in the body and together go out of it, a man in this state is said to be dead.
All these organic powers which have been withdrawn with Prana remain with him after death and he manifests them in another form. As in the state of waking after deep sleep mental and physical forces rise like sparks from a burning fire, so after the sleep of death all the latent powers come out from Prana, manufacture other organs and perform their functions respectively.
What is that force which manufactures the sense-organs? It is the Prana or life-force, which contains in a potential form all the desires, impressions and tendencies of the previous existence.
When the activities of the senses, which reveal their objects, become latent, all sensations stop, and consequently ceases the relative existence of sense-objects.
The Self is the center of intelligence and consciousness. It is clothed with the Prana or life-force, a portion of which manifests itself subjectively
as sense-powers, while other portions express themselves as objects of sensation. As the objects of perception cannot exist without being related to the perceiving sense-powers or subjects, similarly the subjects only exist as such so long as they are related to the objects.
Here we should remember the truths which we have already learned: that the sense-powers depend upon Prana or life-force, that Prana and self-consciousness are identical, and that objects are related to sensations because they cannot exist as independent of the powers of perception.
There will be no color in relation to us if our power of sight be dead. For the same reason that which we call sound only exists in relation to the power of hearing. Similarly it can be shown that the external objects which we perceive are inseparable from our sensations of them, and these in turn depend upon our sense-powers.
An object of perception may be compared to a piece of cloth. As a cloth which is made out of threads is identical with the thread (for what is a piece of cloth but threads woven together?) so an object of perception, being woven together of sensations and sense-powers is identical with them.
The threads of sensations and sense-powers, again, are twisted out of the forces of Prana. The whole universe, therefore, depends upon Prana or self-consciousness; Self is the center of the universe as well as the center of each one of us. It is the foundation of life, inseparable from Prana, and the producer of all sense-powers.
Indeed, Self is the origin of the phenomenal universe Again it is said that this Prana or self-consciousness is not many, but it is one. The life-force in you is the same as the life-force in me and in others. As life-force is one, so self-consciousness is one. The self-consciousness in you is also the same as it is in me and in all living creatures. It is one throughout the universe. We can only infer from external signs the nature of self-consciousness in other individuals and compare it with our own.
Self-consciousness lies at the root of all knowledge. For without self-consciousness speech does not make known any word; we do not perceive it.
Without self-consciousness the ear cannot reveal any sound. When our self-consciousness is centered upon one particular object we do not see things which may lie in close contact with our eyes. For instance, when you are looking at something intently on the street, other objects may pass by in front of you, but you do not notice them though your eyes are there. So with sounds, when your mind is concentrated on one particular sound you do not hear other sounds; a person may be calling, but you do not hear it; so when your mind is concentrated on any particular thought or idea, you do not see, hear, smell or taste or have any other sensation. In short, without self-consciousness, no thoughts can rise in succession and nothing can be known. Therefore, it is said:
“That which is the real seer we must know; we must not try to know the speech or the words, we must know the speaker, the Self. Where is the speaker? Find it out. Who is the seer? Find it out. Let no man find out what speech is, but let him find out the speaker. Let no man find out what sight is, but let him find out the seer. Let no man find out what sound is, but let him know the hearer.”
Scientists are trying to find out what sound is, but they do not care to know who is the hearer. Vedanta philosophers, on the contrary, go to the bottom of things; they do not care whether or not sound is the vibration of air. In order to become a sound any kind of vibration must be related to our power of hearing; if our power of hearing be withdrawn who will hear the sound? So what is the use of wasting our time in trying to know what sound is? First let us know the true nature of the sense-powers, then their source, and ultimately the Knower of
all sense-objects. “Let no man try to find out tastes of food, let him know the knower of tastes. Let no man try to know what pleasure and pain are, let him know the knower of pleasure and pain. Let no man try to discover what joy or happiness is, let him know the knower of joy and happiness. Let no man try to know the thought, let him know the thinker.
These objects of perception have reference to Prajna or self-consciousness, and the subjects or sense-powers have reference to objects. Objects have relation to subjects, subjects are related to objects; if there were no objects there would be no subjects, and vice versa. For on either side alone nothing can be achieved.”
Self-consciousness is described by Indra as the center of the wheel of a chariot. This body is the chariot and the outer circumference of the wheel is made up of sense-objects, the spokes are the sense-powers, which reveal these objects, and the nave, on which the spokes are fixed, is the Prana, the life-force.
Thus the objects arc placed on the subjects (spokes) and the subjects on Prana. The Prana or life-force, which is inseparable from intelligence and self-consciousness, is imperishable, immortal, and blessed, that is the true Self.
True Self is not increased by good acts, or decreased by evil deeds. The sins of the world do not corrupt or change the nature of this true Self. The true Self is neither virtuous nor sinful, but it is always Divine and perfect.
Good and evil deeds affect the ego, the doer and actor, and bring in return the results which the ego reaps. We shall have to understand that all good and evil works are dependent upon self-consciousness and life-force or Prana. The source of consciousness and intelligence is the guardian of the world, the producer of all phenomena of the universe, and that is "my true Self."
“And this Self-knowledge will help all humanity in the path of immortality and perfection, which leads to the abode of peace and happiness.”
“May all the functions of our minds, works of our bodies and activities of our sense please the almighty Brahman, who is described in the Vedanta; May we not forget him; may we realize His presence in us; may we not be forsaken by Him; may all divine qualities adorn our souls and bring peace to our minds. “Peace, Peace, Peace be unto us all.”
Self Knowledge by Swami Abhendanada published 1905