(From the Author's book - Yoga From Confusion To Clarity -- written by Professor Satya Prakash Singh and Yogi Mukesh) I. INDRA’S PROPOSITION OF PRANA AS CONSCIOUSNESS There is an anecdote in the Kaustaki Upanishad (III.1-8), which throws light on the Vedic view of the relationship between life and consciousness. Pratardana, the son of Divodasa, reached the palace of Indra struggling with all his might. Indra was happy with his achievement and offered Pratardana any boon of his choice. Unable to decide by himself, Pratardana requested Indra to bestow upon him whatever was most beneficial for him from the human viewpoint. Accordingly, he said to Pratardana, “Know myself.” Having suggested this to Pratardana, he further observed, “I am pranawhich is consciousness.” Explaining prana, he points out that prana is life and life is prana. In support of this equation, he referred to the fact that one keeps alive only while prana is there in one’s body. Anticipating the question of diversity of pranas likely to have been raised by Pratardana at this juncture, he stated further that overall, prana is only one. In support of this contention, he referred to the behaviour of a living being, particularly in regard to the fact that the being concerned has in the focus of its attention at a given moment, the function of only one of its sense organs, including mind. It indicates, Indra pointed out, that which ever sense organ the prana supports at a given moment, becomes functional for the time being. He further pointed out that one can remain very well alive having lost any of his senses such as eye, ear, taste, touch or smell and even without having developed the mental capacity, as is the case with newly born children. People surviving without arms and legs, he observed, testify to the fact that it is not the organ of action which manages the weight of the body but the prana itself. Indra further reminded Pratardana that prana is not only life but also consciousness in its potential form, while inversely consciousness is the potentiality of prana. It is due to the intimacy in their relationship, he observed, that both dwell together, no matter manifestly or potentially. To illustrate this point, he referred to the case of the dreamless sleep in which the function of all the senses, including the mind, gets suspended leaving only prana to keep coming inside and going outside. Suspension of the function of the senses and mind, he assumed, does by no means amount to the total loss of potentialities of seeing, thinking, etc. It simply means withdrawal of those capabilities to prana itself. This is evident from the fact that immediately after waking from sleep, the person concerned gets all his sensory, motor, cognitive, conative and affective functions restored automatically, he pointed out. In his view, restoration of all these functions is accomplished by prana itself. To elucidate the point, he referred to the analogy of fire whose spark, howsoever, tiny and covered with ash, is capable of assuming the form of a holocaust, if fuelled duly. It is out of theprana, he pointed out, that the powers of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, knowing, feeling and doing, emerge and make the person concerned have before him unfolded the entire vista of the world from physical up to the Divine. The mutual convertibility of prana and consciousness as presented in this discourse is intended for explaining the possibility of Pratardana realizing himself as Indra. The virility Pratardana displayed in waging war against adversaries and facing the obstacles coming his way while going to heaven, obviously, indicates that he was a man of power which in itself was the product of prana. It was through his pranic energy, so to say, that he gained proximity to Indra, the embodiment of prajna, super consciousness. Having reached that height, what he further needed was the realization of himself as the same super consciousness which Indra represented. Thus, the whole episode in its form as well as content is suggestive of the convertibility of prana into consciousness. This idea is the central to the entire Vedic vision and thought concerning the relationship between consciousness and life. II. RELATIONSHIP BEWTEEN AIR AND PRANA Practically speaking, prana is what we breathe in and breathe out. What we breathe in and breathe out, in its turn, is obviously nothing but the air we have around us. The invisibility of air, in contrast to water and food, the other means of substance of life, adds to the mystery of its role in our lives. Its invisibility has duly been taken note of in a Rigvedic mantra seen by Anila Vatayana. Its invisibility, however, is not just incidental. This is evident from the additional features brought out by the seer’s statement. At the top of all the details he gives in regard to air, is his characterization of it as the Atman of gods, besides the womb of creation operating as the dynamics of becoming (Rigveda X.168.4). Characterisation of air as the womb of creation and Atman of gods by this seer has played the most significant role in its association with the idea of prana. To put the same thing in a better perspective, as distinct from the commonsense view of air, the seer has gone deep into the very essence of air in the total framework of the Reality. For him, air is not just what surrounds the tiny planet earth as its atmospheric skin. In his deep, insight, the air surrounding the planet is only an outermost manifestation of the air which essentially goes deep to the bedrock of the Reality. If characterization of it by him as the womb or foetus of creation bears out its deep involvement in the act of the universal creation, the same as the Atman of gods brings it close to its acceptance as the soul of organic beings. Indeed, air has been visualised by the seer as the principle of force operating on all levels of being beginning from the physical to the spiritual. On the one hand, it touches the heaven and on the other it shows its effect down on the earth, though remaining all the time invisible in itself. It would be only a tautology to point out that while earth is symbolic of matter to the seer, heaven represents consciousness. Accordingly, in course of pointing to the mighty actions and effects of air, when Anila Vatayana observes that it goes on producing sound, creating devastation and scattering dust on earth, he is not to be taken as giving just a poetic account of the gust of wind he might have come across incidentally, but as visualising and reflecting on the effect of force on things material, since, at the moment, he is speaking not in the capacity of a poet but in that of a seer going deep into the ultimate nature of things, as is evident from his description of the air as scatterer of dust on the one hand and the womb or foetus of the creation, as also the Atman of gods on the other. As per the context, therefore, air’s role in scattering dust on earth is to be taken in the sense of the role of force vis-á-vis matter as such. This amounts to stating that the force, though remaining invisible, is understood in its operation through the effect it produces on the matter up to the last particle of dust by displacing it as also by producing the sound which creates stir in things (Rigveda X.168.1), howsoever, stationary. Giving a poetic touch to his deep vision, he observes that even whatever are stationary, are made by air to move and accompany it like a group of women moving towards a place of gathering. Air is also said to behave like a monarch of the world (Ibid., X.168.2). As the monarch is held responsible for all activities, events and incidents taking place in his territory, even so characterisation of air as the monarch of creation must amount to visualisation of its role in stirring the whole of it from the smallest to the largest.