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7362 PRAN: A

of the universe from his mind, falls into a deep, dreamless sion remains Mircea Eliades Time and Eternity in Indian
sleep inside the cosmic waters. And at the end of that sleep, Thought, in Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, vol. 3, Man
at the end of the period of quiescence, the universe, or the and Time, edited by Joseph Campbell (New York, 1957),
consciousness of the god, is reborn once more out of the wa- pp. 173200. A thoughtful and complex interpretation of
ters of chaos. the pralaya may be found in Madeleine Biardeaus tudes de
mythologie hindoue published in the Bulletin de lcole Fran-
This circular pattern contains within it an infinite num- aise dExtrme Orient (Paris, 1968, 1969, 1971, and 1976).
ber of linear segments. For India, like Greece, developed a WENDY DONIGER (1987)
theory of four ages of declining goodness. Whereas the
Greeks named these ages after metals, the Indians called
them after throws of the dice, the first and best being the
kr: tayuga, which is followed by the treta, the dvapara, and fi-
PRAN: A. The Sanskrit term pran: a (from the conjunction
of pra and ana, breathing forth) can signify (1) the Abso-
nally the present age, or the kaliyuga. The importance of the
lute (brahman) as the transcendental source of all life, (2) life
metaphor of dice is also manifest in the fact that the royal
in general, (3) the life force or breath of life in particular,
ceremony of consecration included a ritual dice game; in the
(4) respiration, (5) air (in secular contexts only), and (6) the
second book of the Mahabharata, King Yudhis: t: hira loses his
life organs (i.e., the five cognitive senses, the five conative
entire kingdom in a game of dice against an opponent whom
senses, and the sense-related mind, or manas).
he knows to be a cheat, thus inaugurating a period of exile
that is also a part of the ritual of consecration. Moreover, as The third connotation is of special interest to the histo-
Madeleine Biardeau has convincingly argued, the catastroph- rian of religion, because it conveys a vibrant psychophysical
ic battle that ends the Mahabharata, an Armageddon in reality (visible to the yogin) similar to the Greek pneuma and
which all the heroes as well as all the villains are killed, is a the Melanesian mana. In this sense, pran: a is a creative force,
reenactment on the human level of the cosmic doomsday defined in the Yogavasis: t:ha (3.13.31 et passim) as the vibra-
that is constantly alluded to in the epic. This human dooms- tory energy (spandasakti) that is responsible for all manifes-
day, like the big dice game in the sky, begins with tation. Most metaphysical schools of Indiaone of the ex-
Yudhis: t: hiras unlucky loss and ends, inevitably, with the los- ceptions being Hnayana Buddhismsubscribe to this
ing throw for humankind. notion, although the details of interpretations differ.
Yet the end that comes after the kaliyuga is not the In archaic Vedic thought, pran: a is considered to be the
end at all, but a new beginning; a new kr: tayuga will follow breath of the macranthropos, the cosmic Purus: a (e.g.,
after the fallow interval. Moreover, there is a seed of hu- R: gveda 10.90.13; Atharvaveda 11.4.15), and the breath or
manity that survives doomsday to form the stock of the new life force of the human body is regarded as a form of that
race of humans. Sometimes this seminal group is said to be all-pervading pran: a. Later writers make a terminological dis-
the Seven Sages, whom Vis: n: u in the form of a fish saves from tinction between the life force that interpenetrates the entire
the cosmic flood; sometimes it is Manu, the ancestor of all universe as a sort of subtle energycalled mukhyapran: a or
humankind, and his family; sometimes it is an unspecified principal breathand the life force that sustains and ani-
group of good men who resist the corruption that over- mates the individual body-minds. Pran: a in this latter sense
takes everyone else at the end of the kaliyuga, a group that has from earliest times been classified into five individualized
retires to the forest to live in innocence while the cities of breaths. These speculations, dating back to the Atharvaveda
the plain drown in their own depravity. This seed func- (see esp. chap. 15), betray a culture of intense introspection
tions on the macrocosmic level as a metaphor for the trans- and acute sensitivity to bodily processes.
migrating soul on the microcosmic level, the atman that leaps The five individualized breaths, sometimes known col-
across the barrier between individual human death and re- lectively as vayu (wind), are the following:
birth, just as the good seed leaps across the barrier between (1) pran: a, the ascending breath issuing from the navel or
one pralaya and the next cosmic emission, or prasarga. In the the heart and including both inhalation and exhalation;
Vedantic mythology of the late Puran: as, and in Indian litera-
(2) apana, the breath associated with the lower half of the
ture in general, recurrent images of doomsday serve to em-
phasize the insubstantiality of the world; the things that peo-
ple think of as permanent are constantly destroyed and re- (3) vyana, the diffuse breath circulating in all the limbs;
created. (4) udana, the up-breath held responsible for belching,
speech, and the spontaneous focusing of attention in the
BIBLIOGRAPHY esoteric centers (cakras) of the brain, as realized in or
A good introduction in English is provided by Hermann Jacobis associated with higher states of consciousness;
article on the Ages of the World, in the Encyclopaedia of (5) samana, the breath localized in the abdominal region,
Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 1 (Edin-
where it is chiefly associated with the digestive process.
burgh, 1908). Details of the Sanskrit texts are cited in Wil-
libald Kirfels Das Puran: a Pacalaks: an: a (Bonn, 1927), The soteriological literature of the post-Sankara period often
though without any useful interpretation. The classic discus- adds to this classical pentad a further set of five secondary



breaths (upapran: a), about whose locations and functions, a doctrine of causality, this notion is so central to Buddhist
however, there is no unanimity. These are the following: thought that a proper understanding of prattya-samutpada
(1) naga (serpent), generally held responsible for belching is often declared tantamount to enlightenment itself. In it,
and vomiting; an entire complex of notions about moral responsibility,
human freedom, the process of rebirth, and the path to liber-
(2) kurma (tortoise), associated with the opening and ation coalesce.
closing of the eyelids;
Prattya-samutpada was promulgated against a back-
(3) kr: kara (kr-maker), thought to cause hunger, hiccups, ground of four contemporary theories of causality. These
or blinking; were (1) self-causation (svayam: kr: ta), advocated by the tradi-
(4) devadatta (God-given), associated with the processes tional Brahmanic philosophers; (2) external causation
of sleep, especially yawning; (parakr: ta), upheld by the materialist thinkers; (3) a combina-
tion of self-causation and external causation, advocated by
(5) dhanam: jaya (conquest of wealth), responsible for the the Jains; and (4) a denial of both self and external causation,
decomposition of the corpse; also sometimes said to be probably championed by certain skeptical thinkers who re-
connected with the production of phlegm. fused to recognize any form of causation. While all four of
These ten types of breaths are generally conceived of as circu- these theories were explicitly rejected by the Buddha, the
lating in a complex lattice of bioenergetic pathways called brunt of his analysis was directed against the former two.
nad: s (ducts). They are widely thought to constitute an ex- According to the Buddha, a theory of self-causation
periential field or bodily sheath, the pran: amaya-kosa leads to the belief in permanence (sasvata), that is, the recog-
(Taittirya Upanis: ad 2). In the Chandogya Upanis: ad nition of a permanent and eternal self (atman), which the
(2.13.6), the five principal breaths are styled the gatekeepers Buddha found to be an unverifiable entity. External causa-
to the heavenly world, which hints at an esoteric under- tion, on the other hand, implies the existence of an inexora-
standing of the close relationship between breathing and ble physical law of nature (svabhava) that would render the
consciousness. This connection was later explored in the var- human being a mere automaton with no power to determine
ious soteriological schools, notably in hat:hayoga. the nature of his own existence. Ultimately, such a position
Sometimes pran: a and apana simply represent inhalation divests beings of all bases for personal continuity and hence,
and exhalation, but in yogic contexts both terms are used in moral responsibility. This he referred to as the theory of an-
the technical sense noted above. Particularly in hat:hayoga, nihilation (uccheda). Prattya-samutpada, on the other hand,
both breaths play an important role in the technique of is presented as the middle (madhyama) position between
breath control (pran: ayama) as a means of curbing, through these two extremes. This middle position is explained in
sensory inhibition, the rise and fall of attention. great detail in the Discourse to Katyayana, which serves as the
locus classicus of all subsequent interpretations of the Bud-
SEE ALSO Breath and Breathing; Cakras; Hat: hayoga; Yoga. dhas middle path. Following is the text of the discourse
in the Pali version:
BIBLIOGRAPHY Thus have I heard. The Blessed One was once living in
Brown, George William. Pran: a and Apana. Journal of the Ameri- Savatthi. . . . At that time the venerable Kaccayana of
can Oriental Society 39 (1919): 104112. that clan came to visit him, and saluting him, sat down
Ewing, Arthur H. The Hindu Conception of the Functions of at one side. So seated, he questioned the Exalted One:
Breath. Journal of the American Oriental Society 22 (1901): Sir, [people] speak of right view, right view. To what
249308. extent is there right view? This world, Kaccayana, is
generally inclined toward two [views]: existence and
Wikander, Stig. Vayu: Texte und Untersuchungen zur indo-ira- nonexistence. For him who perceives, with right knowl-
nischen Religionsgeschichte. Uppsala, 1941. edge, the uprising of the world as it has come to be,
New Sources whatever view there is in the world about nonexistence
Connolly, Peter. Vitalistic Thought in India: A Study of the Pran: a will not be acceptable. Kaccayana, for him who per-
Concept in Vedic Literature and Its Development in the ceives, with right knowledge, the ceasing of the world
Vedanta, Sam: khya and Pacaratra Traditions. Delhi, 1992. as it has come to be, whatever view there is in the world
about existence will not be acceptable. The world, for
GEORG FEUERSTEIN (1987) the most part, Kaccayana, is bound by approach, grasp-
Revised Bibliography
ing and inclination. Yet, a person who does not follow
that approach and grasping, that determination of
mind, the inclination and disposition, who does not
cling to or adhere to a view: This is my self, who thinks
PRATITYA-SAMUTPADA. The term prattya- [instead]: suffering that is subject to arising arises; suf-
samutpada (Pali, pat:icca-samuppada), dependent origina- fering that is subject to ceasing ceases, such a person
tion or dependent arising, was first used by the Buddha does not doubt, is not perplexed. Herein, his knowledge
to characterize the understanding of the nature of human ex- is not other-dependent. Thus far, Kaccayana, there is
istence that he had attained at his enlightenment. Essentially right view.