Prasna Upanishad (Part-2)- Who Supports the Created Beings


In the previous section we have  seen that the pluralistic world of things and beings has risen from Prajapati who manifested himself as prana, energy and rayi, matter. This section explains how the prana is acting within the body; how the physical being is kept  united and integrated. It elucidates the activities of the body through which  the individuals gain the worldly experience, the sum total of which goes by the  name ‘life’, life being nothing but the series of experiences. In order to gain  these experiences we have instruments of knowledge called sense organs and  instruments of action in the body. These two sets of instruments are fully  supported by our mind and intellect. Here the student inquires about the nature  of the phenomenal factors or presiding deities in Vedantic terminology in the  physical structure of the bodies.



Mantra 1

atha hainam bhaargavo vaidarbhih paprachchha | bhagavan.h katyeva  devaah prajaam vidhaarayante katara etat.h prakashayante kah punareshhaam  varishhtha iti || 1 ||

Then Bhargava of Vidarbha,  asked him (Pippalada): Sir, how many Devas support the created being? How many  of these manifest their power through it? And which one among them is  paramount?

Here the word Deva means faculty or that which illumines or reveals. The  inquiry is what the instruments of knowledge and actions are and who are the  Devas that support them in the body. The body cannot function without the sense  organs and the organs of action. The tangible physical organs of perception or  action are made of matter and hence they are inert. By themselves they cannot  function. The Upanishad says that each such organ is presided over by a deity  (Deva) that is by an aspect of Consciousness. Consciousness energizes the  instruments of perception and action and makes them functional. The question is  therefore specific as to what Devas exactly enlighten these instruments.

It must be noted that each of the instruments is so made as to illumine  or perceive only a given type of objects and so each must have distinctly  different controller governing it and at the same time there must be a  synchronizing observer to co-ordinate various observations. This superior  observer gathers information through these different outposts and come to  experience the totality of all. The student’s question “who among them is  paramount” relates to that one experiencer.

Mantra 2

tasmai sa hovaacha akaasha ha vaa eshha devo vaayur agnir aapah  prithivii vaanmanash chakshuh shrotram cha | te prakaashyaabhivadanti vayametad  baanam  avashhtabhya vidhaarayaamah || 2  ||

To the disciple he replied: These  Devas are verily Space, akasa, – the  Air, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye and ear, as well. These, having  manifested their glory, said boastfully: "We support this body and uphold  it".

The teacher replied that the factors that support the body are the  instruments of knowledge and instruments of action presided over by the  mind.  Now it is hinted that these  instruments are all governed by the five great elements or in the Vedantic  terminology they are all presided over each by a Devata called ‘Dik’ which means quarters or space. Consciousness  permeates all the matter; all elements and organs are controlled by a portion  of Consciousness called a Deva. Body is the effect and the organs are the  cause; the gross is the effect but the subtle is the cause. Body is the  aggregate of the cause and effect.  This  will be clearer if we reflect that the body is not the sum of the organs or  parts.

This concept is explained in detail in the Tables below.

  These Devas or the various organs  of the body started a controversy among themselves each claiming that it alone  supports the body and that without it the body will disintegrate and collapse.

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