Question 182: Prana and Mind: what is the difference?

The Buddha

The young Rama asks what is prana, what is mind, and what is the difference? The sage replies that quiescence – stillness – of mind is needful in order to obtain direct witness of the Atma. It is the only thing in existence, and all else is ideation and willpower, resolve; that which is powered and driven by the energy of Atma itself. Truly, it is an enquiry into the real; as the prayer Asatoma begins: From the Unreal, lead us to the real.

prana-apana: breath that is inhaled and exhaled; vital force, life-breath;
sat: real
satta: existence; potency
vasana: tendencies or desires
prana-vayu: the vital breath; the ‘wind of life’
atma-gyan: direct knowledge of the Atma; self-realisation; knowledge of the Atmic state.
chitta: individual consciousness
sankalpa: ideation; modification of chitta or consciousness; idea, resolve, volition (will);
Atma-tattva reality of the Spirit; the primordial element; the consciousness that is the primeval element of existence;
upasham: – completely peaceful, in control of the senses and mind;


Question 182: Sir, what is prana and what is mind ? Kindly explain clearly.

Answer: Ramji, the breath that is exhaled and inhaled is called prana. The potency (satta) that goes out along with vasana to another place, even while the body is stationary at a place, is called mind. There are two ways of attaining the quiescence of mind, viz

  • (i) relieving the mind of all vasanas with the practice of atmagyan and
  • (ii) control of pranavayu

When Atmagyan is attained, the prana is separated from the chitta and then the mind attains the unmodified state; or when breath (prana) is controlled, the chitta potency is stabilised and the mind, too, becomes stable, because the mind is a product of the union of consciousness and prana. The mind has no existence of its own.

The conjunction of chitta and prana movement is the result of ideation (sankalpa). When you become free from sankalpa, your mind will become extinct.

Therefore, do not be afraid of the illusion of the world, but make an all out effort for elimination of your ideations (sankalpa). The birth of mind is due to the movement of prana and its association with chitta potency; mind is not an independent entity. In reality, even the mind is a non-entity; man is a victim of his own false ideation.

The mind or chitta expands because of its own ideation and when you abandon the ideation of chitta, you attain tranquillity, but if you seek dependence on the universe, you will be shackled in bondage. Always think that neither ‘I’ nor the universe exists; or believe firmly that only ‘I’ and nothing else exist. With this resolute attitude, you will attain quiescence. When you are firm in this discipline and have abandoned all ideations within, then only you will have illumination of Atma within.

Abandoning the ideas of duality, be firm always in the idea of oneness (the non-dual). Try to establish yourself in the experiential and witnessing state that is intermediary between the seer and the sight. Abandoning the tasteful and the distasteful, be absorbed in what is of the nature of taste in all these. This is Atma-tattva and be merged in it. Abandon the universe that is proved to be non-existent, and be absorbed in Atma. This is your true nature and the state of liberation. When the conviction that ‘I am Atma’ becomes firm – which is the quiescent (upasham) state of the chitta – then tranquillity is attained. Just as darkness vanishes with the rising of the sun, so the mind vanishes with the attainment of Atmagyan. Destroy your mind as I have suggested and attain the supreme bliss. When your illusion of the universe vanishes, assume that you have attained to the fifth stage of wisdom — the immortal state free from birth and death.


Then, we have to consider another equipment of man – the Prana or the vital air. Let us consider whether we can nominate it as the ‘I’? During
deep sleep, man is not conscious that he is breathing and that the ‘vital airs’ are alert! Of the three states – the waking (Jagrat), the dreaming (Swapna) and the sleeping (Sushupti), though the prana is existent in all, the man is not aware of the experiences of the waking state while dreaming, nor of the experiences of the dreaming state while in the wakeful state. During sleep, the Pranas do not activate the intellect or the memory. They appear to be quiescent. When the boss is active, the dependents cannot keep quiet. Since they are not uniformly active always, Pranas or the Prana principle cannot be considered as the ‘I’ or Atma.

Now about the Ego. There are two fields in which it operates and so, it has two meanings:

  1. Self-love, Ahamkara, the ‘Dehatma’, Body-consciousness, the Exterior I and
  2. the Inner ‘I’, the Pratyag-Atma.

Persons who do not know this distinction confuse themselves and assert that ‘I’ is applicable to the Dehatma. But, this is wrong. The body as we have seen is a tool, it is an object; it is the seen and not the see-er. How can the Ego, identified with it, be the Atma? This Ego also is of the ‘seen’ category. It is absent in sleep and plays false in dreams. Truth has to persist unaffected, in the past, present and future. That which is absent in two states, how can it be true?

As a result of this inquiry, it has become plain that the senses, the mind, the intellect, the vital airs – not one of these can be accepted as Atma and accorded that validity. Therefore, the question arises: What else, who else, is Atma?

It has no entry or exit, no hands and feet, no organs and limbs, no blot or blemish. It is the minutest among the minute, the hugest among the huge. Like space, it is everywhere. It is all and so it is free from ‘I’ and ‘mine’. It is consciousness, as fire is heat, and the sun is light – it has no affinity with distress or delusion; it is supreme everlasting ecstasy, param-ananda. It is the core, the heart of all beings; it is the awareness in all. It is the see-er of everything ‘seen’; it sees all objects seen. Everyone, whatever his nature or stature, who declares, after being served by the senses, “I see”, “I hear”, “I taste” etc., is really only talking of lamps, of tools and not of the Atma. The Atma is not a part-see-er, a series-see-er, a non-see-er or a pseudo-see-er.

(Sathya Sai Vahini 131)


Mind the Gap


Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaya Dheemahi
Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat

“May we realise Hamsa that is our own Self as the Swan. Let us meditate on that Paramahamsa, the Supreme Self. May Hamsa illumine us.”

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