Question 231: The Story of Muni Kag Bhusunda and management of breath

Kalpa tree In answering a question to the young Rama, Vasishtha is reminded of his encounter with Muni Kag Bhusunda, who resides in the Sumeru Hills in a kalpa tree. Upon questioning, Kag Bhusunda explains how he has both form and immortality, through both creation and dissolution, again and again, and again. Kag Bhusunda explains the process of kumbhaka, stability in prana and apana, management of the breath process.

prāna the breath of life, life-breath, the vital force which keeps the body alive, the sustaining life-energy fig. a beloved person, dear as one’s very life. Expressed as vibration, prāna is the link between the astral and the causal body. We absorb prāna through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, from sunlight and the earth we live on – yet it is not vitamin, heat or light rays. It is in the air, but is not in the oxygen, nor any of its chemical components. Its movement is inward; its seat is the heart.

prana-apana: breath that is inhaled and exhaled; vital force, life-breath;

prana-yama (praanaayaama). Breath control.
prana-yama —practice by breathing exercise
prana-yama —by the practice of regulating the airs within the body

vasana: tendencies or desires

hridaya: heart = n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations; “to take to heart “‘), soul, mind (as the seat of mental operations; the heart or interior of the body; the heart or centre or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything;

jivanmukta: permanently self-realised (or God-realised) person who no longer has any identification whatsoever with his or her body.

Atma-tattva reality of the Spirit; the primordial element; the consciousness that is the primeval element of existence;


Question 231: Sir, of these two methods (living without ego or pranayama) which is the easier one that gives neither pain nor disturbance of any kind?

Answer: Ramji, both the methods are yogas, yet the word yoga has been used for pranayama. Therefore, yoga and wisdom are the methods to cross the ocean of the universe. The achievement or the result in both the cases is the same. Some find yoga difficult and wisdom easier, whereas some other seekers experience difficulty in developing the faith of wisdom and find yoga easier for themselves. I consider that the path of wisdom is easier because not much effort (hard work) and difficulty are involved in it. Once the path of wisdom is mastered, one is not subject to illusions because the seeker becomes the witness and follows without effort the path of the non-dual (oneness). Perfection on both the paths is achieved with practice and effort; practice always triumphs. Realisation of Atma that always exists in the mind of every jiva is called jnana (knowledge). The other way to realise Atma is pranayama or control of prana. By this method, too, a seeker can realise Atma and attain to the supreme state. I shall now explain to you the method of pranayama and you listen intently.

With methodical control of prana-vayu — breath that is inhaled and exhaled through the nose and the mouth — the mind becomes quiescent. Ramji, I am reminded of the anecdote of Muni Kag Bhusunda that I shall narrate to you and if you follow it properly you will understand pranayama yoga and also know how Kag Bhusunda attained the state of peace and lived as a jivanmukta by following this method.

Ramji, once soaring very high I arrived at the court of Indra where many munis (hermits), etc were present. There we heard from Sri Narada and other munis about chiranjivis (the immortal, the long-lived). Muni Satatpa said, “Bhusunda, who is immortal, lives on the kalpa tree in Sumeru Hills. He has the body of a crow (kag). None has lived as long as he has, nor will anyone do. He is endowed with supreme wisdom and quiescence and is a seer of all times. He is free from dependence on the world.” All in the august body were amazed to hear it. After leaving the court, I immediately proceeded towards Sumeru Hills. Reaching the summit I was pleased to see the enchanting beauty. There I saw a kalpa tree charmingly loaded with rubies and flowers. Gandharvas and nymphs were dancing merrily under the tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see on a heavy branch a supremely gracious and beautiful crow with an upright head. He was venerable and chiranjivi (long-lived). He had very successfully controlled his prana and was constantly fixed within and was in equilibrium. His words were sober and full of wisdom. His looks were gentle, humble, attractive and enchanting. He was competent in all respects.

Muni Kag Bhusunda recognised me as I went nearer. He got up and extended to me a hearty and warm welcome. Creating hands with the powers of his ideation, he gave me a ceremonial welcome with rituals (waving of the arati flame). Having made with his hands a seat of leaves he made me sit there and addressed me thus: “You have graced me immensely by your visit. For ages, I had been longing to see you. Kindly do tell me the purpose of your visit. I was present below you in the court of Devendra when references were made to chiranjivi persons. I am very eager to hear your nectar-like words. Kindly speak to me.”

So, I said to him, “O king of birds, when I heard in the court of Devendra about your immortal status, a desire arose within me to see you. You are the embodiment of gentle consciousness and bliss. Kindly tell me when you were born and how you attained wisdom. What is your age, what have you seen in your life and why have you selected your abode here?”

Bhusunda replied, “O munishwar (sage who is one of the gods) you know everything, yet I shall tell you because you have asked about it. I was born many yugas ago. My mother was a swan with goddess Brahmee, and my father was a crow and his name was Chanda. I have been here for yugas according to the instructions of my father. I have attained direct knowledge of the Atma by the grace of goddess Brahmee.”

Then I asked him, “Sir, how is it that at the time of the deluge, when the sun, the moon, etc., give up their roles and merge in the dissolution, you do not feel grieved at all?”

Bhusunda said,” O munishwar, in this world the jivas have two ways of living, viz (i) dependence and (ii) independence. Those who own armies, fame, etc are dependent, and those who are without these are independent. But I am free from both these and consider them trifles. I am always happy and fixed in myself. Because of contentment in Atma I am fully satisfied and never experience sorrow. I am not moved by good and evil in the world. I desire neither death nor life, both these are states of body and not of Atma. I desire neither liberation nor bondage because these, too, are states of jivas. There is neither bondage nor liberation in Atma. I am always established in Atma and hence feel neither joy nor sorrow. I am always contented with what I get in the natural way. After seeing the pains and pleasures of life I am now free from the wanderings of my mind. I am established in the supreme bliss.

“O munishwar, sitting on this tree I see the flow of the vital air, in and outwards. I also know the subtle process of pranayama. To me, both day and night are identical. I know the Truth (Sat) and the untruth (asat) very well; therefore, I desire nothing of the universe. Desire is the cause of sufferings among persons. I interact in the world without desire and have, therefore, attained the supreme bliss.” Continuing, Bhusunda said,” O munishwar, you ask why I do not experience grief when the sun, moon, wind, etc., merge in dissolution at the time of the deluge. The reason is that this kalpa tree stays as it is even during the deluge when the universe is dissolved. As I have the support of this tree I do not suffer and am not affected by the deluge; I am always pleased. When Hiranyaksha with his demons, stole the Earth to the netherworld (patala), my tree was intact even then. When there was the fierce fighting between the gods and the demons, and the mountains were shaken. my tree existed as it is. My tree was unshaken even when Lord Vishnu lifted Mount Sumeru to churn the ocean. I stayed undisturbed during the deluge on the support of this tree.”

Ramji, when Kag Bhusunda had said so, I put him yet another question, “Sir, how do you remain free from disturbance when the clouds of deluge burst, winds rage and the sun burns?” He replied, “When it is the time of the deluge, I leave my abode here and being free from all disturbances, remain established in akash (ether). Just as the mind is dissolved with the extinction of desires (vasana), so I withdraw all my parts. When the sun of the deluge burns, I merge in water and am not affected by the fury of the sun. When winds blow fiercely, I am established like a rock. When all the elements are dissolved, then abandoning everything and crossing the cosmos, I merge in the pure sublime state, and remain quiet and unmoved as if in deep sleep (sushupti). When Brahma arises again and recreates the universe after the deluge, I too return to the kalpa tree on Mount Sumeru and stay in the nest.”

Here I asked Kag Bhusunda how he was able to live without a break (akhanda) and why other yogis could not live like that. To this question he replied, “Everybody has his own course of destiny and none can overstep that. The other yogis have other courses of destiny and I am ordained to build a nest on a tree on this mountain in every kalpa.”

Enquiring further, I said, “O king of birds, you must have observed many wonderful events in your long life. Kindly do narrate some to me.”

Kag Bhusunda replied, “O munishwar, wonders I have seen, many of them, but I shall narrate only a few to you. I recall that once there was nothing on the earth but vegetation. During some other periods there was nothing but dust. I remember that once the sun and the moon had not been created in the universe. Likewise, I have seen many wonderful creations from time to time. I am able to recall a lot, but what shall I narrate to you? I remember the occasion when Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyaksha. I also remember the time the ocean was churned, and many other events like this. I remember your eight births, once you were born out of akash, and then out of water, air and fire. I remember the twelve incarnations of Lord Vishnu as Kurma Avatar, three births of Hiranyaksha, six incarnations of Parusurama, etc. Valmiki wrote Ramayana on twelve occasions and Vyasa wrote Mahabharata once again. I remember all these. I also remember the eleven incarnations of Sri Ramchandra and sixteen incarnations of Sri Krishna. Like this, I am reminded of many creations which have all been illusory since nothing has been created. When I contemplate the Atma, I realise that these universes are nothing and that the entire manifestation is just pure consciousness. Just as bubbles and waves arise in water and then merge in it, so many creations arise in Atma due to the ideation of mind and then merge in Atma.

This body of mine remains even when there is dissolution of the creation. Keeping myself in a posture, and fixing my subtle body in Brahm-satta (the potency of Brahmam), I get merged. For this reason I get back my same body again. O munishwar, the entire universe is just ideational. As is the ideation so is the manifestation perceived. Hence I enjoy the immortal state. The universe is neither real nor unreal, it is just illusory. Numerous objects with names and forms are perceived in the universe due to this i1lusion.”

Ramji, on hearing this account, I asked Kag Bhusunda, “Sir, why has your body not been consumed by death so far?” He replied, “O munishwar, you know everything. Yet because you have asked me, I shall tell you when death can devour one and when it cannot. Those who have the noose of vasana (desires) around their necks are subject to death; those who are free from this noose cannot be consumed by death. Those who are afflicted with lust, anger. greed, attachment, fear, desire, anxiety, ego, etc are subject to death.

Those who are free from all these cannot be subject to death. He who interacts and yet has no ego feeling of the unreal in his consciousness, or who is free from subtle ego, and is above love and hate and has non-dual attitude, is a person of stable chitta (consciousness). Whatever is perceived between the heaven and the netherworld (patala) is all unreal and undesirable. Nothing is real on the three planes. But the object where the chitta of sages is fixed is real and desirable, and when this is attained, all sufferings disappear. This contemplation on Atma is the panacea for all ills. Contemplation of the Atma dispels all ideations. All disturbances – severe and prolonged – disappear with this contemplation of the Atma. Though this attribute (Atma-contemplation) is not easily acquired, it can be attained with continuous striving. When one is fixed in it even for a moment, one’s entire agony vanishes and one does not return to sufferings. Sir, I acquired this with the control of prana, and I understand it very well.”

On hearing so much from Bhusunda, I asked him what prana control was and how he acquired it. Kag Bhusunda replied, “Prana control is highly beneficial spiritually and it is the secret of my long life. Following this method, I have attained to the supreme state and am free from all bonds. My chitta is alert or awake everywhere and in all states of action, rest, wakefulness, sleep, etc. I have realised the technique of prana and apana (breath movement), and with this I have attained the knowledge of Atma. All my sufferings have vanished and I have attained quiescence. He who has mastered pranayama is always quiescent, no matter whether he is engaged in actions or has abandoned all actions.

“O munishwar, the prana arising from hridaya (the heart) goes out up to twelve digits and stays there. It returns from there as apana and stays in hridaya. Prana that goes out into akash is hot like fire. It is cool when it comes from outside and stays in hridaya-akash (space of the heart). Apana-vayu that comes within from outside is cool like the moon and the prana-vayu that goes out from within is hot like fire or the sun. Prana-vayu heats the area we call the heart (hridaya-akash), burns food or facilitates digestion, and apana-vayu cools the hridaya just like the moon.

The mind established in the state where the apana-like moon merges in prana-like sun, does not return to sufferings. When the prana-like sun merges in apana-like moon, the mind fixed in that state also does not return to rebirths. The person who reflects (concentrates) upon the place and the period of the state that is attained when the sun-like prana, having abandoned the nature of the sun has not yet acquired the nature of the moon, does not return to sorrow. Likewise, a person who remains alert and reflects upon the intermediary state where the apana-like moon after arising has not yet acquired the state of sun-like prana, attains to the supreme state.

“O munishwar, the darkness within disappears with the understanding of the process of prana-apana. When the prana-like sun, arising in the heart goes out, it merges instantly in the apana like moon and rises as apana-like moon. When the apana-form of moon merges in prana-like sun in the heart, then it rises instantly a prana-like sun. Or, when prana sets, apana rises and when apana sets (becomes still or complete), prana rises (manifests itself When prana rises from the heart, it is rechaka (exhalation) of prana and then puraka (inhalation) of apana takes place. When prana is fixed in apana, it is kumbhaka (holding of breath in chest or head) of apana. When a person is stabilised in kumbhaka, he becomes free from sufferings. Likewise, the rechaka (exhalation) of apana is followed by th puraka (inhalation) of prana, and when it (prana) is stabilised in apana, the kumbhaka of prana takes place. A person (jiva) becomes free from sorrow when he or she is established in the kumbhaka.

“O munishwar, when one achieves firm stability in the peaceful Atma-tattva (atmic principle, reality) latent in prana and apana, then mind becomes quiescent. Atma-satta, the witness, is cognizant of the state that I attained when apana after having arisen is fixed but prana has not yet arisen. One goes beyond sorrow when one is established in the Atma-satta. When prana is fixed in the place of apana, and apana has not yet arisen and the mind gets established in that state, then the mind is dissolved and it does not arise. When one is stabilised for a long time in the form of Atma in both the states of kumbhaka between prana and apana or between apana and prana, then he does not return to sorrow. O munishwar, I am devoted to the Atma tattva (atmic principle, reality) that is neither prana nor apana. I always concentrate upon the pure Consciousness (Chidatma) which is the state in-between prana and apana i.e. when prana is merged in apana, and apana is merged in prana. This is why I am always in peace and have a very long life. By this process of prana, I have attained samadhi and an established in the atmic state. Adhering firmly to this pure mode, I do not forget Atma even for a moment, and am always established in Atma. I am in equilibrium even during waking, dreaming and deep sleep states, without fear or anxiety and am always fixed in Atmic samadhi. Having abandoned the spirit of the phenomenal universe I am always directed inward and am established in the Self. Now, I have so much practice in prana and apana that the flow continues smoothly without effort and I am always in peace. Remaining in deep sleep state (sushupti), without having the feeling of the being or the non-being of objects, I am stabilised in the true self and am therefore long-lived. Neither do I recall the past, nor am I anxious about the future. Being alert in the present, I am established in Atma. and am without sorrow. Neither do I seek to please anybody, nor do I displease anybody; I consider everything as an aspect of Atma. I do not have the spirit of being a jiva (an individual person) and, therefore, I am free from suffering. My ego and maladies of mind have disappeared with the regulation of prana. Now I am without ego in all states of action. With firm faith, I believe that I am a non-doer (akarta), hence I am bound by nothing and am liberated.”

Ramji, the anecdote of Kag Bhusunda that I have narrated to you is of supreme nature. When you reflect over it and become firm in practice, your illusion of the universe will vanish and you will be perennially in the state of supreme bliss.


The body is a complex produced by a combination of the 5 elements. The Jnanendriyas are the consequences of this combination. So the body is a bundle of consequences and causes. Like the spokes of the wheel, they are fixed in the hub of Prana. So too, the Riks, the Yajurvedic manthras, the Sama-vedic manthras, the Yajnas where they are employed, the Kshathra which protects the people from danger, the Brahmanic Force consecrating the Yajnas, … all these are of the nature of Prana. When Prajapathi becomes the Cloud and pours rain, all beings rejoice and are enabled to live. “All things that contribute to happiness are bound to You; cherish us therefore as the Mother. You cause all wealth and welfare, related to spiritual and physical protection. Give us that wealth and that wisdom”. This is the prayer addressed to Prajapathi. The Rig, Yajus, Sama manthras are the Brahmanic wealth; riches are the Kshatriya wealth. Thus, the Upanishad elaborates on the Prana Prajapathi and its Functions and Attributes.

Thereafter, Pippalada takes up the question of Bhargava, and, later, Kosalya, the Aswalayana, asks him about Prana. Then, Pippalada says, “My dear boy, like shadow caused by a person the Prana is produced by the Atma. The Prana dedicates itself to the Atma through the sankalpa of the Manas. Like a ruler who arranges for the governance of his possessions, the Chief Prana appoints different Pranas assigning functions and areas of work for each. The Mukhya prana or the Chief has Adithya and other Gods as its Impelling Force. Like sparks leaping out of the flames of a raging fire, beings emanate from the Imperishable Paramatma; they lose themselves in the self-same Fire”. This is mentioned in the Mundaka, (II – 1 – 1).

Then, Pippalada answered Gargi thus: “The rays of the setting sun merge in the Sun itself; they emanate and spread again, when the sun rises the next day. In the same manner, during dream, the sensory world gets merged in the consciousness-reflecting Mind and when one wakes from sleep, the sensory impressions emanate as of old and move out in their native form. That is why the Self or Purusha does not hear or see or touch or enjoy. He does not walk or talk.

The Atma, which is Pure Effulgence during the dream Stage, sees, hears and experiences, as Vasanas, whatever it sees, hears and experiences during the waking stage. When the statement is made that “the Atma is the base of every thing” the impression is created that everything is different from it. But, the distinction that is apparent between the “Base of All” and the “Jivas” that rest upon It is merely an illusion caused by circumstances; it is mental, not fundamental. Pippalada also said that whatever Loka is connoted by the deity worshipped through Pranava, that Loka will be attained. Upanishad Vahini, Prasnopanishad




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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