Scientific Vision Of Lord Mahāvīra ► [06] Biological Issues In The Bh.S ► {B} Vitalities Or Prāṇas

Posted: 24.08.2009

The text Ācārāṅga mentions four synonyms of soul[39]prāṇi, Bhūta, Jīva and sattva to indicate living beings in general, without differentiating them. The same words are found in the Bh.S[40] with their etymological meanings. The Bh.S has defined them accurately. However, the Bh.S and the commentator Śīlāṅka[41] have indicated that each term represents different classes of living beings as shown in the following table. The point to note here is that all these terms exhibit observable, physical qualities of the living entities.

In the Bh.S. twenty- three synonyms have been given for soul (jīva) and in Dhavalā twenty synonyms. Everywhere, however, the four-words—prani, Bhuta, Jiva and sattva are commonly used for soul.

Besides, in the Bh.S[42] and also in other works we do not see any difference between jīva and prāṇi. Jiva also means vitality (prāṇa) because jiva lives on account of it. We find the same meaning in Pravacanasāra [43], also it has clearly been stated that one who lived, lives and will live due to four kinds of prāṇas, which are physical in nature, are known as jīva.

Table: 4
Meaning of the Synonyms of the Living Being



Śhilāṅka Commentary

1. Prāṇa

that which has the capacity of
breathing in and out or inhaling
and exhaling.

Two to four sensed living
beings (mobiles)

2. Bhūta

that which existed, exists and
will exist.

One-sensed beings (plants
etc. or immobiles)

3. Jīva

that which lives and experiences
life and life-span karma.

Five-sensed beings

4. Sattva

that affected by auspicious and
inauspicious karma.

All the living beings

The existence of vitalities is the most important property of the living beings. That is why the text Dhavala [44] refers to vitalities as the cause or instruments of livingness.

In fact, 'prāṇa' is translated as life principle, life force, life-wind, vital air and vitality. The canons in general[45] and the Bh.S in particular[46] mention briefly four kinds of vitalities, viz., (i) strength, (ii) senses, (iii) respirations and (iv) duration or life-span or age. The four are sub-classified into ten types: (i-iii) three strengths of physique, speech and mind, (iv-viii) five senses as known popularly and (ix-x) the last two are respiration and duration of life-span. The lowest class of living beings has at least four vitalities out of the ten. The number of vitalities increases according to the development of the living beings. This is shown in the following table.

Table: 5
Vitalities and Paryāpti among Living Beings

The Living Being

Names of Vitalities

No. of Paryāpti

1. One-sensed beings

4, sense organ of touch, power of
physique, respiration, life-span


2. Two-sensed beings

6, 2 senses, physical and vocal power,
respiration, life span.


3. Three-sensed beings

7, 3 senses, 2 powers, respiration
and life-span


4. Four-sensed beings

8, 4 senses, 2 strengths, respiration,


5. Five sensed beings without mind

9, 5 senses, 2 powers, respiration,


6. Five-sensed beings with mind

10, 5 senses, 3 powers, respiration,


7. Five sensed beings bio-potential
not completed

7, 5 senses, physique-power, life-span


8. Four-sensed-beings with bio-potential

6, 4 senses, power physique, life-span


9. Three-sensed beings with bio-potential

5, 3 senses, power of physique,


10. Two-sensed beings with bio-potential

4, 2 senses, power of psyque,


11. One-sensed beings with bio-potential

3, 1sense, physique strength, life-span


12. Beings of 13th spiritual stage

4, physique and vocal strength,
respiration, and life-span

13. Beings of 14th spiritual stage

1-3, (i) life-span only (ii) respiration
and life-span (iii) respiration, lifespan,
strength of physique

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