The highest

There is an Upanishadic story about a quarrel among the

five sense organs, manas (mind) and prana (vital airs) as to

who was important among them. They approached Brahma

for help, said M.K. Srinivasan in a discourse. Wanting them

to settle the matter among themselves, Brahma tactfully

replied: “That whose departure from this world will cause

the others to collapse is the best.”

The power of speech decided to quit the body first and

returned after a year. He asked the others how they had fared in his absence. They said: “Speech was absent. But sight, thought and hearing were present.” So speech was not the highest. The eyes then left and when they returned they were told: “During this year, there was no sight. But there  was hearing, listening, and speaking.” So the eyes too were not the highest.

The ears left for a year and when they returned they were

told that while hearing had been lost, the other faculties had been functioning. The mind then quit for a year and when it returned it was told that the person could see, speak and hear, but was like a child with an as yet undeveloped mind. Now it was Prana’s turn to leave. But when prana started leaving, the other organs felt that they too were being dragged out of the body and they cried out “Prana, you are the highest. Do not leave.” Each indriya ofered its characteristic trait to Prana, just as petty rulers ofer tributes to an emperor. Speech, eyes and ears ofered their respective qualities to prana. Mind, which is the abode of experiences, offered its discerning capacity to prana. Other indriyas also followed suit. The idea is that these traits of the indriyas depend upon prana. Thus prana is the highest.