PRĀṆ SAṄGLI, lit. the chain of breath or vital air, is a collection of compositions, attributed to Gurū Nānak but in reality apocryphal, dealing with yogic practices, particularly prānāyāma or control of vital air. The original Paraṇ Saṅglī, was, in all probability, a small composition, though the now available recension, edited by Sant Sampūran Siṅgh and published in 1898 in the Devanāgrī script, in three volumes by Bhāī Mohan Siṅgh Vaid, Tarn Tāran, runs into more than 700 pages and contains as many as 80 chapter which, with the exception of the first few, are not closely related or co-ordinated. Each of these chapters is presented as an exposition by Gurū Nānak of a question raised by Rājā Shivnābh of Sanglādīp (Srī Lankā) where Prāṇ Saṅglī is said to have been composed. Tradition goes that Gurū Arjan, when compiling the Gurū Granth Sāhib, despatched Bhāī Paiṛā Mokhā, a learned Sikh, to Sanglādīp to bring a copy of the manuscript of Prāṅ Saṅglī believed to be in the possession of the descendant of Rājā Shivnābh. The copy he brought was scrutinized by Gurū Arjan and adjudged spurious. Thus, on page one of the original Kartārpurī Bīṛ of the Gurū Granth Sāhib the title Pran Saṅglī has been inscribed in Arabic characters, but nothing else. The rest of the page remains blank. In spite of the text having been rejected by Gurū Arjan some people continued to treat Prāṇ Saṅglī as an approved text. Over the generations it grew in size through the addition of more spurious compositions.
Probably the original Prāṇ Saṅglī consisted of the first ten chapters which comprise the first volume of the published version. The first six of these ten chapters explain the evolution of the universe, myriads of earths and skies, the elements, man with all his internal organism, etc., from the state of the unmanifest termed as suṅn (śūnya, literally meaning void or nothingness and in yogic theology representing the Primal Being). The next three chapters explain the intricacies, forms and ideals of yoga, through dialogues between Gorakhnāth and Gurū Nānak — Gorakhnāth posing questions and Gurū Nānak providing answers. The tenth chapter asserts that the Unmanifest, Real Being also remained in contemplation and concentration on the Vāh-Vāh (wonderful). There was the Transcendent Being who remained in perfect concentration and equilibrium for myriads of aeons, all alone, without any creation of any form or name. This was the state of unmani. This state gave place to the oṅkār state. As Brāhmaṇ willed to Multiply, there emerged the three guṇas (qualities of prakriti), five elements, four Vedas, six Śastras, six Vedāṅgas, etc.
Of the remaining 70 chapters in the following two volumes, around twenty-four are by and large an interpretation of yoga. These chapters, complete in themselves, are devoted exclusively to the exposition of yoga in its own terminology, and also in the bhakti terminology of Gurū Nānak, emphasizing the importance of gurū, his śabda and the ethical and spiritual regeneration through meditation on the Name.
These yogic texts repeat and elaborate what has been said in Volume I and claim to explain the ideal of yoga according to Gurū Nānak's views. Chapters XI and XII in this section deal with Udās Bairāg and Yog Bairāg. The latter gives details of the mind as it transcends it self to reach the Realm of Truth by practising yoga. The composition Suṅn te Utpatī or Creation out of the Void (Ch. XIV) describes the process of the formation of the body in the womb. From here onward, the theme takes a new course emphasizing how forgetfulness of the Lord ensues after birth and how liberation lies in the remembrance of the Name alone. Chapters XV to XVII stress the need of Gurū and meditation on the Name. The Ratanmālās (Chs. XIX and XX) advert to the qualities of an ideal bairāgī who, following the teaching of the gurū, transcends the three guṇas, fights against desires with the sword of jñāna (knowledge), bathes at the sixty-eight tīrthas of the body and mediates on the Name by churning the curd of sahaj in the milk-pot of the body. He is the one who lights the path leading to the tenth door (dasam dvār) with effort as the lamp, discrimination as the oil, concentration as the wick and sahaj as the matchstick. The Yog Garbhāvālī Chhuṭkārā (Ch. XXVII) and the Prākritī Vistār (Ch. XXXI) are elaborations of Chs. IV-VI. The Kriyāsār Jog (Ch. XXIX) stresses how vital the Gurū's grace is to controlling the senses. The Kathā Agam Mahal Kī (Ch. XXXII) emphasizes the role of the gurū in helping one to apprehend the Supreme Being. The Anbhau Pragās (Ch. XXXIII) counts the 84 āsanas (postures) of the yogīs. As the name indicates, the Aṣtāṅg Yoga (Ch. XXXIV) speaks of the eight stages of the yogic discipline. The Kalāpmālā deals with the preparation of medicines from herbs, plants and metals for various maladies. All this apocryphal literature seems to have grown up in imitation of Gurū Nānak's Sidha Goṣṭi and a large number of hymns about the theme of yoga as incorporated under Rāga Rāmkalī in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. Applying Sidha Goṣṭi as the touchstone, these compositions in the Prāṇ Saṅglī are easily proved apocryphal, for they do not have Gurū Nānak's compact expression, his intensely theistic devotion or bhaktī and his clear verdict in favour of the household and a piously-lived worldly life.
Apart from yoga, the Prāṇ Saṅglī has compositions addressed to Hindu saints. Among them is a Ghoṣṭ, i.e. a dialogue, with Rāmānand and Kabīr (Ch. XIII) which stresses devotional bhakti by referring to the example of some early Hindu saints such as Shuk, Nārada, Dhrū, Prahlād, Nāmdev, Trilochan and Kabīr. The chapter on Nirjog Bhakti (Ch. XXI) refers to the Śākta (materialist) who remains involved in evil and sin, but who can by concentrating on the śabda of the gurū win honour in the court of the Lord. Sach Khaṇḍ Kī Jugti (Ch.XXII) says that the gurū's Śabda can change dross into gold, a sinner into a saint. The Sahaṅsaranāmā (Ch. XXIV) enlists the different names of the Lord and Dās Avtārāṅ dī Vārtā (Ch. XXVIII) tells of the ten ancient incarnations of Viṣṇu. Dakkhaṇī Oaṅkār (Ch. XXXV) is Gurū Nānak's own composition as incorporated in the Gurū Granth Sāhib. The Bhogal Purān (Ch. LIX), a prose work, gives, according to mythological astrology and astronomy, details about the creation, universes and myriads upon myriads of earths, skies, stars, etc., all supported on the back of a tortoise of unimaginable magnitude. The Piṇḍī Daiv Asur Saṅgrām (Ch. LXXII) is the description of a battle between the good and evil tendencies of man. The Giān Sur Udaya (Ch. LXXV) has for its theme the time, its concept and measures. The Jugāvalī (Ch. LXXIX) recounts the Hindu theories about the yugas (aeons), or time cycles and measurements.
The third category of apocryphal literature, written in Persianized Punjabi and addressed to the Muslim divines and kings, is contained in chapters LXXVII and LXXVIII. Chapter LXXVII comprises Tilaṅg Kī Vār Mahallā I which follows the general pattern of the vārs included in the Gurū Granth Sāhib but is suffused with Islamic thought and terminology. Opening with the line than thanantari miharvān sachu khāliq subhānu, a description of the creation or qudrat follows. All rāgas and rāginīs are shown singing the praises of Khudā. Says another line : dunīyā upari āyā bhejiyā āpi Allah (man comes into this world having been sent by Allah). The vār is followed by another composition, entitled Rāga Rdmkalī Mahallā I, partially composed on the pattern of Gurū Nānak's Sodaru. The hymn states how millions of Muhammads, Rāmas, Gorakhs, etc. are singing His praises in the grand court of Allah and how everything moves under His command only. Other compositions in this category include : Nasīhat Namah or an epistle of admonitions; Hāzar Nāmah or a discourse on the importance of being alert; Pāk Nāmah or an address on pure living and Karnī Nāmah or an address on the importance of good conduct.