Purusha and Prakriti

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Samkhya is a philosophy of dualism. Many philosophies believe in only one eternal reality, but at the same time cannot explain many concepts such as cosmology and evolution. Non-dualistic philosophies have been responsible for projecting God as a dictator, because according to that philosophy, God is creator, destroyer and dispenser. Samkhya philosophy says that there are two eternal realities. One is known as purusha, the other is known as prakriti. Purusha means consciousness and prakriti means matter. Therefore, matter and spirit co-exist. Neither is prakriti created by purusha, nor is purusha affected by prakriti. Purusha and prakriti are constituents of the physical body. The whole of creation is an interplay of these two realities.

In the universal scheme, purusha and prakriti come together, but never become one. When purusha and prakriti interact with each other, there is creation, evolution, transformation. If purusha and prakriti are separated, there is no interaction of purusha and prakriti, hence there is no creation. The interaction between purusha and prakriti is brought about by certain eternal rules. Prakriti is twofold: one is known as the empirical, or the lower prakriti, like the ether, air, fire, water, earth elements, the ego, mind and the subconscious. These eight components of prakriti comprise its lower nature. The interaction between purusha and these eightfold constituents of nature is responsible for the whole of creation. These eight components undergo changes in three different stages, known as sattwa, rajas and tamas. Matter, at one stage, is known as tamas, at another stage as rajas and finally it is called sattwa. Prakriti is threefold. This interaction between purusha and the cosmic prakriti is responsible for everything we see. Time, space and object happen only when purusha and prakriti interact.

The cosmos is like an egg. The upper part of the egg is called space and the lower part is known as time. One is positive, the other is negative. This cosmic egg is a nucleus, at the centre of the cosmos, known as bindu in tantra. In the process of creation, time and space come closer to each other, nearer to the nucleus, and then the explosion takes place. Time and space stand as two separate poles in the cosmos. When they join each other in the nucleus then matter explodes. This explosion in matter or object is known as creation. There is not one but many creations and many universes, in the process of creation and dissolution.

Prakriti undergoes many changes. The total composition of all the creations, the whole universe, is prakriti. Purusha is there in the form of intelligence, in the form of spirit. In this physical body there is matter, but there is also intelligence. There is awareness and there is spirit. That spirit is unchanging. It may appear to be changing, but it does not. We feel the atman or self is changing on account of the filter of the mind. We have to separate this purusha from prakriti, so that the explosion does not take place in the nucleus and there is no creation. There is absolute calmness and stillness. If two wires, positive and negative, are brought together, an explosion takes place. If you separate them, nothing will happen. We do the same thing in meditation.

The main theme and purpose of yoga is to separate purusha from prakriti. When you sit for meditation, there is the seer, the seen and the object. There is constant friction and interaction between the seer and the seen. The different thoughts that come into your mind are a product of prakriti and purusha, and in meditation you aim to separate them. Finally, when you succeed in meditation, when there is no flickering of the mind, no idea, no objective awareness, or duality, there remains only the ā€˜Iā€™. This total homogenous experience of the seer is called the separation of purusha from prakriti.

20 January 1981, Munger