by Jayaram V
Prakriti and Purusha are the two different aspects of the manifest
Brahman, known as Iswara. They participate, regulate and implement
the universal creative process. Prakriti means "that which gives
shapes" signifying Nature or pure energy and Purusha means "eastern
dawn" signifying the Manifest Brahman or the Creative consciousness
that sets in motion the entire creative process with the help of
His two aspects.
Prakriti operates at two levels. Its lower nature consists of
the eight fold nature namely, earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind
and reason and also the ego (7.4), while its higher nature consists
of that (life force) by which all the living entities are upheld
(5.5). All the beings in the universe originate from this two fold
Prakriti (5.6), the Adhibhuta aspect of God (8.4). At the end of
every cycle of creation, all the entities dissolve in the Universal
Prakriti and at the beginning of every cycle of creation, God brings
forth them again (9.7). Seated in Prakriti, Purusha creates all
the living communities (9.6), and the whole creation itself, both
moving and non-moving (9.10).
At the physical level, Prakriti is the body and the mind (kshetra
or the field) with all their constituent parts, while Purusha is
the indwelling witness Spirit, (kshetragna or the knower of the
body), the pure, egoless consciousness that exists beyond the senses
and the mind. Purusha is the Adhidaiva, the Supreme Divine (8.8),
the Ancient, the Omniscient, the Universal Enforcer of Law, the
Supporter of All (8.9), who in the body as indwelling Spirit, as
inner witness becomes Adhiyagna (8.4). He is the Witness, the Guide,
the Bearer, the Enjoyer, the Great Lord and the Supreme Self. (13.22).
The Purusha is the universal cosmic male, the supreme Brahman,
the subject as well as the object of sacrificial ceremonies, whose
self-sacrifice results in the manifestation of life and worlds and
by making a sacrifice to whom, one gains an entry into the higher
worlds or achieves liberation itself. The concept of Purusha well
documented in the Vedas, especially in the Purushasukta of the Rigveda
which describes how the worlds were created, beings came into existence
and the social order was established from the Purusha.
The Purushas are said to be of two kinds: the perishable and
the imperishable. The body is the perishable Purusha (nothing but
Prakriti), while the soul is the Imperishable One (15.16). The Supreme
Purusha (Ishwara) is however neither of these. He is beyond the
perishable (Prakriti) and higher than the Imperishable (inner Self),
who sustains the three worlds by entering into them (15.17). Since
He is beyond the perishable and higher than the Imperishable (Self)
, He is called Purushottama (The Supreme Purusha) (15.18)
Prakriti is responsible for the illusion and the sense of duality.
All vikarams, (changes ) and gunas are possible due to Prakriti
only (13.19). Through the interplay of the gunas, it binds the indwelling
Purusha to the sense objects and thereby becomes the cause of Its
birth in both good and evil wombs (13.21). In the performance of
actions, Prakriti is the cause, while in the enjoyment of pleasures
and pain, Purusha is the cause (13.21).
The soul residing in the body is referred as the indwelling witness,
the Adhiyagna. We are told that when Purusha, also known as the
Adhidaiva (Controlling Deity), resides in the body as the inner
witness, He becomes Adhiyagna or the Seat of Sacrifice(8.4).
The soul in the body is different from Jiva (the living entity).
The striving yogi perceives Him, as seated in the body enjoying
the sense objects, united with the gunas, departing the body at
the time of death, but the ignorant ones whose hearts are impure,
do not perceive so even after much striving.(15.11&12).
At the time of death while the constituent elements of the individualized
Prakriti go back to their respective Universal Elements, the indwelling
Purusha and the jiva go to the higher or the nether worlds, depending
upon the latter's past karma, and the place, time and manner of
Its death (8.6-10).
The mental condition in which the soul leaves the body at the
time of death is very important, because whatever the person thinks
of at that time, that alone he achieves thereafter (8.6). Thus if
someone departs from the body thinking of God alone, he would undoubtedly
attain Him (8.5, 12 &13).
Correct knowledge and awareness of Purusha and Prakriti can be
a true source of liberation for human beings. By understanding what
is Prakriti and what is Purusha correctly, a yogi can develop perfect
attitude towards both and develop right discrimination to perform
desireless actions for self-realization. Thus he who knows Purusha
and Prakriti with its gunas, even if engaged in all types of actions
will not take birth again in this mortal world (13.22).
Suggested Further Reading