Narach Philosophy


The series from Prakrti to the five gross elements numbers twenty-four and purusha (individual soul) is said to be the twenty-fifth principle of the Sankhya system.

Twenty-four and Twenty-five Principles:

  1. Purusha  
  2. Prakrti  
3. Buddhi   10. Manas
4. Ahankara or self-sense   11-15. Five senses
5-9. Five tanmatras of sound, touch, smell, form or colour, and taste.   16-20. Five organs of action
    21-25. Five gross elements of ether, air, light, water, and earth.

God: We have observed that the Sankhya can have no place for God as a creator in its scheme. Corresponding to this we have the following:

"In its classical form ... The Sankhya does not uphold the ism. ... The Sankhya holds that the reality of God cannot be established by logical proofs. ... The Sankhya is not atheistic in the sense that it establishes that there is no God. It only shows that there is no reason for supposing that there is one".

Purusha or Individual Soul: As we have explained, the individual soul in the Sankhya should be conceived as really inactive, but it becomes active only when associated with Prakrti; and then it is transformed into Ahankara or Egoism. Corresponding to this we have the following:

"All organic beings have a principle of self-determination to which the name of soul is generally given. ... The souls cannot be referred to the same principle from which physical organizations spring. So the Sankhya asserts the existence of purushas (individual souls) freed from all the accidents of finite life and lifted above time and change. ... He (individual soul) is not mind, life, or body, but the informing and sustaining soul, silent, peaceful, eternal, that possesses them. ... The self is defined as pure spirit, different from the body or Prakrti. .. .As its character is consciousness, it helps to bring the products of the evolutionary chain into self-consciousness.... Purusha exists, though it is neither cause nor effect. It is the light by which we see that there is such a thing as Prakrti. ... Purusha is incapable of movement, and, on attaining release, does not go anywhere. ... It does not participate in any activity. The Sankhya denies the purusha all qualities, since otherwise it would not be capable of emancipation. ... There are many selves, since experience shows that men are differently endowed physically, morally and intellectually. ... Purusha is unrelated to Prakrti. It is a mere witness, a solitary, indifferent, passive spectator. The characteristics of Prakrti and purusha are opposed in nature. Prakrti is non-conscious, while purusha is conscious. Prakrti is active, and ever revolving, while purusha is inactive. Purusha is unalterably constant, while Prakrti is so alterably. Prakrti is characterised by the three Gunas, while purusha is devoid of the Gunas; Prakrti is the object, while purusha is the subject".

Jiva or the Empirical Individual: The Jiva is the self distinguished by the conjunction of the senses and limited by the body. Vijnanabhiksu says that purusha with ahankara (egoism) is the jiva, and not purusha in itself. While the pure self remains beyond Buddhi, the reflection of purusha in Buddhi appears as the Ego, the organizer of all our states, pleasures and pains included. ... The released soul is a disinterested spectator of the world show.

The empirical self is the mixture of free spirit and mechanism, of purusha and Prakrti. It is subject to pleasure and pain, action and its fruits, and rotates in the round of rebirth. The atman or the purusha is quite indifferent to worldly concerns. Activity belongs to the Buddhi, one of the products of Prakrti; nevertheless, on account of its union with purusha, the indifferent purusha appears as an actor. Actual agency belongs to antahkarana, or the inner organ, which is lighted up by purusha. The unconscious antahkarana cannot by itself be the agent, but it is invested with consciousness. This investment or illumination of; antahkarana consists in a particular conjunction of it with consciousness, which is eternally shining; consciousness does not pass into the antahkarana, but is only reflected in it. This conjunction of purusha with Prakrti is of course not a permanent one. Purusha allies itself with Prakrti in order that the nature of the latter may be revealed to itself, and that it may attain freedom from association with Prakrti. ... Prakrti acts and purusha enjoys the fruits of action. ... The light of consciousness is attributed to the workings of Prakrti; and purusha, passively observing the workings of Prakrti, forgets its true nature, and is deluded into the belief that it thinks feels, and acts. It identifies itself with a particular finite form of existence, animal body, and is thus shut out from the true life. ... Though not an agent, the purusha appears as an agent, through confusion with the agency of Prakrti, even as Prakrti through proximity to purusha appears to be conscious. ... The narrow and limited existence of the jiva is not due to the essential nature of the soul as purusha; it is the result of a fall from its original state. ... When Prakrti acts, the purusha experiences the fruit, since the activity of Prakrti is intended for the experience of purusha. Strictly speaking, even this experience is due to abhimana (sense of selfhood) ... When the truth is known, there is neither pleasure nor pain, neither agency nor enjoyment.

Individual Soul and Prakrti: "The most perplexing point of the Sankhya system is the problem of the relation between purusha (individual soul) and Prakrti. ... Prakti evolves a world full of woe and desolation to raise the soul from its slumber. ... But the Sankhya is clear that the activity of Prakrti is not due to conscious reflection. ... If Prakrti were spontaneously active, then there can be no liberation, since its activity will be unceasing; if it were spontaneously inactive, then the course of mundane existence would at once cease to go on. The Sankhya admits that the activity of Prakrti implies a mover not itself in motion, though it produces movement. ... The Sankhya says that the mere presence of the purushas excites Prakrti to activity and development. Though purusha is not endowed with creative might, Prakrti, which produces the manifold universe, is so on account of its union with purusha. ... The disturbance of the equilibrium of the Gunas, which sets up the process of evolution, is due to the action of the purushas on Prakrti. The presence of the purushas disturbs the balance of the forces which keep each other at rest. At the beginning of the evolutionary process we have Prakrti in a state of quiescence, and numberless purushas equally quiescent, but exerting on Prakrti a mechanical force. This upsets the equilibrium of Prakrti and initiates a movement which, at first, takes the form of development and, later, of decay and collapse. Prakrti again returns to its quiescent condition, to be again exited by the purushas. The process will continue until all the selves are freed. So the first cause, as well as the final cause, of the cosmic process is purusha. But the causation of purusha is merely mechanical, being due, not to its volition, but to its mere proximity. Purusha moves the world by a kind of action which is not movement. It is compared to the attraction of a magnet for iron. ... The real purusha has relations with a real world on account of a fancied relation between the two. So long as this fancied relation subsists, Prakrti acts towards it. When the purusha recognizes its distinction from the ever-evolving and dissolving world of Prakrti, the latter ceases to operate towards it. The efficient cause of Prakrti's development is not the mere presence of the purushas, for they are always present, but their non-discrimination. ...This non-discrimination brings about a temporary union between purusha and Prakrti; the union, however, is not real, since it dissolves on the rise of true knowledge. Prakrti has caught purushas somehow in her web. No cause is assigned to account for the original entanglement of the eternal souls, once free, in an equally eternal Prakti. ... It is due to non-discrimination, which has no beginning".

Knowledge and Action: We have explained that according to the Sankhya all actions must be renounced, and knowledge is the one true goal of life. Hence we have the following:

"The Sankhya starts with the idea of the universality of suffering. ... If miseries are natural to the soul, there is no help for us; if they are only accidental and arise from something else, we can escape suffering by separating ourselves from the source of suffering".

"Bondage belongs to Prakrti, and is attributed to purusha. ... Purusha's bondage is a fiction. ... Bondage arises through the conjunction of Prakrti with purusha, which is by nature eternal and pure, enlightened and unconfined. ... Non-discrimination is the cause of bondage. ... Knowledge and ignorance are the sole determinants of release and bondage. Purusha is eternally free. ... When the soul is left alone, it is said to be purified. ... Every jiva has in it the higher purusha, and to realize its true nature has no need to go out of itself, but only to become conscious of its real nature. ... While freedom is brought about by knowledge, this knowledge is not merely theoretical. It is what results from practice of virtue, yoga, etc ... Unselfish activity is an indirect means to salvation. By itself it does not lead us to freedom. ...We can obtain discriminative knowledge only when our emotional stirrings are subdued and intellectual activities are controlled".

"While bondage is the activity of Prakti towards one not possessing discrimination, release is its inactivity towards one possessing discrimination. When Prakrti is active, it catches the reflection of purusha and casts its shadow on the purusha and salvation is attained through the breaking of the union between purusha and Prakrti. When Prakrti ceases to act ... The purusha assumes its natural form. ... If the play of Prakrti ceases, the purusha is no more the spectator, since there is nothing to see; yet it is said that the freed soul has knowledge of the whole universe".

Conclusion: Thus we see that the idea of the Sankhya, as given in the Sutras, corresponds to the theory of the system as we have outlined, and the basis of the whole is to be found in the working of the organic cell at two stages : (1) in the unmanifest state, when the Centrosome ceases to be active and it is the turn of the cell to act; and (2) in the manifest state, when, at the commencement of cell action, the nucleus is in a state of rest, but soon enough is made to act by the action of the Centrosome. Corresponding to this Prakrti is regarded as the active energy of the universe, and is conceived as the sole creator of life. The supreme Deity has no place in this scheme of thought, and an attempt is made to show that there is no reason for supposing that he exists. Prakrti is the sole creator of life, and the whole universe is evolved out of it. It is characterised by Maya or creative energy, and it is the Antahkarana, or the physical energy of the Heart, through which it acts.

It is originally in a state of rest, but comes into action through its association with purusha like that of the nucleus with the Centrosome and then it develops into different forms of life, from Mahat or Buddhi to the element Earth, making twenty-four energies or principles in all. The purusha in this system is the individual soul, and his idea corresponds to that of the Centrosome at two stages of cell development: (1) in the unmanifest state when it ceases to be active, and (2) in the manifest state when its presence causes action in the nucleus. Hence it is conceived as essentially actionless, and yet its presence causes Prakrti to act. Further, the consciousness of the soul is the Purushic energy of the Heart, while that of Prakti is a reflex consciousness, born of the Prakrtic energy of the Heart or Food; hence Prakti becomes conscious through its association with the soul. But the soul also is affected by its association with Prakrti, and is modified into jiva, characterised by Ahankara or egoism. This association is the cause of the bondage of the soul, which can find release only when this bond is broken. This can be done only when Prakrti ceases to act towards the soul, and the latter has knowledge to understand its own character as something different from Prakti.