Puruṣa is the static energy and prakṛti is the dynamic energy and their conjugation gives rise to evolution. Though puruṣa becomes partly responsible in triggering evolution, it is only in prakṛti, evolution actually takes place. If the cause is puruṣa (in reality it is neither cause nor effect), then the effect is prakṛti (in reality, prakṛti is the cause) and this is discussed later in the this article. Sāṁkhya Sūtra (I.19) explains the purity of puruṣa thus; “Which is by nature, eternally pure, intelligent and free, does not stand in connection with bondage and matter.” Any modifications in the form of continuous evolution happen only in prakṛti, the Primitive Matter. Sāṁkhya Sūtra (I.61) says, “Prakṛti is the state of equipoise of sattva, rajas and tamas and from it arises intellect, from the intellect ego, from the ego arises mind, from mind arises two types of senses (1. Cognitive faculties and organs (5 + 5). 2. Action faculties and organs of actions (5+ 5); totalling to twenty).” Thus there are 23 tattvas that make a gross body (three of subtle body and twenty of gross body). Now this is being discussed further.
When the equipoise of the three guṇa-s (discussed at length under various topics in this site) are disturbed in prakṛti, evolution begins. The first evolute that arises due to the change of equipoise in guṇa-s is antaḥkaraṇa, the subtle body. From the intellect arises ego and from the ego arises mind. Intellect, ego and mind together are called antaḥkaraṇa or internal tools. All the three are subtle in nature and cannot work independently without any support by the gross body. In order to make them functional, a gross body needs to be formed. Simultaneously with the evolution of subtle body, gross body also evolves. Causal body which is formed by prāṇa is not discussed here. Once the mind is formed (the last of three components of antaḥkaraṇa), from the mind five cognitive faculties, also known as jñānedriya-s or knowledge organs are formed. The five jñānedriya-s are ears, eyes, nose, mouth and skin. (Two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, mouth and organs of procreation and excretion are called navadvāra-s or nine apertures of the body and the soul along with subconscious mind and prāṇa escape through any one of these apertures at the time of death.) Then karmendriyas are formed.
Intellect is predominantly of sattva guṇa, whereas ego could be of any one of the three guṇa-s and one guṇa is predominant at any given point of time. Prakṛti evolves both as macrocosm and microcosm based on these 23 principles (puruṣa and prakṛti excluded). There are definitions saying that both puruṣa and prakṛti do not unite directly, but puruṣa becomes closer to prakṛti, which is known as puruṣa-saṁnidhi-mātra (mere juxtaposition to prakṛti). Due to the proximity of puruṣa to prakṛti, ever illumine puruṣa gets itself reflected in prakṛti. Such intricate confusions prevail in Sāṁkhya philosophy. These confusions arise because of considering puruṣa and prakṛti as two independent entities, in contrast to Brahman and His māyā of Vedānta or Śiva and Śakti of Trika philosophy.
As far as Sāṁkhya is concerned, it uses the term Mahat which means greatness that encompasses everything both gross and subtle. In macrocosm it is Mahat and in microcosm it is intellect (buddhi). Only in this intellect, a component of antaḥkaraṇa, which again is a product of prakṛti, puruṣa gets reflected and because of this reflection, intellect becomes conscious. As intellect becomes active, it chooses to function on behalf of puruṣa; ego and mind begin to work for buddhi. Prakṛti produces mahat (Great) and mahat produces ego which in turn produces mind and mind it turn produces organs of perception and organs of action and further evolution happens. In the process, puruṣa wrongfully believes that it is the enjoyer whereas in reality, it only remains as a witness to all the actions. Puruṣa is neither the cause nor the effect whereas, prakṛti is the effect. It is effect because every action takes place only in prakṛti.
When there is evolution, there has to be some end to this expansion. When puruṣa becomes deluded and bonded, it is evolution and when the puruṣa is released from its delusion, it is liberation. Any experience in this world ultimately leads to pain. Pleasure is momentary or temporary, may be for a few days, months or even few years. Whether one enjoys pleasure or pain for the present, ultimately only the pain alone remains, either in the form of manifestation of his or her karmas or at the time of death. There is nobody to talk about death; but going by the various theories and interpretations, death is a painful process of destruction in the microcosmic plane. During existence in the world, everyone suffers from the onslaught arising from body and mind, co-habitants and superhuman forces. These are called ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika and ādhidaivika. In the process of liberation, the effects of all the three guṇa-s are annihilated and when there is no trace of any guṇa, further evolution cannot take place and the puruṣa gets liberated. Till it is liberated, it is bound by antaḥkaraṇa, concealing its true nature of purity and eternity. Because of puruṣa’s bondage, karmas accrue and as a result, the cycle of transmigration continues.
In order to attain liberation, puruṣa should first know that it is not the body and mind. As seen earlier, puruṣa gets reflected in the intellect. When puruṣa understands that it is only its reflection and the reflection is not the real self, the process of liberation gets initiated. This is possible only by acquiring knowledge. The moment this supreme knowledge is realized, at that very moment, liberation is completed. The process of liberation gets initiated in the mind, the lowest of three components of antaḥkaraṇa. Mind in turn works on ego and ego in turn works on intellect to complete the process of acquiring knowledge. Thus, it is only the mind that initiates the process of liberation. It is only through the mind, higher knowledge can be acquired, processed and passed on to ego and intellect. When higher knowledge is received by ego, it gradually loses its potency and as a result ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘I’ get dissolved paving way for the intellect to reveal the true nature of puruṣa.
There are more complicated and more realistic interpretations to the whole process, which is time consuming. Moreover, there are better philosophies that are more realistic and much easier to understand philosophies like Advaita and Trika. Advaita is an ocean and every single concept of Advaita is supported by authentic Upaniṣad-s. With this, bird’s eye view on Sāṁkhya is concluded which is meant only for the purpose of information.
(to be continued)