How does Prakriti Evolve into Matter as per Samkhya?

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Man has been striving to understand the nature of matter,

which forms each element of the world, since times immemorial.

Some twenty-three centuries ago,

the Greek philosopher Democritus wrote,

“sweet and bitter, cold and warm as well as the colors

– all these things exist but in opinion, and not in reality; what really exists are the unchangeable particles, atoms and their motion in empty space”. One of the most intriguing questions about the material world is, how does Prakriti (primordial form of matter) evolve in the world around us as we perceive it? That what evolution of Prakriti process answers.

Philosopher, John Locke in his attempt to comprehend the essence of matter, substance of which the universe is made of has drawn a distinction between primary matter and secondary qualities of matter. He concluded that all the geometrical properties of material objects like shape, density, and motion are real and primary qualities, while secondary qualities were the once which were not real but just projections on the sense organs. Different sense organs will read the secondary qualities differently, based on their present states of fitness and operation.

German mathematician, Liebnitz, further delving into the intricacies of matter stated that not only color, light, and temperature, qualities like shape and motion are also relative to perception, these depend on the way one looks at them. These concepts merely exist in the consciousness and not in the so believed real world. Albert Einstein later added even the existence of time and space relative to consciousness. Space has no objective reality except as an order of arrangement of the objects we perceive in it, and time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.

How does Prakriti Evolve into Material World?

Gradually all the scientists and the philosophers settled on the conclusion which was had existed all the time in the ancient yogic literature. Prakriti is known as Mula Prakriti when the primal virgin matter has not yet been subjected to any change, transformation, or evolution. In this state also Prakriti exhibits three subtle qualities, or three Gunas:

  • Sattva – Intelligence, lightness, illumination, joy
  • Rajas – Energy, movement, excitation, pain
  • Tamas – Obstruction, heaviness

In the un-evolved state (mula) of Prakriti all the three qualities are in a perfect state of equilibrium without working upon each other. Thus, in this state no evolution can take place, or there would be no world. In this state the matter of which Mula Prakriti is made of – the three gunas- is in a subtle state ( energy form) where as in the real world – after the Mula Prakriti has evolved, transformed – this energy condenses into matter of which the material world is made up of. The materialized form of Mula Prakriti is now known as just Prakriti.

As per Vedantic teachings prakriti materialized energy which in turn is the temporal manifestation of the supra-spiritual, eternal essence which is the innermost “Self” (Atman) of all things. As per Jainism matter exists in six degrees of densities, states:

  1. Subtle-subtle  (Suksma – suksma) : substance of atom
  2. Subtle ( Suksma) : Ingredients of Karma
  3. Subtle – gross (Suksma – sthula) : sound, smell, touch, e.g., wind
  4. Gross – subtle (Sthula-suksma): visible but impossible to grasp, e.g., sunshine, shadow
  5. Gross (Sthula): both visible and tangible
  6. Gross-Gross ( Sthula-sthula) : material objects

According to Buddhism everything, including man, is made up of a group of five elements called Skanda. These five groups of elements are described as “ Nama- Rupa”, i.e. name and form or mind and matter. Briefly, matter is mere sense data without any substance.

Reason for the Evolution of Prakriti to Begin

As per Samkhya philosophy the universe evolves out of the subtle Mula Prakriti. This evolution begins due to the contact between Mula Prakriti and Purusha. Although both these entities are opposite in nature, still their contact, as in their close proximity is essential for the evolution to begin. I fact the Purusha and the Mula Prakriti do not come in contact , in the literal sense, with each other, the mere presence of Purusha in the proximity  stimulates, excites the Mula Prakriti.

This disturbs the balance of the qualities (gunas) of Mula Prakriti which begins the process of evolution as the subtle matter of the gunas, with the previously existent equilibrium disturbed, begins to manifest as the gross matter, objects of the material universe. As per Samkhya there is not one Purusha (pure consciousness) but a multitude of Purushas which excite the Mula Prakriti to manifest itself into the material complexities of the universe.

Evolution of Prakriti

The Purusha remains shrouded by the matter as manifested in the objects which construct the universe, it is not a real intermixing of the two – Purusha and Mula Prakriti – but Purusha remains entangled with the Prakriti (as it is known after being manifested) as an illusion, like one sees the reflection of a man in the frame of a mirror. Matter stop being active the moment one begins to identify with Purusha.  Thus. Pure consciousness remains mixed with all things living, or non-living as the coming together of matter (Prakriti) and Purusha ( pure consciousness) is the real reason the being, or the object exists in its manifested state. Watch this video for further clarity on the same subject.

Why do Purusha and Mula prakriti even need each other, to come together and create the material world? This is because Mula Prakriti needs Purusha so that she may be seen, known and utilized, and Purusha need Mula Prakriti to experience and attain salvation by distinguishing between himself and Prakriti. One wants to be seen and the other wants to see. Thus, consciousness proceeds to an experience of the outer world through the senses (Prakriti).  In case of living beings, it is believed that a subtle body resides inside the gross body. This subtle body, of which Mind is a part, assumes shape and character along with the associated felling and thoughts of the objects presented to it by the senses. This shape and character, of the objects, and experiences, remains imprinted on the subtle body as Samskaras, which if not expunged with Yoga sadhana get carried forward to the next lives, with the subtle body, after the gross body has died.

The Sequence of the Evolution of Prakriti

The first product of the evolution of Mula prakriti, when Sattva is prominent in comparison to rajas and Tamas, is “Mahat”, or Budhi (intellect), a state of intuitive awareness, as present in individual beings. It is the seed from which the vast world of objects will emerge, evolve further. The special functions of intellect are decision making and memory. Since it is nearest to Purusha it reflects the consciousness of Purusha (Self) in such a way as to itself become apparently conscious and intelligent. It is the ground of all intellectual process in all individual beings.

While the senses and the Mind function for Buddhi, the later works only for the Self. Ahamkara or ego is the second product of Prakriti which evolves out of Mahat when Rajas dominates over the other two gunas. Ahamkara is ego, or the sense of “I” and mine. The universal existence of Mahat till now begins to limit itself to individualistic tendencies, separating the universal Self into individual entities. The sense of ego wrongly induces the sense of ownership of the objects of the universe, this peace of land is mine and that is yours.

By preponderance of Rajas the ego develops itself into five Karmendriyas (organs of action) viz, speech, grasping, walking, evacuating, and reproduction. By preponderance of Sattva the ego evolves into five Jnanendriyas (organs of perception) viz, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching. By preponderance of Tamas it evolves into five Tanmatras viz, Sabda (sound), Sparsh (touch), Rupa ( color, shape), Rasa (flavor), Gandha (smell). With the further restrictive action of Tamas the five gross elements, Mahabhutas – earth, fire, water, air, ether, are condensed out from the corresponding Tanmatras.

Functioning of both, Jananedriyas and Karmendriyas is centrally coordinated, relating to their objects, by Manas, or the mind. Manas is itself a very subtle sense organ made up of several parts which can come in contact with several senses at the same time. The whole course of evolution of Prakriti to the gross physical elements is distinguished by two stage: Psychical or “ Budhisarga” which includes development of Mula Prakriti into Budhi, Ahamkara, Manas and 10 external organs. The second stage is Physical or “ Tanmatrasarga” which constitutes the evolution of 5 Tanmatras which are out of the scope of the senses and are called Avisesa or non-specific.

The Mahabhutas being the products of Tanmatras possess specific characteristics of pleasure or pain, and are called Vishesha, or the specific. Depending on the merits or demerits of the Individual Purusha ( pure consciousness) it either suffers or enjoys the world of objects as created by Prakriti. But the ultimate goal of the evolution of Prakriti is providing experience to the Individual Purusha after which it frees itself from the grip of the material world. One needs to train oneself in the required morals to realize one’s true Self (Purusha) and free oneself from the shackles of the material world or Prakriti.

Difference between Purusha and Prakriti:


  • Not made up of gunas
  • Conscious, Intelligent
  • Discriminating
  • Inactive
  • Subject of Knowledge
  • One Self in one Body
  • Un-productive, no modifications
  • Non-changing


  • Made up of 3 gunas
  • Un-conscious, non-intelligent
  • Non-discriminating
  • Active
  • Object of Knowledge
  • Common to all
  • Productive, transform into modifications
  • Changing every moment