Samkhya Karika 18, Multiple Purushas Exist with Individual Purposes

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 18 text:

Janam-marana-karananam prati niyamat ayugapat pravrtteh ca ||

Purusha bahutvam siddham trigunya viparyayat ca eva ||

Jabam-marana – birth and death

Karananam – cause of, instruments of action and cognition

Prati niyamat – each have their own purpose, calling, reasons

Ayugapat – non-similarity, differences

Pravrtteh – actions, activities

Purusha – consciousness

Bahutvam – many, multiplicity 

Siddham – achievements

Trigunya – of the three gunas

Viparyayat – diversity, contradictions

Ca eva – and so also

As per Advaita of Sankaracharya there is only one consciousness (Pusrusha) which permeates all living and non- living beings that populate the universe. Isvara krsna in his Samkhay karika 18 establishes the existence of the multiplicity of the Purushas (consciousnesses) on the contrary. If we put in simple words, each individual has his/ her own soul which is different from the soul of other individuals. He logically puts forward very cogent arguments in support of his claim.

Proofs of the existence of Multiple Purushas | Samkhya Karika 18

He exclaims that if there was only one universal consciousness, Purusha, then all the beings should be born at the same time and die at the same time too. But, in reality the birth and death of each individual conscious being happens at different times. Moreover, each of the being facilitates its own life with their individual set of sense organs, and instruments of cognition retention, and conation. Each being has its own level of intelligence and identity.

Thus, the existence of multiple personalities which have very individualized natural traits can only be made possible by the presence of different, multiple, Purushas with individualized tendencies which impart individualized consciousnesses to each one of them. 

Secondly, each conscious being has its own purpose, calling or reason to live life.  Each one of us have a different motivation to continue living; some live for achieving luxuries and comforts of live while others find spiritual achievements as their purpose of life.  We choose to pursue different paths of our lives based on our different callings, or the path which inherently motivates us to pursue it.  

Thirdly, we all have different souls, and not the same one, is also proved by the fact that all the beings perform different actions at any given point of time. No two beings ever perform the same action at the same time or execute it together. 

Lastly the changes occurring within the three gunas of each conscious being will be different. We see diversity around us because of the difference in the changes occurring within the three gunas present within different beings. Someone has the tendency to speak very loudly and others may have the habit of speaking in whispers. Some beings speak in a very mild tone while others have a harsh tone to their speech. 

A single conscious being can also have a combination of diverse qualities within its personality: the dog may have an irritating bark but it is always faithful to its master.

All these prove that Purushas are multiple in number instead of a single Purusha. 

Samkhya Karika 18

Samkhya is aware of Diversity of the Purpose of Life

Unlike Advaitic view which considers the presence of only one universal consciousness which it calls Brahman, Samkhya believes in the existence of multiple Purushas, or consciousnesses and the concept of a single Brahman which pervades all things, animate and inanimate, is conspicuously absent from its preview. 

Samkhya is clearly conscious of the fact that all the living organisms are physically and psychologically different from each other. Each living body possesses its own individual consciousness. The uniqueness of Samkhya in this respect allows every individual to explore its own potential, set goals and aim for the highest. This Samkhya karika 18 elaborates on the fact that each individual is different and has the right to achieve its goals as per its own individual potential and abilities without falling into the negative trap of comparisons and competitions with other individuals. 

Each one of us is born with our unique and different capacities and potentials which should be utilized as per our own discretion and each one of us must grow at our own pace. We are solely responsible for the actions and direction of our lives. Our job is to understand our diversities, and keep working by using our intelligence without any fear, jealousy, or hatred for traits present in others which are different from our own. 

 What happens generally is that we forget our own unique potentials and qualities, and the fact that we all our powerful in our own unique ways, and remain busy with trying to become like others or traits which are respected more in our society. This creates friction between our natural selves and what we are fighting to become, disturbing the healthy flow of prana within us, which can be detrimental for our physical and psychological health.

There is this story about a lion’s cub. He lost his way and joined a herd of sheep. It started believing that it was also a sheep and began behaving like one. One day, after some time, the cub met a lion, who made the cub aware of his true identity. After that the cub started roaring like a lion. Our position is quite similar. Lost in the worldly affairs we forget our true identity, the real power which is present within us, and we continue crying and laughing at our fate.

We often remain deeply buried and entangled in this world. There never arises our own voice within us and this is the reason most of us keep suffering. We just need to understand this and always remain aware of the fact that we all have our individual powers. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we have unlimited power till it finally sinks in for good.