Samkhya Karika 19, Nature of Purusha – Witness, Neutral, Non-Doer
Tasmat-ca-viparyasat siddham saksitvam asaya purusasya |
Kaivalyam madhysthyam drastrtvam akrtrbhavah ca ||
Tasmat – from that
Ca – and
Viparyasat – distinction or contrast
Siddham – established, achieved
Saksitvam – the witness, observer
Asaya Purusasya – purusha or consciousness is
Kaivalyam – single, is alone
Madhysthyam – neutral, unbiased
Drastrtvam – is the witness, seer
Akartrabhavah – is devoid of action
Ca – and
In contrast to the nature of Prakriti, as explained in the previous karikas, the nature of Purusha is of a witness to the drama of Prakriti as due to the absence of three gunas within it, it doesn’t perform any actions on its own.
What are the attributes of Purusha?
Purusha is completely attribute-less and a non-doer. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It is just pure consciousness, is alone, unbiased seer of all happenings in the Prakriti or the material world. The Purusha is pure consciousness and thus is distinct from ever active Prakriti in a number of ways:
One of the distinctive natures of Purusha is that it is a witness, observer of all that goes on in the Prakriti. The pure consciousness attribute of Purusha is generally misunderstood; being conscious here doesn’t mean being aware, or awareness of things as an attribute.
Consciousness is something that makes a living entity alive, an embodied soul, like the Sunlight enlightens the objects it falls upon. It is just about being alive due to the light of consciousness present within it. Purusha just illuminates the intellect and the mind, lending meaning and purpose to life. On the contrary awareness is the intelligent interpretation of the surroundings or objects that exist along with this life.
Buddhi (intelligence), the first evolute of Prakriti which is in the closest proximity to Purusha, when gets activated along with the consciousness the intelligence factor sets in the interpretation and analysis of the surrounding objects which causes one to identify oneself with these objects is known as awareness.
Pure consciousness, or Purusha, is just consciousness which is bereft of intelligence, that is the reason it just observes the happenings around it without interpreting, or identifying with them which may tempt it to interference in these happenings. It is more like a saint observing a team of farmers working their fields without getting involved in whatever they are doing as the saint himself doesn’t own any land of his own.
One of the attributes of Purusha is Kaivalyam, meaning one who is solitary and alone. Purusha is distinct from Prakriti in this aspect as well: Prakriti is not solitary or alone as it has evolved into a multiplicity of forms, and names. So Prakriti is a collection of multiple forms, Purusha is just one and stands alone as a single, one entity in contrast to Prakriti.
Though there are a number of Purushas, each one of them is independent and stands alone and apart from each other. Multiple Purushas are multiple single entities, whereas the multiple forms of Prakriti constitute Prakriti as a collection of all these forms. Purusha doesn’t have any attributes of its own. The term Kaivalya as used in this Samkhya karika 19, with respect to Purusha, doesn’t signify ascetism or withdrawal but here its being used to establish its distinctiveness from Prakriti.
Madhyastham signifies that Purusha is neutral to the drama of the material world. It doesn’t get affected by the constant changes happening within Prakriti. It just remains in its own nature and doesn’t get entangled in the multiplicity of the world.
This shows the way for how one must live in this world. One must live one’s life by just being a witness, observer to the constant kaleidoscopic drama which is constantly at play around oneself. One needs to always be neutral and alone to the drama of the world. Like the actors of a play enact their roles on the stage and the audience just remain witness to this drama being unfurled before them, one scene at a time.
For the audience all of the actors are just playing their roles as per the pre-determined script, no one is from the actors is special, the audience neither get involved in the act going on in front of them, nor do they try to change (interfere) into whatever they don’t like from the act. Likewise, one has to realize that Prakriti, mind, intelligence and the “I” sense are doing their work; engaged in their nature like a dramatist.
I, the “Purusha”, am just witnessing all this. I am separate from all these. If such a realization is there always, then we can enjoy the play.
Isvar Krisna, later in his karikas explains the concept known as “Bhavas” using which a conscious being (human being) can easily attain this witness like attitude towards life.
Purusha doesn’t engage in any kind of action. Purusha being pure consciousness lacks the apparatus – sense organs, mind, and intellect – for doing action. These are the tools of Prakriti on the other side. Only the entities which evolve out of Prakriti and are armed with the organs of action can perform actions.
Practical Application of the Nature of Purusha
In order to make their lives less complicated humans need to always be aware of the fact that they are pure consciousness and not the perishable Prakriti, or the material world. However, one forgets one’s true identity and remain entangled in the worldly affairs. One forgets about the fact that if one gets involved in the fight between two person one will just complicate the matters by taking sides. Wise people never get entangled in the drama taking place around them, they always remain as observers.
Pure consciousness is meant to just witness, but one jump into it and thus moves away from the consciousness. One needs to understand that the world is like a play which is being enacted for us to see like a seer, and not to get involved into it. One has to understand that “I” the seer is separate from the drama. The consciousness of I and mine is what pushes one into the fray.
Nothing is mine, everything is at its place, and everything follows its own rules. One suffers when one doesn’t understand this fact as explained by Samkhya philosophy. We all do experience the internal strength to live this way but do not remain aware of it all the time, which leads to misery.
ng, or identifying with them which may tempt it to interference in these happenings. It is more like a saint observing a team of farmers working their fields without getting involved in whatever they are doing as the saint himself doesn’t own any land of his own.