Samkhya karika 20, Proximity Mixes Purusha and Prakriti Qualities

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 20 text:

Tasman tatsam yogat achetanam chetanavat iva lingam ||

Guna kartrtve api tatha karteva bhavty udasinah ||

Tasmat – thus, therefore

Tatsam yogat – relation arising from coming together

Achetanam – non conscious, non-intelligent

Chetanavat iva – as if having consciousness

Lingam – the sign, entity, symbol, the effect

Guna kartrtve – action which is the result of the interplay of the three gunas

Api – also

Tatha – similarly

Karteva – doer of action

Bhavty – appears as if

Udasinah – the impersonal

As per Samkhya philosophy Purusha is by nature a non-doer, it doesn’t do any action but just observes. Still we sometimes think that, “this is a virtuous thing that I have done” and “this is a vice or immoral thing that I have done”.  The experience of doing something (being conscious of an action) can only be had by the Purusha, Prakriti only does blind action. But, going by the tone of these sentences it looks like Purusha is doing the action. How is that possible?

Purusha and Prakriti appear to reflect their Qualities on Each other

In reality Purusha hasn’t done anything in the sentences (thoughts) as mentioned above, it is the proximity of the Purusha with Prakriti due to which it begins to reflect the qualities (of doing action) of Prakriti in itself, or as its own.

Samkhya karika 20

A metal object when exposed to the Sun becomes hot and when the same object is exposed to the Moonlight it cools down, such is the impact of proximity, or company one keeps. A single innocent person if found with a group of thieves is also taken as a thieve. Similarly, Purusha – a non-does- is seen as a doer in the company of Prakriti.  A lot of importance is given to the company of good people due to the same reason.

Samkhya Karika 20, Qualities Mix with Each other

Purusha is conscious or has knowledge whereas Prakriti is a blind doer and doesn’t know. Samkhya philosophy does compare Purusha to a lame person (cannot do anything on its own) and Prakriti as blind person (can do but cannot see or know on its own). These two come together for a purpose (explained in the succeeding karika) like a lame person perched on the shoulders of a blind person so that the lame person can see and guide whereas the blind person acts accordingly.

As the Purusha and Prakriti come together they seem to take the characteristics of each other. This means that Prakriti which is non-intelligent, non-conscious and possesses the three gunas appears as intelligent and conscious, which it is not in reality. It is like the moon at night actually reflects the light of the Sun which appears to be its own. 

Similarly, the reflection of the Sun in the moving water appears to be shaking, still in still water and turbid in turbid water.  In reality the Sun is itself unaffected in every way, it seems to have taken the characteristics of the water – movement, still, turbid – just because it is reflecting through it. 

Same thing happens in our lives too, we start crying when we see an emotional scene being enacted by some actors in a movie, we get involved with the drama on screen and begin to reflect its emotions within our own selves. As per Samkhya this is the cause of all misery and pain one experiences. 

This intermixing of one’s own experience – feelings – with the unrelated actions of others causes all the suffering, incidents of people smashing the television sets in rage as the match being played on it begins to slip out of the hands of the team, they support are common. The main purpose of understanding Samkhya Philosophy is to know how easily the Purusha (one’s consciousness) can get involved with the acts of Prakriti (incidents happening around one) causing unnecessary suffering and pain. 

One needs to understand the fact that the scene in the movie has nothing to do with oneself, it is happening because it was necessary for making the impact in the movie at the right place. Same thing happens in our life. If understanding is there then we can sit in silence and contemplate. It is a simple thing but has become difficult to practice. Once we go out, we forget it.

Because of the intermixing of qualities which happens due to the coming together of the Purusha and The Prakriti, Purusha which is actually a non-doer as it doesn’t possess the instruments, faculties (lingam) for doing any action like intentionality (Mahat / Buddhi) the organs of executing action and the Mind appears to be doing the action on its own. 

All actions happening around one are just the blind play of conscious less Prakriti, one must always be aware of the real nature of consciousness (Purusha) and should not get involved in those actions.