Samkya karika 3, Purusha and Prakriti, How the World Evolved

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 3 text:

Moola prakritir avikritir  mahadaadyaah prakriti-vikrtayah sapta | 

Shodhashakastu vikaaro na prakritirna vikratih purushah ||

Mula – root, primordial

Prakritir – the entity from which the material world originates

Avikritir – which is not created from anything

Mahadaadyaah – Mahat and the other evolutes

Prakriti-vikrtayah – nature of prakriti as capable of further creation

Sapta – Seven

Shodhashakas – sixteen

Tu – only

Vikaaro – the emergent principles

Prakriti – the non-created but can create

Na – not

Vikratih – evolution, creation, modification

Purushah – the principle of consciousness

This karika 3 is an introduction to the philosophical foundation of Samkhya. It introduces two eternal principles, entities – Purusha and Prakriti – on which the entire Sankhya system is based, and we all are made up of.  This karika clearly talks about their attributes as separate entities, though the previous karika had alluded about them a bit. The karikas coming ahead of this one will only help elaborate on the nature and how the universe is created, evolves from them.

Nature of Purusha and Prakriti

The first fundamental principle, or entity is the Purusha, which stands for, or symbolizes pure consciousness. The term Purusha is formed by coming together of two roots; pur (place or space) and isa (consciousness).  It is not the same as the term atman (soul) as used in Advaitya Vedanta. It does not either mean as one universal consciousness, but Samkhya proposes the existence of multiple Purushas as separate entities. One Purusha is distinctively different from the others.

The entity of Purusha is not an evolute of any another entity, or is not created from any other entity, its origins are unknown.  Secondly it is non creative, or lacks the capability to create another entity from itself. The other fundamental element is Prakriti, it is the elemental matter in its primordial state, or unmanifest state called avyakta, and is the root, mula, cause of all phenomenon in the universe. Prakriti is not evolved from anything or is not an extract from some other element, its origin is unknown, though, unlike Purusha, it has the ability to evolve, modify, or generate other elements.

Prakriti has the root cause, or the potential to evolve into other elements under the presence of particular circumstances. When it evolves into other elements it manifests itself or its vyakta state. Just to recapitulate the main characteristics of these two main elements from which the entire creation is known to evolve through some pre-determined steps here is present the summary of their attributes.


  1. It is not created from anything else, its not an evolute of any other element
  2. It cannot create, or evolve any new element from itself
  3. It is not equal to the soul as mentioned in Advaitya Vedanta
  4. It is not made of matter, but is pure consciousness (Chaitanya) in nature
  5. Purushas can be multiple and it is not just one single supreme consciousness
  6. It doesn’t do anything as it is just the observer


  1. It is elemental matter present in its primordial state (unmanifest or avyakta state) of which the entire universe is made up of
  2. The root (cause) of all the phenomenon in the universe is inherent within it
  3. Just like Purusha, Prakriti is not created evolved from any other element
  4. Unlike Purusha it has the capability to create, generate other elements from its composition when it manifests itself also known as vyakta state
  5. The changeable Prakrit is responsible for creating the play of life and other phenomenon of the universe

Thus, Prakriti and Purusha are the two fundamental elements, sources of all that is known as the universe. 

Sankhya Karika 3

How the Evolution of the Material World takes place?

From the primordial matter of Prakriti first evolve seven elements from which further creation, or evolution of elements is possible. Mahat (the great one) is the first element of these seven and it means universal intellect which is known as Budhi at the individual level.  Mahat and budhi are used interchangeably but when Isvar Krishna discusses the concept of Bhavas he uses the term budhi there.

From Mahat emerges Ahamkara, the ego which gives the consciousness of the individual self as separated from the universal self. The five tanmatras which evolve from Ahamkara are the micro atomic, subtle forms of the five basic elements which evolve from them further. Thus, the seven elements are Mahat/Budhi, Ahamkara and the 5 Tanmatras.

From these seven emerge a set of sixteen elements which do not have the capability of evolving into more elements further. 11  of them emerge from Ahamkara, manas, 10 indriyas ( 5 Jnanendriyas or senses and 5 karmendriyas or faculties of action), and 5 basic elements which emerge from Tanmatras.  

Since both Purusha and Prakriti lack their known origins they are known as eternal ( nitya), they don’t have any beginning ( anadi) and no ending ( ananta). Both are not placed one after the other but together as both are equally required for the evolution to take place. The evolution in Samkya is the intellectual (emerging from intellect or budhi as the first element of evolution from unmanifest (mula) prakriti) and do not resemble any other known forms of evolutions.

We are primarily made up these two elements – Purusha and Prakriti – but seldom remember their individual role. The play of Prakriti is so engrossing that one forgets to be an observer like the Purusha. Life is more about being conscious what is going on and why it is going on which is only possible when one becomes an observer, one can easily lose this sight by getting embroiled in the web of phenomenon being created by the material aspect of our existence, the prakriti.

One thinks of being conscious (Purusha) only when things do not go one’s desired way, but its too late by then. A clear understanding can only come by being an observer of what is going on (Prakriti) and not being a part of it. The lack of this understanding and clarity leads to suffering and pain in life.  Even if clarity come to some it doesn’t last for ever. One must understand and consciously apply the principle of 25 elements ( 7 elements and sixteen elements as explained above along with Prakriti and the Purusha) to one’s life.

Suffering can only be avoided by keeping one’s focus on Chaitanya – non changing purusha- or the divine element. Samkhya philosophy is considered as niresvara ( absence of Ishvar or God) because there is no concept of the creator of conscious souls and the material world in it. 

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