Samkhya Karika 37, Buddhi has two Functions for Prakriti and Purusha

Samkhya Karika 37 text:

Sarvam pratya-upbhogam yasmaat purushasya saadhyati buddhih I

Sa eve ca vishi-nashti punah pradhan purush-antaram sukshmam II

Sarvam – all

Pratya – towards, with regards to

Upbhogam – experience

Yasmat – since, then

Purushasya- of Purusha

Saadhyati – achieves, succeeds

Buddhih – buddhi

Sa – with it

Eve – same

Ca- and

Vishi-nashti – discriminates

Punah – again

Pradhan Purusha-Antaram – the difference between Mula Prakriti and Purusha

Sukshmam – extremely subtle

Samkhya karika 37 talks about the unique position Buddhi (mahat, intelligence) has from among all the 13 sense organs. Buddhi form the part of the Antahkarna (3 inner sense organs) and plays two very unique roles: it collects all the information from the remaining 12 sense organs and convert this simple data into an experience, knowledge by utilizing its power of rationalization and discrimination.

No other sense organ possesses these two distinct powers of Buddhi. Secondly its only intelligence (buddhi) that has the ability to distinguish between Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (the matter part of creation). Even this power is the result of its discriminative power.

All the other sense organs can only read, sense, or connect to their objects which are part of Prakriti. These sense organs lack the ability to know Purusha, as it is not an object of any of the remaining 12 sense organs.

Samkhya Karika 37

Samkhya Karika 37 – Buddhi creates Experience for Purusha

All the other sense organs lack the capacity to analyze, discriminate, and rationalize the data collected by them from their objects and convert it into knowledge that can be transformed into experience of the object.

The eyes can sense a rose as a form (rupa) complete with its color and shape, nose can capture the smell of the rose, again bland data or information. Touch can collect the data about its texture. In order to know the rose one has to experience it which is done by Buddhi.

Intelligence (buddhi) which collects this raw data from the eyes, nose and the touch along with other senses transforms it into an experience of a rose as a whole. It will collate the entire data about the rose and use its discriminative powers, analyze the data so received and identify this collected information as a rose, of a particular color, shape, and smell.

This identification happens because unique knowledge about the object (rose) has been created by Buddhi. This collective knowledge will be presented to Purusha as an experience of that object (rose). The experience of good (satvik) objects will be good and the experience of bad objects (tamasic, rajasic) will be bad. Experiences can be pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful or ugly.

Thus, as per this sankhya karika text Buddhi has the ability to generate varied experiences and present them to the Purusha. That is the reason it is also known as the mirror to Purusha. The quality of Buddhi will determine the quality of the experience so created, it can alleviate the experience of rose into any form of poetic or aesthetic appeal.

Buddhi (intelligence) can distinguish between Prakriti and Purusha

As per Samkhya Philosophy Buddhi is the first evolute of Prakriti and is thus closest to Purusha in composition (subtleness). It has the maximum amount of consciousness and the minimum amount of matter by composition.

Buddhi is the only sense organ which can distinguish between Purusha and Prakriti, or tell them apart from each other. This knowledge is very significant as progress in spirituality is the progress from the gross (Prakriti) towards the subtlest (Purusha). In order to progress towards Purusha one need to first understand that Purusha nd Prakriti are different entities.

Normally, human body represents the Matter, or Prakriti part of the evolution. All the sensations, pleasures and pains are experienced at the physical or body level. Majority of the times, for ordinary humans Buddhi remains entangled in these pains and pleasures only, that is Prakriti.

No other sense organ (jnanendriya or karmendriya) has the capacity, ability to identify, or know Purusha as a separate entity from Prakriti. All these sense organs form a part of Prakriti and remain engrossed in Prakriti (matter) only. Moreover, in the chain of evolution of Prakriti also these sense organs are farthest from Purusha, thus they cannot know Purusha at any level.

It is the Buddhi which has the ability to know Prakriti and Purusha as separate entities and how and why one must remove all the shackles of matter , Prakriti and progress towards experiencing Purusha, the pure consciousness.

Purusha being the subtlest can hardly be known by other senses, and one is forced to take the material body as the only reality of one’s existence. Only Buddhi can know the existence of Purusha (the subtlest of all) through its judiciousness, discrimination, logic, and rationality.

Once Buddhi has established this distinction, all the other sense organs can be tuned, or directed towards satvik tendencies in order to leave the grossness of matter behind and embrace the subtleness of Purusha.

Buddhi, Intelligence is the Principal sense organ

It is only Buddhi which can actually look at matter from outside and separately identify the mind, ego, and all the other sense organ. The need for freeing oneself from the shackles of matter (Prakriti) can only be identified by the rationality of Buddhi.

Intelligence is what can know that fact that Yoga Sadhana can help calm the every engrossing movements in the pleasures of the material world. Only then can one think of reversing the path of evolution of Prakriti which moves towards grosser matter and the addictive sensations associated with it.

Most of the knowledge we gather is tamasic in nature as it does not involve Buddhi to a large extent. If used properly Buddhi has the capacity to generate the real knowledge. A famous Indian saint, Kabir, was madly in love with his wife because he was living at the mental level where emotions operate, the mind level.

Ones his wife sarcastically mentioned to him that if he would have used his Buddhi and directed his attention towards God, or realization of Purusha, with the same Zeal he would have achieved it by then. This made the saint sit and think on the comment so made, or involved his Buddhi and now turned his attention towards the path of liberation from material world (love for his wife) and finally achieved it.