Showing posts with label Purusha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Purusha. Show all posts



Natural occurrences would have observable causes. 

During what Karl Jaspers regards to as the Axial Age (Jaspers 1955, 1–6), alternative and nontheistic perspectives of yogic philosophy emerged. 

A new method of conceptualizing reality blossomed about the eighth–second centuries BCE, as shown by pre-Socratic thinkers in Greece and Kapila and the Buddha in the Indian subcontinent. 

During this time, the idea that the universe might be cognitively studied and its unfolding probed in ways that would expose its workings by proven methods began to take shape. 

The exclusive way of construing reality was no longer deemed religious dogma. 

For example, Milesian pre-Socratics attempted to characterize reality as a primeval, indivisible oneness from which natural phenomena emerged. 

Water and air, according to Thales and Anaximenes, were the fundamental components from which everything was created. 

Anaximander envisioned this oneness as the apeiron, a boundless creature with no boundaries, an early articulation of infinity in both space and time. 

Heraclitus (of Ephesus, who disagreed with the Milesians) contended that it was not a substance, but rather an ever-changing process, and that one cannot walk into the same river again since various waters pass past. 

These pre-Socratics contributed to the study of natural, rather than supernatural, events as a method of comprehending the nature of reality, something that subsequent Greek philosophy developed and continues to grow. 

In his book The Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas summarizes the pre-Socratic Greek philosophy as two philosophic strands: Platonic and Aristotelian (Tarnas 1991, 69–71). 

The Platonic uses reason to discover hidden/mystical truths and assumes an ordered world, which analysis reveals as a timeless order that is both rational and mythic. 

The Aristotelian places a premium on what the five senses can detect, and insists that theoretical knowledge be tested against actual reality. 

The mythical and supernatural - intangible otherworld realities – are left out of causal theories. 

One of the dynamic conflicts here is between the Platonic tendency's theoretical assumption of "mystical truths" and the Aristotelian rejection of "undemonstrable otherworld realities." The following instances support the claim that yoga is an aesthetic philosophy that uses physical techniques to perceive reality. 

Consider the magnificence of the stars or planets in the sky, such as Venus. 

In the darkness or early dawn, there it is – named for a god — obviously blazing brighter than the others. 

"Ah certainly, an example of beauty," the Platonic perspective may go, "but not one that truly epitomizes the total ideal of beauty." 

We can, however, calculate the exact trajectory of its path through the sky using mathematical formulae and conclude that these formulae reveal a profound structure of elegant and knowable harmony to be found in this natural phenomenon that can be extrapolated to larger or smaller structures – that the nature of the universe and of beauty can be found in this exactitude." 

  • "It is glowing the way it does in the twilit sky because the atmosphere is 'just so' on this occasion and it is being viewed from a particular vantage point – its beauty lies in a combination of many factors that create the unique way it appears on this occasion," according to the Aristotelian viewpoint. 
  • If we replace Venus with a yoga student performing a posture or sequence, a Platonic teacher might be looking to see if it conforms to their ideal of the form (its "sacred geometry"), while an Aristotelian might be looking to see what factors are causing it to happen as it does on this particular occasion (the warmth of the room and the student's physical anatomy). 

In both situations, the description of the facts is intended to bring the analysis back to a broader scale. 

According to one viewpoint, there are exact alignments of bodily parts and other elements that suggest to a comprehension and agreement with a Platonic "mystical plane - a melody of the spheres." 

The other argues that this is an Aristotelian phenomena – a one-of-a-kind event – and that an explanation of reality may be found in the sum of the specifics of the experience. 

While pre-Socratic thinkers debated the nature of fundamental material and process, the Vedic sage Kapila posited prakriti and purusha as two types of existence. 

Prakriti is essentially "matter," or the stuff/substance that gives "being" to anything. 

Prakriti's nature as "matter" is ephemeral — it is always changing, disintegrating and reassembling itself – a perpetual atomistic modification. 

Purusha, on the other hand, is regarded as unchanging, although it is more difficult to define - however it has been referred to as "spirit" or "awareness" in the vernacular. 

It's impossible to say what Kapila could have interpreted purusha to be in his cultural context, but current conceptions of purusha include the notion that a person's spirit is completely separate from their physical body and attempt to account for both its immateriality and actuality. 

The term "potential" is used to characterize this in the study that follows. 

It's real since it's feasible (not impossible), but it's irrelevant because it hasn't happened yet. 

This corresponds to the pre-Socratics' fascination with cause and consequence. 

This gives a method to look at cause and effect, similar to the proto science of the pre-Socratics; the activities conducted in prakriti5 turn the potential contained in purusha into material actuality. 

If water were heated, it would change to steam; heat brought it into existence; nevertheless, water could not be turned into blood because blood is not something that is latent in purusha; it does not exist as a potentiality - it is not actual. 

There are those who object to the term "potentiality" being used to describe purusha. 

Purusha has traditionally been defined as "pure consciousness" (the "spirit" or "person" that is a passive property of living organisms), a simply inactive observer, an indifferent condition, irreducible, without attributes, and free from contact with prakriti. 

It's something buddhi (intelligence) can't understand since, being a highly developed aspect of prakriti, it can only understand other elements of prakriti. 

Furthermore, the only way to know this "pure awareness" is to completely conquer existence – or, if understood literally, to die and be reborn. 

It is difficult to scientifically confirm the condition of purusha via prakriti. 

Traditionalists may also be perplexed as to how "potentiality" explains an irreducible "I" - a type of passive spectator who is eternal and unaltered, everlasting consciousness. 

It may be hard to accurately define this "reality" using words (buddhi products) and precision. 

Nonetheless, the idea of "potentiality" serves as a beginning point for current yoga practitioners seeking to comprehend the nature of "pure consciousness."

Potentiality satisfies a number of the purusha-assigned requirements. 

It makes no difference whether or not potential is realized. 

It is merely a fact that it may happen, but it has no desire to do so. 

It is unattached as an endless immensity of amorphous chance - it cannot promote or affect its own emergence. 

That is the function of "cause" in prakriti. It is irreducible because it lacks substance. 

Because each "person" or "spirit's" fundamental "I" is irreducible, it shares this reality with all "persons" or "spirits," therefore even if a person dies, its essentiality lives on. 

In this sense, pure awareness would be eternal. 

Though concept is applied to living entities in Samkhya philosophy, it is not unreasonable to believe that the same potentiality may be applied to inanimate objects. 

Purusha is a genuine being that is neither material nor geographically nor temporally confined. 

"Potential" satisfies these criteria.

References & Further Reading: 

Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Sri Srimad and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya, 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, 2015.

Birch, Jason. “The proliferation of asana-s in late-medieval yoga texts.” In Yoga and transformation historical and contemporary perspectives, edited by Karl Baier, Philipp A. Maas, and Karin Preisendanz, 101–180. Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The dance of Siva: essays on Indian art and culture.
New York: Dover, 1985.

Cooper, David E. “Introduction.” In Aesthetics: the classic readings, edited by David E. Cooper, 1–10. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga immortality and freedom, translated by Willard R. Trask. 
Princeton: Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, 1958.

Herbermann, Charles, ed. “The Absolute.” In Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

Jakubczak, Marzenna. “The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāmkhya-Yoga.” Argument, vol. 4 (January, 2014): 55–68.

Jaspers, Karl. The origin and goal of history, translated by Michael Bullock. London: Routledge, 1955.

Johnson, Williams J., translator. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis-Williams, David and David Pearce. Inside the neolithic mind. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Mallinson, James and Mark Singleton. Roots of yoga. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.

McGilchrist, Iain. The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale, 2009.

Rama, Swami. The science of breath. Delhi: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1979.

Rama, Swami. Sacred journey: living purposefully and dying gracefully. Delhi: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.

Rees, Martin. Our cosmic habitat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Sinh, Pancham. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Sanskrit text with English translation. New 
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1915.

Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as it was: rediscovering the original Bhagavad Gita. LaSalle: Open Court, 1986.

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Tarnas, Richard. The passion of the Western mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. London: Pimlico, 1991.

Vasu, Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra, translators. Siva Samhita. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1914–15.

Hinduism - Who Is Purusha In Hindu Samkhya Philosophy?

 ("individual") One of the Samkhya philosophical school's two essential initial principles, the other being prakrti ("nature").

The dual concepts of purusha and prakrti—roughly, spirit and nature—are the source of all things, according to Samkhya, an atheistic philosophical dualism.

Purusha is said to be cognizant, yet passive and unchangeable.

It is both a passive observer of the numerous prakrti transitions taking place around it and a source of consciousness.

Purusha is a term that refers to a person's actual Self (atman).

Given the multiplicity of aware beings and the reality that one individual may achieve complete enlightenment while the others remain in slavery, purusha is assumed to be numerous.

The ultimate root of bondage, according to the Samkhyas, is people's incapacity to discern between purusha and prakrti, and their identification of the Self with the latter rather than the former.

Samkhya, edited by Gerald Larson and Ram Shankar Bhattacharya, was published in 1987, and A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, was published in 1957.

You may also want to read more about Hinduism here.

Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.