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Prakriti of Sāmkhya Yoga and the Parā Prakriti of Krishna
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
30 reads

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च |

अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा || 4||

bhūmir-āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva cha

ahankāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛitir aṣhṭadhā

This prakriti of mine is divided eightfold thus; earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intellect, and also egoism.

~ Chapter 7, Verse 4

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अपरेयमितस्त्वन्यां प्रकृतिं विद्धि मे पराम् |

जीवभूतां महाबाहो ययेदं धार्यते जगत् || 5||

apareyam itas tvanyāṁ prakṛitiṁ viddhi me parām

jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

O mighty armed one, this is the inferior prakriti, Aparā Prakriti. Know the other prakriti of mine, which however is higher than this which has taken the form of individual souls and by which this world is upheld.

~ Chapter 7, Verse 5

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Acharya Prashant (AP): So, he says all these eight should be known as lower Prakriti, inferior Prakriti, Aparā Prakriti. And then there is that which is Prakriti, however, higher than these eight elements of the lower Prakriti. All these should be known; the eight lower elements, plus the higher element of Prakriti.

Questioner (Q): When I compare these two verses with Sāmkhya Darshan, then all the elements stated under the Prakriti of Sāmkhya are listed as Aparā Prakriti. Please help me understand what is Parā Prakriti and how is it different from Shri Krishna or Brahma?

AP: That which watches. That which watches is the Parā Prakriti. The audience would remember, yesterday we were talking of Kṣetra and Kṣetragya.

All that which can be seen is Aparā Prakriti.

The one who sees is Parā Prakriti.

What is then the essence of Krishna or Brahma or Ātmān? That which neither sees nor can be seen, but within which, in the light of which all seeing happens. Are you getting it? Is that clear?

Often we mistake Parā Prakriti with the witness. Therefore, we use words like “I am witnessing my activities”. The witness is one who is not at all interested in seeing anything.

So, when we generally use the term witness, what we are actually referring to is just Parā Prakriti. And what is the Parā Prakriti? It is nothing but the seeing consciousness. What is to be remembered here, what is to be noted here is that even seeing is a form of participation. Even seeing involves intent. And where there is intent, there one is a participant; one is not a witness.

In spiritual terms, the witness is not the one who sees something.

In spiritual terms, the witness is the one who does not see anything.

In spiritual terms, the witness is one who is not at all interested in seeing anything.

In spiritual terms, the witness is one apart from which nothing else exists. Therefore, what is the question of seeing something beyond itself, seeing something other than itself? Are you getting it?

So, generally all that which you mean by the witness is merely Parā Prakriti. If all that which we usually mean by the witness is just Parā Prakriti, what is the witness then? That which holds no meaning; that which you cannot talk of; that which you cannot even refer to. Are you getting it? Come back to the basics.

So, pṛthvī, agni, jala, vāyu, ākāśa; the five classical elements plus mana, buddhi, ahaṃkāra. All this is Aparā Prakriti. Why? Because all these can be...?

Q: Seen.

AP: Seen. All these are the objects of the seeing consciousness. If you want to see, can’t you see your own ego? When I often say, “Watch yourself,” does it not involve watching the ego as well?

When you watch outside the limits of your body, when you see something that is beyond your body, then what do you see? You see the entire expanse of pṛthvī, agni, jala, vāyu, ākāśa, the five elements, right? And equally, when I say, “Watch yourself,” then what do you see? You see the entire expanse of mana, buddhi and ahaṃkāra.

But what is common between these five plus three? All of them are available to be seen. And it’s a good spiritual practice to watch all of them. Observation, no?

Looking outside, you watch the first five. Looking within yourself, when you look at the processes of the mind, you watch the other three. Who is the one who watches all three? Not the Ātmān. Who is the one who watches these three plus five, all eight?

Q: Parā Prakriti.

AP: The Parā Prakriti. The Parā Prakriti too is mind. The Parā Prakriti you can call as the seeing consciousness. Shri Krishna says, Parā Prakriti is that which illumines the bodies of all. By that he refers to the shining consciousness within all of us; that consciousness which can see, that consciousness which illuminates everything, and therefore, watches everything.

Now, out of these eight elements of Aparā Prakriti, which ones are easier to watch?

Q: The ones outside?

AP: Right, the ones that are outside, outside the body. They are the easiest to watch. So, even the eight elements of Aparā Prakriti can be divided into two. The first five, they are easier to watch.

So, when I say, “Observe,” usually people begin with observing the game of the first five, so they’ll say, “We are watching that, we are watching that; something is happening there, something there,” all these things. All this is about watching the interplay of the first five classical elements.

Then, as your power to observe increases, as you become more penetrative, then what do you start watching? The next three, mana, buddhi, ahaṃkāra, as well. Then you start watching, “Oh, I know what is going on,” right? And who is the one who watches? The Kṣetragya, the Parā Prakriti, right? None of these is Brahmatattva or Ātmān or Sākṣī. We’ll not conflate that. That is beyond, not to be talked of. Clear?

So, that was the question, “Please help me understand what is Parā Prakriti and how is it different from Brahma?”

It’s a good question to ask because often people mistake Parā Prakriti for Brahma; they mistake the seer for the witness. There is a difference between seeing and witnessing. In spirituality, the witness does not even...?

Q: See.

AP: See. In spirituality, the witness does not even see because even seeing carries a certain intent, a desire. Therefore, I’m saying the seer cannot be a witness because the seer becomes some kind of a participant; the seer develops a relationship; the seer is in engagement. And the witness can be in no engagement.

Don’t you see that the Kṣetragya is defined with respect to the Kṣetra? So there obviously is an engagement. There is the Kṣetra, and the very name of the Kṣetragya is, “one who knows the Kṣetra”. Therefore, there is an obvious relationship.

The witness cannot enter into a relationship with anything. Ātmān is asaṃgha. Asaṃgha means it can never have a relationship with anything, whereas the Kṣetragya has a definite relationship with Kṣetra. Clear? So, that’s the difference.

What moves into Krishna, Kṣetra or Kṣetragya? The Kṣetragya moves into Krishna, right?

How does the Kṣetragya move into Krishna? By watching the Kṣetra and finding itself less and less with respect to Kṣetra. The Kṣetragya is related to Kṣetra only as long as happenings in the Kṣetra are of interest to the Kṣetragya. As long as happenings in the Kṣetra are of interest to the Kṣetragya, the Kṣetragya, mind you, will keep changing as per the happenings in Kṣetra.

Therefore, the Kṣetragya is being defined by the Kṣetra. The Kṣetragya, as long as he is engaged with the Kṣetra, will be defined by the Kṣetra. The Kṣetragya moves closer to Krishna by having progressively less and less to do with Kṣetra. When the watching starts losing its purposefulness, then watching starts turning into witnessing. And that’s the way the watcher, the seer moves from his engagement with the seen to his submergence into Krishna.

Watch, but without intent.

Watch, but have very little to do with what you are watching.

That’s the way the Kṣetragya rises above the Kṣetra and moves up and up and sublimates into Krishna.

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