List Of Contents | Contents of An Introduction to Yoga
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

know that book fairly well, who use it as the book to help in the
spiritual life, who are not familiar with most of its precepts.
But you must always be more or less in a fog in reading it,
unless you realise the fact that it is founded on a particular
Indian philosophy and that the meaning of nearly all the
technical words in it is practically limited by their meaning in
philosophy known as the Samkhya. There are certain phrases
belonging rather to the Vedanta, but the great majority are
Samkhyan, and it is taken for granted that the people reading or
using the book are familiar with the outline of the Samkhyan
philosophy. I do not want to take you into details, but I must
give you the leading ideas of the philosophy. For if you grasp
these, you will not only read your Bhagavad-Gita with much more
intelligence than before, but you will be able to use it
practically for yogic purposes in a way that, without this
knowledge, is almost impossible.

Alike in the Bhagavad-Gita and in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali
the terms are Samkhyan, and historically Yoga is based on the
Samkhya, so far as its philosophy is concerned. Samkhya does not
concern itself with, the existence of Deity, but only with the
becoming of a universe, the order of evolution. Hence it is often
called Nir-isvara Samkhya, the Samkhya without God. But so
closely is it bound up with the Yoga system, that the latter is
called Sesvara Samkhya, with God. For its understanding,
therefore, I must outline part of the Samkhya philosophy, that
part which deals with the relation of Spirit and matter; note the
difference from this of the Vedantic conception of Self and
Not-Self, and then find the reconciliation in the Theosophic
statement of the facts in nature. The directions which fall from
the lips of the Lord of Yoga in the Gita may sometimes seem to
you opposed to each other and contradictory, because they
sometimes are phrased in the Samkhyan and sometimes in the
Vedantic terms, starting from different standpoints, one looking
at the world from the standpoint of matter, the other from the
standpoint of Spirit. If you are a student of Theosophy, then the
knowledge of the facts will enable you to translate the different
phrases. That reconciliation and understanding of these
apparently contradictory phrases is the object to which I would
ask your attention now.

The Samkhyan School starts with the statement that the universe
consists of two factors, the first pair of opposites, Spirit and
Matter, or more accurately Spirits and Matter. The Spirit is
called Purusha--the Man; and each Spirit is an individual.
Purusha is a unit, a unit of consciousness; they are all of the
same nature, but distinct everlastingly the one from the other.
Of these units there are many; countless Purushas are to be found
in the world of men. But while they are countless in number they
are identical in nature, they are homogeneous. Every Purusha has
three characteristics, and these three are alike in all. One
characteristic is awareness; it will become cognition. The second
of the characteristics is life or prana; it will become activity.
The third characteristic is immutability, the essence of
eternity; it will become will. Eternity is not, as some
mistakenly think, everlasting time. Everlasting time has nothing
to do with eternity. Time and eternity are two altogether
different things. Eternity is changeless, immutable,
simultaneous. No succession in time, albeit everlasting--if such
could be--could give eternity. The fact that Purusha has this
attribute of immutability tells us that He is eternal; for
changelessness is a mark of the eternal.

Such are the three attributes of Purusha, according to the
Samkhya. Though these are not the same in nomenclature as the
Vedantic Sat, Chit, Ananda, yet they are practically identical.
Awareness or cognition is Chit; life or force is Sat; and
immutability, the essence of eternity, is Ananda.

Over against these Purushas, homogeneous units, countless in
number, stands Prakriti, Matter, the second in the Samkhyan
duality. Prakriti is one; Purushas are many. Prakriti is a
continuum; Purushas are discontinuous, being innumerable,
homogeneous units. Continuity is the mark of Prakriti. Pause for
a moment on the name Prakriti. Let us investigate its root
meaning. The name indicates its essence. Pra means "forth," and
kri is the root "make". Prakriti thus means "forth-making ".
Matter is that which enables the essence of Being to become. That
which is Being--is-tence, becomes ex-is-tence--outbeing, by
Matter, and to describe Matter as "forth-making" is to give its
essence in a single word. Only by Prakriti can Spirit, or
Purusha, "forth-make" or "manifest" himself. Without the presence
of Prakriti, Purusha is helpless, a mere abstraction. Only by the
presence of, and in Prakriti, can Purusha make manifest his
powers. Prakriti has also three characteristics, the well-known
gunas--attributes or qualities. These are rhythm, mobility and
inertia. Rhythm enables awareness to become cognition. Mobility
enables life to become activity. Inertia enables immutability to
become will.

Now the conception as to the relation of Spirit to Matter is a
very peculiar one, and confused ideas about it give rise to many
misconceptions. If you grasp it, the Bhagavad-Gita becomes
illuminated, and all the phrases about action and actor, and the
mistake of saying "I act," become easy to understand, as implying
technical Samkhyan ideas.

The three qualities of Prakriti, when Prakriti is thought of as
away from Purusha, are in equilibrium, motionless, poised the one
against the other, counter-balancing and neutralizing each other,
so that Matter is called jada, unconscious, "dead". But in the
presence of Purusha all is changed. When Purusha is in
propinquity to Matter, then there is a change in Matter--not
outside, but in it.

Purusha acts on Prakriti by propinquity, says Vyasa. It comes
near Prakriti, and Prakriti begins to live. The "coming near" is
a figure of speech, an adaptation to our ideas of time and space,
for we cannot posit "nearness" of that which is timeless and
spaceless--Spirit. By the word propinquity is indicated an
influence exerted by Purusha on Prakriti, and this, where
material objects are concerned, would be brought about by their
propinquity. If a magnet be brought near to a piece of soft iron
or an electrified body be brought near to a neutral one, certain
changes are wrought in the soft iron or in the neutral body by
that bringing near. The propinquity of the magnet makes the soft
iron a magnet; the qualities of the magnet are produced in it, it
manifests poles, it attracts steel, it attracts or repels the end
of an electric needle. In the presence of a postively electrified
body the electricity in a neutral body is re-arranged, and the
positive retreats while the negative gathers near the electrified
body. An internal change has occurred in both cases from the
propinquity of another object. So with Purusha and Prakriti.
Purusha does nothing, but from Purusha there comes out an
influence, as in the case of the magnetic influence. The three
gunas, under this influence of Purusha, undergo a marvellous
change. I do not know what words to use, in order not to make a
mistake in putting it. You cannot say that Prakriti absorbs the
influence. You can hardly say that it reflects the Purusha. But
the presence of Purusha brings about certain internal changes,
causes a difference in the equilibrium of the three gunas in
Prakriti. The three gunas were in a state of equilibrium. No guna
was manifest. One guna was balanced against another. What happens
when Purusha influences Prakriti? The quality of awareness in
Purusha is taken up by, or reflected in, the guna called Sattva--
rhythm, and it becomes cognition in Prakriti. The quality that we
call life in Purusha is taken up by, or reflected, in the guna
called Rajas--mobility, and it becomes force, energy, activity,
in Prakriti. The quality that we call immutability in Purusha is
taken up by, or reflected, in the guna called Tamas--inertia, and
shows itself out as will or desire in Prakriti. So that, in that
balanced equilibrium of Prakriti, a change has taken place by the
mere propinquity of, or presence of, the Purusha. The Purusha has
lost nothing, but at the same time a change has taken place in
matter. Cognition has appeared in it. Activity, force, has
appeared in it. Will or desire has appeared in it. With this
change in Prakriti another change occurs. The three attributes of
Purusha cannot be separated from each other, nor can the three
attributes of Prakriti be separated each from each. Hence rhythm,
while appropriating awareness, is under the influence of the
whole three-in-one Purusha and cannot but also take up
subordinately life and immutability as activity and will. And so
with mobility and inertia. In combinations one quality or another
may predominate, and we may have combinations which show
preponderantly awareness-rhythm, or life- mobility, or
immutability-inertia. The combinations in which awareness-rhythm
or cognition predominates become "mind in nature," the subject or
subjective half of nature. Combinations in which either of the
other two predominates become the object or objective half of
nature, the " force and matter " of the western scientist.[FN#7:
A friend notes that the first is the Suddha Sattva of the
Ramanuja School, and the second and third the Prakriti, or
spirit-matter, in the lower sense of the same.]

We have thus nature divided into two, the subject and the object.
We have now in nature everything that is wanted for the
manifestation of activity, for the production of forms and for
the expression of consciousness. We have mind, and we have force
and matter. Purusha has nothing more to do, for he has infused
all powers into Prakriti and sits apart, contemplating their
interplay, himself remaining unchanged. The drama of existence is
played out within Matter, and all that Spirit does is to look at
it. Purusha is the spectator before whom the drama is played. He

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: