Taking The Mystery Out of Yoga

By Gretchen Karros

Early Indian Philosophy – Prakrati and Purusha
In earlier articles about Yoga we have addressed Vedanta, Ayurveda, Patanjali, Prana and many other areas of Hinduism. This article goes a little deeper into the primal source of the philosophy of Prakrati and Purusha.. This short article may enlighten you a little about the difference between the Christian version of God and the Hindu perspective.

When Patanjali (ca. 200 c.e.?) was composing his “Sutras” he chose one of six philosophical schools called Samkhya as his basic philosophy. At that time these schools were called “Darshanas” because they were all following the ancient scriptures called the “Vedas” and the “Upanishads”, the early sayings of the Rishis and Pandits from the beginning of scriptures, even before there was a written language.

The school of Samkhya argued for an ultimate distinction between two major principles which were:
1) Prakrati, the principal of primal matter or nature. The “Bhagavad Gita” is part of a very long epic poem called the ”Mahabharata”. By the end of the poem the Goddess Devi rises to central importance, representing the creative power of Prakriti along with two other Gods, Vishnu and Shiva. Even today “The :Bhagavad Gita” is a very important part of this poem because of its moral and spiritual principles.

2) The second principle is Purusha meaning eternal pure consciousness, or the ultimate self. This is similar to Brahman, the inner source of all, the One. the Real. Samkhya was a dualistic system between pure nature (Prakrati) and pure spirit (Parusha) transcendent consciousness. The problem with this is that the embodied mind mistakes itself for Purusha, which causes bondage and the samsara cycle. (no escape from the birth/death cycle) The goal of yogic practice is to disentangle Purusha from the material self and mind to bring about Moksha or Liberation – freeing people from samsara, an endless round of birth and death.

It wasn’t until much later (788 – 830 c. e.) with the philosophy of Shankara, who was an enlightened spiritual master who brought in the idea of “Advueta”.. He called his system a Non-dualistic Vedanta School. Shankara stated that there was only Brahman, the ground of being without qualities and unchanging. This put Brahman as being identical with Atman (soul). His system is based on “Advaita” (meaning non-dualist) and it is also called “Vedanta” – meaning, the end of the Vedas (because the old law didn’t apply any longer.)

“Try not to become a man (or woman!) of success, but rather, a man of value”.
— Albert Einstein

For more information please contact Gretchen Karros at gretchen.karros@gmail.com

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