Samkhya’s Philosophical Anthropology

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We have already begun to understand the relationship between prakriti and purusha in Samkhya philosophy. When the three gunas were balanced, prakriti was undisturbed and in a state of prakriti-pradhana, a state of original purity and lack of defilement. It was not until purusha approached prakriti that suffering emerged. When purusha activated prakriti through this approached, the “great principle”, known as the “buddhi” or “awakened intelligence,” arose. This is also known as “Mahat,” a form of intuition or cognition that is nevertheless not explicable in terms of consciousness as we understand it.

Mahat possesses a great deal of intelligence and brilliance, causing us to mistake it for consciousness, which belongs to purusha alone, particularly in its state prior to its contact with prakriti. Buddhi, an analytic intelligence responsible for individuation, produces ahamkara, which is the ego. This creates an individuated sense of self or ego, which sees itself as purusha. A helpful analogy would involve the driver of a car as purusha, and the car as ahamkara, which does not realize it is driven by something else, and thinks it is in charge. Duality arises at the level of ahamkara, specifically, subject (The “I”) and object (the world). This individuation results in separation. The ahamkara in turn produces the manas or mind, with its ten senses (indriyas). The manas is the lower mind or “eleventh sense.” It is the mind that is preoccupied with spacetime.