The next question from Arjuna that Krishna answers is `What are Purusha and Prakriti?’ The terms `Purusha’ and `Prakrit’ are used very often in Sankhya philosophy. There is a great difference in Sankhya and Vedanta. They appear similar, but, in Sankhya, there is no idea of God at all. Here, Krishna uses the words Purusha and Prakriti as equal to Brahman and Maya, he does not use it in the pure Sankhya sense. In fact, this is how the terms Purusha and Prakriti are used in Vedantic lieterature and the Upanishads. In Sankhya, the Purusha is taken as finite and many, and Prakriti is taken as one, and Purusha and Prakriti are equally real. Therefore, one’s finitude will always remain with the person regardless of the level of understanding of Purusha and Prakriti.
In Vedanta, though, Purusha is taken as one and Prakriti or Maya is also taken as one but is apparent. Therefore, it is not a separate reality. But, for the sake of understanding, we will say that all that is manifested is Prakriti, and that which is Real, the Awareness-Existence, is Purusha. Therefore, from the standpoint of Purusha, I’m the one that illumines everything, the one that is aware of everything. From the standpoint of Prakriti, it makes one appear as a finite being, makes one a bhog-ta, an enjoyer, an experience of life and also a doer. But the doership and enjoyer-ship that is attributed to one as a person, because of Maya or Prakriti, is apparent, is only a role one is playing. It is Prakriti that is manifest as the mind, body etc. A person functions through that, but, remember, the Reality behind Prakriti, the Reality behind the mind, body, etc., is one Existence-Awareness. Therefore, this Purusha and Prakriti are only to help us understand what is changing and what is changeless. Prakriti itself is a manifestation of Purusha in Vedanta whereas it is a separate entity in Sankhya philosophy.
Krishna ends by saying, `Hey, if you understand what is Purusha and Prakriti, and if you understand that Purusha is real and it is Awareness, which is the real entity, and Prakriti is only a manifestation and is apparent, then you are freed from bondage’. One finds oneself in bondage because one takes oneself to be other than what one really is. Identified with Prakriti, I take myself to be one who has all the qualities of the body and mind, and as I identify with the body and mind, I say I’m a finite entity. The moment I understand what I am, the finitude is gone. When the wave identifies itself with its form, it feels finite. The moment it discovers that it is really the water that makes up the whole ocean, it finds itself freed from the limitations of being a wave. The finitude only becomes a role that I’m playing through my body and mind, the role of a human being. I don’t even say I’m a human being, I say I’m all-pervading awareness playing the role of a human being. That is, of course, in this lifetime….In my previous life, I might have been something else…To know that all you’re playing is a role is the ultimate freedom Vedanta talks about.
Later, in verse 26, Krishna says, `Since the problem is one of ignorance, the solution for this has to be in terms of knowledge.’ Therefore, to cross over this problem of samsara—our existential problems– one has to know the truth. This is what is popularly presented as Jnana-yoga or Sankhya-yoga. In the second chapter, Krishna uses the word `sankhya’ in the sense of `knowledge’. If you break up the word `sankhya’ in Sanskrit, it is `samyak’, `khyati’ i.e. `clear-cut’, ` understanding’. Therefore, he says, those who know the truth will be free. But he also adds that some people will require meditation. Why? Because the mind is not integrated enough as a result of which the knowledge that one has doesn’t flow in his or her day-to-day life. One has the problems of old conditioning, etc., and to be able to break these conditionings, to own up what one knows one has to support one’s knowledge with some meditation. As we have seen in earlier posts on meditation, I give the example of making the Indian sweet, the rossogolla. First you make the ball and then you soak it in the sugar syrup until the sugar permeates the golla, and then it becomes a nice, proper rossogolla. Similarly, I have to immerse myself in this knowledge via meditation. In this case, meditation is not merely about quietening the mind, etc., in meditation here I am owning up the knowledge, I’m repeating the knowledge. Another term for meditation in this literature is `jnana abhyasa’, the repetition of knowledge…Not practice, but repetition so that the knowledge permeates the meditator.
Krishna also says that some people may have to support it with a life of karma-yoga, because the mind may not be ready and one may be too full of one’s likes and dislikes, etc. Or there are too many things that one wants and, hence, one can’t discover that one is ananda because one is too busy seeking ananda in those objects of desire. Therefore, one has to live a life fulfilling one’s desires with a proper attitude so that one becomes bigger than his or her desires. The process of fulfilling one’s desires and working towards them but not getting them or getting them can actually help one grow out of one’s desires.. Whether one’s desires are fulfilled or not fulfilled, one grows out of one’s desires. That’s the lifestyle of karma-yoga which has been explained before.
In the 24th verse, he makes it clear—get it by knowledge, supported by meditation or, if necessary, support it with a lifestyle of karma-yoga. But get it, he says. That’s all that matters. One who does this is free. If your mind is ready, he says, you will become free even if you hear it indirectly. You may not be a seeker, but your mind may be ready, and even if you overhear it you could become free.
Kshetra and Kshetrajna (the Knower and the Known), Purusa and Prakriti, they are identical. All that is there, says Krishna, is a manifestation of Kshetra and Kshetrajna or Purusa and Prakriti or Brahaman and Maya. You can use any term, they all mean the same as far as Vedic wisdom is concerned. One who recognizes this is free from Samsara.
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