“Nature and the living entities are sometimes designated as prakriti and purusha respectively. The whole cosmic manifestation is an amalgamation of the prakriti and purusha. Nature is the ingredient cause, and the living entities are the effective cause. These two causes combine together, and the effect is this cosmic manifestation.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 32)
Who are we, really? Does the nation of origin identify us? Is it the ethnicity inherited from the parents? What should be our purpose? Make money? Start a family? What if that is not enough? What is religion, really?
Going beyond mere faith, in the preliminary stage of understanding the Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition emanating from the place today known as India, there is the basic combination. One and two. The first and the second. Paired together, the individual begins to understand not only themselves, but every living thing around them, as well.
1. Spirit and matter
The basic difference. The fundamental dividing line. The determining point between life and death. The start is spirit. It is inexhaustible. It is even beyond time, in both directions. Never was there a time that the soul did not exist, nor will it ever cease to be.
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
Matter has the same source, but its properties are different. It doesn’t stay manifest in the same way forever. Put the two together, spirit and matter, and you get a living being.
2. The enjoyer and the enjoyed
The two Sanskrit words are purusha and prakriti. Spirit at the individual level is the enjoyer. Matter is what spirit enjoys, though the mentality is in illusion. Purusha also means “male” and prakriti “female.”
3. A person and the material elements covering them
Purusha also refers to a person and prakriti the vessel in which the person resides. This vessel is composed of material elements, both gross and subtle.
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
The material elements are mistakenly used for identification, but there is change. I may look different in a few years. Also, just because my skin has a certain pigmentation doesn’t make me any different on the inside in comparing those with a different bodily complexion.
4. The constant factor and the ever-changing one
The spirit inside stays the same. Prior to birth, after death, and everything occurring in between – the soul is our true identity. The outside can change both within the present lifetime and afterwards, when a new body arrives, replacing the one discarded.
The sober-minded person, dhira, is not bewildered by such changes. Only the less intelligent lament so quickly at the loss of the covering. That factor was always due to change, and deep down acknowledgement of the fact is there. Yet when it happens in the full form, when death arrives, it is difficult to understand that the soul has left, as the departure can’t be measured by blunt instruments.
5. The living being and the dull and lifeless substance on top
The presence of that soul is what determines the presence of life. As soon as the soul exits, the same body that was moments prior full of life no longer is so. This means that it was the soul all along which was important. It was the spiritual element that really mattered. The body was nothing more than a set of clothes.
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
The presentation of these different combinations is vitally important when moving forward. The person armed with knowledge, jnana, has the potential for practically realizing, vijnana. From there the opportunity arises to find an occupation that matches the needs of the soul, which is what really matters.
Genuine spiritual life is for the individual inside and not the temporary body. In the highest platform of understanding, the matter is viewed as auspicious, as well, since it is the vessel by which service to the Divine can take place. It is the gift from God, so to speak, to allow the practice of devotional service, indicated by joyful engagements like the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Knowledge of spiritual life to you,
By presentation of concepts two.
Purusha and prakriti existing,
One temporary, the other persisting.
Like living being with something covering,
Inside same despite future change hovering.
Armed with knowledge the upper hand,
That into better future to land.
Categories: the five