What is Prakriti and Purusha? – Cause of Rebirth & Samsara – Nature of Self (146)


Lesson 146 shows difference between purusha and prakriti, a necessity for self-inquiry into nature of Self. Logic of Rebirth & Samsara. Why jnani doesn't get reborn. How creation comes.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.


  • VERSE 15:
    • Jñeyam is:
      1. Outside and inside.
        • EG: Pot exists in space, but IN space there are no pots. Inside and outside space is only in reference to pot. Similarly all beings exist in jñeyam-Knower, but IN the Knower, there are no beings nor any attributes.
      2. Moving and unmoving.
      3. Far and near.
        • What is the nearest of the nearest, which has no nearer? Is it tree? Tree is only near in reference to something farther. Screen? Near in ref to wall behind it. Your nose? Near in ref to toe.
        • I am the nearest of the nearest. “I AM” not near in reference to something else. But something else is near in reference to Me.
        • The moment something is not the nearest of the nearest, it immediately becomes an object-of-knowledge.
  • VERSE 16: Jñeyam is undivided, yet appears divided. Jñeyam takes role of manifestor, sustainer, dissolver.
    • EG: Our experience proves it because every thought modification undergoes these 3 stages.
  • VERSE 17: Jñeyam is the light of all lights.
    • Light & darkness are perceived by the eyes. Relative knowledge & ignorance is perceived by the mind.
    • While jñeyam-Knower illumines both. Meaning: darkness & light / knowledge & ignorance.
  • VERSE 18: Who is fit for knowledge of jñeyam? My devotees.
  • Topic of jñeyam is over. Verse 19-23 addresses prakṛti/puruṣaḥ.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 19:

prakṛtim puruṣam ca eva viddhi anādī ubhāu api ।
vikārān ca guṇān ca eva viddhi prakṛti-sambhavān ॥ 13-19 ॥

May you know that both prakṛti and puruṣa are beginningless. May you also know that modifications and qualities (of things) are born of prakṛti.

  • SHORT: Prakṛti & puruṣa are cause of everything. Discussed V19-23.
  • Definition:
    • Matter: kṣetram, prakṛti.
    • Consciousness principle: kṣetrajña, jñeyam, brahman, puruṣa.
  • Prakṛti:
    • From standpoint of entire creation, is called māyā. It causes multiplicity (mithyā). Meaning projects infinite duality out of sat-cit.
      • What does duality mean?
        • Red is not yellow. And yellow is not red. Man is not woman, and woman is not man.
        • Each manifestation enjoys it’s individuality (distinct form/purpose/shape/size/function), but not individuality of another. Yet all are modifications of the same brahman.
    • From standpoint of individual, this same prakṛti accounts for beginningless ignorance (since prakṛti is beginningless).
  • prakṛtim puruṣam ca eva viddhi anādī ubhāu api: Two principles (prakṛtim / puruṣam) that make up all-that-is. Their mixture is called: Īśvara.
    • Hence Īśvara = Brahman obtaining in-and-through His creative power (prakṛti / māyā).
    • So māyā is to Brahman as waves are to water. Potential for waves always exists in water. When potential manifests; what we observe is “Entire OCEAN of waves” (Īśvara).
  • Common/uncommon features of Puruṣa & Prakṛti:
    • 2 Common:
      1. Both never began at some point. There is no, “Once upon a time, there was no māyā”.
      2. Both together, CAUSE the universe. Like father/mother > son.
    • 4 Uncommon:
Purusha: Consciousness-principle. Cetana-tattvam. Prakriti/maya: Matter (gross and subtle). Includes (any form of) energy. Acetana-tattvam.
Purusha: Not subject to change. Meaning free of time, because only things in time change. Nirvikāra-tattvam. Prakriti: Subject to time, cause-effect… hence change. Savikāra-tattvam.
Purusha: Attribute-free. Nirguṇa-tattvam. Prakriti: Endowed with countless attributes determined by mixture of 3 guṇas (CH14). Models: 3 guṇās, 5 elements, Periodic table. Saguṇa-tattvam.
Purusha: Independent existence. It doesn’t borrow existence from elsewhere. Existence is intrinsic to Puruṣa. Satyam-tattvam. Prakriti: Does not have independent existence. Borrows existence-consciousness from PuruṣaMithyā-tattvam.
  • PRAKṚTI IS ALL WORLDS: If puruṣa doesn’t undergo changes, then all changes MUST occur at level of prakṛti. Because they’re the only 2 options. Meaning time-space-universe (subject to change) must’ve EVOLVED out of prakṛti, all the while puruṣa remains as it always did… throughout beginningless cycle of creations.
    • How does the universe EVOLVE?
      • Like anything else throughout the universe. As above, so below. Meaning, the effect ALWAYS inheres traits from it’s cause. EG: Parents > offspring.
        • EG:
          1. Seed (causal state) > sprout (subtle state) > plant/tree (gross state)
          2. Birth of baby: potential for offspring (causal state) > intention/desire (subtle) > fertilization > embryo > fetus (gross).
          3. Deep sleep (causal) > Dream (subtle) > Waking (gross).
          4. Jīva: Gross > Subtle > Causal body.
      • According to Vedic model:
        • Out of potential, arose the 5 subtle elements (tanmātras) > Mixed (using formula called pañcīkaraṇa; explained in Tattva Boda)  to form 5 gross elements.
        • Then came template for the 14 lokās:
          • Worlds are created to accommodate countless jīvas based on their previous cycle’s puṇya-pāpam.
        • Then galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets… plants, jīva
  • How do we show your gross body is prakṛti?
    • It’s subject to change. Made of elements (carbon) also found everywhere else in universe.
  • How do we show your subtle mind is prakṛti?
    • Mind’s mood’s fluctuate depending on hormonal/chemistry activity within the gross body. Thus subtle-matter is in same order of reality as gross-matter.
    • Furthermore, because mind is subtle matter, it’s able to reflect Consciousness, giving sense of “I AM sentient, alive”.
  • NEXT VERSE: What are modifications/qualities born of prakṛti?

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 20:

kārya-kāraṇa-kartṛtve hetuḥ prakṛtiḥ ucyate ।
puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānām bhoktṛtve hetuḥ ucyate ॥ 13-20 ॥
Prakṛti is said to be the cause in the creation of the physical and subtle bodies. Puruṣa is said to be the cause in the experience of pleasures and pains.

  • SUMMARY: Everything in existence is born out of Prakṛti.
    • In verse context:
      • kāryam: physical body.
      • kāraṇam: subtle body (epiphanies, inner revelations, divine messages, messages of dead ancestors, afterlife guides, intuitions, feelings of peace-love or Oneness with everything).
    • Extending beyond verse:
      • All activity (including Īśvara's putting-together-intelligence) is of Prakṛti.
      • Mountains, forests, rocks, stars… everything in perceptible universe is Prakṛti.
      • Anything that is experienced in time and changes is Prakṛti.
  • Whereas, puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānām bhoktṛtve hetuḥ ucyate: Puruṣa is the cause because of which there is experience of pleasures/pains manufactured by physical & subtle body.
    • Law in Vedānta: Experienced properties can only belong to the Experienced properties. The Experienced can never belong to the Experiencer (Subject, I). The Experiencer always remains free of the Experienced.
      • If wasn’t free of the Experienced, there would be a stuck property all over the place (even in sleep).
      • EG: Eyes can see everything but themselves. Even the reflected eye in mirror is an object-of-knowledge to the original eye. Therefore eye can never objectify itself.
      • Objection: IF eyes can’t be seen, what proof do we have of eyes? Sight of every object proves eye’s existence.  Sight of every photo, proves camera’s existence.
        • Like this, every changing-perception presupposes existence of unchanging-experiencer.
        • Very search for proof of Existence-Awareness, presupposes an Existent-Aware Subject.
        • So asking, “Where is puruṣa?” is silly as tenth-man story.
  • SUMMARY: There’s no actual connection between puruṣa & prakṛti. But with avidyā the jīva concludes, “What is happening to this body-mind is happening to Me”, hence purpose of existence is “becoming”.
  • NEXT VERSE: (1) What is saṃsāra? (2) How does the unconnected-independent puruṣa, become a saṃsarī (one who takes pleasure/pain as final reality of life)?

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 21:

puruṣaḥ prakṛtisthaḥ hi bhuṅkte prakṛtijān guṇān ।
kāraṇam guṇa-saṅgaḥ asya sat asat yoni-janmasu ॥ 13-21 ॥
Because puruṣa (enjoyer, jīva) obtains in prakṛti, (he) enjoys the attributes born of prakṛti. His attachment to the attributes is the cause for births in higher and lower wombs.

  • To explain verse, let’s see story of universe:
    1. Before universe manifested, the puruṣa was NOT the Subject. And prakṛti was NOT the Object. There was no Subject-Object distinction.
    2. As “He desired”, the unmanifested Prakṛti manifested as the universe (so jīvas can continue exhausting their beginningless desires and receive the unreceived puṇya/pāpam).
    3. As the universe manifested, the limitless Puruṣa pervaded and got seemingly enclosed in countless body-minds.
    4. From that moment on, the Puruṣa became the Subject… aware-ing the Object-Prakṛti (body-mind).
    5. The jīva never inquired into Subject-Object distinction because of the intimate association between the two.
      • Just like wearing spectacles, we pick everything in room, except spectacles, because they are so close to me (body-mind).
      • For this reason, the puruṣa (jīva) mistook prakṛti as the final reality, hence got attached and reborn to prakṛti.
  • puruṣaḥ prakṛtisthaḥ hi bhuṅkte prakṛtijān guṇān: In presence of you, the puruṣa — the body-mind is illumined.
    • Puruṣa doesn’t DO the illumining. Just as fire doesn’t DO the burning. Nor the sun DOING the shining. By mere presence of fire, any object in it’s presence gets burned. If burning is an action done by fire, then it has beginning/end while the fire is present. Rather, fire & burning simultaneously come.
      • Like this, whatever object is pervaded by puruṣa is made self-aware (assuming it has subtle body).
  • What does puruṣa experience? Rāga, dveṣa, kāma. Prakṛti composed of different guṇas (qualities).
    • Due to ignorance, puruṣa unknowingly takes three qualities to be “mine”. EG: Qualities of hero in movie transferred to watcher.
    • Hence mithyā transferred onto satyam.
  • For this reason, asya sat asat yoni-janmasu: Jīva takes higher, lower births, depending on puṇya/pāpa mixture and it's samskara composition.
  • How do we account for different traits/privileges/forms assigned to jīvas?
      1. World is made up of attributes (guṇas).
      2. Different attributes are desired by different jīvas. Demand-supply. EG:
        • Nectar-guṇa desired by bee-jīva. Hence snap dragon flower exists.
        • CO2-guṇa desire by plants. Hence plants develop stomata on their surface to absorb it.
        • Shelter-guṇa desired by jīva. Hence houses are made.
        • Effective communication desired by jīva. Hence telephone-guṇa thought of.
        • Solving boredom desired by jīva. Hence entertainment-guṇa developed, in form of various sports/activities (to satisfy different guṇa-personalities).
      3. Jīva gets attached to attributes.
      4. Jīva DOES ACTIONS to enjoy liked attributes.
      5. Each action is mixture of dharma / adharma.
      6. Dharma generates puṇyam (merit). Adharma generates pāpam (demerit).
      7. Both puṇyam/pāpam force jīva to notice them, thus deal with them with additional actions.
      8. Upon death, jīva accrued many unexperienced merits/demerits (agāmi karma). Agāmi spills into sañcita (merits/demerits of all lifetimes).
      9. Finally, sañcita assigns portion of itself to a new lifetime. Portion called: prārabdha, which determines differences in jīvas temperament/body type/etc (influenced further by parents genes).
      • In reality, jīva is the doer/enjoyer (bhoktṛtva/kartṛva). Puruṣa identifying Self with jīva, seemingly becomes doer/enjoyer.
    1. Jīva has performed actions in past which generated punya/papa.
    2. Puruṣa is associated with jīva (due to avidyā).
    3. Consequently, Puruṣa becomes doer/enjoyer (when it’s actually jīva that’s doer/enjoyer).
    4. Saṃsāra: Doing and dealing with the consequences.
  • NEXT VERSE: Descriptions of puruṣa (upadraṣṭā).

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 22:

upadraṣṭā anumantā ca bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ ।
paramātmā iti ca api uktaḥ dehe asmin puruṣaḥ paraḥ ॥ 13-22 ॥
The ultimate seer (proximate witness), permitter, sustainer, experiencer (enjoyer), limitless Lord (creator), and also called “limitless Self”, is the puruṣa — the person who is limitless, in this body.

  • Upadraṣtā: the proximate witness (ultimate seer), the nearest of the nearest which has no nearer. The all-pervading consciousness.
    • Methodology Analogy 1:
      • Step 1: Space is within the room, because of which room-objects are accommodated.
      • Step 2: Space is not ONLY within room. Outside also.
      • Step 3: Space is neither within/outside. But room exists within space. Hence nothing owns/encloses space. That’s why space is attributeless.
    • Methodology Analogy 2:
      • Step 1: I show hand. You say, “hand”.
      • Step 2: I must tell, “There is also the light because of which hand is perceived”.
    • Conclusion: Seer/seen, puruṣa/prakṛti revealed through methodology.
  • Anumantā: permitter.
    • Ātmā doesn’t oppose any activity, because in the light of it, every activity gets it’s glory. EG:
      • In light of Sun, both acts of service and criminal acts are brought into light.
      • In presence of electricity, fan is able to spin, and oven is able to heat. The electricity isn’t doing the spinning/heating, but nature of object is.
  • Bhartā: supporter/sustainer… because puruṣa lends existence to prakṛti.
  • Bhoktā: enjoyer (experiencer).
    • Ahaṃ kāra is the experiencer, while the puruṣa blesses the ahaṃ kāra with consciousness. Owing to association, the puruṣa, as though, becomes the experiencer.
    • Train to say: “I am the illuminator of this experience”. Instead of “I am dissatisfied!”.
  • Meheśvaraḥ: When ajñāni learns to discern puruṣa and prakṛti – the ajñāni takes status of paramātmā/Īśvara. IE: “The knower of Brahman, becomes Brahman.
  • NEXT VERSE: Consequence of clearly understanding difference of puruṣa/prakṛti.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 23:

yaḥ evam vetti puruṣam prakṛtim ca guṇaiḥ saha ।
sarvathā vartamānaḥ api na saḥ bhūyaḥ abhijāyate ॥ 13-23 ॥
The one who knows in this matter, puruṣa and prakṛti along with its attributes, even though engaged in all ways, he is not born again.

  • After distinction of puruṣa/prakṛti is doubtless, one may live any type of life because burden of responsibility is gone of “being-someone”.
    • EG: People pleaser, savior, victim, hero, the wise-man, the attention-grabber.
  • na saḥ bhūyaḥ abhijāyate: He/she does not take another janma.
    • What is janma? When jīva dies, mind is separated from physical body. Mind is assigned another body/parents/environment. Moment mind associates with gross matter, it’s called janma.
  • 5 Logics Why There’s No Rebirth for Jñāni:
    1. Svarupa of jīva is Puruṣa which is not within time. Thus can't get born in time again.
    2. Puruṣa is limitless, and obtains in everything, thus can't take an individual form. No place where Puruṣa (Brahman) can get born.
    3. Actions/fruits-of-actions are only for person with notion, “I am a doer and enjoyer of my past actions, for which I need to be reborn to continue reaping.”
    4. Once person wakes up from dream, realizes “I was never accountable for any actions done by ajnani-dreamer”.
    5. For a jñāni, her body is like an arrow. Arrow trajectory continues, but jñāni has no identification with body that will receive the blows of punya/papa.
  • For jñāni, empirical reality is perceived the same, because Self-knowledge can only destroy an identification-error, but never the empirical reality.
    • EG: Knowledge of mirage won't destroy mirage, because mirage belongs to Ishvara's order.
    • As for world, it’s known to be mithyā (dependent reality).
  • NEXT VERSE: Having concluded puruṣa/prakṛti, Krishna has general discussion about all 6 topics, verse 24-34.



Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 24:

dhyānena ātmani paśyanti kecit ātmānam ātmanā ।
anye sāṅkhyena yogena karma-yogena ca apare ॥ 13-24 ॥
Some see the Self in the mind with the (prepared) mind, through contemplation. Some others (see) through inquiry (jñāna-yoga). Some others through Karma-yoga.

  • Krishna emphasizes the culmination of spiritual sādhanas is arrival to self-knowledge, whose contemplation leads removal of ignorance.
  • And every person goes through 5 stages to remove obstacles to arriving at the culmination.
  • STAGE 1: Karma-Yoga:
    • Involves: Performing same actions as already performing, but:
      • Keeping in mind, they’re done for none other then Bhagavān. This changes quality of your actions from crude/mechanical to graceful.
        • EG: Eating food, working.
      • Whatever pleasant/unpleasant results come from your actions, are NOT because of you, but Īśvara’s grand order. Because of this attitude…
        1. Things are received with level of gratitude,
        2. Offers a shock-absorber,
        3. Neutralizes your expectations, which reinforce individuality.
    • Karma-Yoga is not a separate path for mokṣa. Karma-Yogī uses daily activity/interaction in world, as means of mind-purification.



Keywords: purusha, prakriti, samsara, jnani, jivanmukta, upadrastha, upadrasta


Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 6 Oct, 2021



  1. Hi Andre.
    Who assigns the prarabdha karma to be experienced in a given lifetime?
    I know it is a portion of sancitta karma but what is the entity that designates the particular type and amount to be experienced in a given lifetime?

    1. To answer, relate to own sleep/waking experience each day.

      Sleep = sancita.
      Wake = prarabdha.

      When person is in deep sleep, the “nothingness” one experiences is the fullness of sancita. Sancita means potential/stored. Which means it’s neither THIS, nor THAT. It’s undecided for the time. That’s why there’s no world. Jiva is in state of indecision.

      2 questions come up…

      1) What SPECIFICALLY assigns portion of that sancita (experienced in deep sleep as nothingness), to become the prarabdha of the day? Time. Time itself is constantly converting potential into manifest. And we can’t stop time thus we wake up weather we like it or not.

      2) What determines, what kind of prarabdha will play out for the day? It can’t be the jiva, else we’d have a perfect/happy day each day. But sometimes it’s gloomy, cheerful, calm, clear, lazy. ANSWER: Law of cause-effect which also can’t be stopped.

      Yes, jiva can influence to a degree by being calm previous day, positive material before sleep + healthy food.

      Death/inbetween-life is exactly the same because it’s also within time/cause-effect, governed by vyavaharika.

      If another question arises from convo, do share.

  2. This is a different understanding of time for me.
    I would have said that the assigning of karma takes place within time, but requires an intelligent agent to make the assignation.
    Does your answer mean that time itself is intelligent and has the ability to make decisions?

    1. Time/cause-effect is Intelligence (maya) in form of time/cause-effect.

      Time alone doesn’t contribute to decisions (better word: effects or occurrences). But because of time, decisions occur. Because of time, sleep tonight occurs. Because of time, waking tomorrow occurs.

      Can’t ever say something specifically contributes. Everything contributes at the same time to sanchita being assigned. Some agents includes: Cause-effect, time, impressions, dharma. (Keeping in mind they are all the same Intelligence from different aspects).

  3. Thank you Andre.
    I was looking for a single entity and the best I could come up with was Isvara.
    Much more helpful to think of many aspects or agents or expressions of the one intelligence.
    It is a lot clearer now.

  4. Thanks Andre wonderfully explained I had been researching a lot in Indic Philosophy along with other subject and was not finding the source material your writing helped me a lot . Great work.

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