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Pure, Reflective, Luminous Matter
Jason: Hello, Sundari, I hope your travels are well, and you and James are enjoying your satsangs.
I’m starting to learn to let go and see that Bhagavan has me exactly where he needs me – and can provide for me fabulously without me interfering, scheming or worrying… he he he he. ☺
Sundari: Hello, Jason, good to hear from you. We have had a great trip, thank you. We are having a break in Portugal before returning to the U.S. next week. I am happy for you that the knowledge is working for you – as James always says, “It is far easier to let Isvara do your life than to rely on the jiva!” So true.
Jason: So, on to my question. In addition to James’ teachings, I love Swami Dayananda. His stuff deepens what I read and listen to from James. However, in his book Action and Reaction he talks about purusha and prakriti.
He says purusha is the “person,” which I take to be the self, and prakriti is the personality. Is that correct?
Sundari: This is based on yoga terminology, and yoga is basically duality. And yet the purusha/prakriti teaching is also used in the Gita because it fits with the nature of the teaching, which is a purana, presenting Vedic ideas in allegorical form. Purusha means “original consciousness” and it is a person with reference to objects, but as the universal, not individual, person, so it is actually Isvara appearing as a “supreme being.” Prakriti is all the objects and/or three gunas as well as the individual jiva/subtle body, or jivatman.
Jason: He says, “Prakriti has threefold powers: jnana-sakti, the power to know, including memory; icha-sakti, the power to will, including desire, doubt, emotions; and kriya-sakti, the power to act, including skill, creativity, power and so on.”
Sundari: Yes, correct.
Jason: Where I’m confused is that I haven’t heard James talk about this and wonder if what James calls the subtle body (or the mind, ego and intellect) is just prakriti playing itself out…
Sundari: James has often talked about this; perhaps you have not come across it. I recommend you read his book Inquiry into Existence. It is explained in depth there.
You are correct. Prakriti is basically maya/the three gunas. It is the mirror of matter, which is consciousness plus matter. Prakriti evolves but purusha does not. In its original state, prakriti is just pure, reflective, luminous matter.
Jason: …or is this something different?
Sundari: The terms Isvara, maya and prakriti are all synonyms, but they are slightly different. Isvara is awareness associated with maya in the role of Creator; maya is that which (apparently) deludes awareness into identifying with objects. Prakriti is the nature or substance, the creation – made up of subtle and gross matter. There is no point in talking about the difference between them, because prakriti does not mean anything without maya. They are the same but they are not. Isvara associated with maya is independent of prakriti because Isvara is trigunaatita, beyond the gunas. Prakriti depends on Isvara/maya, but Isvara as pure consciousness gives rise to creation with the help of maya but is always free of the creation.
Jason: Also, what role do the three gunas and vasanas play in this?
Sundari: The three gunas give rise to everything in creation, all the objects subtle and gross, as stated above. This includes the vasanas.
Jason: Because Swamiji says the purusha presides over the prakriti, which makes it almost sound like an object more than the subject, the self.
Sundari: No, you have it wrong. Purusha is the subject, the Higher Principle, or satya – that which is real, meaning always present and unchanging, giving rise to all the objects but independent of them. Prakriti is the object, or “lower” principle, or mithya, that of the apparently real – not always present, and always changing.
Jason: Any help clarifying would be greatly appreciated.
~ Best, Jason
PS: After reading your article on vegetarianism, I bought Nourishing Traditions and I have radically changed the ol’ jiva diet… finally, I feel like this once out-of-control area is peacefully resolved, thank you.
Sundari: I am very happy to hear that, Jason! There is so much misinformation and disinformation in the media about the rules that constitute good health, it is really confusing and difficult to work out what the truth is. Add that to the ideas about diet that prevail for many spiritual people and you have a recipe for a lot of ill health!
~ Love, Sundari