Purusha and Prakriti

by on February 20, 2012 · 0 comments

in Thoughts on Philosophy

The Dynamics of Purusha and Prakriti in Hatha Practice

Sāmkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (phenomenal realm of matter). Many yogis know this as Shiva/Shakti or Chit and Ananda.

Prakriti can pertain to an individual personally, if you will, or one can have a personal prakriti (nature). In Ayurveda, your prakriti can be determined by the state of the gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) as it pertains to your body(doshas), kapha, pitta and vata. I’ve heard the three doshas explained by numerous teachers in just as many ways. I’ve even known yogis who claim to be or have a specific dosha nature. But the acient theory lies in the knowledge that people, born of nature, are composed of nature, (Earth, wind, Fire, Water, Light), and any imbalance in one’s natural balance of doshas will lead to a dis-ease of some kind. To get back to the point, we will view prakrtiti as the “Physical” as it pertains to the body in terms of its condition and state.

The subject matter of purusha prevades the entire universe. Sometimes it is refered to as a type of “Conciousness” in the context of a singularity. The whole “we are one” idea. I don’t see it as a personal dynamic like prakriti can be viewed, but more or less and extended environment that we’re all of, in the manner of organism-environment. But to view it as one thing, it has kind of a subtle vibe to it. I realize I’ll never be able to explain what purusha is without actually doing the philosophy behind it justice.  But to keep things quaint and to the point, we can view, for the sake of a hahta practice, only the elements of purusha in the table above.

So, how do we apply this to a hatha practice? Well, we already do whether we are aware of it or not. It simply is the nature of the universe as we experience it. So, if it exists without our intervention, what’s the point of investigating it further? From my experience, I find that when my perception intermingles the dynamics of purusha and the dynamics of prakriti in a confusing way, then I’m out of alignment. So, I’m guessing I Should give some examples here.

I usually find that the feeling of being “out of alignment” or “off center” is associated with suffering whether mild or severe. It could be something as simple as the symptoms of not being in the moment, stress, boredom etc or something extremely uncomfortable such as panic or anxiety.  When I have the composure to look at a difficult moment of emotion with only awareness of what it is, I find that I’m trying to intepret it according to a nature of reality that may not pertain to the subject or exprience at hand. To not give too much away, I’d say its much like how we can look at a phyiscal object, and then have a feeling arise. Or, have a feeling or emotion arise that serves as a catalyst to interact with the physical world. It’s like our experience and perception reside right between Purusha and Prakriti. So, in viewing our vantage point in the universe, one can see how we can easily get out of alignment.

So, in the practice of Asanas, how do we apply some of the elements of Purusha and Prakriti? A good start is to practice becoming more aware of the elements. I found that after a yoga class one day, I was extremely annoyed with the whole thing and began asking myself why even bother. What’s the point? After giving the thought some awareness I realized that my frustration kept going back to an expectation of my practice. What I was expecting was not going to happen overnight. It may NEVER happen. This made me ask the question in a more refined way. Ok, if I eliminate this expecation, then will I still drag my mat into a studio three times a week? If so, then why? and I eventually realized that my motivations for doing asanas was not in alignment with what asanas are. That day forward, I no longer used Hatha as a means to and end, but as nothing more than an Expression.

So, if you’re looking to get introspective about your practice, be aware of the nature of the elements you’re dealing with. Unfortunaltey there’s not a strict principle to adhere to when you’re evaluating your yoga practice from a topo perspective. We all do yoga for different reasons, and though we may have much in common, the solutions are not always the same for everyone. A very wise person once told me,

“The Purusha in us is striving for self-perfection, it will only happen if seperated from Prakriti. It’s a case of mistaken identity.”

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