The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The Samkhya Philosophy—Prakriti and Purusha which is chapter 27 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-seventh chapter of the Third Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 27 - The Sāṃkhya Philosophy—Prakṛti and Puruṣa

1.[1] Though Puruṣa (the Soul) resides in the body (which is a product of Prakṛti), he is not affected by the guṇas of Prakṛti (such as pleasure, pain etc.), just as the Sun (in the sky) reflected in the water (is not affected by the qualities of or changes in the water). For the Puruṣa is destitute of guṇas; hence his freedom from action and the consequent changelessness.

2.[2] When this (Jīva) is attached to the guṇas of Prakṛti, he becomes deluded by ahaṃkāra aṇd regards himself as the doer (through false attribution).

3. Due to that (Ahaṃkāra), he loses his independence and blessed state. By the force of the (detrimental) effects of karmas due to the association with Prakṛti, he gets involved in saṃsāra in some form of existence, good (as a god), bad (as a sub-human being) or mixed (as a man).

4.[3] (The Soul being the non-ḍoer), the real bondage of karmas does not exist. But saṃsāra does not cease to be till he is brooding over the objects (of senses), just as one experiences misfortunes in a dream (even though it is unreal).

5. Therefore, the mind which is attached to the wicked path of sensual enjoyment, should be gradually brought under control by the Bhakti yoga (path of devotion) and intense nonattachment (to worldly objects).

6-11. He who practises meditation by the paths of yoga characterised by aṅgas (stages) like yama, niyama etc., is full of faith (in me) by real, sincere love to me, and by listening to stories about me, looks upon all beings as equal, renouncing all attachment and company; hates nobody, practises celibacy and observes silence, follows his own duties which are powerful on account of his offering them to God, that sage who is satisfied with whatever he gets by chance, is moderate in eating, resorts to solitude, is serene and friendly to all and self-controlled, does not entertain false attachment (like ‘me’ and ‘mine’) to his body and its dependents or property, has the knowledge whereby one can realize the truth about Prakṛti and Puruṣa, has superseded the stages like wakefulness, sleep etc., and hence has ceased to see other things except God. The self-seer sage realizes his Soul (Ātman) by his Self (conditioned by ego) just as one sees the Sun (in the sky) by the eye which is also a modified Sun, (such a sage) attains to that non-ḍuaī (absolute) Brahman which is completely distinct and free from the subtle-boḍy (liṅga-śarīra) and which appears as real in unrealities like ahaṃkāra which is the friend, i.e. the support of Praḍhāna; which is like an eye to the Asat (i.e. which sheds light on Mahat etc.) and which is woven fully into all causes and effects.

12. Just as the reflection of the Sun in the water is seen by its reflection on the (wall inside the house on the) shore (at first)[4] and just as (thereafter the real Sun in the heaven) is noted due to its reflection in the water.

13.[5] Similarly ahaṃkāra of three kinds as typified by three guṇas is seen as the reflection of Sat by the images of ātman which are conditioned by the bhūtas (body), indriyas (sense-organs) and the mind. By the reflection of the ātman in ahaṃkāra, the real ātman whose essential nature is knowledge, is realized.

14. When, due to sleep, the bhūtas, their subtle principles (tanmātras), sense-organs, the mind, intelligence and others (such as ahaṃkāra) are completely absorbed in the unmanifest Prakṛti, that which remains awake and free from ahaṃkāra (in the dead-like sleeping body) is the Soul.

15. In that state, when the ahaṃkāra is dormant (lit. lost), the Seer (the jīva), though himself is not lost, wrongly thinks that he is lost, like a man stricken with grief at the loss of his fortune, feels (about himself).

16. In this way, having thoroughly thought over (this distinctness of the ātman), he realizes the Soul which is the basis and the illuminator of all the matter (or combination of cause and effect) including ahaṃkāra.

Devahūti said:

17. Oh Lord, Brahman, as both (Prakṛti and Puruṣa) are interdependent (for their manifestation) and eternal, Prakṛti never leaves the Puruṣa.

18. Just as the existence of smell and the earth (the smelling substance) or of taste and water cannot be mutually separate, Prakrti and Puruṣa cannot be logically discontinuous (i.e. cannot exist separately).

19. How can there be emancipation (lit. alone-ness) from Prakṛti when the guṇas of Prakṛti are in existence. These guṇas form bondage of karmas to Puruṣa who is (essentially), inactive.

20. Sometimes the terrible fear (of saṃsāra) may seem (practically) receded by careful reflection about the Principles (considered above). But as its cause (viz. the guṇas of Prakṛti) is not destroyed, the fear appears again.

21-23. By performance of one’s duties (according to one’s Varṇa—caste—and āśrama—stage in life) without any desire for its fruit, by pure mind, and by devotion intensified by hearing the stories of Hari for a long period, by knowledge which has comprehended the reality, by a very strong aversion to the world, by yoga accompanied with asceticism, and by intense concentration (of the mind) on the Soul (ātman), Prakṛti, being consumed day and night, gradually disappears in this very birth like the piece of Śamī wood (from which fire is enkindled), the source of fire, (is burnt down by fire).

24. Prakṛti which has been abandoned after enjoying her (products), and whose evil effects are always seen, does not bear anything inauspicious (like the bondage of karma) to the Supreme Lord who is established in his magnificence.

25. Just as a dream presents a great many of calamities to a man who is not awakened (but is dreaming in sleep), but the same (dream) is not capable of deluding him when he is awake.

26. Similarly Prakṛti never causes any harm to one who has realized the Truth, and who has set his heart upon me, and who is delighted in realizing the Self (ātman).

27. When a sage is delighted in his own Self (ātman), and after going through many births is unattached and averse to everything upto (i.e. including) the region of Brahmā.

28-29. (and being) my devotee has realized the true Self, by my grace, he easily attains to his essential state, as distinct from his physical body,—a state of final beatitude called Kaivalya. The wise man who has cut asunder all doubts (i.e. pseudo-knowledge) by his vision of the Self (ātmajñāna) goes by my grace to the state attained after the destruction of the subtle body (liṅga-śarīra) and from which state there is no reversion (to saṃsāra).

30. Oh mother, when the mind of the Siddha (the emancipated sage) is not attached to the miraculous powers born of yoga and obtained through yogic practice, then only is attained the ultimate state pertaining to me—a state where even the death cannot laugh (is powerless).

Footnotes and references:


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: Jīva, though abiding in a bṇḍy (a product of Prakṛti) is not affected by the guṇas of Prakṛti such as the form of existence as a god or a man or pleasure, pain etc. For the real nature of jīva does not undergo any change by his birth as a man or god. He is not the doer of the activities of his body, and is free from guṇas like sattva etc. He is like the image of the Sun in the water—the real remaining unaffected by changes in the reflecting medium. Jīva and the body have thus no connection (viprakarṣa) from the point of place (deśa); time (Kāla) and nature (svabhāva).

Alternatively Bhāgavata Candrikā interprets Prakṛti dharma as a birth in the from of existence as a man or a god, and states these dharmas do not belong to the jīva. His appearance as a man or a god is a false impression (bhrānti).

(ii) Padaratnāvalī: The Supreme Being and the jīva reside in the same body. But Viṣṇu being perfect is not affected by pleasure, pain, birth, death etc. for he is not affected by the six vikāras (changes such as birth, growth etc.). He is not dependent for his action on anybody, and hence an absolute agent. He is free from guṇas e.g. sattva etc. He is like the Sun, unaffected by the changes in the water wherein he is reflected.

(iii) Kramasandarbha., VC. follow Bhāvāratha Dīpikā in general.

(iv) Subodhinī; Although jīva is found in a body, he is merely reflected in the Prakṛti like the Sun in the water. He is not ‘greased’ by the guṇas like sattva etc. for there is no vikāra (change) in him. He has no adṛṣṭa and hence no action.


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: The Soul is different from Prakṛti. But his (false) identification of himself with the body obscures his real essential nature. When he is attached to the guṇas of Prakṛti (like sound, taste etc.), he becomes egoistic that he is the independent doer and gets the bondage.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī: When the jīva is attached to the guṇas i.e. his body which is composed of guṇas, he is deluded by Ego. Consequently he forgets the essential nature of the Lord and his own limits as a dependent doer.

(iii) Siddhāntapradīpa: Though the Soul is really free, he wrongly identifies himself with guṇas and out of egoism he gets deluded to regard himself as a man or a god and considers himself as the agent.

(iv) Subodhinī: guṇas cannot do anything independently. The Soul being cetana (sentient), transfers his own attributes to them (just as the Sun makes water hot though it is cool by nature). After thus controlling guṇas he becomes deluded by identifying himself with the guṇas, and (wrongly) thinks that he is the door.


(i) Bhāgavata Candrikā: The forms of a man, god etc. are not real forms of the Soul. But as long as he thinks about objects of senses, this calamity of saṃsāra persists just as in a dream he experiences pain etc. though his body in the dream is unreal.

(ii) Padaratnāvalī thinks the God’s grace is essential for the cessation of saṃsāia.

(iii) VC.: Even though karmas are unreal, the Soul due to his ahaṃkāra as being the ḍoer broods over the objects (and gets bound in saṃsāra by the actions done by his body).


Padaratnāvalī adds one more interpretation: Just as the reflection of the face in water indicates the real face (person) standing on the bank, similarly the reflection of the Sun in the water leads to the knowledge of the real Sun in the sky.


Padaratnāvalī gives a totally different meaning: Śeṣa is the presiding deity of three types of ahaṃkāra (according to three guṇas). He is seen through his reflections viz. the presiding deities of bhūtas, indriyas (sense organs) and the mind (manas). By the reflection called Śeṣa, the fourfaced Brahmā is perceived, and through the reflection called Brahmā is seen Lord Nārāyaṇa, the knower of the reality.

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