Purusha and Prakriti–Consciousness and Force

When the seeker recognizes that the ego-personality is neither the true self, nor itself the originator of action, the question naturally arises as to the source of action, and the consciousness that directs that action. We can, with careful examination, determine that Nature carries out the actions, through us as well as through all other forms, with a constant interplay of the modes of Nature, the three Gunas. The quasi-mechanical nature of the universal action makes it appear to some that the universe is some kind of vast machinery, and if one stops there, without asking the question of how, or why, or in what manner it arises and acts, one could well conclude that there is only some kind of chance or happenstance in the universe, and that there is no further significance beyond this mechanical play.

However, if one asks the questions, the only possible solutions involve some vast conscious awareness which directs Nature to act according to the intention of that consciousness for its own creative purposes. We come then to the view of Sankhya which describes a witness and affirming consciousness, Purusha, and an executive Nature, Prakriti.

Sri Aurobindo describes them along with the relationship between them: “There is a Consciousness–or a Conscient–behind, that is the lord, witness, knower, enjoyer, upholder and source of sanction for her works; this consciousness is Soul or Purusha. Prakriti shapes the action in us; Purusha in her or behind her witnesses, assents, bears and upholds it. Prakriti forms the thought in our minds; Purusha in her or behind her knows the thought and the truth in it. Prakriti determines the result of the action; Purusha in her or behind her enjoys or suffers the consequences. Prakriti forms mind and body, labours over them, develops them; Purusha upholds the formation and evolution and sanctions each step of her works. Prakriti applies the Will-force which works in things and men; Purusha sets that Will-force to work by his vision of that which should be done. This Purusha is not the surface ego, but a silent Self, a source of Power, an originator and receiver of Knowledge behind the ego. Our mental “I” is only a false reflection of this Self, this Power, this Knowledge. This Purusha or supporting Consciousness is therefore the cause, recipient and support of all Nature’s works, but is not himself the doer. Prakriti, Nature-Force, in front and Shakti, Conscious-Force, Soul-Force behind her,–for these two are the inner and outer faces of the universal Mother,–account for all that is done in the universe. The universal Mother, Prakriti-Shakti, is the one and only worker.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 8, The Supreme Will, pp.203-204