Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Philosophy of Sankaradeva's Eka-Sarana: Prakrti, Purusa and Parama Purusa

There are three tattvas or entities: prakrti, purusa and Parama Purusa. The first is matter or material nature, the second one is the jiva or the living personality or individual self. Matter is completely bereft of any consciousness; therefore it is jada (unconscious). The individual selves are conscious entities or personalities (and, in that sense, can be said to be superior to prakrti). But superior to both entities, prakrti and purusa is Parama Purusa, the Supreme Purusa.

The Nama Ghosa says that quite distinct from purusa and prakrti and yet the controller and upholder of the two is Parama Isvara Nārāyana (Krsna). There are thus two subordinate tattvas: the ksara (perishable) which refers to matter and the aksara (imperishable), meaning brahman or the suddha (pure, enlightened) jiva. But superior to both is the supreme Purusa Uttama, Lord Hari.

Purusa is eternally an entity subordinate to Parama Purusa, similar - in point of essential characteristics - to Him. Purusa or jiva is an amsa or part, as it were, of the Supreme Purusa. As Parama Purusa is a conscious personality, so also purusa is a conscious personality. Like his Lord, purusa is also nitya (everlasting, eternal) and avinasi (indestructible). Like God, purusa can also eternally think, do and feel. However, Parama Purusa is the Supreme Being.  He is Paramatma, the Supreme Controller. In contrast to the jivas who are termed His amsas or parts, He is purna (the whole) meaning that He is the supremely conscious Personality and the Lord of all powers or saktis. Therefore, Parama Purusa is never enveloped by nescience or maya. It is purusa or the jiva who is, by default, enveloped by maya. In fact, purusa is almost crushed by maya. It is the Supreme Purusa Who actuates prakrti or material nature and infuses life, as it were, into 'her' to initiate the process of evolution or material creation. Maya or prakrti is only a tool in the hands of Parama Purusa. In this way, the only aim of prakrti is to serve the Lord's purpose. In the puranic representations, Laksmi is always seen serving the Feet of Visnu.

Purusa is eternally krsnara kinkara or the servant of Parama Purusa. It is due to his neglect of the Lord's service that purusa is deluded by maya. Again, it is only by taking Eka-Sarana or sole-refuge in Parama Purusa and doing unmotivated devotion to Him that purusa can hope to be redeemed.

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