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Let’s talk Ayurveda: The Theory of Purusha Prakriti

Purusha – Prakriti theory is the one, that the subject of Ayurveda is based on.

Here’s my understanding of this Purusha – Prakriti theory.

Briefly, Purusha-Prakriti theory states that Prakriti, the potential energy, manifests itself into different forms in the presence of Purusha, the ultimate observer, although Purusha doesn’t participate in the creation process. Prakriti needs Purusha to manifest, but Purusha is independent of Prakriti.

For your world to exist, you need two entities; The subject and the object. Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is the observer and Prakriti is observed. The perceiver and the perceived.

Purusha-Prakriti theory

Let’s go a bit deep here.

You perceive the world around you utilizing the five senses. You see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Sensory perceptions translate the perceived into your world as experiences or observations. But without the ability to imprint them into your memory, your sensory organs alone are helpless. Sensory organs are needed, but not sufficient for your world. There should be something that translates these sensory perceptions into your memory, that formulate your experiences. So your world is nothing but a series of experiences translated into your memories which were originally the sensory perceptions.

So what is real? Is just the perceiver real and the perceived unreal?  Or vice versa? Are the physical objects real, but not the perceiver? Or the perceiver is only real, but the physical objects are not?

Let’s discuss.

Let’s take a cat. Suppose the cat is not there in your vision at that moment. In your subjective world, it’s not there. Ex: sometimes the cat is in front of you, but your mind is not perceiving it. When does that happen? Suppose you’re engrossed in a TV show. You’re watching TV with the utmost interest. You don’t even realize that a cat entered your peripheral vision and left. So as far as your subjective world is concerned at that moment, your world does not have a cat. Although the potential for cat’s existence is there in your world, at that moment your world does not have the cat.

Let’s take another case. You are sitting idly in a room and the cat enters the room. This time, you notice the cat. In your world at that time, the cat is there. For the cat to be there in your world, a) potential for the cat’s existence has to be there and b) you need to be alert for the cat to manifest in your world.

So both the observer and the observed have to be there for the experience of the world to take place. If only one of them exists, the other does not exist, then that world is as good as it’s not there. So it’s clear that perceiver and the perceived is needed for the subjective world to exist. Both are real.

That means the potential for the existence of the objective world and the perceiver, in whose presence the subjective world is created, both of them have to be present for the experience of the world to take place.

One more thing. Independent of what exactly is the extent of the objective world, the quality/characteristics of the subjective world depends on the limitations of the perceiver. So the perceiver is creating the subjective world every moment independent of the objective world. The subjective world of a fish is different from that of a human, which is again different from some other entity that has got more extended ability to observe the objective world in a more detailed form. Not only that, the subjective world of a human/an entity at a certain moment is different from another moment.

So the limitations of the perceiver are defining the experience of the objective world and it’s bringing down the objective world into a limited perceived world, i.e. the subjective world. Notice that even the most powerful instruments cannot accurately perceive the objective world as is, because ultimately the measurements they take that are analyzed will be limited by the limitations of the perceiver.

So now the question becomes, is there an ultimate perceiver that can perceive the objective world as is and if so, Who/What/Where is the ultimate observer/perceiver?

Now the first question; Is that ultimate perceiver human or some form of enlightened human?. If so, if humans are not there, does that mean that the world doesn’t exist? We all know that human existence is not needed for the rest of the world to exist. This kind of question arises when we exclusively define the perceiver as humans alone. When humans are not there, we still have got observers. Something that’s perceiving the world. Say the world of dinosaurs. They were observing. Right? So, the first step is to understand that perceiver doesn’t have to be human.

Now the next question.

Is the ultimate perceiver has to be a living being?

If the ultimate perceiver has to be a living being only since living beings are very much part of the world, isn’t that ultimate perceiver also an object of perception and that negates the purpose of the perceiver? For example, fishes were there before other more advanced animals were born. So if fish were to be that ultimate observer, how come their objective existence be asserted if they were not perceived by something else? That means there is something independent of creation that’s perceiving the world. Since every fish is part of the perceived, the ultimate perceiver/observer has to be independent of the objects, i.e. for the perception to take place, you need a subject that’s independent of the object. That is, the ultimate observer should not have to be a living being only as living beings also are part of the creation.

Let’s call that ultimate independent entity, that’s perceiving the whole of creation as is,  ‘Purusha’.

Some noun. You can call it whatever you want. In Purusha-Prakriti theory, we call this ultimate perceiver that’s independent of creation, ‘Purusha’.

In some other theories, others may call it ‘God’ or ‘Shiva’ or ‘Brahman” or “Paramatma” or Divinity” or simply ‘The Observer’ or any other noun.

To differentiate the observed from the observer, i.e. the observed from this ultimate observer, let’s call the observed ‘Prakriti”. So Prakriti is the creation and Purusha is the ultimate perceiver/observer.

Now the question becomes, what are the qualities of such ultimate perceiver that is able to perceive the entire creation as is in its true form?

First, what we call this Purusha is needed for the world to exist, but should not be some created part of the world. It has to be independent. That’s clear. For a subject to perceive the object, the subject has to be independent of the object.

Second, it should not have any gender. For the cat to exist in someone’s world, the cat’s gender has nothing to do with the observer’s gender. A cat may have a gender, but the observer doesn’t need to have a gender.

So the Purusha is a genderless entity that’s independent of the world, i.e. the perceived.

Same goes with other physical/manifested qualities of the world. For an ultimate observer to observe the world, the observer doesn’t need to have any manifested qualities of the world. It has to be completely independent of the world’s properties. Similarly, even the name doesn’t matter. The observer should not have to have a name to perceive the world as is.

So Purusha is a nameless, genderless independent entity that’s pure awareness, whether or not it is actually observing anything at any given moment.

Third, the observer doesn’t have to participate in the world for the world to exist. The observer does not have any choice in the world’s qualities or it’s manifested forms. The observer should not change with various manifestations of the world. So the observer is changeless and exists before and after the perceived world. For example, the observer exists before a flower is born and exists even after that flower is dead in a limited world. Same applies to the unlimited world. Similarly, the observer doesn’t change as the flower is changing. This is also clear from our experience.

So Purusha is a choiceless, nameless, genderless,  changeless, independent awareness, in whose presence the created world manifests. Here although the word ‘whose’ is used, please do not take that as human.

Now, where should this Purusha exist? Since a part of the creation is able to perceive the creation, ex: although humans are part of the creation, they’re able to perceive the creation even though in a limited form, this Purusha has to be present in the creation. But at the same time, Purusha has to be independent of the creation to observe it. It may sound like a paradox, but it’s not. This is how it has to be for the whole of creation to be perceived by the ultimate perceiver in its true form.  Purusha, the unmanifested ultimate observer has to be present in the manifested form of Prakriti and outside of it simultaneously, to observe it.

So in summary, Purusha is that choiceless, nameless, genderless, changeless, all-pervading, ever present, ultimate awareness that’s present in every part of the creation, i.e. Prakriti, but at the same time, it is independent of the creation. That’s the ultimate reality.

For the subjective world to exist, a perceiver although limited in some form is needed. Similarly, for the entire creation to exist, which is nothing but an unlimited subjective world in a way, an ultimate perceiver that is not limited in any way is needed.

In other words, Purusha is independent of Prakriti, but for Prakriti to manifest itself into different forms, Prakriti needs Purusha.

Since Purusha is present in every part of the creation and is changeless, that means Purusha is present in us also and doesn’t change although we change. And since Purusha can perceive the true nature of the creation, the goal of Ayurveda is to realize that Purusha that’s within us and in every entity. Once we realize Purusha, we should be able to observe the true nature of the creation and we’re no longer limited by the subjective experience of our sensory perceptions. Whether you call such a state an enlightened state or something else, is up to you. The point is, only when we realize that ultimate observer within us, then only we can observe the creation in its true form and its underlying potential.

Now finally, do we see this Purusha-Prakriti, i.e. the observer (Purusha) independent of the observed (Prakriti), in whose (Purusha’s) presence the world manifests, even in a limited way through an experiment, or at least can we infer the possibility of the existence of this Purusha?.

Yes. In Quantum Physics. Double slit experiment illustrates that there is observer effect. The mere presence of the observer can impact how the observed manifest although the observer has no role in the observed.

For those who’re interested in this simple experiment, the link to a  short 3 min video is given below, that explains the double slit experiment.

Watch the video of the double slit experiment here:

Briefly, in quantum physics, the double slit experiment illustrates that electrons behave like waves unless observed. When they’re observed, they behave like particles. This is known as the observer effect. We know that the materials exist in particle form. So for the material to exist, an observer is needed. Although the observer has no role in the observed, the observed manifests in the mere presence of the observer. So the potential to exist as particles is there. But it happens only when the observer is present. Note that the observer doesn’t have to be human. Just the mere presence of a measuring instrument makes the electrons to lose their wave-like properties and behave like particles. 

(Please let’s not ask ourselves the silly question, if that measuring instrument can be considered Purusha. No. Purusha is the ultimate perceiver. Measuring instrument in the double slit experiment is also a material, which should have been created in the presence of the ultimate pure observer, Purusha).

Double Slit Experiment

Image courtesy;

Very similar to Purusha-Prakriti theory. Prakriti has the potential to manifest into different forms but only does so in the presence of Purusha. And, strangely other than being merely present, Purusha plays no role in Prakriti’s manifestation into different forms.

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