One of the reason why the people get confused by reading the Gita is that they do not make a distinction between Sankhya which is known as Sankhya in the history of Indian philosophy and Sankhya which is “Vedantic Sankhya” to which Sri Krishna refers in this book. And very often the term being common, this confusion becomes further confounded, as here also, that is why I am taking your time to describe this, so that becomes clearer.
So, according to Sankhya, Purusha is original, many Purushas are original, not one Purusha, there are many Purushas, all the Purushas are original, Prakriti is one, Purushas are many, Prakriti however is one, but many modifications. Purusha has no modification: each Purusha is without modification because Purusha is inactive; where there is no activity there can be no modification. Prakriti is full of modifications, right from mahat,(or buddhi), ahaṁkāra, and manas, and senses of knowledge, senses of action, tanmātrā(s), and (pañca mahabhūta(s)). All are modifications, but modifications of one principle called Prakriti. So, this Prakriti is also original.
According to Sankhya, Purusha which is inactive happens to glance at Prakriti, (this is a kind of a story of creation according to Sankhya). Prakriti to begin with is unfolded, at a particular moment it is unfolded, then it becomes folded that is to say that equilibrium is reached: Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas when they reach an equilibrium, then it becomes folded up: it is called pralaya (when Prakriti becomes folded up). Now, in this state of folding up, what is it that causes unfolding of Prakriti? If you reach a state of equilibrium, it means that Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas have reached a point of equal strength and therefore there is no movement, no unfolding.
Question: Is this triguṇātīta?
It is not triguṇātīta, no. triguṇātīta would be a condition where three Gunas are transcended. Here three Gunas are simply clubbed together but in an equilibrium. It is like two strengths as it were opposed to each other therefore this is now not moving. But because of the three forces together, (they are not transcended), the three Gunas are now in equal strength, each moving in an opposite direction as a result of which there is no movement, it’s jamming, the three forces are jammed together, therefore there is no movement.
So, the story starts with this condition when Prakriti is folded up in a jammed condition. Now, the question is: by what this jamming will be dissolved? Or disturbed? If it remains continuously like this, it can remain for ever like that. The three forces have reached such a point they can never be…now it’s jammed! Something else must happen; something must happen from outside because the three are inwardly…they are all jammed.
So the answer of Sankhya is that ‘glance’ of Purusha on Prakriti, the Purusha which is absolutely inactive ‘glanced’ at Prakriti, of course glancing is an action, if it is really inactive it cannot glance at Prakriti, but this is the contradiction of Sankhya. It’s why this philosophy is not ultimately accepted by the Bhagavad Gita and by Vedanta because at the very starting point there is a contradiction: if Purusha is entirely inactive and if Prakriti which is absolutely folded up cannot be moved only by the glance of Purusha that means that Purusha must be active, glances is an action.
So, somehow we go back to the story of Sankhya with this contradiction accepted that Purusha glances at Prakriti and with this glancing, this equilibrium is broken. As a result Prakriti begins to unfold itself. In a poetic manner, it has been described as a dance of a dancer who dances at the command of the viewer. The Purusha wants to know what is Prakriti, it glances, glances for observation. And to satisfy this desire of Purusha, the Prakriti unfolds itself.