Today when we use the word Sankhya, those who are familiar with the modern understanding, current understanding of Sankhya, it will have another meaning. That makes our reading of the Gita today much more complicated than it could have been otherwise: already, it was complicated, but today when we read it, it is doubly complicated. While expounding, I have to expound two things: what Sankhya meant at that time, what Sankhya means today; what Yoga meant at that time, what yoga means today; what Vedanta meant at that time, what Vedanta means today. What was the controversy about Vedavada at that time and what is the controversy today. Having understood all this, and then, when we plunge into the 2nd chapter, it will become much easier.
Let us start now with Sankhya first.
Sankhya generally meant at that time, a method of knowledge by which one can be enabled to withdraw from activity by renunciation, and one can enter into a supreme peace and inactivity. The activity and movements of activity, the totality of activities were all grouped under one word: prakṛti. The very word Prakriti refers to action: kṛ, means ‘to do’ in Sanskrit; pra, means ‘moving forth’. prakṛti, is ‘a power that acts forth’, that is Prakriti. Sankhya meant the knowledge of Prakriti and the knowledge of the state of silence for which the word that was used was puruṣa. And then, Sankhya meant a process by which one can liberate oneself from the movement of Prakriti, and enter into the silence of the Purusha. The emphasis was upon renunciation of action so as to enter into the peace of the Purusha. And that was regarded as liberation, and that was regarded as the highest process by which one can resolve the problems of life and attain to peace.
It is because of this reason that Arjuna, when he says, ‘I will not fight’, in his mind, there was this idea that he will withdraw from action and enter into liberation, which is wonderful! It is because of the Sankhya that was prevalent at that time.
This Sankhya was a very elaborate system. Although I expounded in two lines but it was basically a very elaborate system. The elaborate system maintained that Prakriti, although it is original, uncaused, it is never alone. It is always found in juxtaposition of Purusha, that which is inactive. The principle of Inactivity and the principle of Activity are always found to be in juxtaposition of each other. Wherever there is Prakriti, be sure that Purusha must be present somewhere, nearby. Wherever there is Purusha, you should remember that there must be Prakriti somewhere, in one condition or the other. Prakriti may be in the position of activity, or it may be in the position of inactivity: inactivity, not in the sense in which Purusha is inactive, but as yet un-manifest, active, but un-manifest. The original condition of Prakriti was called avyakta, un-manifest. It is the condition of ‘un-manifest’, the Prakriti was supposed to be moving between two conditions: un-manifest and manifest. Prakriti is a movement; in this movement, you can roll up yourself fully or unroll up yourself.
Question: When it was rolled up, it was Purusha?
Answer: No. Even then it is Prakriti, but it is an ‘active’ principle which is ‘un-manifest’. In Purusha, there is not even the possibility of action; it is really silent, inactive. Prakriti may be manifest or un-manifest, but even un-manifest Prakriti is a kind of a potential action.