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Samkhya Philosophy & the Gayatri Mantra


by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes


In Ayurveda, there are six philosophies that attempt to explain life and creation. Samkhya (Sānkya) Philosophy explains how all of life came to be and is the most popular philosophy. This was founded by Kāpila as the truth of life and manifestation of the universe. The Shad Darshan (Six Philosophies of life) were all received by the Rishis (seers) of ancient times. These different philosophies address the creation of the physical universe as well as our inner and outer realities.


These are the 24 principles of creation in Samkhya Philosophy:

  1. Prakruti (creative potential)

  2. Mahad (universal intelligence) & Buddhi (individual intellect)

  3. Ahamkara (ego)

  4. Manas (mind)

5 Jñanindriyas (cognitive senses)

5. Hearing

6. Touch

7. Vision

8. Taste

9. Smell

5 Karmendriyas (active instruments)

10. Speech

11. Grasping

12. Walking

13. Procreation

14. Elimination

5 Tanmatras (subtle elements of sensory perception)

15. Sound

16. Touch

17. Form

18. Taste

19. Odor

Pancha mahabhutas (gross elements)

20. Ether

21. Air

22. Fire

23. Water

24. Earth


Lets break down these principles:

Purusha:

Pure consciousness, silent force in creation.

Purusha is truth and ultimate healing power. It is passive (doesn’t participate in creation) and doesn’t give rise to anything. It is sometimes attributed as the masculine of Shiva. Purusha is the witness to creation that rises from Prakruti. Purusha isn’t number one in the 24 aspects of creation because it is number zero. Nothing can exist without its presence.

Prakruti:

Unmanifested, primordial matter, creative potential.

Contains intelligence to create and has intelligence with choice. Feminine Shakti and Divine Mother energies that give rise to a cascade of creation. The universe is born from the womb of Prakruti.

Mahad (Mahat)/Buddhi:

Cosmic intellect, 1st principle of individuation, intelligence, discrimination.

-Mahad has self awareness and is supremely intelligent. This applies to cellular intelligence when cells are choosing nutrients for building the body. It is every chemical reaction in the universe and organizes everything (length of pregnancy, growing time, etc).

-Buddhi is individual awareness. When Mahad forms “I”, it transforms from the universal awareness to individual awareness.

Ahamkāra:

“I am”, ego, allowing of self identity, individuality.

The rest of the principles (numbers 3-24) fall under this category in the 3 Gunas that we are experiencing constantly.

The 3 Gunas & the Mind:

  • Sattva (illuminated, lightness, pure quality) & rajas.

-5 jñanindriyas & 5 karmendriyas

-Manas (Mind) -faculty of cognition and action

  • Tamas (stable, solid) & rajas. Compost that creates new. Fullness merging back to fullness. Sleeping energy

-5 tanmatras

-5 mahabhutas/ panchamahabhuta

  • Rajas (force of movement, cell division, growing from a seed). Kinetic energy that fuels the other two Gunas.

Being aware of this Samkhya philosophy helps us to recognize the elements we are made of, what our senses are and how we can use them to behave peacefully and kindly in this lifetime. We can reflect on how we touch, listen, grasp, eat, walk, savor and lean in to the present moment. Prakruti and Purusha show us the importance of the divine masculine and feminine energies, while Ahamkāra reminds us to have self awareness and individuality. Mahad assures us that everything is happening in perfect & divine timing while cosmic intelligence is at work on every level. The three Gunas (sattva, rajas & tamas) teach us the cycles of life on multiple levels, highlighting constant birth, death and rebirth.


In addition to these 24 principles of creation in Samkhya philosophy, the Gayatri mantra contains 24 seed syllables that they say beholds all the wisdom of the Vedas (ancient texts). They say that from the Gayatri mantra, the knowledge of Purusha (cosmic entity of consciousness in pure form) was realized, connecting us to Samkhya philosophy. Each one of these seed syllables (e.g. Tat, sa, va, yam) has a profound meaning and invokes great power and goodness. In our mouths, saying these syllables touches places on our palate that activate specific areas of our bodies and chakras. This mantra helps to tie us to the oneness of the divine & supreme soul. The words invoke earth, heaven, inner existence, divine protection, Source and the Divine Mother. Sunrise is a good time to recite this mantra, as it has the potential to spread positive potential energy throughout the cosmos.


Gayatri Mantra:

Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha (Om Bhoor Bhoo-va Su-va-ha)

Tat Savitur Varenyam (Tat Sa-vee-toor Vary-ayn-yam)

Bargo Devasya Dhimahi (Bar-go Day-vas-ya Dhee-ma-hee)

Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat (Dhee-yo Yo Nah Pra-cho-da-yaat)

The Gayatri Mantra doesn’t have a direct translation and has many meanings. It is a praise to the source of power (the sun, Gayatri Devi, or however you resonate with Source) and requests that radiant light and power illuminates our world, hearts and mind, destroying ignorance. Our meditation and mantra is an active request for enlightenment, liberation, and illuminating our hearts.


Through this information, we can be aware of the elements of creation, how we show up and behave in the world, and how we pray for and request peace and light in our lives. Our internal awareness and healing radiates from our beings and has the power to spread healing throughout the world.


Art by Bruce Harman


4/5/23

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