Ksetrajna, Atma and Prakriti

Question: What exactly is the ksetrajna in terms of the Samkhya tattva categories?

Answer: Ksetrajna and atma are synonyms. The conditioned atma is called jiva. The purusa of Sankhya is the same as ksetrajna or atma. However, sometimes the word ksetrajna is also used for jiva or the conditioned atma.

Question: In SB II.2.16, the commentaries gloss it with buddhi.

Answer: Which commentary? I do not see anyone doing that.

Question: But the verse speaks of merging the pure buddhi into the ksetrajna.  So how can buddhi merge into buddhi?

Answer: Nobody says that. Buddhi is merged into ksetrajna.

Question: Moreover, how can the ksetrajna merge into atman, in the next part of the verse?

Answer:  OK, let us look at the verse first. The verse says: “Then, controlling his mind with his pure buddhi, the yogi should merge it into ksetrajna. The ksetranja, in turn,  should be  merged into atma. The atma is merged into Paramatma. Having attained peace in this way, the yogi should abstain from all action.” (SB 2.2.16)

So the process is that the senses are merged into the mind, mind into intellect, intellect into ksetrajna, ksetrajna into atma and atma into Paramatma.

Ksetrajna or jiva is atma with the conditioning (upadhi) of chitta, ahankara, manas and buddhi. With the conditioning of ahankara, he is the drsta, the seer; with the conditioning of manas vritti, he is jnana.

Ksetrajna can merge into atma with the inherent buddhi of atma by the help of the internal potency, not otherwise.

Question: What is the role of prana in this regard?

Prana is an evolute of rajasika ahankara as per Bhagavat Sankhya 2.5.31.  My understanding is that prana is almost on the same level as Mahat, although it evolves from rajasika ahankara.

The first evolute from prakrti is mahat-tattva. Mahat is predominant in sattva. This constitutes the chitta in an individual’s subtle body. Along with mahat, another tattva evolves, called sutra or sutratma. It is predominant with rajas. Prana is close to it, both being products of rajas.

The third tattva that evolves is ahankara, which is predominant in tamas. This is stated by Sri Krsna in SB 11.24.6 to Uddhava.

Usually we do not hear much about sutra. Prana and buddhi evolve from ahankara predominant in rajas. I understand that it is thru prana that consciousness comes into chitta from atma.  So prana is like a magnetic field. It is not air, which is gross and a product of tamasika ahankara. Usually we refer to prana as the air we breathe, and this is how the word pranayama is used, control of life air. But prana is certainly not the air we breathe. Prana is a subtle link between atma and chitta. This is the meaning of the statement from Mundaka Upanisad (3.1.9), “The five divisions of prana, viz. prana, apana, udana, samana and udana, exist taking shelter of atma yasmin prāṇaḥ pañcadhā saṁviveśa.

Question: Thanks Prabhu.  Vijnanabhiksu says, somewhere, in a similar sort of vein,
that it is vayu infused with buddhi, which possibly also makes some sort of sense. Have you come across any further references?

Answer:  Paramatma infuses prakriti with consciousness, i.e., the jivas along with their karmatasmin garbhaṁ dadhāmyaham (BG 14. 3). The word garbha, usually translated as womb, here means the jivas. Just as a man injects a jiva into the womb of a woman through semen, Visnu injects jivas into prakriti, which is like womb.   Then time, karma and svabhava bring transformation in prakriti. When Lord activates prakriti, He does it with His own prana and time, both beyond prakriti.

Once that is done, then prakriti (which is like a living being now, though inert by nature) evolves into prana and time, sutra and mahat. This prana is sattvika and the time is material. Thru this prana, mahat becomes conscious and then evolves into ahanakara. Rajasika ahanakara evolves into a further prana which energizes the jnanendriya and karmendriya, or makes them conscious. Tamasika ahankara produces vayu, also called prana, which energizes the body.

So prana must exist at least on three levels and actually is of three types, but because of the common function, it is just called prana (which brings life, or consciousness). It is for this reason that we have different explanations of prana in shastra. I think they are all right, but speak of different levels of prana.