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The Female Pole of the Godhead in Tantrism and the Prakrti of Sāmkhya

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The dualism of the consciousness principle (puruṣa) and the material principle (Prakrti) in the Sāmkhya and Pātañjala-Sāmkhya (Yoga) traditions of religious thought has often been thought of as a dualism of a male and a female principle. Contrary to what is often assumed however the material principle of Sāmkhya and Pātañjala-Sāmkhya does not possess a female identity. This paper argues that the identification of the Sāmkhya and Pātañjala-Sāmkhya Prakrti with a female principle among scholars is due to a very selective use of evidence and too much dependence on later sources, especially the Tantric religious systems in which the female-male polarity was utilized for the interpretation of the ultimate reality, the structure of the world and the means to attain liberation. The way the Tantric religions utilized the Sāmkhya dualism of Prakrti and puruṣa to illustrate the female-male polarity of ultimate reality illustrates the manner in which the Tantric religions reinterpreted elements of earlier systems of religious thought and transformed them according to their own purpose and the process of borrowing and synthesizing of what had come before them typical of the Hindu religious traditions.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oslo Department of Cultural Studies P.O. Box 1010, Blindern N-0315 Oslo, Norway


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