aliṅga

(‘without sign’)

The Sāṅkhya system of Indian Philo-sophy posits pradhāna or prakṛti (nature, matrix of all created objects) as one of the two fundamental realities, the other reality being puruṣa (soul). Aliṅga is one of the synonyms of this prakṛti. Etymologically the word ‘liṅga’ signifies a characte-ristic mark or an object that dissolves back in its cause. ‘Aliṅga’ therefore is that which is the opposite of ‘liṅga’. Prakṛti or primordial nature with its three constituent guṇas in a state of perfect equilibrium is so subtle, that there is absolutely no manifest sign by which it can be perceived. It can only be inferred. Hence it is called ‘avyakta’ (the unmanifest) and ‘aliṅga’ (without characteristic signs). Being the original cause and the substratum of dissolution of all its products, it has no dissolution itself. Even in this sense it is ‘aliṅga.’

For further details see PRADHĀNA and PRAKṚTI.

See also SĀNKHYADARŚANA.

The word is used in some of the Upaniṣads (vide Kaṭha 6.8 and Maitrāyaṇī 6.31, 35; 7.2) to indicate Ātman or Brahman since the latter has no liṅgas or signs by which it can be perceived by the senses or even the mind.