Can You Describe the Colour Purple? – Understanding the Magic of Prabhava

As human beings, our intelligence and ego have evolved in such a way that we yearn to understand everything through logic. In our minds, if there is no logic to something, it is not true. We know the exact mechanism of how aspirin lowers inflammation in the human body and this is why it ‘works’. However, how can we explain how crystal or gemstones aid in healing? How can we understand how mantra has the power to heal the body? People have attempted to answer this question, but ultimately it is due to something called prabhava.

According to ayurveda, prabhava is the specific, dynamic, hidden action of awareness present in a substance. Sometimes, a substance might work in a certain way if one teaspoon is consumed, and work completely oppositely if two teaspoons are taken. Why is this so? It is something we will never know because it is prabhava.

The prabhava is the superior quality of the substance or medicine. It is described as:

Achintya (unpredictable), Daiva pratighata (supernatural power), Visha pratighata ( antidote effects), Darshana ( practically visible), Shravana (praise), Tulya-rasa-guna vishesha (non-specificity), Adhbhuta karma (magic effects), Agama (classical treatise)

I have to try to explain this to some clients when they get given their diet sheet and start noticing contradictions. Why is yoghurt not allowed but buttermilk (yoghurt + water drink) is? It is something that I as an advisor cannot explain, but over time, such experiments with these foods has shown particular effects. I have to persuade the client to trust the intelligence of the food/medicine.

There are some things in life that we will simply never understand, and this is because our logical intelligence cannot explain it. It is a limitation of the human mind, yet it humbles us in the greatness of life at the same time.

Our intelligence can be likened to the sharpness of a knife. It is brilliant to cut things open, to dissect and understand the mechanics of something. But how do we understand something like love? Can we dissect this too and hope that we eventually understand it? No! of course not – one can only experience love and not describe it. Words are simply a limited way of our expression of it.

As I was sitting in my pharmacy dispensary eating an orange one day, I stared at this orange and suddenly thought to myself – ‘Isn’t strange how we can’t describe colour’. This question remained unanswered for some time. I would ask many people, ‘have you tried to describe the colour purple?’ They would laugh and change the subject but it is something that I knew would take me towards a truth.

I later came to understand with the help of my guru, that truth is beyond logic and beyond intelligence. What truth is, cannot be reached with intellectual understanding, but only experienced. You cannot describe purple, but you can experience it. Just like sound, you cannot describe a note played, but you can listen and experience it. The same goes for artwork, it serves as an expression of that which cannot be described in words.

Interestingly, the marathi translation of prabhava is:

prabhava (प्रभव).—m Might, majesty. The originat-ing cause of being. Birth.

Such a quality of prabhava is mighty, it is the higher power, the one that yields truth. And incredibly it translates as the originating cause of being, birth. Our being is rooted in truth, and this we know. It is mighty, it is magic, and it cannot be defined by logic. It is something that we will not be able to understand through reading books, but only experienced by being in life itself.


To work with this concept in ayurveda is something to feel honoured about. We give the power of healing over to the prabhava as we recognise its mightiness against our own limited intelligence.

As I came to write this article, I had hours of trying to articulate the concept of prabhava. Then it hit me…of course it cannot be described with words…so don’t even try! You see, the mind will be relentless in its pursuit to claim glory over its logical intelligence. Sometimes you have to just throw your hands in the air and laugh that you will never understand it! You must experience prabhava – it is not something that will suffice with words. To do this, you have to connect to the magic of life.

So how can we take this concept into our lives? Well – we can stop trying to understand everything to start! Be accepting of life and know that we don’t have to have the answer to everything – in fact such an answer is incredibly limited. Be open to the unknown, and go through life as if you know nothing. Every experience, every interaction, every venture is a completely new page where possibility is endless.


Textbook of Ayurveda Volume 2 – Dr Vasant lad

Talks by Sadhguru

About the Author


Naina Bajaria is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, Pharmacist and a Yogi.
She is also a wonderful blogger and vlogger.
You can check out her latest vlog about Vatta Dosha here.

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