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Classical Samkhya: A Critical Study

Classical Samkhya: A Critical Study
Item Code: IDC108
Author: Anima Sen Gupta
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1982
ISBN: 8121501504
Pages: 192
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.9" X 5.8"

About the Book:

In this book, the author has tried to give an exhaustive and critical exposition of the philosophical position of the Samkhya school. The introduction chapter of the book gives a philosophical characterization of the Samkhya school, emphasizing specially its realistic and rationalistic aspects. Another noteworthy chapter is on Epistemology, which give, for the first time, a thorough and critical analysis of the knowledge - situation of the Samkhya school and brings into bold relief the distinctive features of the Samkhya - epistemology in relation to the epistemological positions of other schools of Indian philosophy. The chapters on Ethics and Religion are also quite impressive. The author has also done well by including an appendix which considers the problem of the existence of God from the perspectives of the philosophical reflection of India and the west.

About the Author:

Dr. Anima Sen Gupta has employed her critical and penetrating faculties for a constructive and sympathetic understanding of many knotty problems of the Samkhya philosophy and she has also expanded them in a lucid, convincing and impressive manner.



Dr. Anima Sen Gupta of Patna University, now retired; has earned a name for herself as a sound scholar and as an authority on the Samkhya School of Indian Philosophy. Coming from a highly con- nected Bengali family of intellectuals, she has to her credit a distin- guished academic career, after which she has engaged herself for the last 35 years in her vigorous academic pursuits, which have indeed borne good fruit both in her teaching and writing.

Though actively interested in all schools and branches of Indian Philosophy, Dr. Anima Sen Gupta has specialised in the study of the Samkhya thought as would be evident from her several pioneer- ing works on it, which she has already published.

Incidentally, she has contributed ten authoritative articles, very weighty indeed, on the various facets and thinkers of the Samkhya Philosophy, designed in our Marathi Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, and our editors have been highly impressed by these thoughtful writings.

The present book Classical Samkhya: A Critical Study reveals once more her acute scholarship and deep insight into the subjects she has dealt with. Needless to say, this work is stimulating and illuminating.

I commend this book to scholars interested in various facets and phases of Samkhya philosophy. I hope Dr. Anima Sen Gupta, will continue to make similar contributions to philosophical scholarship by further works on Indian philosophy.



The Classical Samkhya is a dualistic system because it explicitly re- cognizes the independent existence of the dual principles of Purusa and Prakrti, In fact, the nature of Purusa and Prakrti and their relationship forms the central doctrine of the philosophy of this school. The most important point in the Upanishadic Philosophy is the doctrine that the inmost self is of the nature of pure conscious- ness and that it is the ground of all our experiences. The Atman is identical with Brahman. The diverse powers of Nature have no rea- lity independent of it. But in the Upanisads, an attempt to show how from the one reality, the empirical world has sprung up, is no- where visible. We are simply told that this universe has originated from Brahman and that ultimately it will return to it.

The Samkhya doctrine has taken up the task of explaining how this world of multiplicity has gradually come into existence through the process of evolution from Prakrti. In this glorious act of crea- tion, Prakrti is vitalised by the sannidhi of Purusa, Multiplicity, however, proceeds directly from Nature and not from the spiritual principle. The spiritual reality is self or Purusa which is of the nature of pure consciousness. Purusa is ever pure in nature and all impurities of action and passion are only falsely ascribable to it. The relation of the soul with the world is merely external and arti- ficial. It is through ignorance and passion, gathered from the cease- less flow of karma from beginningless time, that we ascribe to the soul all the impurities of our worldly life. The realisation of the pure nature of the self and also of its distinction from Prakrti is the goal of this ceaseless cycle of births and rebirths.

The productive agent of the universe is Prakrti or Nature. This agent is constituted of the three gunas-sattva, rajas and tamas. The state of Prakrti is the equilibrium of the three gunas; when the equi- librium is disturbed due to purusartha samyoga, the world of multi- plicity comes into being. Nature is supposed to be impregnated with a sort of unconscious teleological force by virtue of which the gunas are capable of providing the purusas with experience of various sorts and also of liberating them from bondage through the dissolu- tion of buddhi which is the bond of the apparent union between the transcendental purusa and Prakrti, There is no real relation between buddhi and purusa. But due to the presence of transcendental illusion in buddhi from beginningless time, the distinction between the two is not realised. This illusion is mentioned as the bondage of Purusa. The Classical Samkhya thinks that the illusion is of the nature of the non-discrimination between the Purusa and the Prakrti and that this avidya is the cause of all misery. When this illusion is removed permanently. the purusa becomes free in its nature as pure conscious- ness and this is the state of moksa or liberation from the sorrows and sufferings of the world.

The Philosophy of samkhya is not merely a dualistic system; it is also a realistic and rationalistic system. A realistic system, as we know, is a system which believes that the object of cognition is different from and independent of cognition. In the opinion of a realistic philosopher, the object of valid cognition (pramajnana) is never non-existent or unreal (asat). It is only the object of an erro- neous cognition which can be regarded as asat in some sense or other. Again, the relation or sambandha may, sometimes, be proved to be false but the relata or sambandhi can never be false. The Samkhya, being realistic in attitude, has not made any distinction between mithya and tuccha as has been done in the advaita vedanta. The object, which is negated in the empirical life, can, very well, be described either as mithya or as tuccha.

Realism, however, may be merely epistemological, a form which is not incompatible with Idealism, or it may be both epistemologi- cal and metaphysical. One who holds that an object known is inde- pendent of the knowing mind, may still hold that the object is spiri- tual in nature. Here, the man is a realist only in the epistemological sphere: In the metaphysical sphere, he is an idealist. A metaphysical realist admits the independent existence of the non-spiritual object outside the sphere of knowledge also.

The Philosophy of Samkhya is realistic both from the epistemolo- gical and metaphysical points of view. In the field of epistemology, the Samkhya Philosophers have admitted the independent existence of the object of cognition. The object of phenomenal knowledge is different from phenomenal knowledge and is also independently existent. The object of cognition is always revealed in cognition as something given, as idam and such a revelation is due to visaya's own power of intelligibility. (Pratyupasthitamidam svamahat myena vastu.) Since, the object of cognition possesses sattvaguna, it posses- ses knowability or intelligibility and it is because of the intelligibility that the object gets related to somebody's experience. Had there been no object to be known, there would not have been any cogni- tion. That which is revealed in cognition as 'idam', is real and existent. It becomes an object of phenomenal knowledge by means of its own jneyatva dharma. The very fact that the object is revealed in cognition, shows that they are different. (Vedyatvasyabhedavyapyat- vabhavat kuto bhedapratipaksatvam, (TV, IV. 14).

The vijnanavadi says that because the knowledge of an object and the knowledge of the knowledge of that object occur simultaneously, knowledge and the object known are non-different. Knowledge is always apprehended along with the object of knowledge and never apart from the object of knowledge. Vacaspati has emphatically asserted that the non-difference between the knowledge and the object of knowledge cannot be proved by this sahopalambhaniyama. It is, indeed, true that the presence of knowledge always indicates the presence of an object of knowledge; but from the absence of knowledge, nobody can infer the absence of objects. We can never argue that since we are not knowing the object, the object does not exist. So, the non-difference of the object from its cognition cannot be proved. Worldly objects are not mere vijnana as they are always experienced as objects external to cognition (Na vijnanamatram vahyapratiteh).

Further, one and the same object can be presented to many bud- dhis or cognitions. So, the object cannot be of the form of any one of these cognitions. It has got its own satta and it exists indepen- dently of cognition. This is because one and the same object can arouse different kinds of cognitions in different minds. That which arouses different cognitions, can never be of the form of any one of these cognitions. (Vastusamye cittabhedat tayah vibhaktah panthah), In the metaphysical sphere too, the Samkhya system is a realistic one. This is because according to this school, the unconscious mut- able root cause of this world is a paramarthika tattva. It is meta- physically real, independent and different from purusa or the principle of consciousness.

Although, according to Samkhya, the sannidhi of purusa is neces- sary for creation, still Prakrti does not depend on purusa for its existence. It is true that Purusa vitalises Nature by means of its sannidhi and thereby makes it fit for creation; but that does not in any way impair the independent nature of Prakrti, The reflection of consciousness in Prakrti simply becomes the exciting force behind creation; it is neither the material cause, nor the efficient cause of creation. Purusa is related only seemingly to the world through reflection. There is no real relation between the world and the principle of consciousness. The world is sat independently of Purusa and the root cause of the world IS naturally different from purusa and is independently active.

Had the Sarhkhya Philosophers admitted any such power in Purusa by means of which Prakrti had become active in creation, the svatah parinami nature of Prakrti would have been absolutely meaningless. All objects of the world are the effects of a svatah parinami Prakrti and are also dependent on it.

Even though, the adristas of jivas are regarded as sahakari (assis- ting) karana in creation, still this also does not make creation dependent on Purusa. Changes are constantly going on in the infi- nite bosom of Nature. Even when there is no creation, there is svarupa parinama in the guna reals. So, adrista is not the cause of parinarna: it is the cause simply of diversities in creation. Adristas actually cause diversities in enjoyment. It cannot make Prakrti dynamic or active.

The Samkhya is also a rationalistic system. This is because the Samkhya system has established the reality of its metaphysical principles by means of yukti or reasoning. Only those things which cannot be proved either by perception or by inference, are to be accepted 00 the basis of scriptural evidence.

The advaita vedanta uses the upanisadic text "neha nanasti kincana" to prove the falsity of the whole world. The Samkhya, however, does not believe in the falsity of the world. From the Samkhya point of view this mahavakya may mean that before crea- tion, there was no creative diversity in the cetanavista intelligised Prakrti, It is because the advaita vedanta has believed in the falsity of the whole world that the creative process of the advaita vedanta is just a vyanjana and not a reality. In the Samkhya, how- ever, the creative process is a real one. Just as in actual life, we find that if a heap of dried leaves and fire are kept very close to one another, the leaves assume a blazing form immediately and by nature. This is a fact of experience. So, the Samkhya has also held that the palpitating rajas, along with sattva and tamas is undergoing changes constantly and naturally, thereby forming different combi- nations. The result is the creation of this multifarious universe.

In the empirical life, we find that all objects are by their very nature, undergoing constant changes and modifications. Hence, it is quite rational to suppose, on the basis of worldly experience, that the root cause of the world is also a svarupa parinamrtattva. The Nyaya-vaisesikas believe in atomistic creation; in the opinion of this school of philosophers, the activity in the atoms is generated by God -a hypothesis which may not stand the test of reason and experience. The case is different with the Samkhya school. This school has not introduced God as the prime mover; but it has shown that since every worldly object is sakriya (active) and parinami (mutable) the root cause of the world must be of the same nature. This is real yukti and not mere imagination of the human mind.






Nature of Knowledge
Can Purusa be a Saksi in the Advaita Sense?
Sources of Knowledge
Validity and Invalidity of Knowledge
Meaning of Svatahgrahyatva in Regard to Pramanya and Apramanya
Definition of Svatahgrahyatva of Apramanya from the Samkhya Point of View



Theory of the Gunas
Prakrti and the Disturbance of the Prakrti State
Multiplicity of Selves
The Samkhya Theory of Causation
Non-Causality of Pursa



The Samkhya Conception of Subha and Asubha (Good and Evil)
Organic Injuries (Indriya-Vadha)
Nine Tustis and their Viparyayas



Meaning of Samkhya Atheism (Nirisvaravada)



The Problem of the Existence of God
Samkara's View
Samkhya-Yoga on God



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