Samkhya is one of the earliest schools of Indian philosophy and most systems including yoga have been drawn from or influenced by it. Samkhya is a dualistic philosophy and postulates two eternal realities. Purusha the witnessing consciousness and prakriti the root cause of creation composed of the three gunas.
This text highlights the unique contribution of Samkhya philosophy in man’s quest to understand his true nature. It discusses the practical theories of causation manifestation bondage and liberation. For the spiritual aspirant samkhyas is the metaphysics of self realization and yoga is the sadhana or means to achieve it.
Samkhya Darshan contains the full Sanskrit text of Ishvara Krishna’s Samkhya Karika as well as transliteration and translation.
Swami Niranjanananda was born in Madhya Pradesh in 1960 and was initiated into Dashnami Sannyas at the age of ten.
From 1971 he traveled overseas for 11 years. In 1983 he returned to India to guide the activities of Bihar School of Yoga Sivananda Math and Yoga Research foundation.
In 1990 he was initiated as a paramahamsa and in 1993 anointed preceptor in succession to Swami Satyananda. He established Bihar Yoga Bharati in 1994 and Yoga Publications trust in 2000. Author of over 20 books he now gives spiritual guidance to aspirants from all over the world at Ganga Darshan.
The Rishis have propounded all the philosophical traditions of India form ancient times. They realized the spiritual truths within themselves without the need for any external textual knowledge. They tapped the infinite reservoirs of knowledge within the dimensions of the higher mind and gave us very brief formulas called sutras. We need to make an effort to understand these sutras through holistic knowledge and penetrating insight as they are of great practical relevance today in our daily life. Kapila was one such Rishi who was perhaps the first advocate of philosophy and psychology. This text presents a very clear understanding of the main concepts of this path breaking philosophy called Samkhya. The attempt here is to get into the essence of this system and present an insight into what Kapila had in mind when he first formulated the system of classical Samkhya.
Origin and History
Samkhya is an important philosophy because it forms the foundation of the Indian philosophical tradition as well as the basis for the yoga tradition. If we see the history of Samkhya we find that it has very few sources which are comprehensive. In fact the only complete work is Ishvara Krishna’s Samkhya Karika on which this work is based. Samkhya is called dualistic and atheistic however the versions of Samkhyas in the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavad purana are theistic. There are further versions of samkhya in the Ayurveda treatise charaka Samhita. References to the Samkhya terms are also found in some of the Upanishads especially the svetasvatara Upanishad.
Samkhya is perhaps the earliest philosophy to emerge from the Vedic corpus. The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda is said to be the inspiration behind this philosophy. The concept of Purusha is there in the Vedas but the concept of Prakriti as the unmanifest and the womb of creation is acknowledged to be that of Samkhya. The evolution of creation through the subtle tanmatras the gross elements mahabhootas and the mobilizing and perceiving indriyas as the medium to experience that creation completes the whole picture. The concept of tanmatra as the subtle elements is specific to Samkhya.
The word samkhya is composed of two words sam meaning correct, proper and discriminative and khya meaning knowing so samkhya encourages aspirants to undertake a discriminative analysis of creation and thereby realize one’s true nature. In fact it is said in one of the sutras that all other means of knowing are impure can bring about the knowledge of the difference between the manifest and the unmanifest i.e. the vyakta and the avyakta. The pratyabhijna of Kashmir Shaivism also refers to direct knowing or recognition. The experiences of sages prove that direct knowing is possible Ramana Maharishi the sage of Arunachala arrived at the self through a process of deep and heartfelt enquiry. That was his path and also the path for countless others.
Samkhya and the Philosophical tradition
Samkhya is one of the earliest schools of Indian philosophy and the other systems have been drawn from it. Swami Vivekananda says kapila is the father of all Hindu psychology. The ancient system that he taught is the foundation of all the accepted system of philosophy in India which are known as darshans. They all adopt his psychology however widely they differ in other respects. Vedanta is the logical outcome of Samkhya and pushes its conclusions still further. While its cosmology agreed with kapila Vedanta is not satisfied with dualism but continues its search for the final unity which is the goal of science and religion alike.
Samkhya is known as a dualistic philosophy as it postulates two eternal realities Purusha the witnessing consciousness and Prakrti the root cause of creation composed of the three gunas. The process of manifestation begins with the infusion of consciousness Purusha into Prakriti the unmanifest cause of creation. It is interesting to not how Samkhya arrives at the two eternal realities through a process of logical deducation and inference called proffs or pramanas. The theory of causation postulates prakriti as the womb of creation. Purusha is logically established as the witness the enjoyer and the consciousness. Samkhya has outlined a very systematic structure of creation comprising a total of twenty five tattwas or evolutes. Purusha and Prakriti constitute the transcendental level or source of evolution. The ten indriyas manas ahamkara and mahat constitute the subjective field the five tanmatras and five mahabhootas constitute the objective field. Thus evolution is on two levels the inner an the outer.
The later philosophies have futher developed this concept of evolution. Advaita Vedanta advocates the philosophy of the non-dual nature of the ultimate reality and has solved the problem of the diversified nature of creation (the ultimate becoming many) by postulating two levels of reality the absolute and relative. Kashmir Shaivism. The most systematic amongst the different tantric philosophies has developed a total number of thirty six evolutes or tatwas. This system includes a detailed explanation of and additions to the higher stages of evolution.
Sri Krishna the divine incarnation with all the powers and attributes of the ultimate glorifies Kapila the founder of the Samkhya School as a part of himself. He says among the siddhas I am kapila so if an avatar mentions kapila as himself why should kapila’s philosophy be called atheistic? God id not mentioned but presumably because kapila did not want a transcendental aspect to be introduced in a system which was purely realistic.
There has been criticism of Samkhya in this respect and also because it is apparently a dualistic philosophy. But it can be assumed that kapila did not want to discuss that which is beyond the grasp of the human mind and which is strictly a matter of experience. He did not want to go beyond realistic view. He did not want to discuss the final nature of the reality which is essentially formless. This point is further examined at the end of this book. Although purusha and Prakriti are mentioned as separate realities it is repeatedly established that they work together and Purusha forms the substratum or the base of creation. The direction of evolution given by Samkhya is clear and this has been developed later by other philosophies.
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