A Study of The Sankhya-Karika of Isvarakrsna

A Study of The Sankhya-Karika of Isvarakrsna

Item Code: NAD695
Author: S.P.Das Gupta
Publisher: Sri Balaram Prakashani (Kolkata)
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8182820979
Pages: 186
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 280 gm

The usual custom of- offering an apology for w;riting and publishing a book becomes an imperative necessity when the obvious object of the writer is to challenge deep rooted beliefs and convictions. The present volume makes no secret of the fact that it professes to question the validity of the current account of the origin and nature of the Sl1mkhya philosophy.

The student of Sl1mkhya is conscious of the many problems that beset him on all sides. But no problem has baffled him more than the one concerning the nature of the original Sl1mkhya philosophy. He is faced with the fact that the philosophy of Sl1mkhya-Kl1rikl1 does not see-eye to eye with the accounts of Sltmkhya given in Katha, Svetltsvatara and the GWI.. When he refers' to the Mahabharata he finds a bewildering variety of tenets and principles all passing muster for the Sltmkhya philosophy. The opinion has, therefore, been generally favoured" that there was no systematic Sltmkhya at the pre-Ksrikastage. The critical student may go a step' further and declare that Sl1mkhya has never been a systematic philosophy. This would be amply justified if Samkhya be what the authoritative commentators say that it is.

For reasons that have been fully stated in the following pages, we have been led to the conclusion that the ruling' Samkhya is a distorted, deformed and defaced edition of the genuine Samkhya which has been sought to be driven underground, like so many things of India's far-reaching past, to suit ,the exigencies of rolling centuries and ages. This is only an instance of the gigantic cultural conflicts that are written large in the pages of Indian history.

What we have done is simply the application of, what may be called, the spade-and-shovel method of the archaeologist to the treatise called Samkhya-Karika and attributed to Isvara-krsna. We have tried to remove, layer by layer, all 'later accretions with the sole object of reclaiming the original Samkhya philosophy. We have denied both Gaudpade, and Vacaspati the privilege of leading us blind-folded by the nose. We have made bold to submit them to a rational survey. If anybody resents this procedure on our part we have for him in our pocket the charter of freedom signed, sealed and solemnised by Sltmkhya itself.

What we have found is striking, shocking and something unthought of in the domain of Indian speculation. It is a theory of Reality and Life that rebels against the doctrine of salvation that Samkhya is said to be. We have noticed in Samkhya-Karika. a doctrine of Duhkha and Moksa trying to yoke a demonstrative philosophy of, Reality and Life developing round the concepts of Bandha and Siddhi.

The two Samkhyas in Samkhya-Ka.rib may be separated from each other. The first fifty-two Karikas without the term Duhkha contain the genuine Samkhya, while the sixteen Karikas from 53 to 68 propound the false Samkhya. The latter is pretty well-known. We shall here try to give an outline of what the former is.

Samkhya means and is the theory of Reality. Reality, according to it, is, as Dahlmann has said, a triune-unity we differ, however, from Dahlmann in holding that this triune-unity is not to be found in its genuine form in either Katha or Svetasvatara. It is, as the 2nd Karika puts it, the unity of Vyaktavyaktajna. Reality is not an aspectless unity but a unity of differentiated aspects. It is a dynamic Order,

The concept of Order is the fundamental concept of Samkhya. Jna is the central principle of this Order, ever meaning Avyakta and through its medium the society of personal-objective orders called Vyaktas or better Vyaktis. knowledge is only another name for this Order. But as involving a society of personal-objective orders, there is a also a moral order. Morality is the quality of the interpersonal relations. These interpersonal relations are according to. Samkhya, the social functions of Vacana, Adana etc. otherwise called Karma-Indriyas. Ananda or Art is included in these social functions. The position of Samkhya has been perfectly cleared by the division of the necessary Indriyas of Liaga-Purusa into Buddhi- Indriyas or logical or objectifying functions and Karma- Indriyas or social or moral functions. The former are concerned with the construction' of the objective order of facts, the latter with that of the social order of persons. Reality or Knowledge (and, therefore, Linga-Purusa also) is the dynamic Order in which two orders may be distinguished. They are the orders of Science (Jiia.na or Buddha) and Morality or .Conduct (Karma. or Dharma). This latter includes the order of Art. This explains Jiil1na-Karma- Semuccaya of the GitlL and indicates the source of the concept of Triratna of Buddhism.

We have said that Reality, according to Samkhya, is a dynamic Order. That it is so will be evident from the fact that it is a Purusarthahetuke, Nimitta-N aimittika- Prasaaga, Purussrthe is a dynamic concept. It means Reason and Conscience. Reason demands Science. Conscience demands Conduct. It is significant, therefore, that Samkhya has styled itself as Purusarthajnane.

Reality being thus a dynamic logical-moral order, it must be conceived as a perpetual ordering. Disorder and chaos, discord and confusion, error and evil or Viparyaya and Asakti are necessarily involved in Reality. The antagonism of Sattva and Tamas and the necessary place that they occupy in Reality are thus highly significant.

Science is a perpetual crusade against Nescience, Morality against misconduct or untruth and injustice and Art against deformity and distortion. The mythological fables in the Pursnas" of the many battles between the gods and the demons and the realistic reference to Kuruksetra as something necessary for the maintenance of the order of Truth and Justice- against the onslaughts of the forces of disorder and disruption are only different enumerations of the inherent conflict in any truly conceived dynamic order.

The concept of Reality as ordering disorder is as old as Rgvedic Rta and its necessary implicate Anrta. The story of Kasyapa giving birth to Adityas and Daityas by his two wives Aditi and Diti respectively is only the mythical illustration of this very concept of Reality. Adityas and Daityas are eternally at war. This war,• this conflict is the very life and soul of Reality.

Divested of myth and metaphor, this conflict assumes the form of an eternal interrogation and a never-ending call for action. It is both Tattvajijnasa and Karma or Dharmajijnasa including Rasaprerana or artistic urge. Viewed logically, Reality as Jijnasa is an eternal Dialectic. Viewed ethically, Reality is a perpetual call for readjustment of interpersonal relations. Dialectic demands Science. Personal relations demand Morality and Art, or Conduct and JEsthetic enjoyment.

Jijnasa presupposes Bandha and anticipates Vijnana. Special Jijnasas presuppose special Bandhas and anticipate the special sciences. General JijiiltslL presupposes general Bandha and anticipates philosophy. Philosophy is the self-comprehension of Reality. Samkhya is such a philosophy. It explains the general structure of Reality as Dialectic or Jijnasa and comprehends both Tattva and Dharma Jijnasa.

'We are now in a position to understand the real import f of the first two Karikas. Jijnasa is a call for the conquest of Bandha. It is, therefore, due tp the reaction or Abhighata of Bandha and is directed to its annihilation or Apaghnta.

There is no logical place for Duhkha In the first Karika, simply because Samkhya has recognised that the logical necessity for Science or Jijnasa' is more fundamental than the pragmatic or hedonistic necessity of Duhkhapaghata. Again, Ekanta and Atyanta Abhava, does not refer to Duhkha or as we would say, Bandha but to Jijnasa. The meaning is that there is no .end or termination of Jijnasa. Purusartha or Reason or Meaning without perpetual self-interrogation is an impossible' conception. Such a final and absolute end of Jijnasa would mean the suicide of Purusartha. Hence it is that the first Siddhi is Uha.


In trying to seek for the ultimate truth about life that we live in - and that we live for I had long been enamoured by the tenets of our Sankhya philosophy. But it was all too abstruse for me, being a student of materialistic science. In fact, I was lost in the complexity of the doctrine till I suddenly stumbled upon a tattered copy of a beautiful and a long sought for treatise on the subject, 'Samkhya or the Theory of Reality' by Professor J. N. Mukerji, originally brought out from Calcutta way back in 1931. After going through it, I felt for the first time that the book contained some of the real truths about the doctrine of the Sankhya philosophy and it clarified the purpose of human life in all its dimensions. To my mind, some of the scientific truths of the phenomenon of man on earth are embedded in the critical analysis that has been carried out in the Sankhya system of thought, which have been wonderfully summarized by Isvarakrsna and brought out in his famous treatise, the Sankhya- karika. And to that extent even the dry physical scientists would find it interesting and perhaps worthwhile to closely examine the doctrine of Sankhya - said to be propagated originally by sage Kapila - in the light of modem principles of scientific analysis.

It may not be out of place to mention here in brief that certain interesting philosophical speculations of ancient Indian origin regarding evolution of the cosmos had been drawing the attention of the modem physical scientists for quite some time now. But no final conclusion has yet been arrived at. I. would not be surprised if eventually the Sankhya philosophical approach leads to building a bridge or bringing about a compromise between the scientific thoughts and darsanic speculations. To . my mind, such a bridge can perhaps be built, starting from a plank having its foundation rooted to the Sankhya darsana with perhaps some support provided by . the parallel systems like Yoga tradition of Patafijali and the Vedantic doctrine of Sankaracarya.

The cosmic principle envisaged by the Sankhya doctrine entails continuous or all-pervading presence of a great anthropic principle of purusa (spirit) along with the physical universe of creation (prakrti). Obviously, the concept of purusa of Sankhya leads to something equivalent to the principle of the quantum 'observership', advocated by the scientists belonging to the school of Copenhagen interpretation of the physical world. The concept obviously leads to the comprehension of a kind of universe that is dependent on the existence of Jan observer'. In other words, one may say that there cannot be a universe if there were no 'observer', that is, the purusa of Sankhya. In the world of science this kind of proposition stands for what is now known as the 'participatory anthropic principle (PAP),. The idea of 'participatory anthropic principle (PAP), does not differ substantially from the non-theistic dualistic theory of purusa and prakrti of Sankhya philosophy. Quite obviously, many scientists look askance at such a concept, for such a cosmic theory! does not command a really biting force and is neither endowed with "much predictive power", as has been observed by Stephen Hawkins (2001) in his The Universe ill Nutshell. Even then, quite a number of scientists are already drawn towards a kind of tripartite interpretation of the evolving universe which entails: (1) a self-organized or self- synthesized system of quantum networking, (2) a cybernetic system of continuous transmission of information and flow of necessary feedback and (3) the complex network of living matter. The first of these three strands calls for operation of the Copenhagen interpretation involving a system that cannot attain a definite state of existence until it is 'observed' and 'measured' by some intelligent means. The idea also works like something similar to the physicist David Bohrn's notion of a 'non- local' or all-pervasive quantum networking operating within a framework of an inherent 'implicate order' as against the fully manifest 'explicit order' of the universe of ours.

Kapila's Sankhya system, as enunciated in the karikas of Isvarakrsna, looks forward to a material universe of the mula-prakrti (primordial material stuff) along with the citta (mind-stuff), which is avyapin or avyakta (unmanifest) in its unobserved or unmeasured condition. The primordial citra or miila-prakrti is made up of the three fundamental constituent tendencies or processes (gunas or strands). These are: (1) sattva (intelligibility), (2) rajas (activity) and lamas (the objectivities constituent). The Samkhya theory puts forward the tripartite (tri-guna) process as a continuing flow or discharge of material' energy bringing about spontaneous actions (rajas), rational ordering of things (sattva) and objectivation, that is, determinate formulation of things (tamas).

From the subjective standpoint also, the Samkhya system hinges upon the same three-pronged process as a series or a continuous flow of experience involving discrimination and discerning (sattva) and continuous awareness of an enveloping work of opacity (tamas). Thus in day-to-day life, the human experience tends to be oscillating between painful failure in trying to gain the desirable objectives, occasional moments of reflective comprehension, bringing about comfort and again moments of uncertainty and terrific confusion of the matter-of-fact situations of life. Scientists are gradually been drawn towards tri-guna or the tripartite triangle of forces of the Samkhya system of thought. It appears now that the Samkhya theory, which is basically extra-theistic in structure, verging on being almost materialistic, is highly compatible with the Bohmian interpretation of the cosmic reality. In any case, the role and the function of the sense of awareness (citta), that is, 'the quantum observer ship' in the modem materialistic conceptualization is quite intriguing and interesting indeed.

In the ultimate analysis of the Samkhya doctrine, the phenomenal world of ours comprises the evolving natural environment (Prakrti) in all its 24 different categories, (tattvas) operating within the ken of a personality-stuff (purusa). Let the modem Bohmian scientists - or for that' matter - the scientists of the .school of Copenhagen interpretation find out for themselves how it all fits within the parameters of quantum networking functionality of theirs.

I find that Professor J. N. Mukerji's excellent treatise on 'Samkhya or the Theory of Reality', is based on an incisive and constructive study of the Samkhya-karika of Isvarakrsna, who was perhaps the first to put the tenets of this branch of the ancient knowledge of India in a most systematic fashion for the first time and that too in a beautiful versified (karika) form. Having discovered the treatise, I immediately felt a strong urge to bring out Professor Mukerji's book once again in its original form - instead of leaving the title neglected for good in the dungeon of an archive - so that the upcoming generation of scholars can get benefited thereby. But in trying to bring out the book, I also felt, at the same time, for the need of supplementing it by adding a literal translation of the karikas of Isvarakrsna, which was lacking in Professor Mukerji's book.

Despite having no more than nodding acquaintance with Sanskrit and far less knowledge of Indian philosophy, I don't know, how I could have ventured to turn out a tolerable English translation of the karikas along with anvaya and occasional notes added to it, as and when necessary, now incorporated here in the present publication. In doing so, however, I had to stumble at every step and had to take copious help of the older translations of the Samkhya-karika, for example, of H. T. Colebrook, brought out by the Theosophical Society in 1887. I wish, I could have as well added here the famous commentaries of Gaudapada and Vacaspati Misra on the Sankhya-karika along with English translations thereof. But I had to refrain from such an ambitious plan that would have involved great lengthening of the current publication. Now it is up to the kind readers to judge for themselves about this present venture put before them.

Thus the present joint work comprises two parts. In the first part is Professor Mukerji's book on 'Samkhya or the Theory of Reality' in its original form as it had been brought out in 1931 and, as an additive adjunct in the second part, lies my humble contribution titled as 'Samkhya-karika of Isvarakrsna', consisting of a plain English rendition of the karikas along with parsing of each verse and some annotation. I may add in passing that I had never the opportunity of meeting J. N. Mukerji who had been professor of philosophy in Morris College at Nagpur in the nineteen thirties. However, I had frequent contact - some two decades later in the nineteen fifties - with that celebrated College (since renamed as Nagpur Mahavidyalaya) as only an occasional visiting external examiner in geography, which had been my branch of specialization and that too far removed from darsana of any kind. I only hope that thinkers as well as scientists in general and scholars in Indian philosophy and Indology in particular would be benefited by going through this little joint work of mine and of Professor Mukerji.

In bringing out this book in the present shape, the service rendered by the publishers and distributors- Messrs. Sadesh and Sri Balaram Prakashani –was of immense help, and I thank them a lot from my heart of hearts.


Part One : Samkhya or the Theory of Reality
ChapterIThe Point of View1
Chapter IIThe Theory of Causatio9
Chapter IIIThe Theory of Pramarra17
Chapter IvThe Structure of Reality27
Chapter VLinga33
Chapter VIThe Structure of Linga42
Chapter VIIVyakta and A vyakta48
Chapter VIIIJna and Purusa58
Chapter IXKnowledge as Construction of the Objective65
Chapter XLinga as Karta78
Chapter XIViparyaya, Asakti, Tusti and Siddhi84
Chapter XIIKarikas 53 to 6892
Part Two: Sarikhya-karika of Hvarakrsna
1The Scope of Siinkhya Darsana107
2Instruments of Knowledge (pramana109
3Theory of Causality (satkiirya-viida)112
4The Manifest and Unmanifest Aspects of Matter113
5Three Constituent Processes114
6Primordial Matter and Consciousness116
7Association of Matter and Consciousness119
8Fundamental Principles or Things of Reality (tattvas)121
9Functions of the Thirteen Instruments121
10The Gross and Subtle Elements129
11Lingam, the Subtle Body130
12The Innate Predispositions132
13The Phenomenal World138
14Functions of the Material World, some Illustrations140
15Liberation (moksa)142
16The Siinkhya Tradition147
18Index to slokdrdhas of the Sankhya-karika157
19Key to transliteration163
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