Samkhya, also written as, Sankhya, translating to enumeration or number from Sanskrit is one of the six systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy. It belongs to a dualistic astika sector of Indian philosophy that recounts reality and human experience that consist of two separate principles - purusha (eternal spirit) and prakriti (matter).
Purusha is the awakened consciousness. It is absolute, self-reliant, sovereign, indistinguishable with other agencies. It transcends any experience felt by the mind or senses, words or language. The Purusha will always remain pure and no name or title can objectify or substantialize it. Prakriti is the earliest form of the mind and matter. It is idle and devoid of consciousness. It constitutes a balance between the three gunas (qualities, innate tendencies), that is, sattva, rajas and tamas. However, when the purusha and prakriti come into contact with each other, this balance is disrupted, thus creating twenty-three tattvas, i.e., intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), mind (manas), the five sensory abilities, the five action capabilities and the five subtle elements or manners of sensory contact. Jiva is the state of union between the purusha and the prakriti, human experience is the interaction of this union. The end of this tie between these two entities is called liberation or ‘kaivalya’. The epistemology of Samkhya acknowledges three of six pramanas as the primary, trustworthy source of attaining knowledge, just like yoga.
While there are many records of this particular system of philosophy, Samkhya was recognized as a classical form and expression of philosophy in the Sankhya-karikas. Though there have been theories about this system cited in the Rig Veda and Upanishads, Western scholars believe that Samkhya may not have originated from Vedic elements. The Samkhya school of thought has a strong relation to the Yoga school of thought in Hindu philosophy.
The Samkhya school of thought deduces the presence of two bodies - the temporal body and the body of ‘subtle’ matter. When our former body decays, the latter body travels to another temporal body.
Q1. Why is Samkhya philosophy important?
This form of philosophy has contributed immensely to mankind’s collective perception of the environment and the living beings that reside in our environment and the relationship between the two. The three main thoughts also play a huge role in modern day medicine.
Q2. What is Samkhya philosophy based on?
Samkhya means ‘empirical’ or ‘number’. Therefore through the numerical system, this form of philosophy describes creation in a way where the implicit becomes explicit and where there is neither destruction nor production. It is believed in Samkhya philosophy that all of creation is born out of the Purusha and the Prakriti.
Q3. Does the Samkhya philosophy also believe in rebirth?
The Samkhya philosophy does not adopt the theory of rebirth. Samkhya philosophy explains the power of the self and emphasises that self-knowledge leads to freedom and it is not influenced by any outside forces.
Q4. What does liberation mean in terms of Samkhya philosophy?
The state of liberation and freedom is termed as ‘kaivalya’ in the Samkhya school of thought. It means a person achieves a sense of liberation when they understand that their consciousness (purusha) is separate from the matter (prakriti)
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