Samkhya Darshana (साङ्ख्यदर्शनम्)

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Samkhya sashtra or Samkhya (Samskrit: साङ्ख्यदर्शनम्) is one of the Shad Darshanas. Kapila Muni is the founder of Samkhya Darsana. The word Samkhya means number. The Samkhya system gives an enumeration of the twenty five principles of universe[1].

परिचयः || Introduction

In the context of ancient Indian philosophies, Samkhya philosophy is based on systematic enumeration and rational examination. Samkhya (साङ्ख्य) means "number" used in the sense of thinking and counting. Thinking is with reference to basic principles or Knowledge of Self. Counting refers to the twenty-four principles and others.[2]

Thus, the school specifies the number and nature of the ultimate constituents of the Universe and thereby imparts knowledge of reality. The term also means "perfect knowledge. Hence it is a system of perfect knowledge.[3] The main tenets in this school of philosophy are as follows

  • Samkhya is strongly dualist accepting the roles of Prakrti (प्रकृतिः) and Purusha (पुरुषः) in the Creation of this Universe.
  • Samkhya siddhanta accepts that enumeration of truth can be done by using three of six accepted pramanas (प्रमाणाः proofs).
  • The Trigunas exist in all life forms in different proportions.
  • It 'enumerates' twenty five Tattvas or true principles; and its chief object is to effect the final emancipation of the twenty-fifth Tattva, i.e. the purusha or soul.
  • The evolutionary process involves Pradhana (Prakruti), Purusha, Mahat (Buddhi), Ahankaraara, Pancha Jnanendriyas, Pancha Karmendriyas, Panchatanmatras, Panchabhutas and Manas
  • While the Samkhya school considers the Vedas as a reliable source of knowledge, a key difference between Samkhya and Yoga schools, state scholars, is that Yoga school accepts a "personal, yet essentially inactive, deity" or "personal god".
  • The existence of God or supreme being is not directly asserted, nor considered very relevant by the Samkhya philosophers.
  • Samkhya school considers moksha (मोक्ष) as a natural quest of every soul.

Founder - Kapila Maharshi

Maharshi Kapila is traditionally credited as a founder of the Samkhya school.

Bhagavata purana refers to Kapila as an incarnation of Bhagavan, as do the Pancharatra texts who allude to him as the incarnation of Bhagavan Srihari.

Mahabharata describes him as Bhagavan Hari and Vishnu (3.47.18), with Vasudeva (3.107.31) and with Krishna and also describes him as a great rishi who reduced the sons of Sagara into ashes by his wrath.

Bhagavadgita mentions Bhagavan Srikrishna saying that of the seers he is Kapila rishi (10.26).

Mahabharata also identifies Kapila with the Fourth fire. (Mahabharata 3.220.21)

Shvetashvara Upanishad (Shve. Upan. 6.13)

Though the use of 'Kapila' and 'Samkhya' is first found in Shvetashvara Upanishad तत्कारणं साङ्ख्ययोगाधिगम्यं ज्ञात्वा देवं मुच्यते सर्वपाशैः ॥ १३ ॥ (Shve. Upan. 6.13) yet Samkhya reflections appear in Rigveda and other Upanishads proving the antiquity of this Shastra.[2]

Names of twenty-six Samkhya teachers are met with in the Smritis, Mahabharata, the Karikas etc. They are as follows: Kapila, Asuri, Panchashika, Vindhyavasa or Vindhyavasaka, Varshanjna, Jaigishavya, Vodhu, Asitadevala or Devala, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Bhrgu, Sukra, Kashyapa, Parasara, Garga, Gautama, Narada, Arshtisena, Agastya, Pulastya, Harita, Uluka Valmiki, Suka.[2]

Vedic and Upanishad Influences

The ideas that were developed and assimilated into the classical Samkhya text, the karikas, are visible in earlier Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The earliest mention of dualism is in the Rigveda, नासदीय सूक्त || Nasadiya Sukta (Hymn of non-Eternity, origin of universe): Rigveda 10.129 hymn is one of the roots of the Samkhya.

The other Indian texts that mention Kapila and Samkhya include[2]

  • Rigveda 1.164.20 - 1.164.22 emphasizes the duality between सत् || sat (existence) and असत् || asat (non-existence) in the Nasadiya Sukta similar to the व्यक्त-अव्यक्त || vyakta–avyakta (manifest–unmanifest) polarity in Samkhya. The hymns about Purusha in Rigveda may also have influenced Samkhya. The Samkhya notion of buddhi or महत् || mahat is similar to the notion of Hiranyagarbha (हिरण्यगर्भ), which appears in both the Rigveda and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad.
  • Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Katha, Mundaka, Maitrayani, Prasha Upanishads and Manusmriti in various places mention the concepts of Samkhya. Satkaryavada, the theory of causation in Samkhya, can be traced to the verses in sixth chapter of Chandogya Upanishad which emphasize the primacy of सत् || sat (being) and describe creation from it. The idea that the three gunas or attributes influence creation is found in both Chandogya and Shvetashvatara Upanishads. The concept of ahamkara in Samkhya can be traced back to the notion of ahamkara in chapters 1.2 and 1.4 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and chapter 7.25 of the Chandogya Upanishad.
  • Mahabharata and the Puranas, fully reflect Samkhya philosophy. The mention of five gross elements, the twenty four categories in their manifested or unmanifested character and the three gunas is made in Vanaparva of Mahabharata (211. 1 - 8). The distinction between Prakrti and Purusha has been extensively expounded in Santi Parva (285. 33-40) of Mahabharata.
  • Bhagavadgita discusses the Samkhya concepts very lucidly which is named Samkhya Yoga (Chap. 2).

साङ्ख्यसिद्धान्तम् ॥ Samkhya Siddhantam - Core Concepts

The Samkhya system discusses an original primordial Tattva or principle called Prakrti , that which evolves or produces or brings forth (Prakaroti) everything else.

Objective of Samkhya Philosophy

The enquiry into this system of philosophy is to find out the means for eradicating the three sorts of pain, namely

  1. आद्ध्यात्मिक || Internal or Adhyatmika (This can be of further two types - Physical and Mental.
    1. Physical Pains: These are caused due to imbalance of Vaata, Pitta and Kapha. The Tri-Doshas as they are called, are not in harmony causing different illnesses.
    2. Mental Pains: These are caused due to various dispositions such as काम, क्रोध, मद, मोह, लोभ, भय, मत्सर, राग, द्वेष. Various mental diseases, worries, tensions, depression are examples of this pain.
  2. आदिभौतिक || External or Adhibhautika (These are pains caused due to this physical world. Problems caused due to thorns, animals, scorpion, thunder, cold, heat, rain etc.).
  3. आदिदैविक || Celestial or Adhidaivika (These include व्याधि due to Yakshas, Rakshasas, Sudden problems, still born child, unseen problems in important events, विघ्न, due to दैव etc.)

Pain is an embarrassment. It stands in the way of doing Yoga Sadhna and attaining Moksha or release. According to Samkhya one who has the knowledge of the twenty five principles, annihilates this pain. The ultimate cessation of the three kinds of pain is the final goal of life.[1]

Pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow really belong to Buddhi or the intellect and the mind. The Purusha or Self is by its nature free from them all. But due to Ajnana (ignorance) it fails to distinguish itself from the mind and intellect, and identifies itself with the body and senses. It is this want of discrimination or feeling of identity (aviveka) between the self and the mind-body that is the cause of all pain and troubles. Freedom from this suffering comes from knowledge of the distinction between the two (vivekajnana) and ends the suffering.[3]

द्वैत || Dvaita Concept of Purusha and Prakrti

Samkhya denies that anything can be produced out of nothing. It assumes the reality of Purusha and Prakrti , the knowing Self and the objects known. Prakrti and Purusha are Anadi (beginningless) and Ananta (infinite). Non-discrimination between the two is the cause for birth and death. Discrimination between Prakrti and Purusha gives Mukti (salvation). Both Purusha and Prakrti are Sat (real). Purusha is Asanga (unattached). He is consciousness, all-pervading and eternal. Prakrti is doer and enjoyer. Souls are countless.[1]

Samkhya is strongly Dvaita (द्वैत । dualist) based on the Upanishadic teaching of the Brahman there are two types of descriptions about Brahman; Purusha (consciousness) and Prakrti (प्रकृति । matter). On one hand, Brahman is described as Kutasta (unchangeable or immutable) as for example, in Gita, Brahman is described as the eternal principle which the fire cannot burn, wind cannot dry etc. On the other hand, Brahman is presented as changing principle and manifests into many forms to become the world. Here the example of spider is presented; the spider spins its web from its own resources, so also Brahman is the only reality and from him all things come forth. In order to solve this contradiction, Samkhya proposes two Ultimate Principles, Purusha (unchanging Self) and Prakrti (changing matter). Therefore, Samkhya is dualistic realism as it considers that both matter and spirit are equally real. It is also pluralistic because of its teaching that Purusha is not one but many.[2]

तत्वानि || Fourfold Classification of the Twenty Five Tattvas

The Samkhya gives a description of categories based on their respective productive efficiency viz:[1][2]

  1. प्रकृति || Prakrti (Productive)
  2. प्रकृति-विकृति || Prakrti - Vikriti (Productive and Produced). These are seven in number.
  3. विकृति || Vikriti (Productions). These are sixteen in number.
  4. अनुभयरूपम् || Anubhayarupa (Neither Productive nor Produced). This is Purusha.

This fourfold classification includes all the twenty-five principles or Tattvas.

  • Prakrti or Nature or Pradhana (chief) is purely productive. It is the root of all. It is not a product. It is a creative force, evolver, and producer.
  • The Productive and Produced include the Seven principles —
    • बुद्धि (Buddhi, intellect), अहंकार (Ahankara, egoism) and the five तन्मात्र Tanmatras (subtle essences - the essence of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound).
    • Buddhi is productive, as Ahankara is evolved out of it. It is produced also, as it itself is evolved out of Prakrti . Egoism is a production, as it is derived from intellect. It is productive, as it gives origin to the five Tanmatras. The subtle essences (Tanmatras) are derived from egoism. Hence they are productions. They give origin to the five elements. Hence they are productive.
  • The Productions include the sixteen principles, the ten organs, the mind and the five elements. They are unproductive, because none of them can give birth to a substance essentially different from itself.
  • The Purusha or Spirit is neither a production, nor is it productive. It is without attributes.

प्रमाणाः || Pramanas

In order to prove the tattvas, different kinds of proof (means of right cognition) are to be described. Samkhya philosophy is based on systematic enumeration and uses three of the six pramanas (प्रमाणाः । pramanas or proofs) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge.[1][4] These include

दृष्टमनुमानमाप्तवचनं च सर्वप्रमाणसिद्धत्वात् । त्रिविधं प्रमाणमिष्टं प्रमेयसिद्धि: प्रमाणाद्धि ॥ ४ ॥ (Samk. Dars. 4)[5]

dr̥ṣṭamanumānamāptavacanaṁ ca sarvapramāṇasiddhatvāt । trividhaṁ pramāṇamiṣṭaṁ prameyasiddhi: pramāṇāddhi ॥ 4 ॥ (Samk. Dars. 4)

  • प्रत्यक्षप्रमाणाः || pratyaksha-pramana (perception)
  • अनुमानप्रमाणाः || anumana-pramana (inference)
  • आप्तवचनम् || aptavacana (word/testimony of reliable sources) Vachana being शब्दप्रमाणाः । sabda-pramana.

The Word Apta means fit or right. It is applied to the Vedas or inspired teachers. Nyaya Darsana accepts four kinds of proofs: प्रत्यक्ष, अनुमान , उपमान, शब्द. The Mimamsakas recognise six kinds of proofs.

Unlike few other schools, Samkhya did not consider the following three pramanas as epistemically proper: उपमान || Upamana (comparison and analogy), अर्थापत्ति || Arthaapatti (postulation, deriving from circumstances) or अनुपलब्दि || Anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof).

प्रकृतिः || Prakrti the Cause

Prakrti means that which is primary, that which precedes what is made. It comes from 'Pra' (before) and `Kri' (to make). It resembles Vedantic concept of Maya. Thus, the sense of unity is seen in the single source of origin of the world or material manifestation. It is called the Root and is described as the Pradhana, that in which all things are contained, and as Prakrti, the mother of all things.[6]

Prakrti is eternal, all pervading, immovable. It is one. It has no cause, but is the cause of all effects. Prakrti is independent and uncaused, while the products are caused and dependent. Prakrti depends only on the activity of its own constituent Gunas (metaphysical properties).[1]

One pure Prakrti is made of the three Gunas namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The three Gunas with different permutations and combinations give rise to the varied substances. Accordingly, evolution cannot be consumed from Prakṛti alone or from Puruṣa alone.[7]

Proof for Existence of Prakrti

Samkhya gives five proofs for the existence of Prakrti .[3]

a) Bhedanam parimanat: (effects are limited and many) All particular objects of the world, from Buddhi to Panchabhutas, are limited and dependent on one another. The finite and limited principle cannot be the cause of the Universe. So there is an unlimited and independent cause for their existence. It is the Prakrti which is infinite, unlimited, independent and all-pervading source of the universe.

b) Samanvayat: (harmony) All worldly things possess certain common characteristics due to which pleasure, pain and indifference are produced. Therefore,they must have a common cause which is composed of these three gunas and that is Prakrti .

c) Karyatah pravrttescha: (effect is produced due to action) All effects proceed from the activity of some cause which contains their potentiality within it. The world of objects which are effects must be implicitly contained in some world-cause. And that is Prakrti .

d) Karanakaryavibhagat: (cause and effects are separate/different) The effect is the explicit and cause is the implicit state of the same process. The effect, therefore points to a world-cause where they are potentially contained. And that is Prakrti .

e) Avibhagat vaishvarupyasya: (unity) In the universe everything has a purpose and thus the whole universe is a unified whole. Therefore the unity of the universe points to a single cause and that cause is called Prakrti . One should not imagine a cause of this ultimate cause, for that will land us in the fallacy of infinite regress.

Transformation of Prakrti

This creation, from the intellect down to the elements is brought about by the transformation of Prakrti . Having observed the effects, the cause (Prakrti ) is inferred. Prakrti is imperceptible from its subtlety. It must therefore be inferred from its effects.

Egoism is a form of intellect. it is the matter from which the senses and the rudimental elements are formed. The gross elements are forms of the rudimental elements. Intellect, egoism and the five subtle rudiments or Tanmatras are the effects of Prakrti . Prakrti is the basis of all objective existence. Prakrti creates only when it comes into union with Purusha.[1]

गुणः || Gunas

Samkhya is known for its theory of gunas (गुणः। quality, innate tendencies). Guna, it states, are of three types: Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

  • सत्त्वगुणः || Sattva being harmony, illuminating, positive, pure.
  • रजोगुणः || Rajas is one of activity, motion, chaotic, passion, potentially good or bad action.
  • तमोगुणः || Tamas being the quality of darkness, ignorance, destructive, lethargic, negative

Everything, all life forms and human beings, state Samkhya scholars, have these three gunas, but in different proportions.

Prakrti is composed of three Gunas of forces, called Sattva (purity, light, harmony), Rajas (passion, activity, motion) and Tamas (inertia, darkness, inertness, inactivity). It is to be noted that these Gunas are not the Nyaya-Vaiseshika Gunas. They are the actual substances or ingredients, of which Prakrti is constituted. They make up the whole world evolved out of Prakrti . They are not conjoined in equal quantities, but in varying proportions, one or the other being in excess. Just as Sat-Chit-Ananda is the Vedantic trinity, so also the Gunas are the Samkhyan trinity.[1] However the Guṇa is not the quality of Prakrti; on the contrary they are constituents of one pure Prakṛti.

Interaction Between the Gunas

Interaction between the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas leads to Evolution. The three Gunas are never separate. They support one another. They intermingle with one another. They form the very substance of Prakrti . All objects are composed of the three Gunas. The Gunas act on one another. Then there is evolution or manifestation. The Gunas are the objects.[1]

Characteristics of the Three Gunas

The three Guṇas are so subtle that they are imperceptible but can be inferred through the experiences that they give; which is pleasure, pain, dullness and indifference. They serve the purpose of illumination, activity and restraint, and perform the function of mutual dominance, dependence, transformation and are in constant association with one another. The role of Guna is manifestation of the Prakrti.[6][7]

  • Sattva always remains in equilibrium. When Sattva prevails, there is peace or tranquillity. The word ‘Sat’ ordinarily means existence or Reality. It also means goodness, purity and bliss. It is characterized by Sukha (peace) and Prakāśa (illumination). Sattva Guṇa of Prakṛti gives rise to calmness of the nature and mind.[7]
  • Rajas is activity which is expressed as Raga-Dvesha, likes or dislikes, love or hatred attraction or repulsion. Thus, Rajas Guṅa represents life of enjoyment and whatever is restless. In turn the mind gets stressful and leads to fatigue causing pain and disturbance. Rajo Guṇa is the basis of everything which evolves and causes pain along with happiness.
  • Tamas is that binding force with a tendency to lethargy, sloth and foolish actions. It causes delusion or non-discrimination. Therefore Tamo Guṇa represents whatever is indifferent and passive. It helps to regain vigour and vitality in the form of sleep. It is the basis of everything, which causes dullness, darkness and ignorance.[7]

When Sattva is predominant, it overpowers Rajas and Tamas. When Rajas is dominant, it overpowers Sattva and Tamas. When Tamas is predominant, it overpowers Rajas and Sattva.[1]

Jiva is Affected by the Three Gunas

There are three Gunas in every man. When Sattva prevails, he is calm and tranquil. He reflects and meditates. At other times, Rajas prevails in him and he does various sorts of worldly activities. He is passionate and active. Sometimes, Tamas prevails. He becomes lazy, dull, inactive and careless.

A Sattvic man is virtuous. Sattva makes a man divine and noble, Rajas makes him thoroughly human and selfish, and Tamas makes him bestial and ignorant.[1]

पुरुषः ॥ The Purusha

The Purusha or the Self is beyond Prakrti . The qualities of Purusha are as follows[1][6]

तस्माच्च विपर्यासात् सिद्धं साक्षित्वमस्य पुरुषस्य । कैवल्यं माध्यस्थ्यं द्रष्टृत्वमकर्तृभावश्च ॥ १९ ॥ (Samk. 19)[5]

tasmācca viparyāsāt siddhaṁ sākṣitvamasya puruṣasya । kaivalyaṁ mādhyasthyaṁ draṣṭr̥tvamakartr̥bhāvaśca ॥ 19 ॥ (Samk. 19)

  • The purusha is not the doer. It is the witness (साक्षित्वम्).
  • It is solitary (कैवल्यं) and indifferent (माध्यस्थ्यं).
  • It is a spectator (द्रष्टृत्वम्) and not an agent of action (अकर्तृभावः) is discriminative and non-prolific.
  • It is Intelligent and subjective.
  • It is without attributes and without qualities.
  • It is subtle and omnipresent.
  • It is beyond mind, intellect and the senses.
  • It is beyond time, space and causality.
  • It is the eternal seer.
  • It is perfect and immutable.
  • It is pure consciousness (Chidrupa).

It is eternally separate from the Prakrti. Purusha is without beginning or end. The Purusha is like a crystal without any colour. It appears to be coloured by the different colours which are placed before it. It is not material. It is not a result of combination. Hence it is immortal.

बहुपुरुषवादः ॥ Plurality of Purusha

The Purushas or souls are infinite in number, according to the Samkhya. There are many Purushas. If the Purushas were one, all would become free if anyone attained Moksha.

The different souls are fundamentally identical in nature. There is no movement for the Purusha. It does not go anywhere when it attains freedom or release. Souls exist eternally separate from each other and from Prakrti . Each soul retains its individuality. It remains unchanged through all transmigrations. Each soul is a witness of the act of a separate creation, without taking part in the act.[1]

Proof for Existence of the Purusha

That the Purusha or the pure consciousness exists is proved as follows[3][8]

संघातपरार्थत्वात् त्रिगुणादिविपर्यादधिष्ठानात् । पुरुषोऽस्ति भोक्तृभावात् कैवल्यार्थं प्रवृत्तेश्च ॥ १७ ॥ (Samk. Kari. 17)[5]

saṁghātaparārthatvāt triguṇādiviparyādadhiṣṭhānāt । puruṣo'sti bhoktr̥bhāvāt kaivalyārthaṁ pravr̥tteśca ॥ 17 ॥ (Samk. Kari. 17)

संघातपरार्थत्वात्Sanghataparthatvat : Intelligence cannot belong to the intellect, because the intellect is material and is the effect of Prakrti which is non-intelligent. If intelligence is absent in a cause, it cannot manifest itself in the effect. Therefore, there must be a distinct principle of intelligence and this distinct principle is Purusha or the Self. 

भोक्तृभावात् ॥ Bhoktrbhavat : There must be a Supervisor over and above Pradhana or Prakrti . The Supervisor is Purusha or the Self. Prakrti and its products are objects of enjoyment. There must exist an enjoyer who must be an intelligent principle. This intelligent enjoyer is Purusha or the Self. Just as chair and bench are for the use of another so also this body, senses and mind are for the use of the Self which is immaterial, as it is destitute of attributes and as it is beyond the Gunas.

त्रिगुणादिविपर्याद ॥ Trigunadiviparyayat : The Purusha is the witness of the Gunas. The Gunas are the objects. Purusha is the witness-subject. Hence, it is not affected by pleasure, pain and delusion which are attributes of the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, respectively. If pain is natural to the Purusha and if the Purusha is not naturally free from the action of the Gunas, no salvation from rebirth is possible.[1]

कैवल्यार्थं प्रवृत्तेश्च ॥ Kaivalyartham pravrtteh : The Purusha must be there because there is a tendency towards Isolation. Prakrti operates towards the emancipation or isolation of itself from the Self which is the final goal of Purusha. 

The Jiva

The Jiva is the soul in union with the senses. It is limited by the body. It is endowed with egoism. The reflection of Purusha in the Buddhi or intellect appears as the ego or the empirical soul. It is associated with ignorance and Karma. It is subject to pleasure and pain action and its fruits, and rotates in the cycle of births and deaths.  

The Jiva is different from the Purusha, who is perfect. The Jiva must strive to attain the status of the Purusha. Every Jiva has in it the higher Purusha hidden within. It must become conscious of the real nature of the higher Purusha. Freedom or perfection is a return into one's true Self. It is the removal of an illusion which conceals one's true nature.[1]

Jiva (जीव । a living being) is that state in which Purusha is bonded to Prakrti . This fusion, state the Samkhya scholars, led to the emergence of buddhi (बुद्धि । intellect) and Ahankara (अहङ्कार । ego consciousness). 

Purusha in Different Philosophies

Although there is a general agreement with regard to the existence of the Self, there is a wide divergence of opinion about its nature.[3]

- Charvakas or materialists identify Self with the gross body, some with senses, mind, and life.

- Buddhists or emipiricists regard the Self as identical with the stream of consciousness.

- Nyaya-Vaisheshikas and the Prabhakara Mimamsakas maintain that Self is an unconscious substance which may acquire the attribute of consciousness under certain conditions.

- The Kumarila Bhatta Mimamsakas think that the Self is a conscious entity which is partially hidden by ignorance, as appears from the imperfect and partial knowledge that men have of their selves.

- The Advaita Vedanta holds that the Self is pure eternal consciousness which is also blissful existence (sacchidananda svarupa).

- But according to Samkhya the Self is different from the body and senses, the manas, buddhi. It is not of the world of objects. It is the subject of knowledge and without attributes.Consciousness is its very essence and not a mere quality of it.

The Process of Knowledge

The process through which Purusha attains the discriminatory knowledge involves the interaction of Purusha with Buddhi and other constituents.

अध्यवसायो बुद्धिर्धर्मो ज्ञानं विराग ऐश्वर्यम् । सात्त्विकमेतद्रूपं तामसमस्माद्विपर्यस्तम् ॥ २३ ॥ (Samk. 23)[5]

adhyavasāyo buddhirdharmo jñānaṁ virāga aiśvaryam । sāttvikametadrūpaṁ tāmasamasmādviparyastam ॥ 23 ॥ (Samk. 23)

Mahat or Buddhi

The intellect is an instrument which receives the ideas and images conveyed through the organs of sense, and the mind, constructs them into a conclusive idea, and presents this idea to the Self. The function of the intellect is determination (Nischaya or Will). Before one engages in any matter, one first observes and considers, then one reflects and then determines. Then one proceeds to act. This ascertainment: "Such act is to be done by me" is the determination of the intellect (Adhyavasaya).[1]

Thus, Buddhi is defined as the determining Principle; Virtue, Wisdom, Dispassion and Power constitute its form (when affected by Sattva) and the reverse of these when affected by Tamas. The determination of the duty is the characteristic property of Buddhi - which appears as if endued with intelligence by contact with the intelligence of Purusha.[8]

The Intellect and its Functions

Tile intellect or the Buddhi is the most important of all the products of Prakrti . The senses present their objects to the intellect. The intellect exhibits them to the purusha. The intellect discriminates the difference between purusha and Prakrti . 

The intellect is the instrument or organ which is the medium between the other organs and the Self. All ideas derived from sensation, reflection, or consciousness are deposited in the chief or great instrument, intellect, before they can be made known to the Self. They convey impressions or ideas with the properties or effects of pleasure, pain and indifference, accordingly as they are influenced by the qualities of Sattva (purity), Rajas (passion) or Tamas (darkness).  

The intellect appears to be intelligent on account of the reflection of Purusha which is very near to it, though by itself, it is really non-intelligent.   


अभिमानोऽहंकार: तस्माद्विविध: प्रवर्तते सर्ग: । एकादशकश्च गणस्तन्मात्रपञ्चकश्चैव ॥ २४ ॥ (Samk. 24)[5]

abhimāno'haṁkāra: tasmādvividha: pravartate sarga: । ekādaśakaśca gaṇastanmātrapañcakaścaiva ॥ 24 ॥ (Samk. 24)

Self-assertion is Ahamkara. From it proceeds the twofold evolution only; the elevenfold set and also the fivefold Tanmatras.

All that is considered (alochita) and reasoned (mata) refers to me, in this I am competent, all those objects of sense are for my sake only, this does not concern any one else but me, hence I am - such Abhimana, self assertion or consciousness by reference to oneself, from its having an uncommon or unique operation of its own, is called Ahamkara, by working upon which Buddhi determines that "this is to be done by me".[6]

Agency belongs to egoism—the Ahankara or the I-maker—which is itself a product of Prakrti , but not to the Purusha or Self who is always a silent witness.   


The Mind or Manas is both an organ of sensation and action. The Indriyas or senses receive simple impressions from without. The mind cooperates with the senses, and the impressions are perceived.[1]

उभयात्मकमत्र मन: सङ्कल्पमिन्द्रियं च साधर्म्यात् । गुणपरिणामविशेषान्नानात्वं बाह्यभेदाश्च ॥ २७ ॥ (Samk. 27)[5]

ubhayātmakamatra mana: saṅkalpamindriyaṁ ca sādharmyāt । guṇapariṇāmaviśeṣānnānātvaṁ bāhyabhedāśca ॥ 27 ॥ (Samk. 27)

Among the Indriyas, Manas possess the nature of both. It is deliberative and is as well an Indriya (सङ्कल्पमिन्द्रियं च) as it is homogeneous with the rest. Sankalpam is the the uncommon or distinctive function of the Manas. From the materials of the senses, Manas creates percepts, which are transferred to Ahamkara. Ahamkara evaluates them either as concerning itself or not concerning itself. Thus coloured with the personal equation, they are next taken up by Buddhi, which makes certain their true nature and determines conduct accordingly.[6]

The mind ponders, the intellect determines, and egoism becomes conscious. The functions of mind, intellect and egoism can be instantaneous as well as gradual.

Swami Sivananda says[1]

" Intellect, egoism, mind and the eye see a form at once, in one instant, and come immediately to a conclusion. ("This is a jar."). The same three, with tongue, at once relish taste; with the nose smell; and so on with the ear and the skin. The function is also occasionally gradual. A man going along a road sees an object at a distance. A doubt arises in his mind whether it is a post or a man. He then sees a bird sitting on it. Then the doubt is removed. In above example the intellect makes a determination that it is a post only. Then the ego says - I am certain that it is a post only. The intellect, the mind and egoism are the door-keepers. The five senses of perception or Jnana-Indriyas are the gates. The intellect is the instrument or organ which is the medium between the senses and the Self."

It is established that Buddhi is supreme among the Indriyas. It is the principal means of accomplishing the apparently contradictory purpose of Purusha, namely Experience and Release.

Compare and Contrast of Manifest, Unmanifest and Knower

Having proved the effect to be "existent", a fact favorable to prove the existence of Prakrti , the author states the similarities and differences between the व्यक्तम् । Manifest (like Mahat, Ahamkara etc), अव्यक्तम् ।Unmanifest (Pradhana or Prakrti ) and पुरुषः । Purusha (Knower). A right comprehension of these aspects is conducive to attaining discriminative wisdom.[2][8]

हेतुमदनित्यमव्यापि सक्रियमनेकमाश्रितं लिंङ्गम् । सावयवं परतन्त्रं व्यक्तं विपरीतमव्यक्तम् ॥ १० ॥(Samk. 10)[5]

त्रिगुणमविवेकि विषय: सामान्यमचेतनं प्रसवधर्मि । व्यक्तं तथा प्रधानं तद्विपरीतस्तथा च पुमान् ॥ ११ ॥(Samk. 11)[5]

Qualities व्यक्तम् । Manifest (like Mahat, Ahamkara etc) अव्यक्तम् ।Unmanifest (Pradhana or Prakrti ) पुरुषः । Purusha (Knower/Spectator)
हेतुमत् । Hetumat : Possessing or dependent on a cause Causeless Causeless
अनित्यम् । Anityam : Non-eternal, perishable Eternal Eternal
अव्यापि । Avyapi : Not pervasive, finite All pervading All pervading
सक्रियम् । Sakriyam : Active, mobile Motionless, immutable Motionless, immutable
अनेकम् । Anekam : Multiform, manifold Single Singleness yet Multiplicity (as per Samkhya Karika 18)
आश्रितम् । Asritam : Dependent on its cause Self sustained Self sustained
लिंङ्गम् । Lingam : Mark (of inference), Characteristic, Mergent Subject of the mark or non-mergent Subject of the mark or non-mergent
सावयवं । Savayavam : Made up of parts A whole unit A whole unit
परतन्त्रं । Paratantram : Subordinate Supreme Supreme
त्रिगुणम् । Trigunam : Consists of three Gunas in a disturbed state. Consists of three Gunas in equilibrium Not constituted by the three Gunas
अविवेकि । Aviveki : Non-Discriminative Non-Discriminative Discriminating
विषय: । Vishaya : Objective Objective Subjective
सामान्यम । Samanyam : Common, apprehended simultaneously by several persons. Common, apprehended simultaneously by several persons. Not common
अचेतनम् । Achetanam : Non-intelligent Non-intelligent Intelligent
प्रसवधर्मि । Prasavadharmi : Productive Productive Non Prolific

सत्कार्यवादः ॥ Sat-Karyavada

Srshti Siddhanta (सृष्टिसिद्धान्तः । Theories of Origin of Universe) is one of the common topics discussed by the Darshanas. Samkhya very clearly advocates Satkaryavada adopting the theory of evolution and involution. The cause and effect are the undeveloped and developed states of one and the same substance.[6]

  1. There cannot be any production of something out of nothing. That which is not cannot be developed into that which is. There must be a material out of which a product is developed. There can be no production of what is absolutely non-existent; eg., a man's horn.
  2. There must be some determinate material cause for every product. Cream, for instance can form on milk only and never on water.
  3. Everything cannot occur everywhere at all times, and anything possible must be produced from something competent to produce it. That which does not exist cannot be brought into existence by an agent. It would be useless to grind ground-nut, unless the oil existed in it. The manifestation of the oil is a proof that it was contained in the groundnut and consequently, a proof of the existence of the source from which it is derived. The effect truly exists beforehand in its cause. This is one of the central features of the Samkhya system of philosophy.
  4. Cause is a substance in which the effect subsists in a latent form. Just as the whole tree world exists in a latent or dormant state in the seed, so also the whole world exists in a latent state in Prakrti , the Avyakta (unevolved), or Avyakrita (undifferentiated). The effect is of the same nature as the cause.[1] This is called as the Law of the Identity of Cause and Effect. The effect, therefore, is never non-existent ; whether before its production, or after its destruction, it is always existent in the cause.
  5. The relation of cause and effect is that of the producer and the produced. Cause is that which possesses the potentiality of becoming the effect, and this potentiality is nothing but the unrealised state of the effect.
  6. The effect is seen to possess the nature of the cause, e.g., a coin still possesses the properties of the gold of which it is made.
  7. The doctrine of Parinama or transformation (प्रकृतिपरिणामवादः), is that explains the origin of the effect. As all effects are contained in their causes in an unmanifested form, the 'production' or manifestation of an effect is merely a transformation of the cause.
  8. Matter is indestructible. There is no such thing as total destruction. In destruction the effect is involved into its cause. That is all.

Proofs of non-difference of Cause (Prakrti ) and Effect (Mahat and others)

The proofs establishing the non-difference of the effect from the cause in essence are explained by the following [2]

a) the cloth (effect) is not different from the yarns (constituting it) - because it subsists in the yarns.

b) the cloth and yarns cannot be different things, because the latter is the constituent cause of the former.

c) the cloth and yarns cannot be different, because there is neither conjunction nor separation between them which is seen in the case where things are different from one another.

d) the cloth does not contain in itself any product which makes its weight different from that of the yarn constituting it.

Accordingly, the Effect is ever existent is also fully established. Through this and a series of other logical deductions the Samkhyan theory of evolution - Satkaryavada is further supported.

Thus,according to the Samkhya theory, the efficient cause or Nimmitta-Karaṇa of the world is Puruṣa – ‘the Supreme Consciousness’ and the material cause or Upadana-Karaṇa is Prakṛti – ‘the matter. Body or Sarira, sense-organs or Indriyas and mind or Manas all are the evolutes of the Prakṛti or the main material principle. Ordinarily, we consider the mind to be conscious in nature. But on grounds of Samkhya, Manas or mind is also a matter, being the evolute of the main physical principle or Prakṛti.[7]

Purusha is the witness-subject. Puruṣa is neither body, nor sense-organ, nor is it mind. Puruṣa is the conscious spirit and a pure witness or Kevala-Sakṣin. He is also known as Svayam-Jyoti or self-conscious with happiness. There is one indwelling Puruṣa in every individual who appears as sentient.[7]

The Universe

The world is evolved with its different elements when the equilibrium in Prakrti is disturbed. The countless Purushas exert a mechanical force on Prakrti which distracts the equipoise of Prakrti and produces a movement. Then the evolution of the universe starts.[1]

The process of Evolution

Samkhya Siddhantam.jpg

Prakrti is the root of the universe. Prakrti is both the material and the efficient cause of the universe. Prakrti evolves under the influence of Purusha. Mahat or Intellect, is the first product of the evolution of Prakrti . Ahankara arises after Buddhi. Mind is born of Ahankara. It carries out the orders of the will through the organs of action (Karmendriyas). It reflects and doubts (Sankalpa-Vikalpa). It synthesises the sense data into percepts. The mind takes part in both perception and action. There is no separate Prana Tattva in the Samkhya system. The Vedanta has a separate Prana Tattva. In the Samkhya system, mind, with the organs, produces the five vital airs. Prana is a modification of the senses. It does not subsist in their absence.   

The course of evolution is as follows.[1][7]

  1. One pure Prakrti is the balanced condition of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. (Sattva- rajas-tamasāṁ-samyāvasṭhā-prakṛtiḥ). Before creation the change in Prakrti is homogeneous, in which the three gunas are held in a state of equilibrium.
  2. From one pure Prakṛti evolves the cosmic Buddhi or Mahat (Prakṛter Mahān) by the disturbance in the equilibrium of the Gunas.
  3. From Mahat evolves the cosmic Ahankara or the principle of egoism (Mahato’haṅkāro)
  4. From Ahankara emanate the ten senses and the mind on the subjective side, and the five subtle Tanmatras on the objective side.
    • Pancha Karmendriyas (5 Indriyas of action : Include powers located in Hands, Feet, Speech, Excretory Organs, Organs of Generation)
    • Pancha Jnanendriyas (5 Indriyas of Cognition : Include powers located in Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Skin)
    • One Manas (Ahaṅkārāt-paňca-taṇmātrāṅi-ubhayaṁ-indriyaṁ)
    • Pancha Tanmatras (5 Subtle Elements : Include Smell, Taste, Form, Touch and Sound)
  5. From the five Taṇmatras evolve the five Mahabhutas (5 Gross Elements : Include Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether) (Taṇmātrebhyaḥ-sṭhūla-bhūtāni)
  6. Puruṣa (Puruṣa-iti-paňcavimśatir-gaṇaḥ)

Akasa (ether) has the property of sound which is the Vishaya or object for the ear. Vayu (air) has the property of touch which is the Vishaya for the skin. Tejas (fire) has the property of form or colour which is the Vishaya for the eye. Apas (water) has the property of taste which is the Vishaya for the tongue. Prithvi (earth) has the property of odour which is the Vishaya for the nose. Each of these elements, after the first, has also the property of the preceding besides its own.

Involution of the Creation

During dissolution of the world, the products return by a reverse movement into the preceding stages of development , and ultimately into Prakrti . Earth merges in its cause, water. Water merges in fire, fire merges in air, air in Akasa and Akasa in Ahankara, Ahankara in Mahat, and Mahat in Prakrti . This is the process of involution. There is no end to Samsara or the play of Prakrti . This cycle of evolution and involution has neither a beginning nor an end.

Samkhya is Nir-Ishvara

Theism or Non-theistic approach of Samkhya has been highly debated in scholarly circles. The system of Samkhya has undergone many changes in the hands of various writers at different times and it is difficult to guess which of these can be genuinely attributed to Kapila.

The original Samkhya advocated the existence of One Supreme Power, Ishvara or God (thus monistic and theistic). But the classical Samkhya, perhaps under the influence of Jainism and Early Buddhism, many scholars believe, became atheistic. Samkhya may be classified as Astika, as it believes in the authority of Vedas, but it does not establish the non-existence of God. It only shows that Purusha and Prkrti are sufficient to explain this Universe and hence does away with the hypothesis of Ishvara. Some commentators have tried to repudiate the existence of Ishvara, while later commentators like Vijnanabhikshu have tried to revive the necessity for admitting Ishvara.

Of the various versions of this philosophy, Srimad Bhagavata's account of Kapila's Samkhya materially differs from the Samkhya of the Samkhya Karika, for, while the former is definitely theistic, the later is at least tacitly atheistic, for it is absolutely silent about God; apparently one theory that has no place for God in this system.[9]

The fact that Badarayana and Shankaracharya are keen to reject

The Samkhya system is called Nir-Isvara (Godless). It is non-theistical but not atheistical, because it does not deny the existence of God. It is Nir-Ishvara, as it explains all and every fact of experience while not referring to and without invoking the intervention of a divine agency.[6]

The creation produced by Prakrti has an existence of its own, independent of all connection with the particular Purusha to which it is united. So the Sankhyas say that there is no need for an intelligent Creator of the world, or even of any superintending power. According to the Vedanta, Prakrti is non-intelligent. An intelligent Creator alone can have a thought-out plan for the universe. Prakrti is only a Sahkari (helper).[1]

Moksha for the Purusha or Liberation

Purusha is eternally free. Union of Purusha with Prakrti due to non-discrimination is bondage; the failure to discriminate between Purusha and Prakrti is the cause of Samsara or bondage; and disunion of Purusha and Prakrti due to discrimination is emancipation. Release is not merging in the Absolute but isolation from Prakrti .    

The objective of the Samkhya System is to effect the liberation of the Purusha or Self. This is done by conveying the correct knowledge of the twenty-four constituent principles of creation and rightly discriminating the Self from them.[1]

The universe is described by this school as one created by purusa-prakrti entities infused with various permutations and combinations of variously enumerated elements, senses, feelings, activity and mind. During the state of imbalance, one of more constituents overwhelm the others, creating a form of bondage, particularly of the mind. The end of this imbalance, bondage is called kaivalya (कैवल्य । liberation), by the Samkhya school.      

How Liberation is effected

When the separation of the soul from the body takes place by destruction of the effects of virtue, vice and the rest, then there is the final and absolute emancipation. When the fruits of acts cease, and body - both gross and subtle, dissolves. The soul attains the state called Kaivalya. It is freed from the three kinds of pain. The Linga-Deha or subtle body which migrates from one gross body to another in successive births, is composed of intellect, egoism, mind, the five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action and the five Tanmatras.  

The impressions of actions done in various births are embedded in the subtle body. The conjunction of the Linga-Deha with the gross  physical body constitutes birth and separation of the Linga-Deha from the gross physical body is death. This Linga-Deha is destroyed by the knowledge of the Purusha.  

Evolution in Samkhya is thought to be purposeful. The two primary purposes of evolution of prakruti are the enjoyment and the liberation of Purusha.

Samkhya school considers moksha as a natural quest of every soul. Samkhya regards Avidya (अविद्या । ignorance) as the root cause of suffering and Samsara (संसार । bondage). The way out of this suffering is through viveka (विवेक । knowledge). Moksha (मोक्ष । liberation), states Samkhya school, results from knowing the difference between prakruti and purusha.

Purusha, the eternal pure consciousness, due to ignorance, identifies itself with products of prakrti such as Buddhi and Ahamkara. This results in endless transmigration and suffering. However, once the realization arises that Purusha is distinct from prakrti, is more than empirical ego, and that Purusha is deepest conscious self within, the Self gains Kaivalya (कैवल्य । isolation) and Moksha (मोक्ष । liberation).[1]

Relation of Prakrti and Purusha after Release

वत्सविवृद्धिनिमित्तं क्षीरस्य यथा प्रवृत्तिरज्ञस्य । पुरुषविमोक्षनिमित्तं तथा प्रवृत्ति: प्रधानस्य ॥ ५७ ॥ (Samk. 57)[5]

As the unconscious milk functions for the sake of nourishment of the calf, so also the Prakrti functions for the sake of release of Purusha.[6] Just as people engage in acts to relieve anxiety or desires, so does Prakrti energize for the purpose of the release of Purusha.

तस्मान्न बध्यतेऽद्धा न मुच्यते नापि संसरति कञ्चित् । संसरति बध्यते मुच्यते च नानाश्रया प्रकृति: ॥ ६२ ॥ (Samk. 62)[5]

No Purusha is ever bound, nor is released, nor transmigrates. Prakrti , being the support of manifold creations, is bound, is released, and transmigrates. Bondage, migration and release are ascribed to the Purusha, in the same manner as defeat and victory are attributed to the king, though actually occurring to his soldiers, who undertake the action. In the same manner, experience and release, though really belonging to Nature are attributed to the Purusha, on the account of the non-discrimination of Prakrti and Purusha. Once the Truth is revealed to Purusha, and experience and release have been accomplished there is nothing left to be done and hence Nature ceases from Prolific activity.[6]

रङ्गस्थ इत्युपेक्षक एको दृष्टाहमित्युपरमत्यन्या । सति संयोगेऽपि तयो: प्रयोजनं नास्ति सर्गस्य ॥ ६६ ॥ (Samk. 66)[5]

"She has been see by me" says the one (Purusha) and so retires; "I have been seen " says the other (Prakrti ) and ceases to act. Hence though there exists a conjunction, it affords no motive towards further creation.

By the attainment of perfect wisdom, Virtue and the rest become devoid of casual energy; yet Purusha or Spirit remains awhile invested with the body as potter's wheel continues to revolve by the force of the impulse previously imparted to it. Release involves the ceasing of bondage of Prakrti and does not imply the acquisition of a new state or condition, but consists merely in the removal of a veil or shadow, whereas the Body is dependent on the causes for its very existence. These causes are Dharma and A-Dharma or merit or demerit, collectively called as Karma.Karma is of three types

  • Prarabdha or Operative Karma
  • Sanchita or Potential (stored) Karma
  • Agami or Future (to come in future) Karma

On the attainment of discriminative knowledge, Sanchita Karma in seed-form is burst and rendered non-germinative, Agami Karma is also precluded. Thus only the Prarabhda Karma remains. Acquired by acts performed in previous life, operative in present life, it goes on sustaining till it is exhausted in its natural course and the Body which was supported by it, automatically drops down. It is in this state, where the discriminative knowledge is perfectly developed before the Prarabdha has worked itself out, the Incarnate Purusha in question is released, but remains awhile burdened with the Body. This is Jivan-mukti or release during life.

When (in due course) separation from the Body takes place and there is cessation of the activity of the Pradhana from her, purpose having been fulfilled, the Purusha attains both absolute and final Kaivalya.[8]

Other forms of Samkhya teach that Moksha is attained by one's own development of the higher faculties of discrimination achieved by meditation and other yogic practices. Moksha is described by Samkhya scholars as a state of liberation, where Sattva guna predominates.

Shrimad Bhagavadgita and Samkhya

Shrimad Bhagavadgita Chapter 2 (Slokas 12 to 30) explain the Samkhya philosophy and hence is called Samkhya Yoga. The second chapter in removing the worry in Arjuna has its objectives of eternalness of Atman and the detached performance of one’s assigned duties (karma). To realize this atman one requires wisdom or budhhi as the usual sensual organs like eyes, ears, mouth, etc cannot perceive it.

Sri Krishna begins to enlighten Arjuna by presenting what is known as Samkhya- the analytical study of matter and Atman (आत्मन्) (2.11-30). To alleviate Arjuna's distress (at the thought of killing his friends and relatives), Krishna contrasts the eternality of the Atman (the real self) with the temporary nature of the material body (Atma's outer covering). The Atman, Krishna teaches, is eternal. It continues to exist after the death of the body: "For the Atman there is no such thing as birth or death. And having once existed, he never ceases to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He does not die when the body is finished" (2.20). Krishna further explains that, at death, the Atman transmigrates to a new body: "As a person puts on new clothes, putting aside those garments that are old and worn, similarly, the Atman accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones" (2.22).

What Samhya called as Purusha, The Gita explained it as Atman (आत्मन्), the eternal principle which neither dies nor takes birth.

After the conclusion of the Mahabharata war, Vidura spoke (अनुशासनपर्व) to the afflicted Dhritharasthra, who was lamenting for the death of his sons. Vidura spoke strongly but compassionately to his brother about the nature of this world. Dhritharastha needed to develop detachment and not lament because lamentation would give him nothing. He had to be prepared for giving up his attachment, while Yudhisthira needed to act responsibly to lead the kingdom. As Dhritharasthra was hearing about detachment, Vyasadeva, Krishna and Bhishma were advising Yudhisthira to give up so-called detachment and indifference towards the kingdom because it was time for Yudhsthira to be involved to create a new dharmik order. Dharmik scriptures give prescription according to the need of the person.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism, Page 202-216
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Jha, Ganganatha (1965) The Tattva-Kaumudi, Vachaspati Mishra's Commentary on the Samkhya Karika. Poona : Oriental Book Agency
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Samkhya Paper By Sri. Umapati Nath Published in Academia
  4. Dasgupta, Surendranath (2012 7th Reprint) A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Samkhya Karikas
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Sinha, Nandalal (1915) The Sacred Books of the Hindus : The Samkhya Philosophy. (Volume XI). Allahabad : The Panini Office
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Banarjee, Debashri. Paper : Different tenets of Indian Philosophy; As conceived from Indian Point of View Published by Academia
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Jha, Ganganatha. (1896) Tattva-Kaumudi (Sankhya) of Vachaspati Mishra (English Translation with the Sanskrit Text) Bombay: Theosophical Publication
  9. Dasgupta, Surendranath. (5th Reprint : 2011) A History of Indian Philosophy. Volume 4 : Indian Pluralism. New Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.