• The name ‘Samkhya’ or ‘Sankhya’ literally means ‘Enumeration’ / ‘count’, probably the oldest one of all the Indian School of Philosophies..
  • Sage Kapila, who is credited with creating the Samkhya Sutra, developed this earliest philosophical school.
  • This school is well-known for its system of scientific inquiry. This school of thought adhered to Dvaitavada, or Dualism, which holds that the soul and matter are two different beings.
  • SAMKHYA school forms the theoretical foundation of YOGA school.
  • It is based on a rational and scientific view and according to early Samkhya Philosophy, the presence of divine agency is not essential for the creation of the world.
  • The world owes its creation and evolution more to Nature or Prakriti than to God.
  • Samkhya School like other orthodox schools consider Vedas to be a reliable source of knowledge.
  • During the 4th century AD, Purusha or spirit was introduced as an element in the Samkhya system, and the creation of the world was attributed to both.
  • With the Progress in new ideas, it was believed that Nature (Prakriti) and Spirit (Purusha) element together created this world.
  • Thus initially, The Samkhya school of Philosophy was materialistic (owing existence to Nature), but later it tended to become spiritualistic (owing existence to both Prakirti+ Purusha)
  • Thus Sankhya accepts two basic tattvas or principles
    • Prakriti or Primordial matter (matter, energy)
    • Purusha or individual conscious being (self or soul or mind)
  • And when these both are combined (Prakiriti along with Purusha), it manifests itself in the form of JIVA (a living being)
  • Prakriti is inert and undergoes modifications while in association with a purusha. It evolves from subtle to gross, and manifests the visible world.
  • According to Samkhya School –
    • The universe is described as one created by Purusa-Prakiti entity combination infused with various permutations and combinations of variously enumerated elements, sense, feelings, activity and mind.
    • It is a dualist philosophy, although between the self and matter as compared to mind and body as in Western dualist tradition.

Path to Salvation

  • Samkhya considered ignorance as the root cause of suffering and bondage and a person can attain salvation through the acquisition of real knowledge.
  • A living being can become free from ignorance by understanding that Purusha is distinct from Prakriti, and this knowledge can be acquired through 3 of the 6 pramanas (Proofs) –
    • Perception – Pratyaksha
    • Inference – Anumana
    • Hearing – Shabada
  • And all these combined, form the scientific system of inquiry.
  • Samkhya philosophy is known for its theory of gunas (Qualities, innate tendencies). Gunas, as it teaches are three modes of matter –
    • Sattva – The guna of goodness, compassion, calmness and positivity.
    • Rajas – The guna of activity, chaos, passion and impulsivity, potentially good or bad.
    • Tamas – The guna of darkness, ignorance, dullness, laziness, lethargy and negativity.
  • All matter (Prakrit) as Samkhya teaches has three guns, and in different proportions and each guna is dominant at specific times of day.
  • The interplay of these guns defines the character of someone or something of nature and determines the progress of life.
  • Existence of God or supreme being is not directly asserted, nor considered relevant by Samkhya philosophers.
Samkhya school considers perception, inference and reliable testimony as three reliable means to knowledge.

Significance of Samkhya School of Thought

  • It influences the practice of Raja Yoga in a significant manner. This is because this particular form of Yoga adopted the concepts of Purusha and Prakriti, which are Samkhyan in nature. Indeed, Patanjali’s yoga system relies heavily on the relation between these two concepts. As such, both these schools of thought are intimately close to each other. 
  • Samkhya follows the concept of three strands. This particular concept is also a part of various Hinduism philosophies. The concept of three strands can also be found in the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most authoritative Hinduism scriptures.
    • Therefore, Hindu masses have widely accepted the principles of Samkhya Philosophy.
  • This philosophy gives us an explanation about the evolution of the universe into being. According to this school of thought, cosmology occurs when Purusha interacts with Prakriti. 
  • Samkhya posed a challenge to the dominance of the monistic philosophies. This was due to its argument that the being’s ontological ground has a dual nature. As such, there was opposition to Vedantic philosophies by Samkhya. The Vedanta school stated that the source of this world is consciousness. The Samkhya philosophy vehemently denied this. 
  • This philosophy is noteworthy for being an atheistic philosophy in Hinduism. Despite being atheistic, the philosophy still upholds the significance of the Vedas. Philosophically speaking, one will find no place for a creator in the Samkhya school of thought. The incorporation of the creator took place in this school of thought only after its association with the theism of philosophical Yoga.

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