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Samkhya Yoga

Samkhya, also Sankhya, is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally credited as a founder of the Samkhya school. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India.

Samkhya is an enumerationist philosophy that is strongly dualist. Samkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities; Purusha (consciousness) and prakriti (phenomenal realm of matter). Jiva is that state in which purusha is bonded to prakriti through the glue of desire, and the end of this bondage is moksha.

Historical development
The word samkhya means empirical or relating to numbers. The Samkhya system is called so because "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."

Sankhya is silent about the Vedas, about their guardians (the Brahmins) and for that matter about the whole caste system, and about the Vedic gods; and it is slightly inimical towards the animal sacrifices that characterized the ancient Vedic religion. But all our early sources for the history of Sankhya belong to the Vedic tradition, and it is thus reasonable to suppose that we do not see in them the full development of the Sankhya system.

Vedic influences
The ideas that were developed and assimilated into the classical Samkhya text, Samkhyakarika, are visible in earlier Hindu scriptures such as Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita.

Upanishadic influences
The oldest of the major Upanishads (c. 900-600 BCE) also contain speculations along the lines of classical Samkhya philosophy. The concept of ahamkara in Samkhya can be traced back to the notion of ahamkara in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chhandogya Upanishad. Satkaryavada, the theory of causation in Samkhya, can be traced to the verses in sixth chapter which emphasize the primacy of sat (being) and describe creation from it. The idea that the three gunas or attributes influence creation is found in both Chandogya and Svetashvatara Upanishads. Upanishadic sages Yajnavalkya and Uddalaka Aruni developed the idea that pure consciousness was the innermost essence of a human being. The purusha of Samkhya could have evolved from this idea. The enumeration of tattvas in Samkhya is also found in Taittiriya Upanishad, Aitareya Upanishad and Yajnavalkya-Maitri dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

The Samkhya system espouses dualism between consciousness and matter by postulating two "irreducible, innate and independent realities: Purusha and Prakriti. While the Prakriti is a single entity, the Samkhya admits a plurality of the Purusas in this world. Unintelligent, unmanifest, uncaused, ever-active, imperceptible and eternal Prakriti is alone the final source of the world of objects which is implicitly and potentially contained in its bosom. The Purusa is considered as the conscious principle, a passive enjoyer (bhokta) and the Prakriti is the enjoyed (bhogya). Samkhya believes that the Purusa cannot be regarded as the source of inanimate world, because an intelligent principle cannot transform itself into the unconscious world. It is a pluralistic spiritualism, atheistic realism and uncompromising dualism.

Purusa is the transcendental self or pure consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable through other agencies, above any experience by mind or senses and beyond any words or explanations. It remains pure, "nonattributive consciousness". Purusa is neither produced nor does it produce. It is held that unlike Advaita Vedanta and like Purva-Mimamsa, Samkhya believes in plurality of the Purusas.

Prakriti is the first cause of the manifest material universe - of everything except the Purusa. Prakriti accounts for whatever is physical, both mind and matter-cum-energy or force. Since it is the first principle (tattva) of the universe, it is called the Pradhana, but, as it is the unconscious and unintelligent principle. It is composed of three essential characteristics (trigunas). These are:
  • Sattva - poise, fineness, lightness, illumination, and joy
  • Rajas - dynamism, activity, excitation, and pain
  • Tamas - inertia, coarseness, heaviness, obstruction, and sloth
All physical events are considered to be manifestations of the evolution of Prakriti, or primal nature (from which all physical bodies are derived). Each sentient being or Jiva is a fusion of Purusa and Prakriti, whose soul/Purusa is limitless and unrestricted by its physical body. Samsara or bondage arises when the Purusadoes not have the discriminate knowledge and so is misled as to its own identity, confusing itself with the Ego/ahamkara, which is actually an attribute of Prakriti. The spirit is liberated when the discriminate knowledge of the difference between conscious Purusa and unconscious Prakriti is realized by the Purusa.

The unconscious primordial materiality, Prakriti, contains 23 components including intellect (buddhi,mahat), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas); the intellect, mind and ego are all seen as forms of unconscious matter. Thought processes and mental events are conscious only to the extent they receive illumination from Purusha. In Samkhya, consciousness is compared to light which illuminates the material configurations or 'shapes' assumed by the mind.

Evolution in Samkhya
The idea of evolution in Samkhya revolves around the interaction of Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti remains unmanifested as long as the three gunas are in equilibrium. This equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed when Prakriti comes into proximity with consciousness or Purusha. The disequilibrium of the gunas triggers an evolution that leads to the manifestation of the world from an unmanifested Prakriti. The metaphor of movement of iron in the proximity of a magnet is used to describe this process.

Some evolutes of Prakriti can cause further evolution and are labelled evolvents. For example, intellect while itself created out of Prakriti causes the evolution of ego-sense or ahamkara and is therefore an evolvent. While, other evolutes like the five elements do not cause further evolution. It is important to note that an evolvent is defined as a principle which behaves as the material cause for the evolution of another principle. So, in definition, while the five elements are the material cause of all living beings, they cannot be called evolvents because living beings are not separate from the five elements in essence.

The intellect is the first evolute of prakriti and is called mahat or the great one. It causes the evolution of ego-sense or self-consciousness. Evolution from self-consciousness is affected by the dominance of gunas. So dominance of sattva causes the evolution of the five organs of perception, five organs of action and the mind. Dominance of tamas triggers the evolution of five subtle elements- sound, touch, sight, taste, smell from self-consciousness. These five subtle elements are themselves evolvents and cause the creation of the five gross elements space, air, fire, water and earth. Rajas is cause of action in the evolutes. Purusha is pure consciousness absolute, eternal and subject to no change. It is neither a product of evolution, nor the cause of any evolute.

Evolution in Samkhya is thought to be purposeful. The two primary purposes of evolution of Prakriti are the enjoyment and the liberation of Purusha. The 23 evolutes of prakriti are categorized as follows:
Primordial matter Prakriti Root evolvent
Internal instruments Intellect (Buddhi or Mahat), Ego-sense (Ahamkara), Mind (Mana) Evolvent
External instruments Five Sense organs (Jnanendriyas), Five Organs of action (Karmendriyas) Evolute
Primordial matter Prakriti Root evolvent
Subtle elements Sound (Shabda), Touch (Sparsha), Form (Rupa), Taste (Rasa), Smell (Gandha) Evolvent
Gross elements Sky (Akash), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jala), Earth (Prithvi) Evolute

Samkhya cosmology describes how life emerges in the universe; the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti is crucial to Patanjali's yoga system. The strands of Samkhya thought can be traced back to the Vedic speculation of creation. It is also frequently mentioned in the Mahabharata and Yogavasishta.

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