The Sankhya System Philosophy- The Indian Philosophy

The Sankhya System Philosophy- The Indian Philosophy

The Sänkhya is a philosophy of dualistic realism, attributed to the sage Kapila. It admits two ultimate realities, namely, purusa and prakrti, which are independent of each other in respect of their existence. The purusa is an intelligent principle, of which consciousness (caitanya) is not an attribute, but the very essence. It is the self which is quite distinct from the body, the senses and the mind (manas). It is beyond the whole world of objects, and is the eternal consciousness which witnesses the changes and activities going on in the world, but does not itself act and change in any way. Physical things like chairs, beds, etc. exist for the enjoyment of beings other than themselves. Therefore, there must be the purusa or the self which is distinct from prakrti or primary matter, but is the enjoyer (bhokta) of the products of prakrti. There are many different selves related to different bodies, for when some men are happy, others are unhappy, some die but others live.

Prakrti is the ultimate cause of the world. It is an eternal unconscious principle (jada) which is always changing and has no other end than the satisfaction of the selves. Sattva, rajas and tamas are three constituents of prakrti which holds them together in a state of rest or equilibrium (samyavastha). The three are called guņas. But they are not qualities or attributes in any sense. Rather, they are three substantial elements which constitute prakriti like three cords making up a rope. The existence of the gunas is inferred from the qualities of pleasure, pain and indifference which we find in all the things of the world. The same sweet is liked or disliked or treated with indifference by the same man in different conditions. The same salad is tasteful to some person, distasteful to another and insipid to a third. Now the cause and the effect are essentially identical. The effect is the manifested condition of the cause, e.g. oil as an effect manifests what is already contained in the seeds. The things of the world are effects which have the qualities of pleasure, pain and indifference. Therefore, prakrti or pradhana which is their ultimate cause must have the three elements of sattva, rajas and tamas which respectively possess the natures of pleasure, pain and indifference, and cause manifestation, activity and passivity.

The evolution of the world has its starting point in the association (saryoga) of the purusa with prakrti, which disturbs the original equilibrium of the latter and moves it to action. The course of evolution is as follows: from prakrti arises the great germ of this vast universe which is called, therefore, the great one (mahat). The consciousness of the self is reflected on this and makes it appear as conscious. It represents the awakening of nature from her cosmic slumber and the first appearance of thought; and therefore, is also called the Intellect (buddhi). It is the creative thought of the world to be evolved. Ahankara, the second product, arises by a further transformation of the Intellect. The function of ahankāra is the feeling of ‘I and mine’ (abhimāna). Owing to its identification with this principle, the self considers itself to be an agent (kartā) which it really is not From ahankāra, with an excess of the element of sattva, arise the five organs of knowledge (jñānendriya), the five organs of action (karmendriya) and the mind (manas) which is at once an organ of knowledge and activity (ubhayendriya). With an increase of tamas, ahankāra produces, on the other hand, the five subtle elements (tanmātra) which are the potentialities of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. From the five subtle elements come the five gross elements of akasa or ether, air, fire, water and earth in the same order. Thus we have altogether twenty-five principles in the Sankhya. Of these, all but the purusa is comprised by prakrti which is the cause or the ultimate source of all other physical objects including mind, matter and life. Prakrti is the uncaused cause of all objects. The seven principles of mahat, ahankara and the five tanmatras are causes of certain effects and themselves effects of certain causes. The eleven senses and the five gross elements are only the effects of certain causes and not themselves the causes of anything which is substantially different from them. The puruṣa or the self is neither the cause (prakrti) nor the effect (vikriti) of anything.

Although the self is in itself free and immortal, yet such is the influence of avidyā or ignorance that it confuses itself with the body, the senses and the mind (manas). It is the want of discrimination (aviveka) between the self and the not-self that is responsible for all our sorrows and sufferings. We feel injured and unhappy when our body is injured or indisposed, because we fail to realise the distinction between the self and the body. Similarly, pleasure and pain in the mind seem to affect the self only because the self’s distinction from the mind is not clearly perceived by us. Once we realise the distinction between the self and the not-self including the body and the senses, the mind, the intellect and the ego (vivekajnana), our self ceases to be affected by the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs of life. It rests in itself as the dispassionate observer of the show of events in the world without being implicated in them. This is the state of liberation or freedom from suffering which has been variously described as mukti, apavarga, kaivalya, etc. It is possible for us to attain this state while alive in this world (jivanmukti) or after this life in the other world (videhamukti). But mere knowledge or intellectual understanding of the truth will not help one to realise one’s self and thereby attain final release from sin and suffering. For this we require to go through a long course of spiritual training with deep devotion to, and constant meditation on, the truth that the self is the pure eternal consciousness which is beyond the mind-body complex and above the space-time and cause-effect order of existence. It is the unborn and undying spirit, of which the essence is freedom, immortality and life eternal. The nature and methods of the spiritual training necessary for self-realization have been elaborated in the Yoga philosophy. With regard to the problem of God, we find that the main tendency of the Sānkhya is to do away with the theistic belief. According to it, the existence of God cannot be proved in any way. We need not admit God to explain the world; for prakriti is the adequate cause of the world as a whole. God as eternal and unchanging spirit cannot be the creator of the world; for to produce an effect the cause must change and transform itself into the effect. Some Sänkhya commentators and writers, however, try to show that the system admits the existence of God as the supreme person who is the witness but not the creator of the world.

You may also like

Disclaimer: is created only for the purpose of education and knowledge. For any queries, disclaimer is requested to kindly contact us. We assure you we will do our best. We do not support piracy. If in any way it violates the law or there is any problem, please mail us on

About the author

Wand of Knowledge Team

Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!