Sankhya Philosophy

Samkhya Yoga Philosophy [Sankhya]

Sakhya is a critical orthodox philosophy in India, and It was a representative of Hindu philosophy for about two thousand years ago.  This ancient ideology formed the basis of several other notable Ideologies in Indian religious, cultural and traditional circles. If you would like to learn more about Sākhya, read on in this  article.

History of Sāṅkhya

khya comes from the root word Sanskrit which is a noun and it is suffixed with another word khyā which is a verb. Thus, “Sākhya” denotes a counting system.  Its history is very long, quite longer than any written tradition available today can show evidently.  

There are several human figures that played a notable role in developing this idealogy. However, the last important personality who played a huge role in its formation according to historical record is Vijñāna Bhiku.  Vijñāna reigned around  1575. 

The concept of Sākhya wasn’t first accepted by all and at some point, it was a hypothetical idea but later gained prominence  probably because its assumptions were rooted in cosmic dualism and the practice of reflective meditation which was already a part and parcel of Hinduism.   The agricultural root concept of the union between the earth goddess and a heavenly deity is held in India as immaterial, spiritual, active, productive, and strong, but of a subservient material. 

Meditative Yoga and Its Target

The practice of meditative yoga and asceticism was targeted at overcoming the natural body limitations and achieving a wholly silenced mind. According to the traditional belief of the Indian people, Kapila and his faithful follower Āsuri were the first masters of Sākhya.  Their memory is from ancient’ and mythical times.  

Pañcaśikha is alleged to be another ancient founder of Sākhya, and his memory seems to be more historical than mythical. It is believed that he could be the author of the original book aṣṭi-Tantra.  Vāragaya and Vindhyavāsin are some of the other essential figures notable in Indian tradition. At the start of this current era, the Sākhya had become a foundation philosophy in Hindu circles; perhaps, this may explain why it can be seen everywhere.

What Do We Know About Īśvarakṛṣṇa?

History has almost nothing about Īśvarakṛṣṇa, but he probably lived around 350C.E. He is believed to have composed the foundational writings of Nyaya-Sūtra, and some of his works inspired the famous Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu.  Sākhya-Kārikā work contains 72 lines in each stanza, which may have been added by his students. The whole book looks like something that comes from a single creative individual. In a manner that is different from that of the sūtras of other systems, which are mostly vague, the Sākhya-Kārikā is a short, well-structured, and well-grounded composition.  The last verse says that it is a condensation of the entire aṣṭi-Tantraea, which leaves only stories and controversies. 

He deliberately stayed away from conflicting ideas: he did this by either keeping silent or using vague expressions.  It is quite evident that he thought to write a common standard acceptable to all followers of philosophy and the entire school;  He managed to achieve the goal.  Kārikā expelled all the previous writings when it was released.

There are many commentaries on Kārikā, most of them are simple explanations of the text, and they are similar to each other. Rājan wrote the most critical and most extended comment to date, Yukti-dīpikā from 700 C.E and. It speaks of different situations in the school of thought and contrasts with other schools about many of the fundamental doctrines.  However, this text was only received with little enthusiasm during classical times; little was known about it outside of Kashmir.  

What Else Inspired Sāṅkhya?

In addition to Kārikā, Sākhya was also inspired by two important texts.  The first one is Tatva-Samasa-Sitra, which is a half-page long mysterious book. Even though it is ancient, it was never mentioned by any author of Sākhya before the 14th century. The second text is well-known and extended Sākhya-Sūtra, which follows Kārikā in many respects, but adds more explanatory stories and controversy with later philosophical stances. It first appeared in the fifteenth century and may not be older than that.

Sāṅkhya’s Existential Quandary and Solution

khya believes that even though there are many practical ways to protect yourself from the dark aspect of life: medicine, self-defense, meditation, pleasure, etc.  Sankhya, however, believes that every one of them is limited and, at best, can provide temporary relief.  

For this reason, the solution proposed by Sākhya is better: it takes into cognizance the metaphysical structure of the universe and the living conditions that human humans are subjected to, seeking out the ultimate reason behind suffering, and thus effectively fights it.  According to Sākhya, dealing with the root cause is the only way to be free from suffering.

khya views the universe in a dualistic and atheistic manner.  The two extant species, according to Sakhaya, are Prakti ( Nature) and Pupusas (Humans).  Nature is taken as singular, but humans are pluralized.  It takes them to be independent of each other and eternal.  

Prakti is made up of three properties or traits(gua-s). The greatest of the three is Issattva, the principle of intellect, light, and goodness. The second is Rajas, the focus of emotion, change, and energy. The third Tamas manifested in the form of despair, inactivity, heaviness, and dullness. Prakriti(Nature), the pure and invisible potentials, is the pillar of the world, and in its open form, it contains twenty-three interconnected structures (tattvas).  


The Sākhya recognizes three reliable sources as valid: authoritative tradition, perception, and inference.  The order of priority differs. For example, the deduction is only applied used when perception is impossible, and an authoritative tradition is embraced when both are inference and perception are silent. Perception, in this case, is a direct recognition of meaningful properties like color, sound, etc., which convey the perception of elements.  

According to Sākhya, perception is taken as a convoluted procedure: the senses (like sight) recognize a body through the help of physical organs, e.g. eyes. These senses are also an object of the psyche’s cognition, which comprises ego, mind, and intellect. The mind internally constructs images of objects in the environment with the information provided by the senses.  The ego gives a personal view of the claims to knowledge.  The intellect provides the understanding of knowledge.  

In Sakhya, perception is seen as the most reliable of the three sources as it provides the most important information necessary for practical daily life. However, it doesn’t give philosophically interesting information.  This is because anything that can be perceived cannot be a subject of philosophical inquiry.  

In philosophy, the inference is regarded as the main source of information, and the concepts of Sākhya entirely agrees with this.  Īśvarakṛṣṇa recognizes three forms of inferences which are cause -to -effect, effect -to- cause, and analogical reason.  The cause- to-effect and impact- to- cause type of inferences are previous observations 

The first two types are based on previous observations of causal relationships.  Therefore, they won’t take us to a fundamentally imperceptible world.  Thus, all metaphysical expressions are based on a similar derivative – for example: since a body is involved in structure and complex structures like a bed for sleeping serves a person’s purpose; there has to be another purua a being served by the body. The comparisons used are in themselves a cause and effect analogy.  Therefore, it would be more accurate to say that it is similar to the result of a cause, but, traditionally, all three main classes are mutually exclusive.


The concept of Sākhya loves numbers and is regarded as a system of 25 realities according to its classical form.

The standard form of Sākhya, it is categorized as the dualism of nature and humans ( Prakrti and Purusa). However, there are two main types of Prakti: avyakta, “unmanifest” and Vyatka and “manifest,” and they allow work by obey three basic principles.

Avyakta and Purusa are the first two tattvas;  The remaining twenty-three minds of the Elements belong to the tangible aspect of nature. The relationship between the invisible and the invincible part of heart is somewhat ambiguous, as there are conflicting views on the topic.  Latter authors understood this as a cosmogonical correlation.

The initial state of Prakti was invincible, with Guna being in equilibrium.  Thanks to the influence of Purusas, the many universes we see have changed and evolved.  This view is mostly consistent with the standard Hindu picture of periods of cosmic creation and destruction cycle. Still, it is a problematic logic, and Īśvarakṛṣṇa does not accept it – without directly opposing it.  He opined that we don’t understand the invisible because it is hidden, not because it exists. It is noteworthy that the duality of Sākhya is imbalanced. If we removed purua from the equation we would still arrive at an almost complete picture of the universe because Prakti is not an inactive matter but a living principle that possesses all the resources to creatively push the human mind and thought outside of itself.  Thus, the Sākhya introduces the principle of unchanging passive consciousness, almost as an idea, as a whole, physical interpretation of the world.

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