Samkhya and Yoga darshans

Samkhya system is supposed to be given by sage Kapil (6th century BC) in his Samkhya-pravachana-sutram consisting of 527 aphorisms in six chapters. Most celebrated works of Samkhya are Samkhya-karika (seventy verses) of Ishwar Krishna (3rd century AD) and commentary on it by Vachaspati Misra (850 AD) The Tattvakaumudi.

Samkhya is a realistic-dualistic system in that it maintains two ultimate principles: (1) Purusha and (2) Prakriti. Purusha is the self-intelligent subject and changeless. There are many Purusha. Prakriti is the changeful, non-intelligent, potential cause of the objective universe. Prakriti is one, though manifold. Prakriti is trigunatmaka i.e. has three basic attributes Satva, Rajasa and Tamasa. The whole objective universe- both physical and psychical- evolves from Prakriti when it comes in association with Purusha. This association results in evolution of twenty four categories, including subordinate ones. Thus, Sakhya recognizes twenty-five categories (tattvas) or principles including Purusha. These are:

  1. Purusha

  2. Prakriti

  3. Mahat (lit. the great principle, also called ‘Buddhi’, the universal intellectual principle underlying self-consciousness)

  4. Ahamkara (the ego-principle)

  5. Manas (mind)

  6. Five tanmatras (the subtle elements: sound, smell, touch, colour and taste)

  7. Five drvayas (the gross elements: akasha, vayu, agni, jala and prithvi)

  8. Five gyanendriyas (the sense organs of hearing, smell, touch, sight and taste

  9. Five karmendriyas (the organs of the actions of speech, prehension, movement, excretion and reproduction)

According to the dualistic Samkhya system, the self-intelligent purusa and the non-intelligent prakriti are two distinct fundamental principles. Purusas are many but prakritiis one. The nature of purusa is consciousness pure and simple and changelessness.Prakriti is the origin of all psychical and physical elements, is altogether devoid of consciousness and is subject to change in the proximity of purusa.

The Samkhya, to a large extent, forms the philosophical basis of Yoga as a method of self-realization. In the Samkhya-Yog view, all psychical and physical objects from mahat tokarmendriyas are successively evolved transformations (parinama) of prakriti. Thus, there are twenty-four categories of objects, including prakriti. The first and finest product of prakriti is mahat also called buddhi-satva, the pure mind-stuff in which the principle ofsattva is predominant. It is transparent and pervasive in nature. Purusa, being reflected inmahat is identified with it and both take up the characteristics of each other because of this association. Thus the intrinsically non-intelligent mahat (buddhi-sattva) appears to be intelligent and conscious while intrinsically changeless, pure, free, luminous consciousness that is purusa undergoes changing states like pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, vice and virtue, freedom and bondage etc., which are the modes of buddhi-satva. Due to this association the purusa turns out to be ‘the seer’ or experiencer (drishta) while prakritito e ‘the seen’ or the experienced (drishya). However, all the transformation of prikriti is for the experience and the liberation of ‘the seer’.

Thus, the erroneous identification of the self with the non-self is the primary cause of the miseries, according to Samkhya-Yog and also Vendanta. Like a pure crystal appearing red in the proximity of red flower, the ‘seer’ (drishta) appears and assumes itself to be bound toprakriti and its modifications in association with them, the closest association being withbuddhi-sttva. The liberation of the self thus, means its complete withdrawl and aloofness from prakriti and its transformations, gross and subtle. This is achieved through sharp distinction of self from the non-self, particularly from buddhi-sattva. Preparatory practices followed by keen introspection and intense meditation lead to this end. Vedanta agrees with Samkhya-Yog as far as the necessity of distinction between self and non-self for the liberation is concerned. However, the Vedantic has quite different view of liberation and the proximate method of its attainment.

The most important difference between Samkhya and Yog is regarding the view of God. Samkhya does not recognize any ever-free, eternal, Creator God because existence of anything like this can not be established by logical proof. The only God it admits is ‘Kalp-niyamaka-Ishvara’ that is a nearly perfect being temporarily in-charge of a cycle of creation. When the association of Purusha and Prakriti is destroyed, the Purusha is liberated and the objective universe created for that Purusha automatically returns to undifferentiated state of inactive Prakriti. Only the knowledge brings about liberation. In contrast to Samkhya, Yoga admits a Personal God, a special Being untouched by any kind of misery, having infinite knowledge and unlimited by time. Such a God is the teacher of even the earliest teachers.

References to the practices of Yoga are found in UpanishadasBhagwata-gita and also in Jain and Buddist literature. However, Panini is credited with giving the first systematic exposition of Yoga in his Yoga-sutras. Most widely known commentary on Panini’s work are Vyasa-bhashya (4th century AD) and Bhojadeva’s Raj-martanda.

The practice of concentration on the gross physical objects develops the capability of fixing mind on finer and finer entities, the finest being prakriti. The three main stages of meditation mentioned by Patanjali are:

  1. Meditation on the grahya (the sensible objects to be known)

  2. Meditation on the grahana (the instruments of knowledge, sense-organs and mind)

  3. Meditation on the grahita (the knowing self, the experiencer)

By concentration on any single object of the triad, when all other thoughts are eliminated, the mind-stuff becomes absorbed in it and is imbubed with it like a pure crystal that assumes the colour of whatsoever object it is set on. Thus, the practitioner enters into different states of ‘samprajnata samadhi’ in which the object of meditation is known definitely, free from doubts and misconceptions. In this samadhi, a single thought prevails in the mind, which is not therefore, content-less like in the samprajnata samadhi. Patanjali thus, distinguishes between meditation (dhyan) and samadhi:

Meditation is the uninterrupted concentration of thought on its object. This itself turns into samadhi when the object alone shines and the thought of meditation (and the meditator) is lost, as it were.’

As aresult of intense meditation on subtle entities (prakriti and its finer transformations, except the five gross elements), when the mind goes beyond contemplation (vichara) becoming refined and transparent, the practitioner develops intuitive knowledge. In that state, knowledge is said to be “truth-bearing”. This knowledge is of a different order than the knowledge gained from inference and the scriptures because it being supra-conscious experience, is definite.

The cause of the identification of the self with buddhi-sattva is avidya (wrong perveption). In deep meditation on grahita, the experiencer, the distinction between them is discerned. A clear and steady perception of the distinction between self and buddhi-sattva is calledvivek-khyati (discriminating knowledge). This vivek-khyati counteracts avidya and with the eradication of avidya, the idenfication of self with non-self ceases. The self becomes aloof i.e. reinstated in its innate freedom. At the seventh stage of such discriminating knowledge, practitioner reaches the highest level.

Even then the self is not realized and to become firmly established in samprajnata samadhi, power to enter into asamprajnata samadhi is to be developed. Supreme detachment leads to foregoing even the knowledge that the self is altogether different from buddhi-sattva because it is realized that this discriminating knowledge, howsoever high, is only a mode ofbuddhi-sattva to which self has no relation at all. Complete withdrawl from buddhi-sattvaand the knowledge manifest in it results in buddhi-sattva becoming absolutely free from all modes and contentless. Now it becomes perfectly calm and is restored to its pristine purity. This is complete withdrawl of the self from buddhi-sattva, the state of asamprajnata samadhi, in which there is no cogition of any kind whatsoever. The self, being detached from buddhi-sattva, is no longer the ‘seer’ (drishta). On complete dissociation of self, thebuddhi-sattva becomes ‘seedless’ and resolves itself into its origin, the prakriti’. The final liberation, i.e. complete aloofness or isolation of purusha from prakriti is achieved.


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