The Samkhya

Samkhya (Sanskrit, n., सांख्य, Sāṃkhya; also Sāṅkhya) is one of the six orthodox (astika)  scools of indian philosophy. The name is already mentioned in the  Kauṭilīya-Sūtra and in the Śvetāśvatara-Upaniṣad. The tradition sees called Kapila as the founder of the system and as author of the Samkhya Sutra, who's surviving version is from the fourteenth century. It conatins references to Panchasikha, a disciple of Kapila's disciple Asuri.[2]

The Samkhya-Karika of Ishvarakrishna, a collection of 72 teaching stanzas, is the most important text source. It conatain everything from tht Sastitantra[4]  except for the parables and rebuttals of the rival systems.   The Samkhya was after 700 n.Chr. absobed into the Vedanta.

At the center of the philosophy of the Samkhya is the representation of the "25 realities" (tattvas) and the related doctrine of evolution and involution. It differentiates between indefinite (nirvikalpa) perceptions and particular (savikalpa) perceptions. Samkhya attaches importance to a precise logical description.

There are two views of the causality principle in Indian philosophy
  • Satkaryavada ( Satkaryavada (pre-existence of an effect in a cause)
  • Asatkaryavada ( Non-existence of the effect in a cause ):

The Samkhya, as well as Vedanta, support the satkaryavada, however with somewhat different interpretation.

  • Prakriti - parinamavada : Effect as real realisation (parinama) of the cause
  • Brahma - vivartavada (Advaita - Vedanta): The transformation is only apparent, since Brahman is the only real cause and the world is a distorted form of the cause.

The complete redemption from the rebirth cycle (Moksha) is also in the forefront in the Samkhya. It goes along with the completion of three kinds of suffering (duhkha) :

  • adhyatmika (Suffering from physical or mental illness)
  • adhibhautika (External suffering inflicted by environmental influences or violence of others)
  • adhidaivika (Suffering from natural forces, environmental catastrophes or unnatural phenomena)


The Samkhya is a list (sankhya) or analysis of the universe, and, in the context of its metaphysics, basically represents a dualism (Dvaita). It starts similar to buddhism with the conclusion that the world is full of hardships of three kinds, physical (aclhibkautika), supernatural (adhidaivikd) and bodily (adhyatmika).

These are the results of the properties of matter (Prakriti) and not of the inseparable, consistent intelligence of consciousness (Purusha as Jnasvarupa).  The indivisible Prakrti and Purusha are in themselves sufficient for the totality of the phenomena of the universe.

The unmanifested Mula Prakriti is seen in Chapter 3 of the Sandilya Upanishad as a companion of Maheshvara and equated with Avidja and Maya, with whom Maheshvara conceals herself.

The idea of a creator is regarded by Ishvarakrishna as a purely redundant phantom of philosophy, but not direct rejected, nor by Kapila..

Purushas are each a center of simple consciousness and always remain unchanging and unique.

Prakriti is the substrate in which the three properties, passivity (sattwa), energy or activity (rajas) and coarseness (tamas) exist in a state of equilibrium. Energy moves the other two, and the evolution begins. The first differentiation of Prakriti creates Mahat, the germ of individuality, the Ahankara or individuality.

Ahankara creates under the influence of energy from his passive and coarse sides the eleven organs of action and perception, internally and externally, and the five states (tanmatras) that precede the formation of matter.

The world scene Is thus attributed to two fundamental principles:

  • Purusha : passive conscious Spirit
  • Prakriti : aktive Unconscious "primordial matter" or "nature"

The primordial matter Prakriti has three Properties(Gunas):

  • Sattva ( The being, purity, clarity )
  • Rajas ( Movement, energy, passion )
  • Tamas ( Laziness, darkness, heaviness )

25 Tattvas

From the Prakriti, ten organs of sense (indriyani) arise.  The cosmic intelligence or higher reason (mahat or buddhi) arises from the primordial matter (mulaprakriti), and from this the ego-consciousness (Ahamkara).

The ego-consciousness is for its part the origin of the mind (manas), from which the ten organs of sense (indriyani) arise. (The whole describes the construction of the mental plane or the hinduist Swar-Loka out of the Mahar-Loka. The astral world ist here unknown.)

A total of 25 tattvas are formed, as well as a point - shaped primary particle (atma -) anu, which emits waves and forms the basis for the creation.

The list of Samkhya - tattvas is also found in the Taittiriya Upanishad, in the Aitareya Upanishad and in the Yajnavalkya-Maitri dialogue in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishade.

The relationship between Purusha and Prakriti is decisive for Patanjalis Ashtanga Yoga System, which, as mentioned above, adds the concept of Ishvara.

The further manifestation (vyakta) takes place without the active influence of the Purusha, who is always viewed in its essence as unobserved spectator (sakshin) and as beyond space, time and causality, and as eternally pure and free. He triggers further evolution through its mere presence. Only Buddhi interacts with Purusha.

An all-pervading being in the form of a "last reality" or a "one" (Ishvara, Brahman) is unknown in the classical version of Samkhya .


The "Jiva" is the state in which the puruṣa is bound to the prakriti by the glue of the desire.

Samkha is also known for Anvikshiki Vidya '(reasoned discourse). It developed contemplation techniques to overcome the Prakriti (Tattvabhyasa) and for  final fixation in the 'Mahat'. An important remedy is Tyaga (Sanskrit त्याग Tyāga m.) or detachment, comparable to Patanjalis Pratyahara.

The practitioner develops the 'third eye' through meditation and sees the Prakriti, who disappears with the transformations and leaves the self alone. All conventional phenomena thus disappear from the spirit of the yogis. This is regarded as liberation.

In the later Samkhya a knowledge of the role of the Purusha as the "true Ego" of man and as from suffering unaffected spectator of the creative events of Prakriti - only in her sphere exists in Samkhya suffering - is already kaivalya (independence), which brings after physical death the end of all rebirths and of any karmic bonds.

First Patanjali introduced the Ishvara above all, though Kapila did not put the Vedas into question and may have beleived in a kind of Ishvara. At Patanjali, Moksha as Nirvikalpa - Samadhi  is more comprehensive than in Samkya.