THE SANKHYA PHILOSOPHY

Kapila was the founder of Sankhya philosophy. (8-6th Cent. B.C.E.?) Ishvara Krishna was its most famous writer. (3rd Cent. C.E.)

Basic Differences between Yoga and Sankhya

1. Sankhya is atheistic; Yoga is quasi-theistic Ishvara is simply the one purusha not to have fallen into prakriti.

2. Sankhya is a jnana yoga - route to salvation through knowledge only. Yoga is a dhyana yoga - meditation and asceticism. Patanjaliís criticism of Sankhya: metaphysical knowledge alone will not save us.

Literal meaning of Sankhya is "discrimination" between purusha and prakriti so as to show the liberation of purusha. The focus is to discriminate between purusha and the higher mental states: manas and buddhi, which are part of prakriti. Prakriti is a fully real material substance, and not the creation of Brahman's uncanny power. Metaphysical "realism," i.e., the external world is real. Metaphysical pluralism, too--i.e., there are many individual souls that will remain individual and isolated even after their liberation from prakriti. Unlike Advaita Vedanta, pure purusha selves are indissolvably many.

At the liberation of the last purusha from prakriti, prakriti will return to its primoridal state. Its manifold appearance depends on our ignorance that we basically belong to it. But with proper knowledge and discrimination one can use prakriti for one's liberation.

Purusha has no attributes except that "it is" and that "it knows." "The spirit is what is sees, it is isolated, indifferent, a mere inactive spectator." (Quoted in Eliade, 27) It has no intelligence (this is located in buddhi.) and it is without desire. It is pure freedom. How then did it get enslaved? Originally, the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas) are in perfect equilibrium in prakriti. But under purusha's influence disequilibrium and evolution begin.

1. Metaphor of the lame woman (prakriti) being carried by the blind man (purusha).

2. Spectator (purusha) entranced by the dancer (prakriti).

Prakriti is the source of the world of "becoming" (change and motion) and sensation. Purusha represents true being: inactive, unchanging, and pure.

Sattvaguna is the "stuff" of consciousness and all higher mental states (associated with Hindu god Vishnu and the goddess Lakshmi); rajasguna is the source of activity, sensation, and emotion (associated with Brahma and the goddess Sarasvati); and tamasguna is the source of resistance, inertia, and dissolution (associated with Shiva and the goddess Kali).

 

The Sankhya-Karika by Ishvara Krishna

(Source Book, Chap. 12)

The main text comes from the Third Century C.E. and the commentary in smaller type comes from about 850 C.E.

I. Three types of pain: (1) pains of body and mind; (2) pains caused by external nature; and (3) supernatural agents.

II. Vedic religious rites are inefficient in removing the three types of pain. Impurities arise because of the killing of animals and seeds. Sankhya is obviously pushing the doctrine of ahimsa (non-injury). On this point, Sankhya is contrary to the Veda, "and hence is better." How did this ever become an orthodox system?

III. Prakriti is a cause but not an effect. 7 causes and effects, 16 effects only; 25 total metaphysical elements. Purusha is neither cause nor effect.

Prakriti cannot have a cause or there would be an infinite regress, which was irrational for all ancient philosophers. See Aristotle-Aquinas in West.

IV. Sankhya Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology). Three means of correct knowledge: perception, inference (Sankhya syllogism), and valid testimony.

VI. Knowledge beyond the senses comes from inference based on analogy.

VIII. Prakriti cannot be perceived, not because of its non-existence, but because of its subtlety. It is perceived in its effects.

XI. Gunas aren't really qualities or attributes, they are constituents. Prakriti is a three-strand rope.

XIII. Sattva - buoyant and illuminating; rajas - exciting and mobile: tamas - sluggish and enveloping.

Analogy of wick, oil and light - opposing things do work together. Prakriti is only a means to purusha's en-lightenment.

 

THE ARGUMENTS FOR PURUSHA

Its Necessary Existence and its Nature

(Sankhya-karika xvii)

I. All composite things are for another's use.

II. There must be absence of the three gunas.

III. Because there must be control.

IV. Because there must be someone to experience.

V. Because there must be a tendency to isolation. Appeal to scripture here.

The Arguments in Deductive Form.

I. 1. All composite objects are for anotherís use.

2. All of nature is composite (i.e., made of gunas).

3. If the user in #1 is composite, there would be an infinite regress of composite users.

ą 4. A simple (non-composite) thing must exist apart from Nature.

#1 does not appear to be true unless we interpret, as Sankhya probably does, all of nature to be a means to the soulís end. "From Brahma to a blade of grass, the creation is for the soulís benefit, until one attains to the supreme knowledge" (Sankhya-pravacana-sutra, quoted in Eliade, p. 20).

Platoís argument for the immortality of the soul:

1. A thing can be destroyed only by separating its parts.

2. The soul has no parts.

ą 3. The soul can not be destroyed.

II. Being non-composite logically implies that spirit (purusha) has, referring back to section xi:

1. no attributes (gunas), because they would be "parts," especially in the image of the three-strand rope.

2. itís not "productive" - only prakriti produces; only a composite thing can produce.

3. If it is not productive, itís not active.

4. Itís non-objective (i.e., subjective), always a subject, never an object.

? 5. Itís distinguishable. The principle of the identity of indiscernables:If two things have identical properties, then they must be identical.

? 6. Itís uncommon (specific).

?? 7. Itís sentient - pure awareness.

#7 seems OK if sentience means "pure awareness," but not OK if we take the etymological meaning as "capable of sensing or perceiving." Is this sensible perception: "She [prakriti] has been seen by me (purusha) (lxvi).

III. The argument from control

1. Nature does not control herself.

2. But there is control, e.g. we try to stop pain.

ą 3. A controller independent from nature must exist.

Isnít the jiva self responsible for controlling. This would make the soul active, which it presumably is not.

IV. The argument from experience to experiencer.

1. We have experiences of pain and pleasure.

ą 2. There must be something to experience pain and pleasure.

Question: Doesnít the jiva self do this? Parable of the two birds: the enjoyer and the one who simply looks on.

V. Argument from ascetic isolation. Valid testimony of scripture and seers. There is something beyond nature, viz., an isolated spirit.

XVIII. Purashas must be plural because of (1) different times of birth and death; (2) different bodies engaging in action; (3) different proportion of gunas. Only proves plurality of jiva souls?

XIX. Purusha is isolated, neutral, seer, (spectator), inactive. Contradicts most of XVII? Experiences no pleasure, pain or delusion.

XXII. Emanation out of Prakriti

Mahat (The Great Principle)

Ahamkara ("I"-principle) Set of 16--11 sense organs and 5 primary elements.

XXIII. Sattva - virtue, wisdom, nonattachment possession of lordly poweres (goodness). Tamas is the reverse.

XXXIX & XL Doctrine of Subtle body. The spritual body is invisible "formed primevally, (1) unconfined, (2) lasting, composed of will, (3) migrates, is devoid of experience's, and is invested in dispositions. (3)

1. Subtle bodies for purushas were formed in the first emanations of prakriti.

2. The subtle body can go through anything.

3. If not willful and have dispositons, it would not migrate.

How can something with dispositions not have experiences?

Does the subtle body disappear in final liberation? Yes, because prakriti contracts completely at the end. It does "merge" back into nature.

LIII. Celestial evolution has 8 forms (sattva) (levels) animal (tamas) evolution 95) and one human form (rajas).

LVI. Evolution is done by prakriti itself. Not by God, not Brahman, and not by Ishvara the Lord.

LVI. Prakriti is like a cook who retires after making the meal. Nature, properly understood, provides "nourishment" for purusha on its way to liberation. The purusha who realizes that is needs no more sustenance will then be free from nature, putting the "cook" out of work.

LVII. If God is a creator, he would create only happy mortals. And if mortals were in pain, he would be obligated to eliminate it. Thus, God cannot be involved in the operation of prakriti. As prakriti is basically insentient, it cannot be blamed for pain and evil. Similar solution to the problem of evil in Aristotle and contempoary "process" theology.

LIX. Dancer metaphor

LXI. Prakriti as bashful. "I have been seen" and never appears to purusha again.

LXII. Strictly speaking, [King analogy] no purusha is ever bound or liberated or migrates. Illusion?

LXIV. Paradoxical Results of Sankhya analysis.

"I do not exist, naught is mine, I am not." (1) Nothing is known (outside of purusha). (2) But I am pure, free from ignorance, and I am absolute.

1. I do not exist as prakriti exists. I am not matter, nature, or even high mental states.

2. Only the elements of prakriti can be known, and purusha is not part of prakriti, and finally has no relation with it.

LXVI. "She has been seen by me," and I [purusha] have lost interest. "I have been seen," says prakriti and she stops her dance (evolution).