Archive for the ‘Shad Darshan – Sankhya and Yoga’ Category

Darshan (Philosophy) I

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Shad Darshan – Sankhya and Yoga:


Since Hinduism has its base in Vedas and Vedas are considered words of God directly revealed to the great Rishis, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy. Hinduism is the Vedic way of describing the Absolute Truth. Vedas are considered eternal (without any origin), authorless (apaurusheya – means not the work of mankind or beyond human imagination), and infallible (never wrong). The directly revealed words of God are considered as the form of God. “mada vāni, mada rupam”, meaning, “My words are my form.” It is considered as one of the ways of understanding or claiming the Truth, just like any other religious philosophies. It will be surprising to know that almost all religious philosophies agree to believe that the “Truth” or “Absolute” is one, but it is equally surprising that the claimants or claimers are many! Because, Hinduism is not considered as a philosophy but is considered as the first hand or direct information about the truth, the philosophies developed on the bases of the Vedas – the words of God, are called “Darshans.” Darshans are philosophies – philosophical interpretations about the Truth by the great scholars. Darshans literarily means the views, visions, or philosophies and are also known as “Tattvagnān” (also spelled as “Tattvagyan” or “Tattvajnan”). Hinduism is not the “Darshan” or “Tattvagnān.” “Shad” means six and “Darshan” means philosophy. The six major philosophies of Hinduism developed from Vedas and Upanishads are: Sānkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimānsā (Mimamsa), and Uttara Mimānsā (also known as Vedanta.”) All these philosophies were basically developed before the Common Era except the few major philosophies based on Vedanta.


Sankhya” is the oldest classical philosophical system of Hinduism founded by rishi Kapil. According to Sankhya, there are basically two realities: Prakruti and Purush. Prakruti means the Nature which consists of 24 elements (tattvas). Purush means the essence or the controller of Prakruti. It is ontologically and characteristically distinct from Prakruti and is considered as the 25th element that is transcendental to all other elements. The responsibility of exploring or knowing in detail and further describing the Nature or Prakruti has been taken up by the Science, The responsibility of knowing and describing God or Purush has been taken up by the Religion.

The objective of Sankhya is to obtain discriminative knowledge of the manifest (vyakta) nature (prakruti), the unmanifest (avyakta) nature (prakruti), and the knower (purush). “Tadviparitaha shreyān vyakta-avykta-gna-vignānāt ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 2) According to Sankhya, Vyakta prakruti includes Mahattattva, Buddhi, Ahamkar, five Tanmatra, ten Indriya, and five Mahabhut. Avyakta prakruti is Pradhān. The knower (gnaha) is known as Purush.

Sankhya philosophy maintains multiplicity of Purush. “janana-marana-karanānām pratiniyamādugapatpravruteshcha | Purushabahutvam siddhim traigunyaviparyayāshchaiva ||” (Sāmkhya Kārikā: 18) “Everybody does not born at the same time, does not die at the same time, everybody does not do same activity (karma) at the same time, everybody does activities (pravrutti) according to their psychological state of mind (gunas), such as some do virtuous activities (dharma), some do wicked activities (adharma);  some do cultivate detachment from the worldly object (vairagya) some not; some gain knowledge (gyān), some not. These diversities themselves show the plurality of purushas.”

Sankhya does not separate jiv or soul from sharir or the body. It considers jiv or soul as a part of 24 elements of Nature (also called Pradhān Prakruti) because jiv is intermingled or blended with them so closely that it cannot be separately identified. The 24 elements along with jiv are considered as the field called “Kshetra” and Purush is considered as the fielder called “Kshetragna.” They have controlee and controller relationships, respectively. This can be compared to the Dualism. But, the dualism of body and its life force (soul, atma or jivatma) or the dualism of cosmos (Prakruti) and its super-soul (Purush) and not the dualism of body and mind (According to Hinduism mind or antahkaran is part of the body – ontologically same element or reality) as against Monism. In Sankhya, the intellect or conscious is called “mahat” (mahattattva). Sankhya describes three kinds of proofs or evidences called “Pramānas,” namely, “Pratyaksha pramana” meaning direct perception, “Anumāna pramana” meaning logical inference, and “Sabda pramana” means verbal testimony.

Sānkhya is the eyes (ānkhya) to visualize the Truth. The message of Sankhya is to utilized this material world for improving one’s understanding about the Truth, at the same time developing the detachment from it, and hence to uplift the soul considering that this material world is not that important, permanent, or giver of the happiness or the bliss. It can just give comfort at the most. It is called the Nature or Prakruti – the jad (lifeless), aparā (non-transcendental) Prakruti which is “nāshvant” meaning destructible. The real essence is its life force, motivating force, its cause, its controller called Purush, Ishwar, or God. One should cultivate the attachment with the Truth. Sankhya generally believes in unrestricted use of nature or the worldly products of the nature and then either to forget it or to rationalize it to remain permanently detached from it so that one always remains in the state of bliss and avoid pain and sufferings.

In Sankhya, the question of salvation remains open. If Purush is God and Prakruti is His creation then salvation of Purush is out of question. If Brahmand is Prakruti (Pradhān) and its chief controller is Purush and if there is only one brahmand then the separation of Purush from its brahmand happens at the dissolution. But it doesn’t explain multiplicity of Purushas. If there are many brahmands, and hence many Pradhāns then it explains existence of many Purushas. But then it does not explain the supremacy of one God. One needs to add or explain the existence of the supreme reality. If Prakruti is body and Purush is its essence, called Jiv or soul, then it explains many bodies and many souls – a separate soul for each living being. But then the soul becomes the 25th element and what about God? What about salvation? Who gets salvation and who gives salvation? If souls get salvation, then who gives them salvation? The above ontological questions or flaws in Sankhya philosophy creates the necessity of at least one more reality, either soul or God, which is explained by the next philosophy.


Yoga was developed by rishi Pātanjali for creation of the spiritual bonding or union of a soul with the God. But now it has taken a 360 degree turn to help built physical health globally. The principals of Yoga are mentioned in his text of “Yoga Sutra.” Patanjali’s yoga system accepts the principles and concepts of Sankhya about the 24 kinds of physical elements. Patanjali’s Yoga texts (Yoga Shāshtras) go one step further. According to yoga, soul or jiv is ontologically different than the 24 kinds of physical, material, or worldly elements. So soul or jiv can be considered as the 25th element and God automatically becomes the 26th element. God is still maintained superior to all that makes up the topmost transcendental element or fundamental entity constituting the creation. God in Yoga is personified, Supreme, and of the nature of soul, that is, purely spiritual. He facilitates the attainment of liberation of the souls of His devotees. He remains non-doer or “akrtā.” Meaning, He doesn’t do anything directly by Himself and remain detached from its creation. He is called “Ishwar.” In Yoga, Ishwar is described as one, “in whom there is the seed (bij) or source of unsurpassed (nirātishayam) quality of all-knowing (omniscience),” “Tatra niratishayam sarvagnatva-bijam” Meaning Ishwar is omniscient or all-knower (sarvagna) (Yoga Sutra: 1.25) and “Sa purveshām-api guruhu kālenānavachchhedāt” (Yoga Sutra: 1.26) Meaning, “who is Guru (mentor or the ideal) of also ancient ones (primary creators, such as Brahmā and others), for, He is unbounded (pierced) by time (for He has no beginning and end, meaning eternal, whereas others have beginning and end).” Ishwar is “Purush-vishesha” (Godhead) untouched, unaffected, and free from the “klesha” (afflictions), “karma” (deeds or actions), “vipāka” (fruits of the deeds or actions), and “āshaya” (intentions or desires). “Klesha karma vipākāshayair aparāmrushtaha purusha-vishesha ishwaraha” (Yoga Sutra: 1.24). Souls are pure, eternal, immutable, and are countless in number. They remain attached to the world and worldly things. Souls assume innumerable embodied forms in the cycle of birth and death. In Yoga, the intellect or conscious is called “chittva” (chitt). Unlike the unrestricted use of nature in the Sankhya system, Yoga believes in the restricted use of the nature or in the well controlled and willing (not the forceful and against one’s will) suppression (nirodh) of the thoughts (vruttis) of the conscious (chitt). To understand the elements let us take only one kind of element, say the “Pruthwi” element. It consists of particulate form of more than 112-118 elements of the periodic table. Yoga also describes perceptions, but only of two kinds: “Savikalpa” meaning relative and “Nirvikalpa” meaning absolute perception.

In Yoga, Ashtang Yoga or meditation (dhyān) is used as the means of communion with the Divinity or God. Divinity or self is the object of meditation. Yoga recommends considering the soul, jiv or atma as the distinct (chaitanya) entity from the physical or worldly (lifeless) objects or entities and to develop “Atmabhāv” or “Atma-realization”; and then to worship Paramatma (God) who has definite form (sākār). If we have a physical form, then God has to have, physical but divine (divya sakar), form otherwise the union cannot be strong and fruitful. This is called “sajātiya” union, meaning the union “of a kind” or “of the same kind,” because, Soul and God both are believed to share ontologically common traits. The message of Yoga, as compared to Sankhya, is not to utilize this material world at all or at the minimum necessary level to keep one’s body, mind, and soul healthy and long-lasting keeping in mind that it is just the vehicle in developing the union with the Truth called God or Narayan and attaining the liberation.

Thus, Yoga emphasizes for spiritually leveling or uplifting the “Atma to God” or “Jiv to Shiv (God)” or “one eternal to another eternal” (shāswat) objects, rather than downgrading oneself with the worldly, material, destructible (nāshvant) objects by thinking or being as a part of a physical elements. If a person thinks him or herself as a part of the material world and worships God then his or her union or bonding with the God does not become complete, strong, and permanent. There always remains a flaw or hanging sward over that union and ultimately it breaks with even a trivial reason.

Yoga philosophy explains three basic or fundamental realities and salvation of souls, but it creates one more issue. If one understands Ishwar from Yoga only, being defined as Purush form, God as a person gets many limitations in understanding. One cannot get it how personified God can be all-knower or omniscient (sarvagna), all-controller, inner-guide of all (sarva antaryāmi), all-pervasive (sarva vyāpak), present everywhere at the same time (omnipresent) and absolutely perfect (paripurna).

Yoga was meant for the union of the atma (self or soul) with Paramatma (God) and the object of meditation was self or God. But in modern period of times, the object of meditation is changed from the divinity to diversity and yoga has just remain one of the means of attaining or maintaining well being of the body only, not even of mind and the soul.