Samkhya philosophy is one of the six major schools of Indian philosophy. It is founded on the idea that everything in creation consists of Prakriti (nature) and Purusha (consciousness). The term “Samkhya” means “number related” or “analysis,” reflecting the philosophy’s focus on breaking down the components of creation.
The central concept of Samkhya philosophy is the idea that creation is made up of 25 basic elements. These elements are derived from the three-fold nature of the world, which is the result of the interplay between Prakriti and Purusha. The 25 elements include the intellect, ego, senses, and the five elements of sky, air, fire, water, and earth.
According to Samkhya philosophy, correct knowledge of these elements is essential for attaining salvation. The philosophy places great importance on the Satkaryavada principle, which asserts that every action must have a cause.
Additionally, the Trigun Principle is a significant aspect of Samkhya philosophy, as it describes the three qualities of man: Satgun (virtue), Rajo guna (lust), and Tamas guna (stupidity). These qualities are said to be present in equal measure in the undeveloped state of nature, but as creation progresses, one of the three becomes more dominant.
The aim of Samkhya philosophy is to attain the right knowledge of the difference between matter and consciousness, or Prakriti and Purusha. This knowledge is said to lead to salvation, and the philosophy emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between the two for achieving this goal. Prakriti and Purusha are the two fundamental concepts of creation.
Prakriti refers to the primordial matter or nature, which is the root cause of the universe. It is the source of all physical and material things and is composed of the three Gunas – Sattva (purity, harmony), Rajas (activity, passion), and Tamas (inertia, darkness). Purusha, on the other hand, is the pure consciousness or the individual soul. It is the witnessing consciousness that is distinct from the body, mind, and intellect. Purusha is unchanging, eternal and free from all qualities.
It is the source of all knowledge and awareness. In Samkhya philosophy, Prakriti and Purusha are seen as two separate entities, and the ultimate goal is to attain liberation by realising the distinction between them. The practice of Yoga helps to achieve this goal by developing awareness and detachment from the material world, leading to a higher state of consciousness. In the context of yoga, Samkhya philosophy is significant as it provides a theoretical foundation for understanding the nature of creation and the role of consciousness in achieving liberation. Many yogic traditions draw on the principles of Samkhya philosophy to develop their practises and teachings, as it provides a framework for understanding the nature of the mind and body.
Here are the major principles of Samkhya philosophy in points:
Creation is made up of two primary elements: Prakriti and Purusha. Prakriti is the root of creation, and it is composed of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Purusha is the conscious, the witness of Prakriti, and it is pure awareness.
The ultimate goal of Samkhya philosophy is to attain salvation through the right knowledge of the difference between matter and consciousness, or Prakriti and Purusha. Samkhya philosophy believes in the Satkaryavada principle, which means that without a cause, there cannot be any effect.
The Trigun Principle is an important concept in Samkhya philosophy, which describes the three qualities of humans –
Satva (virtue, truth, discretion, goodwill, etc.),
Rajas (lust, violence, energy, aggressiveness, etc.), and
Tamas (laziness, sadness, unhappiness, etc.).
In the undeveloped state of nature, these three qualities are in equal measure, but as creation progresses, one of the three qualities becomes dominant.
Samkhya philosophy emphasises the right knowledge of the difference between matter and consciousness as the key to attaining salvation. Samkhya philosophy has influenced Indian lifestyle and ideology in many ways, including the concept of the three gunas and their impact on human behaviour and actions. Overall, Samkhya philosophy is a significant contribution to Indian philosophy and spirituality. Its principles have influenced not only yoga but also various aspects of Indian culture and way of life.