The word ‘Samkhya’ is a word of Sanskrit origin that stands for enumeration, empirical, and number. It is one of the classic schools of Indian philosophy. Samkhya is essentially a dualist philosophy in which the world is perceived as comprising two elements: Prakriti and Purusha. Purusha is referred to as eternal spirit, while Prakriti can be described as matter. As such, in the Samkhya school of philosophy, a person’s consciousness, after death, can move on to a new person’s body. Keep on reading to know about Samkhya in a detailed manner.
What is Samkhya
Samkhya is one of the orthodox schools of Indian philosophy in which the authority of the Vedic scriptures is recognised. Experts believe it to be the oldest school of orthodox philosophical systems in Hindu thought.
According to the Samkhya school of philosophy, the universe consists of two eternal realities: Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha stands for souls, while Prakriti stands for nature or matter. The Purushas are many and conscious but are devoid of all qualities. They act as the silent spectators of Prakriti.
Prakriti is composed of the following three gunas or dispositions:
- Tamas (dullness)
Due to the intertwined relationship of Purusha and Prakriti, an evolution of the world order must occur whenever there is a disturbance of the equilibrium of the gunas. Liberation (kaivalya), in the Samkhya school of philosophy, consists of realising that Purusha and Prakriti are different.
Concept of Cosmology
The theory of Cosmic evolution is a unique feature of Samkhya. There is no connection between this Cosmic evolution and Darwin’s evolution. Samkhyan cosmology tells us about how the emergence of life took place in the universe.
According to Samkhya, Prakriti is the source of the world of becoming. In this philosophy, the world is pure potentiality whose evolution successively takes itself. This evolution gives rise to twenty-four tattvas or principles.
The evolution is possible because Prakriti, according to Samkhya, is always in a state of tension. This is due to the following:
Significance of Samkhya School of Thought
Samkhya had a significant influence on Hinduism philosophy which can be understood as follows:
- It influences the practice of Raja Yoga in a significant manner. This is because this particular form of Yoga adopted the concepts of Purusha and Prakriti, which are Samkhyan in nature. Indeed, Patanjali’s yoga system relies heavily on the relation between these two concepts. As such, both these schools of thought are intimately close to each other.
- Samkhya follows the concept of three strands. This particular concept is also a part of various Hinduism philosophies. The concept of three strands can also be found in the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most authoritative Hinduism scriptures. Therefore, Hindu masses have widely accepted the principles of Samkhya Philosophy.
- This philosophy gives us an explanation about the evolution of the universe into being. According to this school of thought, cosmology occurs when Purusha interacts with Prakriti.
- Fourthly, Samkhya posed a challenge to the dominance of the monistic philosophies. This was due to its argument that the being’s ontological ground has a dual nature. As such, there was opposition to Vedantic philosophies by Samkhya. The Vedanta school stated that the source of this world is consciousness. The Samkhya philosophy vehemently denied this.
- Fifthly, this philosophy is noteworthy for being an atheistic philosophy in Hinduism. Despite being atheistic, the philosophy still upholds the significance of the Vedas. Philosophically speaking, one will find no place for a creator in the Samkhya school of thought. The incorporation of the creator took place in this school of thought only after its association with the theism of philosophical Yoga.
Samkhya is a classic school of Indian philosophy that originated in ancient India. Prakriti or matter and Purusha or eternal spirit are two essential elements in this philosophy that make up the world. It is an orthodox school of thought that recognizes the authority of the Vedic scriptures. According to Samkhya philosophy, Purushas are many, but they are silent spectators of Prakriti. The Concept of Cosmology is an essential part of this school of thought. Finally, understand the Significance of Samkhya School in Hindu thought.