Samkhya Philosophy – Theory of Yoga

Samkhya means ‘right knowledge’; it also means ‘numbers’. Samkhya is one of the oldest systems of Indian philosophy. It occupies a unique place among the six systems of Indian philosophy. Almost all branches of Indian literature reflect the influence of Samkhya Philosophy. This system is sometimes, described as the ‘atheistic Yoga’ as distinguished from Yoga Philosophy, which is also referred as ‘Theistic Samkhya. This system is accepted as the main opponent of Vedanta Philosophy which is a non-dualistic philosophy; whereas, Samkhya maintains a clear-cut dualism between Purusha (Pure Consciousness, soul) and Prakriti (nature, manifested being, mind-body complex); further maintains the plurality of Purusha, and is silent on God. It is often also referred as pluralistic spiritualism, an atheistic realism and uncompromising dualism.

Samkhya divides existence and individual being into two aspects: Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha also implies the Seer and Prakriti also imply the Seen. Adopting the principle of ‘from the seen to the unseen’ or ‘from the known to the unknown’, Samkhya metaphysics has reduced all the realities in our experience to these two (Purusha & Prakriti) fundamental and eternal substances.

The basic argument behind the conclusion is the principle that the effect pre-existed in the cause before manifestation. Example, when a pot is prepared out of clay, the pot already existed in the clay, though in a potential form. The main logic behind this is that something can never be produced out of nothing. Applying this argument to the world of our experience where every object is seen to possess three characters – pleasure, pain and indifference. The Samkhya comes to the conclusion that there must be three basic subtle substances from which these three characters are derived. It calls them as Gunas (attributes) – Each of these Gunas stand for a distinct aspect of physical reality. These three Gunas are:

  1. Sattva (producing pleasure or happiness) – Sattava signifies whatever is pure and fine, and conduces to the production of knowledge as also happiness
  2. Rajas (producing pain and suffering) – Rajas is ever active. It is also responsible for desires and ambitions, to fulfill which, one has to actively work.
  3. Tamas (producing neither) – Tamas is stolid and offers resistance. It tends to sleep and inactivity.
1. In all including Purusha & Prakrti there are 25 cosmic principles or elements. The rest of the creation takes place by their permutation and combination. Each Purusha gets involved with the psycho-physical (body) as per his karma.  
2. The Gunas, which mutually differ and yet always cooperate, work like oil, wick and flame of a lamp and illuminate the entire purpose of the Purusha.
3. All organs including the subtle body, work for the realization of the purpose of the Purusha’s end. Thus the whole creation unconsciously tends towards the realization of the purpose of Purusha; and creation will continue till all Purusha are liberated.
4. The entire evolution of Prakrti, therefore, right from the first evolute- the mahat, up to the last evolutes, the gross elements, is for the purpose of liberating each individual Purusha.

The system of Samkhya accepts prakriti as the root cause of world of objects. Prakriti is said to be the unity of these three gunas held in equilibrium. Evolution of worldly objects does not take place at this state. These gunas are said to be ever changing, they cannot remain static even for a moment. Change is said to be of two kinds homogeneous and heterogeneous. During the state of dissolution of the world, the gunas change homogeneously i.e. sattva changes into sattva, rajas into rajas and tamas into tamas. This change does not disturb the equilibrium of the gunas and unless the equilibrium is disturbed and one guna predominates over the other two gunas, evolution cannot take place. Evolution starts when there is heterogeneous change in the gunas and one predominates over the other two and brings about terrific commotion in the bosom of prakriti.

Bondage and liberation – Samkhya philosophy reveals that the main cause of bondage of every being and his consequent suffering in the world is ignorance i.e. nondiscrimination between him as purusha (pure consciousness) and prakrti (the unconscious mind-body complex). It is this that is leading him from birth to death or from life to life as infinitum. The question as to how and when he got into this mess can never be answered, except by stating that it is beginning-less BUT ‘has an END’.

The purpose of Yoga i.e. kaivalya or liberation can come only from right knowledge i.e. being able to separate awareness from the mind-body complex. This can be attained by following one of the many solutions provided under Yoga Philosophy – example following the eight limbs of Yoga wherein the purusha or the soul is the object of meditation.

Important to Note – It needs to be understood that Yoga is a practical discipline. This separation and difference between awareness and the mind-body complex can only be understood by personal experience. No amount of reading or talking will convince one of the Truth and Reality of this difference – ONLY personal practice leads to experiences that ultimately transform one’s life.

47 thoughts on “Samkhya Philosophy – Theory of Yoga

    1. It’s so good to see you❣️
      Well to someone who knows, yes it’s quite clear. But, I feel a beginner might struggle with it a little ☺️ … Nevertheless, it should be an interesting read to all having inclination to philosophy!
      Thanks for your kind words ❤️… It’s almost time; I look forward to giving you a tight hug soon 🤗


  1. That was a very interesting read, Gunjan. By the way, I nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award. If you feel like participating great, but I don’t think it necessarily fits with the aesthetics of your site, so don’t feel like you have to.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Sean for showing as much appreciation, I’m extremely humbled🙏
      Well yes, you’re right. In the first place I’m not a blogger really…just share certain insights about the subject I’m really passionate about. But thankyou for considering me as one of your nominations; it feels great 😇
      I’m always great ful of your visits to my blog… keep visiting 🙏☺️❣️


      1. I’m absolutely sure. This topic cannot be appreciated by anyone who doesn’t have deeper quest!
        Im so greatfull having met readers/bloggers like yourself on this wonderful platform. Thankyou again 🙏🌸❣️

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for appreciating 🙏
      Yes this philosophy is very interesting and reveals unlimited layers of knowledge in as many reads I make to it…it’s never enough! And so the quest is on always ☺️🌸


      1. Yes, never enough time to find out these philosophy! And your wise curiosity and input is amazing! I nominate you as Sunshine Blogger Award! When you get time take part in it! 👍 😊 🌸

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Don’t think I deserve any of it; but a big Thank you. It’s very kind of you🙏
        Once again I thank you for your appreciations and visit to my blog. 🙏🌸☺️


    1. Thankyou ESP for the visit and also your query.
      Well a simple explanation to it could be… Gunas if you see their qualities i.e. Sattva is pure, Tamas is stolid. Rajas is the guna of activity/energy. Sattva & Tamas get their energy from Rajas for any subsequent evolution to take place(as on their own they do not have action). That’s what the purpose of ‘Rajas’ is in the philosophy!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting, so action is Rajas, when you are at the Sattva state of inaction you must avoice Rajas, but when you are at the other end, Rajas maybe the first step away from Tamas? It makes a lot of sense, and applies so well to most of people struggling with pain, depression and such Tamas states. All it needs is to get back the energy and move on..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At any point we have all the three Gunas. What dominates define our basic nature; doesn’t mean we don’t have the other two… Example: we need Tamas to be able to sleep…so each has their own smaller/larger purpose.
        However, eventually as we grow on the path of spirituality/Yoga- going beyond these gunas would lead to kaivalya ( involution back towards Purusha)!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I thought Tamas was darkness, fear and negativity, and the state it induces is inaction. Sleep on the other hand is pure inaction, out of tiredness, for sustenance. I agree that we may not need any of these gunas to exist, and there in lies the flaw of the argument ‘so each has their own smaller/larger purpose’. Pardon me if I sound ignorant, because thats what I am 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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