Samkhya: Part Two: Samkhya Teachers

03 Oct

Continued from Part One

C. Samkhya Teachers

7.1. Sage Kapila is generally revered as the founder of the Samkhya system.  He is first mentioned in the Svetasvatara Upanishad considered as a text with Samkhya inclination (kapilaṃ yas tam agre jñānair bibharti jāyamānaṃ ca paśyet // 5.2//). 

Here, Kapila is regarded as the foremost among the enlightened (agre jñānair bibharti) .

But, again, scholars argue whether Kapila was a historical person or a mythical figure. To worsen the confusion, as many as three sages by name of Kapila are mentioned in the texts. In any case, all the Samkhya traditions trace their origin to Kapila.

7.2. According to Samkhya traditions, it appears, there were as many as twenty-six Samkhya teachers. The more important of them are: Kapila, Asuri, Panchashikha, Vindyavasa, Varsaganya, Jaigisavya and Isvarakrishna. Some of the other Samkhya teachers mentioned are  : Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana and Vodhu. They appear to be figures from mythology; and no historic details of them are known.

The Samkhya tradition ascribes its first formulation to Sage Kapila who imparted Samkhya doctrines to his disciple Asuri. Not much is known about either Kapila or Asuri. The name of Asuri appears in all the three generations of  the lists of teachers and pupils mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad . The first two of the lists mention Asuri as a disciple of Bharadwaja, while the third mentions him as a successor of Yajnavalkhya.

āsurir bhāradvājāt | bhāradvāja ātreyāt | ātreyo māṇṭe |

prāśnīputrād āsurivāsina | prāśnīputra āsurāyaāt | āsurāyaa āsure |
| BrhUp_6,5.2 ||

There is also a tradition which ascribes to Asuri , the Purusha -vidha- Brahmana , commencing with the words : ātmaivedam agra āsīt puruṣavidhaḥ (in the  fourth Section of the First Chapter of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which gives a  description of the nature of Reality; and,  of the process of creation down to the lowest level of  manifestation) . It is not clear whether all these references pertain to one and the same person.

7.3. As regards Kapila, he  is described as a parama-rishi the greatest sage, an incarnation:  “The primeval Seer, incarnated through the medium of an artificial mind as the mighty divine sage Kapila, out of compassion, revealed the Samkhya doctrine, in a systematic way, to Asuri, who desired to know it.”(Srimad Bhagavata SB 3.24.33).

paraṃ pradhānaṃ puruṣaṃ mahāntaṃ kālaṃ kaviṃ tri-vṛtaṃ loka-pālam, ātmā anubhūtyā anugata-prapañcaṃ svacchanda-śaktiṃ kapilaṃ prapadye –

Sage Kapila in his hermitage, Illustration from Ramayana, Kangra or Garhwal

Kapila is also described as the son born out of the will  (manasa putra) of Brahma; and, variously identified with Prajapathi, with Vasudeva, and with Hiranyagarbha. Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-Gita “Among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila” (BG: 10.26) – Siddhanaam Kapilo munih.

7.4. There are several references to Kapila in Mahabharata (12.327.64-66) , where he is described as Parama Rishi (the Supreme seer – sāṃkhyasya vaktā kapilaḥ paramarṣiḥ); Yogavid (well versed in Yoga); and, ācāryā mokṣaśāstre ca mokṣadharma pravartakāḥ  (Master in the science of liberation).  Yoga–Shastra, the science and practice of liberation is otherwise called as Kaapila, the path of Sage Kapila.

Again , The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 349.65) states : Kapila, the teacher of Samkhya, is said to be the supreme Rishi. Hiranyagarbha is the original knower of Yoga. There is no one else more ancient

sárhkhyasya vaktā kapilah paramarsih Sa u Cyatehiranyagarbho yogasya vettà nányah purātanah

Thus ,  it appears that according to these versions, Sage Kapila who is equated with Hiranyagarbha, an Avatara of Vishnu, is the originator of both Samkhya and the Yoga


Kapila is distinguished from the other learned ones in Vedas (Vedavid) whose Dharma is that of Pravritti, the one that binds. Kapila,  on the other hand, is revered as the Master of Nivrtti Dharma, the Dharma that liberates – ācāryā mokṣaśāstre ca mokṣa-dharma-pravartakāḥ

12,327.064a sanaḥ sanatsujātaś ca sanakaḥ sasanandanaḥ
12,327.064c sanatkumāraḥ kapilaḥ saptamaś ca sanātanaḥ
12,327.065a saptaite mānasāḥ proktā ṛṣayo brahmaṇaḥ sutāḥ
12,327.065c svayamāgatavijñānā nivṛttaṃ dharmam āsthitāḥ
12,327.066a ete yogavido mukhyāḥ sāṃkhyadharmavidas tathā
12,327.066c ācāryā mokṣaśāstre ca mokṣadharmapravartakāḥ

Kapila is said to have taught the ‘fourth-Upanishadic-Dharma’– (chaturtha aupanisado dharmah) which asserts that apavarga (liberation) is the essential duty of an ascetic (yati-dharma).

Chandogya Upanishad (2.23.1) explains this ‘fourth Dharma’ as the way of a Brahma-nista (the one rooted in Brahman), an ascetic in search of true knowledge having renounced all ties and affiliations.  And, such a Brahma-nista is freed from the endless cycle of rebirths (Brahmanah padam anvicchinna samsaran muchyate suich).  

The teachings of Sage Kapila, in essence, emphasizes that the highest path to liberation is characterized by renunciation and thirst for true knowledge.

7.5. Asvaghosha in his Buddha- charita (Sarga 12.16) mentions that Alara Kalama while teaching Samkhya to his pupil Gautama (the future Buddha) explains that Kapila‘s path to final liberation (nivrtti marga) was through knowledge (saṃsāro yathā caiva nivartate). He contrasts the Vedic way (Pravrtti) which aims to attain heaven (savarga) with Kapila’s way (Nivrtti) which leads to liberation (Nirvana).

The Buddhist sources mention that the city of Kapilavastu was built in the honor of Kapila. It was in Kapilavastu that the Buddha was born; and, it was here he spent the first twenty-nine years of his life.

7.6. Baudhayana Grihya Sutra (4.16) which describes the rules for becoming a Sanyasin makes a mention of Kapila’s association with renunciation; and names the rule as ‘Kapila-sanyaya-vidhi’

[The Baudhayana Dharma Sutra mentions Kapila as the son of Prahlada, the King of Asuras – prāhlādir ha vai kapilo nāma asura āsa – Baudh And, at times, addresses Kapila as Asura.  Some, explain the name of his disciple  Asuri  as being  the son or the disciple of Asura.]

It is apparent that Kapila, whoever he was, was held in the highest esteem, and revered as Parama-rishi.


8.1. As regards Jaigisavya, he is revered as Yogacharya, the Yoga teacher of great merit. Mahabharata (Shanthi Parva: 229) refers to him as the great Muni Jaigishavya   “Possessed of great splendor, that great ascetic, ever devoted to Yoga; and rapt in meditation and leading the life of a mendicant”; and the epic carries an interesting episode narrating Sage Jaigisavya’s discourse imparted to king – rishi  Asita Devala preaching virtues of equanimity and renunciation .

Jaigisavya is mentioned as a renowned Yoga teacher also in Vyasabhashya on Yoga sutra (2.55); as also in Buddhacharita (12.67) of Asvaghosa (first century). References to Jaigisavya are often made by scholars to confirm that Samkhya and Yoga were at onetime welded together.


8.2. Panchashikha is a great name in Samkhya – Yoga traditions, as also in the field of music ( gandharva ) . Panchashikha sometimes addressed as Panchashikha Kapileya, that is to say he came from the linage of Kapila, was a great teacher and honoured in many philosophical schools. Panchashikha, a disciple of Asuri, it is said, was a brilliant scholar who gave Samkhya its characteristic outlook.

The Mokshadharma Parvan of Mahabharata (12.211-212) has passages ascribed to one Panchashikha who instructs King Janaka. One of these passages is the Panchashikha-vakyawhich talks about the highest form of Freedom. Panchashikha is referred to here with much respect. He is discribed as: ‘mahamuni‘ (great sage); ‘ rishinam… ekam‘ one among the seers; ‘parama rishi‘ (supreme seer); and a seer who performed a Satra of a thousand years (yah satram aaste varsha-sahasrikam).

The Panchashikha-vakya carries many terms that have the Samkhya flavour; such as : the triple Bhava – Sattva , Rajas and Tamas ; Kshetrajan; Buddhi ; and, Mahat . There are also terms that are not strictly Samkhya but are often used there : jnanendriya ( faculties of knowledge) with Manas  as the sixth (mana-sthana) followed by faculties of action (karmendriya) . However, there is no mention of Purusha, the key component of the Samkhya ideology. Its absence is conscicuous.

Strange as it may seem, Panchashikha-vakya, the teaching of Panchashika, has shades of the Charuvaka atheist belief (nasthika) denying existence after death of the body; na pratya samjnasti (there is no consciousness after death).


Pancasikha also appears as the divine minstrel in the Buddhist lore. According to the Bilarikosiya Jataka, Pancasikha, like his father Matali, was a divine musician par excellence; and, Pancasikha along with another musician Timbaru constantly waits on Sakka (Indra), the king of the Devas. It is said; Pancasikha married Suriyavaccasa, Timbaru’s daughter.

Dr. C Sivaramamurti, identifies a figure, among the sculptures from Amaravati, playing a Veena in presence of the Buddha as Pancasikha. He is described as the divine minstrel par excellence (Figure 22 ; Plate IV; Page 402)


And, in the Nispanna-yogavali a Vajrayana Buddhist text of 9-10th century credited to Mahapandita Abhayankara Gupta of the Vikramasila monastery, Panchashikha is described as a Gandharva king of golden complexion, playing on the Veena- Panchashiko Gandharva-rajendrah pita vinam vadayati.

And, again, a certain Panchashikha is believed to have lived in or around the sixth century BCE. According to the Buddhist text Pancasikha -sutta he visits the Buddha at Gijjhakuta (vulture peak) and questions why some men are emancipated in this birth while the others are not?

8.3. Charaka (c. third century BCE) the celebrated surgeon of ancient India and the author of the Ayurveda text Charaka Samhitha relied on the analysis and explanations offered by Panchashikha.

Ayurveda, as a doctrine and as a practical discipline, benefited by adopting the Samkhya ideologies of Panchashikha. It accepted the Samkhya view of human body as psycho-physical unity, a body-mind complex; and did not see the need for a soul or divine spirit that controls the body. It does not talk about Karma or its ill effects; or about appeasing Vayu who supposedly frees one from deceases. Instead, it ascribes the causes of disease to individual characteristics of the patient, which are fundamentally rooted in his/her  Guna or Dosha composition.

It followed the  deha-tattva, body principle, a Samkhya concept of subtle-body (sukshma sarira or linga-deha) comprising consciousness, ego, eleven senses and five subtle elements; with the ever changing stream of consciousness flowing through the body-mind complex. Ayurveda, which followed the Samkhya ideal of eliminating suffering, formulated methods and curative procedures for lessening pain-provoking conditions (hanam) .It, is said; the basic theories of Ayurveda –Tridosha and panchabauthika – can be better understood if one is familiar with the Samkhya.

[The University of Vienna, Austria, has undertaken a very exhaustive critical study of the Charaka-samhita.  It is said; the project will lead to the publication of numerous original research articles on topics in Ayurveda and Indian philosophy as well as to major critical editions and translations of two philosophically-important parts of the Caraka-samhita. They will also explicitly exemplify the highest professional standards of work in Indology. Please check here for the Project-aims. ]



8.4. Charaka Samhitha adopted the philosophical principles of Panchashikha School . The atheistic line of thinking which appear in the teachings of Pancasikha finds a fuller and more systematic development in the Samhita of Caraka. The first chapter of Sarira Sthanam in the Caraka-Samhita opens with an interpretation of Purusha that is quite different from the others.  In fact, the concept of Purusha finds no place in Caraka’s medical science; and, human organism- the body mind complex- alone is the subject of his study.  The Purusha , in the sense of soul does not figure here. His Samhita says – pleasure, pain, disease, death, old age, etc. can happen to a mind-body complex and not to pure transcendental Purusha (soul).

Charaka’s logic relied on Anveshiki , the method  of listing things into similar and dissimilar categories. It adopted Panchshikha’s  principles  by accepting twenty-four category of tattvas (principles or basic components) combining the a-vyakta and the Purusha into one tattva; by accepting that human experiences arise out of the combination of body, mind and consciousness; by subscribing to the view that human suffering is caused by error in identifying the self with that which is not-conscious; by treating the Gunas as psychic states of man rather than as qualities; by adopting the concepts of kshetra (field) and kshetrajna (field-knower , the foundation for the field) as representing notions of Prakrti and Purusha; and by adopting the monistic view that the ultimate truth of a person is his un-manifest state which is a combination of the a-vyakta (un manifest Prakrti) and Purusha (consciousness).

8.5. The last mentioned, that is, treating the a-vyakta and the Purusha (consciousness) as a unity (perhaps suggesting that Purusha is just the state of a-vyakta) is a departure from the older Samkhya traditions; and it also differs from the later classical Samkhya (which holds the view that a-vyakta and Purusha are entirely different).

The Panchashikha-Charaka concept of a unified a-vyakta and Purusha, however, is closer to the ideal of the Tantra School. In the Sri Vidya tradition, Bindu the dimension-less ultimate source of all existence represents the absolute harmony (saamarasya) or union of Shiva (consciousness) and Devi the Mother-principle (as Prakrti).

The Prakrti of Sri Vidya is also said to comprise three Gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) the fundamental fabric of all existence. According to Sri Vidya, the process of creation (shristi) is nothing but the expansion or the evolution of the Bindu. And, at the time of dissolution, all existence dissolves back into the source, the Bindu. Thus, the concepts of Panchashikha School of Samkhya are very similar to that of the Tantra, if not identical. These, again, suggest that Samkhya and Tantra had common origins.

8.6.. The Buddhist poet-scholar Asvaghosa (first century) too, in his Buddhacharita, largely, adopted Panchashikha’s doctrine of Samkhya, but with variations.  Panchashikha’s version is more monistic, while Asvaghosa’s rendering is dualistic (with twenty-five tattvas) brining in the Upanishad notions of self. Yet, Asvaghosa’s is considered, basically, as a later rendering of the Charaka-Panchashikha version.

8.7. From the point of view of tracing the historical development of the Samkhya traditions, the Panchashikha-Charaka version of Samkhya occupies an important position. It represents the stage of transition from the Samkhya-like Upanishad ideas to the doctrines of what came to be known as the classical Samkhya.

But, it needless to mention that all the versions of Samkhya are inspired by and within the broader framework of the common Samkhya tradition.

[There are too many references to Panchashikha in: mythology, music, Mahabharata, Buddhism, Jainism besides those in Samkhya and Yoga lore. Another text refers to Panchashikha as an expert in Dahara-vidya, an esoteric knowledge. Panchashikha also figures in conversations with philosopher-king Janaka.  It is therefore apparent that the name Panchashikha refers to not one but to many persons.

Some scholars also opine that Panchashikha was not only the name of a person/s; it was also the name of an office (like Sakka). For instance, in the Bijarakosiya Jataka, Ananda is said to have reborn as Pancasikha; and in Sudhabhojana Jataka, Anirudda is identified with Pancasikha.]


8.8. After Panchashikha the name that comes up in the Samkhya tradition is Varsaganya (Ca. first century) who is said to have lived in the foothills of Vindhya Mountains. He was popularly known as the king of the Nagas; and also as a teacher of ‘five-fold ignorance’ (pancha-parva avidya or viparyaya): tamas (darkness), moha (delusion), maha-moha (deep –confusion), tamisra (gloom) and andha- tamisra (dark gloom).  This perhaps was a system comparable to the five-fold klesha (afflictions) named by the Yoga system [avidya (ignorance), asmita (ego), raga (clinging), dvesha (hate), and abhinivesha (attachment to your own conceptions)].All these errors of perception and cognition lead to wrong understanding, false identification and to clinging to the false.

8.9. Varsaganya was one of the principal exponents of Samkhya as also of Yoga, thus confirming that Samkhya and Yoga were two facets of the same school; and indicating that pure metaphysics was Samkhya while the practice was Yoga. The followers of Varsaganya (Varsaganah) included Vidhyavasin (or Vindhyavasa).

A statement that is commonly associated with Varsaganya is; “there is neither production of something new nor extinction of something existent. What exists is always existent; what does not exist will never be existent” (Abhidhamma Kosa -5). It is said; the Samkhya theory that the effect resides in the cause (satkarya-vada) stemmed from this idea. But, again ,  this  idea is traced back to Uddalaka Aruni’s assertion ‘there must have been a Being at the beginning’.

[At a much later time, the idea that existence implies always existing or being eternal became a point of departure for the Buddhist thought which firmly believed that nothing is eternal and everything is subject to change and is ever changing.]

[The name Varsaganya is also associated with Jaiminiya Grihya sutra of Sama Veda; He is mentioned there as Sushravas Varsaganya. A certain Varsaganya is also referred to in Bharata’s Natya Shastra, as the founder of a technique of discharging a weapon. Varsaganya is also mentioned in Mahabharata (shanthi parva: 319) as a great teacher of Yoga. This Varsaganya it is believed is the pre-Buddhist teacher of Yoga and he preceded Patanjali. There were thus, number of Varsaganyas in the ancient traditions.]


8.10. Vindhyavasa, it is said, learnt Samkhya from Varsaganya, but then re-worked or revised the system by re-interpreting the traditional Samkhya concepts. That he did, perhaps because of his encounters with Buddhism and the influences that Buddhism exerted on him. He is even credited with pithy couplets summarizing the revised doctrine. According to the Buddhist scholar Paramartha who travelled to China and settled in Nanking (around 550 CE), Vidhyavasin entered into a fierce intellectual debate, at Ayodhya, with the Buddhist scholar Buddhamitra, the teacher of Vasubandhu (an exponent of Yogachara and Madhyamika School of Buddhism); and Vindhyavasin won that debate. Some say that Vindhyavasin’s re-interpretations and use of Buddhist terminologies won the debate for him.

An immediate outcome of that win was that it enraged Vasubandhu disciple of Buddhamitra (the one who lost the debate).  And, the embittered Vasubandhu wrote in anger paramartha-saptati, a scathing critique on Samkhya. [The Chinese version of the story, according to Hsuan-tsang is slightly different.] In any case, the Chinese and Indian traditions accept Varsaganya and Vindhyavasa as great teachers who influenced the course of Samkhya development.


8.11. Isvarakrishna (first or second century) is a very important name in the Samkhya tradition. According to the well known philosopher Dr SN Dasgupta, Isvarakrishna‘s period may be around 200 CE. But, again, as in the case of his predecessors, it is difficult to determine his period. Further, very little is known about Isvarakrishna .It is said he belonged to Kaushika gotra; and he was perhaps a contemporary of Vindhyavasa and Vasubhandhu. (The text Jayamangalä mentions that he was a parivräjaka (?), an itinerant monk – īśvarakṛṣṇa-nāmānaṃ parivrājakamityanayā śiṣya-paramparayā) . His Samkhya-Karika is the oldest Samkhya text available on which we have commentaries by later writers; and it is a definitive work as it systematized the Samkhya view point. It is hailed as the standard reference text of what came to be known as the Classical Samkhya. It was a text the Vedic Schools could accept though rather reluctantly. Paramartha the Buddhist scholar translated Isvarakrishna’s work Samkhya-Karika into Chinese sometime around 560 AD.

[Let’s talk about Samkhya karika and its concepts in an another article]

kapila (1)

Continued à Next: Part Three

— Samkhya Texts and Traditions-


References and Sources

Early Indian Thought by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

Classical Samkhya by Gerald James Larson

Samkhya Karika by Swami Virupakshananada

The Samkhya Karika

Pictures are from Internet


Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Samkhya


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11 responses to “Samkhya: Part Two: Samkhya Teachers

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 3:15 am

    the linkage of samkya and the yoga
    the commanlity of tantra and samkhya
    the contribution of pancha shikhas
    the tradition of asuri and later classical workers
    the linkage with body mind and consciousness
    suggests that samkya was a wholistic principle..
    these are invaluable.. waiting eagrely for karika…
    i want to understand the 11 sense peceptions in a very clear conceptual sense ..
    is theer a concept of individual consciousness and collective consciuosness?
    maya theory how is it linked..?
    and the
    percetion influences how do they interact…/
    some questios that come to me..
    you are the best happy deepawali to you..


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 3:16 am

      Dear Shri Sampath, Thank you for reading closely. I thought of skipping some these which might aggravate the tediousness of these articles. I am glad you asked. I shall try to say briefly, as I understand these terms.

      Let me also mention Samkhya is a jungle .There are layers and layers of Samkhya, each with its own variations; some forms of Samkhya have almost walked into myths; there is no standard usage of technical terms ; certain terms mean different things in different traditions; and some terms just go out of usage.

      Svabhava is a term that perhaps came into the early Samkhya from the Lokayata School; but later went out of use because it was substituted by the term vikara or secondary modifications.

      The term Svabhava was used in the context of explaining the factor that causes evolution of the material world. The Lokayatas who did not accept the need for a God, said the evolution is caused by natural laws (svabhava – inherent nature); and there is no need to look for a cause beyond nature (nimtta-tara-nirapeksha).

      The question they posed is, why is it necessary to assume a super–natural cause, over and above the natural laws, merely to explain changes and modifications that take place in nature following their own accord? For instance, they pointed out that milk flows from the udders of the mother cow naturally (svabhavena eva) to nourish its infant; the grass, herbs, water etc in turn transform themselves into milk (nimitta antara nirapeksa)according to their own natural laws and that of the cow (svabhavat eva) . Neither God nor any other explanation is needed.

      They argued, in a similar manner, pradhana or mula-prakrti the principal cause transforms into diverse manifestations of the world according to its inherent natural tendencies (svabhava). Intelligence, they said, is an attribute of the body; it guides, modulates and oversees the process of evolution.

      Sri Sankara attacked it vigorously; I am sad, he did it rather dogmatically. He explained the evolution of the world through maya-vada saying that the Sole Absolute appears being many because of one’s ignorance. Many, therefore, feel that by rejecting the big-bang (sphota) theory (shpota vada), which said every act of creation, every thought that manifests and every sound that issues forth in the universe is the duplication of the initial Big Bang (sphota) ; and also by rejecting the theory of evolution following inherent natural laws , Sri Sankara might have harmed rational thinking in Indian philosophy.

      Consciousness: the question whether Samkhya deals with universal consciousness has been discussed to and fro. If we are talking of only the Samkhya Karika, then, the text deals mainly with the individual in the world. Its aim and its analysis is concrete human experience. Though it may talk about relationship of man with the world, it firmly refuses to equate world with consciousness. Its primary concern is individual consciousness, which it asserts is not matter (prakrti) and therefore is not the world. There are infinite number of Purushas, which is consciousness, and each witnesses every level of manifest world. The dualism in the Karika is between individual consciousness on one hand and the world on the other. The aim of its exercise is to separate consciousness from everything that is not-consciousness.

      I presume you are referring to what is known as the ‘group of eleven’ which is a transformation of the ahamkara the notion of ’I’. This group also called sattvika ahamkara (because it is characterized mainly by the sattva guna) comprises the manas (mind), five buddhi-indriyas (five senses) and five karma- indriyas (five organs of action or rather the functioning of these five organs).It is the first stage of man’s contact with the world. The manas, mind acts as a bridge between the internal and external world. The triad of manas, buddhi and ahamkara form the antahkarana, the internal organ or instrument, which in other words is a psychological field that is subjective and individualized.

      Let s talk a little more of these, when we come to the Karika.

      I am not sure if what I just said was of use to you.

      Thank for asking.

      Wish you and your family a very Happy Deepavali.

      Warm Regards

      • sreenivasaraos

        March 19, 2015 at 3:16 am

        Dear Shri Sampath, I could not post this earlier because of a glitch. Please see.

        The process of evolution according to Samkhya proceeds from the subtlest and invisible forces of energy, in stages, towards the gross elemental world. The ‘group of eleven’ , and more particularly the antahkarana which is a psychological field formed by the combination of the subtle forms of intellect, mind and ego is the threshold area which connects man’s inner world to external world (bahya -karana). In the Samkhya scheme of evolution, “physical world” appears only after the basic constituents of mind and the sense and the functioning of sense organs are put in place.

        In a way, this is an inversion of the western model where the man and matter are just created. In contrast, what the Samkhya describes is not an act of creation but a process (vritti) of evolution originating from the most subtle to the gross. Accordingly, the process of liberation in Samkhya could be understood as attempt to reverse the process of evolution; to trace one’s roots or returning to the beginning ; travelling from the gross outer peripheries to the subtlest inner core. All along the way, at each stage, he rejects what is not-consciousness and steps into the next inner zone (avarana) which is more subtle than the previous one; until he sheds away everything that is not-consciousness.

        It might perhaps help, if one follows the Sri Chakra model of creation and absorption. In the Sri Chakra, the emanation (srishti), proceeds, in stages, from the innermost core of Sri Chakra; to the outer enclosures of gross elemental world. And, the ultimate dissolution and absorption (samhara) starts from outermost enclosure leading on the central point Bindu, the fact of consciousness. Here,the process oftraveling from the outer periphery wall to the inner Bindu is an ascent through various levels of consciousness.As he proceeds inward from the outermost enclosure the devotee’s thoughts are gradually refined; and the association of ideas is gradually freed from the constraints of conventional reality.

        The Samkhya concepts of evolution and ‘salvation’ could perhaps vied from this angle too.


  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Dear Sreenivasarao
    I bow first of all to your brilliance & devotion. For a long time I have been thinking about the word Samkhya….ever since I started reciting the Shree Laltha Sahasranaamam and trying to understand the meaning.
    Ten years ago, a young ascetic who was there in a Yogashram in Kerala, where I was learning to practise Yoga, told me a lot about Devi Upasana. He was a Devi devotee and was trying to convince his parents about his wishing to renounce normal life. I had this opportunity to have a lot of discussions with him. he warned me that I just recite the Namaas without concentrating too much into Devi..he said since I have a family I should stop with it and not go deep into meditating on Her. ( i wonder where he is now !!) but certain meanings(given by various authors) in Her Naamas are still vague at times. This article on Smkhya immediately clicked in my head the Naama “Pancha samkhyopachariNi”.. Many say, the word Samkhya refers to the Five modes of worship..One Who is pleased with the Five modes of worship. Since you have brought in the Sri Vidya Upasana…I wonder if this Samkhya has any deeper meaning. Of course there is the Naamaa ….”Vyakthavyaktha(vyaktha + Avyaktha ) swaroopiNi..
    Well…I knowcmy queries may sound childish..
    Waiting for the next.
    By the way, are not Sananda, Sanaka, Sanatana…the Rishis who are at Shree Dakshinamoorthy’s feet ?
    namaskarams and prayers

    Usha Suryamani

  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 3:20 am

    Sri Rao
    I want to mention this…There is an Ankola Tree in the Shree Narasimha Temple at Singaperumal Koil in the outskirts of Madras. I have been to this Temple twice and did not know about this. When I go next, I should ask the Bhattar about this tree and see if there is any significance for this in the Vaishnava Sampradaya.

    Usha Suryamani

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 3:20 am

      Dear Ushasuryamani, I am glad you read. Well…Samkhya is not about worship ; but is a way of enquiry; of understanding one’s inner-most core; an individual’s true identity. Since Samkhya and Tantra ideologies sprang from common origins they share certain principles. [Please read part one of the article]. The concepts of evolution, absorption and the human goal in either Schools are similar, if not identical [please see my response to Shri DSampath].

      As regards the a-vyakta (un-manifest) and vyakta (manifest), they are two aspects of Prakrti, the primal cause, the source of all existence. The vyakta evolves from the a-vyakta, the subtlest form of energy, the Mother of all existence. We shall talk more of these concepts in part four of the article.

      Sri Dakshinamurthi is a revered seer of the Kadi (samaya) matha or the School to which Sri Mutthiswami Dikshitar too belonged. The sages Sanaka and others were also of the Kadi-matha and followed Sri Dakshinamurthi. Even otherwise they are revered ancient sages. You find frequent references in Dikshitar’s kritis to the sages of the Kadi-matha. For instance; in Sri Rangapura vihara (the sages Sanaka and all others exult beholding you) and in Sri Valmika lingam chintaye (He is revered by Sanaka and other great sages).

      Thank for the info. Please do tell me after you speak to the Bhattar.

      Wish you and your family a very Happy Deepavali.

      Warm regards

  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 19, 2015 at 3:21 am

    From: DSampath on 20 Oct 2009

    Thanks for your explanation the samkya process is an outside in process (Tantra)

    or inside out process(yoga) or both…?

    what are the role of the eleven senses to form perceptions of reality as per samkhya..

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 19, 2015 at 3:22 am

      Dear Shri Sampath, I am not sure I understood the question entirely. I presume it relates the processes of emanation and absorption. Let me try.

      The twentfour tattva model of the Samkhya describes the process of evolution commencing from the most subtle to the most gross. The liberation is sought be achieved by reversingtheorder of materialization and emanation of the outward process. The hierarchical inversion begins with the elements of the body; progressively leading to the avyakata the un-manifest Prakrti which gets to see the Purusha the pure consciousness. To put it in another way, the evolution commences with Purusha seeing the avyakta; and, the cycle ends with the avyaka seeing the Purusha; the seer becomes the seen. The un-differentiate Prakrti sees the un-differentiated consciousness. The reversal is complete. Yet, they stay apart; there is no suggestion of the union of the two.

      The Yoga Sadhana too is the reversal of the Samkhya model of evolution; perhaps as you say out to in. In the Yoga sadhana, the yogi draws his energy from the root-chakra (muladhara) the earth element up to vishuddhi chakra the element of akasha space. Once at the vishuddha the five elements are purified, the prajna ascendants to ajna which isthe collective frame of reference for manas the mind. The four chakras rising from the ajna correspond to the Samkhya tattvas of manas (chandra chakra), ahamkara (surya chakra) buddhi (agni chakra) and avyakta prakrti (sahasra chakra).In Yoga, the seer, seeing and the sight all dissolve into one.

      The Tantra too followed the hierarchical inversion of the twenty-four principles of Samkhya (out to in), but was not happy with Purusha and Prakrti being kept perpetually separate. It aimed to obliterate the subject-object duality; fuse the seer and the seen into one; and realize that unity in the Bindu symbolized as Ardhanarishwara the united Shakthi and Shiva.The Tantra improved upon Samkhya’s twenty-four principle- categorization by adding another twelve to render the dualistic universe into a unity.

      Was this ok?

      B. Let’s talk of the group of ten in the next post.

      C. As regards the articles I posted on Samkhya, please do tell me if they make sense and if they are readable. I tried keeping it simple avoid being too technical. Those who know samkhya may find in inadequate; and others may find it too tedious. Either way, I fear, it falls in between.

      D. I have a request; One Shri G Srivasan has produced a detailed technical paper on Samkhya; it is filled with equations, diagrams and scientific terms. It is far beyond my understanding. Please check the link and let me know the gist of what you make of it.

      Click to access Scientific%20Unification,Sankhya.pdf

      Warm Regards

  5. sreenivasaraos

    August 12, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Comment Posted
    as received from

    Aug 9, 2012 3:34 AM

    Dear sir.,

    Your article on Sankhya is wonderful with lot of details and pramanas.

    I have one question.

    You have quoted the svetasvatara upanishad 5.2 which talks about Safe Kapilan.

    What is the translation of the complete mantra?

    There are some commentaries who say this mantra refer to hiranyagarbha.

    But in the vishnu sahasranamam bhagya both sankara and parasara bhatta quote this mantra while commenting on the names maharishi kapilacharya.

    Please give your views on this

    • sreenivasaraos

      August 13, 2020 at 8:20 am

      Dear Harikumar

      Thank you for the visit; and, for reading it closely

      That was a good question.

      The Shvetasvatara Upanishad, one of the older Upanishads, is a versatile text. It, at once, can be adopted into many Schools of Indian philosophies (Darshana). It is therefore quoted by all the branches of Vedanta.

      But, at the same time, it is said to be more oriented towards Samkhya. And, certain verses can also be related to the Sage Kapila.

      Now, as regards the translation of the verse 2 of Chapter 5 of Shvetasvatara Upanishad :

      yo yoniṃ yonim adhitiṣṭhaty eko viśvāni rūpāṇi yonīś ca sarvāḥ / ṛṣiṃ prasūtam kapilam yas tam agre jñānair bibharti jāyamānaṃ ca paśyet // 5.2 //

      It is generally translated as:

      He alone presides over Nature in all aspects, and controls every form and every cause of production. He witnesses the birth of the first born seer of golden colour and nourishes him with wisdom. [Chapter 5 – Verse- 2)

      In certain versions, the term Kapila is said to mean color.

      And, in certain other versions Kapila is said to refer to one whose colour is golden –like tawny (Kanaka-Kapila -Varna), the sage who is identical with Hiranyagarbha.

      The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 349.65,) states: “Kapila, the teacher of Samkhya, is said to be the supreme Rishi. Hiranyagarbha is the original knower of Yoga. There is no one else more ancient.”

      sárhkhyasya vaktā kapilah paramarsih Sa u Cyate, hiranyagarbho yogasya vettà nányah purātanah

      Elsewhere in the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 342.95-96), Krishna states, identifying himself with Hiranyagarbha: “As my form, carrying the knowledge, eternal and dwelling in the Sun, the teachers of Samkhya, who have discerned what is important, call me Kapila. As the brilliant Hiranyagarbha, who is lauded in the verses of the Vedas, ever worshiped by Yoga, so I am also remembered in the world.’

      Thus, Kapila – Hiranyagarbha is regarded as the originator of the Yoga Shastra as also of Samkhya.


      And, at the same time, Sage Kapila is said to be an Avatara of Vishnu as Kapila Vasudeva.

      The main Purpose of Lord Vishnu’s incarnation as sage Kapila was to compile all the divine knowledge that had been destroyed and to teach this world Samkhya Shastra .

      They all are running round in circles ; and , eventually : Kapila- Hranyagarbha- Avatara of Vishnu, the Kapila Vasudeva – Originator of Yoga – of Samkhya – all run into each other.

      That might perhaps be the reason that Kapila is called by some as Hiranyagarbha

      Some classical Yoga traditions consider Hiraṇyagarbha as the originator of Yoga; though this may also be a name for Rishi Kapila, the one who also enunciated the Samkhya theories.

      I think, in the given context, it would be safer to take Kapila- Hiranyagarbha- Kapila Vasudeva- the teacher of Samkhya and Yoga – all referring to a same person.

      I am not sure if I have clarified; or, have muddled the issue further.

      Please let me know

      Please click here for a detailed discussion on Verse 2 of Chapter 5 of Shvetasvatara Upanishad , on pages 105- 110 of the book Essays On Indo-Aryan Mythology– by Sri Narayana Ayyangar (1901)

      Stay safe, healthy and happy



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