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A Critical Study of The Sankhya System (On the Line the Sankhya-Karika, Sankhya-Sutra and their Commentaries)

A Critical Study of The Sankhya System (On the Line the Sankhya-Karika, Sankhya-Sutra and their Commentaries)
Item Code: IDF300
Author: V.V. Sovani
Publisher: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 8170843044
Pages: 104
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.6" X 5.4"

The author of a new book on the Sankhya philosophy owes an expalanation to his readers. Since there are already a few books in English exclusively devoted to the sankhya and some others covering the whole field of Indian philosophy each containing a chapter on the sankhya it may be demanded why inflict another? My answer is simple. The present work is no altogether a new attempt but the reprint of my paper on the sankhya prepared under the wise and able guidance of Pandit Umesa Misra and published five years ago in the Allahabad University Studies, arts section volume VII PP. 387-432 while I was a research scholar in the department of Sanskrit of the university of Allahabad. Then again this booklet is not meant to replace the existing works but to supplement them if the humble effort of a beginner with very little pretensions to originality can aspire to such a claim. This reprint has afforded me on opportunity to add introductions in English and Sanskrit and the texts of the Sankhya sutra and the Sankhya Karika.

It is not a detailed critical study of the Sankhya based on an exhaustive study of all the available original materials but is a brief treatment of a select and compact group of facts on broad lines. I flatter myself that it will serve as a handy volume to Oriental scholars and university students but those who relegate the Sanskrit texts to the back ground and want the English exposition only will not find much in it to meet their requirements. References to sources have been given in the foot notes in the case of important points only.

My thanks are due to principal T.L.H. Smith pearse I.E.S. for kindly having gone through the manuscript of the English introduction to Dr. J. Sinha M.A. Ph.D. P.R.S. Professor of philosophy Meerut college for associating himself with this book and to some of my colleagues for some helpful suggestions.



A critical treatment of the sankhya has been essayed in the body of the book. The occasion is here taken to discuss a few broad principles and to present some thought provoking ideas but I have attempted only to suggest not to dilate.

Religion and philosophy will always have an important place in ennobling the life of man. Science can not replace them. It is in the nature of too many men to crave for something that the mind cannot grasp and which is beyond the powers of exact sciences to explain. The modern increasingly scientific world has not yet been able to solve much of the riddle and whatever comparatively few conclusions science has reached are liable to be reversed any moment. Who could expect that many of the Newtonian theories of Mathematics and Physics would be overthrown by Einstein’s theory of Relativity? “ An apple is attracted by the earth when it falls” was said by Newton. the popular language, Einstein would probably now say, “ The earth moves up’ to receive the apple “. A molecule was regarded as unbreakable. Later on atom was supposed to be an unanalysable entity but now that too is supposed to be made of electrons and protons. In simple language, energy is supposed to be evolving matter, a statement which the scientists were not ready to accept in the past. Consider also the example of the Elements. More than 96 have been found out and he who knows the Electronic theory may some day reduce the number to Unity; Surely a start has been made by transmutation of lead into gold and Hydrogen 3nto Helium. If it is possible to get one from the other, it may be possible someday to get All from One.

The influence of the West and new scientific theories and inventions have helped to change the out war aspect of India but the inner spiritual aspect of the country has not changed much. There is no achieve men in the world which can compare favorably with that of Indian speculative philosophy ranging from the half, inarticulate beginnings in the Vedas to, the logical realism of Nyaya and the ethical idealism of Buddhism. An attempt has been made in the following paragraphs to, show the unity and continuity of Indian thought and its close relation to life and religion from the dim dawn of history.

The Aryans of the Vedic period were an energetic race, ever ready to act and to fight, taking pleasure in life and work, ready to enjoy the good things which life offered, manfully struggling against difficulties and dangers. They seem never to have doubted that. inspite of its ills, life is, on the whole, a good thing, and they cherished the faith that after death brave and good men go to “Elysian fields” where, through the favor of the Gods, they enjoy everlasting, bliss.

But, gradually, the spirit and belief of the people underwent a profound change. The old simple joy in life and delight in action passed away, and the view began to be held that life is not a good thing at all, that its ills and sufferings are greater than its joys and pleasures. Death was no longer viewed as a gate to a happier state of existence, but as the transition into other states, all of which are full of sorrow. Great teachers arose, who taught that, strive as he may, man can secure no permanent happiness; that life indeed is nothing but pain; that death will begin only another round of painful existence. The old Aryans, in short, had held that life, with all its troubles, problems and perplexities, is a good thing to be enjoyed; the later Hindus were inclined to the view that, for the virtuous and sinful alike, all lives are pain and sorrow. With their minds less fixed on the needs and joys of the day, these thinkers found leisure also to ponder on the world and on human life. They began to think that the way to true happiness lay not in doing and enjoying, but in the bliss of inward meditation, and that such meditation could best be carried on in the solitude of forests, apart from the noisy haunts of men.

When, in that little known remote period, the theory that man was crushed with the burden of threefold pain, took shape, and when the popular religion of the period failed to solve the difficulty except by showing a way to temporary escape from the pain and sorrow of existence, the great sages and thinkers turned their attention to the investigation of the origin of pain. In -the actual process of investigation they were faced with perplexing anomalies and imperfections in the Creation and were painfully conscious of the limitations of their powers. They did not hold any divine agency responsible for this. The origin of pain, they said, was the effect of causes, of deeds done, either in this or in past life. Then there arose a new question, whether it was possible for man to put an end to the seemingly unbroken and irresistible sequence of the effects of deeds, and whether the cycle of life and death must go on for ever.

All action in the world is brought about by desire, which is based on innate ignorance which makes a man fail to recognize the true nature of things and ultimately causes transmigration. The darkness of such ignorance is’ dispelled by divine knowledge, which, according to every philosophical school, consists of tattva-jñäna. Universal knowledge, when attained, destroys the effect of Karma, which could otherwise result in. a future existence, and thus puts an end transmigration, or in other words, brings salvation.

How can man know himself and attain tattva-jnãna to annihilate the effects of Karma? Here we .arrive the parting of the ways. The peculiar bent of the Hindu mind, illustrated in the principal philosophical and religious systems of India, diverse though they are, has the special feature that it tends to and aims at pacification of the mind and thus hopes to get rid of the sufferings of the worldly existence. The different systems only prescribe different methods. As our present work is a critical study of the central features the Sañkhya doctrine, we shall henceforward confine our remarks mainly to the Sãñkhya, the pioneer amongst the systems which adumbrated the view that this body is subject to decay and death and with it will end all bodily sufferings. The ego behind the body is a creation of environments and circumstances and will disappear also. What remains behind the body and behind the ego is called in the sankhya Prakrit Purusa is that which is perfect independent and completely a loof from everything else. A true knowledge of Purusa and its relation to Prakrit will help a man to rid himself of the threefold pain once and for all and such a man will not be born again.

In their first attempts to unfold the origin of the world the thinkers thought of a crude mass of matter alone and were latter on forced to admit either inside or outside of it a power to account for the order visitable everywhere on closer observation. It must have been possible only after ages to reduce matter to a very subrodiante place as in Sankara’s Vedanta or in Buddhism. So the Sankhya views can safely claim priority to others. It is possible that in the beginning the Sankhya teachers postulated Prakrti alone and gradually so perfected it as to explain the whole universe. A man while immersed in Sankhya thought, is practically led to accept that unaided Prakrti can do everything evolution or dissolution. Evolution seems to be in its nature. Only when the stage is reached of accounting for the subjective side of evolution mind sense and motor organs and of searching our a seer to make the manifestations purposeful does he look out for Purusa and its place in the scheme and slowly he finds not only one but many of them and is perplexed to discover that even all of them with their characteristic indifference to Prakti are not enough to satisfy the critics whims about a well reasoned system of thought.

The nature of Purusa and Prakrti and their relationship the crux of the whole doctrine of the Sankhya has been subject to much criticism. There are flaws in this dualistic system no doubt but were the other systems of Indian philosophy free from defects? Purusas are many and Prakrti is eternal. Was the substantiality of prakrti not enough for the purposes of the Sankhyas? Why did they strive to turn it into an ultimate reality? Having done so why did they not proceed beyond the separate infallibility of Prakrti to a unified infallibility with a singular Purusa? Other wise how could Prakrti ever hope to undertake the unparalleled philanthropic task of laboring unceasingly for the permanent release of Purusa if one is negation of everything that the other Stands for? Where was the everything of supposing the ultimate plurality of Purusa when the reasons for such a supposition are entirely worldly such as bondage and release of individuals? The Purusa is always absolutely unaffected by the influence of Prakrti. Then how can we distinguish one absolute Purusa from his kindred? Does not such plurality imply introducing limitations in him?




Preface iii
Association v
Introduction vii
A Critical Study of the Sankhya System 1-54
Sanskrit Introduction to Sankhya Sutras 1-8
Sankhya Sutras 1-28
Sankhya Karika 29-36

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