Samkhya is the oldest among Indian philosophies. Rather, it had for long been synonymous with philosophy itself. Over the centuries, it has influenced all other Indian schools: orthodox and unorthodox. At its metaphysical plane, Samkhya is dualistic realism holding out the doctrine of two ultimate realities: prakrti (matter, physical world) and purusa (self, spirit).
As a time-honoured tradition, Samkhya has, at its base, along line of complex, often baffling expositions! commentaries! interpretations. Which by ancient thinkers and sages gave it both varied meaning and content. The earliest available work in this line of writings is Tarvarakrsna’s Samkhyakarika (fifth century AL)) — a standard classic celebrated for crystallising the whole Samkhya thought of its times. Isvarakrsna’s work, however, has not only overshadowed all earlier expositions, but also led modern scholarship to mistakenly view the beginnings of Samkhya philosophy with nothing beyond Samkhyakarika. Professor Lallanji Gopal here dispels this and other widely-prevalent misconceptions.
The book reconstructs anew the pre-Isvarakrsna history of Samkhya. And also, for the first time, evolves a chronological sequence of all its landmark works and their authors. Meticulously tracing the historical development of Samkhya thought: from its genesis with the legendary Kapila to its standardised formulations in Samkhyakarika, Professor Gopal shows how Samkhya has never been a monolithic system, nor has its growth been unilinear; how it has had an interesting history of changes, vital shifts, introduction of new details, debates, and even polemics; and, finally, how Isvarakrsna’s work is the ‘culmination’ of classical Samkhya, and not its ‘beginning’ — as most modern scholars have come to believe.
Authenticated by an astonishing mass of literary sources, the book is bound to fascinate scholars and discerning readers alike.
Lallanji Gopal (1934-99), a Ph.D. from the school of Oriental of wide repute, recognized with many awards/honours, like the British Council scholarship, the honorary degrees/conferment’s of Vidya Chakravarti and Vidya Vachaspati, and appointments to prestigious university chairs. And had figured in the top layers of several national bodies of history, archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, philosophy, and Hindi. As many as 80 students took Ph.Ds under his supervision.
A prolific writer, credited with about two dozen books and over 2oo research papers, Dr. Gopal had over three-decade-long association with the Banaras Hindu Philosophy and Religion as well as Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. He also had the distinction to be the University’s Rector and three-times Dean.
History and Philosophy
THE progress of culture and civilisation consists essentially in acquisition, application and preservation of knowledge. The edifice of knowledge rests on the four pillars of scientific method, mathematics, philosophy and history. All other disciplines and branches of learning are the offshoots or projections of these four, Dr else they result from a combination of two or more of these or their nib-branches. History is one of the four basic sciences. It is generally identified with its contents in the form of information relating to certain aspects of the past of societies and communities. But history is not restricted in its scope and contents. Its real significance does of lie in the found of information it collects. History is important for its methodology, its approach, its way of looking at facts. It has developmental approach. It does not view things as fixed, static
dead. It considers them in the process of change and development. Studies their background, their genesis and the stages in their including the influences which have shaped them. This gives the whole picture and the correct in understanding.
History is the lamp which illumines other branches of knowledge. It is not restricted to its own specialised areas. It has an equal applicability to all spheres of information and all branches of learning. All branches of knowledge gain by the use of the historical method and approach. The information acquires a new dimension, fullness and correctness. It is viewed in its proper perspective and its totality.
History and philosophy combine wonderfully. They are supplementary to one another. Philosophy is helpful in historical analyses. History, for a meaningful understanding, requires to be philosophically interpreted. Philosophy, in its turn, when subjected to the process of historical analysis, unfolds its meaning better. The philosophy of history and a history of philosophy offer a happy and healthy blending.
In practice, however, the followers of the two disciplines do not combine to the extent desirable. They consider the other one to be beyond their scope and interest. A historian generally refrains from philosophising. A philosopher, likewise, is absorbed with his concepts, their meaning and validity. He generally does not bother about their genesis and growth. He takes the developed concepts in their finished form and studies them. History, to him, does not serve much useful purpose. In the case of India the separation of the two has affected them adversely. Knowing well that any generalisation on such issues can be objected to by citing exceptions, we would submit that it is seldom that a historian takes interest in the problems of philosophies, and a philosopher presenting his study of a philosophical system as a history is not met generally. Here we propose to study Samkhya through the historical method to understand the scope of possibilities and the nature of problems.
History of Samkhya
Samkhya enjoys a high respectability among the philosophical systems. It is considered to have been the oldest philosophy. It was given a honoured position as characteristic of the philosophical thought in early periods. Samkhya has had a glorious history. In the beginning it signified philosophical thought in general. Later it became synonymous with philosophy and finally came to stand for a philosophy. Samkhya influenced the growth of philosophy. Through a process of interaction it contributed to the development of philosophical thought in other systems also. Its views on metaphysics and epistemology receive a respectful consideration from other systems. Samkhya is noteworthy for keeping philosophy separate and distinct and not mixing it with the requirements of religion. The Samkhya dualism is a happy combination of pragmatic realities and spiritual orientation. The world cannot be dismissed as unreal. It is to be understood. But materiality yields primacy to the spiritual element. Samkhya is a philosophy of hope for spiritual advancement leading to emancipation. Many theistic sects, even when adopting a Vedantic cover, subscribe to the Samkhya dualism. Samkhya finds a prestigious recognition in the Gita and many Puranas. In Indian aesthetic tradition, in literature and are alike, the Samkhya speculations are accepted as the basis. Samkhya provides the philosophical support to the system of Ayurveda.
Some scholars have traced the historical development of the Samkhya system, G.J. Larson’ has attempted a judicious and critical appraisal of all earlier studies on the subject. He does not analyse the work done by P. Chakravarti2 and the Hindi publications of U.V. Shastri3 and A.P. Mishra, possibly because they emphasise the development through the texts concerned and not in terms of the concepts and principles.
Larson is himself cautious and does not determine stages in the history of Samkhya. He speaks broadly of three periods of Ancient Speculations, Proto-Samkhya and. Classical Samkhya. Larson considers only the third, the Classical Samkhya, as Samkhya. In his recent work Samkhya5 he does not admit the first two as being Samkhya and does not give any space to them. He modifies his view about the Samkhya karika. He splits the Classical Samkhya into two phases: the pre-Karika and the Karika. He includes Paurika, Pancadhikarana, Patanjali and Varsaganya in the pre-Karika phase. The Karika phase is represented by the followers of Varsaganya. In this category he includes both Vindhyavasin and Isvarakrsna. Thus, the Samkhyakarika represents not the beginning of Classical Samkhya, but its culmination.
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