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Samkhya Karika of Isvara Krsna (Krishna) with The Tattva Kaumudi of Sri Vacaspati Misra

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Publisher's Note We have great pleasure in presenting to our thoughtful readers this English translation of Isvara Krsna's Samkhya karika with the gloss of Vacaspati Misra. Samkhya forms one of the most important pillars constituting the six systems of Indian philosophy. Its contribution to our knowledge of Reality and the world is seminal. Today Vedanta rules the roost, and modern science is finding itself more and more in agreement with the intuitive perceptions of this sixt...

Publisher's Note

We have great pleasure in presenting to our thoughtful readers this English translation of Isvara Krsna's Samkhya karika with the gloss of Vacaspati Misra.

Samkhya forms one of the most important pillars constituting the six systems of Indian philosophy. Its contribution to our knowledge of Reality and the world is seminal. Today Vedanta rules the roost, and modern science is finding itself more and more in agreement with the intuitive perceptions of this sixth darsana; but it must be noted that Vedanta takes off to ethereal heights only from the granite platform provided by Samkhya. Vedanta accepts most of the basic concepts of Samkhya-like the nature of the misery-go-round called Samsara; the triple sufferings we are heir to; the three gunas of Prakrti in terms of which can be explained not only the manifold objects of the universe, but also the workings of the mind and the psyche and even the rationale of medical therapy; the process of evolution, long before Western science began to think in terms of it; and the nature of Pure Consciousness in which the individual must merge for total liberation. Samkhya reduces everything to two entities-Prakrti and Purusa. What Vedanta does is to integrate these two further into one splendid all comprehensive Unity.

Not only Vedanta but also modern science cannot be understood in all their nuances without a firm grasp of the Samkhyan tenets. May this translation of the Smkhya Karika, therefore offer rich pabulum to all interested in finding more about themselves and the mysterious universe they inhabit.



Every being in this world without exception seeks happiness. Even an insignificant creature as an ant tries to avoid pain by crawling away from the railway track when the mighty railway engine crosses the track. But the true nature of happiness cannot be explained by any one who lacks the philosophical instinct. According to Sankhya Philosophers, total isolation of the Purusa from Prakrti that causes the threefold pain, is the way for true happiness. They further say that worldly enjoyments are like honey mixed with poison, the sip of a drop of which is enough to end all happiness. So, after they realise such a state of happiness by right cognition of the Manifest, the Unmanifest and the Cogniser, they are moved with sympathy for the worldly who quiver in the pit of worldly enjoyments. This in brief, is the origin of philosophical enquiry according to the Sankhya system.

Of all the philosophical systems, the Sankhya philosophy is considered to be the most ancient school of thought. Sankhya philosophy maintains a prominent place in all the Sastras since it is either contraverted or supported by every other philosophical system. Sankaracarya says: “This doctrine, moreover, stands somewhat near to the Vedanta doctrine since like the latter, it admits the non-difference of cause and effect and it, moreover, has been accepted by some of the authors of the Dharma sutras, such as Devala and so on. For all these reasons we have taken special trouble to refute the Pradhana doctrine”.

In the Mahabharata it is said that there is no knowledge such as Sankhya and no power like that of Yoga. We should have no doubt as to Sankhya being the highest knowledge. (Santiparva 316-2).

Sankhya is derived from the word ‘Samkhya’, meaning a sense of thinking and counting. Here thinking is with reference to some basic principles of the knowledge of Purusa and counting refers to the twenty four Principles born out of Prakrti. This double implication of the word has been set forth by Vijnana Bhiksu in his preface to the Sankhya Pravacana Bhasya :

So, Sankhya means knowledge of Self through right discrimination. The references to Sankhya Sutras are found in the Vedas. For example, Tamas is described in the Rig Veda as:

which later assumed the form of the unmanifest. This very Rig Veda shows the dissolution of the elements of the elemental world in its cause, thus indicating Satkarya Vada to which philosophy Sankhya belongs. Even the Pradhana is referred to as Aja and the Veda explains it as below: (Rig Veda X 82.6)

Further, the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas of the Sankhya Philosophy is explained in the Chandogya Upanisad, and the Sankhya categories are clearly mentioned in Katha Upanisad (3. 10, 11). It is a well known fact that Svetasvatara Upanisad is essentially a Sankhya Upanisad because it clearly mentions the Sankhya catagories. In the Svetasvatara Upanisad, the word ‘Sankhya’ and ‘Kapila’ have been used for the first time (6. 13). Again in the same Upanisad words like Vyakta, Avyakta and Jna also are found (1 .8). Similarly the use of the words Pradhana, Prakrti and Guna is also found here (1st Chapter 10, 4th Chapter 10, 1st Chapter 13). The mention of such words as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas by name, the exposition of five subtle elements, the enunciation of the five gross elements, the reference to the Sankhya categorises of Ksetrajna, Sankalpa, Adhyavasaya, Abhimana and Linga clearly show that these Upanisads were formed after the formulation of the Sankhya system of thought. In the Mahabharata and Puranas we find the Sankhya Philosophy fully explained. Those who want to know details of references to Sankhya are requested to consult the elaborate introduction of Sankhya by Maha Mahopadhyaya Ganganath Jha.

Kapila is generally known as a founder of the Sankhya Philosophy. As regards its historicity, many scholars hold different view points which have not been dealt with here. But, generally, it is believed that Kapila was the founder of the Sankhya system of thought. He had a disciple by name Asuri. Asuri’s disciple was Panca Sikha. After him we hear the name Vindhyavasa, Next we find the name of Varsaganya as a teacher of Sankhya, He is followed by Jaigisavya. According to some scholars, Jaigisavya was a classmate of Panca Sikha. In the list of names next we find Vodhu after that of Asuri and before that of Panca Sikha. Then, the names of Devala and Sanaka appear. Then the name of Isvara Krsna as a teacher of Sankhya appears. He was born in a Kausika family. (For details see The Tattva Kaumudi of MM Ganganath Jha).

Of the standard works on Sankhya only three are available at present, viz,: Sankhya Sutra, Tattva Samasa and Sankhya Karika. Isvara Krsna appears to be older than Vasubandhu and must have flourished somewhere in the 1st or 2nd century A.D. The work of Isvara Krsna had 70 verses in it.

A brief synopsis of the cardinal principles of Sankhya philosophy is given here to facilitate the study of Sankhya. The Sankhya lays down four-fold divisions of categories based on their respective causal and productive efficiency. They are: 1) Productive 2) Productive and Produced 3) Produced and 4) Neither Productive nor Produced. This classification into a four-fold division includes twenty four tattwas also. The root product is called the Prakrti or Nature, being purely productive. The second variety are the other principles like Buddhi etc. This partakes of the nature of the both, the productive and the produced, inasmuch as Buddhi evolves ahamkara and the rest. The purely Non-productive but the Produced principles are the eleven sense organs and the five material substances. The Purusa is neither the Productive nor the Produced and also it is without any attributes. All the accessories that we see are the effects of the Gunas, and the Spirit by its very nature is totally free from all these.

According to the Sankhya Philosophy, a non-entity can never be made an entity, that is to say, that which has never existed can never be brought into existence. the cause only helps the operation of the manifestation of the effect, i.e, its manifestation has an effect of a particular cause, e.g, the production of oil from oil seeds in which they are lying latent. Thus we find the effect is always in one way or other related to the cause. But this is not possible if the effects were a non-entity because a no-entity can have no relation. If the effect is not related with the cause then every effect would be possible for every cause, thus creating an absurdity of causes and effects. The causal efficiency consists in the existence of the effect in the cause in a latent condition like oil subsisting only in the seeds but not in the sand. Further, the effect is non-different from the cause and the former being an entity, the latter must also be an entity. For example, the cloth is not different from the threads composing it because it is neither heavier nor lighter than the cause nor can the cloth ever exist apart from the threads.

Of all the Schools of Thought, Sankhya school occupied an intermediate position between the Idealist Vedanta and the Realist Purva Mimasa group. The Sankhya is both realistic and dualistic inasmuch as it holds Prakrti to be an ultimate reality along with Purusa. A close study of Sankhya reveals that it is only close to Vedanta.


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Item Code: IDG911 Author: Swami Virupakshananda Cover: Paperback Edition: 2019 Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math ISBN: 8171207111 Language: English Size: 7.1" X 4.8" Pages: 135 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 100 gms
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