Sankhya Philosophy Is The Mother of Yoga

Sankhya Philosophy Is The Mother of Yoga

Sankhya and Yoga Schools

Sankhya is often called the “mother” of Yoga in the philosophical and spiritual context. The reason for this assertion lies in the intricate relationship between the theoretical constructs of Sankhya and the practical methodologies of Yoga.

Sankhya, one of the six orthodox systems (Darshanas) of Indian philosophy, offers a unique analytical framework for understanding the universe and human existence. Rooted in ancient Vedic thought, Sankhya, which translates to “number” or “enumeration,” provides a systematic enumeration of the principles of existence. It presents a dualistic philosophy emphasizing the distinction between consciousness (Purusha) and matter (Prakriti).

Traditionally, the sage Kapila is considered the founder of the Sankhya school. The primary text of this system is the “Sankhya Karika,” authored by Ishvarakrishna in the 4th or 5th century CE. While older texts relate with Sankhya, the “Karika” remains the most comprehensive and foundational.

Sage Kapila And Sankhya

In the pantheon of Indian philosophical thinkers, Kapila holds a distinct position. Traditionally regarded as the founder of the Sankhya school of philosophy, Kapila’s teachings laid the foundation for a system that delves into the analytical understanding of the cosmos and human existence.

Kapila’s Sankhya remains one of the most influential systems in Indian thought. His clear differentiation between consciousness and matter provides a framework that has shaped spiritual practices and laid the foundation for understanding psychology, metaphysics, and the interplay between the inner and outer worlds.

The Dual Principles: Purusha and Prakriti

Purusha (Consciousness): Purusha represents pure consciousness’s eternal, passive, and unchanging principle. It is beyond attributes, devoid of activity, and is multiple; each living being has its unique Purusha.

Prakriti (Matter): Prakriti signifies the active, dynamic principle of material nature. It is the cause of the universe and all its transformations. Unlike Purusha, Prakriti is singular and common to all of existence.

From Prakriti emerges a hierarchical series of evolutes, starting with the most subtle and progressing to the gross, namely:

Mahat or Buddhi (Intellect): The first evolute, representing cosmic intelligence and the principle of discernment.

Ahamkara (Ego): The principle of individuation, which further differentiates into various forms.

Manas (Mind): The faculty of perception and cognition.

Five Tanmatras (Subtle Elements): The subtle essence of sound, touch, form, taste, and odor, which give rise to:

Five Mahabhutas (Gross Elements): Space (Akasha), air (Vayu), fire (Agni), water (Ap), and earth (Prithvi).

Ten Indriyas (Senses): Comprising five organs of perception (ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose) and five organs of action (speech, hands, feet, reproductive, and excretory organs).

The main objective of Sankhya philosophy is realizing the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, leading to liberation (moksha). When individuals recognize their true nature as Purusha, separate from the entanglements of Prakriti, they are freed from the cycle of birth and death.

Sankhya’s analytical framework greatly influenced other philosophical systems, especially Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundational text of classical Yoga, is steeped in Sankhya thought. Additionally, the Bhagavad Gita reflects Sankhya concepts, with Krishna often elaborating on the dual nature of the self and the world.

Difference Between Yoga And Sankhya

Literally translating to “enumeration” or “number,” Sankhya is an analytical and theoretical exposition of reality. It is a dualistic system that posits two eternal principles: Purusha (pure consciousness) and Prakriti (material nature). Yoga means “union” or “discipline.” It builds upon the theoretical foundation of Sankhya by providing a practical path to experience the truths that Sankhya elucidates. Through disciplined practices, Yoga emphasizes the union of individual consciousness (Atman) with universal consciousness (Brahman).

Sankhya, Yoga and The Pancha Koshas

Many ancient texts and scholars have mentioned the deep connection between these two systems. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a foundational text for Yoga, draws heavily from Sankhya concepts. The principles of the gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), the understanding of the mind and its modifications, and the nature of bondage and liberation are all shared between these two darshans.

Sankhya and Yoga are the two sides of the same coin. 

Sankhya’s primary objective is knowledge (jnana). By understanding the difference between the soul (Purusha) and matter (Prakriti), one can achieve liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death.

The main goal of Yoga is realization and liberation, achieved through disciplined action. Yoga aims to cease mental modifications to realize the true nature of the self.

Sankhya is predominantly a theoretical system. The path to liberation is through discernment and an analytical understanding of the nature of existence. On the other hand, Yoga emphasizes practical techniques and disciplines like meditation, postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), ethical practices, and devotional surrender, among others.

Sankhya is often considered atheistic because it doesn’t emphasize a personal creator god. Instead, it focuses on the interplay between Purusha and Prakriti. While it builds on Sankhya’s dualistic framework, Yoga acknowledges the concept of a deity, especially in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, where “Ishvara” (a special kind of Purusha) is mentioned.

With its systematic exposition, Sankhya’s philosophy presents a meticulous map of the cosmos and the human psyche. By distinguishing between the conscious observer and the material world, Sankhya offers insights into the nature of existence and the path to spiritual liberation. In its profound understanding of the interplay between consciousness and matter, Sankhya remains a timeless beacon for wisdom seekers.