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Samkhya and yoga vs. Vedanta

In Samkhya and yoga the world is real, not illusory as in Vedanta.  Nevertheless,

the existence of the cosmos is owed to the ignorance of the spirit/Self (purusha), specifically, the degree to which it is ignorant of itself, and "by reason of this ignorance of a metaphysical nature, suffers and is subjugated.  At the exact instance when the last Self shall have found its freedom, the whole of creation will be reabsorbed into the primordial substance....The Indian texts reiterate, to the point of satiation, this thesis according to which the cause of the soul's 'enslavement' ...lies in man's solidarity with the cosmos, in his active or passive, direct or indirect, participation in Nature...Nature has no true ontological reality; it is, in effect, a univeral process of becoming.  Every cosmic form, however majestic it may be, in the end disintegrates...Now whatever

becomes, is transformed, dies, and disappears is not part of the sphere of being... It is not sacred" (Eliade)  Isvara Krishna, the author of the most ancient text on Samkhya, asserts that at the foundation of this philosophy there is man's desire to escape the torture of suffering. 


To liberate oneself from sufferiing is the goal of all the philosophies and mysticisms of

India.  Whether this deliverance is gained directly through 'knowledge', as the Vedanta

and Samkhya teach, or through the use of techniques, as in Buddhism and yoga, some

type of metaphysical 'knowledge' leads to illumination, and to the true 'Self'.  In the later, it is knowledge of oneself, in the ascetic and spiritual sense.  Samkhya continues

the tradition of the Upanishads:  "He who knows the atman crosses the ocean of suf-

fering".  when it says: "Through knowledge, deliverance; through ignorance, suffering"

Pain exists only to the degree to which experience is related to the human personality-

regarded as identical with the purusha.  In order to be delivered from pain, Samkhya and yoga deny suffering as such, thus eliminating all relation between suffering and the Self.  "As soon as we understand that the Self is free, eternal and inactive, everything that happens to us - pain, emotion, desire, thought, etc. - is no longer a part of us...has nothing in common with our purusha." (Eliade)


Vedanta defines the atman (purusha/soul) as a unique, universal, eternal reality

enmeshed in the temporal illusion of creation (maya).  Samkhya and yoga deny the purusha any attribute and any relation.  All that can be said is that 'it is' and 'it knows'.  Like the atman, the purusha is inexpressible.  Its 'attributes' are negative.  Isvara Krishna says " The spirit is what sees, it is isolated, indifferent, a mere spectator."  Since it is irreducible and devoid of qualities, the purusha has no 'intelligence', for it is without desires (which are not eternal, and not part of the spirit).  Patanjali takes the same position.  In the Sutras, he says that ignorance consists in regarding what is ephemeral, impure, painful, and non-spirit as being eternal, pure blessedness and spirit. 


The paradoxical situation of Samkhya and yoga, referred to earlier, is attacked by

Vedanta as well.  Samkhya and yoga indicate an illusory relation with Nature (prakrti),(or with matter), by being compelled to employ an instrument of prakrti - buddhi (intelligence), which leads one to the threshold of 'awakening'.  Purusha is not like buddhi, because the buddhi is changed by knowledge, whereas the purusha has unbroken knowledge, also the buddhi would be incapable of knowing the Self.  On the other hand, the buddhi is charged with reflecting the purusha, and comprehension of the external world is possible only by reason of this reflection.  Vedanta avoids the difficulty arising out of relations between the spirit and the universe (because buddhi, while the most perfect manifestation of prakrti, is merely its most refined product, thus part of the cosmos) by deniying the reality of the universe, again, by calling it maya. 





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