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Samkhya on the Self


Among the Non-Vedantic orthodox systems referred to previously, Samkhya and Yoga,

the problem of the self has come up as well.  The oral teachings of Samkhya date, most likely to 1500 BC, and its literature,  perhaps to 200 AD.  Ramesh Bjonnes relates that it is the darsana which informed Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, as well as Ayurveda, the most.  Mircea Eliade states, in "Patanjali & Yoga":...

 


  "Patanjali merely repeated, in broad outlines, the Samkhya philosophy, which he coor-

   dinated with a rather superficial theism.  Yoga and Samkhya philosophical systems re-

   sembled each other so closely that most of the statements of either were equally val-

   id for the other.  The basic differences between them were few:

 


      1. Whereas Samkhya was atheistic, yoga was theistic, since it postulated the ex-

           istence of a supreme God (Isvara)... There is no divine intervention in Sam-,

           khya concerning an 'awakening' that unveils the essence of the Self/spirit, for

           Samkhya denies the existence of God; yoga accepts God, but Patanjali did not

           ascribe any great importance to this...

 


      2.  While according to Samkhya the only route to salvation is that of metaphysi-

           cal knowledge, yoga granted considerable importance to the techniques of

           meditation...Knowledge 'produces' nothing - it is an immediate revelation of

           reality...Revelation is founded on the knowledge of ultimate reality, that is

           on that 'awakening' in which object is completely identified with subject...

           Meditation (and renunciation) are only indirect instruments of salvation. 

           The sole perfect, conclusive means, to Samkhya, is metaphysical knowledge. 

 


In sum, what can properly be called Patanjali's work was directed principally to the co-

ordination of the philosophical material -borrowed from Samkhya - with the technical

prescriptions for concentration, meditation, and ecstasy.  Thanks to Patanjali, yoga was

advanced from a "mystic" tradition to the level of a system of philosophy.

 


Indian tradition regards Samkhya as the most ancient darsana.  The meaning of the

name seems to have been "discrimination", since the chief purpose was to dissociate

the spirit (purusha) from matter (prakriti).  The most ancient treatise is the Samkhya

Karika of Isvara Krishna...no later than the (5th c. AD)...Exactly like yoga, Samkhya too

has a prehistory.  Very likely, the origin of the system ought to be sought in the analysis

of the constituent elements of human experience with a view to distinguishing those

that leave man when he dies and those that are "immortal" in the sense that they ac-

company the soul beyond the grave...In other words, the "origins" of Samkhya are

linked to a problem of a mystic nature:  What survives man after death?  What consti-

tutes the veritable self, the immortal element of a human being?"

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