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Yoga and Samkhya

Classical yoga begins where Samkhya ends.  Patanjali took over the Samkhya philosophy

almost totally, but he did not believe that metaphysical knowledge by itself could lead

to liberation.  Eliade says it only prepared the ground (Patanjali and Yoga).  Emancipa-

tion ought to be won through intense struggle, particularly by means of an ascetic tech-

nique, and a method of contemplation.  "The objective of yoga, like that of Samkhya, is

to abolish normal consciousness for the benefit of a qualitatively different consciousness

that can thoroughly understand metaphysical truth."  In addition to the Samkhya

darsana (philosophy), it entails a physiological technique.


Patanjali's definition of yoga, stated in the Sutras, is ..."the abolition of states of cons-

ciousness."  He says that there are three categories of consciousness (derived from

these almost limitless states).  Eliade again, "Since to yoga and Samkhya, every psychological experience is produced by ignorance of the true nature of the self (purusha), it follows that 'normal' psychic facts, although 'real' from a strictly psychological point of view and valid from a logical point of view (not dreams or hallucinations), are nevertheless 'false' from a metaphysical point of view.  Metaphysics recognizes as valid only the third category of states, especially those that precede samadhi and prepare for deliverance."


The goal of Patanjali's yoga, then, is to abolish the first two categories of experience

(born respectively of logical and metaphysical error), and to replace them with some-

thing leading to samadhi, and to going beyond the suffering of the human condition.  In contrast to Samkhya, yoga assumes the task of destroying, one after another, these various 'states of consciousness' (cittavrtti).  However, nothing can be gained without the practice of asceticism (tapas).  Books II and III of the Sutras are most especially de-

voted to this activity (purifications, samyama, pranayama, etc.)  Yogic practice is deemed indispensable.


There is a paradox in both Samkhya and yoga, that our samsaric existence, and the cittavritti (the whirlwinds of consciousness), can not be eliminated unless our distrust

and familiarity with human life causes its renunciation. The more suffering, the stronger the desire to end the suffering.                 

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