The Samkhya Philosophy (Containing (1) Samkhya-pravachanasutram, with Vritti of Aniruddha, and the Bhasya of Vijnanabhiksu and Extracts from the Vrittisara of Mahadeva Vedantin; (2) Tatvasamasa; (3) Samkhyakarika; (4) Panchasikhasutram)


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The Samkhya of Kapila has influenced every school of Indian Philosophy. Among the treatises explaining its teachings, only two have survived intact, the rest being either in fragments or totally lost. One of these, the Samkhya-pravachana-sutram with two commentaries by Aniruddha and Vijnanabhiksu form the body of this book, and the others Kapila-sutram, Samkhya-karika of Isvarakrisna and Panchasikha-sutram are given in appendices.

The Samkhya relies on the ruler of logic for establishing the validity of its tenets. Its object is to differentiate between the soul and the non-soul. It starts with the primordial cause called Prakriti or Pradhana which resulted in effect, this world. It has put forward a theory of evolution to explain all objects, animate and inanimate, of this world as an infinite number of permutations and combinations of the three gunas-sattva, rajas and tamas. Its essence consists of two principles: Prakritti and Purusa. It opposes Vedic sacrifices but not the Vedas. It does not deny God but states that His existence cannot be proved. Its importance can be gauged from the fact that the Vedantasutra devotes sixty out of hundred and three aphorisms to refute its doctrines.

The appendices provide all the available texts with indices for aphorisms and words. The translation, with its lucid explanation of the texts and commentaries, brings the Ideas of the renowned Samkhya within reach of all.


The present volume of the Sacred Books of the Hindus which bears the modest title of the Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram, is in reality, a collection of all the available original documents of the School of the Samkhyas, with the single exception of the commentary composed by Vyasa on the Samkhya-Pravachana-Yoga-Sutram of Patanjali. For it contains in its pages not only the Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram of Kapila together with the Vritti of Aniruddha, the Bhasya of Vijnana Bhiksu, and extracts of the original portions from the Vrittisara of Vedantin Mahadeva, but also the Tattva-Samasa together with the commentary of Narendra, the Samkhya-Karika of Isvarakrisna with profuse annotations based o the Bhasya of Gaudapada and the Tattva-kaumudi of Vachaspati Misra, and a few of the Aphorisms of Panchasikha with explanatory notes according to the Aphorisms of Panchasikha with explanatory notes according to the Yoga-Bhosya which has quoted them. an attempt, moreover, has been made to make the volume useful in many other respects by the addition, for instance, of elaborate analystical tables of contents to the Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram and the Samkhya-Karika, and of a number of important appendices.

In the preparation of this volume, I have derived very material help from the excellent editions of the Vritti of Aniruddha and the Bhasya of Vijnana Bhiksu on the Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram by Dr. Richard Garbe, to whom my thanks are due. And, in general, I take this opportunity of acknowledging my indebtedness to all previous writers on the Samkhya, living and dead, from whose writings I have obtained light and leading in many important matters connected with the subject.

An introduction only now remains to be written. It is proposed, however, to write a separate monogram on the Samkhya Darsana, which would be historical, critical and comparative, in its scope and character. In this preface, therefore, only a very brief account is given of some of the cardinal doctrines of the Samkhya School.

The Law of the Identity of Cause and Effect.

The first and foremost among these is the Sat-Karya-Siddhanta or the Established Tenet of Existent Effect. It is the Law of the Identity of Cause and Effect : what is called the cause is the unmanifested state of what is called the effect, and what is called the effect is only the manifested state of what is called the cause; their substance is one and the same; differences of manifestation and non-manifestation give rise to the distinctions of Cause and Effect. The effect, therefore, is never non-existent; whether before its production, or whether after its destruction, it is always existent in the cause. For, nothing can come out of nothing, and nothing can altogether vanish out of existence.

Definition of Cause and Effect.

This doctrine would be better understood by a comparison with the contrary views held by other thinkers on the relation of cause and effect. But before we proceed to state these views, we should define the terms "cause" and "effect." One thing is said to be the cause of another thing, when the latter cannot be without the former. In its widest sense, the term, Cause, therefore, denotes an agent, an act, an instrument, a purpose, some material, time, and space. In fact, whatever makes the accomplishment of the effect possible, is one of its causes. And the immediate result of the operation of these causes, is their effect. Time and Space, however, are universal causes, inasmuch as they are presupposed in each and every act of causation. The remaining causes fall under the descriptions of "Material," "Efficient," "Formal," and "Final." The Samkhyas further reduce them to two descriptions only, viz., Upadana, i.e., the material, which the Naiyayikas call Samavayi or Combinative or Constitutive, and Nimitta, i.e. the efficient, formal, and final, which may be variously, though somewhat imperfectly, translated as the instrumental, efficient, occasional, or condition a, because it includes the instruments with which, the agent by which, the occasion on which, and the conditions under which, the act is performed. Obviously there is a real distinction between the Upadana and the Nimitta: the Upadana enters into the constitution of the effect, and the power of taking the form of, in other words, the potentiality of being re-produced as, the effect, resides in it; while the Nimitta, by the exercise of an extraneous influence only, cooperates with the power inherent in the material, in its re-production in the form of the effect, and its causality ceases with such re-production. To take the case of a coin, for example: the material causality was in a lump of gold; it made possible the modification of the gold into the form of the coin, it will remain operative as long as the coin will last as a coin, and after its destruction, it will pass into the potential state again; but the operation of the Nimittas came to an end as soon as the coin was minted.

Similarly, the Samkhyas distinguish the Effect under the twofold aspect of simple manifestation and of re-production. Thus, the coin is an instance of causation by re-production, while the production of cream from milk is an instance of causation by simple manifestation.

Theories of the Origin of the World.

Now, as to the origin of the world, there is a divergence of opinion among thinkers of different Schools : Some uphold the Theory of Creation, others maintain the Theory of Evolution. Among the Creationists are counted the Nastikas or Nihilists, and Buddhists, and the Naiyayikas; and among the Evolutionists, the Vedantins and the Samkhyas the Nastikas hold that the world is non-existent, that is, unreal, and that it came out of what was not; the Buddhists hold that the world is existent that is, real, and that it came out of what was not; the Naiyayikas hold that the world is non-existent, that is, non-eternal, perishable, and that it came out of the existent, that is, what is eternal, imperishable; the Vedantins hold that the world is non-existent, that is, unreal, and that it came out of what was existent, that is, real namely, Brahman; and the Samkhyas hold that the world is existent, that is, real, and that it came out of what was existent, that is, real, namely, the Pradhana. Thus, there are the A-Sat-Karya-Vada of the Nastikas that a non-existent world has been produced from a non-existent cause, and of the Buddhists that an existent world has been produced from a non-existent cause, the Abhava-Utpatti-Vada of the Naiyayikas that a non-eternal world has been produced from an eternal cause, the Vivarta-Vada of the Vedantins that the world is a revolution, an illusory appearance, of the one eternal reality, viz., Brahman, and the Sat-Vada of the Samkhyas that an existent world has been produced from an existent cause.

Against the theories of A-Sat-Karya, Abhara-Utpatti, and Vivarta, and in support of their theory of Sat-Karya, the Samkhyas advance the following arguments:

I. There can be no production of what is absolutely non-existent; e.g., a man's horn.

II. There must be some determinate material cause for every product. Cream, for instance, can form on milk only, and never on water. Were it as absolutely non-existent in milk as it is in water, there would be no reason why it should form on milk, and not equally on water.

III. The relation of cause and effect is that of the producer and the produced, and the simplest conception of the cause as the producer is that it possesses the potentiality of becoming the effect, and this potentiality is nothing but the unrealized state of the effect.

IV. The effect is seen to possess the nature of the cause, e.g., a coin still possesses the properties of the gold of which it is made.

V. Matter is indestructible; "destruction" means disappearance into the cause.

The World Possesses Phenomenal reality.

It follows, therefore, that cause and effect are neither absolutely dissimilar nor absolutely similar to each other. They posses essential similarities and formal dissimilarities. Such being the relation between cause and effect, the world cannot possibly have come out of something in which it had been absolutely non-existent, and which accordingly was, in relation to it, as good as non-existent. For the world is neither absolutely unreal nor absolutely real. The test of objective reality is its opposition to consciousness. It is distinguished as Pratibhasika or apparent, Vyavaharika or practical or phenomenal, and Paramarthika or transcendental. Reality as its substratum. Thus is the Doctrine of Sat-Karya established.

A natural corollary from the above doctrine is the other doctrine of Parinama or transformation. It is the doctrine that, all effects are contained in their causes in an unmanifested form, the "production" of an effect is nothing but its manifestation, and that, as cause and effect are essentially identical, an effect is merely a transformation of the cause.

Now, the question arises, whether the cause of the world be a single one, or whether it be manifold. Some think that, according to the Naiyayikas, who declare the existence of Parama-Anus or the ordinary Atoms of Matter, the world has sprung from a plurality of causes. This is, however, to take a very superficial view of the Nyaya-Vaisesika Darsana. The Naiyayikas were certainly not timid explorers of metaphysical truths; there is absolutely no reason for supposing that they either would not or could not penetrate behind and beyond the ordinary Atoms of Matter. As I have elsewhere pointed out, it would be a mistake to treat the six Darsanas as each being a complete and self-contained system of thought; in respect of their scope and purpose, they bear no analogy to the philosophies of the West. They are singly neither universal nor final; but they mutually supplement one another. Their Risis address themselves to particular sets of people possessing different degrees of mental and spiritual advancement. They reveal and explain the truths embodied in the Vedas to them from their point of view and according to their competence, and thus help them in realizing the truths for themselves and thereby in progressing towards Self-realisation. If the Naiyayikas, therefore, do not carry their analysis of the world further than the ordinary Atoms of Matter, it must not be assumed that they teach a sort of atomic pluralism as the ultimate theory of the origin of the world, and are in this opposed to the authors of the other Sastras which teach a different origin. The right explanation is that they make but a partial declaration of the Vedic truths and cut short and process of resolution at the ordinary Atoms of Matter, because they address themselves to a class of students who do not possess the mental capacity to grasp subtler truths.

For the sense of unity which as found expression in the Law of Parsimony, points to a single original of the world or material manifestation, as revealed in the Vedas. And the Samkhya makes its students acquainted with this. It is called the Root, and is described as the Pradhana, that is which all things are contained, and as Prakriti, the mother of things.

It is a long way from the ordinary Atoms of Matter to the Pradhana or Primordial Matter. The Samkhya undertakes to declare and expound the successive transformations of the Pradhana down to the Gross Matter, with the object of accomplishing the complete isolation of the Self from even the most shadowy conjunction with the Pradhana.

The definition of Prakriti is that it is the state of equilibrium of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, called the Gunas. It is the genus of which the Gunas are the species. Their state of equilibrium is their latent, potential, or inactive state, the state of not being developed into effects. The Gunas are extremely fine substances, and are respectively the principles of illumination, evolution, and involution, and the causes of pleasure, pain, and dullness. For, Sattva is light and illuminating, Rajas is active and urgent, and Tamas is heavy and enveloping. They are in eternal and indissoluble conjunction with one another, and, by nature, mutually overpower, support, produce, and intimately mix with, one another.

This doctrine of the Three Gunas is the very foundation of the Samkhya Tantra. It is explained in the following manner: (1) Everything in the world, external as well as internal, is in constant change; and there can be no change, whether it be movement in space, or whether it be movement in time, without rest. Side by side, therefore, with the principle of mutation, there must be a principle of conservation. And, as Berkeley tells us, existence is perception,-whatever is not manifested to Consciousness, individual or universal, does not exist. Another principle is, therefore, required which would make the manifestation of the other two principles and of their products, (as also of itself and of its own), to Consciousness possible. Thus, at the origin of the world, there must be a principle of conservation, a principle of mutation, and a principle of manifestation. (2) Similarly, an examination of the intra-organic energies would disclose the existence of three distinct principles behind them. These energies are the eleven Indriyas or Powers of Cognition and Action, and Prana or Vital Force. Among them, the Powers of Cognition, e.g., Seeing, Hearing, etc, cause manifestation of objects, the Powers of Action, e.g., seizing by the hand, etc., produce change, and Prana conserves and preserves life. (3) In the mind, again, modifications of three distinct characters take place; viz., cognition, conation, and retention; and these could not be possible without there being a principle of manifestation, a principle of mutation, and a principle of conservation respectively. (4) Likewise, a psycho-aesthetic analysis of our worldly experience yields the result that everything in the universe possesses a threefold aspect, that is, it may manifest as agreeable, or as disagreeable, or as neutral, i.e., neither agreeable nor disagreeable. It must then have derived these characteristics from its cause; for another can be in the effect which was not in the cause. The principles of manifestation, mutation, and conservation, therefore, which are operative in the change of the states of agreeable, disagreeable, and neutral, must also possess the nature of being pleasant (santa), unpleasant (ghora), and dull (mudha).

It is these principles of manifestation, mutation, and conservation, possessing the nature of pleasure, pain, and dullness, that are respectively the Gunas, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, of the Samkhyas. They are the constitutive elements of Prakriti. They are Gunas in their manifested forms; they are Prakriti in their unmanifested form.

The transformations of Prakriti are either prakriti-vikriti, original or evolute merely. The former are themselves transformations of their antecedents, and, in their turn, give rise to subsequent transformations. They are Mahat, Ahamkara, and the five Tan-matras. The latter are the eleven Indriyas and the five gross. Elements. The transformation of Prakriti ceases with them. Of course, the gross Elements combine and evolve the material world; but the world is not a different Tattva or principle from the Elements, because it does not develop a single attribute which is not already possessed by them. For the test of a Tattva or original or ultimate principle is that it possesses a characteristic property which is not possessed by any other Tattva.

The objective world thus contains twenty-four Tattvas, namely, Prakriti, Mahat, Aham-kara, Manas, the five Indriyas of Cognition, the five Indriyas of Action, the five Tan-matras, and the five gross Elements.

At the beginning of creation, there arises in Prakriti Spandana or cosmic vibration which disturbs its state of equilibrium, and releases the Gunas from quiescence. Rajas at once acts upon Sattva and manifests it as Mahat. Mahat denotes Buddhi, the material counterpart and basis of what we term Understanding or Reason. Buddhi is called Mahat, great, because it is the principal among the Instruments of Cognition and Action. Mahat also means "light"; it is derived from the Vedic word Mahas or Maghas, meaning light. And Buddhi is called Mahat, because it is the initial transformation of Sattva which is the principle of manifestation. Or, Buddhi which is the first manifestation of the Gunas and which is the material cause of the world, is called Mahat, in order to distinguish it from individual or finite Buddhis which are its parts. For "what is the Buddhi of the first-born golden-egged (Brahma), the same is he primary basis of all Buddhis; it is here called the 'great self.'

The function of Buddhi is Adyavasaya or certainty leading to action. It manifests in eight forms; viz., as virtue, knowledge, dispassion and power, while Sattva is predominant in it, and as vice, ignorance, passion, and weakness, while Tamas is predominant in it. And these, again, are modified into in-numerable forms, which are classified as Error, Incapacity, Complacency, and Perfection. Such is Pratyaya-sarga or the creation of Buddhi or intellectual creation as contra distinguished from elemental creation.

From Buddhi springs Aham-kara: from "eogito," I think, "sum, I am. Aham-kara is literally the I-maker. It is the material counterpart and basis of what we term egoism, etc. it is the principle of personal ideutity and of individuation. Its function is Abhimana, conceit, thinking with reference to itself, assumption of things to itself. But it is not a mere function; it is a substance in which reside Vasanas or the resultant tendencies of accumulated experience, and which is capable of modification into other and grosser forms.

This Aham-kara, which is the first transformation of Buddhi, is the cosmic Aham-kara, the Upadhi or adjunct of the golden-egged Brahma, the Creator. It is the infinite source of the finite Aham-karas of individual Jivas.

The modification of Aham-kara is twofold, according as it is influenced by Sattva or by Tamas. The Sattvic modifications are the eleven Indriyas, that is, the five Indriays of Cognition, viz., the powers located in the Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, and Skin, the five Indriyas of Action, viz., the powers located in the voice, hand, feet, and the organs of generation and of excretion, and Manas. Manas is both a power of cognition and a power of action. Assimilation and differentiation are its distinctive functions.

The Tamasic modifications of Aham-kara are the five Tan-matras, viz., of Sound, Touch, Form, Flavour and Smell. They are pure, subtle or simple elements, the metaphysical parts of the ordinary Atoms of Matter. They are "fine substances," to quote from Vijnana Bhiksu, "the undifferentiated (a-visesa) originals of the Gross Elements, which form the substratum of Sound, Touch, Form, Flavour and Smell, belonging to that class (that is, in that stage of their evolution) in which the distinctions of Santa (pleasant), etc., do not exist." The process of their manifestation is as follows: The Tanmatra of Sound, possessing the attribute of Sound is produced from Aham-kara; then, from the Tan-matras of Sound, accompanied by Ahamkara, is produced the Tan-matra of Touch, possessing the attributes of Sound and Touch. In a similar manner, the other Tan-matras are produced, in the order of their mention, by the addition of one more attribute at each successive step.

The transformations of the Tan-matras are the Gross Elements of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth,-the ordinary Atoms of Matter, in which appear for the first time the distinctions of being pleasant, painful, and neutral.

All Bodies, from that of Brahma down to a stock, are formed of them. Now, all this objective world is non-intelligent, because it material cause, Prakriti, is non-intelligent. It does not, therefore, exist or energise for its own sake. There must be some one else of a different nature, some intelligent being, for whose benefit, i.e., experience and freedom, all this activity of Prakriti is. Thus do the Samkhyas explain the existence of Purusa.


We have adopted for our text of the Samkhya Philosophy, the celebrated Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram with the Vritti of Aniruddha and the Bhasya of Vijnana-Bhiksu thereon. The Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram is divided into six books, and is, on this account, sometimes alluded to as the Sad-Adhyayi, Sastra of Six Books. These books have been significantly described as Visaya-Adhyaya, the Book of Topics, Pradhana-Karya-Adhyaya, the Book of Evolutions of Pradhana or the Prime Cause, Vairagya-Adhyaya, the Book of Dispassion, Akhyayika-Adhyaya, the Book of Fables, Para-Paksa-Nirjaya-Adhyaya, the book of Demolition of Counter-Theories, and Vipsa-or Tantra-Adhyaya, the Book of Recapitulation of Teachigns, respectively.

By the help of the Vritti readers will be able to form a fair and accurate general acquaintance with the principal doctrines of Kapila, the Founder of the School, and the Bhasya will enable them to traverse the whole field of Hindu philosophical speculation, and thereby to acquire a deeper and wider knowledge of the Samkhya Philosophy in itself and in its relation to all other systems of thought. Referring to the Bhasya of Vijnana-Bhiksu, Dr. Garbe observes that "the Samkhya-Pravachana-Bhasya is after all the one and only work which instructs us concerning many particulars of the doctrines of what is in my estimation the most significant system of philosophy that India has produced."

The Samkhya holds a unique place in the history of Hindu thought, and is in many ways remarkable for the depth and subtlety of its criticism of human experience, besides possessing a peculiar terminology of its own. For these reasons it is desirable to start with an outline knowledge of the scheme of the work and a thorough understanding of its nomenclature. We have, therefore, thought it proper to preface the Samkhya-Pravachana-Sutram with the very short treatise differently known as Kapila-Sutram anu Tattva-Samasa or Compendium of Principles, to Serve the aforesaid purpose.

The Samkhya has been very widely read and discussed all over the civilized world, and most divergent views have been propounded with regard to some of its cardinal doctrines. We propose to consider them and all other important matters in this connection in our Introduction. My success attend our enterprise.




Introductory 1
Book I: Of Topics 12
Book II: Of The Evolutions of Prakriti 231
Book III: Of Dispassion 278
Book IV: Of Fables 361
Book V: Of The Demolition Of Counter-Theories 388
Book VI: Of The Recapitulation Of Teachings 513
Appendix I - VII  


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