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What we learn from samkhya Philosophy?

Samkhya Theory Basics

According to Upanishads, there are two schools in Indian Philosophy, the one is the idealistic i.e., Vedanta and the other one is realistic i.e., Samkhya. Samkhya philosophy is called as the oldest of Indian Philosophies. Its founder was the great sage of ancient period called Kapila. Samkhya Philosophy consists of two parts, the one is Samkhya itself or the theoretical aspects of life and the other one is Yoga or the practical aspects of life.kapila

Samkhya in Sanskrit means numbers. It represents the numbers in an entire universe. The other meaning of Samkhya is perfect knowledge. It would not be wrong to say that the numbers represent this world very perfectly.

Purusha & Prakriti

Samkhya theory propagates dualistic realism. Therefore, The Purusha or self or consciousness; and the Prakriti or matter, are the two realities which the whole universe consists of. In other words, the term dualistic is insufficient to completely define the Samkhya system. It is because we don’t have a single being consist of Purusha or Prakriti. But we do have multiple lists of beings made of Purusha and Prakriti. As a result, the Samkhya system is also called as a Pluralistic realism. In the Samkhya system, the relation of Purusha and Prakriti could be said as a partnership of a blind man and a lame man. The lame man is Purusha and the blind man is Prakriti. Each one is interdependent for their on-going processes of life.purush-prakriti

When we compare the Samkhya system with the other schools of Indian Philosophy i.e., Nyaya- Vaishesika system and Jainism, it is found that we have got a vast difference. The other school believes that the whole universe has its smallest part called atoms. This atomistic view doesn’t apply to the mind or intellect in the viewpoint of Samkhya. They believe that mind or intellect is dependent on the qualities of Prakriti.

Evolution in Samkhya System

Evolution in simple terms is a mutual contact or samyog between the two opposite nature of Purusha and Prakriti. The theory of evolution is not an easily happening conjunction. It is a contact and assembling of the two opposite qualities in the form of a singular substance. The characteristics of the two of them can be defined differently. While the Purusha is considered as an unconscious being, the Prakriti is considered as an unintelligent. The needs of both the realities are different, the Purusha wants to be liberated and free whereas the Prakriti needs to be known, discovered and valued. The conjunction of both Purusha and Prakriti needs a serious cooperation and willingness so as to fulfil the requirements of one other. For this purpose, the Purusha & Prakriti, influence each other. The evolution could also be expressed as a ‘give’ and ‘take’ relationship. It’s like you give me what you have got, and take what you need.

Sattva, Rajas & Tamas

The gunas or qualities of Prakriti: Sattva, Rajas & Tamas split and distributed equally on collision to Purusha. Sattva is the quality of goodness, compassion, positivity; Rajas is the quality of activity, chaos, passion; Tamas is the quality of ignorance, destruction, negativity. It’s like three friends has ordered new food and fighting to each other to get the maximum bite. This is the same case for gunas of Prakriti, they show their maximum interests, strength & capabilities to grab the maximum position in their new place (Here a position is a form created when Prakriti and Purusha combine together).

When Purusha and Prakriti combine together, a list of new products is formed. The first one is intelligence or intellect or Buddhi. To know more, our intellect could be both positive and negative. It is based on the distribution of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. (I told you three friends if fight for pizza, then each will get a different proportion). The positive attributes of Virtue or Dharma, Knowledge or Jnana, detachment or Vairagya, excellence are due to the highest proportion of Sattva qualities. The negative attributes of a-dharma, ignorance or ajnana, aasakti or attachment, and imperfection are the result of Tamas qualities. The qualities of intelligence are well reflected in self by your action, performance or decision making skills.


The second product of the results of conjunction is Ahamkara or ego or I. It is our self-identity, the importance of who we are and what we are up to. It’s because of our attitude we are defined in our lives. People say ‘this person has got too much of attitude’ or this person attitude is good towards life. Everyone knows that the choice of one’s attitude can either make or break your life.

Ahamkara splits into another four categories of mind (mental organs), sense organs (jnanendriyas), organs of actions (karmayendriyas) and the subtle elements (tanmatras). Mind and sense organs are called as sattva, actions are called as Rajas and subtle elements i.e., the five sense perceptions of hearing, touch, sight, taste& smell are called as Tamas.

Science & Samkhya


Here we have learnt about the Samkhya Theory which describes a formation or evolution as a conjunction of Purusha & Prakriti. In biology, the union of two opposite genetic characters lead to the formation of a single entity. And why we get variations among individuals? It is because we are having different genetic characters encoded in our gametes. This gamete (germ cell of male and female) is responsible for the formation of a particular type of body. Genetic variations among individuals are because of mutations. This theory resembles Samkhya system when Purusha and Prakriti combines together to form a new body. We see how much relevant is the study of ancient Philosophies to discover the human life cycles and to know more of its concerned realities.

Author: Madhvi

A philosopher, Writer, Traveler, PhD Scholar, Vegan and pet-lover.

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