Samkhya


Samkhya
/sahng"kyeuh/, n. Hinduism.
Sankhya.

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One of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy.

It adopts a consistent dualism between matter and soul (see prakriti and purusha), which are sufficient to account for the existence of the universe; it does not hypothesize the existence of a god. Samkhya also makes a thoroughgoing distinction between psychological and physical functions on the one hand and pure "personhood" on the other.

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also spelled  Sankhyā , Sanskrit  Saṃkhya (“Enumeration,” or “Number”) 

      one of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy (q.v.). Saṃkhyā adopts a consistent dualism of the orders of matter ( prakriti) and soul, or self ( purusha). The two are originally separate, but in the course of evolution purusha mistakenly identifies itself with aspects of prakriti. Right knowledge consists of the ability of purusha to distinguish itself from prakriti.

      Although many references to the system are given in earlier texts, Saṃkhyā received its classical form and expression in the Saṃkhyā-kārikās (“Stanzas of Saṃkhyā”) by Īśvarakṛṣṇa (c. 3rd century AD). Vijñānabhikṣu wrote an important treatise on the system in the 16th century.

      In Saṃkhyā there is belief in an infinite number of similar but separate purushas (“selves”), no one superior to the other. Purusha and prakriti being sufficient to explain the universe, the existence of a god is not hypothesized. The purusha is ubiquitous, all-conscious, all-pervasive, motionless, unchangeable, immaterial, and without desire. Prakriti is the universal and subtle (i.e., unmanifest) matter, or nature, and, as such, is determined only by time and space.

      The chain of evolution begins when purusha impinges on prakriti, much as a magnet draws unto itself iron shavings. The purusha, which before was pure consciousness without an object, becomes focused on prakriti, and out of this is evolved mahat (“great one”) or buddhi (“spiritual awareness”). Next to evolve is the individualized ego consciousness ( ahankara, “I-maker”), which imposes upon the purusha the misapprehension that the ego is the basis of the purusha's objective existence.

      The ahankara further divides into the five gross elements (space, air, fire, water, earth), the five fine elements (sound, touch, sight, taste, smell), the five organs of perception (with which to hear, touch, see, taste, smell), the five organs of activity (with which to speak, grasp, move, procreate, evacuate), and mind, or thought (manas). The universe is the result of the combinations and permutations of these various principles, to which the purusha is added.

      Largely outside the above system stands that of the three primal qualities of matter that are called gunas (“qualities”). They make up the prakriti but are further important principally as physiopsychological factors. The highest one is sattva, which is illumination, enlightening knowledge, and lightness; the second is rajas, which is energy, passion, and expansiveness; the third is tamas (“darkness”), which is obscurity, ignorance, and inertia. To these correspond moral models: to tamas that of the ignorant and lazy man; to rajas that of the impulsive and passionate man; to sattva the enlightened and serene man.

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Universalium. 2010.

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