The reason for the propagation for Sankhya Philosophy:

Absolute truth is one without a second . But there are differences in the knowledge of Absolute truth. Sometimes the philosophy seems coherent(logical and consistent) and sometimes it appears there is some confusion. We have tried to present the differences in a coherent manner so that one is not confused why there different philosophies were propagated.

The reason can be found in Padma Puran Uttara Khanda Chapters 235-236:

Parvati said, “O sinless one, tell me about the tamasic scriptures that were composed by the brahmanas bereft of devotion  to the Lord. O Lord of the demigods Please tell me their names in sequence.

Lord Shiva replied, “O goddess, please listen. In sequence I shall tell you about the tamasic texts. Simply by remembering  them even wise persons become deluded. First,I Myself proclaimed the Shiva,pasupata, and related texts. After my power had  entered him, Kanada preached the Vaisesika Philosophy. Similarly, Gautama preached Nyaya,and Kapila preached the atheistic  SankhyaBrihaspati preached the much-censured Charvaka doctrine, and Buddha proclaimed Buddhism to destroy the demons.

The entire conversation is not presented here. For more details please click the below link:

Conversation between Shiva and Parvati

So in a nutshell as per scriptures Sankhya philosophy was propagated by Shiva on the will of Narayana to attract the atheists.

Sage Kapila is traditionally credited as a founder of the Samkhya school

Sankhya as an atheist philosophy:

Samkhya accepts the notion of higher selves or perfected beings but rejects the notion of God. Classical Samkhya argues against the existence of God on metaphysical grounds. Samkhya theorists argue that an unchanging God cannot be the source of an ever changing world and that God was only a necessary metaphysical assumption demanded by circumstances. The Sutras of Samkhya have no explicit role for a separate God distinct from the puruṣa. Such a distinct God is inconceivable and self-contradictory and some commentaries speak plainly on this subject.

Argument against Ishvara’s existance:

The following arguments were given by the Samkhya philosophers against the idea of an eternal, self-caused, creator God:

  • If the existence of karma is assumed, the proposition of God as a moral governor of the universe is unnecessary. For, if God enforces the consequences of actions then he can do so without karma. If however, he is assumed to be within the law of karma, then karma itself would be the giver of consequences and there would be no need of a God.
  • Even if karma is denied, God still cannot be the enforcer of consequences. Because the motives of an enforcer God would be either egoistic or altruistic. Now, God’s motives cannot be assumed to be altruistic because an altruistic God would not create a world so full of suffering. If his motives are assumed to be egoistic, then God must be thought to have desire, as agency or authority cannot be established in the absence of desire. However, assuming that God has desire would contradict God’s eternal freedom which necessitates no compulsion in actions. Moreover, desire, according to Samkhya, is an attribute of prakṛti and cannot be thought to grow in God. The testimony of the Vedas, according to Samkhya, also confirms this notion.
  • Despite arguments to the contrary, if God is still assumed to contain unfulfilled desires, this would cause him to suffer pain and other similar human experiences. Such a worldly God would be no better than Samkhya’s notion of higher self.
  • Furthermore, there is no proof of the existence of God. He is not the object of perception, there exists no general proposition that can prove him by inference and the testimony of the Vedas speak of prakṛti as the origin of the world, not God.

Therefore, Samkhya maintained that the various cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments could not prove God.

Sankhya Textual references:

The Sankhya-tattva-kaumudi commenting on Karika 57 argues that a perfect God can have no need to create a world (for Himself) and if God’s motive is kindness (for others), Samkhya questions whether it is reasonable to call into existence beings who while non-existent had no suffering.

The Sāṁkhyapravacana Sūtra in verse no. 1.92 directly states that existence of “Ishvara (God) is unproved”. Hence there is no philosophical place for a creationist God in this system. It is also argued by commentators of this text that the existence of Ishvara cannot be proved and hence cannot be admitted to exist.

The Advaita Vedanta philosopher Adi Shankara considered Samkhya philosophy as propounded in Samkhyakarika to be inconsistent with the teachings in the Vedas, and considered the dualism in Samkhya to be non-Vedic. Simlarly all other vedic branches refuted sankhya philosophy.

Sankhya Philosophy:


Puruṣa is the transcendental self or pure consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable through other agencies, above any experience by mind or senses and beyond any words or explanations. It remains pure, “nonattributive consciousness”. puruṣa is neither produced nor does it produce. It is held that unlike Advaita Vedanta and like Purva-Mīmāṃsā, Samkhya believes in plurality of the purusha

Prakriti: Elements in Samkhya philosophy

Prakṛti is the first cause of the manifest material universe — of everything except the puruṣa. Prakṛti accounts for whatever is physical, both mind and matter-cum-energy or force. Since it is the first principle (tattva) of the universe, it is called the pradhāna, but, as it is the unconscious and unintelligent principle, it is also called the jada. It is composed of three essential characteristics (trigunas). These are:

  • Sattva – poise, fineness, lightness, illumination, and joy;
  • Rajas – dynamism, activity, excitation, and pain;
  • Tamas – inertia, coarseness, heaviness, obstruction, and sloth.

All physical events are considered to be manifestations of the evolution of prakṛti, or primal nature (from which all physical bodies are derived). Each sentient being or Jiva is a fusion of puruṣa and prakṛti, whose soul/puruṣa is limitless and unrestricted by its physical body. Samsāra or bondage arises when the puruṣa does not have the discriminate knowledge and so is misled as to its own identity, confusing itself with the Ego/ahamkāra, which is actually an attribute of prakṛti. The spirit is liberated when the discriminate knowledge of the difference between conscious puruṣa and unconscious prakṛti is realized by the puruṣa.

The unconscious primordial materiality, prakṛti, contains 23 components including intellect (buddhi,mahat), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas); the intellect, mind and ego are all seen as forms of unconscious matter. Thought processes and mental events are conscious only to the extent they receive illumination from Purusha. In Samkhya, consciousness is compared to light which illuminates the material configurations or ‘shapes’ assumed by the mind. So intellect, after receiving cognitive structures form the mind and illumination from pure consciousness, creates thought structures that appear to be conscious. Ahamkara, the ego or the phenomenal self, appropriates all mental experiences to itself and thus, personalizes the objective activities of mind and intellect by assuming possession of them.But consciousness is itself independent of the thought structures it illuminates.

By including mind in the realm of matter, Samkhya avoids one of the most serious pitfalls of Cartesian dualism, the violation of physical conservation laws. Because mind is an evolute of matter, mental events are granted causal efficacy and are therefore able to initiate bodily motions.


The idea of evolution in Samkhya revolves around the interaction of prakṛti and Purusha. Prakṛti remains unmanifested as long as the three gunas are in equilibrium. This equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed when prakṛti comes into proximity with consciousness or Purusha. The disequilibrium of the gunas triggers an evolution that leads to the manifestation of the world from an unmanifested prakṛti. The metaphor of movement of iron in the proximity of a magnet is used to describe this process.

Some evolutes of prakṛti can cause further evolution and are labelled evolvents. For example, intellect while itself created out of prakṛti causes the evolution of ego-sense or ahamkara and is therefore an evolvent. While, other evolutes like the five elements do not cause further evolution. It is important to note that an evolvent is defined as a principle which behaves as the material cause for the evolution of another principle. So, in definition, while the five elements are the material cause of all living beings, they cannot be called evolvents because living beings are not separate from the five elements in essence.

The intellect is the first evolute of prakṛti and is called mahat or the great one. It causes the evolution of ego-sense or self-consciousness. Evolution from self-consciousness is affected by the dominance of gunas. So dominance of sattva causes the evolution of the five organs of perception, five organs of action and the mind. Dominance of tamas triggers the evolution of five subtle elements– sound, touch, sight, taste, smell from self-consciousness. These five subtle elements are themselves evolvents and cause the creation of the five gross elements space, air, fire, water and earth. Rajas is cause of action in the evolutes.  Purusha is pure consciousness absolute, eternal and subject to no change. It is neither a product of evolution, nor the cause of any evolute.

Evolution in Samkhya is thought to be purposeful. The two primary purposes of evolution of prakṛti are the enjoyment and the liberation of Purusha. The 23 evolutes of prakṛti are categorized as follows:


Liberation or moksa:

The Supreme Good is mokṣa which consists in the permanent impossibility of the incidence of pain… in the realisation of the Self as Self pure and simple.

—Samkhyakarika I.3

Samkhya school considers moksha as a natural quest of every soul. The Samkhyakarika states,

As the unconscious milk functions for the sake of nourishment of the calf, so the Prakriti functions for the sake of moksha of the spirit. — Samkhya karika, Verse 57

Samkhya considers ignorance (avidyā) is regarded as the root cause of suffering and bondage (Samsara). Samkhya states that the way out of this suffering is through knowledge (viveka). Mokṣa (liberation), states Samkhya school, results from knowing the difference between prakṛti (avyakta-vyakta) and puruṣa (jña).

Puruṣa, the eternal pure consciousness, due to ignorance, identifies itself with products of prakṛti such as intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahamkara). This results in endless transmigration and suffering. However, once the realization arises that puruṣa is distinct from prakṛti, is more than empirical ego, and that puruṣa is deepest conscious self within, the Self gains isolation (kaivalya) and freedom (moksha).

Other forms of Samkhya teach that Mokṣa is attained by one’s own development of the higher faculties of discrimination achieved by meditation and other yogic practices. Moksha is described by Samkhya scholars as a state of liberation, where Sattva guna predominates.


The Samkhya system is based on Sat-kārya-vāda or the theory of causation. According to Satkāryavāda, the effect is pre-existent in the cause. There is only an apparent or illusory change in the makeup of the cause and not a material one, when it becomes effect. Since, effects cannot come from nothing, the original cause or ground of everything is seen as prakṛti.

More specifically, Samkhya system follows the prakṛti-Parināma Vāda. Parināma denotes that the effect is a real transformation of the cause. The cause under consideration here is prakṛti or more precisely Moola-prakṛti (Primordial Matter). The Samkhya system is therefore an exponent of an evolutionary theory of matter beginning with primordial matter. In evolution, prakṛti is transformed and differentiated into multiplicity of objects. Evolution is followed by dissolution. In dissolution the physical existence, all the worldly objects mingle back into prakṛti, which now remains as the undifferentiated, primordial substance. This is how the cycles of evolution and dissolution follow each other. But this theory is very different from the modern theories of science in the sense that prakṛti evolves for each Jeeva separately, giving individual bodies and minds to each and after liberation these elements of prakṛti merges into the Moola prakṛti. Another uniqueness of Sāmkhya is that not only physical entities but even mind, ego and intelligence are regarded as forms of Unconsciousness, quite distinct from pure consciousness.

Samkhya theorizes that prakṛti is the source of the perceived world of becoming. It is pure potentiality that evolves itself successively into twenty four tattvas or principles. The evolution itself is possible because prakṛti is always in a state of tension among its constituent strands or gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. In a state of equilibrium of three gunas, when the three together are one, “unmanifest” prakṛti which is unknowable. A guna is an entity that can change, either increase or decrease, therefore, pure consciousness is called nirguna or without any modification.

The evolution obeys causality relationships, with primal Nature itself being the material cause of all physical creation. The cause and effect theory of Samkhya is called Satkārya-vāda (theory of existent causes), and holds that nothing can really be created from or destroyed into nothingness – all evolution is simply the transformation of primal Nature from one form to another.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,824 other followers

%d bloggers like this: