Written by guy   
Samkhya is important because the structure of reality which it describes, is used, with some slight variations by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. (in fact the categories of Samkhya are used almost universally in Hindu thought).

A science of consciousness – and this is what yoga is – must have clearly defined and refined terms for the various constituent parts of consciousness. This is where Samkhya comes in use. Samkhya enumerates and defines these parts.

Samkhya is concerned with the enumeration and categorization of all constituent parts of human experience and gaining the Self through a process of discrimination.

According to Samkhya the world is divided into two separate entities called:

Purusha and Prakriti, or Spirit and Matter, Essence and Substance.

Purusha is our true identity, it is our essence. Prakriti is our substance: our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, actions and physical body.

Purusha means “person” or “soul” and Prakriti means “nature” or “material substance”

Qualities of Purusha

Purusha’s nature is one of pure awareness.
Purusha does not think, desire or act – Purusha is just a witness
Purusha never dies and never changes, Purusha is eternal
Purusha is unaffected by any experience
Purusha is not delimited by physical space
Purusha does not move or change, it is utterly still and eternal

Qualities of Prakriti (matter)

Prakriti by itself is completely unconscious and inert
But when Purusha comes into contact with Prakriti – Prakriti becomes animated
The movements of Prakriti are governed by three principles called the Gunas

Gunas – strands – energy quanta

Prakriti undergoes continuous change or modification. This transformation is governed by three strands of energy called the Gunas. The three Gunas are:

Tamas – inertia, dullness, ignorance, darkness, dejection, restriction
Rajas – movement, passion, confusion, joylessness, disturbance, stimulation
Sattva – purity, light, intelligence, joy, illumination

Differentiation of Prakriti (matter)

As Purusha influences Prakriti, Prakriti starts to differentiate.
In its independent state, Prakriti is subtle and un-manifested, but as it starts to differentiate it gradually becomes more and more materialized.

Budhi – intelligence

The first condensation of Prakriti is called Mahat (the great one) or Buddhi because of its luminosity or intuitive faculty. However it is only a refined form of energy matter, not conscious in itself. It depends on Purusha for its “light”.

“This faculty (Buddhi) has two faces: an outward face, looking towards the conscious mind and senses, that may be called intelligence; and an inward face, looking toward the spiritual self, that may be called ‘the faculty of intuition’.” *

“The buddhi’s faculty of discrimination serves as the channel between the spiritual self and the rest of the personality. Buddhi partakes of the finest purest-possible aspect of nature (prakriti) known as sattva, whose attribute is illumination. The light of the self by itself is immutable, and the self is untouched by any qualities of matter. However, the face of the self reflects in the buddhi like a ray of sun into a crystal mirror, from which it is deflected onto, or passes through to other aspects of the mind, and from there to the brain, the senses and the rest of the personality, while the spiritual self, the soul remains aloof, immutable.” **

Ahamkara – self awareness - Ego

The second condensation of matter which crystallizes out of Buddhi is called Ahamkara (literally “I maker”). Here arises distinction between self and other, subject and object, internal and external. Ahamkara has two faces – one is oriented towards the external world, the other towards Buddhi.

“Purusha is the power of the seer; buddhi is the power of seeing. The taking on of a single nature, as it were, by these two is called the affliction of egoism (asmita).” ***

Out of ahamkara condenses Manas – the sensory mind and Indriya – five sense organs and five organs of action.

Manas – sensory mind - the eleventh sense

Manas is connected to the sense organs which draw the attention to the external world

Indriyas (5) – sense organs

Sense of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.

Karmindriyas (5) – organs of action

Speech, grasping, locomotion, reproduction and excretion

Also from Ahamkara are produced five subtle elements: Tanmatras


Five subtle elements: sound, form (color), touch (substance), smell and taste


From the five subtle elements are derived five gross elements: earth, air, water,
fire and ether

In Samkhya philosophy, liberation is achieved through discrimination between the elements of Prakriti and the eternal unmoving serene quality of Purusha.

In Yoga, although discrimination plays an important role, the main emphasis is placed on a practice which transforms the individual. Knowledge is not something abstract and theoretical, but something real and practical.

* U. Arya, YS of Patanjali p81
** U Arya YS of Patanjali p81
*** YSB Vyasa

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