Sankhya vs. Advaita Vedanta

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian ramakris at EROLS.COM
Sun Feb 14 08:36:15 CST 1999

>I was reading about Samkhya a couple of days ago and from a cursory
>reading (have to admit it was an online source with a bare
>I found a lot of similarities between the Maya as Sri Sankara has
>described the world and Prakriti, as Sage Kapila has described it.
>same goes for Purusha vs. Brahma. Pardon my ignorance but can anyone
>describe to me the basic differences ?

A brief, simplistic version of the sA.nkhya theory of evolution is
useful. As per the sA.nkhya view, prakriti which is _completely_
distinct from purushhA and _completely_ real transforms into the
world. First the prakriti "transforms" or "expands" into mahat and
then aha.nkAra. The tamasik aha.nkAra produces the tanmAtra-s and the
sAtvik aha.nkAra produces the indriya-s. The rajasik aspect help the
other two to "move" and create the tanmAtra-s and indriya-s. Counted
all together these give the 25 tattvas. Now note that this prakriti is
completely real and sA.nkhya says there are multiple purushhas all of
whom are completely real.

For sha.nkara mAyA is not something real. When sha.nkara says that the
world is a creation of mAyA, he does not mean that there is some
"entity" called mAyA which is distinct from brahman and becomes the
world. mAyA is an illusion. It is not real. The world is a
superimposition on the substratum of brahman.

So in fact, these two philosophies are very different indeed. It is
interesting to note the revered sha.nkara's comments about sA.nkhya in
his brahma sUtra commentary 1.4.3. He says that a primary cause called
pradhAna (another name for prakriti) can be accepted if it is held as
subject to Ishvara and not an INDEPENDENT cause.

yadi vayam svatantrAM kA.chitprAgavasthAM jagataH
kAraNatvenAbhy-upagachchhema etc. Please look up a printed text and
Swami Gambhiranada's translation is very good. Also look up the
commentary to 1.2.22.

So in fact, these two philosophies are very different indeed. There is
certainly some similarity, but the big difference between advaita and
any other vedic school of thought is that the world is regarded as
completely real by the latter, while the former disagrees. This is
where the br^ihadAraNyaka is very pertinent. It says that
(paraphrased) that "when one has known the Atman what else could one
see and through what". The statement "through what" is especially
important, for that denies the reality of the world.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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