Sankhya vs. Advaita Vedanta

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Feb 14 19:34:05 CST 1999

On Sun, 14 Feb 1999, Vivekananda Centre wrote:

> Namaskar
> Scholars (pandits) like to make a great deal of the possible differences
> between these two schools of philosophies. The only real difference is in
> the final conclusions both these philosophies draw.

And you call that a minor difference???

> Samkhya perhaps can be considered to be the first rational philosophy the
> world ever saw.

Highly debatable.  In fact you would be hard put to say it was the first
rational philosophy India ever produced.  Mimamsa (of which Vedanta is a
part) can make an equal claim to antiquity.

>  Other schools of philosophy - specially the Yoga and Vedanta
> philosophies have drawn a lot from the Samkhya of Kapila. They just made few
> final adjustments in the conclusions.

For Yoga, yes.  Essentially Yoga is just Samkhya with Ishvara as an extra
tattva.  Vedanta is different.  A thorough glance would I believe suggest
only a superficial debt to Samkhya and I suspect that is more due to their
common basis in Vedic and Puranic texts rather than any actual borrowing.

> The maya of Advaita and prakriti of Samkhya are interchangable.

Absolutely not.  See my reply to Ashish.

> Whenever I study Samkhya,  I get a thrill,  the findings of Samkhya are that
> exciting!

Perhaps if you read Advaita texts while sitting in a rollercoaster you
would get a similar thrill?

> Kapila - this ancient sage - after acquiring perhaps the highest knowlege
> known to mankind  - sat down and imparted this highest of philosophies to
> his mother!
> How poetic and sweet. Kapila was not bothered to rush out and impress the
> masses, he decided to share this first with his mother!!

As described in the Bhagavata Purana for instance.  Now this raises an
interesting point. What do we mean by Samkhya?  In it's earliest forms,
before it became a systemized form of philosophy, Samkhya merely meant an
an attitude to philosophy, "theory" (as opposed to Yoga or "practice")
rather than an actual set of doctrines.  This kind of Samkhya is found in
the Mahabharata and Puranas, Ayurvedic texts and even the Arthashastra. In
the same way Mimamsa is used in early texts to simply mean "exegesis" and
doesn't necessarily imply the full-blown teachings of a Shankaracharya or
Kumarila Bhatta.

Then there is the "classical" Samkhya of Ishvarakrishna's Samkhyakarikas
and the commentaries thereon.  This is the "rational philosophy" you are
talking about and the one Shankaracharya is criticizing.

Thirdly much later there was a movement to combine Samkhya with Vedanta.
Vijnanabhikshu is the most prominent name associated with this.  (Though
one of his stated goals was to correct the "errors" of Shankaracharya.)

All three of these can be called Samkhya, all of them invoke the name of
Maharshi Kapila (as do various types of Vedanta in some contexts) and all
of them are different.  So which one are you referring to?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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