Sankhya vs. Advaita Vedanta

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Feb 15 18:20:04 CST 1999

On Sun, 14 Feb 1999, Vivekananda Centre wrote:

> (1) Samkhya talks of two main constituents of the universe. Akash and Prana
> Akash is explained as all penetrating existance - this is same as the Asti
> of Vedanta

Yes but Purush in Samkhya is also Asti.  Perhaps there are some variants
of Vedanta which can accept two Astis.  Advaita Vedanta cannot for reasons
which should be obvious.

> (2) Then Samkhya says there is disturbance in existance - this is called
> prana.
> The only thing that can disturb existance can be - variations in existance.
> This is called prana.

Samkhya does not think there is a thing that disturbs existence.  It says
existence itself has the quality of change.  Advaita Vedanta on the other
hand says that it is Avidya which "causes" Maya.  Unlike Prakriti, neither
Avidya or Maya are unreal.

>  The more contemporary definition of word maya is not
> illusion but -

It never was illusion except in the misinterpretations of witless

>  'the  world as it is'.

Rather the world as it appears to be.

> The universe that we experience cannot
> come from mere existance but a variation in existance itself. (this is
> called prana - energy - matter by modern science).

The Sanskrit word prana means breath or vital force. It is a huge leap
from there to energy or matter.

> Hence words maya and prana are interchangeable. The only difference between
> Samkhya and Advaita is in its conclusions. Let us look at these.
> Advaita Vedanta is saying - variation in existance - how do you define
> that - it defies description - there can only be existance - the variation
> you see is a mixture of existance and non-existance (but non existance is
> non existant anyway so there can only be unity - monism).  This is mental
> gymnastics.  It is fine.  Most of analytic work had already been done by
> Kapila. How you define the ultimate can be interpreted in many ways - you
> are now reaching the edge of ability to grasp the ultimate.
> Shankara himself will say it is beyond words and thoughts  - so this final
> conclusion of Kapila not not that serious a blow.

But Shankaracharya will also say even if the ultimate is (ultimately :-)
beyond words and thoughts it can only be approached through words and
thoughts.  So far in your presentation Samkhya seems only to be offering
vague words based on unfounded thoughts.  It is right to question that.

> The main thing that comes out through this disucssion is that the love of
> spirituality is lost for the love of dogmas

What comes out for me is that spirituality that is not accompanied by
viveka is vacuous.

>  (I only accept Shankara and no
> contemporary approach - no sincere approach to spirituality is any good - as
> it disturbs the dogmas I hold more dear than the love of the subject)

You have never met Maharshi Kapila or for that manner Vivekananda.  Yet
you seem to readily accept someone elses word that they did actually teach
what you think they taught. You are no less dogmatic than I am.  You just
have different dogmas.

> Do not underestimate the contribution of Kapila to this evolution of
> spiritual thinking of ancient India.

Certainly He made a contribution.  Later on most of that contribution was
rejected.  Today there are many Vedantins of various outlooks.  There are
next to no adherents of Samkhya.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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