[Advaita-l] Fwd: Difference Between Sankya and Advaita!

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun May 22 14:50:40 CDT 2011

On Sun, 15 May 2011, ShankaraBharadwaj Khandavalli wrote:

> Both sAnkhya and Sankara Advaita include jnAna mArga. Here are the most
> important differences
> - sAnkhya is pariNAma vAda and advaita is vivarta vAda
> - The multiplicity of phenomenal world is explained by sAnkhya in terms of
> multiplicity of Purusha. Advaita limits the multiplicity to phenomenal world

On Mon, 16 May 2011, Siddhartha Krishna wrote:

> Sankhya does not believe in an Ishvara (God), yet Vedanta does........

On Sun, 15 May 2011, Sunil Bhattacharjya wrote:

> Sankhya does not disbelieve in an Ishvara (God) either. Sankhya says
> that Ishvara is asiddha, ie. the existence of Ishvara cannot be proved.

which is as good as not believing in Ishvaras existence.  There is no 
place for a God-figure in the samkhya system.  Classical Yoga on the other 
hand is Samkhya + Ishvara.  But even the Ishvara of the Yoga Sutras is 
just a passive spectator of prakrti, a pale imitation of the Vedantic God.

As we have discussed on the list previously, a lot of the confusion has 
arisen because the meaning of "samkhya" and "yoga" has changed through the 

In the earliest stages of Indian culture samkhya and yoga basically meant 
"theory" and "practice."  samkhya (literally "enumeration") was the 
proto-scientific attempt to describe reality by listing and classifying 
its consituents.  This is the type of Samkhya we see in the Gita, 
Mokshadharma of Mahabharata, Ayurveda samhitas, Arthashastra, etc.  Yoga 
(literally "union") was the various practices developed to encounter the 
divine.  Thus we have jnanayoga, karmayoga etc.

Then came the stage of systemization.  Classical samkhya as described in 
saMkhyAkArikA, tattvakaumUdi etc.  This is but one variety of samkhya. 
The analogy I make is that USA is a democracy but it also has a political 
party called Democrats.  All Democrats are democrats but only some 
democrats are Democrats.  So classical samkhya ignores Ishvara.  Gita 
samkhya does not.  But they are still conceptually related.  Same for 
yoga.  We have the aShTA~ngayoga of yogasUtras but also other systems of 

The third stage is the "Vedantization" of samkhya/yoga.  The texts and 
some of the traditions of classical samkhya (such as the divinity of 
Kapila) are kept but reinterpreted.  So for instance Ishvara instead of 
being just the observer of triguNAtmaka prakR^iti becomes its creator.  It 
is this Vedantic version that we know today.

Not understanding the historical evolution of these terms leads to 
anachronism and misinterpretation.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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