Samkhya is one of the oldest systems of Indian Philosophy. It is the unique part of orthodox Indian Philosophy. All branches of ancient literature like Shrutis, Smritis, and Puranas reflect the influence of Samkhya Philosophy. This system is accepted as the main opponent of Vedanta Philosophy. Samkhya is the philosophy of numbers because it deals with 25 elements of nature. It contains the dualistic theory of Purusha and Prakriti & further maintains the plurality of Purusha, and is silent on God. It is a pluralistic spiritualism and an atheistic realism with the dualistic concept.

Founders & Commentators

Kapila was considered as the founder of this system. Kapila, Asuri, and Panchashikha were the earlier acharyas of this system. Kapila certainly flourished before Buddha and he must have composed Samkhya Sutra, which was unfortunately lost long ago. Samkhya Parvachnasutra attributed to Kaplia is assumed to have a later origin. Ishwarkrishhna’s Samkhyakarika seems to be the earliest available and the most popular work of this system.

Other works of smakhya system are- 

Gaudapada’s SamkhyKarikabhashya

Vachaspati Mishra’s SamkhyTattva-kaumudi

Vijnabikshu’s Samkhyapravachana Bhasya

Theory Of Causation – Satkaryavada

The samkhya theory of causation is called ‘Parinaamvada’, because it believes in ‘satkaryavada’ that the effects is not new creation, it pre-exists in its material cause. The effect is only an explicit manifestation of that which was implicitly contained in its cause. For example – Butter is produced from Milk because it was already exists in the Milk, so it is not a new creation. 

Acc to  samkhya theory the effect is real transformation of its cause and hence called ParinamVada. The view of Samkhya Yoga is called PrakritiParinam Vada, that means all the material effects are the modifications of Prakriti. They pre-exist in eternal blossom of the Prakriti and simply come out of it at the time of creation and return to it at the time of dissolution. So there is neither new production , not utter destruction. 


The system of Samkhya accepts Prakriti as the root cause of the world of objects. It is the only potentiality of nature,’the receptacle and nurse of all generations’. It is called by many names like due to its different features like,

As the uncaused root, called Prakriti

As the first principle of universe, it is called Pradhana

As the unmenifested state of all effects, it is called Avyakta

As the only subtle and imperceptible thing which is only inferred from its products, it is called Anumana

As the unintelligent and unconscious principle, it is called Jada

As the ever active unlimited power, it is called Shakti.

The original prakriti (primeval stuff) is the primary matrix out of which all differentiations arose and within which they all were contained in an undistinguished manner. Original Matter is uncaused, eternal, all-pervading, one, independent, self-complete, and has no distinguishable parts; the things that emerge out of this primitive matrix are, on the other hand, caused, non eternal, limited, many, dependent, wholes composed of parts, and manifested. But Matter, whether in its original unmanifested state or in its manifested forms, is composed of — three gunas.

The order in which Matter evolves is laid down as follows: prakritimahat or buddhi (intelligence) → ahamkara (ego-sense) → manas (mind) → five tanmatras (the sense data: colour, sound, smell, touch, and taste) → five sense organs → five organs of action (tongue, hands, feet, organs of evacuation and of reproduction) → five gross elements (ether, air, light, water, and earth). This emanation schema may be understood either as an account of cosmic evolution or as a logical–transcendental analysis of the various factors involved in experience or as an analysis of the concrete human personality. 

Evolution is the play of these 24 principles which together with Purusha which is outside the evolution, makes 25 elements of Samkhya System. Out of all 25 elements Purusha is neither the cause nor it comes under effect.

Mahat, Ahamkara and five subtle essence are both cause and effect, rest all comes under only effect.


According to Samkhya System, Purusha is the ultimate reality and is the only principle of pure consciousness. Purusha is the soul, the self, the spirit, the experiencer and the knower. The self is neither the original matter (prakriti) nor an evolute of it. Though matter is composed of the three gunas (qualities), the self is not; though matter, being nonintelligent, cannot discriminate, the self is discriminating; though matter is object (vishaya), the self is not; though matter is common, the self is an individual (asamanya); unlike matter, the self is not creative (aprasavadharmin). There are many such selves is proved on the grounds that different persons are born and die at different times, that they do not always act simultaneously, and that they show different qualities, aptitudes, and propensities. All selves are, however, passive witnesses (sakshin), essentially alone (kevala), neutral (madhyastha), and not agents (akarta). Samkhya believes in the plurality of Purusha. The selves are all essentially alike; only numerically are they different. Their essence is consciousness, bliss is regarded as a different form of consciousness and is the product of sattvaguna.


Evolution is teleological; everything works to serve the purpose of purusha, unconsciously. Just as non-intelligent trees grows, or iron filings are attracted towards a magnet, everything unconsciously tends to serve the purpose of Purusha.Though Purusha is inactive or indifferent and evoid of qualities, the virtuous and the generous Prakriti which is full of qualities and ceaselessly works through various means in a spirit of detachment for the realization of Purusha. The earthly life is full of 3 kinds of pain:

Adhyatmik Dukh (includes all mental and bodily sufferings)

Adhibhautika Dukha (includes natural causes)

Abdhidevik Dukha (includes supernatural causes like ghosts, planets etc.)

Wherever there are gunas, there is pain. Liberation means complete cessation of all sufferings, which is the highest end of life called Purushartha. The final and the absolute emancipation, the complete disembodied isolation automatically results after death. Samkhya liberation is the state of complete isolation, freedom from all pain, a return of Purusha to its pure nature consciousness.

Purusha is free and non-conscious, free from time and space, merit and demerit, bondage and liberation. There is no pleasure or happiness or bliss here. Pleasure is the result of sattva guna and liberation transcends all Gunas. Samkhya believes that bondage and liberation are all phenomenal. The bondage of the Purusha is a fiction. It is only the ego, the product of Prakriti, which is bound. And it is only the ego which is liberated. Purusha in its complete isolation is untouched by bindage and liberation. So, ultimately it is prakriti which is bound and prakriti which is liberated.

Further Reading

What is Yoga?

History of Yoga

Misconceptions about Yoga

Fundamentals Of Yoga

9 Principles Of Yoga

Yoga Basics

Panch Mahabhutas



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