Chanting of the name/Book Details

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Feb 9 14:38:10 CST 2003

On Fri, 7 Feb 2003, Rolando Santos wrote:

> Namaste,
> I recently acquired this book and I was hoping if any member could give some
> general pointers on how the samkhya philosophy is consonant with Advaita or
> how it differs. My main stumbling block is that Yogacharya keeps terming
> "Self" as "Purusha." My understanding of "Purusha" is that it is the twelfth
> tattva (soul) and is covered up by the five tattvas of rAga, vidyA, kalA,
> niyati, kAla, and mAyA. Is this in line with Advaita?

This subject has been discussed on the list before, check the archives.
In summary there are several things to consider.

1.  Meaning of "Samkhya" and "Yoga" has changed over time.  three phases
can be distinguished:

a. The "presystematic" phase.  Samkhya literally means "enumeration" it
was a proto-scientific attempt to understand nature by determining its'
fundamental elements (tattvas)  Yoga literally means "union" it was the
term for all the experiments in raising consciousness by means of
meditative and ritual practices.  There are many references to Samkhya and
Yoga concepts in the Vedas and other shastras such as Bhagavadgita.  But
we needn't assume they refer to specific coherent philosophies but more
like generic "theory"  and "practice"

b. "Classical" Samkhya/Yoga.  The Buddha originally had a Samkhya teacher
but became dissatisfied and developed his "middle way"  Perhaps because of
pressure from the Buddhists or internal debates, Samkhya/Yoga bgan
developing more systematically and the foundational texts of these
two schools such as Yogasutras and Samkhyakarikas were written.
Samkhya concepts such as the number of tattvas were fixed (at 25) and
polemics were written against rivals.  Yoga closely follows Samkhya in
philosphical matters one big exception being the former was atheistic
while the latter admitted God (Ishvara) as the 26th tattva.

c. "Advaitization"  Shankaracharya devotes a lot of energy in the
Brahmasutrabhashya to refuting Samkhya/Yoga concepts and was so
successful, Samkhya/Yoga largely fell by the wayside.  It was rescued by
the brilliant ~11th century scholar Vachaspati Mishra who wrote
influential commentaries on Samkhya, Yoga, and Advaita Vedanta.  He
reinterpreted Samkhya/Yoga terms in an Advaita fashion e.g. equating
Purush ("soul") with Atma ("self") and since then Samkhya/Yoga has become
little more than a department of Advaita Vedanta.  So much so that
nowadays people talk of "Yogavedanta" not even aware that these were once
two seperate things.

So when you come across these terms you have to stop and consider the
context to understand exactly which usage is being intended.

Obviously stage a is too vague to compare with Advaita Vedanta and
comparing stage c would be pointless as they are the same thing.  So let
us look at the relationship between classical Samkhya/Yoga and Advaita

Both agree that:

1. The Vedas are the fundamental source of Dharma.
2. There is such a thing as a soul.
3. The soul is afflicted by misery as a result of being trapped in an
   endless cycle of rebirths

They differ in that:

1. Samkhya/Yoga is dualistic.  There are two essential entities Purusha
(the individual souls) and Prakrti or nature.  Purush and Prakrti are
eternally distinct.  Advaita Vedanta is of course monistic.  There is only
one ultimate entity -- Brahman which due to (maya) appears to be many
including individual selves, nature etc.

2.  For Samkhya/Yoga the nature of bondage is that Prakrti consists of
three qualities (gunas.)  When they are out of balance, evolution appears
to take place and the Purush becomes "stuck" like a fly in amber.  For the
Advaitin, illusion causes a misapprehension of the true facts of reality
leading to the notion of ego.  That "I" am a seperate individual distinct
from the other objects around me.

3.  Therefore the goal in Samkhya/Yoga is samadhi a state where the mind
is perfectly stable and the gunas are in balance thus freeing the Purush
from its' physical prison.  Samadhi can be attained by the 8 step
discipline of Yoga.  In Advaita vedanta the goal is jnana or knowledge
that oneness is the true nature of the self.  Meditation and samadhi can
be helpful to get jnana but they are not goals in themselves.  The problem
is that samadhi is not stable.  As the gunas have gotten out of balance
once, how do you know it won't happen again?

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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