Sāṁkhya Karika with Vācaspati Miṣra Commentaries


Sāṁkhya Karika with Vācaspati Miṣra Commentaries


Sānkhya philosophy is considered the oldest ancient school of thought among all philosophical systems. Sānkhya philosophy maintains a prominent place in all the Śastras since it is either controverted or supported by every other philosophical system. Sānkhya means knowledge of Self through right discrimination. Every being without exception in this world is seeking for happiness. And according to Sānkhya philosophy the path to happiness lies in total isolation of Puruṣa, the spiritual principle, the viewer from Prakṛti (Nature), which causes threefold suffering. They state that worldly pleasures are like honey mixed with poison, a drop of which can end all happiness. The true happiness can be reached by right cognition of the Manifest, Unmanifest and the Viewer. 

The word Sānkhya is derived from pronunciation of a Sanskrit word ‘Sāṁkhya’ meaning “to count” or “think”. Thinking here may refer to reflection about some basic principles of the knowledge of Puruṣa and counting refers to the twenty-four Principles that summarize the nature of Prakṛti. 

References to Sānkhya Sūtras can be found even in Rig Vēda, where Tamas is described and is shown how elements of the elemental world later dissolve in its cause, very similarly to what is taught by Sānkhya philosophy. 

Furthermore, the principles of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas of the Sānkhya philosophy are explained in Chāndogya Upaniṣad, and Sānkhya categories are clearly mentioned in Kaṭha Upaniṣad (3.10,11). Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad is where words “Sāṁkhya” and “Kapila” are mentioned for the first time (6.13). Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad is also were such distinct Sānkhya notions as Vyakta, Avyakta and Jña are mentioned. And also words Pradhāna, Prakṛti and Guṇa can be found there ((1st Chapter 10, 4th Chapter 10, 1st Chapter 13). The mention of such words as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas by name, the exposition of five subtle elements, the enunciation of the five gross elements, the reference to the Sānkhya categorises of Kṣetrajña, Sañkalpa, Adhyavasāya, Abhimāna and Liṅga clearly show that these Upaniṣads were formed after the formulation of the Sānkhya system of thought. In the Mahābhārata and Puranas we find the Sānkhya Philosophy fully explained.

Mahābhārata states that there are no other knowledge as that of Sānkhya and no power other like Yoga. There should be no doubt that Sānkhya is the highest knowledge. (Śāntiparva 316-2 ). 

On account of Sānkhya Śaṅkarācārya says: “This doctrine, moreover, stands somewhat near to the Vedanta doctrine since like the latter, it admits the non-difference of cause and effect and it, moreover, has been accepted by some of the authors of the Dharma sutras, such as Devala and so on. For all these reasons we have taken special trouble to refute the Pradhāna doctrine”.

As a founder of Sānkhya philosophy the legend names an ancient sage Kapila. There are no evident historical data about what time exactly Kapila has been living, but all historical sources refer to his name. 

According to tradition, Kapila had a disciple whose name was Āsuri. Āsuri’s name was Pañca Śikhā. Later we find a name Vindhyāvāsa in the lineage. As a teacher of Sānkhya we find also name of Varṣagaṇya and his disciple Jaigīṣavya. Next to the Āsuri we find also Voḍhu and at later times names Devala and Sanaka appear. And in contemporary age we find Īśvara Kṛṣṇa as the author of Sāṁkhya Karika. It is believed he was older as Vasubandhu and was living around first-second century AD. 

At present there are only three standard Sānkhya treatises available: Sānkhya Sūtra, Tattva Samāsa and Sāṁkhya Karika of Īśvara Kṛṣṇa. Sānkhya Karika have 72 Karikas or short, concise philosophical aphorisms in it. You can read them following the links below together with ample commentaries of one of the most authoritative ancient philosophers and commentators - Vācaspati Miṣra.(900–980 CE)

The fundaments of Sānkhya philosophy form the four-fold division of categories of everything existing based on their respective causal and productive efficiency. They are:

1. Productive 2. Productive and Produced.  3. Produced and  4. Neither Productive nor Produced.

One of the fundamental principles is called Prakṛti or Nature, which is purely productive. Productive and Produced are principles like Buddhi (intellect), etc. The purely non-productive but Produced principles are the eleven sense organs and five material substances. The Puruṣa is neither productive nor produced and it is without any attributes. All perceivable reality is created by three Guṇas – forces of Sattva, Tamas and Rajas. But the spiritual principle - Puruṣa is by its nature free from their influence.

Sāṁkhya Karikas with commentaries of Vācaspati Miṣra called Sānkhya Tattva Kaumudī or “the Moonlight of Sānkhya” you can read at the links below.

KARIKAS 1-4 5-7 8-11 12-16 17-23
KARIKAS 24-34 35-46 47-55 56-66 67-72