Samkhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, IAST: sāṃkhya) is one of the six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy. It is most related to the Yoga school of Hinduism, and it was influential on other schools of Indian philosophy. It forms the theoretical foundation of Yoga. Samkhya is an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepts three of six pramanas ('proofs') as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These include pratyakṣa ('perception'), anumāṇa ('inference') and śabda (āptavacana, meaning, 'word/testimony of reliable sources'). Sometimes described as one of the rationalist schools of Indian philosophy, this ancient school's reliance on reason was exclusive but strong. It is traditionally viewed as a theistic philosophy as it accepts the authority of Vedas.
- This, says a Hindu historian, “is the most significant system of philosophy that India has produced.” Professor Garbe, who devoted a large part of his life to the study of the Sankhya, consoled himself with the thought that “in Kapila’s doctrine, for the first time in the history of the world, the complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers, were exhibited.” It is the oldest of the six systems,69 and perhaps the oldest philosophical system of all. Of Kapila himself nothing is known, except that Hindu tradition, which has a schoolboy’s scorn for dates, credits him with founding the Sankhya philosophy in the sixth century B.C.
- At its outset this seems to be a purely materialistic system: the world of mind and self as well as of body and matter appears entirely as an evolution by natural means, a unity and continuity of elements in perpetual development and decay from the lowest to the highest and back again. There is a premonition of Lamarck in Kapila’s thought... Every state of evolution contains in itself, as Herbert Spencer was to say some time later, a tendency to lapse into dissolution as its fated counterpart and end.
- Kapila, like Laplace, saw no need of calling in a deity to explain creation or evolution... Kapila contents himself with writing (precisely as if he were Immanuel Kant) that a personal creator can never be demonstrated by human reason.
- It is instructive to see with what calmness the Hindu thinkers discuss these questions, seldom resorting to persecution or abuse, and keeping the debate upon a plane reached in our time only by the controversies of the maturest scientists.
- Again, after listing twenty-four Tattwas which belong, in his system, under physical evolution, he upsets all his incipient materialism by introducing, as the last Reality, the strangest and perhaps the most important of them all—Purusha, “Person” or Soul. It is not, like twenty-three other Tattwas, produced by Prakriti or physical force; it is an independent psychical principle, omnipresent and everlasting, incapable of acting by itself, but indispensable to every action. For Prakriti never develops, the Gunas never act, except through the inspiration of Purusha; the physical is animated, vitalized and stimulated to evolve by the psychical principle everywhere.78 Here Kapila speaks like Aristotle...
- Its earliest extant literature, the Sankhya-karika of the commentator Ishvara Krishna, dates back only to the fifth century A.D., and the Sankhya-sutras once attributed to Kapila are not older than our fifteenth century; but the origins of the system apparendy antedate Buddhism itself. The Buddhist texts and the Mahabharata70a repeatedly refer to it, and Winternitz finds its influence in Pythagoras.