Samkhya Yoga: The Path to Liberation
India is renowned for its ancient schools of philosophy such as Vedanta (or Uttara Mimamsa) and Yoga. But these are only two of the six rich and powerful philosophies which have guided Indians since many millennia. The other philosophies include Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisesika and Purva Mimamsa (or Mimamsa), of which Samkhya is the oldest of all six. Samkhya is said to have originated from Rishi Kapila, an ancient sage who taught this philosophy to his sole disciple Asuri, who in turn passed it on to Pancasikha. Sage Pancasikha documented the philosophy in a treatise known as Sastitantra, from which most knowledge of Samkha Yoga emanates.
The underlying principle of Samkha Yoga is liberation, the ultimate goal of every being. Moksha or liberation has long been a topic of discussion in Indian religions and philosophies, including Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Like other scholars and philosophers around the world, ancient Indians too were constantly engaged in the search for answers to this complex question. Many of these wise men came up with some eye-opening and profound philosophies which are still being discovered by the rest of the world.
Samkhya, which literally numbers or understanding, revolves around understanding the path to find liberation. Unlike the practical forms of yoga which include asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques), Samkhya yoga is a theoretical system which encompasses the doctrine of liberation and ways to achieve it. It is the basis of yoga and when adopted along with yoga, it can help a person attain enlightenment and liberation quicker. Its philosophy is written down in sixteen sutras or aphorisms, which are as follows:
(1) An expression of Yoga is to be made.
(2) Yoga is the suppression of the transformation of the thinking principle.
(3) The seer abides in himself.
(4) Otherwise he becomes assimilated with transformations.
(5) The transformations are fivefold, and either painful or not painful.
(6) They are known as right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy, sleep and memory.
(7) Right knowledge is direct cognition, or interference or testimony.
(8) Wrong knowledge is false conception of a thing whose real form does not answer to it in reality.
(9) Fancy is the notion called into being having nothing to answer to it in reality.
(10) That transformation which has nothingness for its basis is sleep.
(11) Memory is not allowing that which is known to escape.
(12) Suppression of memory is secured by application and non-attachment.
(13) Application is the effort toward the stithi (state) in which the mind is at a standstill.
(14) This becomes a position of firmness, being practiced for a long time without intermission and with perfect devotion.
(15) The consciousness of having mastered every desire, so that one does not thirst for objects perceptible or scriptural, is non-attachment.
(16) That is highest, wherein from being the purusa (soul), there is entire cessation of any desire for the gunas (things of sense).
Rishi Kapila’s philosophy became so important and famous that he was even mentioned by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, as follows, “Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila.” Besides the Bhagavad Gita, Rishi Kapila and Samkhya yoga also find mention in other ancient Indian texts such as the Srimad Bhagavatam and the Bhagavata Purana. Although this school of philosophy may not be as popular today as Vedanta and Yoga, Samkhya Yoga is still followed by a handful of Indians as well as non-Indians to aid their spiritual journey and discovery of the Ultimate Being.