A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of the germs of samkhya in the upanishads: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “the kapila and the patanjala samkhya (yoga)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - The Germs of Sāṃkhya in the Upaniṣads

It is indeed true that in the Upaniṣads there is a large number of texts that describe the ultimate reality as the Brahman, the infinite, knowledge, bliss, and speak of all else as mere changing forms and names. The word Brahman originally meant in the earliest Vedic literature, mantra , duly performed sacrifice, and also the power of sacrifice which could bring about the desired result[1]. In many passages of the Upaniṣads this Brahman appears as the universal and supreme principle from which all others derived their powers. Such a Brahman is sought for in many passages for personal gain or welfare. But through a gradual process of development the conception of Brahman reached a superior level in which the reality and truth of the world are tacitly ignored, and the One, the infinite, knowledge, the real is regarded as the only Truth. This type of thought gradually developed into the monistic Vedānta as explained by Śaṅkara. But there was another line of thought which was developing alongside of it, which regarded the world as having a reality and as being made up of water, fire, and earth.

There are also passages in Śvetā-śvatara and particularly in MaitrāyanI from which it appears that the Sāṃkhya line of thought had considerably developed, and many of its technical terms were already in use[2]. But the date of MaitrāyanI has not yet been definitely settled, and the details found there are also not such that we can form a distinct notion of the Sāṃkhya thought as it developed in the Upaniṣads. It is not improbable that at this stage of development it also gave some suggestions to Buddhism or Jainism, but the Sāṃkhya-Yoga philosophy as we now get it is a system in which are found all the results of Buddhism and Jainism in such a manner that it unites the doctrine of permanence of the Upaniṣads with the doctrine of momentariness of the Buddhists and the doctrine of relativism of the Jains.

Footnotes and references:


See Hillebrandt’s article, “Brahman” (E . R. E.).


Kaṭha in. 10, V. 7. Śveta. v. 7, 8, 12, IV. 5, 1. 3. This has been dealt with in detail in my Yoga Philosophy in relation to other Indian Systems of Thought , in the first chapter.