Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘Vedic schools (2): The Samkhya-Yoga’ of the study on the concept of Anumana (inference) in the Vedic schools of Indian Philosophy. Anumana usually represents the most authentic means of valid knowledge. This paper discusses the traditional philosophical systems such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

Vedic schools (2): The Sāṃkhya-Yoga

The Sāṃkhya system is undoubtedly one of oldest systems of Indian philosophy. Tradition unanimously ascribes the authorship of the Sāṃkhya system to the sage Kapila.[1] Therefore, the Sāṃkhya system is also known as Kapila Darśana. Among all the philosophical systems, the Sāṃkhya has been considered to be most important. According to Śāṃkarabhāṣya, the discriminative knowledge of Paramārtha is Sāṃkhya.[2] In the Sāṃkhya tradition, Kapila is held to be the first among the wise and he appears at the beginning of each cycle of creation.[3] According to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Kapila is the fifth incarnation of Vishnu.[4] The Mahābhārata also mentions him to be the profounder of Sāṃkhya thought.[5] From the above discussion it may be accepted that a historical individual by the name of Kapila was responsible for the Sāṃkhya tendency of thought.

It has been stated that Sāṃkhya is considered to be the most ancient the philosophies. Nobody would deny the fact that this occupies a prominent place in all the śāstras, since this is either supported or controverted by every philosophical system. In the Śāntiparvan of Mahābhārata, there is a reference given by Bhiṣma to Yudhiṣṭhira that Sāṃkhya is the highest and most profound of all knowledge–“There is no knowledge like that of Sāṃkhya, no power like that of Yoga. You should have no doubt as to Sāṃkhya being the highest knowledge”.[6]

The use of the word Sāṃkhya is found first in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad. [7] Though the word Sāṃkhya occurs for the first time in the Upaniṣad, yet Sāṃkhya reflections are found in the Ṛgveda, [8] and other Upaniṣads, viz., in the Praśna Upaniṣad, [9] in the Kaṭhopaniṣad, [10] in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad[11] and in the Smṛtis and Purāṇas.

The word Sāṃkhya is derived from Saṃkhyā, which is derived from the root khyā (jñāna) preceded by the prefix sam. In the early texts, Sāṃkhya is used in the sense of philosophical reflections and not numerical reckoning.[12] Generally, the word Saṃkhyā means number, i.e., counting. The Śāstra, where there is the counting of tattvas, is called Sāṃkhya. This is the common derivation of the word Sāṃkhya.[13] Again, Sāṃkhya is used in the sense of counting and thinking.[14] In the Mahābhārata, the term Sāṃkhya has been used in the sense of spiritual discipline.[15] In the Gītā, Sāṃkhya is used in the sense of jñāna. Again, it has been stated that there are persons who perceive the self in accordance with the Sāṃkhya-Yoga.[16] The double implication of the word has been set forth by Vijñānabhikṣu in his preface to Sāṃkhya Pravacanabhāṣya, by a quotation from the Mahābhārata. [17] Therefore, Sāṃkhya refers to the knowledge of self through right discrimination.[18] The word Sāṃkhya and Saṃkhyāna are two synonymous words formed with different suffixes having the same meaning, i.e., buddhi or viveka. In this way, the application of the word Saṃkhyāna is found in the Śrīmadbhagavadgītā [19] and in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. [20]

The earliest work of the Sāṃkhya system is the Sāṃkhyasūtra of Kapila. The Sāṃkhyasūtra is also known as Sāṃkhya Pravacanasūtra. Kapila wrote yet another work called Tattvasamāsa. Another important work on Sāṃkhya philosophy is the Ṣaṣṭitantra. The Ṣaṣṭitantra is known to us through references and quotations in Jayamaṅgalā. The sage Pañcaśikha was the author of the Ṣaṣṭitantra. This work has contained sixty parts and dealt with sixty topics. The work is also referred to in the Vyāsabhāṣya on Yogasūtra.[21]

The Sāṃkhyakārikā of Īśvarakṛṣṇa is the first available text on Sāṃkhya system. It indicates that Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s Sāṃkhyakārikā may be reasonably placed in the middle of the fourth century. This book was translated into the Chinese language by Paramārtha in sixteenth century A.D.

There are eight available commentaries on the Sāṃkhyakārikā from the early commentarial period, viz.,

  1. Suvarṇasaptati;
  2. Sāṃkhyavṛtti;
  3. Gauḍapāda Bhāṣya;
  4. Yuktidīpikā;
  5. Jayamaṅgalā;
  6. Māṭharavṛtti;
  7. Sāṃkhyatattvakaumudī;
  8. Sāṃkhyasaptativṛtti.

Another excellent exposition of the Sāṃkhya philosophy is the which the first three give an exposition of Sāṃkhya principles, the fourth some illustrative tales, the fifth refutation of rival views and the sixth a recapitulation.

The main commentaries on the Sāṃkhyasūtra are as follows:

  1. The Aniruddhavṛtti of Aniruddha;
  2. The Sāṃkhyavṛttisāra of Mahādeva Saraswatī;
  3. Sāṃkhya Pravacanabhāṣya of Vijñānabhikṣu
  4. The Laghu Sāṃkhyasūtravṛtti by Nagoji Bhaṭṭa;
  5. The Sāṃkhya-Taraṅga by Viśveśvaradatta Miśra.

Yet another latest work on Sāṃkhya system is the Sāṃkhyacandrikā which is based on the work of Vācaspati Miśra and written by Nārāyaṇatīrtha. The Yuktidīpikā is the earliest commentary on the Sāṃkhyakārikā of Īśvarakṛṣṇa. It expounds the system of Sāṃkhya in all possible details and justifies it with all possible arguments. This work tries its best to protect the theories of Sāṃkhya from the intellectual onslaught at the hand of the other systems. The author of this work is unknown.

Two latest works of philosophical value are Sāṃkhyatattvavivecana penned by Simānanda and Bhāvāganesá’s Sāṃkhyatattvayathārthadīpana. Again, Sāṃkhyakaumudī of Rāmakṛṣṇa and Rājavṛtti of Bhojarāja are two greatest works on Sāṃkhya system.

The names of twenty six Sāṃkhya teachers are as follows:

  1. Kapila;
  2. Āsuri;
  3. Pañcaśikha;
  4. Vindhyavyāsa or Vindhyavāsaka or Vindhyavāsin;
  5. Var̄ṣagaṇya;
  6. Jaigīṣavya;
  7. Voḍhu;
  8. Asitadevala or Devala;
  9. Sanaka;
  10. Sananda;
  11. Sanātana;
  12. Sanatkumāra;
  13. Bhṛgu;
  14. Śukra;
  15. Kāśyapa;
  16. Parāśara;
  17. Garga or Gārgya;
  18. Gautama;
  19. Nārada;
  20. Ārṣṭiseṇa;
  21. Agastya;
  22. Pulastya;
  23. Hārīta;
  24. Uluka;
  25. Vālmīki;
  26. Śuka.

Among the above mentioned twenty six teachers seven are recognized as the sons of Brahmā viz., Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana, Āsuri, Kapila, Voḍhu and Pañcaśikha.

It has been already stated that the term Sāṃkhya means ‘relating the number’ or enumeration. The Sāṃkhya, therefore, means the philosophy of number as it deals with the twenty five principles as follows:

  1. puruṣa (pure consciousness);
  2. mulaprakṛti (primordial matter);
  3. buddhi or mahat (intellect);
  4. ahaṃkāra (ego);
  5. manas (mind);—both a sense capacity and an action capacity;
  6. hearing (śrotra);
  7. touching (tvac);
  8. seeing (cakṣu);
  9. tasting (rasana) and the five sense capacities, i.e., (buddhindriyas)
  10. smelling (ghrāṇa);
  11. speaking (vāc);
  12. grasping (pāni);
  13. walking/motion (pāda); the five action capacities (karmendriyas)
  14. exerting (pāyu);
  15. procreating (upāstha);
  16. sound (śabda);
  17. contact (sparśa);
  18. form (rupa); (the five subtle elements); (tanmātras)
  19. taste (rasa);
  20. smell (gandha);
  21. space (ākāśa);
  22. wind/air (vāyu);
  23. fire (tejas); (the five gross elements); (mahābhūtas)
  24. water (ap);
  25. earth (pṛthivi);

The main or fundamental conception and ultimate assumption of this system lies in the dualism of Prakṛti and Puruṣa. Sāṃkhya admits these two ultimate realities which are independent of each other in respect of their existence. The Sāṃkhya lays down fourfold divisions of categories based on their causal and productive efficiency. They are–(i) productive (ii) productive and produced; (iii) produced and (iv) neither productive nor produced.[22] According to the Sāṃkhya system, Prakṛti is the ultimate cause of the world. It is the first principle of this Universe (Pradhāna). It is the unmanifested state of all effects (avyakta). The Prakṛti is uncaused, independent, absolute, one and eternal being beyond production and destruction. The three constituents of Prakṛti are–sattva, rajas and tamas; and it holds them together in a state of equilibrium.[23] These three are called guṇas. But they are not qualities or attributes in any sense. These three guṇas possess qualities like lightness, activity, heaviness etc. These are the elements of Prakṛti which alone is called substantive.

The Puruṣa is the other of the two co-presents, co-eternal realities of the Sāṃkhya system. It is the soul, the self, the spirit, the subject, the knower, and the consciousness is its essence. The Sāṃkhya view of Puruṣa is determined by the conception of Ātman in the Upaniṣads.[24] The Puruṣa is without beginning or end, any qualities, subtle and omnipresent, an eternal seer, beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond the sweep of intellect, beyond the range of time and space. According to the Sāṃkhya system, the Puruṣa is pure consciousness (sacetanam), inactive and devoid of the three guṇas. While the Prakṛti is the object, the Puruṣa is the subject. The evolution of the world has its starting point in the association (saṃyoga) of the Puruṣa with Prakṛti which disturbs the original equilibrium of the latter and moves it to action.

The Sāṃkhya system starts with the idea of the universality of suffering. It is of three kinds,[25] viz.; (i) ādhyātmika; i.e., intrinsic,(ii) ādhibhautika, i.e.,extrinsic,(iii) ādhidaivika; i.e.,devine. Of these, the intrinsic is twofold, viz., bodily and mental. Bodily pain is caused by the disorder of the wind, bill, and phlegm while mental pain is due to desire, wrath, avarice, affection, fear, envy, grief and the non-perception of particular objects. The extrinsic are caused by men, beasts, birds, reptiles and inanimate things; and the super humans are due to the evil influence of planets and the various elements. In the view of Sāṃkhya, liberation means complete cessation of all sufferings. The end of man is to get rid of these three kinds of sufferings. All the systems of Indian philosophy accept liberation as the summum bonum of human life. The Sāṃkhya system does not believe in the existence of God. In their words the existence of God cannot be proved. The Sāṃkhya system is called orthodox or āstika or Vedic as it believes in the authority of the Vedas. It shows that Prakṛti and Puruṣa are sufficient to explain this universe and therefore there is no reason for postulating a hypothesis of God.

The Yoga system of Indian philosophy has been founded by great sage Patañjali. It is closely allied to the Sāṃkhya system. The special feature of this system consists in the comprehensive treatment of the art of yoga. The word Yoga occurs in the Ṛgveda in various senses such as yoking and harnessing, achieving the unachieved, connection and the like. Literally, the word Yoga means spiritual union of the individual soul with supreme one. In the opinion of Patañjali, Yoga does not mean union, but cessation of mental modification.

In its earliest extant form, yogic thought found in the Yogasūtra of Patañjali is believed to have been written in the second century B.C. On this work, Vyāsa wrote a commentary which is called Yogabhāṣya or Vyāsabhāṣya. The Yogasūtra is divided into four sections; viz., (a) samādhipāda; (b) sādhanapāda; (c) vibhūtipāda; (d) kaivalyapāda.

Vācaspati Miśra wrote a valuable commentary on Vyāsabhāṣya which is called Tattvavaiśāradī. Again, Vijañānabhikṣu wrote a commentary on Yogabhāṣya, called Yogavārttika. Yogasārasaṃgraha is another useful manual of the Yoga philosophy.

Yoga consists in the cessation of all mental functions (cittavṛttinirodha).

There are five levels of mental functions called cittabhūmi. These are–

  1. kṣipta;
  2. muḍha;
  3. vikṣipta;
  4. ekāgra and
  5. niruddha.

There are two kinds of Yoga or samādhi; viz.; samprajñāta and asamprajñāta. Yoga is the practical path that can lead to the realization of the theoretical ideals of Sāṃkhya philosophy. The Yoga system admits eight steps in its practices which are known as astāṅga-yoga.

These are–

  1. yama;
  2. niyama;
  3. āsana;
  4. prāṇāyāma;
  5. pratyāhāra;
  6. dhāraṇā;
  7. dhyāna and
  8. samādhi.

Both the Sāṃkhya and the Yoga systems maintain that liberation can be attained only through knowledge. According to the Yoga, the attainment of this knowledge requires the suppression of the physical and mental modifications and gradual control over body, senses, mind, intellect and ego so that the pure self may be realized. The Yoga system admits all the three sources of valid knowledge accepted by the Sāṃkhya system. God has also been added in the Yoga system. In their essential metaphysical foundation, both Yoga and Sāṃkhya are the same. It may be rightly said that the Yoga system is the natural complement of practical discipline to achieve the Sāṃkhya idea of kaivalya.

Footnotes and references:


ṛṣiṃ prasutaṃ kapilam yastamagre, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, V. 2


sāṃkhye paramārthavastuvivekenaviṣaye. Śāṃkara Bhāṣya


YSB, 1. 25


pañcamaḥ kapilo nāmo, Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 1. 3. 10


sāṃkhyasya vaktā kapilaḥ paramaṛśiḥ purātanaḥ. Mahābhārata, Mokṣadharma


nāsti saṃkhyāsamam jñānaṃ nāsti yoga samaṃ balam atra baḥ saṃśaya mā bhut jñānam sāṃkhyam param mataṃ. Śāntiparva, 316. 2


tatkāraṇaṃ sāṃkhya yogādhigamyam. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, vi. 13


Ṛgveda, X. 82. 6; X. 129. 3


PU, vi. 2


Kaṭhopaniṣad, 1. 3.(10-13)


Chāndogya Upaniṣad, vi. 2


doṣānāṃ ca guṇānāṃ ca pramāṇam pravibhāgataḥ /
kaṃcid artham abhipretya sa sāṃkheti upadhāryatām // Mahābhārata, xii. 11934


sāṃkhyam saṃkhyātmakatvañca kapilādibhirucyate. Matsya Purāṇa, 3. 26


carcā saṃkhyā vicāraṇā. Amarakoṣa, I.V. 3


drono’pi śāstranyutsṛjya paramam sāṃkhyamāsthitaḥ. Mahābhārata, VII


jñānayogena sāṃkhyānām. Śrīmadbhagavadgītā, III. 3


sāṃkhyam prakurvate caiva prakṛtim ca pracakṣate tattvāni ca caturviṃśattvena sāṃkhyam prakīrtitam. Mahābhārata, 306. 42/43


saṃkhyā samyak vivekena ātmakathanam. Sāṃkhya Pravacanabhāṣya, p. 8


procyante guṇasaṃkhyāne. SBG, xviii. 19


namo bhagavate mahāpuruṣāya sarvaguṇa saṃkhyānaya. Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 5. 17. 17


atraiva ṣaṣṭitantraśāstrasyānusiṣṭi. Yoga Bhāṣya, iv. 13


saṃkṣepato hi śāstrārthasya catasro vidhaḥ kaścidarthaḥ prakṛtireva, kaścidartho vikṛtireva, kaścidprakṛtivikṛtiḥ kaścidanubhayarūpaḥ. Sāṃkhyatattvakaumudī, 3


sattvarajastamasām sāmyāvasthā prakṛtiḥ. Sāṃkhyasūtra, 1. 61


Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, iv. 3. 16, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, vi. 11 and 19


duḥkhatrayābhighātāt jijñāsā tadapaghātake hetau dṛṣṭe sā’pārthā cet naikāntikānatyanto’bhāvāt. Sāṃkhyakārikā, k. 1

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