Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Psychology in Sankhya’ of the research on the Sankhya [Samkhya] school of Indian philosophy with special reference to the contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra. The study includes concepts such as Epistemology (validity and worth of knowledge), Ontology (theory of being or reality), Psychology (science of behavior and mind), Phenomenology (the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness) and Ethics (the removal of errors), all forming an essential part of Samkhya philosophy.

Chapter 4.1a - Psychology in Sāṅkhya

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind, embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought. Not only the ontological acumen, but also the psychology and physiology of Sāṅkhya System also aptly deserve an in-depth study. The Sāṅkhya System believes that Prakṛti is the state of equilibrium of the three guṇas which originally remain in a form of disintegration and disunion bringing no categories into existence. These equilibrated forms were in existence before the creation of the present world, because that was the state of dissolution on deep sleep and the consequent suspension of all creative activities.[1]

According to the Sāṅkhya, the process of evolution comes to an end with the emergence of the gross elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. But that does not mean that, the fully manifested world is constituted by these five elements. Pariṇāma means the gradual development of the variety of categories from Prakṛti and this is a course from the real to reality and is neither arbitrary nor irregular. It is governed by an immanent idea that brings about the emergence of various orders of existence from Prakṛti to mahābhūtas. The Sāṅkhya holds that there are twenty-three principles or tattvas proceeding from the Mūlaprakṛti.

Prakṛti is the first cause. It precedes creation. All the effects of the universe are based and depended upon it. It is the first element of the universe and is therefore called ‘pradhāna’.[2] The word ‘Pradhāna’ which means the first, or the chief or the primal. It denotes the root cause, the unmanifest matter from which the manifest matter is generated. It is called by other names also as the ‘Mūlaprakṛti’ and also as mere ‘Prakṛti’.[3] In the series of causes and transformation a stage is reached when the cause is not the transformation of anything else as its own cause. This cause, which is not the transformation of another cause, is called the root cause of this world. In this system, it is called the ‘Mūlaprakṛti’.

Footnotes and references:


sa ca kāryakāraṇānanyatvābhyupagamātpratyāsanno vedāntavādasya| devalaprabhṛtibhiścaściddharmasūtrakāraiḥ svagrantheṣvāśritaḥ, tena tatpratiṣedhe yantro'tīvakṛto nāṇvādikāraṇavādapratiṣedhe|
Brahmasūtraśāṅkarabhāṣya, I.4.28


Śantiparva, 316. 2


John Davis: Hindu philosophy, preface.

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