Sankhya Darshan: a foundational premise of Yoga and Ayurveda

Sankhya Darshan

Steady in the Self, being freed from all material contamination, the yogi achieves the highest perfectional stage of happiness in touch with the Supreme Consciousness.

Spirit is called Purusha. When spirit takes form it is called prakriti. Every object as prakriti is an expression of purusha. Matter expressing Spirit. This world of Matter expressing Spirit is formed by the 5 elements. They are the building blocks of The Vedic Sciences. Their properties provide the archetypes that underpin all aspects of Vedic thinking.

In Sankhya (numbers) philosophy the origin of the cosmos is elaborated upon. It is the evolution of consciousness to matter. This philosophy is applied by Yogis in the understanding of consciousness. Samkhya philosophy brings us to the door of reality. Expounded by Kapila, this system of philosophy says that knowledge of an object will not be complete without the knowledge of its components.

First there was the absolute unmanifest state, avyakta. Within this there is the pure changeless unmanifested consciousness and witness of creation (formless and passive awareness), Purusha (Shiva or spirit). It is the transcendental state of being and existence or pure energy before creation of the cosmos. Also, within this avyakta and also the creative energy of Prakriti (shakti or nature).  Purusha is passive, this is important. Prakriti is action. It holds all the knowledge of the universe within it. It holds the three qualities of excitement (rajas), obscuring (tamas) and illumination (sattva) (Traigunya or the three attributes). Prakriti is the creative force of Purusha and is also maya (illusion).

The story goes, when Shakti turns and sees Shiva that the actual realization of consciousness or duality is created and the cosmos begins. Purusha remains the unchanged witness in all of the creation and maya that is from its energy of action principle of Prakriti. It is only for the sake of enjoyment and liberation that consciousness continues to manifest. Mahat is pure potentiality, the great principle that comes from this union of Purusha and Prakriti. Buddhi (ascertainment, will or intellect) evolves in Mahat. Now remember that the Traigunya or the three atributes of excitement (rajas), obscuring (tamas) and illumination (sattva) are within Prakiti, these act upon the Buddhi (intellect).

Ahamkara or “i former” or egoness evolves out of Mahat. Ahamkar is the ignorance and individualism that is formed. It is the self assertiveness. Atman or the soul or self, consciousness of Purusha, is then created from this. It is an individual distinction in the maya, only seen as self or individual because of the maya. This is the “we all are one”, non-dual idea but we can only see ourself, individual from everyone else because of ego, juxtapose. This is also where good and bad come into play as they are just all the same but seen only by the ego judged as good or bad. If you find a lucky penny while walking down the street, it was lost by another so would be an unlucky penny for them. This is only a way of creation and destruction, the ongoing process of creation as seen only from the ego.  It is just subjective. In reality there is no creation or destruction.

Okay, in review I am going to put this down quickly because i know it gets hairy, so hold on.

Avyakta, unmanifest state
Purusha, passive witness spirit
Prakriti, creative energy of Purusha or nature, action (oh, but still unmanifest)
Purusha and Prakriti unify
Purusha is changeless
Out of Prakriti, due to from the differentiations of the Traigunya (3 attribute or Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), evolves Mahat or the great potentiality which holds inside it the Buddhi (will and intellect)
From this evolves Ahamkara (the i-ness)

SIDEBAR: The internal instruments (trayasaya) or the Buddhi, Ahamkara and the Manas, their own characteristics are their functions. The modifications of the instruments is Prana or the five vital airs. Prana, Udana, Samana, Apana, and Vyana. (more to come on these in another blog)

Out of the Ahamkara comes 2 sets. Because of the vaikrta (goodness) part of Ahamkara abounding in Sattva (illumination) evolves the set of 11 sense organ. Because of bhutadi (dark) part of Ahamkara abounding in Tamas (obscuration) evolved the 5 Tanmatras or primary elements. Both these sets evolve because of Rajas (taijasa) or activity.


Buddhi and all reality has three aspects -vaikrtia, bhûtâdi and taijasa.

It is interesting that the ancient text says that these two sets (vaikrtia, bhûtâdi) form of the taijasa part of Ahamkar, which means “the part of egoism in which foulness dominates over goodness and darkness.” It is saying that the active principle is foulness. I will have to look up the etiology of taijasa to find deeper meaning but Tejas is fire or a principle of transformation and intensity. I would guess that this is where the root is from.

And on with our story….

The 5 Buddhendriya (organs of knowledge) are:
Eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin
Their functions are;
hearing of the ear, touch perception by the skin. sight of the eye, smelling of the nose and tasting of the tongue
They are organs or instruments but not what is doing the knowing.

The 5 Buddhendriya have gross (Bhutas) and subtle (Tanmatras) objects that they perceive.

The subtle perceptions (Tanmatra) of the ears perceive sound, skin perceives touch, eyes perceive form, tongue perceives taste, nose perceives smell

The gross perceptions of the Buddhendriyas are the bhutas (gross elements). they are Ether to the ears, Air to the skin, Fire to the eyes, Water to the tongue and Earth to the nose.

The 5 Karmendriya (organs of action) are:
the speech, the hand, the feet, the excretory organ and the organ of reproduction
Their functions are:
speech is of the voice, manipulation of the hands, locomotion of the feet, excretion of those organs and gratification (anandah) by the reproductive organs.

Awoken Conciousness – Active Self-Conscious–Element–Energy               Expression
Ears – Hearing ———-Mouth – Sound ———Ether —-Nuclear energy —–Expansion
Skin – Touch ————Hands – Grasp ———-Air ——Electrical energy —Mobility
Eye – Form ————-Leg – Locomotion ——-Fire ——Radiant energy —–Friction
Tongue – Taste —Excretory organ – Excretion -Water—Chemical energy –Condensation
Nose – Smell ——-Genitals – Reproduction —-Earth –Mechanical energy -Crystallization

Manas (mind) possesses the nature of both these sets of organs of knowledge and action. It is the 11th sense organ. It is called a sense organ because it possesses properties common to the sense organs and is also under the modifications of the Traigunya. It possesses the characteristics of both the action and knowledge organs.

The knower knows things through the sense organs and attention is the outer expression of the soul.

With a strong understanding of who you are and how you move through the world the Ahamkara and dharma is strong and and the body is healthy.

One more time in another way of looking at it:
Purusha      Transcendent self, unchanging consciousness
Prakriti       Nature. The Three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas
Mahat         Cosmic will setting creation into motion.
Ahamkara  Individuation of Mahat
Manas         Provides the object for Ahamkara


Senses of perception

  • Ears
  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Tongue
  • Nose

Organs of action

  • Mouth
  • Hands
  • Legs
  • Sex organs
  • Excretory organs


Sound      Shabda
Touch      Sparsha
Form       Rupa
Taste       Rasa
Smell       Gandha


Space      Akasha
Fire         Tejas
Air           Vayu
Water     Apas
Earth      Prithivi
 And that my friends is the journey of consciousness to the material of the five great elements.

Reference: Sankhya Karika

Here is a link to a video on all that was disussed.


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