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The Samkhyakarika (Sanskrit: सांख्यकारिका, Sāṁkhyakārikā) is the earliest surviving text of the Samkhya school of Indian philosophy.[1] The text's original composition date is unknown, but its terminus ad quem (completed before) date has been established through its Chinese translation that became available by 569 CE.[2] It is attributed to Ishvara Krishna (Iśvarakṛṣṇa, 350 C.E).[3]

In the text, the author described himself as being in the succession of the disciples from the great sage Kapila, through Āsuri and Pañcaśikha.[4] His Sāṁkhya Kārikā consists of 72 ślokas written in the Ārya metre. The last three ślokas were probably added later.[5]

The earliest important commentary on his Kārikā was written by Gaudapada.[1] Another important commenatary is Vacaspati Mishra's Sāṁkhyatattvakaumudī (9th century CE), who also wrote a well-known commentary to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yuktidipika, whose medieval era manuscript editions were discovered and published about mid 20th century, is among the most significant extant review and commentary on Samkhyakarika.[1][6]

The Sāṁkhya Kārikā was translated into Chinese in c. 6th century CE.[7] In 1832, Christian Lassen translated the text in Latin. H.T. Colebrooke first translated this text into English. Windischmann and Lorinser translated it into German, and Pautier and St. Hilaire translated it into French.

Authorship and historical note[edit]

Samkhya is an important pillar of Indian philosophical tradition, called shad-darshana, however, of the standard works of Samkhya only three are available at present. These are: Samkhya Sutras attributed to the founder of Samkhya, Kapila; Tattva Samasa, which some authors (Max Muller) consider prior to Samkhya Sutras,[8] and Samkhya Karika of Ishvara Krishna. Ishvara Krishna follows several earlier teachers of Samkhya and is said to come from Kausika family.[9] He taught before Vasubandhu and is placed following Kapila, Asuri, Panca Shikha, Vindhyavasa, Varsaganya, Jaigisavia, Vodhu, Devala and Sanaka.[10]

Most authors recognize that Samkhyakarika was authored sometime in the Classical Samkhya period between 300-500 C.E. That was followed by the Pramartha's Chinese version of Karikas together with a commentary[11] in 557-569 C. E. Gerald Larson, in Classical Samkhya, includes also a formative stage period between the death of Mahavira (468 B.C.) and Candra Gupta period 300-500 C. E., which he calls Proto-Samkhyan Speculations. Later developments include the 9th century Samkhya Tattva Kaumudi of Vacaspati Mishra.[12]

Three causes of pain and the means of their removal[edit]

The Samkhyakarika's implied premise is that "Every being in the world without exception seeks happiness"[13] (Introduction by Swami Virupakshananda). Despite of that universal tendency, human experience is subjected to the three-fold causes of pain (duhkha-traya): adhyatmika, pertaining to self; adhibhautika, caused by external influences; and, adhidaivika, caused by supernatural agencies. Existence of those sources of pain is the reason for jijnansa (Karika 1), a desire for inquiry about the means of removing, terminating them. Therefore, the existence of duhkha-traya is the reason for the inquiry about the means of permanent removal of pain.[14]

The means of removing pain is based in the Discriminate Knowledge, which Samkhyakarika considers superior to the ritualistic Vedic rules, because Vedic means are linked to "impurity, decay and excess" and do not remove pain permanently (Karika 2). Discriminate Knowledge arises from the right knowledge and discriminating of what is the Manifest, the Unmanifest and the Cogniser.[15] The Unanifest Prakriti (avyakta), also called Mulaprakriti, or Primal Matter, is uncreated. Vyakta, the manifest world arising out of Prakriti has two categories. The seven: mahat (intelligence), ahamkara (self-awerness, or ego), five subtle elements (tanmatras) are created and creative. The second category of the sixteen includes: manas (mind), five buddhindriyas (organs of sense), five karmendriyas (organs of action), and five mahabhutas (gross elements).[16]

Prakriti, exists for the sake of Purusha. Purusha is neither created nor creative. The task of the Cogniser is to distinguish between the two. This method is further refined in following Karikas with the reference to 24 tattvas. The end effect, is "the practice of Truth", which produces the wisdom in the form of "I am not, naught is mine, and not 'I' (Karika 64), which is pure on account of the absence of error and which is absolute."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gerald James Larson (1998), Classical Sāṃkhya: An Interpretation of Its History and Meaning, Motilal Banarasidass, ISBN 81-208-0503-8, pages 146-153
  2. ^ Gerald James Larson (1998), Classical Sāṃkhya: An Interpretation of Its History and Meaning, Motilal Banarasidass, ISBN 81-208-0503-8, page 4
  3. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2008). Yoga Tradition. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-890772-18-5. 
  4. ^ Davies, John (1881, reprint 2000) Hindu Philosophy, Routledge,London, ISBN 0-415-24519-2,p.100
  5. ^ Davies, John (1881, reprint 2000) Hindu Philosophy, Routledge,London, ISBN 0-415-24519-2,p.10
  6. ^ Albrecht Wezler and Shujun Motegi (1998), Yuktidipika - The Most Significant Commentary on the Såμkhyakårikå, Critically Edited, Vol. I. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 3-515-06132-0
  7. ^ 佛子天空藏經閣T54 No. 2137《金七十論》
  8. ^ The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Friedrich Max Müller, p.296, 2013, ASIN: B00F1M1B1Y
  9. ^ Swami, Virupakshananada, (1995), vi
  10. ^ Swami, Virupakshananada, (1995), vi
  11. ^ Larson, Gerald J. (1979). Classical Samkhya. Delhi, INdia: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 252–3. ISBN 0-915520-27-3. 
  12. ^ Larson, 1979, p. 253
  13. ^ Krishna, Ishvara; (translated by: Swami, Virupakshananada), (1995). Samkhya Karika. Sri Vacaspati Misra. Mylapore, Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Matt. pp. iv. ISBN 81-7120-711-1. 
  14. ^ Swami, Virupakshananada, (1995), p.1
  15. ^ Virupakshananada, 1995, p.9
  16. ^ Larson, 1979, p. 8
  17. ^ Virupakshananada, 1995, p.9


  • Daniel P. Sheridan, Īshvarakrishna, in Great Thinkers of the Eastern World, Ian McGreal, ed., New York: Harper Collins, 1995, pp. 194–197.

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