by Jayaram V
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Samkhya is one of the oldest darshanas or schools of Hindu
philosophy, whose origin is shrouded in deep antiquity. Kapila is
believed to be its oldest proponent who might have lived around
1000- 800 BC or earlier.
In its long history, the school underwent
many changes and was incorporated in parts into Hinduism. Some scholars
believe that few traditions of Samkhya were atheistic or purely
An entire chapter is devoted in the Bhagavadgita
to discuss the salient aspects of Samkhya Yoga. The scripture also
deals with the various concepts of the Samkhya such as the gunas,
the Purusha and the Prakriti and the liberation of the individual
However most of what is discussed in the Bhagavadgita under
the heading Samkhya Yoga has little in common with the original
Samkhya as discussed in such works like the Kapila Sutras of Kapilamuni
and the Samkhyakarika of Isvarakrishna.
was originally composed as a superimposition on the key concepts
of Samkhya, with some modifications. One of the fundamental divergences
between the two is with regard to their stand on the supreme Universal
Self. The Yoga acknowledges Isvara as the Lord of the Universe and
the source of grace. The Samkhya is silent about any reference to
the creator God.
Followers of Samkhya believe that the world is created out of
the same universal energy called Prakriti or Nature due to the permutation
and combination of its building blocks called tattvas and what we
believe to be creation is actually its transformation, diversification
and evolution. Prakriti itself is uncreated while everything else
is created from it.
In addition to Prakriti there are innumerable
individual souls (Purushas), which are also uncreated like Prakriti
and exist eternally. Prior to the creation, both the Prakriti and
the Purushas exist in their unmanifest (avyakta) form, free from
The earliest Samkhya traditions asserted that all the
souls were essentially of the same nature. They were devoid of any
qualities, experience, duality, impurity, state or even definable
consciousness. They also held that Nature was a blind force which
operated like a mechanical apparatus, according to set principles
and patterns, with no intelligence of its own.
The Samkhya argues that energy can neither be destroyed nor created,
but only transformed from one state to another or from one form
into another. It is not possible to create things out of nothing
because everything has to come ultimately from Prakriti which is
stable and constant and produces everything from itself through
evolution and transformation.
Although things appear to spring from
nowhere, the non-existent cannot be the cause of any object. Every
thing has to come from a preexisting source. There is an implied
continuity and causality in the manifestation of things. For the
human intellect, the cause and its effect may appear to be distinct
processes, but they are essentially of the same nature.
must exist in some form or state in its cause before it becomes
manifest. Manifestation is fruition of what is latent and hidden.
The effect is the latent force in its cause. It hides in its cause
in the form of a potency and becomes manifested given the right
conditions such as time, place and favorable circumstances.
effect does not exist in the cause as a potency, the latter cannot
produce the effect. Cause and effect therefore represent the two
different states of the same object. The Samkhya identifies two
types of causes. The material cause operates from within and the
efficient cause from without.
For example oil may be latent in its
material cause which is the seed. But to extract it from the seed,
we need to apply external pressure, which is the efficient cause.
Some schools of Hinduism acknowledge God as the efficient cause
of creation and Prakriti as the material cause.
We can explain the Samkhya philosophy using many common objects.
For example, a flower remains hidden in the tree in the form of
a bud or twig before it is manifested. A fruit remains latent in
the flower till it becomes a fruit. So is a child who remains as
the seed of its parents before taking birth.
A pot is hidden as
an idea in the clay from which it is created. The potter's mind
and hand as the external causes give shape to it. Here the clay
is the material cause and the potter the efficient cause. So is
the case of a statue hidden in a stone. Or the food we eat, which
remains hidden in the vegetables and the raw material we use to
Every object thus remains hidden as a seed in its cause
before it is truly manifested. Similarly every object contains the
seed of its own destruction in some form or the other, which is
activated like a time bomb when its time comes.
Thus the world is
a product of numerous potencies manifesting themselves from their
causes unleashed by Prakriti, which, according to Samkhya, is actually
the source of all causes and in which everything, except the individual
souls, exist originally in their seed form before they are manifested.
The Samkhya's theory of primordial energy as the constant and
indestructible force, which can only be transformed but not destroyed,
is similar to the law of conservation of energy of modern physics.
The Samkhya Yoga And The Subconscious
The Yoga philosophy is in agreement with the cause and effect
analogy of the ancient Samkhya philosophy and accepts the argument
that before anything materializes in our lives, it has to exist
in some latent form, either as a thought, wish, desire, hope, goal,
concept or vision or potency.
It however acknowledges God or Isvara
as the efficient cause and Prakriti as the material cause. The latent
impressions known as samskaras, which are formed due to habitual
thought patterns, strong desires and repetitive actions also said
to act as the seeds of our future lives.
Thus Samkhya's causality
is very similar to the current theories regarding the use of thoughts,
affirmations and visualization to manifest reality. What is
now labeled as the secrets of the subconscious power and its ability
to act in mysterious and unfathomable ways to create desired conditions,
was known to the followers of Samkhya and Yoga thousands of years
ago although it was never their aim to acquire these powers at the
cost of their spiritual advancement or declare them to the general
public and the untrained to avoid their possible misuse and unintended
harm. They referred these powers as siddhis or perfections and viewed
them with distrust and disinterest.
The Yoga philosophy holds that these perfections arise in the
practitioners of Yoga in varying degrees to the extent they
purify their citta1
or dynamic consciousness.
The Samkhya refers
the citta as mahat while the Yoga calls it as citta. We all
possess citta, though in varying degrees of purity.
Yoga, it is responsible for our awareness, intelligence, perception,
discretion, feelings, cognition, egoism, memory and also future
births as portions of it go forth with the soul to the other world
as causative citta (karana-citta) and becomes the seed for the next
The citta is produced from the union between cit or the pure
consciousness of the individual soul and Shakti or or Prakriti
(the primeval energy). The cit is believed to be static by itself,
but becomes dynamic as cit-shakti or chaitanya-shakti when it is
joined by the latter. Citta is the cit-shakti or the dynamic consciousness
which acts as the creative power in all of us.
According to the Yoga philosophy, the citta is not just
a thinking process or a product of the brain impulses. It is much
more than some abstract mental stuff. It is the substratum or the
support from which arise other evolutes of Prakriti. In the Vedanta
the citta is often identified with antahkarana or the internal organ
of which the mind (manas) is just one part.
It is also described
as a real substance, made of ethereal or super subatomic particles
of energy, having the ability to mirror real objects in their subtle
forms. Like their counter parts in our experiential world, these
subtle objects possess form, substance, some kind of spaciousness,
color, luminosity and other properties such as sound and smell.
The luminosity comes from the presence of sattva2
in the citta. The objects appear and disappear
in the citta according to the activities of the senses and the mind.
Continuous and repetitive contact with them lead to the formation
of deep impressions in the citta which mutate themselves into mental
habits, attachments, attitudes, likes and dislikes, desires and
latent impressions. The Yoga refers to these movements as the citta-vrittis
or churnings of the mind, which are considered to be the cause of
our suffering and restlessness.
The purpose of yoga is to suppress these formations in the citta3
so that the cit or the pure consciousness
becomes completely stable and free from both the impure objects
and the evolutes of Shakti such as the mind (manas), the intellect
(buddhi), the ego (ahamakara), the sense-ograns (indriyas) and such.
To facilitate this separation and purification, Patanjali's
ashtanga yoga recommends eight different sets of practices,
namely yama (restraint), niyama (rule), asana (posture), pranayama
(breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana
(concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (deep absorption).
Using our subconscious mind without proper training, discipline
and inner purity is fraught with dangers. Great harm can befall
upon oneself and others when the powers of the subconscious mind
are unleashed without proper preparation, adequate mental training
and moral purity.
The pure citta has extraordinary, almost God like
ability, to manifest reality and make our dreams come true. With
proper training we can cleanse our citta and plant in it the seeds
of our future.
We can create conditions for the greater good of
all. Great yogis do it constantly and silently not for their personal
welfare but for the welfare of others and for the welfare of the
world in general.
The purer the citta, the greater is its manifesting power. We
have already stated that the miraculous powers that arise out of
the practice of yoga are referred as siddhis or perfections. They
are called perfections because they arise from the perfect state
of being only, in which everything is pure and everything is in
harmony, which come only after years of sustained practice.
views these powers as obstacles to liberation, as they may strengthen
the very tendencies which Yoga aims to remove from the consciousness,
such as egoism, greed, lust etc. The main objective of yoga is not
attainment of supernatural powers but the transcendental state of
the pure Self.
Serious practitioners of yoga, who are on the path
of liberation, remain careful about these powers and do not use
them either for vanity or for selfish or destructive purposes. To
avoid strengthening their egos and desires, many choose not to display
them in public even if they have. They also seek the constant help
of their gurus to deal with the complications that may arise when
these powers begin to manifest in them.
So if you are intent upon using your subconscious mind make sure
that you have trained yourself adequately to cope with challenges
that may arise in their use.
Practice the yamas and niyamas sincerely
to keep yourself mentally and physically pure.
Expand your vision
and use your subconscious for purposes that are greater than yourself.
Most importantly, remember that you are both the cause and effect
of yourself. Right now at this very moment, you are sowing the seeds
and also manifesting the seeds of your future that are latent in
If you can restrain your behavior and follow
a rigid code of conduct, if you can control your thoughts and focus
your attention on whatever you choose to and if you can identify
yourself with the pure spirit in you instead of your body and mind,
you will become the source or the cause of everything for yourself
Suggested Further Reading
is no equivalent word in English for citta although some people
tend to translate it loosely as the mind, the subconscious mind,
the psyche or the consciousness. None of these words actually convey
its true meaning. So in this article I am using the original Sanskrit
word to avoid misunderstanding
rajas and tamas are said to be the three substances of Prakriti
which are responsible for the diversity of material objects and
their inherent propensities. Sattva is responsible for purity and
pleasure, rajas for egoistic actions and pain and tamas for indifference
3. Yoga cittavrittih
nirodhah, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.2