Samkhya is the oldest school of Hindu philosophy (placed around 6th century B.C.) and the first attempt to harmonize the philosophy of the Veda’s through reason. It it based on scientific principles of conservation, transformation and dissipation of energy.
It’s purpose is to provide knowledge which will forever remove the cause of misery and thereby release the soul from its bondage. It indicates three kinds of misery: from intrinsic causes (such as disorders of the body & mind), extrinsic causes (such as other men or inanimate objects) and supernatural causes (such as the atmosphere or planets). The misery of the soul is said to be caused by its intimate association with the body. Bondage (of the soul to the body) is claimed to be purely an illusion caused by incorrect knowledge of the true nature of things. Therefore it is believed that discriminate knowledge will forever release the soul from all misery.
Samkhya deals exclusively with the empirical world which is governed by the rules of reason and can be known. It leaves the more transcendental speculations to other systems, maintaining that questions pertaining to the beginning of things are not conductive to enlightenment.
The phenomenal order of the universe is considered as a dynamic order, an eternal process of unfolding, without beginning or end. All has evolved from an Uncaused Cause – a postulated absolute beginning which cannot be conceived by the intellect.
Samkhya postulates two ultimate realities (logical principles) – Spirit (Purusa) and Matter (Prakrti) to account for all experience. A fundamental tenet of Samkhya is that creation is impossible, for something cannot come out of nothing. Change implies something to change; whatever is, always is, and whatever is not, never is.
Samkhya divides cosmic evolution into 25 categories grouped into four:
- Cosmic Spirit (Purusa) – that which is neither produced nor produces.
- Cosmic Substance (Prakrti) – that which is not produced but produces.
- 7 Evolvents – those which are produced and do produce.
- 16 Evolutes – those which are produced and do not produce.