TTY 2013: Samkhya assignment

Samkhya: unyoking body and spirit

Samkhya… permeated almost all subsequent Hindu traditions: Vedanta, Puranic, Vaishnava, Shaivite, Tantric, and even the medicinal traditions such as ayurveda.

— Edwin Bryant, western scholar/practitioner

Buddhist philosophy and terminology, Yoga philosophy, early Vedanta speculation, and the great regional theologies of Shaivism and Vaishnavism are all, in an important sense, footnotes and/or reactions to a living ‘tradition text’ of Samkhya.

— Gerald Larson, western scholar/practitioner

In this class we will be studying the ancient Indian philosophical tradition of Samkhya. The teachings of Samkhya (which means “enumeration”) are primarily focused on the categorization of the various constituents of the human being and the cosmos. According to the teachings of this school, all reality is composed of two basic principles: contentless consciousness (purusha) and materiality (prakriti). The material universe unfolds through the interaction of three basic qualities, sattva (lucidity), rajas (activity) and tamas (inertia) into twenty-three principles or tattvas.

The basic categories of Samkhya were incorporated into virtually all later Hindu traditions. Although this worldview is at odds with our contemporary scientific description of the cosmos, the dualism of purusha and prakriti has strong similarities with other dualistic worldviews more familiar to our culture, such as Rene Descartes’ dualism of mind and matter, or a theological dualism of matter and spirit.

Required assignment

Read this excerpt from the Katha Upanishad.

Read this description of Samkhya by Edwin Bryant, a contemporary scholar/practitioner.

Contemplate what you have learned so far in this class. Choose one concept we have talked about in class and explore how it does, or doesn’t, relate to your own personal experience.

Download a printable version of the Samkhya assignment for your notebook.



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