The Sankhya is the oldest system of
Indian thought. This study by Professor
S.G.M. Weerasinghe is not just another
addition to the literature on the
Sankhya. It is in many respects a unique
piece of research which for the first
time combines an in-depth historical
and comparative study of the philosophical structure of the Sankhya with
a critical appraisal of its influence on
the socio-cultural evolution of the Indian sub-continent.
Chapts. I-VII clearly present the
general characteristics of the Sankhya
philosophy. Its historical ‘evolution
through the Vedic Samhitas, the
Upanisads, the great epics etc. is then
subjected to a lengthy scrutiny in
Chapts. VIII-XIX. The philosophical
structure of the system is, next, subjected to a critical analysis (chapts. XX-
XXIV). A very important section of the
work comprises chapts. XXV-XXVII.
This is a critical comparison of the
Sankhya concepts with (i) Buddhist,
(ii) Avestan and (iii) Greek thought.
Chapter XXVIII-conclusion- comprises an illuminating study highlighting the impact of the Sankhya philosophy on various fields of socio-cultural |
significance, such as anthropology,
medicine, psychology, sociology, gram-
mar, literature, history, mathematics,
physics and biology, other schools of
Indian philosophy, education, linguistics and, logic and dialectic. This work
could thus claim to be an unique contribution to the advancement of Indian
philosophical and cultural studies.
The Author, a reputed indologist,
well versed in Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrits
is also highly proficient in the History of
Western Philosophy. His knowledge of
several European languages and Hindi
enabled him to consult all the important
writings on Sankhya in these languages.
His arguments and conclusions are well
documented with direct reference to the
The Sankhya is one of the oldest schools of Indian Philosophy.
It comprises the four main branches of inquiry traditionally required to be included in any given system of thought: cosmology, metaphysics, ethics and epistemology. It has hardly any
data derived from the realm of religion. This is an important
characteristic of this particular darsana. Hence it is a philosophy
in the true sense of the term.
This philosophy explains human nature in the light of the
Gunas which are mainly physical in nature. The emancipation,
according to this philosophy, is to break away from the magnetic power of Prakrti through the psychological detachment
from what is near and dear. This attitude on the part of the
Sankhya system is an important step in the development of Indian psychology.
The Sankhya, as a school of philosophy does not seem to have
received due attention during the modern period. R. Garbe and
A.B. Keith have done important research in this connection. But
there was much more to be accomplished.
Professor 5.G.M. Wcerasinghe with his academic training in
Sanskrit (with Vedic), Pali and Philosophy has done thorough
and systematic research into this subject. His method is historical, descriptive , comparative and critical, simultaneously. Thus
he has rendered a great service to the cause of the Sankhya Philosophy.
I am glad to write these few lines to this excellent piece of
research which will be very useful to all students of Indian Philosophy.
Philosophical reflections in India have gradually developed
from the time of the latter part of the Vedic civilization. This
development in course of time has given rise to the six orthodox
systems on the one hand and, Jainism, Buddhism and materialism on the other. Once the different schools of Indian philosophy were formed, they have continued to develop through
centuries with some additions and elaborations giving rise to
some minor sects within each school. One may thus see that
Indian philosophy, in the main, is the story of the historical
development of the above nine principal schools. Hence it is
very important to have a clear idea of the gradual evolution of
the different schools of Indian thought in order to have a better
understanding and a critical appreciation of their distinct contributions. In fact, it is this idea which has led to the present
study: The Sankhya Philosophy - A Critical Evaluation of its Origins
Several sholars have already attempted to trace the history
of Sankhya thought. Among them, Professor Garbe is well
known for his valuable work: Die Samkhya Philosophie. In this
work Garbe has studied the principal categories of the Sankhya
system. While discussing the philosophical significance of these
categories, he has also referred to their historical aspect in some
places. We may next mention Professor Deussen’s brief survey
of the origin of the Sankhya system found in his work, The Philosophy of the Upanishads (pp. 239-255). Professor Oldenberg’s
monograph Zur Geschichte der Sankhya-Philosophie (NGWG, philologisch-historische Klasse, 1917, pp. 218-253) is also of consider-
able importance. Professor Johnston’s work, Early Samkhya is
limited to a few Sankhya concepts although it gives a very good
account of the Sankhya doctrines in the Mahabharata, specially
in the Moksadharma. Professor Keith’s monograph the Samkhya
System is also an important study on the history of the Sankhya
philosophy. Being a concise work, it has not discussed some
Sankhya doctrines such as the Pranas in detail. There are several
other essays and monographs on this subject which need not
delay us here. A study of all these works has convinced us that
a fresh and a fuller study of the history of the Sankhya philosophy is an urgent need.
We believe that a study of the historical development of the
Sankhya concepts alone is not sufficient. Therefore we have also
complemented it with a critical exposition of the general structure of this philosophy (ie., theory of knowledge etc.,) as it is
presented mainly in the classical Sankhya of the Karika. This,
too, has been a gap to be filled especially in view of the very
brief (and at times unhistorical) treatment it has received in
many of the histories of Indian philosophy. We have also com-
pared certain doctrines of the Sankhya with those of early Buddhism, the Avesta and the Greek thought. Thus the present study
is both an historical and an analytical study of the Sankhya
school of Indian Philosophy.
I must take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to
my Acharya Professor O.H de. A. Wijesekera, former Head of
the Department of Sanskrit, University of Ceylon, Peradeniya,
under whose guidance this study was pursued. His constant
suggestions and criticisms were very valuable. It indeed was a
great pleasure to do this piece of research under his expert guidance. I must also express my gratitude to my teacher Professor
J. Tilakasiri, Head of the Department of Sanskrit, University of
Ceylon (Peradeniya Campus), for having gone through the en-
tire thesis and offering very valuable suggestions for improving it. Finally, I must thank Mr. D.K. Heyn, former Senior Clerk
of the University of Ceylon, for his neat typing.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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