Thursday, March 13, 2014

Old Text Supports Theism of Pre-Classical Samkhya

It seems that Dr. Rao is not the first to suggest that Pre-Classical Samkhya contained theistic elements. He quotes the following passage from a 13th century author named Sudarsana Suri:

The Mahabarata and many puranas inculcate reverence for Kapila and approve of his philosophy described as Samkhya. In the statement of Samkhya in several places the idea of God as the supreme principle in the universe is definitely expounded. But in the Vedanta Sutras, Samkhya is refuted.
Original Samkhya is Vedantic, but the specific emphasis of the school is on the distinction of Prakriti and Purusa. Sometimes in developing this distinction, exclusive attention is paid to it and no mention is made of the other categories. Excessive claims are also put forward. Such exclusive and excessive statements are not unknown in Vedic literature.
Some rationalistic philosophers of later ages take these statements seriously and literally and overlook the fundamental and implicit Vedantic background. As these rationalistic philosophers take their stand on reason and cannot be corrected through mere scriptural testimony embodying the original Vedantic Samkhya, the Sutrakara refutes them on speculative grounds.
The Ithihasas and Puranas propound a theistic Samkhya, which is admitted by the Vedantins. But the partial understanding of that original Samkhya is refuted by Badarayana.

It is perplexing that this author, writing in the thirteenth century, does not mention Sankara (eighth century) at all. We know that Samkhya continued to flourish long after Badarayana's Brahma Sutras, that it was Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras that turned the tide of Indian thought against Samkhya, and that Sankara is revered to this day as the greatest Vedanta teacher. Yet Sudarsana Suri refers only to the Sutrakara (compiler of the Sutra) and to Badarayana by name. This could be interpreted as an implicit rejection of Sankara.