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Yoga Philosopy Overview

Lesson 3/16 | Study Time: 5 Min
Yoga Philosopy Overview

Sankhya (number) is one of the six classical schools of Hindu/Indian philosophy. Although no historical verification is recorded; sage KAPIL is traditionally considered the founder of the Sankhya School. The school is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India and its influence is experienced in the Yoga and Vedanta schools.

The starting point for the discussion of Sankhya-Yoga philosophy is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Out of all of the many texts that deal with the subject of yoga, only Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is considered to be an authoritative text of the Yoga darsana (Philosophy), point be noted that there are many translations of the Yoga Sutras and some of them differ a great deal in their interpretation of the Sanskrit text. So it is sometimes difficult to determine the intent of the original authors.

The Sankhya philosophy is one of the oldest and most influential Indian philosophies. Knowledge of the Sankhya philosophy goes a long way toward solving this problem by providing a background, a context, and in some cases, a source for many concepts contained in the Yoga Sutras.

We can describe four key points that differentiate it from other, sometimes competing philosophies.

Dualist - Sankhya's philosophy is dualist in the sense that it regards spirit and matter as equally real but eternally distinct. This is in contrast to Advaita or non-dual philosophies, which view the material world as illusory and spirit as the only true reality.

Materialist - Sankhya's philosophy is materialist in the sense that it views the basis of the phenomenal world as material in nature, as opposed to the view that the material world originates from the spirit.

Pluralist - Sankhya philosophy is pluralist in the sense that it regards each self as an autonomous being, rather than as part of a single, all-encompassing self.

Rational - Sankhya philosophy is rational in the sense that it relies on evidence and reasoning as opposed to revealed knowledge from scriptures.

These points may come as a surprise to many since the Indian philosophies that are most familiar to us in the West tend to take opposing points of view. Sankhya-Yoga practice can be summarized by the Ashthanga (Eight-Limb) practice found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs are Yama (restraints), Niyama (observances), Asana (pose), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal from the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) Samadhi (ecstasy or a state of profound and utterly absorptive contemplation of the Absolute that is undisturbed by desire, anger, or any other ego-generated thought or emotion). There is some variation in the descriptions of these practices among the various sources and interpretations, particularly concerning the inner practices, beginning with pratyahara.