This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Atheism and materialism in Sankhya

Westerners, who understandably but unfortunately  try to apply their own categories to every idea they encounter, have called Sankhya an ‘atheistic’ and ‘materialistic’ philosophy. We will not again enter into a discussion of why ‘philosophy’ does not enter in, but we need to clarify why the two former terms also do not apply. First, we can see that it is Prakriti which gives Westerners the impression that they are dealing with materialism, but from what we have said above it is clear that Prakriti, which is Universal Substance, is an entirely different thing from the modern notion of matter. Even if we allow the some reality to the modern conception of matter, it is but a very specific and restricted determination of Prakriti, and not its equivalent. Moreover, taking into account Purusha, on which Prakriti depends, and the fact that Prakriti itself is never manifested in nature, it becomes very clear that we are a long way from materialism. As for atheism, this comes from the fact that Sankhya is ‘nirishwara,’ which is to say it does not introduce the conception of Ishwara, the Divine Personality. But absence does not imply denial, much less does it imply some sort of scientific ‘agnosticism.’ Again, the non-inclusion of Ishwara would only become a denial of it if we were dealing with a system, and not merely a point of view. Moreover, the fourth darshana (Yoga) is often considered side-by-side with Sankhya, even as a second branch of it. Placed in this context it is called Seshwara, because it completes Sankhya by introducing the concept of Ishwara. For this reason, we will deal with Yoga next.

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