Samkhya Karika 2, Principles of Sankhya are Remedy for Pain

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 2 text:

Drishthavad anushravikah sah hy avishuddhikshaya atishaya yuktah |

 Tadvi pareetah shreyaan vyakta-avyakta jna-avijnaanaat || 

Drishthavad – something that is obvious, seen

Anushravikah – That which is known, heard, or followed, it refers to the vedic knowledge and ritualistic practices of vedas

Sah – it is, with

Hy – because, for

Avishuddhikshaya – accompanied by impurities that destroy or result in degeneration

Atishaya – access of, superfluous

Yuktah – with

Tad – that

Vipareetah – opposite of the known solutions of vedas

Shreyaan – is the best, perfect

Vyakta – that which is manifest, seen, prakriti

Avyakta – Unmanifest, unseen, Purusha

Jna – the knower, the conscious entity

Avijnaanaat – wisdom, superior knowledge, discriminative knowledge

As for finding a permanent remedy for the triad of pains prevalent with human existence even the means and rituals suggested in the vedic literature do no suffice. The rituals and ways of the ancient vedic literature are also prone to impurities, decay and excesses. As per Sankhya karika 2 of Isvar Krishna the ritualistic means as suggested in the scriptures for eradicating suffering are short lived and are similar to the ordinary solutions as mentioned in ihis previous karika.

Vedic Scriptures Versus Discriminative Knowledge | Samkhya Karika 2

A simple example of the vedic practice of Asvamedha yajna by which a monarch used to establish its supremacy over the land. This practice was required to be performed by a group of priests along with an elaborate paraphernalia. It also called for the killing, sacrifice of 600 animals. Thus the practice had both its virtues as well as the vices. Moreover performance of the recommended austerities, and rites the gains  lasted only as long as their effects lasted, performance of a single yajna performed for gaining prosperity could only endow time bound gains.

By the era of Isvar Krishna these vedic rites, customs and rituals, as they didn’t necessitated their understanding by the performer, lost their significance as now the human mind wasn’t just satisfied by accepting customs performed mechanically as temporary solution to the problem of three fold sufferings, moreover the rituals were performed more out of the fear of God than out of understanding of the nuances involved. Rather, by this time the pursuit of knowledge was considered superior along with the application of intellectual reasoning before arriving at a possible solution that just keeping faith in the mumbo jumbo of the rites forming the part of vedic teachings. 

This karika exposes the senseless, mechanical nature in which the customs and rituals as enumerated in the Vedas are performed even today. The adherents of these practices do not fully comprehend the essence of these rituals, because of which they are forced to submit their trust blindly into the priests who claim to know the right methodology and meaning of the scriptures and thus have the leverage to exploit their patrons at will. People in general have forgotten the idea that its not the practice of external rituals which can help them get rid of the worldly pains but the practice of inner principles of the philosophy involved.

Practice of vedic rituals also encourage envy and jealousy for the ones who have practiced more austerities comparatively and thus have gained more virtues than the others. Even attaining the said virtues do not ensure permanent solution to the sufferings as they are prone to decay and degeneration with time. In the context of their ability to cure pain they are more like drugs which would have short lived effect on the relief provided. 

Samkhya Karika 2

Discriminative Knowledge of Samkhya Philosophy is the cure for Pain

Due to the lack of permanency in solutions provided by all other means of eradicating one’s suffering Samkhya has come as the most potent and the best solution of them all. Samkhya philosophy has the thinking and understanding component on its side which all the other remedies had lacked up till then. Our politics, geography, history, sciences, and our ways of living have all undergone changes with time, but Samkhya as a philosophy has stood its ground through all these transitions and developments because it proposes remedies and practices which enable one to rise above the pettiness and greed of human nature.

Secondly Samkhya philosophy has a universal approach, it can be practiced and understood by adherents of all religions, creeds, castes, classes, regions, and genders. The second karika clearly establishes the supremacy of discriminative knowledge over blind faith.  It talks about attaining the supreme knowledge of non stop changes caused by the inherent nature of Prakriti, or that which is manifest, and the unchanging nature of Purusha, the unmanifest and unchanging entity. 

Samkhya proposes the thought that pleasure and pain are the part of life as the being is the product of the ever-changing nature of Prakriti, out of which the material world takes its form and existence. In order to understand pain, one has to change one’s thinking, or perspective on the causes of pain. This knowledge enables one to explore one’s potentials which are not dependent upon anything external. It ensures the sincere seeker of this philosophy the rise above the trappings, and frivolities of the world.

Thus, by understanding the truth that prakriti by its nature continuously creates the play of pleasure and pain in life, whereas Purusha is changeless and just an observer of this play, one realises the fact that the ultimate relief from all pain – play of prakriti – is by realising the Purusha, or the real self, the supreme consciousness. 

This karika introduces the concepts of Prakriti, and Purusha which will be elaborated upon in detail in the later karikas of Samkhya Philosophy.