Samkhya Karika 6, Scriptures as Pramana, Apta Sruti and Vacana

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 6 text:

saamaanyatastu drishtaad aateendriyaanam prateetir anumaanaat |

Tasmaad api cha asiddham paroksham aapt-aagamaat siddham ||

Saamaanyata – common, general

Astu – but, though

Drishtaad – thorugh perception, observation

Aateendriyaanam – beyond the reach of senses

Prateetir – knowledge of

Anumaanaat – via inference

Tasmaad – by it

Api – even

Cha – and

Asiddham – not established

Paroksham – beyond senses, intuitive perception

Apta aagamaat – through scriptures

Siddham – established, achieved

Why is the Pramana of Scripture’s Testimony Significant?

 Our senses of perception and cognition are limited in their scope for knowing the subtleties and complexities of the universe we form a part of.  Senses can know as much and about objects only which are present within their reach for them to pick up information about them. Once the information about the objects of the senses is picked up senses present it to the mind for interpretation. Anything that is present or exists beyond the reach of senses cannot be known by this method of perception.

Nevertheless, information, or correct knowledge about object not present within the range of senses can also be gathered, known through inference or deductive reasoning. Inference is indirectly based on direct perception as a prerequisite, something which has been previously known through perception can only be inferred about later on. Still there are concepts like soul, consciousness, samadhi and liberation which cannot be understood by any of these two methods (perception and inference) of gaining true knowledge of anything.

Such concepts are not quantitative but qualitative in nature for which no physical dimensions which can be measured are available. These concepts are subjective in nature and thus call for a different kind of pramana or proof of their existence.  Such concepts in philosophy can be proved only by the persons of authority (apta) on these subjects ( spiritual testimony), people who have achieved and experienced these otherwise unmeasurable concepts on their own accord and have left authoritative text  ( agama) on them for the posterity to know.

Samkhya karika 6 talks about two types of authoritative knowledge that is avaialbel to us; apta sruti (authoritative text like scriptures), and apta vacana (vocalised, spoken words of persons of authority).

Samkhya Karika 6, Testimony of scriptures

Apta Sruti and Apta Vacana as Pramana | Samkhya Karika 6

 Apta sruti, or the authoritative scriptures – the Vedas and Upanishads, have been accepted as valid sources of knowledge – pramana – by all the six schools of Indian philosophy. The interpretation of these texts though is different for all these schools of philosophy. 

Our great sages have undergone serious penance and practice before they realised the ultimate wisdom. They further passed on this personally realised knowledge to their able disciples for the good of the world. So these words, spoken, of these great  saints have been passed down through ages before they became available for the good of present generation. 

Since this wisdom is believed to have percolated from the mouth of the self-realized sages it is also considered as the word of authority on philosophy in general and Samkhya philosophy in particular. We can use these words of the learned, wise and experienced individuals as pramana, and guidance in our spiritual journey. Though this karika advocates considering the testimony of scriptures as a pramana for valid knowledge it warns one against putting complete blind faith into it.

The philosophy given by the persons of authority have been constructed based on their individual intellectual, rationale reasoning, and understanding. Today’s gurus are considered as persons of authority who shouldn’t be followed blindly just because others are doing so. One needs to apply own rationality to the concepts and must attempt to understand the personality of the gurus as proclaimed. A real guru is one who guides and not offer quick fix remedies for individual problems. A true guru guides the disciples towards the right action strictly according to the scriptures.

Samkhya Philosophy says that there are three types of pramana which help on prove the working, existence of the 25 elements of which the entire universe is made up of. One gathers information by the senses, thinks by the mind and uunderstands with intelligence ( Budhi). Intelligence being closest to Purusha shows it all the information being fed to it by the senses via the mind. Purusha sees it, or reflects it as it is and thus fails to come across as a separate entity from all the other 24 elements. 

It is only when discriminative knowledge, or the right knowledge makes it to the intelligence which shows it to Purusha that one begins to consider Purusha as a separate entity and now works with its wisdom. Prior to this realization one continues working with intelligence only which can lead to unfavorable changes causing pain. Only the wisdom of Purusha is capable of showing the right path, away from sufferings, as intelligence is blind without it. The other 24 elements are just limbs it’s the Purusha which gives them light and consciousness. Anyone who lives one’s life without this understanding is bound to suffer. 

One merely thinks that knowing a bunch of words is knowledge, one has to understand the meaning behind those words as well. Samkhya philosophy helps one get clarity on which element comprising the universe is the most powerful; the senses, mind, intelligence , or the consciousness known as Purusha.