Sankhya (Sanscrit, synthetic reasoning), The name of one of the three great systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. Like the other systems, it professes to teach the means by which eternal beatitude, or the complete and perpetual exemption from every sort of ill, may be attained. This means is the discriminative acquaintance with tatwa, or the true principles of all existence. Such principles are, according to the Sankhya system, twenty-
five in number, as follows: (1) Prakriti or Pradhana, substance or nature; it is the universal and material cause, eternal, productive but unproduced. Its first production is (2) Mahat (literally the great), or Buddhi (literally intellect). From it devolves (3) Ahankara (literally the assertion of "I"), the function of which consists in referring the objects of the world to one's self. It produces (4-8) five tanmatra, or subtle elements, which produce the five gross elements [see (20-24)]. Ahankara further produces (9-13) five instruments of sensation, viz. the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin; (14-18) five instruments of action, viz. the organ of speech, the hands, the feet, the excretory termination of the intestines, and the organ of generation; lastly (19), manas, or the organ of volition and imagination. The five subtle elements (4-8) produce (20-24) the five gross elements, viz. akasa, space or ether, derived from the sonorous tanmatra; air, derived from the aerial tanmatra; fire, from the igneous tanmatra; water, from the aqueous tanmatra; lastly, earth, derived from the terrene tanmatra. The 25th principle is Purusha, or soul, which is neither produced nor productive; it is multitudinous, individual, sensitive, eternal, unalterable, and immaterial.
Creation results from the union of Prakriti (1) and Purusha (25), and is either material or intellectual. Besides the twenty-five principles, the Sankhya also teaches that nature has three essential gunas, or qualities, viz. satwa, the quality of goodness or purity; rajas (literally coloredness), the quality of passion; and, tamas, the quality of sin or darkness; and it classifies accordingly material and intellectual creation. From the foregoing summary it will be seen that the Sankhya proper does not teach the existence of a Supreme Being, by whom nature and soul were created, and by whom the world is ruled. Its opponents have therefore accused it of being atheistical; and it is the special object of the Yoga system to remove this reproach by asserting his existence and defining his essence. Its final object is not absorption in God, whether personal or impersonal, but "Moksha," deliverance of the soul from all pain and illusion, and recovery by the soul of its true nature. The Sankhya system underwent a mythological development in the Puranas (q.v.); thus Prakriti, or nature, is identified with Maya, or the energy of Brahma; and the Matsya-Purana affirms that Buddhi, or Mahat, the intellectual principle, through the three qualities goodness, passion, and sin, becomes the three gods — Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. The most important development, however, of the Sankhya is that by the Buddhistic doctrine, which is mainly based on it.
The Sankhya philosophy is supposed to date from a period anterior to the 8th century B.C., and its reaction against Brahmanism became a popular movement in the 6th century in the Buddhistic reformation of Sankhyamuni, who taught the Yoga system with little change, and named its "deliverance of the soul from pain and illusion" the Nirvana. The reputed author of the actual Sankhya is Kapila (literally tawny), who is asserted to have been a son of Brahma; by others an incarnation of Vishnu. He taught his system in Sutras (q.v.), which, distributed in six lectures, bear the name of Sankhya-Prarachana. The oldest commentary on this work is that by Aniruddha; another is that by Vijnanabhikshu. They owe their preservation to Ishwara Krishna, who reduced them to writing, edited by H.H. Wilson. See Fitzedward Hall, Preface to his ed. of Sankhya- Prarachana; H.T. Colebrooke, Miscell. Essays (Lond. 1837), 1, 227 sq.; Max Müller, Chips from a German Workshop.