Re: [INDOLOGY] query on Sāṃkhya

Edeltraud Harzer harzer at
Wed May 29 20:21:27 UTC 2019

> Dear Matthew,
> Given that the Sankhya theory of creation is not understood in terms of physics, rather in psychological/ spiritual(?) terms. It seems to stand to reason that creation will not start from a source that is a mere vehicle for the ultimate freedom. What may seem much more odd is that the ultimate freedom depends on the experience of being able to discriminate or isolate unintentional consciousness (पुरुष:) from materiality (प्रकृति:). This discrimination has to be embodied, hence the auxiliary “material/ gross” body.
> Best wishes,

> Edeltraud Harzer
> University of Texas in Austin

> On May 27, 2019, at 5:20 PM, Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <indology at> wrote:
> Dear Indological colleagues,
> One of the peculiarities of Sāṃkhya thought is its unusual theory of "evolution" (though it might better be termed "emanation") which proceeds from the subtle modifications of the mūlaprakṛti to those that are increasingly coarse, namely the organs of sense and of action, and finally to their physical objects. This seems a very odd evolutionary path when we first encounter it and I am wondering if there has been any work that seeks to explain just why Sāṃkhya adopted what to us may seem a remarkably counter-intuitive framework. I do have my own theory about this, but I would not want to publish it if someone else has already come up with a similar idea. I would therefore be grateful for any suggestions you may have concerning scholarship that seeks to explain just why it is that Sāṃkhyaproceeds from top to bottom, as it were, rather than the other way around. 
> with thanks in advance for your advice about this,
> Matthew
> Matthew Kapstein
> Directeur d'études, 
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
> The University of Chicago
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