Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sankhya and Yoga in the Mahabharata

Bhishma Lying on the Bed of Arrows

Sankhya and Yoga are founded on the same metaphysics; the difference between them is in practice. Sankhya seeks to achieve a vision of the Purusa (atman) through intelligence and knowledge; Yoga seeks to achieve it through physical and mental activities. There are about 900 references to Yoga in the Mahabharata, and about 150 to Sankhya. In several cases, the Mahabharata passages contain combined references to Sankhya and Yoga.

In the Shanti Parva section of the Mahabharata (sub-parva: Moksha-dharma Parva), Yudhishthira asks Bhisma to explain the difference between Sankhya and Yoga. Bhisma replies: “The followers of Sankhya praise their system and the Yogins praise the Yoga system. For establishing the superiority of their respective systems, each proclaim that their system is the best for attaining the goals of life. I consider both these views to be true. I approve of both Yoga and Samkhya. There is no knowledge equal to Sankhya, and no power equal to Yoga. If practiced with devotion either would lead to the highest end.” 

The essence of Bhisma’s teaching is that Sankhya and Yoga are the same. What the practitioners of Sankhya experience, the same is experienced by the Yogins. The ones who are the knowers of truth see no difference between Sankhya and Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishan reiterates the same point: “both lead to the same goal, even though Yoga is a more action based practice.”

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