Definition - What does Sankhyas mean?

Sankhyas are members of the oldest system of Hindu philosophy or darshan. The Sanskrit word sankhya means “number” or “enumeration”; therefore, the Sankhyas are sometimes called the enumerators. Systematic enumeration along with rational examination forms the basis of their philosophy.

The six classical schools of Hinduism are Vaisheshika, Yoga, Samkhya, Nyaya, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Sankhya philosophy closely resembles that of Yoga darshan, as both are based on the principle of liberation, but, Sankhya deals with the theory while Yoga is concerned with applying the theory and the practices for obtaining liberation.

Yogapedia explains Sankhyas

The Sankhyas are dualists in that they believe in two eternal realities, purusha (the Self) and prakriti (matter or the primal creative force). The Sankhyas believe that beings are trapped in the reincarnation cycle, or samsara, because they do not understand the transforming nature of prakriti as separate from purusha. Liberation from samsara is achieved with the help of a guru when the yogi learns to let go of attachment.

Sankhyas tend to be atheists. Classical Sankhya philosophy accepts the higher Self but not a supreme deity separate from the Self.

The Sankhyas recognize just three of the six pramanas, or sources of right knowledge:

  • Perception (pratyaksha), which is the acquisition of knowledge from experience
  • Inference (anumana), or obtaining right knowledge logically
  • Verbal testimony (sabda), which is knowledge obtained from spoken and written words, particularly from sages
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