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Isvarakrsna – Author Of Samkhyakarika

Isvarakrsna (350 – 450 CE) is the author of Samkhyakarika, the basic, prime text on the doctrines of Samkhya philosophy. Very little is known about Isvarakrsna as a person. The Chinese translation of his work by Paramartha states that he was a Brahmin of Kaushika Gotra and an ascetic. There have been attempts to identify him with Vindhyavasin (a Buddhist teacher), and it seems probable that he was a contemporary of Varasaganya and Vasubandhu, famous Buddhist philosophers. If this account is true, then Isvarakrsna might belong to the Gupta period (4th century CE), which provided a great impetus to the revival of Hindu philosophy. In 73 aphorisms in the arya meter, Samkhyakarika provides the formulation of tenets of the Samkhya system available in those days.

According to Samkhyakarika, the essence of Samkhya philosophy consists in the discovery of the means of removing the three-fold suffering (caused by the supernatural, the physical or natural, and spiritual forces) and the means of escaping from it. The real mode of emancipation from misery lies in the knowledge of the principles of Samkhya, viz., the nature of prakriti, the nature of purusha, and theory of evolution.

The philosophy stands against the system of ritualistic Puranic trends and does not believe in changing the physical world for human happiness, thus prescribing right cognition as the way of liberation. A number of commentaries are available on the work. These include Paramartha’s Chinese version, a commentary by Gaudapada, Matharavritti, Jayamangala, Yuktidipika and Vacaspati’s Samkhya Tattva Kaumudi.