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Samkhya – A Metaphysics Without God

In the Samkhya system the material cause of the world is prakriti (the primordial nature) which is not conscious and becomes active in the proximity of conscious purusha or selves which are innumerable. Although, purusha (self/consciousness) itself is only drashita (seer) and is not active, but its very presence activates the prakriti. Only in this sense the purusha may be called the efficient cause of creation which takes place on activation of prakriti. The role of prakriti is much more than a mere material cause and some think it to be an efficient cause also. In the proximity of purusha the equilibrium of the three gunas (components) of prakriti is disturbed and the process of creation starts constituting bhuta (material) and bhava (mental) sarga (world). Once started, the whole creation takes place step by step automatically due to the potential of the three gunas.

In this scheme of things, there is no role for God to play. That is why, Samkhya philosophy is silent about god and is considered as anisvaravadi. The early propounders of Samkhya, however, did not say anything against God but the later enthusiasts began to argue against God. Their arguments were as follows –

The world is a chain of cause and effect, therefore it must have an original cause which cannot be God because God is considered to be unchangeable and, hence, cannot give rise to an effect. This role is played by prakriti which is eternal but changeable and gives rise to a chain of effects.

It is said that prakriti is unconscious, hence to control and regulate its activities a high conscious entity is needed. The purushas (individual selves) have limited knowledge and therefore cannot fully know the minute, multiple and complex varieties and variations of a cosmic-vast creation. That can be controlled and regulated only by an omniscient and omnipotent god having infinite wisdom and capability. But the activity of regulation and control of the world is not the attribute of an unchangeable entity like God. Another question is that for what purpose should an all-content perfect God act to regulate a world full of innumerable complications?

The concept of God obstructs the freedom and immortality of beings. If jivas (individual beings) are amsha (parts) of God, they should have divine qualities which are not seen in them and if they are creations of God then they must be indestructible.

All these considerations suggest, they say, the non-existence of God. There are, however, Samkhyans who accept the existence of God not as the promoter of Srishti but one in whose proximity prakriti gets activated for creation. Vijnanabhiksu (16th century CE) has been the main exponent of this view.