We know that there are Six Aastika Philosophy (Shad Darshana) : Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshiki,Mimamsa and Vedanta based on Vedas.

In many verses of Bhagavad Gita, the word Sankhya is found ; actually the name of 2nd chapter/aadhyaya is Sankhya Yoga (साङ्ख्य योग). For example let me quote a verse from 3rd chapter:

लोकेऽस्मिन् द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ ।
ज्ञानयोगेन साङ्ख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम् ॥ ३-३॥

loke ’smin dvi-vidhā niṣṭhā purā proktā mayānagha
jñāna-yogena sāṅkhyānāṁ karma-yogena yoginām

From Shvetashvataropanishad Adhyay-6:

नित्यो नित्यानां चेतनश्चेतनाना- मेको बहूनां यो विदधाति कामान् ।
तत्कारणं सांख्ययोगाधिगम्यं ज्ञात्वा देवं मुच्यते सर्वपाशैः ॥ १३॥

nityo nityAnA.n chetanashchetanAnA- meko bahUnA.n yo vidadhAti kAmAn |
tatkAraNa.n sA.nkhyayogAdhigamya.n j~nAtvA devaM muchyate sarvapAshaiH || 13||

So, I want to know:

  • Are Bhagavad Gita and Shvetashvatar Upanishad talking about (or referring to) Sankhya Darshan (founded by sage Kapil) by means of word Sankhya?
  • If yes, then
    • Is the Sankhya Darshana/Philosophy is prior to Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads?
    • Do Bhagavad Gita and Shvetashvatara Upanishad accept or reject the philosophy of Sankhya?

Note: I think other Mukhya Upanishds don't mention Shankhya except Shvetashvatar Upanishad.

4 Answers 4


There seems to be some confusion in your question and the first two answers as regards the term Sankhya which does appear in the second chapter of the Gita. First, don't confuse the Sanskrit word Sankhya with the philosophy of Sankhya propounded by Kapila - they mean two different things.

When Lord Krishna refers to Sankhya in chapter two He is referencing the meaning 'Knowledge' - in English with a capital K meaning Knowledge of the Self. He is not referring to the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila. Indeed most translators refer to the title of chapter 2 as the Yoga of Knowledge. Sankara writes in his commentary to chapter 2 verse 11 (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

The nature of the Self, the supreme Reality, determined by the Lord in the text beginning with 'Those who are not to be grieved for' (11) and running to the end of the verse, 'Even considering your own duty' (31), is called Sankhya. Sankhya-buddhi [translator's note - Sankhya is that correct (samyak) knowledge of the Vedas which reveals (khyayate) the reality of the Self, the supreme Goal. The Reality under discussion, which is related to this sankhya by way of having been revealed by it, is Sankhya.] Sankara's commentary continues - (Conviction about the Reality) is the conviction with regard to That (supreme Reality) arising from the ascertainment of the meaning of the context--that the Self is not an agent because of the absence of in It of the six kinds of changes, viz birth etc. Sankhyas are those men of Knowledge to whom that (conviction) becomes natural. Prior to the rise of this Conviction (Sankhya-buddhi), the ascertainment of the performance of disciplines leading to Liberation--which is based on a discrimination between virtue and vice, and which presupposes the Self's difference from the body etc. and Its agentship and enjoyership--is called Yoga. The conviction with regard to that (Yoga) is Yoga-buddhi. The performer of rites and duties, for whom this (conviction) is appropriate, are called yogis.

The commentary on this verse is lengthy and this is only a portion of it. But as you can ascertain, there is no reference to Kapila's philosophy of Sankhya. Krishna is referring to Knowledge of the Self.

There are many important differences between Kapila's Sankhya philosophy and the philosophy of Vedanta. I think these have been referenced in other questions so I will not include a discussion of those differences - the important note is that they are not the same and the Gita, a cornerstone of Vedanta, is not supporting the philosophy of Kapila.

Finally, Kapila and his philosophy are older than the Gita and the Brahma Sutras. The Brahma Sutras make arguments against the Samkhya philosophy. How much older, we do not know.

In his book, The Spiritual Heritage of India, Swami Prabhavananda writes in his chapter on the Samkhya System:

The sage Kapila, who is generally regarded as the founder of the Smakhya philosophy, is a historical figure, whough many myths have gathered about his personality. In the Gita, Sri Krsna mentions him thus: 'Of the great sages, I am Kapila.' The Bhagavata Purana describes him as a partial incarnation of Visnu, born with the knowledge of truth for the good of humanity. It is impossible to assign a definite date to Kapila; it can be safely affirmed, however, that he lived before the time of Buddha.

Two books, Tattwa Samsa and Samkhya Pravacana Sutra, have been attributed to Kapila, though a difference of opinion exists among the scholars of India as to whether Kapila actually wrote them. Another book on Samkhya, very popular among students of philosophy, is the Samkhya Karika of Iswarakrsna, a work of the third century AD. Besides these there exist innumerable commentaries by the followers of this school of thought. Samkara, the great Vedantist, in the course of his refutation of some of the Samkhya tenets, quotes the Karika and ignores the Sutra. For this reason many hold that the Sutra was of later origin. However, Vijnanabhiksu, the well-known commentator on the Sutra, attributes its authorship to Kapila.

  • Swamiji, do you mean "Sankhya" = "SAmkhya" ('n' => 'm')? BTW, this seems a very strong statement: "Gita, a cornerstone of Vedanta, is not supporting the philosophy of Kapila." It seems least likely that, SAmkhya is referred in 2 different contexts for millenniums like "Kapila's SAmkhya" vs "'Knowledge of self' -- SAmkhya". I couldn't locate the reference for the above statement in this answer. Do you have any more citation for it?
    – iammilind
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 8:56
  • @iammilind Yes, depending upon whose usage you use for 'converting' Sanskrit into English it is the same, n = m. His proponents simply referred to his philosophy as Sankhya or in English "Self-Knowledge" as you can see from the second quote that the Sutra attributed to him is called the Samkhya Pravcana Sutra. Every time that you see the Sanskrit word "Sam(n)khya" it means "Self-Knowledge". Vyasa refutes the Sankhya philosophy in Brahma Sutras 2.1.1-2 - available here - wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62753.html Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:16
  • That confuses me even more. :-) So overall it boils down to: SAmkhya referred in Gita was about "self knowledge" & Kapila's SAmkhya was not about "self knowledge". Or even if it was, Gita's version of SAmkhya was different than Kapila's SAmkhya. It seems less probable. Can you kindly share the specific reference from above link, as the link just points to front page of the book.
    – iammilind
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 13:37
  • @iammilind First, I did give the specific reference, it is verses 2.1.1-2. on pages 142-4. Second, it is "Self- Knowledge" not "self-knowledge" the capital "Self" referring to Brahman (not the individual self) and the capital "Knowledge" referring to the Realization of Brahman (small k means intellectual understanding, not Realization). Third, Kapila's philosophy is about Self- Knowledge, but his philosophy defines Reality and its relation with the universe and the individual soul differently than Vedanta. Again, his definition and explanation of meaning of the the Sanskrit word Sam(n)khya... Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 9:27
  • @iammilind didn't define it for everyone. See the Brahma Sutra reference for more. Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 9:29

Shwetashwatara Upanishad in 6.22 states:

वेदान्ते परमं गुह्यं पुराकल्पे प्रचोदितम् ।
नाप्रशान्ताय दातव्यं नापुत्रायाशिष्याय वा पुनः ।।

The profound mystery in the Vedanta was taught in the previous cycle. It should not be given to one whose passions have not been subdued, nor to one who is not a son or a disciple.

It means that the teachings present in Upanishads are eternal and they were taught also in the previous Kalpa. ie. The teachings of Upanishads are also cyclic and they are like Sun and Moon.

The philosophies like Samkhya and Vedanta are then derived from the intrepretation of these Upanishads. So, Upanishad is certainly older than any philosophy (actually we can't find the origin due to cyclic nature of teachings.)

Regarding the word "Samkhya" occuring in Shwetashwatara Upanishad, different philosophers explain it different. For eg. The believers in the Samkhya theory of Kapila intrepret it as related to their theory. The believers in the Vedanta school intrepret it as referring to "Knowledge through Analysis" (and not doctrine of Kapila).

  • So when Krishna talks of Sankhya Yoga in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, do followers of Kapila interpret I to be referring to their system, just like they do in the Upanishads?
    – user9969
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 21:30

"Is Bhagavad Gita and Shvetashvatar Upanishad are talking about Sankhya Darshan (founded by sage Kapil) by means of word Sankhya?"

Yes. Gita refers the same SAmkhya philosophy which was founded by sage Kapila. Gita also recognises the sage as a Siddha [purusha].

BG 10.26 Among all trees [I am] the Asvatha (peepul), and NArada among the divine sages. Among the Gandharvas, [I am] Citraratha; among the perfected ones, [I am] the sage Kapila.

Consider, this answer only from Bhagavad Gita perspective. As I don't have knowledge in Upanishadas.

"Is the Sankhya Darshan/Philosophy is prior to Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads?"

Yes. This is already answered in your question!

In many verses of Bhagavad Gita, the word Sankhya is found

"Do Bhagavad Gita and Shvetashvatar Upanishad accept or reject the philosophy of Sankhya?"

Ofcourse, SAmkhya is accepted & recognised philosophy in Gita. Many have often compared it with GyAna Yoga as well. Usually SAmkhya refers to those philosophers, who try to find the truth by analysis.
Krishna said that the ultimate state received due to SAmkhya and [Karma/GyAna/DhyAna] Yoga are exactly same:

BG 5.5 — What state is achieved by SAmkhya-s, that is attained by Yogi-s also; Who sees SAmkhya & Yoga as one(same), sees [correctly].


"... actually the name of 2nd chapter/aadhyaya is Sankhya Yoga (साङ्ख्य योग)."

By the way, the chapter 2 is considered usually as the summary of all the other chapters & not dedicated only to "साङ्ख्य योग".
Also, most of the times "SAmkhya" & "Yoga" are presented separately in Gita. They are Not linking words like "GyAna Yoga" or "Karma Yoga".


In the term Samkhya Darshana , word Darshana stands for View. It views the entire universe as a 'Leela(Divine Play)' of 'Purusha(supreme conciousness)' and 'Prakriti'(matter). The 'Purusa' is 'Nirguna' that is, free from 'Trigunas' that are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas while 'Prakriti' posseses the 'Trigunas'.

'Samkhya Yoga' emphasizes on union of 'Jeeva' with the 'Supreme Consciousness'. All yogas mentioned in Bhagvad Geeta were also existed before it. Lord Krishna collected them all together to clear Arjuna's vishad(confusion). Thus Geeta starts with Arjun Vishad Yoga.
And yes Geeta supports Samkhya Yoga.


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