As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school. But there are five other Astika or orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy: Purva Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, and Nyaya. My question is about the Samkhya school, founded by the sage Kapila. Verse 2 of Ishwara Krishna's Samkhya Karika, the defining text of the Samkhya school, describes the flaws of pursuing happiness through Dharma, and advocates pursuing happiness through knowledge of Purusha and Prakriti instead:

dṛṣṭavadānuśravikaḥ sa hyaviśuddhi kṣayātiśayayuktaḥ ।
tadviparītaḥ śreyān vyaktāvyaktajñavijñānāt ॥

The [means of happiness revealed by the Vedas] is like the evident one, It is linked with impurity, destruction and inequality. Other than that is better,—proceeding from the right cognition of the Manifest, Unmanifest and the Knower.

I'm interested in the word "impurity". As I discuss in this question, the Advaita philosopher Gaudapada, interprets "impurity" as referring to the Samkhya school's belief that animal sacrifice in Vedic Yagnas is a sin. (This is an contrast to the Vedanta school which doesn't see animal sacrifice is a sin, as I discuss here.). And as I discuss in this question, the Advaita philosopher Vachaspati Mishra interprets "impurity" as referring not just to animal sacrifice, but also to the destruction of plants offered in Vedic Yagns.

But I'm interested in the interpretation given by the 17th century Advaita philosopher (and musician) Narayana Tirtha, in this section of his Samkhya Chandrika. Narayana Tirtha agrees with Gaudapada and Vachaspati Mishra that it refers in part to animal sacrifice, but he thinks it also refers to something else:

"Impurity": defect in the performance of some subsidiary act; also injury, from the text “Injure not.” Because at any rate, [there is] a likelihood of leaves of trees as well as small animals being destroyed through proximity to fire. Hence it is a source of pain.

I found this interesting, because Narayana Tirtha is essentially voicing an environmental concern: he's saying that the fires of Vedic Yagnas is a danger to the local wildlife in the area, and so Vedic Yagnas can be a source of sin. My question is, are there any other Samkhya works which discuss the danger of Yagna fires to plants and animals in the area?

The reason I ask is that Narayana Tirtha was an Advaitin, not an actual follower of the Samkhya school, so his views may not be representative of what the Samkhya school believed.

  • Does the Kapila Gita comment on any of this? Jul 21, 2017 at 2:43
  • 1
    @LakshmiNarayanan The teachings of Kapila in the Srimad Bhagavatam are very different from the atheistic school known as Samkhya. In fact some people hypothesize that Vishnu's incarnation Kapila and Kapila the founder of the Samkhya school are two different people; see my question here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/18805/36 Jul 21, 2017 at 2:55
  • Is Narayana Tirtha the same as the musician who composed the Krsna Lila Tarangini?
    – Surya
    Jul 22, 2017 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Surya Yes, he is. He's primarily known for his music, his philosophical works are just something he did on the side. Jul 22, 2017 at 17:01


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