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. In Adhyaya 1 Sutra 157 of the Samkhya Sutras, one of the defining texts of the Samkhya school, Kapila refutes the Advaita notion that there's only one Atma by noting that people have attained Moksha in the past and yet Samsara continues, implying that there must be more than one Atma:

vāmadevādimukta nādvaitam

Vamadeva, as well as others, has been released; (hence) Non-duality (is) not (a fact).

Here is how Aniruddha interprets this Sutra in his commentary on the Samkhya Sutras:

The author declares that, for the following reason also, the Selves are many. In the Puranas, etc., it is heard, "Vamadeva has been released," "Shuka has been released," etc. If the Self were one and one only, since on the release of one, there would be the release of all, the mention of diversity (as in the case of separate and successive releases) would be contradicted.

I'm interested in the part in bold. Vyasa's son Shuka attaining Moksha is described in this chapter of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata (although there's some contretemps regarding that). But my question is, what scriptures describe the sage Vamadeva attaining Moksha?

Now as I discuss here, the Aitareya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads discuss Vamadeva attaining Jnana. And one who has attained Jnana is considered a Jivanmukta according to Advaitins. But the Samkhya school didn't accept the notion of Jivanmuktas, so I assume there must be some scripture which describes Vamadeva actually dying and attaining Moksha.

  • What are the contretremps regarding Shuka's Moksha? Or is it just the issue between Bhagavatam and MB?
    – Surya
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 7:17
  • @Surya Yeah, that's the issue. Prabhupada resolves it by saying there were two Shukas. I may post a question on whether anyone else believes in the two-Shukas theory. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 8:11
  • Two Shukas? How can it be possible for two Vyasaputras named Shuka to exist? (I am assuming this is excluding Shuka, the father of Kritvi.)
    – Surya
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 12:24
  • @Surya You've never heard of this? See here, for instance: vedabase.com/en/sb/9/21/25 And yes, we are talking about the father of Kritvi. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 14:24
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    @user1952500 Aniruddha is the author of the Samkhya Sutra Vritti, a commentary on Kapila's Samkhya Sutras written in the 15th century. Not much is known about him, other than the fact that there was an astronomer named Aniruddha who lived in the 15th century, and some people speculate that it may be the same person. What I can tell you is that the Samkhya school died out long before the 15th century, so whoever Aniruddha was, he presumably wasn't an actual follower of the Samkhya school. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 4:56

1 Answer 1


It looks like I didn't notice that the Aitareya Upanishad passage quoted in my earlier question actually says that Vamadeva attained Moksha. (Thanks to SwiftPushkar for pointing it out.) Here's what this section of the Aitareya Upanishad says:

And this has been declared by a Rishi: 'While dwelling in the womb, I discovered all the births of these Devas. A hundred iron strongholds kept me, but I escaped quickly down like a falcon.' Vâmadeva, lying in the womb, has thus declared this. And having this knowledge he stepped forth, after this dissolution of the body, and having obtained all his desires in that heavenly world, became immortal, yea, he became immortal.

And I think I've figured out why Aniruddha gives Shuka and Vamadeva as his two examples of people who have attained Moksha. Here is what the Varaha Upanishad says:

(The Rishi) Suka is a Mukta (emancipated person). (The Rishi) Vamadeva is a Mukta. There are no others (who have attained emancipation) than through these (viz., the two paths of these two Rishis). Those brave men who follow the path of Suka in this world become Sadyo-Muktas (viz., emancipated) immediately after (the body wear away); while those who always follow the path of Vamadeva (i.e., Vedanta) in this world are subject again and again to rebirths and attain Krama (gradual) emancipation, through Yoga, Sankhya and Karmas associated with Sattva (Guna). Thus there are two paths laid down by the Lord of Devas (viz.,) the Suka and Vamadeva paths. The Suka path is called the bird’s path; while the Vamadeva path is called the ant’s path. Those persons that have cognised the true nature of their Atman through the mandatory and prohibitory injunctions (of the Vedas), the inquiry into (the true meaning of) Maha-Vakyas (the sacred sentences of the Vedas), the Samadhi of Sankhya Yoga or Asamprajnata Samadhi and that have thereby purified themselves, attain the supreme seat through the Suka path. Having, through Hatha-Yoga practice with the pain caused by Yama, postures, etc., become liable to the ever recurring obstacles caused by Anima and other (Siddhis) and having not obtained good results, one is born again in a great family and practises Yoga through his previous (Karmic) affinities. Then through the practice of Yoga during many lives, he attains salvation (viz.,) the supreme seat of Vishnu through the Vamadeva path.

Now the Varaha Upanishad is considered by many to be a later text (and this passage provides an excellent illustration why, with its talk of Mahavakyas and Hatha Yoga). But then again Aniruddha lived relatively recently, so the Varaha Upanishad may have existed in his time. Or perhaps there's some older scripture that also connects Shuka and Vamadeva.

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