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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, which was founded by the sage Kapila and which believes in two kinds of entities in the Universe, Purushas or souls and Prakriti or matter/energy. According to the Samkhya school, there are multiple Purushas but only one Prakriti. Or at least I thought that was a universal belief of the Samkhya school, but that might not be the case. Let me explain.

Haribhadra's Saddarshana Samucchaya is a Jain work which seeks to disprove the various Astika schools of Hindu philosophy. Page 368 of this book says that one of the commentators on Haribhadra's work makes an interesting statement in regard to the Samkhya school:

Gunaratna (fourteenth century), the commentator on the Saddarshana Samucchaya, mentions two schools of Samkhya, maulikya (original) and uttara (late). The former maintains that there is a prakriti (pradhana) for each soul (atman), whereas the latter, with the classic Samkhya, believes that there is but one pradhana for all individual souls[.]

My question is, is Gunaratna right that there were Samkhya philosophers who believed in a different Prakriti for each Purusha? As far as I can tell, all the Samkhya works I've read, like the five commentaries on the Samkhya Karika linked to in my answer here, support the notion of a common Prakriti, so they'd all belong to "Uttara Samkhya" school as per Gunaratna. I'm not sure who belonged to the "Maulikya Samkhya" school then.

On a side note, how would multiple Prakritis work? Would each soul experience a completely different reality, or would the Prakritis link together, or what?

  • Since every part of Prakruti is unique, aren't both the statements true? "Every Purusha dwells in its own Prakruti" AND "All Purusha collectively form the supreme Brahman, which dwells in collective Prakruti". For example, if we consider every cell of the body a being then everyone has their own surrounding. Collectively all these cells make a body and the body has its own collective surrounding. – iammilind Sep 29 '17 at 4:42
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    @iammilind The Samkhya school didn't even believe in the existence of Brahman. And they thought Purushas were completely separate from one another. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 29 '17 at 5:26
  • @iammilind My answer should clarify what these "multiple Prakritis" people believed. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 29 '17 at 15:18
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I found the answer to my question in this excerpt from the Yukti Dipika, an ancient commentary on Ishwara Krishna's Samkhya Karika of unknown authorship discovered in the 1930's:

Opponent: The statement that the commencement of activity is meant for the liberation of each conscious entity is wrong; because there is difference of opinion amongst the authorities. The cosmic matter attached with each conscious entity forms the objects like body, etc. (for that conscious entity). Out of them, when the magnanimous body starts functioning, the others also do so. And, when that stops activity, they also stop functioning - thus believes the Samkhya authority Paurika. Then, without refuting it how can it be accepted that the cosmic matter is one?

Proponent : No, there is no proof (for it). It cannot be decided so through perception, because all the cosmic matters are beyond the reach of the senses. Nor is there some undoubtless probans. We have not accepted the person stating like this as reliable and hence we believe that it is not so. Moreover, the purpose can be fulfilled with one (cosmic matter) only. Since it is not limited in magnitude, the single conscious entity only is enough to produce the bodies for all the conscious entities. Therefore, the postulation of some other serves no purpose. If it is argued that since the cosmic matter is limited in magnitude, it may be like this: if it is sai, that the cosmic matter is limited in magnitude, it is not so because it would involve the undesirable contingency of its complete destruction. In this way also arises the undesirable contingency of the destruction of that as in the case of the milk. Similarly, there arises the undesirable contingency of the complete destruciton of the world. Moreover, it involves the undesirable contingency of infinite regress. (Also) because a single yogi or Isvara attains many bodies through will, which becomes unjustifiable due to the finite nature of the cosmic matter. Or, if the cosmic matter is supposed to be different in case of each body, there arises the undesirable contingency of (the number of) cosmic matter. Since it is accepted as the cause of the body which is limited in magnitude, the postulation of some other cosmic matter serves no purpose. And, hence, this cosmic matter is one only. Therefore, it is wrong that the cosmic matters are different in case of conscious entity. As regards the statement that the others start functioning when the cosmic matter attached with the principal conscious entity starts functioning and when that ceases to funcion, the others also cease, we say: no, because there is no superiority. Just as the souls cannot activate each other due to the lack of superiority amongst them, in the same of these way, (cosmic matters) also. Or, if the superiority exists (in cosmic matters), there will arise the undesirable contingency of the un-justification (of acceptance of cosmic matter) because of the dissimilarity. Therefore, that only a single cosmic matter proceeds to act for the purpose of liberating each conscious entity, is right.

So apparently the Samkhya philosopher Paurika believed in a different Prakriti for each Purusha. It's interesting that the author of the Yukti Dipika rejects the authority of Paurika, considering that another excerpt from the Yukti Dipika mentions Paurika as one of the figures in the Guru Parampara of the Samkhya school:

In brief this shastra is (handed over to us) through [gap in the manuscript] Harita, Vaddhali, Kairat, Paurika, Arshbheshvara, Panchadhikarana, Patanjali, Varsaganya, Kaundinya, Muka, etc.

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