‘Orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy’ Apara Prakriti, Para Prakriti
The word ‘Sankhya’, itself comes from the word ‘sāṁkhya’. It is called ‘sāṁkhya’ because it enumerates how many elements the whole world can be reduced to ultimately. It answers, as they see it, the whole world can be reduced to 24 elements, plus there is Purusha, so 25 constitute the whole world. Because it has enumerated these 25 elements therefore it is called ‘sāṁkhya’. Again between the 25, 24 are on one side and one is on the other side: Prakriti on one side and Purusha on the other side. Again there is a numbering, number two, in other words Sankhya philosophy is called “dualistic philosophy”. It considers two principles to be ultimate. The word “Dualism” also is also used in Indian philosophy for something else: the philosophy which says that there is a difference between ‘God’ and ‘Man’, the supreme soul and the individual soul, philosophies which distinguishes between the two are also called ‘Dualistic’, but Sankhya is called ‘Dualistic’ because it considers the distinction between ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’: Sankhya does not accept the existence of God, it is atheistic.
According to Sankhya you can explain the world without needing the existence of God. The whole world is nothing but the activity of Prakriti which is triggered of by Purusha, by his glancing; and then the whole world can be explained in terms of these two principles interacting with each other. There is also seṣvara sāṁkhya (theistic), nirīṣvara sāṁkhya (atheistic) is the classical Sankhya; there is also seṣvara sāṁkhya which also accepts that there is God, but it accepts God not as the ‘cause’ of the world, but as the ‘ruler’ of the world. The causation of the world is actually only between Purusha and Prakriti. But there is also a supreme soul who can control things: it has control, it intervenes; it is this Sankhya, seṣvara sāṁkhya, which is accepted by Yoga as we understand today.
There is an understanding of Sankhya, which is not exactly shared by the Sankhya as understood in the Gita. The word Sankhya is used, and when you read the word Sankhya we think that Sankhya in the Gita means what we mean by Sankhya today, but that is not what Sri Krishna means by Sankhya when He uses the word Sankhya in the Gita. And I was trying to clarify that confusion. Up till now, whatever I have told you about Sankhya, I have to add only one word to whatever I have said last time: that Purusha, according to Sankhya, is multiple, there is not one Purusha but there are many Purushas: each one of us is a Purusha, each one distinct from the other.