There are very few yoga followers who are aware that the Yoga has its roots in Samkhya philosophy. Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimansa and Vedanta are six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. Samkhya provides a metaphysical base for yoga. In the BhagawadGita, Samkhya and yoga are described, “ignorant, not sages, speak of Samkhya and Yoga is different adaptation of both disciplines”.

Samkhya in Sanskrit literally can be translated as the number. Samkhya explains the components of human being, the whole srishthi (the whole universe including animate and non-animate objects.) It decodes the secret of the creation of Universe focusing on both macro and micro elements. According to Samkhya system the universe has 25 elements—inclusive of gross and subtle elements. The universe is created by Prakriti and conceptualized by Purusha.

Purusha in Sanskrit can be literally translated as the male. But the significance of Purusha is miles beyond this meaning. In Smakhya, it is known as the Vishesh Purusha. It can be understood as the God, or higher almighty or Universal consciousness. Purusha cannot create anything without prakriti. And Prakriti alone cannot create. The presence of Purusha puts prakriti into action. It can be said that Purusha has design and structure on his mind which is put into reality by Prakriti.

Prakriti & Gunas

Purusha doesn’t change with the time or space. It doesn’t carry any substance, form or characteristics. So it doesn’t have any gunas. It always remain the same. But prakriti keeps on changing incessantly. Prakriti is the seat of all manifestations in the world. It can only manifest itself as the various objects of experience of the Purusha. Prakriti is constituted of three gunas; sattva, rajas and tamas. The term guna, in ordinary sense means quality or nature. But here, it is to be understood in the sense of constituent (component) in Samkhya. Sattva is concerned with happiness. Sattva means purity, fineness and subtlety. While rajas is nourishing and concerned with action, tamas is associated with ignorance and inaction.

Sattva is associated with ego, mind and intelligence. Its association with the consciousness is the strongest. Though sattva is an essential condition for consciousness, it is not sufficient. It should be remembered that consciousness is exclusively the Purusha.

Rajas is concerned with the actions of objects. It is associated with activity and motion. In material objects, motion and action are the results of rajas. In living beings not only activity and restlessness, but pain also are caused by rajas.

Tamas is the constituent concerned with the inertia and inaction. In material objects, it resists motion and activity. In living beings, it is associated with coarseness, negligence, indifference and inactivity. In man, it manifests itself as ignorance, insensitivity and inaction.

Cosmic Intelligence

The combination of purusha and prakriti, mahat (cosmic intelligence) comes into being. Mahat signifies the capacity to expand, reveal and ascertain. Individualized cosmic intelligence is known as the Chitta (personality complex which is made of 17 components). Most of the time we equate chitta with the mind but Chitta is made up of 17 components and manas is one of them. Chitta creates ahamkara (I sense). Then comes Manas (cognitive mind) as the fifth evolution. Mahat, Ahamakara, and Manas are not marked out in time. But they rise simultaneously. All these further give rise to five subtle elements or tanmatras.

From prakriti arise also the three elements of the mind: the higher, intuitive, self-knowing mind (buddhi), which connects with consciousness; the lower-thinking, rational mind (manas), which connects consciousness to the outer world via the senses; and the ego (ahamkara), which exists in a space between the higher and the lower mind.

Knowledge, Action and Five Elements

Samkhya also describes 20 further elements: the jnanendriyas, or five sensory organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose); the karmendriyas, or five organs of action (tongue, hands, legs, reproductive organs, and excretory organs) the tanmatras, or five senses sound (shabda), touch (sparsha), apperance (rupa), flavour (rasa), odur/smell (gandha). From the subtle elements the pancha mahabhutas (five fundamental elements) arise, they are ether (akash), air (vayu), fire (teja), water (aap), earth (prithvi). The material world made up of 5 mahabhutas becomes a reality with intellect indemnity of the self and power of thinking through medium of five subtle elements tanmatras.

With the sense of intellect “I” am able to think and realize through five subtle elements the world made of five mahabhutas. It is because of individuating principle or ahamkara that one is able to become a perceiver of the existence.
Further evolution of the five elements and the five gross elements is into five sense organs or jnana indriyas and five organs of action or karma indriyas.

The sense organs are the capacity to hear, feel, see, taste and smell. The five organs of actions to express, grasp, move, excrete and procreate. These tenfold sense organs could have no existence without the corresponding subtle elements. For example power to hear would have no meaning without sound. The sense operate on correlated fundamental elements. The five fundamental elements are in order of their heaviness and complexity. Ether is related only to sound. Air has both sound and touch. Fire in addition to touch sound has appearance. Water has sound touch appearance and taste. Ether has sound touch appearance, flavor and odor.

According to Patanjali, the soul of purusha is the real self of an individual. To take one’s physical self or one’s thoughts as the real self is ignorance or avidya. The yoga of patnjali is the reversal of the cause of the phenomenal world, Yoga involves withdrawing of the senses, achieving the pure state of mahat or budhhi by hindering the thinking process and by dissolution of ahamkaras or the individualizing principle, Finally, to bring the soul in its own pure nature, uninvolved in prakriti.

Prakriti is the playground where pursusha can express itself and projects its swabhava that is then reflected outside and experienced. For this it needs citta, the personality complex. Citta is made up of manas (cognitive mind, sattvic), budhhi (discerning intellect, rajsic) and ahamkara , tamsic, I sense.