Classical Samkhya: An Interpretation of its History and Meaning

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  • Book Name Classical Samkhya: An Interpretation of its History and Meaning
  • Author Gerald James Larson
  • Language, Pages English, 332 Pgs.
  • Upload Date 2022 / 06 / 08
  • ISBN 9788120805033, 8120805038
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Classical Samkhya: An Interpretation of its History and Meaning
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The tradition of Samkhya is one of the oldest and most influential in the intellectual history of India. The fundamental notions of Samkhya namely prakrti, purusa, buddhi, ahamkara, manas and the three gunas provided the conceptual framework in which much of Indian philosophizing occurred and the classical formulations of Yoga and Vedanta together with many traditions of Buddhist philosophy and meditation developed vis-a-vis the intellectual perspective of the Samkhya. Similarly, on a general cultural level, the influence of Samkhya was profound and important over many centuries in such areas as law, medicine, ancient science and mathematics, logic, mythology, cosmology and ritual. This study traces the history of the Samkhya not only in the Indian intellectual tradition but also in the traditions of historical criticism. The book also offers a new interpretation of the philosophical significance of the Samkhya, with special reference to the classical interpretation of the interaction of prakrti and purusa. In this edition, the author has also included a Chart of the Twenty-five Basic Principles of the Samkhya, a Glossary of Samkhya Terminology, an additional Appendix which surveys recent scholarly work in the area of Samkhya together with a discussion of Samkhya in the Puranas and a revised Bibliography.

About The Author 

Gerald James Larson is Rabindranath Tagore Prof. of Indian Cultures and Civilizations, and Director of the India Studies Program at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA. Prof. Larson s area of specialization is South Asia philosophy and religion. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Indian thought. His most recent book is India s Agony Over Religion (State University of New York Press, 1995, and Oxford University Press, Delhi 1977)


Excerpts from reviews:

The term "Classical Samkhya" refers to the Samkhya doctrine as expounded in the "Samkhyakarika" of Isvarakrsna, together with the commentaries thereon. The author's own interpretation of the Karika's is given in a separate chapter. The original text of Samkhyakarika in Roman script together with a nice translation is given in an appendix. A glossary of technical terms,  chronological chart, bibliography and index make the work a highly useful one both to the Western and Eastern students of philosophy and research scholars as well to whom in particular this will serve as a guide for further studies.

B. Kutumba Rao
Triveni, July-September, 1984

Gerald Larson has here attempted to reconstruct and reinterpret the history and meaning of classical Samkhya. the special contribution of the book consists in showing Samkhya as a system of religious thought which seeks to understand the world and man's place in the world from the perspective of the fact of consciousness. The author rightly argues that the dualism between consciousness and the world is fundamental. A useful inclusion in this edition of the book is the glossary of Samkhya terminology. The work is a useful addition to the growing literature on Indian thought in general and on systems other than Vedanta in particular.

The Weekly-Madras,
October 28, 1979


Preface to the Second Edition




I. A Critical Review of the History of Interpretations of the Samkhya

     Brief Exposition of the Principles of Classical Samkhya
     Critical Review of Interpretations
     Richard Garbe
     Joseph Dahlmann
     Paul Oltramare
     Hermann Oldenberg
     A.B. Keith
     Franklin Edgerton
     Surendranath Dasgupta
     E.H. Johnston
     Erich Frauwallner
     J.A.B. van Buitenen
     J.W. Hauer
     Mircea Eliade
     Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya
     K.C. Bhattacharya
     Other Contributions

II. An Interpretation of the Historical Development of Classical Samkhya

     Ancient Speculations
     Proto-Samkhya Speculations
     Classical Samkhya
     Renaissance or Later Samkhya

III. An Interpretation of the Meaning of Classical Samkhya

     The Means of Knowledge
     prakrti, gunas and satkaryavada
     Association and Interaction of prakrti and purusa
     Emergence and Functioning of the tatt
     Discrimination and Release
     Conclusions and Final Evaluation

Epilogue: Sankara's Criticism of Samkhya and the Samkhya Response

A Chart of the Twenty-five Principles of Classical Samkhya


Appendix A. Chronological Chart
Appendix B. The Samkhyakarika of Isvarakrsna
Appendix C. A Modern Tradition of Samkhyayoga
Appendix D. Additional Materials for the Study of the History and Meaning of Classical Samkhya since the First Edition



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