The Secret of the Yoga Sutra Book Club Session 4

The Theory and Practice of Sankhya Yoga (Appendix C)

November 3, 2014    BY Yoga International

Sankhya Yoga is the science and practice leading to complete fulfillment and ultimate freedom. Sankhya is the theoretical aspect of Yoga and Yoga is the practical aspect of Sankhya. Together, they form a complete system.

Sankhya explains the nature of existence by using two terms: Purusha andPrakriti. Both Purusha and Prakriti are eternal, absolute, and all-pervading. They are inseparable aspects of the one reality underlying both the manifest and unmanifest worlds. Prakriti is the intrinsic capacity of Purusha. Purusha is the intrinsic intelligence of Prakriti. Both have a higher and a lower aspect. 

Purusha: Consciousness, Pure Intelligence, the Seer. Higher Purusha is synonymous with Ishvara (God). It is imperishable and untouched by the five afflictions and their consequences described in the section, “The Cause of Suffering.” Higher Purusha is our core being. Lower purusha refers to the individual self—Consciousness in conjunction with the mind.   

Prakriti: Primordial Nature, the total sum of all that exists and has the potential to exist. Higher Prakriti is the intrinsic attribute of Ishvara and is beyond the reach of the five afflictions. Lower prakriti is an attribute of the individual soul and consists of our samskaras, our likes and dislikes, and our desires. It is subject to death, dissolution, and rebirth. 

The study of Sankhya philosophy begins with distinguishing the higher aspects of Purusha and Prakriti from the lower aspects. This leads to an understanding of the nature of the mind, the cause of suffering, and how to find fulfillment and freedom. 


  1. Like Buddhism, Sankhya philosophy begins with an acknowledgement of the existence of suffering. What is the cause of suffering according to Sankhya? How is it created?  
  2. As the mind begins to identify with the objects of its experience, ignorance (avidya), the first of the five afflictions (kleshas), is born. Ignorance gives rise to the other four afflictions. What are they? In what order do they manifest? How does one lead to the next?
  3. What is the relationship between the five afflictions and the wheel of karma?
  4. There are two categories of Purusha: extraordinary and ordinary. We, as individual souls, are ordinary purushas. What are the primary differences between the extraordinary Purusha (Ishvara) and us?
  5. Similarly, there are two categories of Prakriti: higher and lower. What are the distinguishing characteristics? (These are explained most specifically in the section, “The Union of Purusha and Prakriti.”)
  6. The process of death and rebirth is outlined in the sections, “Manifestation of the Material World” and “Manifestation of the Mental World.” What is this process? How is it that as citizens of the world of higher Prakriti, a world replete with everything we need for complete fulfillment and total freedom, we create and reside in a parallel world of limitation and suffering?

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