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Lectures on Samkhya

Hinduism II: Hindu ideas of liberation Lecture 2: The Samkhya and Yoga

Professor Gavin Flood
28 Jan 2009

These lectures will examine conceptions of liberation and paths leading to liberation in the history of ‘Hindu’ traditions. After an introductory lecture that raises some of the theological questions about the relation of path to goal and the importance of ritual and asceticism in the history of Indian religions, we will begin with an examination of Samkhya, the philosophical backdrop of Yoga, and move on to the opening Yoga-sutras, their ideal of liberation as isolation (kaivalya), and the means of achieving that goal. We will trace the development of devotion (bhakti) and examine bhakti and yoga in the Bhagavad Gita before moving into the medieval period. Here the lectures will describe some developments of bhakti in vernacular literatures, focusing on both texts that advocate devotion to iconic forms and the later texts that advocate devotion to an absolute without qualities. Here we will also examine the importance of ritual texts and the relation between ritual, devotion and yoga. Lastly we will trace the themes of liberation and path with examples from selected tantric traditions within Vaisnavism and Saivism.

While the lectures will place texts in their historical contexts, the course will not examine texts in a strictly chronological sequence, the stress being on theme. Throughout we will raise critical theological questions through engaging with texts in translation and raise the question about the extent to which liberation is a rhetoric that overlays other cultural forces. By the end of the course the student should have an understanding of soteriology in Hindu traditions, an understanding of some the main literatures associated with this, and an awareness of the philosophical and theological problems entailed. These lectures are aimed at students of theology and religious studies.

Related: General, Samkhya, Yoga

The Analysis of Experience in Classical Samkhya

Shivdasani Conference 2009
Mikel Burley
11 Oct 2009

This paper argues for an interpretation of classical SƒÅ·pÉkhya according to which its schema of twenty-five categories constitutes the result of an analysis of experience as opposed to a speculative cosmogony or imaginative account of how our psychological faculties come into existence. Problems with prevalent interpretations are highlighted, notably the difficulty of understanding how physical elements can ‘evolve’ from psychological ones and that of understanding the relevance of the categorial schema to SƒÅ·pÉkhya’s overall soteriological goal. An experience-oriented interpretation is then proposed, drawing analogies with aspects of Kantian and phenomenological philosophy. It is contended that the manifest categories be understood as constituents of possible experience (or experience-in-general) rather than as material entities, and the relations between them be understood in terms of synchronic conditionality rather than diachronic material causality. The proposed interpretation, it is argued, shows the SƒÅ·pÉkhya system to be more internally coherent and soteriologically relevant than do alternative interpretations.

Related: Categories, Philosophy, Samkhya