The Theory of Liberation According to Samkhya Philosophy

Read this article to learn about the theory of liberation according to Samkhya philosophy!

Like other systems of Indian philosophy, the Samkhya aims at the attainment of liberation, analyses the causes of bondage and suggests remedies.

Three Kinds of Suffering:

According to Samkhya, life in this world is full of suffering.

Where there is guna there is suffering. Sufferings have their end in liberation. Even the life of heaven is controlled by the gunas. The aim of man is to get rid of three kinds of suffering. Liberation or moksha means freedom from pain without any possibility of return to this state. This is the apvarga or the purusartha or summun bonum.

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The following are the three kinds of suffering referred to above—

1. Adhyatniika:

It is due to physical, mental and intra-organic causes. It includes all kinds of bodily and mental ailments. Disease, anger and hunger, etc., are adhyatmika sufferings.


2. Adhibhautika:

These sufferings are induced by natural causes such as human beings, animals, birds, insects, etc. They are caused by external physical objects and are extra-organic.

3. Adhidaivika:

These proceed from external but extraordinary causes such as stars, physical elements, ghosts, witches, etc.

Means to liberation:

True knowledge of metaphysics is the one method of obtaining liberation from suffering. Ignorance is the cause of suffering. Ignorance means the failure to recognize one’s own real nature. Not knowing the real nature of soul, the living being identifies itself with the mind, or the ego and intellect, and is affected by their pleasure and suffering, and hence it suffers.


When the Jiva recognizes and realizes its real nature or the inner real self, it then ceases to be influenced by the sufferings of the ego, intellect or the mind. In this way liberation can be attained only by realizing the distinction between prakriti and purusa.

The Real Self:

In the Samkhya philosophy, the purusa is free, inactive and of the nature of consciousness. It is beyond space and time, merit and demerit, attachment and detachment. It is reflected in the intellect. The Jiva is deprived of its liberation only because it takes this intellect or the ego to be its real nature.

All actions, pleasure and suffering, change and feeling, etc., are the distortions of the body. The soul is beyond all bodily and mental sufferings. It is not touched by the three kinds of sufferings. Purusa is never bound, it is only the ego that is bound. The Jiva or living being achieves his liberation when he realizes his true nature. In its real form, as the inner soul or Purusa, he is eternally free and liberated.

Thus, being chained means being ignorant of the distinction between self and not-self, while liberation means realization of this distinction. Action cannot lead to liberation. Good, bad or indifferent actions are all due to gunas or the three constituent elements, and they create attachment. Good actions lead to heaven while bad actions result in the agent going to hell.

But just like worldly life, heaven and hell are also full of suffering. Only knowledge can procure liberation for the Jive because restriction or bondage is due to ignorance and may be removed only by knowledge. This knowledge is acquired by distinguishing between the Prakriti and the Purusa.

Actions and their consequences, virtue and vice, pleasure and suffering are all in only the not-self. Constant reflection upon the knowledge that ‘I am not the not-self’, ‘that nothing is mine’, and that ‘ego is untrue’, purifies it, makes it absolute, divests it of its distortions, and thus leads to liberation.

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