Sankhya and Yoga Philosophies

Chapter II, Verse 39

Sri Nerode’s Translation:


Thus far the teachings that I have given to thee are from the philosophy of Samkya. Hear now the wisdom of Yoga, understanding which thou can transcend the bonds of Karma.


Helpful Translation:

The previous verses have been based upon concepts from the Sankhya philosophy. The following verses will be based upon Yoga philosophy. By understanding Sankhya and applying Yoga one can rise above the impact of cause and effect.



There are dozens of written volumes regarding both Sankhya and Yoga philosophies. These volumes cover the different schools in each line of reasoning. I offer my own brief summation of Yoga and Sankhya philosophies below.


Sankhya is concerned with how the soul came to express through the human form and how creation evolves. Yoga is concerned with practical steps to improve the human condition and how to dispel the state of ignorance that the soul has accepted.

Sankhya is based upon the concept of duality (positive/negative) and of the qualities (or gunas) that account for the many variations possible. As long as there is restlessness, there is a circulation of consciousness and energy between the positive and negative poles. Within this process of circulation three distinct qualities are born. They include: wisdom (Sattwa guna), movement toward the positive pole; ignorance (Tama guna), movement toward the negative pole; and neutral (Raja guna), balance between the positive and the negative, temporarily at peace. The two poles and the three qualities create aspects of the human experience.

For example, components of sense experiences correspond to each of the qualities. The positive quality is the instrument of sense. The neutralizing quality becomes the five abilities. The negative quality is the object of each sense. Together, these create a material “reality” of sensual illusions that have occurred. (This sensual illusion is what the ignorant human being considers to be “life”.)

  • Hearing, The Positive
  • Neutral: Articulation, Speech
  • Negative, object: Sound
  • Material Illusion of: the traditional element of Ether, the medium of light and ‘unheard’ sound
  • Touch, The Positive
  • Neutral: Motion
  • Negative, object: Tactual sense
  • Material Illusion of: Air and Gases, traditional element of air
  • Sight, The Positive
  • Neutral: Generation
  • Negative, object: Form and Color
  • Material Illusion of: Energy, traditional element of fire
  • Taste, The Positive
  • Neutral: Absorption
  • Negative, object: Taste and Fluidity
  • Material Illusion of: Fluids, traditional element of water
  • Smell, The Positive
  • Neutral: Excretion, Elimination
  • Negative, object: Odor
  • Material Illusion of: Solids, traditional element of earth

Previously, in this blog I gave an overview of the Sankhya explanation of how a soul incarnates as a human. If you wish, you may review Human Structure: The Design of the Body According to Sankhya Science.


Yoga philosophy expounds on the methodology for achieving the liberation of consciousness from form. There are seven defined systems of yoga practice and eight defined degrees of successful practice. Variations of the systems of yoga are found in the mystical and enlightened practices of all true world religions.

Perfect practice of any single system of yoga results in liberation. The seven systems of yoga include:

  1. Raja Yoga – The “royal” system is considered the highest of yoga methods. It includes meditation (concentration on the Absolute) techniques and aspects of the other six yogic systems.
  2. Bhakti Yoga – The “devotional” system focuses on all surrendering love for everything. This is the only system of yoga which may be successfully practiced by the masses in every Age.
  3. Jnana Yoga – The system of “wisdom.” Wisdom in this yoga system is defined as cosmic (or divinely guided) intuition. Wisdom is not the same as the intellect. This system transmutes the limitations of intellectual knowledge into the intuitive expression of Bliss.
  4. Karma Yoga – The system of “service.” Karma yoga teaches methods of being nonattached to the fruits of actions. Currently, most of the practice of nonattachment is in service to the needs of other humans. But the principle of Karma Yoga is to perform all activity, from the briefest thought to the building of universes for the Conscious experience only. Not for outcome.
  5. Laya Yoga – The system of “listening to sound(s).” By learning techniques to concentrate on astral (subtle) sounds, the practitioner of Laya Yoga untangles the knots of cause and effect (karma) lodged in the Conscious Energy Centers (chakras).
  6. Mantra Yoga – Also called “Japa Yoga.” The system of repetition of root sounds (currently practiced as words of language). When consciously practiced to unite the oral sounds with the subtle sounds, Mantra Yoga works like Laya Yoga to untie the knots of specific impediments to the release of consciousness from form.
  7. Hatha Yoga – The “physical” system of yoga prepares the human body through breathing techniques and physical postures to handle the energy released during life in a liberated state. Of the seven systems, this one is least likely to produce liberation on its own. The West presently calls physical breathing techniques “pranayama”. Pranayama actually means to consciously control life energy. While the physical breath contains the energy within oxygen, breathing techniques related to physical inhalation and exhalation are not technically pranayama.

The ancient sage named Patanjali described the eight steps of completing any of the seven yogic systems. Patanjali includes:

  1. Yama – moral conduct, self-discipline to make good choices
  2. Niyama – avoiding “evil”, self-discipline to avoid poor choices
  3. Asana – right posture
  4. Pranayama – control of the life force
  5. Pratyahara – interiorization, turning off the senses at will
  6. Dharana – concentration
  7. Dhayana – meditation (concentration upon a quality of God, like Bliss)
  8. Samadhi – superconscious experience

The Bhagavad Gita is primarily addressed to the Kshatriya caste individual. The Kshatriya benefits from practicing a combination of Sankhya thinking and various Yogic techniques. When used as a Sanskrit primer, the Bhagavad Gita reveals the main points regarding the application of Sankhya and Yoga together to impact the world illusion.


Easter Eggs:

Easter Eggs (hidden references to deeper meanings) in the original version of this this verse include:

As a Sanskrit primer the Bhagavad Gita switches from verses regarding the tools and auditory symbols of Sanskrit (Sankhya) to applying what one has learned for correct mantra practice (Yoga).

ParthaSon of Pritha

Pritha is the birth name of Arjuna’s mother Kunti. (His “father” is Indra, the lord of heaven, Svargaloka, who has a thunderbolt, Vajra, in his hand.) Partha indicates the state of human consciousness that is innocent or naïve. Contrast with Kaunteya. The feminine origin of this moniker indicates it is related to the ida nadi.

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