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The Late Samkhyan Tattwa School

Although attributed to Kapila, the legendary founder of the Samkhya philosophy, the Samkhya tattwa-school most clearly post-dates Ishwarakrishna's final codification of classical Samkhya, and probably dates to the 14th or 15th century.  This includes all the twenty-four cosmological tattwas given in Classical Samkhya, plus the purusha making up the twenty-fifth.  These are arranged in five sets of five, in which the universe is described as unfolding in five successive stages, i.e.:

  1. Akasha (space) - five states of consciousness
  2. Vayu (air) - five tanmatras (subtle elements)
  3. Tejas (fire) - five gross elements
  4. Apas (water) - five powers of perception (buddindryas)
  5. Prithivi (earth) - five powers of action (karmendryas)

 The whole arrangement is as follows:


    Akasha     Vayu      Tejas      Apas       Prithivi
---------------------------------------------------------------
Akasha  1.Avyakta  2.Buddhi  3.Ahamkara 4.Manas    5.Purusha
        Unmanifest Intellect   Ego        Mind       Animator
---------------------------------------------------------------
Vayu    6.Shabda   7.Sparsha 8.Rupa     9.Rasa     10.Gandha
        Sound      Touch     Form       Taste      Smell
---------------------------------------------------------------
Tejas   11.Akasha  12.Vayu   13.Tejas   14.Apas    15.Prithivi
        Space      Air       Fire       Water      Earth
---------------------------------------------------------------
Apas    16.Shrotra 17.Twak   18.Akshu   19.Jihva   20.Ghrana
        Hearing    Touching  Seeing     Tasting    Smelling
---------------------------------------------------------------
Prithivi 21.Vac    22.Pani   23.Padas   24.Upastha 25.Payus
         Speaking   Grasping  Walking      Sex     Excretion

So, according to this table, Avyakta would be Akasha of Akasha; Buddhi would be Vayu of Akasha, and so on [David Allen Hulse, The Key of it All, pp.288-9].  Such a fractal-like division of reality into self-similiar subdivisions is a common theme in much occult thought.  To give just a few better-known examples: the ten sefirot of Jewish and Hermetic Kabbalah, each divided into a full series of ten sub-sefirot; the Planes, Cycles, and Root-races of Blavatskyian Theosophy (and subsequent cosmological systems), each divided into the same set of seven sub-planes, sub-cycles, or sub-races; and the Octaves of Gurdjieff, each divided into a full scale of sub-octaves.

Apart from a different order of tattwas relative to the cosmological scheme, it can be seen that the only novelty is the demotion of the purusha to the lowly place of prithivi of akasha, to make up the fifth element of consciousness/akasha.  And since in this system prithivi is matched with the karmendriyas or organs of action, whilst the purusha is in both Patanjalian Yoga and classical Samkhya most specifically a non-active principle, the artificial nature of this arrangement is evident.

This series formed the foundation for the first proper or true tattva system, the five vayus or pranas of Hatha Yoga.

internal link The five vayus or pranas of Hatha Yoga


diagram Here is a diagram of the 36 Kashmir Shaivite tatwas with sanskrit letters (includes the above 25 Samkhyan tattwas) - external linkmirror





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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 29 June 1999, last modified 15 February 2005