In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sāṃkhya and Philosophical Yoga

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies

Hinduism Sāṃkhya and Philosophical Yoga
Mikel Burley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0113


Sāṃkhya and Yoga are traditionally regarded as major schools of Indian philosophy. When the model of the classical darśanas (philosophical “viewpoints” or “systems”) is used, Sāṃkhya and Yoga are regarded as being two of the six main “orthodox” (āstika) darśanas. In this context, “orthodox” denotes acceptance of the infallibility of the ancient Vedas, and is contrasted with “heterodox” (nāstika), a term that is applied to those schools or traditions that reject the authority of the Vedas, most notably Buddhism, Jainism, and the allegedly materialist followers of Cārvāka. The histories of both Sāṃkhya and Yoga are, however, long and complex, and their origins remain largely unknown. Thus, whether they began as forms of thought and practice that accepted the authority of the Vedas, or whether they initially evolved outside the Vedic and mainstream Brahmanical Hindu tradition, is still a contentious matter. So, too, is the matter of the relationship between these two darśanas. Many scholars characterize them as being akin to the theoretical and practical aspects of a common system, with Sāṃkhya providing the theoretical background for Yoga’s more directly soteriological orientation. When viewed in this way, Yoga can be regarded as a branch or subschool of Sāṃkhya, since it largely inherits its most salient concepts from the Sāṃkhya tradition. But a few scholars have argued that there are important doctrinal and conceptual differences between Sāṃkhya and Yoga that ought to deter us from conflating them into one school. Irrespective of these scholarly disputes, there is fairly wide agreement that the primary textual exemplars of the schools are the Sāṃkhyakārikā (c. 350–450 CE) and the Yogasūtra (c. 200–300 CE). Thus, when the philosophies of Sāṃkhya and Yoga are referred to, it is most commonly these two texts and their traditional commentaries that are meant. These textual traditions have become known as “classical Sāṃkhya” and “classical Yoga” respectively, and the vast majority of the sources listed in this article are concerned primarily with one or other, or both, of these textual traditions.

Reference Works

Philosophico Literary Research Department 2009 is a well-researched reference work that covers both Sāṃkhya and Yoga. Feuerstein 1990 is more suitable for general readers interested primarily in Yoga. Digambarji, et al. 1989 is for scholars with a particular interest in the Sāṃkhyakārikā.

  • Digambarji, Swami, Mahajot Sahai, and M. L. Gharote. Glossary of the Sāṅkhyakārikā. Lonavla, India: Kaivalyadhama, 1989.

    A glossary of Sanskrit terms from the Sāṃkhyakārikā, containing 244 entries arranged in Sanskrit alphabetical order. Useful for scholars of this text. Obtainable from some Indian suppliers.

  • Feuerstein, Georg. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga. London: Unwin Hyman, 1990.

    An accessible reference book, covering a wide range of Yoga-related terms, and including numerous illustrations. Aimed primarily at a popular readership, but exhibiting a high level of scholarship.

  • Philosophico Literary Research Department of Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti. Yoga Kośa: Yoga Terms Explained with Reference to Context. New enlarged ed. Lonavla, Pune, India: Kaivalyadhama SMYM Samiti, 2009.

    A dictionary of important Sanskrit terms from the Yogasūtra and several of its commentaries, plus the Sāṃkhyakārikā, Yoga Upanishads, and a selection of Haṭha Yoga texts. Arranged in Sanskrit alphabetical order, using Roman transliteration, with clear definitions and explanations in English.

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