Around 2-300 AD Samkhya emerged as various philosophical doctrines in discussions with the Buddhists (Collins 1998). One version of Samkhya later became recognised as a canon – Samkhya-karika. It was written by Ishvarakrishna (350-450AD). He formulated it as a systematic philosophy by compiling previous fragments of doctrines. Samkhya means the philosophy of enumerationâ as it put up lists of concepts, which were broken down into further new lists.
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Basically it was an ontological philosophy (like the first Greek philosophy) enquiring into the fundamentals of being. It answered the puzzle of what is pure existence behind multitude and forms? ? It envisaged the universe evolving from a single principle called prakriti. Prakriti evolved into a number of fundamental principles, underlying and configuring the entire universe including the human mind. Having grasped this, according to Samkhya, the knowing subject – now understanding the configuration of his own mind – would achieve liberation.
In opposition to Vedanta, Samkhya is a dualist ontology stating that the world was fundamentally divided into two principles, which had nothing to do with each other. On one side was prakriti, which was the whole universe – all matter including mind. So prakriti should not be confused with Western matter' – it is more than that.
As any colour can be broken down into a specific combination of Red, Yellow and Blue, so prakriti – mind and matter – combined three fundamental principles – the three gunas. In prakriti's initial and undifferentiated state, the three gunas – or energy forms – were in absolute equilibrium.
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