Liberation is freedom – freedom from prakriti. It is often called “kaivalya,” which means aloofness, aloneness, or isolation. To obtain liberation one must separate from the body because, despite all its wonderful qualities, the body is made from prakriti. Separation is needed from the mind as well. Remember, prakriti is not just the physical manifestations we see in life. Memories, thoughts, emotions, and even intelligence are all prakriti and need to be left behind. True liberation, in the Samkhya tradition, cannot be obtained while embodied. Only after leaving the body can one be truly and finally liberated. But, if the purusha is not cleansed of all its attractions to prakriti, then death is just the beginning of a new cycle, and the purusha once again becomes attached to prakriti.
To achieve liberation, the Samkhya yogis employ discrimination and renunciation. Discrimination (known as viveka) is a knowing that is gained through reasoning. Renunciation is a moving away from everything that binds us to this life. While similar to Classical Yoga, Samkhya practice does not focus on samadhi as the main tool for liberation. Both practices, however, require a fierce form of asceticism equaled only in the Jain religion.
In the fertile period, around 500~600 B.C.E., ideas were being developed and exchanged between many fields of inquiry. Samkhya philosophy informed pre-classical yoga, which borrowed from Jainism, which also influenced both Samkhya and Buddhism. Each philosophy borrowed, tested, adopted, and discarded ideas and practices from each other. Eventually a consistent psycho-cosmological model precipitated out for each philosophical approach.
In ancient Jainism we find a similar dualism to Samkhya; the purusha is called the “ataman” or the “jiva.” Everyone has her jiva, unique and separate from all other jivas, just as the Samkhya philosophy believed purushas are separate. Your jiva is unfortunately stained or colored by its association with the world of nature. The Jains believed that the only way to clean the tarnish from the jiva is through fiercely adopting ahimsa: non-harming. Even breathing harms the molecules of the air; therefore, masks are worn to protect the air, and to avoid inadvertently swallowing an insect. The most extreme Jain saints would cease walking, because every step would harm some microscopic creature. Eventually the saints would just sit and wait for death to take them. This is a complete renunciation of the world and all its attachments.
This is similar to the fierce yogi practiced by the Samkhya and Classical yogis: this is total renunciation. But, in the Samkhya philosophy, renunciation alone will not free the purusha from prakriti’s grasp. Viveka, discernment, is also required. This is knowing the way of the universe, not intellectually, because the intellect is still prakriti, but at a deeper level. Viveka develops an inner knowing that discerns the ephemeral from the actual – separating the apparent nature of the world from its underlying reality. While it is gained through reasoning, viveka also develops the will to renounce all that is unreal.
Samkhya was a masterpiece of modeling the ways of the inner universe. The adoption of its cosmological structure by the Classical Yogis and Buddhists testifies to its power. However, the practice of Samkhya, and its underlying dualistic philosophy, was the basis for its eventual demise. Classical Yoga moved away from Samkhya, and replaced the emphasis on viveka with the practice of samadhi. Later yoga schools, starting with Tantra, followed the Buddha’s path of renouncing the fierce renunciation practices of the Jains, Samkhya, and Classical Yoga paths. Eventually all that was left of Samkhya was the cosmology.
Let’s move on now and examine how the two main yoga schools, Classical Yoga and Tantra Yoga, and understand mind and all that lies beyond mind.