Commentaries on Commentaries

I do not consider myself a good scholar. I am especially not a very good scholar of Sanskrit. Therefore, an expression like “I am reading the Samkhya Karika” deserves some qualification. I am not reading the Samkhya Karia since it is written in Sanskrit and I am not fluent in Sanskrit. Even if I was fluent in Sanskrit I doubt if I could get much out of the text since it is very dense and refined.

I am really reading commentaries. But that too requires qualification. I am likely reading translations of Sanskrit commentaries. This inevitably puts me at a distance from “the text.” This may also explain why direct oral transmission was traditionally the way such works were accessed.

I feel a need to remind myself (and offer this reminder to you) that this current learning process is just one iteration in my relationship with the text. Future iterations may refine my understanding and sense of the text. This points to a potential lifetime (and maybe more if you are open to it) of engagement.

Teachers, Teachings & Practice

This experiment did not start in a void. The seeds of Samkhya were planted and subtly nourished over two decades of study and practice. I have been living with Samkhya implicitly for a long time and now it is becoming explicit.

I feel that Samkhya needs time to live inside me. I may get a taste of understanding as I go through the text. It may even resonate with some notions that are already alive in me. However, it takes a longer relationship to discern between resonance that comes from a kind of confirmation bias (“I already knew this”) and resonance that comes from … well … a deeper place.

Samkhya Karika of Isvara Krsna by Swami Virupkshananda

This is the 1st book I had, the one that kept spitting me out. It has useful word-by-word (ish) translations and is philosophically rigorous. I have come to believe that it is tainted by a colonial style of British English which attempts to make things appear smarter and more complicated than they are. I believe this style makes the text less accessible.

Samkhya Karika by Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawra

This is the 2nd book my teacher recommended. This one feels more accessible to me. It flows better and seems to have been written for the context of a more modern world. It is less philosophically rigorous. It has good integrating commentaries. It has transliterated Sanskrit but does not have a word-by-word translation

The Sankhya Karika by HT Colebrook

Some verses sent me searching for additional perspectives. I came across this PDF of yet another translation and commentary of the text. I feel less resonance with this translation and so, initially, I did not refer to it frequently. While studying the second half of the text, I began consulting with it more frequently. I came to appreciate the presentation of different positions from different historic commentators in resolving more complex and subtle ideas.

My teacher’s website is an abundant resource. The Samkhya Karika section is just getting started. However, most of the word-by-word breakdown is available with links into the Sanskrit Glossary. The Sanskrit glossary also creates interesting cross-linking into the Yoga Sutra and other texts.

Word by Word Translation by Michael D. Neely

This translation of the text feels like it was created with care and devotion. It includes a summary of the main concepts, a translation of each verse (starting on page 22), and a rigorous grammatical and word-by-word breakdown for each verse (starting on page 30). I found it published on the (intrusive and annoying) website.

Spoken Sanskrit Online Dictionary

For Sanskrit translation, I refer to Spoken Sanskrit

Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary has more search and result options (Unicode, Devanagri, ITRANS) and deeper contextual entries.