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The dialectics between Buddhism and the philosophy of Sāṅkhya are profoundly recorded especially in Chinese and Tibetan Vāda Grantha-s — this is to the point that most major Sāṅkhya texts extant today are reconstructed from their Chinese and Tibetan translations. Other Buddhist texts are also vast sources about the school of thought and its preceptors; the information regarding the early preceptors on the other hand is scarce in Sāṅkhya texts themselves (the outlier being Yuktidīpikā) or in other Hindu works.

One example of this is K'uei Chi's commentary on Vasubandhu's Vijnaptimātratasiddhi where he elucidates about Kapilā, his school of Sāṅkhya, and his successors. He also states about debates between the schools and about Vasubandhu's refutation of Sāṅkhya philosophy. He records this as his master Hiuen-Tsang narrates to him. The debatable thing though is he mentions Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya on the Sāṅkhya text of Sāṅkhyakārikā as a work of Vasubandhu. As far as I know, he is not alone here - Yuen Ts'eh in his commentary on Nyāyānusāraśāstra, Tsing Liang (Ching Kuan) in his discourse on the Avataṃsaka and Ju Li too in his commentary on Vasubandhu's Vijnaptimātratasiddhi mentions the same.

The point to note here is that though debatable, traditional Indology doesn't hold any connection between Vasubandu and Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya. J. Takakusu mentioning the same states "There is, however, no reason whatever why a Buddhist should write a commentary on the work of his opponent...", he continues to posit that the mention of Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya in the aforementioned texts is due to confusion - "...and this point too, I think, must be dismissed as a confusion arising from a resemblance of the names, Sāṅkhya saptati, and Paramārthasaptati."

Personally, I don't think these two points hold much merit — (i) We have a plethora of instances against the reasoning. Thousands of works and commentaries are written on rival texts including major works of opposing schools of thought. (ii) There is an intelligible difference between the titles even if the saptati is common. To have confusion between these by multiple people doesn't hold any practical value of reasoning. Also in my opinion the text of Sāṅkhya saptati was pretty well known in the Chinese-Buddhist realm of philosophy, evident from Yuktidīpikā's mention of multiple discussions and debates between the Buddhists and the followers of Sāṅkhya. I am curious to know anything against this.

Supplementing my limited research, I'd like to know if Vasubandhu really wrote Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya and if you know any other resources (primary sources like texts of preceptors or scholarship of modern scholars) that either sustain the link of Vasubandhu and Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya or go against it. And please let me know if I'm misunderstanding something or am in ignorance of some critical information here.

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    Have you considered asking the question here: dharmawheel.net Jan 3 at 22:32
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    Thanks a lot! I did asked in other forums but couldn't get any answer; I will try this too :) Jan 4 at 3:55
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    Thank you. I do not study Mahayana Buddhism therefore your question is complex for me. However, reading Wikipedia, about Samkhya, it says: "Samkhya or Sankhya is a dualistic orthodox school of Hindu philosophy. It views reality as composed of two independent principles, Puruṣa ('consciousness' or spirit) and Prakṛti (nature or matter, including the human mind and emotions). Puruṣa is the witness-consciousness. It is absolute, independent, free, beyond perception, above any experience by mind or senses, and impossible to describe in words". Jan 4 at 19:40
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    It appears this Samkhya view would be untenable in any type of Buddhism. The Buddha taught in many places consciousness is dependently originated (MN 38); that there can be no arising of consciousness without sense organs (MN 38; MN 18; MN 148); without mind-body (SN 12.67; SN 22.82); without the other four aggregates of body, feeling, perception & thought (SN 22.53); in particularly, consciousness, perception & feeling are conjoined & cannot arise without each other (MN 43). Jan 4 at 19:42
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    I cannot assist however the Sutta Central forum mentions Vasubandhu 112 times in discussions discourse.suttacentral.net/search?q=Vasubandhu including on this topic where Bhikkhu Sujato discusses some teachings discourse.suttacentral.net/t/… Jan 5 at 10:32

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I read the Sāṅkhyakārikā with my teacher when I studied Sanskrit. Fascinating text.

The only text called Sāṅkhyakārikābhāṣya or Sāṃkhyakārikābhāṣya that I can see is attributed to Gauḍapada (~6th century), e.g.

I can see no reason to disagree with Takakusu's conclusions. This story has clearly become garbled in Chinese.

Chuck Muller notes "Vasubandhu devotes considerable attention to Sāṃkhyans already in his Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya".

I think that the Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya is often just referred to as "the bhāṣya" which might account for the confusion.

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  • Thank you for your response but Sāṃkhyakārikābhāṣya of Gauḍapada and the one in question are two different text. Commentaries on Sāṃkhyakārikā are mostly not titled, thus the generic name. Jan 24 at 13:51
  • While I acknowledge that there are instances when the facts and stories are garbled in Chinese editions and so on, I don't have any basis to do so here. The texts which Takakusu mentions notes the commentary specifically in the context on Sāṃkhya and the kārikā, so not a large scope for Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣya either. The dialectics themselves lends support to the idea that Vasubandhu may have wrote such a text. Do read my post on Sutra Central which I have linked afore in comments. Jan 24 at 13:58
  • Well, I searched all the Sanskrit text repositories and your text doesn't exist in Sanskrit. Or, it it does, no one has published it or mentioned it in a publication. Nor did any secondary literature come up when I searched more generally. I have looked at Sutta Central (where I am also active from time to time) and I don't see any reference to such commentary. Yes, Vasubandhu is mentioned, but no one refers to a Sāṃkhyakārikā commentary attributed to him (at least in my searches).
    – Jayarava
    Jan 25 at 9:48
  • It's the very existence of the said work, it's mentioned by preceptors and in contemporary scholarship, that made Takakusu dedicate 4 pages to it. The general opinion holds the commentary in Paramārtha's Chinese version to be the one in question. Chakravarti (1951) dedicates a portion to the strange mention (quoting Takakusu himself). Also, see Mainkar (1972); he quotes a handful of 'Sāṃkhyakārikābhāṣya(s)'. I was reading the former and this strangely attracted my curiosity. I have sadly not bookmarked some more scholarships that I came across, but I would search for those again if you'd like. Jan 26 at 5:21

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