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Here is a discussion I had with a friend regarding Saamkhya and Vedanta darshanas. Hope the readers will enjoy this.
Original Vedantik argument - So by association with and observation of a liberated purusha (Ishwara) one is drawn towards that felicity in one's own entanglement with Prakrti. The other method is to keep working to resolve the problems of the self and life. Whatever the method, one must be able to first appreciate the concept that there is such a being as a fully liberated purusha (Ishwara) in order to take up Sankhya or yoga, even if Ishwara-praNidhAna is not the chosen method. Whatever the chosen method, the admiration of Ishwara or the earnest contemplation of that concept is there. That was what I was trying to say.
One suggestion. For time being, deracinate Ishwara (ईश्वर) and Vedanta (वेदांत) from your mind. Purva Paksha (पूर्वपक्ष).
Samkhya accepts the notion of higher selves or perfected beings but rejects the notion of Ishwara. The following arguments were given by the Samkhya philosophers against the idea of an eternal, self-caused, Ishwara:
If the existence of karma is assumed, the proposition of Ishwara as a moral governor of the universe is unnecessary. For, if Ishwara enforces the consequences of actions then he cannot do so without performing karma. If however, he is assumed to be within the law of karma, then karma itself would be the giver of consequences and there would be no need of a Ishwara.
Even if karma-Siddhanta (कर्मसिद्धांत) is denied, then Ishwara still cannot be the enforcer of consequences. Because the motives of an enforcer Ishwara would be either born out of Ahamkaara (I-ness or Aatman or ego) or Anubandha (अनुबंध) (altruistic attachment towards world created by him). Now, Ishwara's motives cannot be assumed to be altruistic because an altruistic Ishwara would not create a world so full of suffering. If his motives are assumed to be egoistic, then Ishwara must be thought to have desire, as agency or authority cannot be established in the absence of desire. However, assuming that Ishwara has desire would contradict Ishwara's eternal freedom which necessitates no compulsion in karma. Moreover, desire, according to Samkhya, is an attribute of prakriti and cannot be thought to grow in Ishwara. The testimony of the Vedas, according to Samkhya, also confirms this notion.
Despite arguments to the contrary, if Ishwara is still assumed to contain unfulfilled desires, this would cause him to suffer pain and other similar human experiences. Such a worldly Ishwara would be no better or no worse than Samkhya's notion of higher self (Purusha).
Furthermore, there is no proof of the existence of Ishwara. He is not the object of perception, there exists no general proposition that can prove him by inference and the testimony of the Vedas speak of prakriti as the origin of the world, not Ishwara.
Therefore, Samkhya maintains that the various cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments could not prove God.
The basic premise of Saamkhya-Yoga (सांख्ययोग) is that Purusha gets associated with Prakriti and world comes into existence.
Lets see the terms involved..
Purusha (पुरुष) - Puram Ushati sa Purushah (पुरं उषति स पुरुषः) - One who lives/burns from within/spends time in/afflicts citadel (पूर) is Purusha. Pure energy OR consciousness. The terms like energy etc are also quite modern. The right word would be "tatva" (तत्व)...
Prakriti (प्रकृती) - प्र + कृत् - Something upon which intense action happens. Some energy acts upon this object. Without Prakriti, the knowledge of this energy would be unknown.
Without Prakriti, Purush is intangible, it is intangible kaivalya (onlyness OR nothingness) (कैवल्य).
Now let us check the terms which are repeatedly used in opening argument-
Felicity, Admiration, appreciation, earnest contemplation, and most important of all, "being".
All these terms fundamentally imply existence of "Ahamkara"(अहंकार). Note that here the word Ahamkara does not have any negative connotations like pride OR vanity. Aham is "I", kaara is "ness". Ahamkara == Aatman == "I"ness. Sense that "I" exist. Without Ahamkara or ego, all these words and feelings denoted by these words are meaningless. To experience a thing, there has to be an "experiencer". Since there is no association with prakriti, Purusha alone (or Mukta-Purusha) is void, onlyness with no sanskaras (संस्कार) of prakriti.
Now lets move to those Purush/prakriti couples who wish moksha (मोक्ष). There are various layers in which Prakriti attaches herself to Purusha. Yoga asks to step-wise severe those ties. To visualize a metaphor of Purush/Prakriti coupling, imagine a system of phospholipid bilayer in cell-membrane.
A lipids due to their inherent prakriti form various structures in presence of water. One of the structures is called "bilayer" which is fundamental reason behind phenomenon of "life". Two layers of lipids as shown in this figure, trap a small part of water inside their structure and after being trapped, this water trapped within suddenly comes to be known as "cell" which has its own "ego" or "ahamkara". Cell dies when membrane is broken and water within mixes with water outside. Ahamkara OR aatman vanishes.
Here, water is Purusha, the tendency of lipids to form such structure which sometimes results in generation of consciousness, is prakriti. It is because of water that lipids form such structures, so lipids are "being intensely acted upon" by water. Once a separate consciousness comes into existence then there is whole range of attachments, etc which arise - this is evident from diversity of life seen on planet.
Furthermore, not all lipids form bilayer in presence of water. Most of lipids form a structure known as "micelle" which is also prakriti (effect of water acting intensely on lipids) but does not give rise to separate ego (cell). An entity with ego can act and be acted upon. An entity without ego cannot act. Thus, Samkhya-Yoga differentiates between karma and kriya (कर्म और क्रिया - deed and action). Anyways, we partially digress.
In similar manner, prakriti traps Purusha within her. Rather, Kaivalya trapped within bonds of prakriti is called by Saamkhyins and Yogins as Purusha. Kaivalya itself cannot yearn OR admire OR felicitate OR contemplate. It is Prakriti which performs all these actions. The premise of Saamkhya-Yoga is using Prakriti to get rid of Prakriti, against the will or drive of prakriti. Hence Patanjali calls Yoga as "Prati-Prasava (प्रतिप्रसव)" - Sequentially going reverse towards birth/origin.
While this may sound similar to metaphor of Aatman -Brahman (आत्मा-ब्रह्म) from Vedanta, the key difference is that Kaivalya is not Sat-Chit-Aananda (सत् चित् आनंद - सच्चिदानंद). Prakriti is as "satyam" as Purusha is. And Chidananda (consciousness and bliss) is result of Prakriti's coupling with Purusha.
In this process, while Prakriti herself breaks all the bonds with Purusha, the last bond called Beeja (seed) or Ahamkara or Aatman is not within prakriti's hands to sever. One can cut all body parts of self with sword in one hand. But after all body parts are cut, the hand wielding sword cannot cut itself. This is the moment where the fundamental connection is revealed as both beginning and end. The seed of entire existence is revealed. Hence all the steps or states of this sequential severing (known as Samadhi) prior to last step are called Sabeeja Samadhi (सबीज समाधी samadhi with seed intact). When this last tie is also severed, purush becomes kaivalya. But severing of last tie is not in the hands of Prakriti. This is one of the logical fallacies of Saamkhya Yoga. Maharshi Kapil and Maharshi Patanjali have acknowledged this fallacy and explained that as long as "sanchita karma" remains, the last tie cannot be severed. One has to finish up all the sanchita-karma before beeja vanishes. Once sanchita-karma is exhuasted, the beeja of Ahamkara simply drops off as effortlessly as a ripe fruit drops off from branch of a tree. This is Nirbeej Samadhi (निर्बीज समाधी - state of kaivalya without seed of prakriti).
Applying this to devatas which we worship, what else is Vishnu OR Shiva or Indra, but Purushas bound by Prakriti on much higher plane of existence than us? A plane where we would be if we do the necessary Sadhana. Vishnu, Shiva et al are not "Ishvara", they are Purush-Prakriti couples like we are. We can be Vishnu/Shiva or whatever, if we elevate ourselves to their plane.
I have covered aspect of Parabrahma in previous paragraph. Regarding an entity being "Mukunda" (मुकुंद), nobody can grant Moksha. Moksha has to be achieved. Once Sanchita karma (संचित कर्म) is exhausted, it is our natural state to be free. There is nothing in it to be granted, that is what Purusha is. Water within cell is no different from water outside. Once cell is broken, water mixes spontaneously. Another entity cannot break this bond for someone. One has to do it himself. And once one does it, one is naturally free, there is no need of a separate "Mukunda". One is one's own "Mukunda".
The problem with Seshvaravaada (Indic Theism) is that it assumes too many big things to make life easier. Less said about Abrahmic theism, the better.