YS 204 | The Sāṅkhyakārikā

Stanzas on All-Embracing Insight

A 15-hour online course 

with Dr. Philipp Maas (Universität Leipzig)


What is Sāṅkhya? How does it relate to Yoga? Why is Sāṅkhya philosophy important today?

Join renowned Indologist Dr. Philipp Maas and a global cohort of students for this unique opportunity to dive deep into classical Indian philosophy through a close textual study of the Sāṅkhyakārikā, "The Stanzas on All-Embracing Insight."

The Sāṅkhyakārikā of Īśvarakṛṣṇa

The course will introduce you to the fascinating world view of Sāṅkhya as it was codified in the Sāṅkhyakārikā. This enigmatic Sanskrit text, consisting of about 70 stanzas (depending on which version you read), is the foundational work of Classical Sāṅkhya philosophy. It was composed probably at some time in the fifth century CE by an author named Īśvarakṛṣṇa, about whom virtually nothing specific is known except that he summarized a much more comprehensive and nowadays lost text with the title Ṣaṣṭitantra, the “Authoritative Exposition on Sixty Topics” that influenced Patañjali when he composed the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (i.e. Yogasūtra and its oldest commentary, the so-called Yogabhāṣya).

In his Sāṅkhyakārikā, which became the starting point of a long commentarial tradition among the followers of Sāṅkhya and Yoga philosophy, Īśvarakṛṣṇa explains why human existence abounds in suffering and how it is possible to ultimately and invariably overcome this unsatisfactory condition by realizing the ontological difference between consciousness and its contents (i.e. puruṣa and prakṛti).

Since the philosophical traditions of Sāṅkhya developed numerous key conceptions that were later adopted in various philosophical and religious traditions of Yoga and Tantra, scholars have convincingly argued that Sāṅkhya is not merely one of India’s philosophical systems, but Indian philosophy par excellence. Knowledge of Sāṅkhya is thus of central importance for everybody interested in the history of Yoga theory and practice, as well as many other systems of Indian philosophy and religion.

In this online course, together we’ll read closely the entire text, line by line—based on the original Sanskrit and an accessible English translation.

For the purposes of this course, we will be utilizing the English translation by Gerald Larson as well as Dr. Philipp Maas’ own in-progress and unpublished translation of the text! PDFs of both of these translations will be available for enrolled students.

Attention will also be given to several of the traditional Sanskrit commentaries to illuminate the stanzas and to gain insight into the Sāṅkhya school.


Students will leave the course with a strong foundation in Classical Sāṅkhya philosophy, a better appreciation for traditional Sanskrit and commentarial literature, and a deeper understanding of the relationship between Sāṅkhya and Yoga philosophy and practice. 

Course Structure

Session 1 — Human Suffering and the Means for Its Avoidance (SK 1-2)

Session 2 — On Attaining Truth: The Means of Valid Knowledge (SK 3-8)

Session 3 — Determining What There Is: The Manifest, the Unmanifest, and the Knower (SK 9-14)

Session 4 — Evidence for the Existence of the Unmanifest (SK 15-16)

Session 5 — The Subject (puruṣa): Consciousness beyond Causation (SK 17-21)

Session 6 — The Initial Emanation of the World from Primal Matter (SK 22-27) 

Session 7 — The Functioning of the Faculties for the Purpose of the Subject (SK 28-34)

Session 8 — The Relationship of Internal and External Faculties (SK 35-45)

Session 9 — The Creation of Experiences: Error, Incapacity, Contentment, and Perfections (SK 46-51)

Session 10 — The Cosmos (SK 52-63), Liberation, and the Transmission of Sāṅkhya (64-73)

All students enrolled in this course will receive:

  • 10 pre-recorded reading classes (90 min each)
  • 5 Multiple Choice Quizzes 
  • Course Syllabus (PDF)
  • Translation of the Sāṅkhyakārikā (PDF)
  • Additional Readings (PDF)
  • 5 YSACP Credits
  • 15 Hours of CE credit with YA
  • Yogic Studies Certificate upon completion (PDF)
  • Access to the private Yogic Studies Online Community Forum

Your Instructor

Dr. Philipp Maas is currently a research associate at the Institute for Indology and Central Asian Studies, University of Leipzig in Germany, where he works on a digital critical edition of the Nyāyabhāṣya, a Sanskrit work on spiritual liberation through proper reasoning. Previously he had served as an assistant professor and postdoc researcher at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Bonn Germany.

He received his M.A. (1997) and Dr. phil. (2004) degrees from the University of Bonn, where he had completed studies in Indology, Comparative Religious Studies, Tibetology and Philosophy. His first book (originally his PhD thesis) is the first critical edition of the first chapter (Samādhipāda) of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra, i.e. the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali together with the commentary called Yoga Bhāṣya. He has published extensively on classical Yoga and Sāṅkhya philosophy and meditation, Āyurveda, the relationship of Pātañjalayoga to Buddhism as well as on the textual tradition of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra. He is a member of the “Historical Sourcebooks on Classical Indian Thought” project, convened by Prof. Sheldon Pollock, to which he contributes with a monograph on the development of Yoga-related ideas in pre-modern South Asian intellectual history.  

Enrollment is OPEN!

Join the course with one of the following registration options:

Regular Tuition



• Lifetime access to YS 204


Regular Tuition

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• Lifetime access to YS 204





 Access to YS 204

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This course is eligible for 15 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance

"Philipp Maas's course on the Sāṅkhyakārikā is an absolute must for lovers, students, and teachers of yoga. It brings into focus many of the ideas also present in Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras. Phillip's intelligent, balanced, insightful, and entertaining delivery was delightful. I can't wait for Yogic Studies to offer more courses with Phillip. Thank you. "

YS 204 Student

"Dr. Phillip Maas' course was an example of coherence and generosity, transforming complex ideas into " aha's" understandable ones. I look forward to more courses with him, on Yogic Studies, a very friendly educational platform! Thanks to everyone who made this course happen. "

Irene Zaarour

"I couldn't have asked for a better teacher to introduce me to the fascinating world of classical Indian philosophy. Although my Sāṅkhya journey is just beginning, there is no mistaking yoga's ontological and epistemological underpinnings in the philosophy. Philipp's enthusiasm is infectious. It reaffirms my commitment to learn Sanskrit to further my studies."

Atri Ray
Vancouver, Canada

"Professor Maas is a good example of a compassionate academic with an interest in making himself understood. He took joy in meeting interested students and did a good job to clarify preconceptions about the subject when they occurred. His enthusiasm was both generously given and received."

YS 204 Student

"YS 204 with Dr. Phillip Maas was an amazing course. I am so appreciative of his knowledge, kindness, and the respect he showed to the participants. I will look forward to future courses with Phillip when he has time to share his vast research and knowledge. What a wonderful opportunity to study with a university professor under such lovely circumstances that Yogic Studies with Seth Powell provides! "

Rhonda Curtis
Valencia, California

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