Once I had a discussion with a friend who believes in the rather twisted theistic version of Sankhya (which Arya Samaj follows) – which involves belief in three entities: Prakriti, Purush and Bhagwan (or the God).
Sankhya philosophy is one of pillars of Indian philosophical framework. It started with an Atheistic version – with just Prakriti and Purush as the two protagonists. Prakriti is assumed to be the basic foundational block of "Srishti" and is "Jad" (not intelligent)… Purush is the consciousness (Chetna). In classic Sankhya yoga, Purush is within the throes of Maya until it is attached to the Prakriti, but it achieves enlightenment only when that attachment is broken. Now, the earlier Rishis who were the creators of this philosophy also believed that effect is in the cause itself. Which means that Cause is the seed and effect is part of it. Prakriti’s seed was in Purush itself. That is how, when the Srishti was dissolved, Prakriti would lose its existence. To a Purush which was into experiencing, however, it would seem that Prakriti was there forever – since that is its only reference of measurement.
There were three main philosophers of Sankhya Yoga – Kapila, Charaka, and Lord Krishna. Bhagwad Gita is full of Sankhya Yoga and the interpretation of Krishna of what it really is. Gita has a strange quality to it – Krishna would lay out all the options on the table and then give his recommendation. In areas where he implicitly agreed with the prevailing view of the Upanishads and if that was the same which was in currency at that time.. he would go ahead with it.
As Sankhya developed, the concept of God was also added. Many sects follow that theistic version – for example, Arya Samaj, ISCKON etc. The difference is while ISCKON does accept Trinity and other incarnations of Gods and Goddesses, Arya Samaj picks and chooses its Gods and rejects others (like Goddesses are rejected – giving the concept of God a sexist bias). That is why I called this version a "twisted" one.
Now, I am obviously no fan of dualistic (or the Trialistic, or whatever that word is) version of Sankhya – I do go by the interpretation of Krishna.. where he effectively lays out the fact that differentiating Purush from Prakriti is a useless exercise in semantics.
One question that my friend had asked me was – how does it make a difference in how we behave in context of which version we believe in. I differ. It does. If Purush or Atma (as Arya Samaj really calls it) is different from God (or as blindly whom they call Purushottam – for Purushottam means the best amongst "all" the Purush and NOT better than the Purush – so Purushottam by this definition HAS to be a Purush first [cant call an elephant as narottam?]) – and does not culminate in Purushottam – then what is its "Goal"??
I am told – doing good and being Sattvik. But that is the handiwork of the BODY.. not the Atma!! Being Sattvik buys NOTHING for the Atma! It still gets to come back in the body… so why be Sattvik? And it is not as if being a Sattvik Atamik person will obviate sorrows from his life as a human – even Ram (who is supposed to be the ultimate Purushottam faced his share of sorrows when he entered a body). So, what does the Atma look forward to in its journey? How does a Tamasik action make things worse vs a Sattvik Action at the level for Atma? Atma, defined as – an entity within creation which does not feel heat, cannot be touched, hurt, cut, made to feel bad or good. How can you affect it within the context of bodily feelings??
My contention after past few years of contemplating and reading on this subject is that there is no such thing as Atma in the real sense. There is a chaotic (vibrational) element within the consciousness called mind – which is equal to the box of Karmas (it is actually a combo of Buddhi, Antahakaran and Manas). Mind/Karma is like a color filter of a camera through which you see the sky. You can move the filter from East to West on a clear blue sky and say that the Yellow sky has moved from East to West or know that YOU moved your filter or mind from East to West. Sky never moved. But then to the eyes (which the facilitation of the brain to parse the information deeper) has seen ALL the elements of Sky in that "Yellow Sky". So it refuses to believe this theory.
The answer to the above question on what is the "Goal" of Atma can only be given within the framework of Advaita. That is why Krishna took pains to bring back Sankhya – replete with its distortions – back to the original philosophy of Vedantic thought (as given in Upanishads) – of One Consciousness. This was the basic knowledge that Ashtavakra gave to Janak and then Vashishta gave to Janak’s son-in-law Ram. In the very words of Vashishta, the message and core of Gita (that he said would come in the next Yuga) is no different than his, after which he goes on to provide the most learned summary of Gita ever written!
It is not without coincidence that Krishna repeatedly reiterates in Gita that getting the "Mool tatva" (or the core) of Vedas is MORE important than the oral knowledge itself. And then he discusses that Mool Tatva.
Vashishta, Ashtvakra and Krishna were giants who related the basics of knowledge behind Truth in as clear terms as they could. I have not read Ashtavakra Samhita, but I can say about Gita and Vasistha Yoga that Vashishta and Krishna put questioning FAR above belief and faith. For in both the dialogs, the questioning by Ram and Arjuna respectively, is relentless and dispassionate.
THAT is the key.