shankara's vivaraNa on vyAsa bhAShya of yoga sUtra-s

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Mon Oct 5 14:54:50 CDT 1998

On Mon, 5 Oct 1998, Jaldhar H. Vyas wrote:

> 1.  In his works, Shankaracharya spends much of the time refuting the
> views of other schools.  (Particularly Samkhya which was the most serious
> rival amongst the astika darshans.)  It seems out of character for him to
> then be commenting on another darshans sutras.  I believe Trevor Leggett
> had a theory that Shankaracharya started his career as a Yogi and then was
> "converted" to Vedanta by Govindacharya.  This sounds rather improbable
> and doesn't match the traditional accounts.

That Sankaracarya began as a Yogin, who became a Vedantin, is Paul
Hacker's theory. However, note that traditional accounts and the paramparA
verses often describe Sankara and his guru using the word yogI. Meanwhile,
Hajime Nakamura has shown how the vivaraNa is consistent with advaita
vedAnta in many ways. While this is not necessarily proof that the
vivaraNa is authentically attributed, one cannot simply dismiss it either.

> 2.  Shankaracharya is vehemently against upasana as a method to moksha.  A
> preparatory step perhaps but thats not what the Yogasutras teach.  Also in
> the Bhagavadgitabhashya there are ample opportunities to discuss Samkhya
> and Yoga.  Shankaracharya refuses to discuss the gita as anything other
> than a work of Vedanta.

Well, in chapters 3, 7, 10 and 13 of the gItAbhAshya, there are other
kinds of evidence. Rather than putting vedAnta in opposition to sAMkhya
and/or yoga, the gItAbhAshya seems to be allowing some place for both,
within vedAnta. And in brahmasUtra bhAshya itself, we have an explicit
reference that pradhAna-kAraNa-vAda, i.e. sAMkhya, is to be accepted
partially, based on its agreement with scripture (Sruty-anusAra-
ananusAra-vishaya vivecanena ca sanmArge prajnA saMgrahaNIyA - under 2. 1.
1). Also see the same bhAshya, at 1. 4. 28 and 2. 2. 9.

My study of a few issues, e.g. bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 1. 4. 7 and the
teaching of parisaMkhyAna in the third prose chapter of upadeSasAhasrI,
shows that the history of interaction between yoga and vedAnta is complex.
For example, parisaMkhyAna seems very similar to what is called
prasaMkhyAna in the yogasUtra-bhAshya. Both of them refer to proper
viveka-khyAti. In yoga, it is viveka between purusha and prakRti, in
vedAnta, it is viveka between Atman and anAtman. But the two are not very
different, when we notice that what is called anAtman in vedAnta is what
the sAMkhya and yoga call prakRti.

And the bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 1. 4. 7 explicitly introduces a pUrvapaksha
argument, which refers to citta vRtti nirodha as taught in another school
(tantrAntara), i.e. pAtanjala yoga. This means that even before the time
of Sankara, there were vedAntins who were also involved with yoga. There
is too much material involved to go into much detail here, but I'm working
on collating all the necessary references. If you are interested, let me
know, and I can mail the draft of what I have written up on the subject. I
hope to get it published somewhere in future.

> 3. Given the importance of Yoga and Shankaracharya both then and now, such
> a work as the vivarana is literary dynamite.  Why is it that such an
> important thing could go missing for so long?  Vachaspati Mishra did not
> mention it and he was well acquainted with Shankaracharyas works.  Vignana

Again, that is debatable. Take the case of the prakaraNa work named
pancIkaraNa. brahmasUtra bhAshya says nothing about the theory described
in this text. Neither does upadeSasAhasrI. Therefore, it is held that this
prakaraNa may not be genuine. Now, vAcaspati miSra explicitly says in
bhAmatI that Sruti (chAndogya upanishad) supports only the theory of
trivRtkaraNa and does not support pancIkaraNa. The vedAnta-kalpataru of
amalAnanda also supports vAcaspati miSra's position. So, one might say
that Sankara himself did not agree with the theory of pancIkaraNa, so
that the text of this name is not genuine.

However, check the bhAshya on chAndogya upanishad 6. 4. 4. The upanishad
itself talks only of trivRtkaraNa. The bhAshya on this section explicitly
concludes with a reference to pancIkaraNa, and says that the same logic
(samAna nyAya) that applies to trivRtkaraNa would also apply to
pancIkaraNa, so that both theories point to the same non-dual Being. Let
us define Sankara as the author of the brahmasUtra bhAshya. Does this mean
that the bhAshya on the chAndogya upanishad was written by somebody else?
If it was indeed written by the same Sankara, why does he keep silent
about pancIkaraNa in the brahmasUtra bhAshya? Does this also mean that
vAcaspati miSra did not know of the commentary on the chAndogya upanishad?
Or does it mean that even if he knew of it, miSra chose to differ from
Sankara? Or has the commentary on chAndogya upanishad been modified since
the time of vAcaspati miSra? If so, what guarantee is there that the
brahmasUtra bhAshya itself has never been modified in the course of the
twelve centuries since Sankara?

There are no easy answers to such questions. Critical study of Sankara's
works, in order to study their genuineness, is like tight-rope walking,
and the length of the rope seems longer than the tight-rope walking
necessary to understand Advaita philosophy itself. This is so even for
such an important commentary like that on the chAndogya upanishad, and it
is much more so for other texts which will have more reasons to be doubted
as inauthentic. This vivaraNa on the yogasUtra-bhAshya, along with
vedAntic prakaraNa works, is one such. Absence of evidence has to be
treated very carefully. If vAcaspati miSra or vijnAnabhikshu do not
mention this text, there could be many reasons why. I think it is
necessary to first fine tune the criteria by which Sankara's authorship
should be tested, before holding to a hard and fast rule about it. This
calls for a detailed study of each of these texts. Any judgment about
non-authenticity has to be suspended until the entire text is understood
in proper perspective. Such a statement has to be rooted in well-informed
analysis, not just in doubt about the subject-matter.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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