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

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Sat Oct 10 17:38:30 CDT 1998

> Do you not think that a line can be drawn between in both the Upanishads and
> Shankara's writings between description and prescription?

Of course, but the issue is not just one of description of ultimate
reality and prescription of the means. Adherents of non-Advaita schools,
such as the pUrva mImAMsakas, do not see a separation between the two, so
that each closely affects the other.

Therefore, the question being debated is whether the prescription of means
is a recommendation or an injunction. The latter word comes from the verb
enjoin, which means "to direct or impose by authoritative order" whereas
to recommend only means "to present as worthy of acceptance, or to
endorse." The pUrva mImAMsakas think that the scripture impose by
authoritative order, as if it were a legal writ, whereas SankarAcArya
thinks that scripture only reveals ultimate reality, and does not enjoin
anything, although they can be said to recommend the means to

And as it turns out, Yoga may be accommodated within the means, with the
qualification that by itself, "citta vRtti nirodha" does not lead to
liberation. This can only be through proper Self-knowledge. There are many
schools of Yoga which prescribe forced cessation of thought, whereas
advaita vedAnta says that cessation of mental activity is a natural
outcome of Self-knowledge. Hence the advice is to not be enamored of the
siddhis that the yogasUtras describe, and to concentrate on AtmavijnAna.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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>From  Sun Oct 11 09:14:56 1998
Message-Id: <SUN.11.OCT.1998.091456.0400.>
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 09:14:56 -0400
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
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From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: shankara's vivaraNa on vyAsa bhAShya of yoga sUtra-s
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Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> On all these counts, vidhi has no place with respect to the Atman. It
> always exists, therefore it is not the result of any action that is to be
> performed. AtmavidyA is knowledge, not action, therefore it cannot be
> enjoined. Finally, there is the question of eligibility and agency. Part
> of knowing the true Atman is the knowledge that it is not an agent, and
> that it is the Self of all, including oneself. Hence there is no question
> of eligibility and when the true Atman is known, there is no agent either.

I went through the sanskrit verse quoted by Subbaramaiya only now. I was
quite confident that he would have translated it correctly, given the
fact that he has been praised highly by Mahasannidhanam. Now, sha.nkara
says vihitaH with regard to practice of yoga. It is the past passive
participle from the root vidhA, which commonly means command, order,
enjoin. I looked through my Monier-Williams and it definitely does not
mean suggest.

Now, it is quite clear from SuresvarachArya's words that he did not
consider yogAbhAyAsa as "karma". I know that GYAna cannot be enjoined
and the reasons also. However, it is also clear from SureshvarAchArya's
words that yogAbhyAsa leads to "tataH cittasya pratyag pravaNatA" or
concentration of chitta within. The question is can the upanishhads
enjoin this concentration of chitta within or not? It's not GYAna and
it's not karma either, as per Sureshvara. A straightforward reading of
sha.nkarAchArya's verses leads to think that he did indeed think
yogAbhyAsa can be enjoined. "vihitaH" can only mean enjoined or
commanded. Concentration of the chitta within is not like GYAna (which
is always present) and is something to be "attained". It is not karma
and the upanishhads do not enjoin karma anyway. Who is this
concentration of chitta to be attained by? Simply, by the person whose
chitta is not concentrated within.

The bhAmatI and vivaraNa schools are _not_ arguing about whether GYAna
can be enjoined, AFAIK. Remember that vAchaspati mishra was a
sarvatantrasvatantra and he would have definitely been aware that GYAna
cannot be enjoined! That is too simple. The point was whether the
upanishhads can enjoin anything at all. For example can it enjoin some
one to shravaNa? GYAna comes later than nididhyAsana or is the same as
nididhyAsana depending on your interpretations. I think this point is
mentioned in the paper by Suryanarayana Sastri which I sent you. If not,
let me know and I'll try to hunt where I read this.

I apologize to other list members for the hair-splitting argumentation.
Personally, it does not matter to me whether concentration of the mind
is "enjoined" or "suggested". It has to be done anyway :-). However, I
suppose the later writers were interested in setting up a philosophical
system and they would have had to tie up some loose ends like these
things. To me it seems that Subbaramaiya's translation is a faithful
rendering. In other places he has expounded very well on how upAsana
cannot lead to GYAna, and how it cannot be enjoined, so he is quite
aware of that.

The stuff written below by Vidyasankar deserves to be read carefully:

> Clearly, it would be foolhardy to think that there is a great unbridgeable
> gap between yoga and advaita vedAnta. Maybe in terms of the doctrine
> presented in the yogasUtra bhAshya, there is room for difference of
> opinion, but in terms of the practice of yoga, there is ample room for
> agreement. That is why Sankara explicitly says (in brahmasUtra bhAshya 2.
> 1. 3) that there are many doctrines in sAMkhya and yoga that are identical
> with those of vedAnta, but there are other doctrines that are different.
> It is to prevent confusion with respect to these other different doctrines
> that Sankara argues against these schools. Therefore, there can be partial
> acceptance of those doctrines that are similar/identical or those that do
> not contradict vedAntic teaching.


"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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