advaita vedAnta and yoga

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Thu Sep 10 17:13:13 CDT 1998

Although I agree that there is a modern confusion between these two, I
just wanted to point out that the relationship between these two schools
goes back to many centuries. In the 14th c., the sarvadarSana sangraha
listed yoga right next to advaita, and said that yoga approached advaita
closest in spirit and teaching. This refers not the generic usage of
yoga as meditation/austerity, but to the specific system embodied in
patanjali's sUtras and vyAsa's bhAshya.

Even in the bRhadAraNyaka upanishad bhAshya, at 1. 4. 7, where the
mahAvAkya, aham brahmAsmi occurs, there is a reference to citta vRtti
nirodha. Without going into this text in great detail, I would suggest
that this portion of the commentary and its vArttika by Suresvara should
be read carefully. Sankara and Suresvara reject pUrva mImAMsA concepts of
vidhi and pratishedha very strongly, while holding that citta vRtti
nirodha is accomplished simply by knowing the Atman. And in
upadeSasAhasrI, Sankara teaches parisaMkhyAna, which is very similar to
the viveka khyAti taught in the yogasUtras.

It is easy to get very confused when talking about stilling of thoughts.
It seems as if thought itself rebels, when discussing ways of stilling it.
One must keep in mind two things - one, the process of stilling the mental
fluctuations, and two, the state in which mental fluctuations do not
arise. Advaita Vedantins do not recommend a forcible method of stilling of
thoughts which some yogins follow, and think to be very desirable. This is
because there is no point in simply suppressing anything, it needs to be
sublimated and transcended. But they accept the state in which thoughts
are stilled, and point out that the only true state where thoughts are
completely stilled is to be the Atman. Therefore, the Yogic goal of citta
vRtti nirodha automatically follows from proper Self-knowledge, but it
cannot be said that Self-knowledge can be gained simply by restricting
the mental activity.


>From  Thu Sep 10 13:21:38 1998
Message-Id: <THU.10.SEP.1998.132138.0400.>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 13:21:38 -0400
Reply-To: ramakris at
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: Request: upamanyu
Comments: To: Advaita-L <advaita-l at>
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Swami VishvarupAnanda wrote:

[I hope Swamiji does not mind quoting a private mail]

> > One can also
> >cite the story of thiruGYAnasambandar, who was robbed by shiva and his
> >gaNas when he was making his way to thiruvaNNAmalai!
> Can you tell us that story?

Sorry for the late reply. The story is found in the periya purANam (in
the thamiz). Sambandhar was given a palanquin, etc for his comfort by
Lord Siva. On one of his piligrimages he was making his way to
thiruvaNNAmalai (or aruNagiri). On the way he stopped at araiyaninallUr,
where he saw aruNAchaleshvara in the form of a jyoti. There is a statue
of sambandar there to commemorate his visit. In those days the whole
aruNagiri area seems to have been surrounded by a dense forest.
Sambandars poems indicate that. Now all the forests have been cut down.
While making his way to the temple through the forest, Siva appeared
with his gaNas as a band of robbers and stole the palanquins etc and
went away. So sambandar had to make his way to the aruNAchaleshvara
temple by foot. Later Siva returned the palanquin etc to sambandar.
If you go to thiruvaNNamalai you can understand why it is called
aruNagiri. When you approach the place you can see all the mountains are
grayish in color while this mountain alone is almost bright red in
color. Big surprise :-). However, as you get closer the red color does
not seem very distinguishing.

Siva is described as a thief, living in the forest, etc in the
shatrudrIya also. Sambandar has also sung "uLam kavar kaLvan" or "the
thief who stole (my) mind". Siva is often described as a thief in the
NayanmArs poems. There are intersting parallels between the shatarudrIya
and the later purANic (both Sanskrit and thamiz) descriptions of Siva.
The book "shatarudrIya: vibhUti of Siva's Iconography", by C.
Sivaramamurti explores this in detail. The author shows how the
description of Siva in purANas and especially the sculptures found in
various temples are basically from the shatarudrIya, or the rudram as it
is popularly known. This book is a "must read" IMHO.


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