[Advaita-l] BGBh and yoga - yama-niyama - I

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 17 18:45:27 CDT 2005

The eight limbs (aShTAN^ga) of yoga, traditionally counted, are yama, 
niyama, Asana, prANAyAma, pratyAhAra, dhAraNA, dhyAna and samAdhi. I will 
take up references to these limbs (aN^ga-s) in the bhagavad gItA bhAShya 
(BGBh) and other commentaries, in sequential order. In this post, we will 
see how and where SankarAchArya refers to the first two, yama-s and 

The yogasUtra lists tapas (penance), svAdhyAya (self-study) and 
ISvara-praNidhAna (meditation on the Lord) as the three limbs of kriyA-yoga 
(sUtra 2. 1). The same three, along with Sauca (purity) and santoSha 
(happiness/contentment), are listed as kinds of niyama-s (sUtra 2. 32). The 
yama-s are listed (sUtra 2. 30) as ahi.msA (non-violence), satya (truth), 
asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha 
(non-acquisition). We may also note that the taittirIya upaniShat (TU) gives 
great importance to tapas and svAdhyAya too (tapaS ca svAdhyAya-pravacane ca 
... tapa iti taponiShThaH pauruSiShTiH ... taddhi tapas taddhi tapaH - TU 
SIxAvallI; tapo brahmeti sa tapo.atapyata - TU bhR^iguvallI).

bhagavad gItA (BG) 4.28 (dravya-yaGYas tapo-yaGYA ...) refers to tapas and 
svAdhyAya. In the bhAShya, SankarAchArya leaves tapas to be understood and 
doesn't describe it in greater detail. However, he explains svAdhyAya as 
"yathAvidhi R^ig-Ady-abhyAsaH" i.e. study (and practice of chanting) of the 
Vedas. I refer to the Vedas in plural here, because of the term Adi in the 
compound R^ig-Adi, i.e. the R^igveda and so forth.

BG 17. 14-16 lists the kinds of physical, verbal and mental tapas. I will 
take up these verses and the commentary thereon for the next post in this 


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