[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 3

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 8 19:29:03 CDT 2006

BS 2.1.3 says, "etena yogaH pratyuktaH" - by this, yoga is addressed.

The clear reference here is to the preceding discussion of the sAMkhya 
philosophy. According to Sankara bhagavatpAda, from sUtra 1.1.5 (Ikshater 
nASabdam) onwards, the thrust of the brahmasUtra is to refute the sAMkhya 
positions that

a. there exists a completely material, non-conscious, entity called 
pradhAna, the original prakRti,
b. there exist many distinct, conscious entities called purusha-s, different 
from pradhAna,
c. the manifestation of the universe is due to the interplay of purusha(s) 
and prakRti.

As such, the yoga school, exemplified by yogasUtra (YS) and its bhAshya 
(YSBh), largely relies on this sAMkhya reasoning. There are a few points on 
which yoga takes different positions from sAMkhya, but they are not 
immediately relevant to this discussion.

Sankara bhagavatpAda's commentary on BS 2.1.3 is a short passage, but it is 
masterly and it is worth the effort to discuss this passage in minute 
detail. He begins by noting the above relationship between the sAMkhya and 
yoga schools and proceeds to explain why an explicit reiteration with 
respect to yoga is necessary when setting out the vedAnta philosophy.

Even though the refutation of various sAMkhya positions can be taken as 
automatic refutation of the corresponding issues in yoga also, there is a 
need to set apart vedAnta from yoga. This is because doubts can arise from 
various references in the upanishad texts themselves. The vedas enjoin yoga 
practices only as a means (upAya) to the true vision (samyag-darSana) of the 
Self. The SvetASvataropanishat teaches yogavidhAna in detail. Thousands 
(sahasraSaH) of other indications (lingAni) pertaining to yoga 
(yoga-vishayAni) are seen in the kaThopanishat.

The relevant quotations made in BSBh 2.1.3 in this regard are:

Srotavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH - bRhadAraNyaka 2.4.5, 4.5.6.
trirunnataM sthApya samaM SarIram - SvetASvatara 2.8 and following verses
tAM yogam iti manyante sthirAm indriya-dhAraNAm - kaTha 6.11 up to
vidyAm etaM yogavidhiM ca kRtsnam - kaTha 6.18.
tat kAraNaM sAMkhya-yogAbhipannaM jnAtvA devaM mucyate sarvapASaiH - 
SvetASvatara 6.13

Thus, we see that Sankara bhagavatpAda acknowledges that kaTha and 
SvetASvatara upanishads contain many details of yoga practice. We have 
already seen in the earlier discussion of BSBh 1.3.33 that he says 
SvetASvatara 2.12 praises yoga. More importantly, we must note that here he 
also points to the most well-known triad of SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana 
as being associated with yoga. [1] He then quotes a yogaSAstra text as 
saying "atha tattva-darSanopAyo yogaH". This likes the first sUtra of a text 
pertaining to yoga. This yogaSAstra text quoted in BSBh is now most probably 
lost [2], as the pAtanjala YS begins, "atha yogAnuSAsanam".

To sum up, these references in the upanishad texts may lead one to believe 
that all of the yoga texts are to be taken as smRti that is not in conflict 
with vedAnta. Moreover, although there are many traditional smRti-s 
pertaining to AtmavidyA, only sAMkhya and yoga are most prevalent in the 
world, followed by learned men and referred to in the Sruti also.

Although these schools agree partly with what is taught in vedAnta (artha 
ekadeSa saMpratipatti), they also differ partly from vedAnta (artha ekadeSa 
vipratipatti). It is precisely for this reason that so much effort is 
expended in BS and BSBh, to address the sAMkhya and yoga schools of thought. 
The close relation that sAMkhya and yoga have to upanishadic teachings 
should not lead to the mistaken idea that the upanishads teach only sAMkhya 
and yoga. Most importantly, these schools are dualistic, holding to two 
ultimately opposed realities, a material and non-conscious prakRti 
(pradhAna) vis a vis a conscious and non-material purusha. They do not 
accept the upanishadic teaching of the ultimate reality of the One Atman.

The same upanishad texts that talk of sAMkhya and yoga also teach nothing 
other than the knowledge (vijnAna) of the oneness of the Atman as the means 
to the highest good. For example, in SvetASvatara itself, we see "tam eva 
viditvA atimRtyum eti nAnyaH panthA vidyate 'yanAya (3.8) - knowing him 
alone one goes beyond death, no other path is seen for this." It is in this 
key point that we need to understand the words sAMkhya and yoga properly. 
What is taught as sAMkhya and yoga in the vedas are in fact the same as 
jnAna and dhyAna respectively. Therefore, sAMkhya and yoga, as taught in the 
schools of thought known by those names, are accepted only partialy, namely 
where they do not conflict with what is taught in the veda - e.g. the 
sAMkhya teaching of the alone-ness of the purusha is parallel to 
bRhadAraNyaka 4.3.16 "asango hyayaM purushaH" while the yoga teaching of 
withdrawal (nivRtti) from the world is parallel to jAbAla 5 "atha parivrAD 
vivarNavAsA muNDo 'parigrahaH." Everything else, which conflicts with the 
vedic teaching, is rejected.

Sankara bhagavatpAda concludes this passage with an extension of this logic 
to all other smRti traditions too. If it is said that the kinds of reasoning 
taught in various traditions help (upakurvanti) in gaining the ultimate 
knowledge, vedAnta says, well, let them help. Ultimately, Self-knowledge is 
rooted only in the statements of the upanishads (vedAnta-vAkya).


[1] In the next post, we will see that Sankara bhagavatpAda refers to the 
same bRhadAraNyaka statement about SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana, in the 
context of samAdhi, elsewhere in BSBh.

[2] If any reader has seen or heard about a text that has this quotation, 
"atha tattva-darSanopAyo yogaH," please let me know. It has so far remained 
untraced to an original yoga text.

SrI gurubhyo namaH,

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