[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 5

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Thu Oct 19 19:50:28 CDT 2006

How and where Sankara bhagavatpAda accommodates yoga theory and practice 
within advaita vedAnta theory and practice can be seen from four places in 
BSBh (in addition to BSBh 2.1.3 and 1.3.33). Two of these references will be 
taken up in this post and the other two in the next. It will be clear from 
these that notwithstanding his setting apart of advaita vedAnta from the 
yoga school, Sankara bhagavatpAda holds yoga in very high regard.

BS 2.3.39 reads, samAdhy abhAvAc ca (and because of the impossibility of 

The context of the discussion, from sUtra 2.3.33 to 2.3.40, is that the 
individual self (jIva) is both an agent, one who does work, and a recipient, 
one who experiences its results. The above quoted sUtra (2.3.39) says that 
if the jIva were not a doer of action, then attainment of samAdhi would be 
impossible. This is a long and complicated discussion, which concludes that 
the agency of the jIva is not its intrinsic nature, but determined by 
limiting adjuncts (upAdhi).

For the purposes of this discussion, however, what is important is the 
occurrence of the word samAdhi in the sUtra and how Sankara bhagavatpAda 
interprets it in the bhAshya.

BSBh 2.3.39 says, Atma-pratipatti-prayojanas samAdhir upadishTo vedAnteshu

In the vedAnta texts (vedAnteshu), samAdhi is taught (upadishTaH) as an aid 
to realize (pratipatti prayojanaH) the Self (Atman). The upanishad sentences 
quoted as teaching samAdhi are

AtmA vA are drashTavyaS Srotavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH - bRhadAraNyaka 

so 'nveshTavyas sa vijijnAsitavyaH - chAndogya 6.

om ity evaM dhyAyatha AtmAnam - muNDaka 2.2.6

The corresponding upanishad bhAshyas will be examined in later posts, but 
note that the first quotation is the same as what Sankara bhagavatpAda 
quoted in BSBh 2.1.3. SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana were there described 
as yoga and as the upAya (means) to the true vision (samyag-darSana). Here 
in BSBh 2.3.39, they are described as samAdhi and as pratipatti-prayojana 
(aid to realization). Note also that the related quotation of muNDaka refers 
to dhyAna and meditation on the oM-kAra.

We move on to BS 3.2.24 - api ca saMrAdhane pratyakshAnumAnAbhyAm (but in 
perfect worship, as known by perception and inference)

This is a literal translation of the sUtra; we will see shortly that the 
literal translation does not capture the real meaning of the sUtra.

The context of the discussion (BS 3.2.22-23) is that the real Self is not 
known through the senses, but only as "not thus, not thus" (neti, neti). 
Nevertheless, BS 3.2.24 says that the Self is indeed known, during perfect 
(saM) worship (rAdhana). The bhAshya here defines the perfect worship 
(saMrAdhana) as consisting of practices (anushThAna) such as devotion 
(bhakti), dhyAna (focused contemplation), praNidhAna (meditation on ISvara), 
etc. Note the specific references to dhyAna and praNidhAna; both terms are 
intimately associated with yoga (yogasUtra (YS) 1.23, 2.1, 2.32 and 2.45 
refer to ISvara praNidhAna; particularly YS 2.45 makes it key to samAdhi - 
samAdhi siddhir ISvara praNidhAnAt).

Moreover, Sankara bhagavatpAda explicitly describes those who do grasp the 
Self in this manner as yogin-s (saMrAdhana kAle paSyanti yoginaH). This 
usage of the term yogin is hardly characteristic of one who wishes to 
completely reject yoga.

I referred to the literal translation of the sUtra as inadequate. This is 
because in this context, pratyaksha (perception) and anumAna (inference) 
refer to Sruti and smRti respectively, not to sensory perception and logical 
inference based on such perception. In BS and BSBh 3.2.22-23, it was already 
established that the Self is not an object of perception through the senses. 
It is not as if at the time of worship, the Self somehow becomes an object 
to be known through perception and inference. Rather, direct revelation 
(Sruti) and the derivative tradition (smRti) both teach that the Self is 
known during perfect worship.  The Sruti and smRti texts quoted here are 
also very interesting.

The first quotation in the BSBh 3.2.24 is kaTha 4.1 -

parAnci khAni vyatRNat svayambhUs tasmAt parAn^ paSyati nAntarAtman |
kaScid dhIraH pratyagAtmAnam aikshad avRtta cakshur amRtatvam icchan ||

Recall that BSBh 2.1.3 had already acknowledged that numerous yoga practices 
are taught in this upanishat.

The next quotation is muNDaka 3.1.8 - jnAnaprasAdena viSuddhasattvas tatas 
tu taM paSyate nishkalaM dhyAyamAnaH. Note the reference to dhyAna again.

The smRti quotations given by Sankara bhagavatpAda are from mahAbhArata (not 
bhagavadgItA). Verse numbering is as per the Critical Edition from 
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, India.

ye vinidrA jitaSvAsAs santushTAs saMyatendriyAH |
jyotiH paSyanti yunjAnAs tasmai yogAtmane namaH || (SAntiparva 12.47.35)

yoginas taM prapaSyanti bhagavantaM sanAtanam || (udyogaparva 5.45.1-21 - 
This line is the refrain for all these verses. This episode in the epic is 
also known as the sanatsujAtIya.)

Note the explicit references to yogins and yoga practices from mahAbhArata 
12.47.35 - breath control (jita-SvAsa), control of the senses (saMyata 
indriya) etc. Even more remarkable, in my opinion, is that there are 32 
verses in the Santiparva, chapter 47, each ending with tasmai ...Atmane 
namaH. Sankara does not cite the verses that refer to jneyAtmA, mokshAtmA, 
jnAnAtmA, viSvAtmA etc., but he chooses only the verse on yogAtmA and 
reinforces this with a different reference to yogin-s from sanatsujAtIya.

SrI gurubhyo namaH,

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