[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 0

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Sun Sep 24 23:24:28 CDT 2006

Namaste Vidyasankar,

Am eagerly awaiting your posts on Yoga and its relationship with
Advaita Vedanta. This is a topic of great interest to me.

On 23/09/06, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:
> In the set of recent posts on samAdhi and anubhava, I would request all participants to clarify clearly the following:
> 1. Is this discussion on our list a carry-over from another ongoing thread on the Advaitin list? If yes, providing the
> correct context would help those members who do not receive mails from the other list.

Yes, this discussion on the advaitin list has been going on for almost
a month now. It started off with some general discussion on nirvikalpa
samadhi, went to the Vivekachudamani (and immediately to the question
of its authorship, as it emphasises samadhi), and then a fairly wide
ranging discussion on vicara vs dhyana, means of knowledge, etc.
Overall, there was a lot of misunderstanding because people jumped to
conclusions about what the perceived opponent was saying.

> 2. What exactly does each participant in this discussion mean by the words yoga, dhyAna, samAdhi, anubhava,
> nirvikalpa etc.? It seems to me that a lot of the conversation is going on at cross purposes with intrinsic
> misunderstandings involved in it. There is a great deal of elasticity of meaning attached to these words in the
> original Sanskrit texts and one needs to be careful not to misunderstand the texts and their authors.

Yes, this was a problem that was quite acute during the discussion.

As I was a participant in that discussion, I thought I should
summarize my understanding:

1. In the Upanishad-s, Samkhya & Yoga are used as generic terms for
knowledge & practice (esp meditational practices) respectively

2. The philosophy of Kapila was the first of the systematic
philosophies and hence came to be called Samkhya. Patanjali
systematized the Upanishadic meditational practices (as in
Svetasvatara, for example) in the context of Samkhyan theory.

3. All the Vedic darsana-s have some role or the other in the study of
Advaita-Vedanta. Thus the Nyaya darsana is an authority on tarka,
Mimamsa on the karma-kanda, etc. Similarly, Patanjala Yoga, through
its exposition of Ashtanga Yoga, provides an excellent framework for
sadhana, especially in the context of meditational practices. Sankara
in his BSB mentions the Samkhyan idea of purusha as witness and the
Patanjala-Yoga emphasis on sannyasa as examples of agreement with

4. Among all the darsana-s, Patanjala Yoga is perhaps the closest in
spirit to Advaita-Vedanta (ref: Sarvadarsanasangraha of Vidyaranya).
Apart from purusha-prakrti dualism, the rest of Patanjala Yoga is
pretty much in tune with Advaita-Vedanta. In other words, the key
contribution of Patanjala-Yoga is its systematization of sadhana
(rather than its exposition of Samkhyan dualism), and therefore must
be studied as such.

5. The natural "state" of the Atman could be considered a kind of
Samadhi (Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi, as Ramana Maharshi puts it). Apart
from that, practices such as Savikalpa/Nirvikalpa Samadhi et al fall
in the realm of sadhana. These are important practices in the
tradition of Advaita-Vedanta and many guru-s have taught them.
However, *no particular sadhana is absolutely mandatory* for moksha.
The specific choice of sadhana is left to the seeker & his guru.

6. Pramana & Sadhana are two different things. Many people confuse
between two as the word "means" is used in a very loose sense. All
Yogic practices come under the category of Sadhana. A Yogic
"experience" is not technically regarded as a Pramana as it is a
personal experience that cannot be questioned by anybody else. For
that matter, even a jivanmukta's words are not pramana, though in a
broader sense it can be considered authoritative if it is in tune with
Sruti as interpreted by the sampradaya.
Even Patanjali considers only pratyaxa, anumana and agama (in the
broad sense of texts + tradition, not the sectarian Agama-s) as
Pramana. Yogic experience is not a Pramana even for Patanjali. Also,
Nirvikalpa Samadhi is a term used by Advaitins. It is not mentioned in
the Yoga-Sutras

7. However, sadhana is what is important for the seeker, and Yogic
practices in general are quite important in Advaita-Vedanta, though
the interpretation of specific anga-s (esp the last three) of Ashtanga
Yoga is different. Through sadhana, the seeker becomes an
uttamadhikari and is able to assimilate the Sruti Pramana.

8. Since dhyana, samadhi, etc are closely associated with sannyasa,
they should NOT be considered karma. Samadhi is not merely a method
for chitta shuddhi but a method for assimilating jnana. In this
context I had quoted vedAnta-sAra verses 181-214 and Naishkarmyasiddhi
1.52. The vedAnta-sAra mentions all 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

9. Broadly, my understanding is that samadhi can be considered a
constituent of manana-nididhyasana.

Here are a few suggestions from my side for your series of posts.
Kindly expand on the following issues, if possible

(i) Generic yoga as mentioned in the Sruti vs the specific system of
Patanjali and the relation between the two

(ii) Samadhi as a constituent of manana-nididhyasana

(iii) How are dhyana/samadhi different from vichara? Can the latter be
considered a specific case of the former?

(iv) The role of "experience" vs "understanding"

(v) What kinds of dhyana are considered karma and what are not

(vi) Parisamkhyana in the Upadesa-Sahasri & Viveka khyati in the Yoga-Sutra

(vii) pramANa vs sAdhana vs sAdhanA

(viii) Why does the sarvadarsanasangraha list Patanjala-Yoga right
next to Advaita-Vedanta?  I can think of the following commonalities:
emphasis on sannyasa, possibility of jivanmukti, moxa as a realization
of the truth (rather than becoming something or merging with something
or going to some loka), relevance of Ashtanga Yoga as a sadhana to
both systems, purusha as pure witness, jnana also leads to citta vrtti

In the context of (ii) & (vii) you might want to have a look at the
article below by Swami Dayananda Saraswati:


Here is the relevant excerpt:
That is why in the yoga-shaastra, yama and niyama are the most
important steps. They give you a way of living. In the niyama,
Patanjali includes study of the shaastra (svaadhyaaya) and an
attitutde of surrender to the Lord (Ishvara-pranidhaana). That assures
you of everything—this knowledge, and all the preparation you require
for it. Some disciplines are mentioned—aasana, praaNaayaama and
pratyaahara—that may assure your readiness for everything. Since there
was no fully prepared student (adhikaari), yoga came into the picture.

Even in the Upanisads, we have a lot of yoga, because it is
acknowledged that nobody is a total adhikaari. That person exists only
on paper. He heard, and the teacher was able to teach clearly, and
said, "You are brahman." Enough care was taken that it was understood
and the person got up enlightened, and went away. That is only on

**But that possibility has to be there, because only then is it
established that the Veda is a means of knowledge (pramaaNa-siddhi)
for this.**

We can prove it is a means of knowledge only by operating it. You open
your eyes and you see. The eyes prove that they are a means of seeing,
and you don't require any other proof. The teaching is there, you are
already brahman, and the teaching tells you, "You are brahman," for
these reasons. You see it, and you get up and go. Then it's a
pramaaNa. But nobody gets up like that. What does that mean?

Either it is not a pramaaNa or there is a lack of preparedness. A lack
of preparedness is the reason. This preparedness is what is given by
the yoga-shaastra. But it does not cover only the preparedness. It
gives you an insight............

Hope I have not made your task even more difficult :)


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list