[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 1

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 25 20:46:08 CDT 2006

On this list, I will take it for granted that all of us know we are not talking of Yoga in the context of
the modern gym or New Age thought. However, I would like to begin by pointing out the enormous
range in meaning and application of the word yoga when it is used in the Vedantic texts.

The word yoga is derived from the verbal root yuj, which means, to unite, to yoke, to attach, to
connect, to join. As such, yoga is often used to denote the union of two entities that are otherwise
separate. A related noun derived from yuj is yukti, which means connection, reasoning, argument
and is most often used to denote a logical deduction.

The word yoga is often used in the brahmasUtra (BS) in this sense. For example, the section on the
Anandamaya (BS 1.1. 12-19) ends with the sUtra "asminn asya ca tad yogam SAsti". 

asminn - in this (the Anandamaya); asya - of this (the vijnAnamaya); ca - and; tad - that (neuter, here
a reference to scripture); yogam - union; SAsti - teaches.

i.e. And scripture teaches the union of the self consisting of intelligence (vijnAna-maya) in the self
made of bliss (Anandamaya).

In this reference, the word yoga has nothing to do with the philosophy of yoga and is used as a matter
of course, without any great technical significance beyond the meaning of union.

An example of usage, where the word yoga means connection is BS 3.2.6 - "deha yogAd vA so 'pi".
deha - body; yogAd - from the connection; vA - or, saH - that (masculine, here a reference to the
topic discussed in the immediately previous sUtra-s); api - also. The thrust of this sUtra is that because
of its connection with the body, the self does not exhibit all its powers.

Such instances show how the presence of the word yoga does not necessarily indicate a reference to
the school of philosophy that is today called Yoga. Many other such examples can be listed, but that
would take us away from the reason for this discussion. As and when necessary, if a particular usage
of the word yoga in a source text has been interpreted in a non-technical sense, I will just mention it
as such. However, this shows us that we need to be careful and take the context properly into
consideration, when Sankara uses the word yoga, either of his own accord, or because his source
text uses it.

In the next post, I will touch upon the range of meanings of the word Yoga even when used in a
specific technical sense, with examples from some of Sankara's principal bhAshyas.

SrI gurubhyo namaH
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