[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 2

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 30 18:58:18 CDT 2006

In this post and the next, I will examine brahmasUtra (BS) and brahmasUtra 
bhAshya (BSBh) references to Yoga specifically in the context of yogaSAstra 
(the science of yoga), yogasUtra (the text), dhyAna 
(contemplation/meditation), ekAgratA (one-pointed concentration), etc.

Proponents of the view, that Sankara rejects Yoga and has nothing more to do 
with it, cite BS 2.1.3 - etena yogaH pratyuktaH (by this, Yoga is 
addressed). Therefore, one needs to carefully examine how Sankara 
bhagavatpAda explains this sUtra, but I would first like to draw attention 
to the very first time in BSBh where he quotes the yogasUtra (YS). This 
occurs under BS 1.3.33.

bhAvaM tu bAdarAyaNo 'sti hi - but it (eligibility for knowledge) does exist 
(for the gods too), says Badarayana. (BS 1.3.33)

This sUtra says that according to bAdarAyaNa, the gods are also eligible for 
knowledge of brahman. In Sankara bhagavatpAda's bhAshya, towards the end of 
this passage, the AcArya says that the ancient Rshis directly (pratyaksha) 
perceived the gods. If one were to object saying that no human being can 
directly see the gods, Sankara responds to it. First, this objection is 
untenable, because what is impossible at this point of time could be 
possible at a different time. He then draws attention to YS 2.44 "svAdhyAyAd 
ishTa devatA samprayogaH" and mentions that the various powers acquired 
through the practice of yoga cannot be refuted by mere denial. He says that 
even the Veda tells us of the greatness of yoga and quotes SvetASvatara 
upanishat verse 2.14 in this regard. He then concludes that the abilities of 
the ancient Rshis, who themselves revealed the Vedas, should not be compared 
with our own more limited abilities.

There is ample room for an inference here that in Sankara's view, the reason 
the Rshis were able to reveal the Vedas is that they had yogic powers. He 
does not say so explicitly, but it is implicit in the above. As one can see, 
this is a highly positive reference to yoga practice as also to YS, the 
text. Sankara bhagavatpAda quotes this as smRti, in addition to Sruti and in 
support of a point that he makes of his own accord in BSBh, but the relevant 
sUtra itself makes no reference whatsoever to Yoga.

If I were quite opposed to Yoga, I would simply ignore this whole side 
argument. After all, whether the ancient Rshis may or may not have directly 
perceived the gods is not key to an argument that says that the gods are 
also eligible for knowledge. The existence of the gods has to be assumed 
before any question of eligibility even arises. Sankara bhagavatpAda could 
have easily avoided this argument altogether, without weakening the 
discussion about eligibility of the gods for knowledge.

Rather, as part of a larger argument, he extols the power granted by Yoga 
practice, whereby one can perceive the gods, and explicitly says that a 
praise of Yoga can be found in the SvetASvatara upanishat. This becomes 
relevant to a discussion of BSBh 2.1.3, which I will take up in the next 

SrI gurubhyo namaH,

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