[Advaita-l] SSS: Anantanand Rambachans Study

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed May 9 21:17:58 CDT 2007

Kathirasan wrote:

>The reason why modern scholars attributed the anubhava to a mystical
>experience could be due to a subsequent development that took place
>after Vacaspati Mishra's Bhamati (9th century CE). In the Bhamati one
>would find probably the first time in the Vedanta tradition the equation
>of 'anubhava' to Patanjali Yoga's Samadhi. Subsequent authors who used
>the Bhamati as an authority could have interpreted anubhava from this
>angle and developed further. This could have also given rise to the
>Nirvikalpa and Savikalpa Samadhi teachings in Vedanta. So what is termed

I beg to differ. There are numerous places within the brahmasUtra and its 
bhAshya and also in the gItAbhAshya, where the word samAdhi directly means 
Atman, especially in the context of descriptions of Atman as pure 
consciousness (cit / bodha / anubhava). The words nirvikalpa and 
nirvikalpaka are also used to describe brahman and/or Atman, both by 
gauDapAda and by Sankara (same two bhAshya-s quoted above).

Not having particularly studied the bhAmatI, I am not sure whether vAcaspati 
miSra does bring the discussion of anubhava in vedAnta close to pAtanjala 
yoga, but I can say this much - vAcaspati miSra was a prodigious scholar, 
who wrote on a wide variety of philosophical subjects, including 
nyAya-vaiSeshika, sAMkhya, yoga, mImAMsA and vedAnta. His works in each 
genre have been considered masterpieces and I have read numerous scholarly 
articles that reiterate that vAcaspati was particularly adept at keeping 
each of his works true to its particular philosophical system. In other 
words, he is a naiyyAyika when he writes about nyAya, a mImAMsaka when he 
writes about mImAMsA, and so on. I find it hard to believe that he would 
have conflated anubhava in Sankara's bhAshya with samAdhi in dualistic yoga. 
I also find it a tad too convenient, to hold vAcaspati miSra or padmapAda 
responsible, when one's own reconstruction of Sankaran advaita vedAnta seems 
to depart from what traditional teachers and pundits have to say.

I find that what is happening is something like this -

Those who have been steeped in the advaita vedAnta tradition, whether from 
the 8th century or the 20th century, find no problem with using terms like 
yoga, dhyAna and samAdhi, when they talk or write about vedAnta. There is 
some overlap with pAtanjala yoga, but the points of departure from yoga are 
very clear in their writings. The word yoga is itself used heavily, along 
with words derived from the yoga school of thought, such as praNidhAna, 
dhAraNA etc. Thus, even Sankara bhagavatpAda himself says that yogins see 
brahman through bhakti, dhyAna and praNidhana (brahmasUtra bhAshya 3.2.24 - 
api samrAdhane ...), while sureSvarAcArya talks about the need for 
yoga-abhyAsa after saMnyAsa and salutes Sankara as a yogin (yaS Sankaro 
'vApa yogAt - naishkarmyasiddhi).

Those who came to the advaita vedAnta tradition from the perspective of what 
is today called neo-Vedanta (e.g. Swami Vivekananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda 
etc) also find no problem with these terms, but they attach a different 
meaning to it. More specifically, they hold that the truth taught in Sruti 
needs verification through an experience of samAdhi.

The difference between the above two groups is mainly one of their attitude 
towards Sruti and how they factor it into their philosophies. Members of the 
first group truly uphold that Sruti is svataH-pramANa, while members of the 
second group either assume that the prAmANya of Sruti gets bolstered by the 
yogic experience, or they subordinate Sruti to the yogic experience.

A third group of people, who want to go back to Sankara's bhAshyas only, 
over-react whenever they see the words yoga/dhyAna/samAdhi, and ignore or 
tend to "explain away" what Sankara himself says about it. Moreover, they 
uncritically conflate the above two groups of people. In their anxiety to 
save Sruti prAmANya from the neo-vedAntic construction of the verificatory 
nature of nirvikalpa samAdhi and in their attempt to purge advaita vedAnta 
of developments from the post-Sankaran vivaraNa and bhAmatI sub-schools, 
they assume that both the traditional vedAntin and the neo vedAntin thinks 
of yoga and vedAnta in the same way. The actual situation is far different. 
For whatever it is worth, I had tried to highlight several significant 
quotations about yoga, samAdhi etc. from Sankara's bhAshyas in the Yoga and 
Advaita Vedanta series that I posted a few months ago (between Sep 06 and 
Feb 07).

>interpreted anubhava from this angle and developed further. This could have 
>also given rise to the
>Nirvikalpa and Savikalpa Samadhi teachings in Vedanta. So what is termed as 
>modern interpretation
>may not be that modern after all. In fact, the views of Sri Abhinava Vidya 
>Teertha can be said to >be modern when compared with the Anubhava that 
>Anantanand explains in this book with the >necessary support from 
>Shankara's bhashyas.

I assume you are referring to such publications as "Yoga, enlightenment and 
perfection", containing accounts of the dialogues between the Acharya and a 
disciple. I think you are ignoring the cautionary statement that Swami 
Abhinava Vidyatirtha made in the course of the dialogue, namely that 
ultimately nirvikalpa samAdhi is merely a yogic experience and that one 
should not mistake it for what vedAnta describes as being ever established 
in brahman. This statement is no doubt easy to miss, among the numerous 
pages describing the various yogic visions experienced by the Acharya, but 
it is extremely significant. His teaching is in no way "modern" as 
understood in this context.

With all due respect to Anantanand Rambachan (and for the record, I like his 
book very much), the difference between one who does an academic study of 
Sankara's works and one who lives and breathes advaita vedAnta is the 
following. The former thinks that Sankara was like a university professor of 
philosophy and thinks that both the traditional and neo vedAntins have 
deviated from Sankara. The latter uses yoga as an upAya, in line with what 
Sankara describes as "tattva-darSana abhyupAyo yogaH", "upakurvantu" 
(sUtrabhAshya 2.1.3), "dhyAna-saMskRtena antaHkaraNena" (gItAbhAshya 13.24), 
and following sureSvara's explicit teaching in naishkarmyasiddhi 
(sarva-karma-tat-sAdhana-saMnyAsas, tato yogAbhyAsas, tataS cittasya 
pratyak-pravaNatA, …).

Finally, those who defer to the vivaraNa and bhAmatI sub-traditions also 
uphold the efficacy of Sabda pramANa, but I must point out that one cannot 
truly be both a follower of vivaraNa and a follower of bhAmatI. There is a 
mountain of difference between viewing the two sub-schools as *valid* 
developments or interpretations of Sankaran teaching and holding them to be 
*absolute*. One can differ from either or both of them and at the same time 
frown upon a characterization of these schools as an andha-paramparA. There 
is after all the traditional view, namely that their interpretations and 
differences are prakriyA bheda only. I am deliberately using non-English 
words here, to convey a point succinctly, without entering into another long 
fruitless debate.

Best regards,
Vidyasankar Sundaresan

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