[Advaita-l] SSS: Anantanand Rambachans Study

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Wed May 9 09:07:39 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

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 cite vAcaspati miSra's name or padmapAda's name, when
one's own reconstruction of Sankaran advaita vedAnta seems to depart
from what traditional teachers and pundits have to say.
What I find is happening is 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. For that matter,
even the word yoga is used heavily, with a range of meanings. Thus, even
sureSvara talks about the need for yoga-abhyAsa after saMnyAsa and
salutes Sankara as a yogin (yaS Sankaro 'vApa yogAt -
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, specifically a meaning that is heavily colored
by pAtanjala yoga thought. More particularly, 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 always look for support from Sankara's
bhAshyas for every issue, 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 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. 

>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 with a disciple of
this Sringeri Acharya. I think you are ignoring the cautionary statement
that Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha made, namely that ultimately nirvikalpa
samAdhi is merely one yogic experience and that one should not mistake
it for what vedAnta describes as being established in brahman. This 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

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 "upakurvantu" (sUtrabhAshya
2.1.3), "dhyAna-saMskRtena antaHkaraNena" (gItAbhAshya 13.24), 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 teachings 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 disagree with a characterization of one
or both of them as an andha-paramparA but simultaneously differ from
either or both of them in one's own views. The only good way to do that
is the traditional way - to view their interpretations and differences
as being 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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