[Advaita-l] Meditation (dhyAna), knowledge (jnAna) etc. in Sankara's advaita

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Mon Jun 16 13:57:22 CDT 2008

I have added back the subject line, which I had accidentally deleted
in my last post.

>Do you mean to say here whereever shankara uses the word
>sAMkhya it will be invariably *sAMkhya* as a system that
>shankara endorsed by saying *na virodhaH* ?? 

Bhaskar, I am the first to caution readers of the bhAshya-s
about context-sensitive usage of yoga and sAMkhya. In fact,
I have done so, in print, in my chapter on Yoga and Advaita
Vedanta, in the book "Yoga: The Indian Tradition" (Routledge

On the flip side, you cannot dismiss every usage of Yoga
and terms related to Yoga by special pleading and make
statements such as "this reference has nothing to do with
PY". By your reckoning, EVERY positive reference to the
words yoga, dhyAna and samAdhi in the bhAshya-s can
be explained away in some way and described as "having
nothing to do with PY". And EVERY reference by later
authors/teachers would be criticized as "unjustified influence
of PY." Now, how is this approach valid? If you want to extract
the teaching from the bhAshya-s without referring to later
authors, you have to be faithful to the internal consistency
of the bhAshya itself. One easy and straightforward way
to draw the links that point you to the internal consistency
is to track the vishaya vAkya-s and supporting quotations.

For example, take the citations of "AtmA vA are Srotavyo
mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH". Under the sUtra "samAdhy
abhAvAc ca" (2.3.39), when Sankara bhagavatpAda quotes
this sentence, you would like to say that the term "samAdhi"
here is basically citta-samAdhAna because it is about the
very vedAntic SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana; therefore
this has nothing to do with PY. It is also easy to criticize
vAcaspati miSra for explicitly referring to the PY sUtra and
bhAshya in his sub-commentary here and saying that this
is unjustifiable.

However, that is precisely the reason why you should cross-
reference the sUtra "etena yogaH pratyuktaH" (2.1.3). Here,
Sankara quotes "Srotavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH" and
even more tellingly, labels it as "yoga". Clearly, the context
of this sUtra will not allow anyone to say that this quotation
relating to SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana "has nothing
to do with" PY. Can you logically say that under 2.1.3, the
description of SravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana as "yoga"
is indeed to PY, but under 2.3.39, the same reference has
nothing to do with PY? 

Now, if Sankara bhagavatpAda wanted to say that SravaNa,
manana and nididhyAsana have no connection to samAdhi
as understood in PY and that it has NOTHING to do with PY,
he could have explicitly written a statement to that effect in
either sUtrabhAshya 2.1.3 or 2.3.39 or in the upanishad
bhAshya. Can you point to me any reference where he does
this? If you do, I will reconsider my views.

If you cannot, there is only one conclusion to be drawn. In the
view of Sankara bhagavatpAda, there IS a close connection
between yoga sAdhana and the SravaNa, manana and
nididhyAsana taught in the upanishad. Moreover, in sUtra
2.3.39, the word samAdhi carries a yoga related meaning and
cannot be interpreted as the Atman or as the antaHkaraNa or
anything else.

Under the circumstances, any rational reader of the bhAshya-s
has to re-evaluate what his conceptions of samAdhi are, under
sUtra 2.3.39. An impartial reader should also realize that it is
no use finding fault with vAcaspati miSra and unnecessarily
castigating him for bringing in "unjustifiable influences" of PY.

Similar considerations have to be applied to even later authors
and teachers, including svAmI vidyAraNya and down to the 20th
century Sankaracharyas. It is not for nothing that some of them
have quoted and paid greater attention to yoga than you are
comfortable with. The minute someone uses the term "nirvikalpa
samAdhi", critics are quick to cry foul. This is what I describe as
getting hung up on terminology instead of paying attention to the
content of what is being said. If you think or have been taught to
think that they have deviated significantly from Sankara, the fault
lies primarily in your understanding and you have not properly
taken into account the context under which they have done so.
Suffice it to say they have had greater concern for maintaining
the pristine purity of the advaita siddhAnta than anybody else.

I have said all I wanted to say on this topic for now, so I won't
be posting any more responses on this thread. I believe the
two or three questions raised by Kathirasan are also implicitly
addressed in the above comments and in my previous posts.

In short, Sankara does use PY terms in his bhAshya-s, with
the same sense as meant in PY, wherever appropriate. The
guiding principle, according to his own statement, is "para-
matam apratishiddham anumataM bhavati". Unless one can
show why a certain yoga concept is absolutely pratishiddha
in advaitic thought, it cannot be rejected "sAhasa-mAtreNa".
Therefore, it is not proper to say advaita jnAna has nothing to
do with citta vRtti nirodha or samAdhi or dhyAna, for Sankara
himself makes the connection. The advaitic jnAna-nishThA IS
a citta-vRtti-niruddha state. One doesn't have to reinterpret it
much, in order to fit it into advaita vedAnta. All one has to do
is to move the theory of PY away from the prakRti-purusha
based discourse of saMkhya and instead talk of Atma-
anAtmA. That is all.

Best regards,

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