[Advaita-l] brahmacharya in Raja yoga abhyAsa and advaita anushtAna

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 24 13:46:51 CST 2012

> Recently a locally renowned yoga teacher made a statement during his
> lecture that in the *abhyAsa *of Patanjali's yoga sutra aphorisms, *
> brahmacharya* is only the "hopeful attitude to see Brahman everywhere or
> walk in the world with the knowledge/attitude that everything is Brahman"
> and not the traditional interpretation of celibacy.
> It was intriguing to hear that from him as he is known to advocate VyAsA's
> bhAshya of Yoga Sutra for his yoga training and introspection. Assuming

This may be so within the context of yoga as an independent darSana.
Then again, those who take yoga as completely independent might
argue that the dRshTi that everything is brahman is not part of yoga
darSana and therefore, the brahmacarya mentioned in the yogasUtra
should have another meaning than this samatva-dRshTi. I'm not sure
how the vyAsa bhAshya on the yogasUtra interprets brahmacaryA as
I don't have the text at hand.
> this was the same VyAsA of *Brahma sutrAs*, my limited understanding of
> this term from observing yathi-s of advaitic, v. advaitic and dvaitic mutts
> is quite different.
> Does the definition of Brahmacharya change with the sadhana mArga? How do
> the sutrakArA-s treat the necessity of *brahmacharya* in the* *sAdhana in
> advaitic path? How do they define or expect the understanding of "*
> brahmacharya*"?

brahmasUtras 3.4.40-43 discuss this topic. Briefly, there is no return
to any of the three earlier ASrama-s from the saMnyAsASrama. There
is a difference of opinion on prAyaScitta for breaking the vow of celibacy
for a naishThika brahmacArin. One view says there is no expiation and
the other view says that it is only a minor lapse (upapAtaka), not a major
one (mahApAtaka) and that therefore the same prAyaScitta should be 
done as is prescribed for a student brahmacArin who intends to enter
into gRhasthASrama later. The author of the brahmasUtra presents
both views with respect to prAyaScitta and concludes that one who
has broken a vow of celibacy should nevertheless be shunned (bahis
tu ubhayathA api smRter AcArAc ca). 
The fact that according to the brahmasUtra, one who breaks the vow
is to be shunned, irrespective of whether prAyaScitta is done or even
possible, shows the high value given to it as a sAdhana. From a purely
philosophical perspective, for advaita vedAnta, a lapse in the vow is
an indication of giving in to the dehAtma buddhi after having formally
committed to the path of saMnyAsa. In hindsight, for all schools of
vedAnta, not just advaita, it would point to the fact that becoming a
saMnyAsin was a mistake in the first place. And given that dharma
allows no formal return from saMnyAsa ASrama, a saMnyAsin who is
lax about his vows is by definition an adharmic person and should be
Of course, our contemporary social situation is drastically different,
but the less I say about it the better!

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