Liberation and citta vRtti nirodha

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 12 22:22:12 CDT 2000

Thanks, Charles. I've been hard pressed for time lately, hence the
delay in responding. I would still appreciate other comments and

>> pUrvapaksha (opponent's thesis) -
>> nirodhas tarhy arthAntaram iti cet. atha api syAc citta-vRtti-nirodhasya
>> veda-vAkya-janita-Atma-vijnAnAd arthAntaratvAt. tantrAntareshu ca
>> kartavyatA avagatatvAd vidheyam iti cet.
>  ^^^^^^^^^^
>kartavyatayA in my edition (which is full of typos).

Is this the Anandasrama (Pune) edition? That reads kartavyatayA
avagatatvAd vidheyatvam. Although this edition has many typos, this
is a better reading, although kartavyatA-avagatatvAd would still
make sense as a compound.

>Well, control is another case: there is a similarity of purpose in

arthAntaram seems to indicate, "a different meaning".


>> samyag-jnAna-prAptAv-apy avaSyaM-bhAvinI-pravRttir vAN^g-manaH-kAyAnAm.
>>   .........   tasmAt tyAga-vairAgyAdi-sAdhana-bala-avalambena
>> Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtatir niyantavyA bhavati.
>Even after the attainment of right knowledge, the natural activity of
>speech, mind and body, necessarily [continues] due to the power of
>actions [engaged in] prior to the state of knowledge [1].  Thus do
>the liberated etc. seem to lead active lives.  On the other hand,
>the impotence of action over knowledge is demonstrated thereby.

Actually, Sankara seems to be saying otherwise here - tena pakshe
prApta-jnAna-pravRtti-daurbalyaM. jnAna-pravRtti here really means
nivRtti from action. This is an admission that the tendency towards
naishkarmya generated by the freshly acquired knowledge may be
weaker than the prior tendency towards doing action. Of course, this
is not a global admission, but is only meant to take into account
that he who gains steady jnAna immediately upon hearing the veda-vAkya
is quite rare. The niyama is meant for those who are not steady in

>Therefore, the uninterrupted memory of knowledge of the Self becomes
>restraint, through the supporting strength of practices such as
>renunciation and detachment.

niyantavyA bhavati - the sense in which the word is used in the
technical context of mImAMsA. The very next sentence in the bhAshya
admits that the sentence, vijnAya prajnAM kurvIta, may be interpreted
as a niyama vidhi (a restrictive or specifying injunction). Hence,
I would translate this as, "becomes necessary" or "is to be specified."

>The gist I have is that the objector is speaking of controlling
>(suppressing) tha activity of the mind *temporarily* for some
>personal benefit, whereas Shankara is speaking of transcending

The objector is actually referring to the notion that Yoga practice
needs to be enjoined as a means to final liberation. Sankara objects
to this, and turns the argument around. Without Self-knowledge as
obtained from the Vedanta, there is no sure means to attain even the
Yogic  goal, he says. And once Self-knowledge is gained, citta vRtti
nirodha follows effortlessly, from its mere remembrance. In other
words, the Vedantin argues, the forceful methods to control the
turnings of the mind, as used in some kinds of Yoga, essentially put
the cart before the horse. (Another chariot metaphor here!)

>It is interesting that the objector quotes the Yoga Sutras, a work
>that strikes me as an instruction manual for a spiritual ego trip;
>it stops well short of the realisation indicated by advaita.  Yoga
>seems to end with nirvikalpa samAdhi, a deightful experience but

Actually, a careful reading of the Yogasutras indicates that there
are sufficient warnings against an ego-trip there too. asmitA (the
equivalent of ahaMkAra as referred to in other schools) is a kleSa,
i.e. an affliction, along with rAga and dvesha and avidyA. Also,
there is good amount of warning, not to get attached to yogic siddhis
which arise out of practice. So, making Yogic practice into an ego
trip is not true to the spirit of the Yogasutras themselves, although
the sad fact is that many aspiring Yogis in fact do get caught in it.
But then, the same problem exists for those who enter into the
jnAna-yoga of advaita too. Which is why there is such a great emphasis,
within the tradition, on the qualities of Sama, dama, viveka, vairAgya
etc. Didn't somebody else also point this out recently on the list?

Also, Yogasutras and the commentary on them indicate that asamprajnAta
samAdhi and dharmamegha samAdhi are considered the highest peak of
Yoga, not nirvikalpa samAdhi. In the asamprajnAta stage, as the word
indicates, there is not even that awareness of a void, but whether this
indicates a non-dual state is a different matter. In any case, a good
translation is by P. N. Mukherji (SUNY Press, 1983), a disciple of
Swami Hariharananda Aranya, a very well known Yogi from recent times.


>It is interesting to note that the word nirodha introduced by the
>objector, is, in the end, replaced by Shankara with niyantavya, a
>future *passive* participle.  It is also quite revealing to examine
>the dhAtU of these words:
>   rudhir Avarane (covering, concealing, enclosing, obstructing)
>   yama uparame (cessation, leaving off, desisting, giving up)

That is a very good observation. Thanks for that linguistic tip.
Clearly, Sankara is very careful with his words, and there seems to
be a message in every turn of phrase that he uses.

>Vidya, you have the ability to produce exactly the right bit of
>scripture at precisely the right time!  Thanks for the opportunity

!!! Well, no real credit to me here. I was just following up on some
routine things about two years ago, and chanced upon this passage.
So I've had sufficient time to ruminate upon it. The argument is
clearly central to the very structure of Advaita thought, balancing
as it does, the various points raised by followers of Yoga, Mimamsa
etc. This passage also seems to have been particularly misunderstood
by most modern scholars. When one further reads the sub-commentaries
of Suresvara and Anandagiri on this point, it is clear how vast this
modern misunderstanding of the tradition has been.


>> Yoga, enlightenment, and perfection of Abhinava Vidyatheertha
>> [ed] by R.M. Umesh. 1st ed. Chennai: Sri Vidyatheertha Foundation, 1999.
>Where can one order a copy?

The only way is to write to them, I suppose, or get hold of somebody
in Madras, who can contact them. I don't have an email address, but
the postal address of this trust is,

5, Brindavan Street, Mylapore, Chennai 600 004, India.

Best wishes,

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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