[Advaita-l] BGBh and yoga - yama-niyama - II
svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue May 3 21:34:14 CDT 2005
In the previous post
we noted a few references to tapas and svAdhyAya in BGBh. BG 17. 14-16 list
kinds of physical (SArIra), verbal (vAN^maya) and mental (mAnasa) tapas.
Amuthan has already posted the verses on the list
so I will just go on to what the commentary says. SankarAchArya gives basic
and simple explanations of the entries listed as physical tapas, with a
statement that they are called so because their observance primarily
involves the physical body. It is therefore clear that in this context,
Saucha refers to bodily cleanliness and purity, brahmacarya refers to
It is in the description of the verbal and mental tapas that SankarAchArya
gives importance to yogic concepts. The gItA describes verbal tapas as
speaking the truth, which is also pleasant, benificial (priyahita.m) and not
offensive to hear (anudvegakara). Study and practice (svAdhyAya and
abhyasana) are also included as verbal tapas. We have already seen in the
earlier post that svAdhyAya was described as study of the Vedas, according
to rule (yathAvidhi). Now, what is an example of speech that is true,
pleasant, benificial and inoffensive? SankarAchArya gives an example -
"SAnto bhava vatsa, svAdhyAya.m yoga.m ca anutiShTha, tathA te Sreyo
bhaviShyati" - Child, be calm, study and practice yoga, thereby you will
Here, we may also compare what SankarAchArya says in the bR^ihadAraNyaka
commentary 4.4.2 - svAtantryArtha.m yogadharmAnusevana.m parisa.mkhyAbhyAsaS
ca ... kartavya iti - to attain freedom (svAtantrya), one should practice
yoga and the parisa.mkhyAna meditation. Note that the only place where
SankarAchArya elaborates on parisa.mkhyAna meditation is in the third prose
chapter of upadeSasAhasrI. It is my feeling that he uses the bhagavadgItA
commentary as the opportunity to elaborate on what kind of yoga practice he
endorses as being compatible with the advaita goal. In the process, he shows
deep familiarity with yogasUtra and its bhAShya.
This is exemplified in his comments on the mental tapas as described in gItA
17.16. The gItA verse refers to saumyatva.m, which SankarAchArya elaborates
as "yat saumanasyam AhuH ... antaHkaraNasya vRttiH" - what is called
saumanasya, a state of the internal organ (mind, loosely speaking). Note
that yogasUtra uses the term saumanasya (2. 41). gItA 17.16 next lists mauna
(silence) as a mental tapas. SankarAchArya explains that as vAk-sa.myamo
.api manaH-sa.myama pUrvakaH - silence is control of speech, preceded by
control of mind. It is obvious why mauna is listed as mental tapas, rather
than as verbal tapas, because it takes mental control, not just verbal
control, to maintain silence. The gItA then lists Atma-vinigraha
(self-control) under mental tapas, which is explained in the commentary as
mano-nirodhas sarvatas sAmAnyarUpaH. Note the technical yoga usage of
nirodha applied to the mind in this context by SankarAchArya. Note also that
he intends it in a full (sarvataH) and general (sAmAnya) sense. Also compare
bhAvasa.mSuddhi in gItA 17.16 to yogasUtra 2.41 (sattvaSuddhi - saumanasya -
ekAgrya - ...).
Other verses in the gItA that SankarAchArya takes as references to aids to
Self-realization are the qualities mentioned in the 13th chapter, which is
called kShetra-kShetraGYa-yoga. These verses are -
AchAryopAsana.m Saucha.m sthairyam-AtmavinigrahaH .. 13\-8..
indriyArtheShu vairAgyam-anaha.nkAra eva cha .
janmamR^ityujarAvyAdhi-duHkhadoShAnudarshanam.h .. 13\-9..
asaktir-anabhiShvaN^gaH putradAragR^ihAdiShu .
nitya.m cha samachittatvam iShTAniShTopapattiShu .. 13\-10..
mayi chAnanyayogena bhaktir avyabhichAriNI .
viviktadeSasevitvam aratir-janasa.msadi .. 13\-11..
adhyAtmaGYAna-nityatva.m tattvaGYAnArtha-darshanam.h .
etajGYAnamiti proktamaGYAnaM yadato.anyathA .. 13\-12..
In the commentary on these verses, SankarAchArya explains each item listed
above in a very simple and straightforward manner. His introduction and
summary of the above verses are more relevant to the current discussion. He
explains why the qualities enumerated above, starting with amAnitva.m are
called GYAna (etat GYAnam iti prokta.m). He says that these qualities are
instrumental steps and are aids to realization. Moreover, by cultivating
these qualities, one becomes fit for attaining GYAna.
"yasmin sati tajGYeya viGYAne yogyo .adhikR^ito bhavati, yatparas sa.mnyAsI
GYAnaniShTha ucyate, tam amAnitvAdigaNa.m GYAna-sAdhanatvAj
GYAna-Sabda-vAchyam" - Due to which one becomes fit, entitled to
Self-knowledge, that which is the natural state of the one established in
knowledge, these are the qualities beginning with amAnitva. These are the
referent (in this context) of the term GYAna (knowledge), because they are
instrumental towards it (GYAna-sAdhana).
SankarAchArya also has an opponent raising the question, amAnitva etc. are
only yama-s and niyama-s, so how could they be called knowledge? - "nanu
yamA-niyamAS ca amAnitvAdayaH." He addresses this question by saying it is
not a fault to exalt these qualities as "knowledge" because we only do so
insofar as they are instrumental and are an additional aiding cause in the
rise of Self-knowledge "naiSha doShaH - GYAna-nimittatvAj GYAna ucyata iti
hy avochAma. GYAna-sahakAri-kAraNatvAch cha."
Before concluding this discussion of yama-s and niyama-s, I would like to
draw the attention of readers to multiple places in the gItA commentary
where SankarAchArya emphasizes that what are taught as the qualities aiding
the rise of Self-knowledge are in fact the natural qualities of the
Self-knower. For example, under the description of the sthitapraGYa, under
verse 2. 55, he says, "sthitapraGYa lakShaNa.m sAdhana.m cha upadiSyate.
sarvatraiva hy adhyAtma-SAstre kR^itArtha-lakShaNAni yAni tAny eva sAdhanAny
upadiSyante. yatna-sAdhyatvAt." The qualities of the sthitapraGYa (one who
is established in knowledge) are taught as the means to knowledge.
Everywhere in the scriptures, what are the qualities of the realized one are
alone taught as the means to realization, as these can be achieved through
effort. So also, in chapter 14, in the discussion of the guNAtIta - one who
has transcended the guNa-s. "yAvat yatna-sAdhya.m tAvat sa.mnyAsino
.anuShTheya.m guNAtItatva-sAdhana.m mumukShoH. sthirIbhUta.m tu
sva-sa.mvedya.m sad guNAtItasya yater lakShaNa.m bhavati" - Insofar as these
qualities are attainable through effort, the qualities of the one who has
transcended the guNa-s are to be cultivated by one who seeks liberation.
These qualities are firmly established in the one who has transcended the
guNa-s and are self-revealing.
It should be clear that SankarAchArya gives a very important place to
cultivating the yama-s and niyama-s as described in the gItA and the yoga
texts, because these are more or less seen as prerequisites to
Self-knowledge. Starting with the next post of this series on BGBh and yoga,
I will move on to the other limbs of yoga in the bhagavad-gItA-bhAShya
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