[Advaita-l] Does Shankarana speak of <pauruSa>?

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 1 02:43:58 CST 2006

Dear Sri Jiva Dasji

Once we realise that Vasishtha (who is the author of Yoga Vasishtham as per tradition, and definitely the purported author) uses paurusham as action of man, every reference of Sri Sankara to karma is talking about the same thing as Vasishtha's paurusham.

To my understanding, the main teaching of vAsishtham is that paurusham or purusha prayatnam is more powerful than daivam. In fact, it is said "na devah puNDarIkAksho na ca devastrilocana"  in 6(second part).29.118 (puNDarIkAksha is not god, nor is trilocana - by Isvara to Vasishtha) and daivam - action of god - is roundly rejected.

2.8.16 mUDhaih prakalpitam daivam tatparAste kshayam gatAh
           prAj~nAstu paurushArthena padamuttamatAm gatAh

(daivam - action of god - is created by the foolish, and those who believe in it decay; the well-learned attain high stature by their own efforts)

The usage of paurusham needs to be seen in the above context. paurusham is a simple secondary derivative of purusha. Here purusha is man, and paurusham is action of man. Just like vedas are held to be apaurusheya, karma - prAktana or adyatna - is entirely paurusham.   

The overall message is: "Spring unto Action! That is the only way you can change your fate!". 

To amplify the usage of paurusham by Vasishtha, I will quote a few more slokas from Sri Roddam Narasimha (of IISc, Bengaluru)'s compilation of 150 or so select verses from the Yoga Vasishtham "Verses for the Brave": (unfortunately, I do not have his translation handy, and the list has to suffer my much inferior translation)

2.4.17 prAktanam caihikamceti dvividham viddhi paurusham 
           prAktano'dyatanenASu purushArthena jIyate

(Actions of man are of two kinds - the earlier ones and the current ones; and the former survives due to the latter)

2.5.5 dvauhuDAviva yudhyete purushArthau samAsamau
         prAktanaSchaihikaSchaiva SAmyatyatrAlpavIryavAn

(the two actions {purusharthas} - earlier and current - fight like two bull-buffaloes {or rams} of equal vigour and the less powerful is subdued [by the more powerful].)

2.4.18 yatnavadbhirdriDhAbyAsaih praj~notsAhasamanvitaih
           meravo'pi nigIryante kaiva prAkpaurushe kathA

(When even mountains can be pulverized by the enthsusiastic, talented, well-practiced, and determined trier, how can *prAkpaurusham*, the accumulated karma, withstand such a trier?)

While the message of vAsishtham should be acceptable to even rational atheists, we must be careful to note that he is not rejecting tradition. He actually endorses the theory of Karma and says it preaches Action - here and now. Just like Gita goads Arjuna into Action, YV goads Rama to discard his listlessness and get on with life.


----- Original Message ----
From: jiva das <jivadas3 at yahoo.ca>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sent: Friday, December 1, 2006 11:37:00 AM
Subject: [Advaita-l] Does Shankarana speak of <pauruSa>?

In the Mumukshu- and Utpatti-Prakaranas of Yoga Vasishtha, the anonymous author teaches <pauruSa> Paurusha as an antidote to Kismet, Fate, and all our other excuses.  The term is obviously a protraction of <puruSa>, "Manhood" or "Personality", even perhaps "Citizenship" as <yo vazati puri>. 

YV does not much mention this notion of free-will activity in the later prakaranas. 

In the YV <pauruSa> is presented as the antidote to Daiva Fate, Niyati Necessity, and the like. 

Does Shankara speak of "paurusha"? And where would I look? 

I would give gokotis for lots of references. 

You great vedantis are my only hope.

saMtoSaH paramo lAbhaH sat-saGgaH paramA gatiH | 
vicAraH paramaM jJAnaM zamo hi paramaM sukham [Yoga Vasishtha 2.16.19] 
   = Contentment is the highest gain, Good Company the highest course, Enquiry the highest wisdom, and Peace the highest enjoyment.

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