[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 9

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Dec 12 20:56:13 CST 2006

This series is not over yet! The interval between posts has grown longer, 
for which I apologize. I hope to increase the frequency to at least three 
posts in two weeks. For convenience, the previous posts in this series can 
be read at:


In the last post, we saw the following thread of quotations:

In discussing the sentence "AtmetyevopAsIta", BUBh 1.4.7 says that it is a 
niyama vidhi (an ancillary or restrictive injunction), along with vijnAya 
prajnAM kurvIta (BU 4.4.21). In BUBh 4.4.21, Sankara bhagavatpAda notes that 
having obtained the Atma-vijnAna from Sruti (SAstrataH) and from the 
AcArya's teaching (AcArya-upadeSataH), one should renounce (saMnyAsa) and 
develop the qualities such as Sama, dama, titikshA etc., which are necessary 
for realization.

He then quotes muNDaka upanishat 2.2.5 and 2.2.6 (tam evaikaM jAnatha 
AtmAnam anyA vAco vimuncatha ... om ity evaM dhyAyatha AtmAnam).

Remember that muNDaka 2.2.6 was already quoted in BSBh 2.3.39, along with 
chAndogya upanishat (CU) 8.7.1 (so 'nveshTavyas sa vijijnAsitavyaH).

CUBh 8.7.1 completes the circle, by saying that the words anveshTavyaH and 
vijijnAsitvayaH constitute a niyama vidhi.

BUBh 1.4.7 also made it clear that these niyama-s are meant to counter the 
force of prior operative karma, after the rise of knowledge (samyag-jnAna 
prAptAv apy), via a steady recollection of Self-knowledge (Atma vijnAna 
smRti saMtAna), which in turn is the only means to citta vRtti nirodha. All 
of these discussions incorporate dimensions of both yoga and pUrva mImAMsA 
and are therefore very subtle and highly complicated.

The key message from all this discussion is that AtmajnAna is not enjoined; 
nor is citta vRtti nirodha enjoined as a means to AtmajnAna. This is because 
being the way out of action, AtmajnAna intrinsically can NOT be enjoined. 
And as AtmajnAna is the only way to liberation, citta vRtti nirodha is also 
not primarily enjoned as a means to liberation. On the other hand, once 
acquired, AtmajnAna and its steady recollection itself leads to citta vRtti 
nirodha. This steady recollection of AtmajnAna can be taken as being 
enjoined in an ancillary fashion (niyama vidhi), in order to check the 
tendency towards more action generated by the momentum of prArabdha karma. 
The result of this niyama is not different from citta vRtti nirodha, as 
acknowledged by Sankara bhagavatpAda himself in BUBh.

If we now turn to the muNDaka upanishad bhAshya (MUBh), we don't find much 
discussion of the pUrva mImAMsA aspect of this issue at all. Instead of a 
debate on whether there is an injunction, and of what kind, MUBh gives a 
much more straightforward teaching of Atma jnAna and the means to it. Let us 
therefore see what bhagavatpAda says in MUBh in this regard.

MU 2.2.4 says, praNavo dhanuS Saro hy AtmA brahma tal lakshyam ucyate | 
apramattena veddhavyaM Saravat tanmayo bhavet ||

This teaches a meditation on the Om-kAra (praNava), comparing the process to 
archery (dhanuH - bow, SaraH - arrow, lakshya - target) Sankara bhagavatpAda 
gives clear explanations of every word in the first line.

The key part of the commentary on this verse centers on the word 
apramattena. The simple dictionary meaning of the word apramatta is 
"careful, attentive, vigilant." The commentary expands upon this, saying, 
bAhya-vishaya-upalabdhi-tRshNA-pramAda-varjitena (without committing the 
error of thirsting after external objects), sarvato viraktena (with perfect 
dispassion towards all things), jitendriyeNa (having conquered the senses), 
ekAgra-cittena (with one-pointed concentration).

With these qualifications in the background, one should meditate on the 
praNava as the Self (Om ity evaM dhyAyatha AtmAnam), and set aside all other 
words (anyA vAco vimuncatha). The commentary here says that these other 
words constitute aparA vidyA (lower knowledge), and that one should also set 
aside all action, along with the means to commit action (sarvaM karma 
sa-sAdhanam). The goal is to concentrate only on the parA vidyA (higher 
knowledge) that is brahman-knowledge.

At this juncture, recall that in BSBh 3.2.24, Sankara bhagavatpAda had 
quoted muNDaka 3.1.8 (jnAnaprasAdena viSuddhasattvas tatas tu taM paSyate 
nishkalaM dhyAyamAnaH). In that context, he made the point that although the 
Self can only be described as "not thus, not thus", it is nevertheless seen 
by yogin-s by the means of devotion (bhakti), contemplation (dhyAna) and 
meditation (praNidhAna).

The introduction to the third chapter of MU characterizes the teaching of 
the second chapter of MU as "yoga" and as a means to the vision of the Self-

parA vidyA uktA ... tad darSana-upAyaS ca yogo dhanur Ady upAdAna kalpanayA 
uktaH | atha idAnIM tat sahakArINi satyAdi sAdhanAni vaktavyAni iti tad 
artha uttara-grantha-ArambhaH | -

(In the previous chapter), the higher knowledge has been stated, ... The 
means to that realization, namely yoga, has also been stated, using the 
metaphor of the bow (and arrow). Now, the third chapter begins, with the 
purpose of stating the additional ancillary disciplines (sAdhana), such as 
truth (satya), which aid (sahakArI) in realizing this knowledge.

This is a reference to the verse satyena labhyas tapasA hy esha AtmA - MU 
3.1.5. Interestingly enough, in the verse immediately preceding this one, 
there is a Sruti reference to a gradation among those who know brahman.

prANo hy esha yas sarva-bhUtair vibhAti vijAnan.h vidvAn bhavate nAtivAdI | 
AtmakrIDa AtmaratiH kriyAvAn eshha brahmavidAM varishThaH || - MU 3.1.4

A brief note on grammar - In the saMskRta language, comparative and 
superlative degrees are denoted either by suffixing -tara and -tama to a 
word or by modifying the word and suffixing -Iyas and -ishTha respectively. 
For example,

guru (heavy), garIyas (heavier), garishTha (heaviest),
or guru - gurutara - gurutama

laghu (light), laghIyas (lighter), laghishTha (lightest)
or laghu - laghutara - laghutama

dRDha (firm), draDhIyas (firmer), draDhishTha* (firmest)
or dRDha - dRDhatara - dRDhatama

aNu (minute), aNIyas (more minute), aNishTha (most minute)
or aNu - aNutara - aNutama

balin (strong) - balIyas (stronger) - balishTha (strongest)

kana (small/little), kanIyas (smaller), kanishTha (smallest)

vara (excellent), varIya (more excellent) and varishTha (most excellent).

The use of the word "varishTha" applied to the word brahmavit in MU is very 
suggestive and we need to carefully read what Sankara bhagavatpAda says in 
his commentary. There is a clear tAratamya** indicated by the use of the 
word varishTha here in Sruti.

I will continue with the discussion of MUBh in the next post and then move 
on to bhagavad gItA bhAshya (BGBh).

SrI gurubhyo namaH

*ASishTho dRDhishTho balishThaH ... - taittirIya upanishad uses the word 
dRDhishTha instead of draDhishTha. This is another example of how Vedic 
language differs from classical Sanskrit. Classical grammar requires the 
vocalic R in dRDha to be replaced by the semivowel sound ra. This does not 
happen in this instance in the taittirIya upanishat.

**The word tAratamya (gradation/hierarchy) is itself derived from the 
suffixes -tara and -tama that are used to indicate comparative and 
superlative degrees.

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