[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 7
svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 4 12:10:41 CST 2006
We left the discussion of Yoga in the brahmasUtra (BS) and its bhAshya
(BSBh) with an examination of the sUtras concerning Asana (posture), dhyAna
(continuous contemplation), acalatva (steadiness) and ekAgrata
(one-pointedness). In the next few posts, I will present relevant passages
from the bhagavadgItA bhAshya (BGBh), that bears upon these issues. After
this, I will move on to an examination of the upanishad bhAshyas.
Instead of the standard order of the limbs of yoga (yama, niyama, Asana etc.
up to samAdhi), I will organize the discussion according to the relevant
quotations made in BSBh. In BSBh 4.7.10, Sankara bhagavatpAda quotes gItA
6.11 - Sucau deSe pratishThApya sthiram Asanam AtmanaH, so I will begin from
there and wind my way through the bhAshya.
Before proceeding, here is a thought that may interest list members. Before
the Europeans introduced the arts of printing and book-binding to India, our
culture never conceived of a book in the way that is familiar to us today.
Typically, a "book" consisted of individual leaves bunched between two stiff
plates, with a hole punched in the center, through which a string was
threaded and tied up. All of this changed when we started printing in India.
However, technology is changing human expectations today such that reading
something on the internet will eventually compete very strongly with, if not
completely replace, the printed and bound book. When reading an article on a
website, we encounter many links embedded in there. Something that catches
our attention prompts us to click on a link, which takes us to another page
and we can keep going from page to page. At some point we may decide to go
back to the original starting page and follow a different link from there.
The internet-enabled society has appropriated the word "navigate" to refer
to this process of reading websites. Interestingly, this means that even if
you print out articles from web pages, you have to punch holes into loose
pages and put them together in a binder. The resulting collection is
reminiscent of our older times and is very different from a book written by
one or two authors, edited by a professional editor and printed by a
publishing house. To reproduce this online reading experience with the
printed hard copy means that we have to organize and read the hard copies in
a very different manner from a bound book.
I increasingly find that this is a very apt analogy for how one should read
Sankara bhagavatpAda's bhAshya-s. If one takes a passage in the BSBh, there
are references to various vishaya-vAkyas (sentences from the Sruti and smRti
that form the subject matter of that sUtra). Sometimes, the same sentences
are referenced under a different sUtra also, which connects together the two
different perspectives offered by each sUtra. From either place within BSBh,
I can follow a "link" to the corresponding upanishad or smRti text and to
the bhAshya on it (if there is one by Sankara bhagavatpAda on that text).
Now, the passage in that bhAshya is very likely to have "links" to other
upanishad texts or the gItA. Following a path of links in this fashion helps
us paint the grand picture and shows us in what sense the bhAshyakAra has
linked the various prasthAna traya source texts together. This process gives
us much better insight than a process of reading each bhAshya in isolation.
At least, I have found this to be the case.
This also throws an interesting perspective on most of the issues raised by
academic scholarly discussions on whether this or that text was actually
written by Sankara bhagavatpAda. What one scholar sees as evidence of change
in Sankara's thinking over time is seen by another scholar as evidence of
different people being authors of the relevant texts. If we view the texts
as if we are reading a lot of related webpages instead, what emerges is
actually a very coherent picture of what constitutes the thought and
teaching of Sankara bhagavatpAda. In my opinion, this methodology will give
much better handles on whether a text is authentically attributed to Sankara
or not, rather than counting how many times the word mAyA is used as opposed
to avidyA. From the little that I have read in this fashion, I am left with
a sense of deep wonder at the vastness of both breadth and depth in Sankara
bhagavatpAda's works. One lifetime is not enough to even read all that he
has written in the bhAshyas, let alone assimilate it all properly.
Let me stop here with that sentiment. I will take the up the details of the
BGBh and other upanishad bhAshyas from the next post.
SrI gurubhyo namaH,
Try Search Survival Kits: Fix up your home and better handle your cash with
More information about the Advaita-l mailing list