[Advaita-l] Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 8

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 19 12:29:03 CST 2006

In previous posts, we have looked at various references to samAdhi 
(enstasis, as it is translated nowadays), yoga, Asana (posture), dhyAna 
(contemplation), ekAgratA (one-pointed concentration) etc. in brahmasUtra 
bhAshya (BSBh). I had planned to go through a systematic discussion of the 
various other elements of yoga (Asana, prANAyAma, pratyAhAra, dhAraNa, yama 
and niyama, in addition to dhyAna and samAdhi) in the bhagavad gItA bhAshya 
(BGBh), before turning to the bhAshyas on the major upanishat texts. 
However, given that other related discussions are going on in the list at 
present, I will first turn to bRhadAraNyaka upanishad bhAshya (BUBh) and 
muNDaka upanishad bhAshya (MUBh).

The yogasUtra defines yoga as citta-vRtti-nirodha (halting of the various 
transformations of the mind). Within yoga discussions, nirodha can be seen 
both as a process and as an end state. Within Sankara bhagavatpAda's texts, 
there is one crucial place where the term citta-vRtti-nirodha is referred to 
and addressed. This occurs in BUBh 1.4.7; the passage has been discussed 
many times previously, so I will give a brief summary here.

The crux of the discussion here revolves around whether the statement 
"AtmetyevopAsIta" (AtmA ity eva upAsIta - contemplate upon it (brahman) only 
as the Self) is an injunction to meditate upon the Self. The word injunction 
here is a translation of the technical term "vidhi" as used in pUrva 
mImAMsA. To cut a long debate short, Sankara bhagavatpAda rejects the notion 
that this is a primary injunction (apUrva vidhi) to meditate upon brahman as 
one's own Self.

In the course of the discussion, he also rejects the notion that this is an 
injunction to practise citta vRtti nirodha. This statement in BUBh has often 
been misunderstood. What Sankara bhagavatpAda rejects here is the notion 
that the upanishat contains an injunction. He does not reject citta vRtti 
nirodha itself. This is made amply clear when he says that in fact, the only 
means to achieve a halt to various mental transformations is the steady 
recollection of Self-knowledge. In other words, it is not as if practising 
yoga (separately from studying vedAnta) to achieve citta-vRtti-nirodha will 
lead to Self-knowledge and thereby to liberation. Rather, it is 
Self-knowledge, obtained through vedAnta, and its recollection that directly 
leads to what the yoga school describes as its goal, namely 

ananya sAdhanatvAc ca nirodhasya | na hy 
Atma-vijnAna-tat-smRti-saMtAna-vyatirekeNa citta-vRtti-nirodhasya sAdhanam 
asti | abhyupagamya idam uktam | na tu brahma-vijnAna-vyatirekeNa 
anyan-moksha-sAdhanam avagamyate |

There is a remarkable conflunce of advaita vedAnta, yoga and pUrva mImAMsA 
in this entire argument in BUBh. Sankara bhagavatpAda's rejection of the 
mImAMsA notion of injunction is extremely strong, simply because 
Self-knowledge is not an action that can be enjoined. However, he does not 
reject citta-vRtti-nirodha itself. Far from it, indeed, he explains that 
Self-knowledge itself leads to citta-vRtti-nirodha.

Now, the question arises, if Self-knowledge (Atma-vijnAna) or proper 
knowledge (samyag jnAna) has already arisen, why is there any further talk 
of steadily recollecting (smRti-saMtati) this knowledge and of citta vRtti 
nirodha? The answer comes towards the end of this passage in BUBh - even 
after the rise of proper knowledge of the Atman, the tendency to maintain 
that knowledge (jnAna-pravRtti) may not be strong (daurbalya). The tendency 
of speech, mind and body (vA^N-manaH-kAya) to keep indulging in action 
(avaSyaM-bhAvinI-pravRtti) may be stronger (balIyastvAt), because of the 
prior momentum of the action that has already begun to fructify.

To counter this, the Sruti teaches the recollection of Self-knowledge as a 
niyama, accompanied by other means such as renunciation (tyAga), dispassion 
(vairAgya). This knowledge has already been acquired (prApta-vijnAna) 
through hearing the upanishat texts. Note here that the steady recollection 
of Self-knowledge has already been acknowledged as the only means to achieve 
citta vRtti nirodha.

tyAga-vairAgyAdi-sAdhana-balAvalambena Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtatir 
niyantavyA bhavati, na tv apUrvA kartavyA, prAptatvAd ity avocAma | tasmAt 
prApta-vijnAna-smRti-saMtAna-niyama-vidhy arthAni ...

This niyama vidhi is taught in Sruti through such sentences as vijnAya 
prajnAM kurvIta (BU 4.4.21). If we turn to the commentary on that sentence, 
Sankara bhagavatpAda says, one should develop the means to prajnA. These are 
formal renunciation (saMnyAsa) accompanied by what is described as the 
sAdhana-sampat in BSBh (prajnA-kAraNa-sAdhanAni 
saMnyAsa-Sama-dama-uparama-titikshA-samAdhAnAni kuryAd ity arthaH). Now, who 
is the person who should renounce and develop these qualities? One who has 
already obtained the knowledge of the Self through the SAstra and through 
the teaching of the AcArya - (IdRSam AtmAnam eva ... vijnAya upadeSataS 
SAstrataS ca, prajnAM SAstra-AcArya-upadishTa-vishayAM 
jijnAsA-parisamAptikarIM kurvIta).

It is easy to see from this that the more detailed descriptions of 
vidvat-saMnyAsa by vidyAraNya svAmin follow quite logically from what 
Sankara bhagavatpAda says in BUBh.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that one should read the SAnkara bhAshyas 
as if they are web pages, with the quotations acting as links that 
interconnect them. It is interesting to note that in BUBh 4.4.21, he quotes 
muNDaka "om ity evaM dhyAyatha AtmAnam ... anyA vAco vimuncatha". We had 
already seen (Yoga and Advaita Vedanta - 5) that he quotes the same muNDaka 
text in the context of samAdhi, in BSBh 2.3.39, along with the chAndogya 
text "so 'nveshTavyas sa vijijnAsitavyaH"

I will take up a discussion of the muNDaka upanishat in the next post in 
this series. To conclude this posting, it is interesting to note is what the 
chAndogya upanishad bhAshya (CUBh) has to say about the statement quoted in 
BSBh 2.3.39. In CUBh, Sankara bhagavatpAda says, "anveshTavyo vijijnAsitavya 
iti ca esha niyama vidhir eva na apUrva vidhiH" - this statement "(it) is to 
be investigated, to be known, is a restrictive injunction (niyama vidhi), 
not an original injunction (apUrva vidhi). Note that in BSBh 2.3.39, he had 
said that samAdhi is taught (upadishTa), while in BSBh 2.1.3 (see Yoga and 
Advaita Vedanta - 3), he had used the word enjoined (vihita).

BUBh and CUBh make it clear that he views the upanishat texts as teaching a 
restrictive injunction (niyama vidhi), but not a primary injunction (apUrva 
vidhi). The content of this niyama, remarkably enough, is yoga or samAdhi, 
taught as a means to know the Self (Atma-pratipatti-prayojana or 
tattva-darSana-upAya). Once known (vijnAya), the knowledge is to be 
consolidated (prajnAM kurvIta) and steadily recollected 
(Atma-vijnAna-smRti-saMtAna). This is the only means (ananya sAdhana) to 
citta vRtti nirodha and it also counters the momentum of prArabdha karma.

SrI gurubhyo namaH,

All-in-one security and maintenance for your PC.  Get a free 90-day trial! 

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list