Mandukya Karika 3.39 and 3.40: Asparsa Yoga and Manonigraha

As Gaudapada’s Mandukyakarika 3.39 and 3.40 has been up for much discussion, I thought it worthwhile investigating further.  Below are extracts from Swami Gambhirananda’s translation:

3.39: The Yoga that is familiarly referred to as without any touch with anything is difficult to be comprehended by anyone of the Yogis. For those Yogis, who apprehend fear where there is no fear, are afraid of it.

Sankara (partial extract): for those who have become identified with Brahman – comes fearlessness; and for them naturally is accomplished the everlasting peace called emancipation . . . But for the other Yogis who are still treading the path, who are endued with inferior or medium outlook and think of the mind as something different from the Self, though associated with It—for those who are not possessed of the realisation of the Self that is the Truth:

3.40: For all these Yogis, fearlessness, the removal of misery, knowledge (of the Self), and everlasting peace are dependent on the control of the mind.

Sankara (partial extract): Sarvayoginam, for all Yogis; abhayam, fearlessness; is manasah nigraha yattam, contingent on the control of the mind; and so also is dulukhaksayah, the removal of misery. For there can be no extinction of sorrow for the non-discriminating people so long as the mind, brought into association with the Self, continues to be disturbed.


Whilst I have always instinctively gone to the Swami Nikhilananda translation, he does give a different sense to these verses than does Swami Gambhirananda.  Nikhilananda seems to interpret the Yogis in 3.40 as those not following jnana yoga, but rather Patanjali Yoga; and implies that the remaining verses 3.41-3.45 are describing their process of mind control, as different from jnana yoga.  The sense of Gambhirananda is that these verses apply to all Jnana yogis, who may have heard the teaching but still have not achieved moksha.

SSSS, in his ‘Essential Gaudapada’ has a similar interpretation to Gambhirananda.  He treats 3.40 et seq as the nidhidhyasana, that needs to be conducted if one does not achieve liberation purely through sravana / manana – and that if the latter is achieved, mind control is a naturally attained fruit.

He writes of 3.39: “Although they are seeing or witnessing this daily as their experience, the common seekers or practitioners of spiritual disciplines are afraid of Asparsayoga, which is of the essence of this Samyajjnana (intuitive knowledge) fearing that ‘if amanasta is attained, I myself will get destroyed”.

He writes of 3.40: “Those who are endowed with Atmasatyanubodha, since they are Kritartha (achieved the fulfilment of Life’s purpose) and since for them this Manonigraha is self-established and hence readily available, this is veriy a lakshana (a significant hallmark) for them. In fact what is a lakshana for Kritarthas – that alone is recommended as a sadhana for the rest of the seekers by the sastra. For, the others have to perforce acquire through concerted efforts alone. Hence, here also the benefit of those who wish to attain Atmajnana by the device of Manonigraha, its methodical details are being taught.”

In SSSS’ book ‘Adhyatma Yoga’, he equates:

Adhyatma yoga (Katha Up) = Dhyana yoga (BG chpt 6) = Manonigraha (MK chpt 3) = Nidhidhyasana

I do not follow Swami Paramarthananda, but as Dennis does, and for completeness, I also referred to his commentary on MK3.40, which has many similarities to Gambhirananda / SSSS’ interpretation, except that he brings in a distinction between a jnani and a jivanmukta:

The pursuit of Self-Knowledge was called asparśa-yoga, which is jñāna-yoga. Through jñāna-yoga, one comes to Self-dependence, which is independence. This is mokṣa. Jñāna-yoga is śravaṇaṃ and mananam. Śravaṇaṃ and mananam are important but are not complete by itself. Śravaṇaṃ and mananam will give doubtless knowledge. There is one more step called nididhyāsanam, which is an integral part of jñāna-yoga. Nididhyāsanam is the process by which we derive practical benefit out of this knowledge so that knowledge does not remain isolated without bringing any benefit in daily life. Knowledge should not remain mere information but should result in transformation. This is transformation of our mental state. Knowledge should bring about a transformation of the state of mind to derive practical benefit”

“How does one transform the mental state? It is done by manonigraha, which is changing the mental state in keeping with the Vedāntic teaching”

“Most of us try to get jñānam before yoga and even if we become jñānis we do not derive the full benefit . . . Gauḍapāda says that all the spiritual seekers should practice this yoga of learning to handle involuntary thoughts. It is called mānasa nigraha. Only when the mind is disciplined (śama) the following practical benefits of jīvanmukti will be obtained: abhayam, being fearless and less anxious regarding future, duḥkha kṣaya, end of complaints, varieties of grief and despondency, akṣaya śānti, lasting peace of mind, and prabodha, unobstructed knowledge. After jñānam, jīvanmukti depends on yoga, manonigraha, which is handling involuntary thoughts”

To conclude, the verses following 3.40 are not setting out a different, lower path to obtaining atma-jnana.  Rather, 3.40 is descriptive of the ‘state’ that a jnani-jivanmukta has achieved, and the sadhana of nidhidhyasana for the rest.

2 thoughts on “Mandukya Karika 3.39 and 3.40: Asparsa Yoga and Manonigraha

  1. Here is what I said in ‘A-U-M’, having consulted all translations available in hard copy or electronic:

    In K3.39, Gaudapada says that ‘ordinary yogins’ would not be able to assimilate the teaching. Shankara assumes this refers to those without knowledge of the Vedanta. Anandagiri says that the ‘changeless Existence, Consciousness and Bliss’ is attainable by those having correct knowledge – ‘dull-witted’ persons do not make any effort to know it. The clear implication here is that one must be ‘sharp-witted’ in order to be willing and able to follow this teaching.

    Investigation into the translations of K3.40 reveals many nuances. I solicited a totally unbiased translation from a Sanskrit scholar and here is the result: “For all Yogis, fearlessness, the removal of misery, knowledge of the self, and everlasting peace are contingent upon the control of the mind.”

    Appealing to reason again, it would seem that Gaudapada is effectively saying that seekers require mental disciplining both to be able to assimilate the teaching (and gain Self-knowledge) and to get rid of misery. V.H. Date’s translation (Ref. 18) supports this: “Fearlessness, destruction of misery and absolute peace as the result of the realization of the Brahman, depend upon the control of the mind, whatever may be the kind of yogin.” And Shankara adds in his commentary: “Moreover, even Self-knowledge depends on mental discipline”.

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