Many misconceptions and misunderstandings appear to be prevailing about Yoga and samAdhi in Advaita. We shall take up in this Part of our Series, an assortment of those topics in no particular order and examine the possible correct position.
1. Yoga Terminology in Advaita:
The Sanskrit root “yuj” being common to words like ‘yoga, yukti etc. indicative of a union, we find that the Yoga terminology by itself is not an anathema for Advaita. The word “Yoga” appears in as many as 10 brahma sUtra-s (e.g. 1.1.19; 1.1.31; 2.1.3; 2.2.9; 3.1.26; 3.4.41; 4.2.17; 4.2.21 etc.). It is used 93 times with different meanings in Bhagavad-Gita. kaTha and svetAsvatara Upanishads too refer to ‘yoga’ practices and the latter particularly holds special praise for ‘yoga’ techniques. Shankara himself extols the effectiveness of practicing Yoga in his commentary at brahma sUtra (BS) 1.3.33.
Patanjali Yoga sUtra # 3 explains samAdhi as:
तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम् ॥ – sUtra # 3, samAdhi pAda.
[tadA draShTuH svarUpe ‘ vasthAnam]
Meaning: For then (i.e. for samAdhi) finding our seeing principle entails insight into our own nature.
One can see from the above definition that though samAdhi may have a different connotation in terms of siddhAnta (doctrine) in the dualistic Patanjali Yoga, it has the same significance as a prakriyA (a practice which aids in achieving Self-realization) in Advaita. As a result, the word “samAdhi” got easily accepted into Advaita. Shankara used it as a holding term bundling the classic Advaita methods of shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana, etc. (brihat upa mantra 2.4.5, chAndogya 8.2.1, and meditation on Aum (muNDaka 2.2.6)) while commenting on brahma sUtra 2.3.39. He did not hesitate to say “समाधिविधानात्” (samAdhi is enjoined) in his commentary at 2.3.40.
Dr. V. Sundaresan writes that Shankara at “BS 3.2.24 says that the Self is indeed known, during perfect worship (saMAdhana) . The bhAshya here defines the perfect worship as consisting of practices (anushThAna) such as devotion (bhakti), dhyAna (focused contemplation), praNidhAna (meditation on Ishwara), etc. Note the specific references to dhyAna and praNidhAna; both terms are intimately associated with yoga. yogasUtra (YS) 2.45 makes ‘meditation on Ishwara’ as the key to samAdhi – samAdhi siddhir Ishwara praNidhAnAt. Moreover, Shankara explicitly describes those who do grasp the Self in this manner as yogin-s.”
Shri Sundaresan also makes another important observation regarding the relevance of the famous YS “yogaH citta-vRtti-nirodha.” As he explains, Shankara does not reject citta vRtti nirodha out right. He contends that Shankara teaches us that ” it is not as if practicing yoga 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 citta-vRtti-nirodha.”
2. Importance of Renunciation:
Venkat had cited several instances where Shankara gave primacy to vairAgya (renucniation) for a seeker aspiring Self-realization. We note from brihadAranyaka that Yajnavalkya who explicates the subtle intricacies of Advaita Vedanta to his wife, Maitreyi, still opts to take up samnyAsa, in spite of his incontestable knowledge of the philosophy.
We are advised in brihadAraNyaka that “The tendency of speech, mind and body to keep indulging in action may be stronger because of the prior momentum of the action that has already begun to fructify. So, to counter this, the shruti teaches the recollection of Self-knowledge as a niyama, accompanied by other means such as renunciation (tyAga), dispassion (vairAgya).”
Commenting on the mantra धीरो विज्ञाय प्रज्ञां कुर्वीत ब्राह्मणः (4.4.21, brihadAraNyaka), Shankara says that “one should develop the means to prajnA. These are formal renunciation (samnyAsa) accompanied by what is described as the
sAdhana–sampat in BS bhAShya (prajnA-kAraNa-sAdhanAni
saMnyAsa-Sama-dama-uparama-titikshA-samAdhAnAni kuryAd ity arthaH).
In addition, we have already seen in Part -2 the importance given to detachment and dispassion by Sage Vasishta. Here are a couple of more examples where the word samAdhi has been used in Yogavasista in order to connote the position of a Self-realized being and how it is closely linked with dispassion and detachment.
i) “Rama, you seem to be under the impression that samAdhi may be lost after a while in spite of the fact that a lot of effort has gone into obtaining it. Your effort has a meaning only till Pure Knowledge arises in you. Once the realization takes place, it will never be lost. You need not try again and again to get it. There is no end to the samAdhi obtained by a Knower of Truth.
परं विषयवैतृष्ण्यं समाधानमुदाहृतम् ।
आहृतं येन तन्नूनं तस्मै नृब्रह्मणे नमः ।। — shloka 46, sarga 45, Ch 6: Nirvana, Book 2.
The fundamental prop for the entire process is the higher detachment. When once one is detached, Realization of Self and samAadhi automatically follow without exception. Nobody can stop the process.
People sometimes describe the higher detachment itself as samAdhi for this reason.”
— samAdhi, Book 2, Ch 6, Nirvana.
ii) “Desire for material comforts is the first block in realizing “I am myself Brahman.” Kill desire. For, as long as you have desire for pleasure, you are for certain stuck in the rut of the world.
परं पौरुषमाश्रित्य भोगेष्वरतिमाहरेत् ।
न भोगेष्वरतिर्यावज्जायते भवनाशनी ।। — shloka 37, sarga 24
न परा निर्वृतिस्तावत्प्राप्यते जयदायिनी ।
विषयेषु रतिर्यावत्स्थिता संमोहकारिणी ।। — shloka 38, sarga 24.
Bali: “How do I get rid of the desire for pleasure?”
Virochana: “Only through knowledge of Self.”
Bali: “How do I get that knowledge?”
Virochana: “Only through an inquiry into truth.”
— The Story of Emperor Bali, Ch 5: The Calm Down.
3. Scripture does NOT generate Self-knowledge:
There appears to be a concept that the jIva “HAS acquired something new in terms of the understanding in the mind [after obtaining the Non-dual teaching from the scripture or the teacher.] Previously he did not have Self-knowledge; now he does.” It is tantamount to saying that the scripture has “produced” the new Knowledge in the jIva. Shankara speaks differently.
ज्ञापकंहि शास्त्रं न कारकमिति स्थितिः । — brihadARaNyaka bhaShya at mantra 1.4.10
The scripture serves only as a remembrancer. It does not produce anything new, asserts Shankara in his bhAShya at mantra 1.4.10, brihadARaNyaka upanishad.
Advaita holds Self-knowledge as “prAptasya prAptiH (प्राप्तस्य प्राप्ति:), which means rediscovering what we already possess.” Knowledge of the Self is a siddha vastu (accomplished thing) and not a sAdhya (to be achieved). One has to be reminded only – like in the Story of The Misplaced Necklace.
4. Authorship of vivekacUDAmaNi:
Comans in his article on samAdhi states that vivekacūḍāmaṇi “is highly unlikely that it is a genuine work of Shankara.” Much discussion has already taken place among Advaitins on this topic.
The only observation I would like to make now is about the generally prevalent thought within the sampradAya. It is said that Shankara adopted uniformly the adhyAropa–apavAda model in all his bhAhyA-s which were meant mainly for debates with other philosophical schools of thought. For his own disciples and followers, however, he used the shorter texts (prakaraNa grantha-s) wherein the recommended approaches were many and not necessarily adhyAropa–apavAda only. It is too much of a tunnel vision to believe that a genius like Shankara lacked a wide variety of methods in his tool box for teaching Advaita and to conclude based on such a premise about the authenticity of authorship of a text. Secondly, we have also seen in section 1 above (Yoga Terminology in Advaita) a small sample of scriptural citations out of many that are available where Shankara does refer to the process of samAdhi .
The analysis done by Dennis comparing different translations of the verses from vivekacūḍāmaṇi is undoubtedly brilliant and quite scholarly. I am not however, sure that such an academic research approach is very fruitful in Vedanta studies. We know that the word meanings are not always significant in understanding the tATparya (the main purport) of a message in the scripture. The explication given by even one single true Knower will be far more valuable than what a hundred other bookish translations say. Hence, IMHO, the vivekacūḍāmaṇi verses as explained by a Pontiff of Sringeri have to be accepted as the gold standard compared to any other works.The Sringeri Acharyas respect and revere what vivekacūḍāmaṇi teaches as a reliable methodology within the sampradAya.
Admittedly, the above arguments do not “prove” the authenticity of the authorship of vivekacūḍāmaṇi, but they do show that the argument of Comans is not beyond doubt.
5. On “Experiencing”:
English being an Agentative language, it is difficult to appreciate the meaning of the Sanskrit words like “anubhava,” “anubhUti” (which are usually translated to mean “experience”) without positing a doer as the subject in a sentence.
Derived from the root ‘bhu‘ to be, happen etc. bhava refers to something that has happened / manifested. The prefix “anu” means after. So ‘anubhava‘ or ‘anubhUti‘ refers to something after it has happened. The happening itself is not dependent on a subject, i.e. a knower or an experiencer. IOW, an experiencing can be there even in the absence of a knower / experiencer.
An event or a situation is “known” as an info (prama = knowledge), when three things come in place – the knower (pramAtr), a means to know (pramANa) and something to be known (prameya). In the day to day life of duality all the three components exist. They are referred to as the tripuTi (triad).
In human experience of perception or inference, one can see that all the three components of the triad are always present. This is called as the ‘objective experience.’ But there can be sudden revelation when the awareness of a ‘thing’ is known or experienced in the absence of a “means to know” and the subject (pramAtr) and the object (prameya) collapsing into one. Such an experience is sometimes called as the “intuitive experience.”
An intuitive experiencing happens without the presence of an experiencer per se. An example for this is the recognition by a lion cub on hearing the roar of a lion that it has always been a lion only, though it was brought up in a herd of sheep ever since its birth. Such an experiencing is simply “knowing.” IOW, knowing and experiencing are non-different. The scriptures tell us that the “experiencing” of one’s own True Self (brahma anubhUti) is the “knowing” that happens in the absence of the ‘triad.’
Rupert Spira brings out very well the Vedantic sense of “experiencing” in this short Video:
All That Is Ever Known: