samAdhi Again – 3

Part – 2

  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 samAdhisamAdhi 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
sAdhanasampat 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 adhyAropaapavAda 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 adhyAropaapavAda 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:

16 thoughts on “samAdhi Again – 3

    • I am obliged, Shishya, for the kind words.

      Many thanks for the wonderful link to the amazing article on Experiencing.


  1. Thanks Ramesam – your three articles on Samadhi are an erudite clarification of some important areas of confusion in Advaita.

    Shishya – I think your JK link is a very clear pointer to what advaita means by no mind, no thoughts . . . as opposed to the mundane, straw man definition and spurious dismissal by Dayananda, Swartz et al.

    I fear I may have to give up after all, my aspirations for Perhaps if I offer satsangs on the slopes of Arunachala, I can find a niche . . .

    • Venkat:

      “Realization” is not difficult to mimic, judging from the number of charlatans who claim to be “enlightened” and are believed by the masses.

      Many such “teachers” do this by redefining the phenomenon and disparaging those who know/knew, but can/could not speak.

      “Perhaps if I offer satsangs on the slopes of Arunachala, I can find a niche . . .” you said above, and that is a good place to start if you are serious about this business (just joking, of course.)

  2. Dear Ramesam,

    I am still trying to catch up with previous posts, and here you are posting an excellent analysis, which however warrants a few comments! I am just in the process of completing my collation of Shankara references in repsonse to the criticism of Venkat and Shishya, and will post that later today hopefully. Here are just a couple of observations on your post whilst I have them in mind.

    1) In your point 3, you refer to Br. Up. Bh. to quote from Shankara that the scriptures do not give rise to knowledge. The bhAShya on this sutra is enormous, extending to about 19 pages of small text in Swami Madhavananda’s translation, and I cannot immediately put my finger on your extract. What I did find was this: ” Therefore there can be no question about knowledge removing ignorance, whether it be first or last, continous or non-continuous, for knowledge culminates in producing the cessation of ignorance and other evils… there is no scope whatosoever for any objection.” So the point to which you refer can only be saying that the scriptures cannot change our true nature, which is always the same non-dual brahman. But it cannot be denied that they remove the Self-ignorance that is preventing us from recognizing this. And they do this by showing us this or ‘giving us’ Self-knowledge. Quibble with words as much as you like, this is what happens.

    2) You say that Shankara sometimes does not use the adhyAropa-apavAda method. I would contest this on the grounds that ANY and ALL teaching, without exception HAS to use this method, for the simple reason that reality cannot be directly spoke of, having no attributes.

    3) I do not agree with the contention that anubhava can be understood as ‘experience’ in any sense. I think I have gone into this in an earlier post? I do not accept your analogy of the sheep-lion cub. How could anyone possibly know what the cub ‘thinks’ when it hears the roar of a lion?! Has this experiment been carried out under controlled conditions with the brains of various cubs being wired up to EEGs? And is there an extensive archive of lion EEGs correlating particular waveforms with specific behavioral and cognitive aspects? (Apologies for the reductio ad absurdum argument; I got carried away!)

    Best wishes,

  3. Thank you very much Venkat and Dennis for the kind observations.


    Please allow me to respond here to the first and third points you made. I shall come back regarding the second point in a bit as it requires some time for drafting.

    Point # 1 On brihat quote:

    The brihat up bhAShya sentence quoted by me is :
    ज्ञापकंहि शास्त्रं न कारकमिति स्थितिः ।
    (jynApakaM hi shAstraM na kArkaM iti sthtiH).

    jynApakam is to remind.
    kArakam is to cause.

    I did not use Madhavananda translation.
    However, you find it in his translation as follows:

    “Nor can a scriptural statement impart any power to a thing. For it is an accepted principle that the scriptures are only informative, not creative.(1)”
    In the footnote marked (1), he says: “They only give first-hand information about things unknown. They do not produce anything new.”

    This is available at p: 182/987 in the pdf I have.

    Point # 3. On cubs – brains – Experiments:

    I am so happy you now take to my favorite theme of brain scans and Non-dual “Realizations.”
    So you do see a value in such studies at least for a humorous dig at me.

    Ha ha ha!!!

    Anyway, thanks for adding a light moment in these serious discussions.

    Continuing in the same spirit of light-hearted humor. I am reminded of what Dr. R. Feynman writes about the method of “conducting scientific investigations” by some of these pseudo-researchers. Let me quote him in his own words:


    ” This question of trying to figure out whether a book is good or bad by looking at it carefully or by taking the reports of a lot of people who looked at it carelessly is like this famous old problem:

    Nobody was permitted to see the Emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the Emperor of China’s nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think the length of the Emperor of China’s nose is, and you average it. And that would be very “accurate” because you averaged so many people. But it’s no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don’t improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging.”

    Quote ends. (Adopted from: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynaman,” 1985, ISBN 0­553­25649­1)

    (Trust you will enjoy and will not look askance at me).

    I shall come back a little later with regard to the other point(s).


    • Ramesam:

      This Feynman anecdote about the Emperor of China’s nose is not one of his best, really.

      If you sample a lot of people, you will get a very PRECISE estimate but that has nothing to do with ACCURACY which concerns the BIAS in estimates of the true value of a nose length (parameter!).

      It may be even be the case that some of the Advaitic tradition is very precise but not accurate at all…searching under the street lamp because that is where the light is, and redoubling your efforts when you come up empty handed.

  4. Ramesam, I just came across the following from SSSS’ Adhyatma Yoga, in explaining what Sankara meant by samadhi:

    1) In the Gita 2-44 the word ‘Samadhi’ is interpreted by Shankara as ‘Samadhi means Buddhi or Antahkarana, in which are gathered together all objects of enjoyment for the Purusha, the individual soul’. Here Shankara says that the conviction of a resolute nature of the intellect is called as Samadhi, meaning one cen determine whether to go towards the worldly enjoyment or towards emancipation and for both, the resolute nature of the intellect is the main cause. Hence Samadhi means Buddhi.

    2) In the Gita 2-53 the word ‘Samadhi’ means the Self. The mind or the intellect gets completely still when one cognises the true nature of the Self by discrimination. Hence the Self is called as Samadhi. Dhi means the Self. Except cognising the real nature of the Self there is no equipoise of the mind. So in the 54th stanza of this chapter the word ‘Samadhistha’, means one who is already established naturally in his true nature as the Self.

    3) In the Mandukya Karika 3-37, the word ‘Samadhi’ is interpreted by Shankara in two ways, first from the standpoint of the intellect
    the firm conviction about the true nature of the Self is obtained by
    a concentrated or one-pointed mind and so this awareness of the
    Self is called as Samadhi. From the standpoint of the Self, in the Self alone the mind gets the equipoise and hence the Self is called as ‘Samadhi’.

  5. Thanks Venkat for your Comment.

    The BG and GK references were discussed by me in Part – 1.
    Yes, I did miss out writing about BG 2-44 (व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः समाधौ न विधीयते ॥).
    Thanks for bringing up here. However, the full context of the verse cannot be understood by separating it out from the preceding two verses. ‘samAdhi’ here refers to the mind / buddhi of the “unwise” lost in panegyric texts and flowery words.

    Shankara’s comments on 2-44: ” vyavasAyAtmikA, one-pointed; buddhih,
    conviction, with regard to Knowledge or Yoga; na vidhIyate, does not become established, i.e. does not arise; samAdhau, in the minds — the word
    samAdhi being derived in the sense of that into which everything is gathered together for the enjoyment of a person –; bhoga-aisvaryaprasaktAnAm, of those who delight in enjoyment and wealth, of those who have the hankering that
    only enjoyment as also wealth is to be sought for, of those who identify themselves with these; and apahRita-cetasAm, of those whose intellects are
    carried away, whose discriminating judgement becomes covered; taya, by that speech which is full of various special rites.”
    (Translation by Swami Gambhirananda).

    It does not appear to me that Shankara in his commentary talked abut having a “choice,” as indicated in your quote of SSSS (“one can determine whether to go towards the worldly enjoyment or towards emancipation and for both…”).

    The other two references cited by you are about the same as I have also written in Part – 1.


  6. Page 119 – How to recognise the method of the Vedanta. SSS
    In fact, the Upanishads have the sole aim of
    hammering a single idea into the inquirer’s head, to wit, any and every notion, positive or negative, entertained with regard to this Brahman would be a false ascription, screening – Its true nature, and therefore the only way of correctly
    knowing It, is to disregard every such ascription and Intuit It just as It is, our own self-established Self free from all imaginable constructs of Avidya, aye, from Avidya itself for that matter.
    This truth is forcefully brought out in the
    following excerpt from SaIikara’s Aitareya Bhashya :
    “It is. is not ; one, many ; with attributes, without
    attributes; knows, knows not; is active, passive; experiences the fruit of action, does not experience the fruit ; has a cuase, has no cause; is happiness, misery; within, without; void,
    not void; another, myself, or some one else – whosoever tries to ascribe such constructs of imagination to this Absolute beyond speech and concepts would as well try to roll up the sky like a piece of leather or to climb it up with his steps as though it were a flight of stairs, or to get on the trail of birds in the sky or of fish in water.” (Ait. Bh. concluding observations on the first chapter).
    If this is not mysticism, what is it then?

      • Ramesam:

        Though you said it half-jokingly “transcendentalism” may be a better word than “mysticism”, the problem is how to transcend this…

        “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
        ― Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

        • As of now, I can only console myself with this from the end of Talk 28 with Sri Ramana Maharshi.

          D.: What is the relation between my free-will and the overwhelming might of the Omnipotent?

          (a) Is omniscience of God consistent with ego’s freewill?
          (b) Is omnipotence of God consistent with ego’s freewill?
          (c) Are the natural laws consistent with God’s free-will?

          M.: Yes. Free-will is the present appearing to a limited faculty of sight and will. The same ego sees its past activity as falling into a course of ‘law’ or rules – its own free-will being one of the links in that course of law.

          Omnipotence and omniscience of God are then seen by the ego to have acted through the appearance of his own free-will. So he comes to the conclusion that the ego must go by appearances.

          Natural laws are manifestations of God’s will and they have been laid down.

  7. Shishya,

    “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”


    Except “no evil, no good”. In the context of an indifferent universe, all that is left is to have a comparable indifference to our “self”. In that case “no evil, no good” can hold; not before. But if there is a partiality to my”self”, then good and evil are there, and it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise. Christ’s “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

  8. Hi Shishya,

    Thanks for your comments re: Feynman’s quote and on my half-serious suggestion of “transcendentalism.”

    I agree with what you said about the choice of words used by Dr. Feynman regarding “accuracy.” But the point I was making more in the context of selecting a research “method” to examine the authenticity of Shankara’s authorship of vivekacUDAmaNi. If there is a doubt, let us note that Sringeri has accepted it as Shankara’s authentic work and included it in their database, Advaita shAradA.

    With reference to your R. Dawkin’s quote and how to avoid the unpleasant, the ugly and the undesirable, I would like to submit that we don’t have to either look for a consolatory approach as you seem to suggest or develop insensitivity through a lackadaisical attitude by declaring it all to be mere “mithya” as some other authors seem to say.

    Advaita is about going totally beyond both the so-called good and bad, desirable and undesirable, acceptable and rejectable etc. pairs of orthogonal pairs of opposites. Advaita is about “transcending both and not be selective” using the puny human mind as a decision gate.

    BG tells us at 12.15,
    “यस्मान्नोद्विजते लोको लोकान्नोद्विजते च यः ।
    हर्षामर्षभयोद्वेगैर्मुक्तो यः स च मे प्रियः ॥
    [He by whom the world is not afflicted and who is not afflicted by the world, who, is free from joy, envy, fear and sorrow, he is dear to Me.]

    JK used to say that the true mature mind is that which can neither hurt nor be hurt, echoing almost in exact same words as the BG verse above.

    Venkat too, IMHO, in his comment above, does not say anything different.


  9. “He by whom the world is not afflicted and who is not afflicted by the world, who, is free from joy, envy, fear and sorrow, he is dear to Me”

    That has to be one of the most beautiful verses in BG. Thank you for reminding us of it.

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