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 brahmasUtra-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 brahmasUtra (BS) 1.3.33.
We shall present in this Part – 2 how the word samAdhi is used in Yogavasishta (Yogavasishta is available as a pdf at this site). The word samAdhi occurs very ubiquitously in this text. It is used both in its Yogic and Advaita Vedanta meaning. A few select citations are illustrated below.
[We may, however, note that the original Commentator Shri Anandabodehndhra Swami Ji and also the current author Shri K. V. Krishna Murthy whose version is followed here belong to the tradition of Shankara. Hence we can expect the influence of Shankara in their interpretation.]
1.samAdhi is obtained through the practice of controlling the mind. Control of the mind can help to bring about the arresting of the senses from running after the worldly objects. So the Yogi’s desires for worldly things may disappear. Unless one realizes that all percepts are unreal and non-existent, practicing only samAdhi will not stop the yogi from going back to the worldly things when he is out of samAdhi. Just being in samAdhi will not bring about the knowledge that the visible world is untrue. It is necessary that one has to realize the false appearance of the world in order to be liberated. So one cannot attain liberation from the practice of deep meditation alone. It requires the Knowledge of Self.”
samAdhi is a highly specialized term in Yoga and also in Vedanta. However, paradoxically, the word does not stand to convey the same ‘concept’ in a rigid and fixed manner in all its occurrences across different scriptural texts. Like all other Sanskrit words in the scriptures, the word attains a lot of fluidity and delicate malleability in the hands of the Sages and ancient authors to convey a very precise and what is otherwise inexpressible philosophical idea. Such flexibility in the use of technical words is unknown and unimaginable in the West, particularly so if one is trained in the modern science. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that one cannot nail the meaning of the word as per one single definition when comparing its usage across different texts by different authors of different times. ‘anubhava’ and ‘anubhUti’ usually rendered into English as “experience,” often used in association with samAdhi, is another such word that needs care in handling.
As we are aware, the teacher to disciple communication was predominantly oral in the ancient times and the meaning of a word smoothly and innocuously changed as per the context and the lineage of the teacher. Hence, it was considered that a disciple must approach a competent teacher and s/he has to be tutored face to face by the teacher as per the recension followed in that lineage. Jumping across different lineages or intermixing diverse systems of teachings without fully adhering to a specific one till the end can only result in confusion. Book-learning is also almost an impossibility in the absence of a teacher who would provide the authentic word meaning as can be understood from the famous example of the same word ‘satyam’ occurring twice in the same sentence in the same mantra but with two different meanings: Continue reading →
A question that is often asked of me is why YogavAsiShTa is not as popular as Bhagavad-Gita.
[Frankly, I am not sure if that is true and if so why it is so. I spell out a few of my thoughts to start a healthy discussion.]
In my own case, it was Bhagavad-Gita that I was first exposed to, even as a teenager, and it was much later in my life after my pate turned bald and the few hairs that remained acquired a silver gray hue, that I happened to study YogavAsiShTa. I can say with certitude that both books must have been equally present in my house when I was growing up with my parents. Could it be that my parents somehow conspired to see that I did not get access to read the YogavAsiShTa in my youth because of my mother’s apprehension or belief in an adage that was popular in those times that one who reads YogavAsiShTa would surely fling the family life and retire to a forest as a Sannyasi (renunciate)? Continue reading →
14. What are the benefits of meditation on the mind?
As we understand, mind is what the brain does. But as Neuroscience found out, the pulsing of the neurons as the brain acts has a feed forward and feed backward effect. The em field produced by the activity of the neurons affects the brain. Consequently, what we do mentally has an effect on the brain.
In fact, our scriptures hold that what we do mentally is much more forceful and effective than physical performance. Manasa Puja, or silent worship within our mind, is held far superior to pompous and ostentatious prayers. The mental worship in a way is meditation. Even in athletics and other sports, the candidates are asked to rehearse first mentally the subtleties of every fine move before they perform physically. I learnt a lot of my driving more by thinking before I got into a driver’s seat in a car. Continue reading →
11. So then, what is the Big Crunch and what will exist beyond it?
Aha, this question is much like the first one and, therefore, we are coming full circle!
One of the significant finding in astrophysics nearly a decade and half ago was that not only is the universe expanding, but it is doing so at an alarmingly fast rate. ‘Before this discovery, the forecast was surprisingly simple. If the gravitational pull of all the matter in the cosmos was strong enough to rein in expansion — like the Earth’s pull on a rocket that can’t quite reach escape velocity — the universe would eventually come crashing in on itself.’ This is described dramatically as the Big Crunch. This is something like the Big Bang expansion reversing itself. So the Big Crunch would have happened only if the expanding universe is held back in its tracks. Continue reading →
9. How does the theory of superimposition in Quantum Physics relate to theory of superimposition in Advaita Vedanta?
The concept of superimposition in Quantum Physics is just that – a concept. It is a good example of what I am speaking about.
We devised the concept of superimposition to explain to ourselves some observed phenomena because the observed things did not seem to fit into the simple cause-effect relationship for which our mind is accustomed to. Let me explain a little. Continue reading →
[An INTERVIEW BY Paula Marvelly – Sixteen searching Questions probing the Depths of Physics and Advaita Vedanta – Responses from Dr. Ramesam Vemuri – 2011] Part – 1, Part – 2
Part 3: Gamma wave synchrony, God Particle and Super String Theory:
6. Returning to the subject of the mind and the brain, what is gamma wave synchrony and how does it tie in with our view of the world?
You see, we are conscious of a world out there and we are also conscious that we are conscious. How does this happen? Where is the seat of consciousness? The ancient Indian sages postulated an invisible entity about the size of the digit of the thumb to be residing in the heart overseeing the bodily functions and also providing consciousness to a human being.
To the extent my knowledge goes, the ancient scriptures did not talk of neurons or equivalent units or the working of the brain. They did, however, talk of nerves. They conceived the nerves to be the conduits of not only the life-forces but also food and other material. They said that all these nerves join in the heart. The Western philosophers, however, use consciousness in a different way. They thought of a soul. Perhaps it was Descartes who identified the pineal gland in the brain as representing the soul. Continue reading →
[An INTERVIEW BY Paula Marvelly – Sixteen searching Questions probing the Depths of Physics and Advaita Vedanta – Responses from Dr. Ramesam Vemuri – 2011]
Paula Marvelly is a Web-designer, playwright and author in search of the Ultimate Truth for over two decades. As a seeker, she carved out a unique path for herself interviewing over fifteen living Advaita teachers from India, Europe and USA and studying the lives of over twenty enlightened women. Her two books published in 2003 and 2005 received rave reviews. Paula’s books are:
The Teachers of One: Living Advaita: Conversations on the Nature of Non-Duality, May 25, 200
Women of Wisdom, 2005 – The Journey of the Sacred Feminine through the Ages.
Paula now maintains a Web Magazine The Culturiumwhich explores the interface between spirituality and the cultural arts.
Part 1: Relation between Modern Physics and Vedanta:
1. How does Quantum Physics or modern Physics in general relate to Vedanta in answering the question about universe?Continue reading →
Rama: Maharishi Vasishta! Revered Teacher! Kundadanta whom I met on that day is here in this assembly. He has been listening to your instructions for all these days. That is why I have asked you if he has attained Self-Knowledge and if all his doubts have been clarified.
Sage Vasishta: Where is the need for me to say anything? Let us ask him directly.
(Addressing now Kundadanta): What do you say, Kundadanta? Could you understand the essence of Truth? Have you gained Self-Knowledge? Have your doubts been cleared?
Kundadanta: Oh, Greatest of the Sages! Maharishi! My Salutations. Yes, now I am totally free of doubt. I have learnt what all has to be learnt. I understood fully the nature of Consciousness. I realize that even a tiny mustard seed can contain infinite universes within it. I could also understand experientially that there are no worlds at all from an Absolute point of view. I can see clearly that a question on how a large earth can fit into a small room has no locus.
What every creature experiences in the world is only The Supreme Brahman. The ignorance they experience is also Brahman. There is nothing whatsoever anywhere anytime beyond Supreme Brahman. That is the last word!
Vasishta: He is a Great Man Indeed! Congratulations to you, Kundadanta! Continue reading →