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Sankara Yoga

Sankara Yoga

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Published by cumin
Discussion of Sankara in relations to Patanjali yoga and Bhagavad Gita
Discussion of Sankara in relations to Patanjali yoga and Bhagavad Gita

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Published by: cumin on Apr 07, 2013
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In his commentaries, Sankararefers to the Yoga sastra as anauthority for practices other thanmeditation, for instance, for
sannyasa (Gita Bh.VI)
and diet (VI-16). But itis most often cited as authoritativefor meditation. In his
Brahma Sutra 
commentary he cites yoga for theability of Vyasa and other sages toconverse with the gods face to face(I.3.33), yoga as a means to visionof truth
(tattva darsana upaya: 
II.1.3),on the mental processes (II.4.12), onmeditation practice (II.1.3), onmultiplication of bodies and otherpowers of those in
Brahmatoka 
(IV.4.15), on posture in meditation(IV.1.10.) Yoga sastra at the time oSankara is generally assumed to referto Patanjali’s
Yoga Sutra
glossed by  Vyasa, but there are references inSankara to yoga texts that cannot beidentified with the
Yoga Sutras 
as we
Sankara and Yoga
Sankara’sVivaranathrowslightontwokindsof yogicmeditation-withbhaktitotheLordanpureconcentrationontheSelf.
now have them. For instance,commenting on
Taitt. Up.
I.6.2 herefers to the channel called
sushumna,
but this is not mentioned by Patanjalinor by Vyasa. Neither does it conicin the present
Vivarana,
as a matterof fact; but other commentators on Vyasa are mentioned, andpresumably those texts would havebeen part of the Yoga sastra asrecognised by the
Vivarana.
 There is a direction on diet,glossing 
Gita 
 VI.16, to fill half thestomach with food, a quarter with water, and the remaining quarter tobe left empty. This is said by Sankara to be given “in the Yogasastra”, but it is not to be found inPatanjali or Vyasa. It must be fromsome text no longer extant. And Bhaskara knew of it, forhe refers to it in another place in hisown
Gita 
comment
(Gita 
IV.30),though not in the same words.
 
Extraordinary Powers
Sankara makes a few referencesto
 yama-niyam
as listed by Patanjali.Commenting on
Prasna Upanishad 
 V.1 he has mentioned the following as necessary auxiliaries to
Om 
meditation
satya, brahmacharya,ahimsa, aparigraha, tyaga, sannyasa,saucha, amayavittva.
 This is very closeto the first seven of the
 yama-niyam
set in the
Yoga Sutra 
(II.30-32). Again,
 yama-niyam
are cited asauxiliaries to an aspirant’s partial
sannyasa 
in the introductory comments on
Gita VI.
 Yogins’ Powers
Sankara often speaks of theyogins in passing, and especially inconnection with unusual powers, which he sometimes cites asexamples. In the commentary to
Gaudapada Karika 
IV.9, for example,to gloss the word “success” heinstances successful yogins who haveacquired the powers of becoming  very small and so on. As an example of one and thesame effect being produced by different causes, he says
(Brihadaranyaka Bhashya 
I.4.2.): “Inthe case of animals that see in thedark, the connection of eye with theobject alone suffices, even withoutthe help of light, to cause theperception. In the case of yogins,the mind alone is the cause of it. While with us there is a combinationof causes such as connection of theeye with the object, and light, whichagain may vary, in quality orstrength.” And on I.2.1, “Anotherreason for supposing the pre-existence of the effect is the fact thatthe knowledge of the yoginsconcerning the past and future of ajar is infallible. Were the future jarnon-existent, that perception of it would prove false. Nor is thisperception a mere figure of speech.”His remark that theirprecognition is an actual fact isrepeated in the strong assertion (to
Brahma Sutra 
I.3.33) that yoga doeslead to acquirement of extraordinary powers, “a fact which cannot be set aside by mereemphatic denial.” This is, however, what his pupil Padmapada does in
Panchapadika 
II.4
 
 when he says thatit is not found that meditationleads to perception of anything. There is a contradiction betweenhis pupil and Sankara, who here isapparently speaking fromexperience, for he cites in these
 
places no other authority for hispositive asseveration.It may be remarked howeverthat according to the
Yoga Sutras 
themselves, yogins who exercisesuch powers are creating obstaclesin the way to release. Omniscienceis a natural concomitant of thehighest states of training, but
Sutra 
III.37 says that the other powers areperfections to an extroverted mindbut are obstacles to
samadhi; 
the
Vivarana 
comments briefly on this,that they do not arise in aconcentrated mind which isdetached. They are limited andmostly have to be acquired by special meditations. They arepossessed by an individual, and assuch are quite different from theOmniscience and godly powerreferred to in
Brahma Sutra 
III.1.7 which become manifest when theself becomes free from the illusionof being connected with the body-mind aggregate, and realises itsidentity with the Lord. Skill inSamadhiSankara presupposes skill in
samadhi 
for his own spiritual practice:it is one of the qualifications
(Upadesa Sahasri 
I.17.23,
Brihadaranyaka Bhashya 
IV.4.23). In
Gita Bhashya 
to II.39,
samadhi is 
oneof the elements of 
karma yoga,
essential to purify the mind to receiveknowledge; sometimes Sankarasingles out
samadhi yoga 
as the meansto this end (to
Gita 
IV.38). In thiscommentary, Sankara more than 40times follows Vyasa’s gloss “yoga is
samadhi” 
by himself glossing yogaand its derivatives with
samadhi 
andits derivatives. This is not dictatedby the nature of the
Gita 
text, forBhaskara commenting on the sametext avoids the word. This applies not only to the
karma yoga 
passages, but to the
 jnananishtha 
passages such as
Gita V.8-9: 
here the truth-knower
(tattvavid),
 who in the introductionis called
atmavid 
and
samyagdarsin,
isnow directed solely to meditate withconcentrated mind
(samahita chetas)
on “I do nothing at all”, even during apparent actions like speaking andmoving. This meditation is in factnatural to a truth-knower, Sankaraexplains repeatedly: the practice issimply not to disturb it. It leads torelease, after which knowledge doesnot remain a second longer; if it did,duality would not have ceased
(Mandukya Bhashya 
 VII). This isexactly the point in the
Yoga Sutra 

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