Yoga: Philosophy, practice, or politics?

Ever since the declaration of an International Yoga Day, there has been a curiously bifurcated international reaction to Yoga, Hinduism and India.

Ever since the declaration of an International Yoga Day, there has been a curiously bifurcated international reaction to Yoga, Hinduism and India. In general, well-meaning and open-minded people across the globe seem to have unreservedly embraced the idea of a day dedicated to celebrating Yoga as a great legacy of human knowledge. On the other side, there has also been an outpouring of angst from some quarters, over what Yoga means, whether Yoga is Hindu in origin or whether it can even be called Indian in any way, let alone Hindu. This reaction is seen not only among those who want to capitalize on such bizarre new creations as “Goat Yoga” and “Beer Yoga,” but also among those who today view everything Indian against a political Hindutva angle and feel a need to counter it in one form or the other. This would be unremarkable, if a politically motivated commentator stopped at commenting about contemporary politics. Where it becomes extremely problematic is when an author attempts to cast his political critique in the garb of academic scholarship and ends up spectacularly failing at both.

Vikram Zutshi’s recent article in is a textbook example of the rise of this recent phenomenon. I will leave it to official spokespersons of bodies like the Hindu American Foundation, whom Zutshi criticizes, and writers like Andrea Jain, whom he quotes with approval, to debate whether there is indeed an attempt to present a falsely homogenizing vision of Yoga and Hinduism. I will also leave it to political commentators to debate whether a declaration of an International Yoga Day by the UN means that a Hindutva supremacist agenda is gaining international legitimacy. And I will leave it to readers to evaluate his criticisms of the usual suspects nowadays, Indian PM Modi, UP CM Adityanath, Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishankar. As far as I am concerned, Vikram Zutshi is entitled to his political opinions, which are quite obvious, notwithstanding the fact that Swarajya, a magazine at the other end of the political spectrum, also carries the occasional piece from his pen. However, when he moves on to a seemingly scholarly account of the Indian history of Yoga, I take serious objection to the numerous glaring inconsistencies and outright wrong statements that he makes in the process. At the outset, let me clarify that my criticism of Zutshi has nothing to do with Hindutva per se, either as ideology or as contemporary politics. It has everything to do with critiquing the low standards of the politically motivated pretense at scholarship that plagues studies of India and Hinduism nowadays, whether circulated within the rarified circles of academic publications or through magazines and newspapers out in the real world.

The one thing that Zutshi is right about is his assertion that Yoga did not emerge “from a homogenous culture with fixed metaphysical goals, and does not have an overarching narrative common to all its practitioners down the ages.” To my knowledge, nobody, including the most ardent Hindutvavadi, has actually denied this rather banal observation of the multiple textual and other traditional sources of Yoga. He begins by citing the Pātañjala Yogasūtra definition of Yoga as citta-vṛtti-nirodha and then credits Patañjali with teaching eight limbs or stages that every Yoga practitioner must master towards this goal. Attempting to make the point that Patanjali was not the definitive guide for Yogis through the ages, he goes on to cite a fairly recent text from a Tantric stream, by a Gujarati Saiva author named Haṃsamiṭṭhu. Here is how Zutshi presents an excerpt from his Haṃsavilāsa: “Patañjali’s teaching is nonsense, because there is nothing agreeable in anything achieved by force. … There is no point in these extreme exertions. … As a result the teachings of Patañjali are not included among true teachings.” Zutshi also cites the famous Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda as having rejected the value of citta-vṛtti-nirodha in his celebrated commentary on the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣat. As Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda is such a highly-respected authority within what may be called Hinduism today, Zutshi presumably expects his readers to infer that traditional Hinduism itself rejects Yoga and that therefore Yoga must be “not-Hindu.”

To a majority of readers, it may perhaps seem like Zutshi has built a strong case in support of his position, but when examined from an impartial scholarly, rather than a biased political, perspective, it all falls apart rather quickly. To begin with, Zutshi fails to draw attention to the important point that although Pātañjala Yoga is the source for talking about the eight limbs of Yoga, it is not quite the same as what the international Yoga community thinks of when they hear the term, Ashtanga. For all intents and purposes, in today’s world, “Ashtanga Yoga” stands for a specific contemporary style of Yoga practice, as first branded by Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, to be distinguished from say, “Iyengar Yoga” or “Bikram Yoga” or “Power Yoga” or any of the numerous other appellations that people seek to prefix to the word Yoga nowadays. Beyond passing references to the text of the Yogasūtra, what is internationally known as Ashtanga Yoga today really has very little to do with the philosophical and practical concerns of Yoga as one of the premier darśanas of India. Every contemporary Yoga style is about āsana and some prāṇāyāma, with perhaps some lip service to dhyāna. There is hardly any attention paid to the Yoga practitioner’s underlying mental processes as pertaining to yama, niyama, pratyāhāra, dhāranā and samādhi, which together form the bedrock of the integrated Yoga teaching of Patañjali. Zutshi says nothing whatsoever about any of this, with all his stated concerns about the meaning and benefits of Yoga from a transnational cultural perspective. This is all about the politics of the modern “Yoga studio” and the people who populate it, bending their bodies into downward dog. It is not about the inward and upward orientation of human consciousness that Patañjali seeks to achieve, nor about the philosophical underpinnings of Yoga in general.

A more serious problem is Zutshi’s refusal to examine the claims of the Haṃsavilāsa itself. Any researcher with any care for impartial and objective evaluation of his sources should have asked himself whether Haṃsamiṭṭhu is correct in reading Patañjali as advocating achieving anything by force. This is actually the way of Haṭha Yoga, as encapsulated in its very name. There are numerous other textual sources for this kind of Yoga, including the famous Haṭhayogapradīpikā. Indeed, what is practiced in the international setting of the modern Yoga studio is basically repackaged Haṭha Yoga, not Pātañjala Yoga. Incidentally, this Haṭha Yoga tradition is also the original paramparā home of UP CM Adityanath’s Yoga lineage, codified as it was by the legendary Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath and their disciples, the first few Yogi Mahants of Gorakhpur. That tradition of forceful Yoga practice is arguably only peripherally related to the old Yoga school of Patañjali, which is also heavy on philosophy. Haṭha Yoga overemphasizes the practice of āsana, with all its variants, but this is only one out of eight limbs in Pātañjala Yoga. Throughout the Yogasūtra and its commentaries, the Pātañjala tradition does not advocate forceful mastery over any aspect of Yoga. What it does advocate is a natural progression of mastery over one’s bodily and mental processes that can happen as a result of gaining experience and expertise in the meditative practices of Yoga. And it must be reiterated that the Pātañjala tradition does not focus inordinately upon the āsana aspect, but quickly turns its attention to the mind, culminating in citta-vṛtti-nirodha. It follows that Haṃsamiṭṭhu is himself quite mistaken in his criticism and rejection of Patañjali, while Zutshi who quotes him as if he were a widely-accepted authority, three centuries later, is even more mistaken for not discerning this fact. Even one who agrees that there is no point in extreme and forceful bodily exertions needs to recognize that these are not what Pātañjala Yoga is all about.

One might argue that in Haṃsamiṭṭhu’s time, there wasn’t such an appreciation of the differences behind the Haṭha and Pātañjala streams of Yoga. Perhaps that may have been so, but it is simply unconscionable that a 21st century author, who makes much of the diverse and heterogeneous traditions underlying what we see as Yoga today, fails to recognize this. Indeed, key and influential texts such as Haṭhayogapradīpikā, which pertain more directly to contemporary international Yoga on the one hand, are also foundational to the lineage legacy of UP CM Yogi Adityanath on the other! Zutshi has nothing to say about this deep dichotomy in the contemporary legacy of the Haṭha Yoga tradition, between the suave, international face of modern “Yogis and Yoginis” versus the earthy and rustic legacy holder of the Haṭha Yoga tradition back in Gorakhpur. Adityanath may have been catapulted into political power by a modern democratic process and his views may seem outdated, to say the least, offending the cultural and political sensibilities of modern and educated people. However, the contemporary international struggle over who can lay claim to Yoga is a manifestation of this fundamental divide within the Haṭha Yoga spectrum, and it far transcends the transitory electoral fortunes of Hindutva and anti-Hindutva forces in India.

Needless to say, in the meantime, the more ancient tradition of Pātañjala Yoga also continues in various parts of India, in various forms, outside of the Haṭha Yoga School. A scholar, whether of old Sanskritic texts and traditions or of current worldwide political and cultural trends, should have found this a fascinating problem to comment upon and study deeply. Instead, Zutshi merely chooses to shoot at Patañjali over the shoulders of Haṃsamiṭṭhu, and completely misses the mark in the process. If that were not enough, Zutshi is even more completely mistaken when he attempts to downplay Yoga’s Hindu roots by appealing to the authority of Śaṅkara, probably the best-known figure in the tradition of Vedānta, which underlies almost all of contemporary Hinduism. He refers to Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Bṛhadāraṇyaka text and presents him as teaching that citta-vṛtti-nirodha should not be practiced as it is not a means to liberation. This portrayal is not only misleading, but also shows that he misunderstands Śaṅkara at a fundamental level. To understand what exactly Śaṅkara has to say about this issue, a brief digression to elaborate some key tenets of Advaita Vedānta will be needed here.

A basic principle to remember is that as per Śaṅkara, ultimate liberation from all bondage is only through Self-knowledge (ātma-vijñāna), which is taught primarily in the Upaniṣad portions of the Veda. The second is that attaining Self-knowledge is never the result of any action whatsoever. The true Self, the innermost ātman, as per Śaṅkara, is intrinsically never a doer of any action, so in his view, it is fundamentally unsound to think that Self-knowledge will result from action. In Śaṅkara’s philosophy, human beings do various actions, good and bad, because we are ignorant of our own innermost Self. Every action inevitably has its consequences, which must be experienced. Inasmuch as anything that is born must die, any consequence that is born out of a past action will necessarily undergo a future death. No result of action can ever be permanent in its intrinsic nature, no matter how long-lived it may be. If liberation were understood to be the result of an action, it should necessarily have an end too, which would mean that this kind of liberation would only be a temporary state of being. In contrast, Śaṅkara teaches that true liberation, which is the attainment of Self-knowledge, is a permanent cessation of all bondage and is therefore fundamentally opposed to action, as action necessarily presupposes ignorance, the opposite of knowledge. In other words, the cycle of karma is never-ending, but Self-knowledge liberates precisely because it takes one completely out of this cycle. So long as one thinks of one’s quest for Self-knowledge as something that involves action, one is doomed to move endlessly in the cycle of karma. The quest of Self-knowledge therefore necessarily involves a stage where one needs to be ready to renounce all notions of doership, which is why formal renunciation of all action (saṃnyāsa), and its attendant monastic and ascetic practices, have such a centrally important place in the Śaṅkaran tradition.

Now, because Śaṅkara also grounds his thinking in an interpretation of texts belonging to the Veda, he has to contend with the earlier school of Vedic interpretation called Pūrva Mīmāṃsā. According to this older tradition of Vedic hermeneutics, the central purpose of the Veda is to enjoin one set of actions and prohibit other actions. This principle is taken to such a rigorous extreme in the Mīmāṃsā school that the primary validity of the Veda is seen to subsist in those sentences that order us to do or not to do. All passages in the Veda, even those that teach Self-knowledge, like the Upaniṣad texts, have to be read contextually, in light of the injunctions and prohibitions that they carry or may be related to, in one way or the other. If no explicit order is to be found, grammatically constructed with a verb conveying an order, then one has to interpret that Vedic passage in a manner that implies an order. Needless to say, this view of scripture is based upon an idea that human beings are fundamentally always agents, doers of action, and can therefore never renounce action. Scripture exists solely to regulate what one should and should not do. This school of thought, which was the dominant method to understand and interpret the Veda during his time, has a view of the human self that remains diametrically opposed to Śaṅkara’s view of the ātman. This is the actual context of the discussion when Śaṅkara interprets the Bṛhadāraṇyaka passage that Zutshi cites.

A full analysis of all the subtle issues involved in this very important commentary will become too long for this article. A more detailed discussion of how Yoga has fit into the worldview of Advaita Vedānta from the earliest times can be found in my chapter on this subject in the book Yoga: The Indian Tradition. Other contributors to this book have discussed Yoga thought and practice, from its early codification in the Pātañjala system to the views found in late Tantra texts, and also how Yoga has drawn from and informed the Indian Dharma traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Tantrism, in addition to Hinduism(1). For my immediate purposes here, I will only reiterate that the fundamental proposition that Śaṅkara rejects is the idea that one must do something in order to gain Self-knowledge. He firmly holds that the true Self is not a doer, and therefore Self-knowledge and the means to it can never be enjoined by scripture. Meditation on the Self is not enjoined, because the Self is not an object out there, external to the seeker that he can then think about or meditate upon. Therefore, when a Vedāntin from another school posits that perhaps it is the cessation of mental fluctuations, citta-vṛtti-nirodha, that is enjoined for Self-knowledge, Śaṅkara rejects that perspective as unacceptable too. There is nothing that is enjoined, including citta-vṛtti-nirodha, to gain Self-knowledge.

While this may seem like a rejection of Yoga and its goal of citta-vṛtti-nirodha, the structure of Śaṅkara’s response makes it clear that what he is rejecting strongly is the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā hermeneutic principle of scriptural injunctions and of human doership. Śaṅkara actually goes on to say much more about it in the rest of his argument, which Zutshi completely ignores. Self-knowledge itself cannot be enjoined, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be sought after, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it can never be attained. Meditation on Brahman is not enjoined as a means to liberation, but this doesn’t mean that meditation should not be done. By the same token, citta-vṛtti-nirodha is not enjoined as a means to liberation, but that doesn’t mean that it should not be practiced by the student of Vedānta, who seeks liberation. In fact, further along in the same passage under consideration, Śaṅkara revisits the place of Yoga and affirms that Self-knowledge and its steady recollection are the only means to achieve citta-vṛtti-nirodha. Far from being a rejection of Yoga, Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Bṛhadāraṇyaka actually affirms that while citta-vṛtti-nirodha is not enjoined as a means to liberation, the steady recollection of Self-knowledge, which is learned from the Upaniṣads, is the sure means to achieve citta-vṛtti-nirodha, the end goal of Yoga. The other aspect that clearly emerges is that some pre-Śaṅkaran Vedāntins had attempted a different kind of synthesis between Yoga and Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, arguing that citta-vṛtti-nirodha must be enjoined as a means to liberation. When Śaṅkara rejects this argument, what he rejects is this problematic synthesis, because of the intrinsic incompatibility of injunctions with Self-knowledge, not because of a rejection of citta-vṛtti-nirodha itself. His strong affirmation, that Self-knowledge and its steady recollection are the only sure means to the goal of citta-vṛtti-nirodha, makes it obvious that the state of liberation, as per Advaita Vedānta, includes the Yogic goal of the cessation of mental fluctuations as an integral part of its vision. The important point to note here is that it is Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda himself, the premier commentator in the Advaita tradition, who says so. What comes out in the full argument presented by Śaṅkara is that for the individual seeker of liberation, the paths of dualistic Yoga and that of non-dualistic Advaita Vedānta meet at the end. Their starting points and their methods of using scripture and human experience on the path to liberation are different in crucial respects, yet there is a great deal of common ground in how the two systems of thought handle various philosophical problems, especially with respect to consciousness.

In his commentaries on the Brahmasūtras, the Bhagavad Gītā and the other Upaniṣads, Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda goes on to reject the dualistic worldview of classical Yoga, but also accommodates Yoga thought and practice in various ways, when he builds up his rigorous Advaita interpretation and teaching. It is no wonder then that later Vedāntins, both within the Advaita School and from other schools, give increasing room for incorporating different aspects of Yoga into their own works. Quoting Śaṅkara partially, in an attempt to show that he rejected Pātañjala Yoga, is either an attempt to deliberately mislead readers about what he actually says or it is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of what Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda teaches about Self-knowledge, the means to it and the nature of liberation in Advaita Vedānta.

Either way, it should be obvious that in his zeal to delink contemporary, international Yoga from its Indic Hindu roots, Zutshi reveals his ignorance of the intellectual history and concerns of the key Hindu philosophical traditions. Zutshi might comfort himself that he is not alone in claiming that Śaṅkara rejects Yoga in the specific passage that he has cited. Over the last few decades, many authors within the world of academia, whose output is in the English language, reveal themselves as having missed and misunderstood the role and background of Yoga in Śaṅkaran Advaita Vedānta. Yet, the rules and processes of scholarly publication at least provide a mechanism within which scholars need to demonstrate independent study of original sources and also update and revise their knowledge, taking fresh evidence into account.

However, the first problem with contemporary Indian writers like Zutshi, who write for public consumption, whether in Scroll or in Swarajya, is that their own knowledge of the Indian texts and traditions is highly derivative of the secondary academic literature, with hardly any knowledge of the original source texts. The second problem is that they view all their own secondhand knowledge through a heavily distorting political lens that is completely informed by contemporary concerns, leftist or rightist, which often have no relation whatsoever to the texts and the histories of the Indian knowledge traditions. This is exacerbated by their inability and/or their unwillingness to equip themselves with the requisite level of language skills and research methodology training, in order to study and interpret the original texts for themselves. Piercing through these successive veils of ignorance is going to be a Herculean task, but in the meantime, we’re going to see many more instances of half-baked opinions and pretensions to scholarship being pawned off as the real thing.


1. Yoga: The Indian Tradition, edited by Ian Whicher and David Carpenter. London: Routledge Curzon. 2003. Pp. xii +206. My chapter in this publication, Yoga in Śaṅkaran Advaita Vedānta: A Reappraisal (pp. 99-129) presents a detailed study of this issue, based on all the major commentaries written by Śaṅkara. Other contributors to this book, other than the two editors, include John Brockington, Lloyd Pflueger, Chris Chapple, Olle Qvarnstrom, David Gordon White and Glen Hayes.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness,suitability,or validity of any information in this article.
  • classyoga

    To put it simply, there are two types of Yoga: Real and Phony (Sat and Asat). Real Yoga is all about the Hindu Dharma, taught by Hindus and not for a fee. Today’s phony yoga is the exact opposite. One should know that the Sanskrit/Hindu word “Yoga” has nothing to do with the physical body. And, of all the real Yogas (that constitute the Hindu religion) the only one that was suppose to be kept rather secret is Hatha Yoga! Stealing from the Hindus is a historical fact. Sooner or later the Hindus are going to have to step up and show some courage and protect the Hindu/Yoga Dharma.

  • Cybil Peril

    BDW, “Why do u hv 2 use Hindu ID while abusing Hindus??? If u abuse Muslim, they will kill u. You will be classed as murtad or munaf….

    • rajan

      तेरी रन्डी माँ को रामपुर में दौड़ा दौड़ा के चोथ रहे है. १००० के करीब है..!.

  • Cybil Peril

    Talaq, talaq, talaq, followed by Halala. This truth of Wahhabism is not known to anybody including the innocent non Muslims including unsuspecting Hindu women. It is a shameful cheat and deceit under disguise of Islam.

    • rajan

      Teri ma aur bahen ko mai choodh raha hu. Teri ma aur bahen ah ah ki aawaj nikaal rahi hai.

  • Cybil Peril

    How are you using a Hindu name ID here? Is it a shame or pride for you? But it doesn’t matter for an imbecile troller. Islam is a violent ideology which proclaims death for kafirs, dhimmis, murtads, munafiques, Muslim girl cant marry non Muslim but Islam is a masculine gender biased faith where a girl raped has to show four live male witnesses for her rape but no punishment to rapist. If a father-in-law rapes his daughter-in-law, tell me her fate if you would??? Stop throwing stones on others if your house is built in mud.

    • rajan

      Teri ma aur bahen ke muh me mera c_/m nikaal gaya hai

  • Cybil Peril

    Yes, I acknowledge it proudly. One Hindu girl tames one Muslim or Christian man and tames his faith too. Jodha Bai tamed Akbar and similar woman power has been used by Western powers and acquire political gains. Doesn’t Salman worship Ganesha? It will hurt ur pride.

    • rajan

      Teri ma aur bahen mera c_/m chaat ke mera landh dry kar rahi h

  • Cybil Peril

    The entire bias against Yoga or everything Indian/Hindu stems from hate based Abrahamic ideologies besides the faithless (so called) Commies. As long as these worldly concepts in hate, jealousy, violence, anger, religious conversions thrive, one should not hope peace on this planet. These three concepts use violent means with a little modification by Christians/Church which use selective means as applicable. It means that Church operates globally in cahoots with CIA as spying agency and use violence in remote places or in disguise using local gullible youths by providing money, intelligence, transport, etc. Church started collusion with CIA during WW II in stalling the political come back of Commies after Mussolini. Church succeeded in its treacherous act and this strategy of marriage of unsuspecting convenience has continued globally unabated. Nobody suspects that Church as a religious instrument shall indulge in hideous terrorist and political tool. Unfortunate.

  • Gavamayanam

    The very word “Hata” in Hatayoga means force or persistence. So if it all an accusation of forceful mastery is made it should be on Hata and not patanjali. Also it is not right to assume as the author says that all darshanas have the same definition of Mokhsa. Patanjali in his ashtanga prescribes the process of samyama to fine tune the mind. This process is possible only if the dvaitic philosophy of Yoga/Sankhya is valid. Patanjali postulates that one has to attain Kaivalya to attain moksha or apavarga. This state is where the yogi experiences the Kevalatva of his purusha, untouched by prakrit. This distinct from the Advaitic experience of “Sarvam kalvidam brahma” or “Ahama brahmasmi”. The former cannot be attained by accepting a chitta and attempting “Vritti nirodhaha”, as this process assumes that the purusha is as real as prakriti. Only one needs to detach purush from prakriti. The Advaitic definition of moksha is spoiled if one accepts “Chitti vritti Nirodaha” from an advaitic standpoint. So i don’t think the end results in both cases is the same

    Of course all of this is due to fact that the majority of the practitioners dont read shankara’s bhashya of the Brahma sutra, nor the Vyaasa bhashya of the yoga sutras nor the upanishads in the original form.

    • Vidyasankar Sundaresan

      Just to clarify, I happen to have read substantial portions of the Yogasutrabhashya, the Brahmasutrabhashya, Gitabhashya and key Upanishadbhashyas, in the original. Reading and understanding them is an ongoing process.

      I haven’t claimed that all the darshanas have the same definition of Moksha. What I’m saying is specific to Yoga and Advaita, that there is a lot of common ground and that their paths do meet. All the traditional Advaita Acharyas accept that there is such a thing as citta and that it has vrtti-s. There is nothing to spoil the Advaita definition of moksha.

      • Gavamayanam

        Sorry i did not mean you sir when i said that many don’t read and that you claimed all darshanas lead to the same goal of moksha. I see many yoga teachers mainly in the West and also nowadays in India too doing the same. They equate prakriti to maya, purusha to Brahman, thus conflating Sankhya and Advaita. I see you have done the due diligence to write an article of good depth. Probably my comment was not properly worded. My point of mentioning chitti was from the point of view of the end goal of advaita Since from say the sankhya point of view, chitta is one of the tattvas derived from the moola prakriti which is supposed to be a reality, like the purusha, But in Advaita there is no other reality than Brahman. So my point was that at the end, from a Yogi/Sankhya point of view even though the individual purusha has exited the influence of prakriti and is now in the state of kaivalya, Prakriti does not cease to be a reality. Whereas for an Advaiti the Aham brahmasmi experience in samadhi results in Brahman standing as the only reality, without any other reality. This is what i meant. What is your idea on this??

        Again let me reiterate your article was thought provoking and my comments not properly worded. Sorry if you felt bad on reading my comments

        • Vidyasankar Sundaresan

          Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t upset, but I wanted to preempt other kinds of misunderstandings from arising. You are right about Yoga remaining dualistic with respect to Purusha and Prakriti at the end, unlike Advaita Vedanta. However, Patanjali’s teachings of saMyama etc are quite acceptable to be incorporated into the sAdhanA of a seeker who is philosophically an Advaitin. Works like Vidyaranyaswamin’s Jivanmuktiviveka provide great detail on how this can be. Philosophical differences about ultimate reality do not have to stand in the way of commonality of traditional teachings with respect to practice, such as tapas, svAdhyAya and yogAbhyAsa. The integration of the Yoga practice perspective is already there in the text of the Gita, for example, and that is one of the premier source texts for all Vedantins across the spectrum, from Advaitins to Dvaitins and everyone in between.

          • Gavamayanam

            My question is that methods like the “Neti Neti” in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, aim at removing duality or the existence of another reality. But Samyama involves the contemplating of prakriti too. My question is how this lead to an advaitic experience??

          • Vidyasankar Sundaresan

            Sorry for the delayed response.

            1. Reflecting on the neti, neti approach of the Upanishat is definitely not the same mental process as dhyAna and samAdhi in the Yoga manner.

            2. However, it is not as if the practice of saMyama, as per the Yoga teaching, is a no-no for advaita vedAntins. sureSvarAcArya, the direct disciple of Sankara bhagavatpAda, advises yogAbhyAsa as a step in the process between mumukshutvam and Atmanyeva avasthAnam, in his naishkarmyasiddhi. This step comes after complete saMnyAsa and mahAvAkya SravaNa. (naishkarmyasiddhi 1.52)

            3. Sankara bhagavatpAda himself, in brahmasUtrabhAshya 3.2.24, affirms that the AtmA, which is intrinsically devoid of all prapanca, is seen in the time of saMrAdhana, which is further described as bhakti-dhyAna-praNidhAna. See, for instance,

            Training the mind in regulating and controlling itself, as per Yoga teaching, thus becomes almost a prerequisite for the true seeker of liberation.

  • Cybil Peril

    Good post exposing those few erudite elite intelligentsias and secular brigades who have arisen lately after rise of Narendra Modi as PM in India. Hence attack on Hinduism in any way has become a most potent thriving business, yes business that can mint money ad lib.

    • rakesh

      Chaddi thinks that very egalitarian constitution is a threat. Chaddi don’t want parliament. Chaddi don’t want opposition parties. What chaddi wants is something in between china and Pakistan. It wants one party one language and one religion one people one etc etc like china and want a communal state like Pakistan. What chaddi fail to understand is that hindoo girls have fondness for circumcised rough boys…

      • Cybil Peril

        muzzie PAAPtard Amanullah spotted trolling in d false ID. Can u troll against pbuh? No, they will either murder or convert or levy zizya… As long as India has Hindu majority, every class/clan/race/religion is safely thriving. Go to Pakis or Saudia or any Muzzie country n troll. See ur fate if left alive 2 c???

      • Cybil Peril

        Misusing Hindu ID still shows ur true character. Lol, using Hindu name 4 disguising ur moh mad pbuh funk doesn’t alter ur character as is very obvious here. Talaq, talaq, talaq followed by mullah’s job in Halala but not free. Even 4 sleeping wid ur mullah, it costs her. Shameful faith based treachery. Social terror, character terror, economic terror (zizya), mental terror (talaqX3 – Halala).

      • Cybil Peril

        Topi thinks only of peeping inside the underpants of soft gender. Your very tone shows the true nature and character in hate, anger, jealousy typical of Pislam. I didn’t know of Halala business where u get both fk n money 4 bad job. Talaq, talaq, talaq, with Halala but no guarantee of next step. Keep going from door 2 door with no respite still moh mad is my apostle of eternal peace.

  • BvB09

    Vidyasankar said it all. I will merely add Bhagavatpada’s commentary on verse 6. 25 in the Bhagavad Gita (Eng. translation by Sw. Gambhirananda)” … Making the mind fixed in the Self, with the idea, ‘The Self alone is all; there is nothing apart from It’ – thus fixing the mind on the Self, one should not think of anything whatsoever. This is the highest instruction about Yoga.”

  • Erudite and deep.

    There is a perplexity in my mind with the position “action does not lead to liberation, only self-knowledge does”. Seeking Self-knowledge is also an action. As long as I think “I am seeking Self-knowledge”, I am separated from the Self. But that is where I am, sense of separation is my starting point. The small, illusory “I” cannot be erased at present. Does it mean that praying to the Supreme Self is the best means of dissolving the illusory “I”? Is bhakti yōga a better upāya, than striving for citta-vŗtti-nirōdha?

    • Ananth Sethuraman

      The Sanskrit word “karma” is often translated into the English “action.” Is this a good-quality translation? Sometimes, I feel the answer is No. Here is a consideration.

      Take the phrase “purva janma karma”. Some times another phrase “purva janma vasana” is used as a synonym for “purva janma karma”. On this ground, karma = vasana. Now, “vasana” is not translated into the English “action”. Rather “vasana” is translated into “conditioned response”, “ingrained behavioral patterns”, and the like. On this ground karma = conditioned response or ingrained behavior.

      Perhaps this translation will remove some perplexity.

      Here is another consideration:

      From the phrase “conditioned response”, let us drop the word “conditioned”. That leaves us with “response”. It is true that “response” is an action of a certain kind. In other words, the translation karma=action is correct at a crude level, but it is not fine-grained in quality, and can only lead to perplexity.

      What I am attempting to say is this: we are trying to recover the intellectual discourse that prevailed long ago, and we should not think that the existing Sanskrit-English dictionaries offer fine-grained translations.

      • Sir, I am an admirer of your writings. I have seen many posts & comments by you that are deep & insightful.

        I have some exposure to the brain’s way of acquiring habits. It does it through repetition of mental habits. I think this is a “reflection” of the way of the mind (manomaya kosha). These vāsanas are carried over from the previous janmas, just as childhood habits persist long into adulthood, up until physical death. When I die in this janma, I will carry the vāsanas acquired again.

        Your point about mis-translations and un-translatables is well-taken. The problem for many anglicized desis is that we did not learn Sanskrit and have a traditional Gurukula upbringing. Therefore “seeking Self-konwledge” gives rise to many barriers of ignorance. Similar to learning quantum mechanics requiring years of prior preparation.

        In general, I find Advaita has the best description of the nature of Reality & the Purpose of Life. But as Adi Shankarāchārya himself illustrated to another aspirant, just thinking “अहं ब्रह्मास्मि” does not rid you of the illusory self, no matter how many times you repeat it.

        The vāsanas are too strong to get out of. It is similar to the mouse in a maze. It will just scurry around endlessly, until a higher entity lifts it out of the maze. So the only way that a mouse aware of the maze can seek liberation is praying for a rescue. What do you think?

        I have read Prof. S.N.Balagangadhara’s writings on the hipkapi website, and think that he’s a pioneer in new thoughts and paradigms. And of course, “The Heathen in his Blindness”.

        Thank you!.

    • Ananth Sethuraman

      Let us reflect on the sentence “I am seeking Self-knowledge”. The word “Self-knowledge” is probably a translation of “atma gyana”. S. N Balagangadhara offers the following thought on the word “atma gyana”. There are two distinct concepts: (i) atma and (ii) the process of accessing atma. Atma gyana is gyana of (ii), and not of (i).

    • Cybil Peril

      For an unwary, “Who I Am”? shall sound silly and foolish but is it? Thus “I” has two diametrically opposite meanings. I, in plane worldly meaning shall connote to our physical self identified by everyone as “body”. But in spiritual language, “I” has completely different meaning, “Enlightenment”.

    • Vidyasankar Sundaresan

      The trick is, at all points of time, we are always aware of ourselves. Every cognition requires the cognizer to be aware, “I know …” However, the mind tends to project the objects of cognition onto our self and our self onto the objects of our cognition. This “I know …” mixed up with this mutual superimposition leads to desire, “I want …”, to possess things, “… is mine,” and this is what leads to bondage.

      It is not true that the small, illusory i cannot be erased at present. But it is true that it is not easy. That’s why the Gita advises us, “shanais shanair uparamed buddhyA dhRtigRhItayA.”

      • Thank you, Sir, for taking the time to reply. I dimly see the problem, attachment to things. The last line is comforting. धन्यवाद.

  • Ritendra -Ram Sharma

    Needless to say, this is thoroughly researched refutation of Zutshi’s half baked theories of uprooting Yoga from Hindu tradition. Gone are the days when such propoganda goes unnoticed and unencountered. The time has changed and now we have scholar like Shri Sundersan who can thoroughly smash these kind of nonsense and platform like Indiafacts who can widely circulate such excellent refutation. Thanks to both of them.

  • Ananth Sethuraman

    Thank you for this article