Practise the yogas of the Self
7 The Chapter of the Self of the Āpastamba Law-book, with the Commentary of Śaṇkara
1 Let a man practise in the approved way the yogas of the Self, which make the mind steady
Om. Now we begin a concise commentary on the Chapter of the Self, which begins ‘Let a man practise in the approved way the yogas of the Self’ (adhyātmika-yogās).
Why, one may ask, is it brought forward here in a section (of the Law-book) which deals with atonement for sins? The answer is, that both (yoga and atonement) lead to destruction of karma. Atonements lead to the destruction of undesirable karma; and to one who sees rightly (vivekin), all karma, (even that) prescribed for the various castes and stages of life, is undesirable, because it leads to taking on a body. Knowledge of Self (ātma-jñāna) leads to destruction of karma because it does away with the doshas (defects like anger) which cause activity.
It will be said here that when the wise man (paṇḍita), who knows the Self, throws off the doshas, then both duty (dharma) and its opposite (a-dharma) are destroyed and he attains Peace, and it is to give that Self-knowledge that the Chapter of the Self is begun in this place, the common point being destruction of karma.
Objection But surely the prescribed actions (karma), laid down (by the holy texts) for men in their various castes and stages of life, do not produce results (which would have to be reluctantly lived through by the doer), so it is undesirable to destroy them.
Answer They do, as shown by texts like the one (in this Law-book itself, 22.214.171.124), ‘For all the castes, there is supreme and measureless happiness in fulfilling one’s own duty (dharma).’
And if it be objected that the word ‘measureless’ must imply attaining Peace (that is, Liberation) – not so, for there are texts like ‘. . . there being return to this world because of the effects of karma’ (continuation of the same passage). And in the Law-book of Gautama, the text (XI.29) which begins ‘They in the castes and stages of life, intent on their own karmas, having experienced after death the results of those karmas . . .’ shows that it is precisely continuance in saṃsāra which is the result of karma.
For in whatever stage of life he may be, a man becomes universal (sarva-gāmin) by practising in the proper way those things which are acknowledged to be destroyers of the doshas, but not by practising some individual duty (dharma). So it will be said (in sutra 5), ‘The seer having shaken off . . .’ and ‘Having renounced truth and falsehood, happiness and pain, the Vedas, this world and the next, let him seek the Self’ (Āpas. 2.21.3).
Objection There is the text ‘Following all these things as taught, without being distracted, he goes to Peace’ (2.21.2), and there the word Peace has the meaning of Liberation. So it is only actions of the various stages of life (performed) without Knowledge which have some particular result as their goal, whereas the actions combined with Knowledge are means to Peace. Just as poison combined with a mantra, or yoghurt with sugar, produce an effect different (from the usual one – injury or sourness respectively), in the same way here.
Answer Not so. Because attainment of Peace is not something to be produced. If it were something to be produced, then indeed there would arise the question whether it would be produced by actions alone, or by actions combined with Knowledge, or by Knowledge and action both, or by pure Knowledge connected with no action. But attainment of Peace is never produced by anything at all, because it is eternal. Therefore it is not correct that actions combined with Knowledge produce attainment of Peace.
Objection (Then let us say that) actions combined with Knowledge are effective – just as much as Knowledge by itself – in removing the obstacles to attainment of Peace.
Answer Not so. Because it is just actions that are the obstacles to attainment of Peace, inasmuch as they are causes which have effects. For all actions, arising (as they do) from the dosha which is Ignorance (avidyā), with their effects in the form of happiness and sorrow, are obstacles to Peace. Attainment of Peace is simply freedom from actions, and that freedom is not attained through anything other than Knowledge of Self. So it is said, ‘Having shaken off these which torment beings, the wise one goes to Peace’ (sutra 11). ‘Wise’ here means Self-knowing, for that is the topic. And the holy text says, ‘Knowing the bliss of Brahman, he is not afraid of anything’ (Taitt. Up. 2.9). For attainment of Peace is fearlessness; another holy text says, ‘Fearlessness, O Janaka, you have attained it’ (Brihad. 4.2.4).
When the teacher (Āpastamba) says, ‘Following all these things as taught, without being distracted, he goes to Peace’, it is in a different sense. How so? He means that when one carries out the duties of the stages of life so taught, without distraction – without selfish desires – then he becomes qualified for Know¬ledge; but not when he does as he likes as a desirer of desires, distracted by desires for wife, son, money and so on. The point is this: when he is a Knower (jñānin), then he goes to Peace by the path of renunciation of everything. For no one ever succeeds in throwing off the doshas by means of action. It is just when there is activity (pravṛitti) that we see the doshas with their (associated) false-knowledge (mithyā-jñāna) gaining the ascen¬dency (over the yogas). So tradition says ‘Desire has its root in intention’ (Manu 2.3). And with slackening of activity, we see that the doshas do become thinned out. Unless these with their false-knowledge have been shaken off, no one attains Peace.
Nor could prescribed actions extinguish the good karmas accumulated from previous births (even admitting that the bad ones might be so extinguished), because they would not be opposed to each other, both of them being pure. And while good karmas remain, there will still be taking on a body to live through their results, and from that, desire and aversion impelling to duty (dharma) and its opposite, and so again taking on a body. How then would saṃsāra ever be stopped? Therefore, neither attainment of Peace nor removal of the obstacles to it come from actions.
Objection Then let us say that removal of (the root obstacle) Ignorance (avidyā) comes from Knowledge together with actions. Allowing that Knowledge and action are incompatible in that their effects are different, still Knowledge combined with action – just as oil, wick and fire are combined in a lamp – could bring to an end the Ignorance and other doshas which cause saṃsāra.
Answer Not so. There is no attainment of Self without annihilation of action, agent and result, and so combination of Knowledge and action is not possible. In the case of oil, wick and fire in lamps, these things are capable of co-existence and mutual co-operation, so they can join together. But Knowledge and action can never join together because no co-existence and co-operation is possible for them.
Objection The idea of Knowledge alone (as the means) is not right because holy texts are against it.
Answer Not so. Prohibition by (some) texts does not prevent Knowledge having its effect. The conflict is with those texts whose ultimate concern is with how to act; those texts do (it is true) prohibit any total renunciation (saṃnyāsa) even for one following the path of pure Knowledge. But that does not alter the fact that the effect of Knowledge will be to destroy the dosha of Ignorance, as is clear from holy texts like ‘the knot of the heart is sundered’ (Muṇḍ. 2.2.8), ‘for him, there is delay only so long’ (Chand. 6.14.2), ‘he is freed from the mouth of death’ (Kāṭhaka 3.15), and a hundred others from revelation (sruti) and from tradition (smriti).
For it is the texts concerned with activity (pravritti) that take injunctions to action as above all. And they cannot set aside the essential fact of Knowledge, whose field is the oneness of Brahman and Self. For to do that would be to deny the authority and meaning of all the Upanishads and also traditions like ‘each living being is the city’ (sutra 4), ‘the Self indeed is all gods’ (Manu 12.119) and others.
So although the texts on pure Knowledge, with their field the oneness of the Self, are few, and they are opposed by texts concerned with activity which are many, nevertheless because Knowledge and its effect are stronger, nothing can stand against them.
Objection Knowledge does not invariably bring Peace, for it does not remove the suffering of this present life.
Answer It does bring Peace (as we know) from sacred texts like ‘the knot of the heart is sundered’ (Muṇḍ. 2.2.8), ‘the knower of Brahman attains the highest’ (Taitt. 2.1), ‘haying seen it, he is freed from the mouth of death’ (Kāṭhaka 3.15), ‘he who knows Brahman becomes Brahman indeed’ (Muṇḍ. 3.2.9) and from tradition and reasoning (nyāya).
Objection Since it is forbidden by so many texts, the teaching about giving up everything should itself be given up, as in fact people do (give it up).
Answer Not so, for (all) texts are of equal authority. The sacred teaching (Mahānār. 78.12) speaks of all actions (from physical) up to mental, and then says, ‘Renunciation (nyāsa) alone excelled these lower austerities (tapas).’ Having thus explained actions – here called tapas – as being ‘lower’, that is, within the field of saṃsāra, this text points to immortality as the result of pure Knowledge, here called renunciation, in these phrases: ‘renunciation alone excelled’ and ‘by giving up (tyaga) some attained immortality’ (Mahānār. 12.14). And the text ‘for the one who knows this, the sacrificer in his sacrifice is the Self’ (Mahānār. 80) and other texts show that for the one who knows, there is no action (karma) at all. And there is another text, ‘There are two paths on which the Vedas are based, the first being the path of action and the other being renunciation (saṃnyāsa). Of these two it is renunciation which is higher’ (Mahābh. XII.241.6).
Objection Renunciation is not right (yukta) because the texts forbidding it condemn it specifically.
Answer Not so. They are to be taken as intending to praise action for the unenlightened man. Those of dull mind, whose goals are visible things of the world, have to be excited to action by attractive descriptions. (But) the wise do not have anything visible as a goal of action. Condemnation of one thing may be (really for the purpose of) praise of something else, and so in the declarations by teachers condemning pure Knowledge, the main purpose is to praise action.
(It is true that a declaration like) ‘If peace has been reached by the wise man, he knows no suffering in the world’ (Āpas. 2.21.16) does not decisively declare that Knowledge is to be the means, but this (objection) is to be met with texts like ‘the Knower of Brahman attains the highest’ (Taitt. 2.1). And other teachers have said, ‘give up duty (dharma) and its opposite’ (Mahābh. XII.329.40), ‘the buddhi does not go there’ (XIV. 46.48), ‘he is to practise actionlessness (naishkarmya)’ (XIV. 46.18), ‘therefore they do no action’ (XII.243.7).
So, attainment of Peace is from pure Knowledge alone.
(End of introduction – now the sutras are commented on individually.)
(Let a man practise in the approved way the yogas of the Self, adhyātmika yogās, which make the mind steady)
adhyātmika yogās Adhyatmika means that they relate to the Self. The shortening of the initial vowel is a Vedic usage. What are the adhyātmika yogās? They will be listed in sutra 14 as freedom from anger and the others. They are yogas because they bring the mind to samādhi, and they are adhyatmika because they do not depend on external causes.
(Let one practise) those adhyātmika yogās in the approved way, which means in the established way. For it is when practised in the approved way that the yogas have power to destroy the doshas on the occasion of anger or the others. which make the mind steady.
Anger and the other doshas are disturbing in the sense that they make the indwelling mind go out to sense-objects. Opposed to them are these yogas, which make the mind steady. For at the times of angerlessness and so on, the mind is at peace in its true nature of not running out, and remains at rest on the true Self.
So the yogi should practise them, should devote himself to them, which means that he should perform samādhi on freedom from anger and so on. In this way the supreme Self, which is his own Self, is attained. For the Self, though one’s own, is not realized as the supreme by a consciousness borne off by doshas like anger, and it is as it were unattained by the people. There¬fore let a man practise yoga to attain it.
Objection Everyone knows that attainment of sons and wealth and so on are the highest ends – what could attainment of Self bring?