Beyond the Body: Yoga and Advaita in the Aparokṣānubhūti

Slatoff, Zoe and Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi (2022) Beyond the Body: Yoga and Advaita in the Aparokṣānubhūti. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The Aparokṣānubhūti incorporates dualistic Yoga practice and philosophy into non-dual Vedānta. Yoga is presented as a purificatory practice, which helps to develop the discernment (viveka) required for the ultimate Advaitic realization of the equality of ātman and brahman. Although attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, the Aparokṣānubhūti was more likely written between the late fifteenth and mid-sixteenth century, on the early side of the Advaitic response to the growing popularity of haṭhayoga. The Aparokṣānubhūti is one of the earliest texts to mention rājayoga, teaching a unique fifteen-part path, which includes a redefined version of Patañjali’s eight auxiliaries, leading to samādhi and ultimately to immediate awareness of the self, as its title suggests. Its main commentary—the Dīpikā—attributed to the fourteenth-century Vidyāraṇya, though probably written a few centuries later, suggests haṭhayoga as a last resort and unusually equates it with the yoga of Patañjali. This incorporation of Yoga into Advaita occurs in the Aparokṣānubhūti through the widening definitions of key Advaitic terms such as nididhyāsana (contemplation) to include yogic practices. The reason given for this inclusivity is the need to address the prārabdha (ripe) karma of those who have not yet cognized brahman, though presumably with the greater intention of subverting the growing tradition of haṭhayoga into its domain. In this thesis I translate the entire Dīpikā and look at key verses in some of the other, more recent commentaries to understand how and why Yoga and Advaita have been integrated together over time. I contextualize this with respect to contemporaneous texts on haṭhayoga, as well as later syncretic texts such as the Yoga Upaniṣads, which incorporate Advaita and the Aparokṣānubhūti in their own way. I then briefly look at how this has manifested in modern yoga, where the teachings of Yoga, Sāṃkhya, and Vedānta have become inextricably intertwined.

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Thesis (PhD)
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03 Oct 2022 14:40
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16 Jul 2024 06:00