Monday, September 19, 2011


There's been an influx of new people to Mysore class, so I thought it'd be nice to go over a couple principle differences between the different Yoga systems.

It's useful to know a bit about Advaita Vedanta, the system and philosophy of non-dualism that underpins Ashtanga Vinyasa. 

It's also useful to reflect on the similarities and differences between Advaita Vedanta and the other systems of non-duality.

This triangulation is useful to acknowledge any unexamined and implicit goals, values, and world-views.

Kashmir Shaivism is the second great non-dual (advaita) system that informs and inflects modern Yoga practice.

The Kashmir Shaivites assume the same monism as Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual system of which Pattabhi Jois (Guruji!) was a modern practitioner.

Both Advaita Vedantins and Kashmir Shaivites hold that all is Brahman, the expansive, unchanging absolute.

The Advaita Vedantin Shankara maintained that Brahman only appears to us to go through changes (vivarta).

The One (Brahman) doesn’t change to become the many --- it can’t, as it’s expansive, unchanging and absolute.

So the appearance of separation is caused by ignorance (avidya), and is nothing but illusion (maya).

This illusion has no reality. It is only the appearance of fleeting names and forms (namarupa) which are all unreal and, like a mirage, vanish when ignorance ends.

The Kashmir Shaivites take a different tack.

An initial and key detail is that they personify the One (Brahman) as Siva.

They hold that the One (Brahman) does become the many ... and also remains unchanged.

The One’s essential nature is vibrant creative energy (spanda). 

This vibrant creative energy is inclined towards the outward and joyful manifestation of its creative energy (shakti).

This manifestation is brought about by the free-will play (lila) of the One.

The Kashmir Shaivites replace the idea of appearances (vivarta) with that of reflection (abhasana).

The many are as real as the one, and are in fact nothing but the reflection of the One’s consciousness.

For the Kashmir Shaivite, names and forms (namarupa) are real. They appear as a result of contraction or limiting of consciousness (maya). This contraction (maya) cannot be separated from the One.

To bring this back to Ashtanga Vinyasa, Pattabhi Jois frequently elaborated on the Panchakosha map as elaborated in the Taiitriya Upanishad.

The fifth or most inner layer or covering (kosha) is the bliss covering (anandamaya kosha).

For the Advaita Vedantin, the anandamaya kosha is equated with the One, and we can say nothing about it (anirvacanÄ«ya). We do not experience the One (Brahman), because that would imply change (an experiencer, an experience, and that which is experienced --- all are separate).

For the Kashmir Shaivits, this sheath is active and self-conscious, and our experience is meant to be and can be savored (asvada).