No Paradox

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Here is a nice, interesting question: “In the beginning, the instructions of BSY are to intensify body awareness while the other disciplines aim to transcend body consciousness. Vedanta says, ‘I am not the body.’ Explain the paradox?”

Actually this is not a paradox for Vedanta is Vedanta. It has its own philosophy. Yoga is yoga and it has its own philosophy. There is no Vedanta in yoga, there is more of Samkhya. Vedanta can say anything it likes. What Vedanta says is practical at one level, but not practical at a realistic level.

If somebody is suffering from asthma, a respiratory disorder, and you say to him, “Think that you are not this body,” you are not helping that person in any manner. Rather, you are irritating that person who will ask, “What do you mean I am not this body?”

The suffering is there, the experience is real. Therefore, Vedanta won’t work there. Vedanta only works with healthy people and people who have followed the path of ashramas in their life: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Vedanta is a philosophy which you adhere to when you distance yourself from your involvement in the world of senses for the mind set is different.

As an individual you think differently and as a professional person, doctor or policeman, you think differently. Each profession evolves a particular style of thought. Your thoughts at home are free thoughts. They are not thoughts of engineering; they are not thoughts of medicine; they are not thoughts of thieves and robbers. However, when you go to the office and you adopt that specific role, your thoughts change and you cannot bring your home thoughts to your office for they will be incompatible.

Similarly, in yoga and Vedanta, the thought patterns are different. Just as you don’t mix your professional and human behaviour, rather you keep them separate, in the same manner the yogic and the vedantic behaviour have to be kept separate.

If yoga says ‘become aware’, it is to expand the awareness. Only after expanding the awareness can you retract it, and in meditation retraction happens. In pratyahara, extension and retraction both happen. What you do in yoga nidra, what you do in other practices of pratyahara, is both extension and retraction.

Vedanta is not yoga, yoga is not Vedanta. They are just two different branches and two different systems. Therefore, you cannot say it is a paradox.

—25 September 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger