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The Vivaraṇa Commentary by Śaṅkara

Manuscript Trivandrum L 662 Edition: Rama Sastri and Krishnamurthi Sastri 1952 Translations: Leggett 1996; Rukmani

The commitments (yama) and obligations (niyama) have been stated, together with the special abilities (siddhi). Now we shall explain the postures and so on. A posture becomes steady and comfortable.

Posture is steady and comfortable.

One should practice that posture which produces steadiness of mind and limbs for the person who is in it, and which does not lead to suffering.Thus, for example: The names Lotus Posture (padmāsana), and so on, that are well known in other disciplines, are presented.

In this connection, a pure person should sip water in the proper manner in a pure temple, in a mountain cave, or on the sandbank of a river, in a place that is not close to fire orwater, where there are no people, and that free from blemishes. He should bow to the Supreme Lord, the one Lord of the Whole World, the revered Masters of Yoga, and to his own teachers. Facing east or north, he should take up his position on a seat that causes no discomfort, covered with cloth, antelope skin, and kuśa grass. He should take up one of the following postures.

In this context, the Lotus Posture (padmāsana) is like this:drawing the left foot in towards oneself (pādamupasaṃhṛtya), one should then place it over the right. And likewise, the right one on top of the left. Stiffening (viṣṭhabhya) the hips (kaṭi), trunk (uras) and neck (grīva), with the gaze fixed on the end of the nose, like a dead or sleeping person, with the cavity of the lips (oṣṭhasaṃpuṭa) closed like a box (samudgakavat), not touching the tops of the teeth with the teeth, one’s chin and chest separated by a space the measure of a fist, with the tip of the tongue placed between the front teeth, with the hands on top of his heels,one makes either the Tortoise (kacchapaka) or Brahmāñjali gesture.

The posture in which one is seated, after once establishing the position in this manner, having completely given up
repeated effort at a particular adjustment of the body, is the Lotus Posture (padmāsana). And all this is the same for the other postures (āsana) too. There is just a little variation (viśeṣa).

Thus, the posture in which one is seated, having placed the right foot on top of the left, and the right hand on top of the left, is the Good Fortune Posture (bhadrāsana). Everything else is the same.

Thus, in the Hero Posture (vīrāsana), one of the feet is curled in (ākuñcita), and the lower (apara) knee is placed down on the ground. In each case, I am explaining only what is special (viśeṣa)./

The posture in which one is seated with the right big toe tucked in between the left thigh (ūru) and calf (jaṅghā) so that it cannot be seen, and with the left big toe tucked invisibly in between the right thigh (ūru) and calf (jaṅghā), in such a way that the heels do not hurt the testicles, is theLucky Mark Posture (svastikāsana).

The posture in which one sits down like a stick, stretching out the feet with the ankles, big toes and knees aligned, is the Staff Posture (daṇḍāsana).

Or,the Supported (sopāśraya) is with a support such as aprop or a yoga cloth ligature (yogapaṭṭa).

The Couch Posture (paryaṅkāsana) consists of lying with the arms stretched out towards the knees.

Sitting Like a Sarus Crane (krauñcaniṣadana), Sitting Like an Elephant (hastiniṣadana) and Sitting Like a Camel (uṣṭraniṣadana) can be understood from their similarity to the sitting position of the Sarus crane, etc.

Being Situated Flat (samasaṃsthitam) consists of having the calves and thighs placed down on the ground.

Steady Calm (sthitapraśrabdhi) is sitting in any differentmanner that one has thought of for oneself. And also that posture in which one becomes free of effort is called Steady Calm (sthitaprasrabdhi).

And As is Comfortable (yathāsukha). As is Comfortable (yathāsukha) is that form which produces comfort for the seated person.

From the expression “et cetera” one can infer any other posture as taught by the teacher.

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives