Sanskrit & Sánscrito (English-Home)

JavaScript is disabled! Check this link!

 Learning Sanskrit - First Steps (2)

Going deeper into Sanskrit language and philosophies - Part 1


Hi, Gabriel Pradīpaka again. This is a kind of sequel to our most successful and visited document: First Steps (1). On this sequel we will go deeper into some subjects which were studied in a "shallow" way previously. The first subject is the Sanskrit Alphabet. Then, I will show you the exact relationship between the levels of Creation and the Sanskrit letters. Afterward I will explain the different kinds of "sādhanā" (spiritual practice) and some other things according to both the six traditional Indian philosophies and Trika. It will be a long document as the previous one, I think. So, get ready!

An advise: Go to the second part of this document while studying it. That will be really helpful for you.

One more thing, Tattvic Chart is indispensable to understand the core of the teaching to be given by me now. Go to it from time to time for additional information.


 Sanskrit Alphabet: a better arrangement

This new arrangement of the Sanskrit Alphabet already has been published (Go to Essentials section and click on Alphabet var.), but I thought that it would be convenient to include it here. If you want to learn how to pronounce the letters properly, go to Pronunciation 1:

Logo Hard Soft Soft "Va" is
Hard Short Long Gutt.
Unasp. Asp. Unasp. Asp. Nasal
Gutturals 1 अः 3 (e)
ka kha ga gha ṅa ha a ā
ca cha ja jha ña ya śa i ī
Cerebrals -
ṭa ṭha ḍa ḍha ṇa ra ṣa -
Dentals (va) - -
ta tha da dha na la sa - -
Labials - - -
pa pha ba bha ma - - u ū -
अं  2

1 "Ha" is not a semivowel but it is put in the Semivowel column as it is a guttural consonant.

2 The Anusvāra (ṁ) is not a consonant belonging to the five main classes of consonants, but it is put here as it is a nasal vowel. Besides, "a" vowel () is added to give support to it.

3 Visarga, even though it is a vowel, is placed in the Sibilants column and in the Gutturals row because it is a sound that emerges from the root of the tongue. Besides, "a" vowel () is added to give support to it.

"Simple vowels", "Diphthongs" and "Anusvāra" are all "soft" vowels, while Visarga (: - ḥ) is a hard vowel. In short, all vowels are soft except Visarga.

"Va" is a dental-labial semivowel. "E" and "AI" are guttural-palatal vowels. "O" and "AU" are guttural-labial vowels.

You may wonder why is this arrangement of the letters any better than the traditional one to show the proper pronunciation of every letter. Well, firstly take a look of the traditional alphabet:

Sanskrit Alphabet
अं अः
a ā i ī u ū e ai o au aṁ aḥ
First Group
Subgroups Hard Soft
Unaspirate Aspirate Unaspirate Aspirate Nasals
ka kha ga gha ṅa
ca cha ja jha ña
Cerebrals (Cacuminals)
ṭa ṭha ḍa ḍha ṇa
ta tha da dha na
pa pha ba bha ma
Second Group
ya ra la va
Third Group
śa ṣa sa
Fourth Group
Sonant Aspirate

In the traditional alphabet you have two main groups of letters: Vowels and Consonants. Then, you find that the Consonant group is divided into four additional groups: (1) A first big group formed from 25 consonants, (2) Semivowels --four consonants--, (3) Sibilants --three consonants-- and (4) Sonant Aspirate --just one consonant--. Although this arrangement is apparently simple, it has several advantages and disadvantages. Let us see:

Advantages: The Vowels are isolated and forming a definite group. From a philosophical viewpoint, this is a good feature because the Sanskrit Vowels stand for the highest levels of consciousness. Note that the Vowels may be pronounced by themselves, with no Consonants. However, you cannot pronounce a Consonant without the support of a Vowel. OK, you might pronounce them but the sound is not a very good one, is it? Ha ha! But, not all Consonants stand for lower levels of consciousness. For example, Sibilants are auspicious letters and they might be placed somehow along with the Vowels. Semivowels are letters of ignorance and they have been clearly isolated. The first big group of Consonants ("ka" to "ma") represents all tattva-s or levels of consciousness ranging from Puruṣa (individual soul) to the Earth element (Do not worry, I will teach you the exact relationship of Sanskrit letters and levels of Creation later in this document). Another advantage of the traditional alphabet is the following: it is simple and easy-to-remember.

Disadvantages: It is difficult to remember how each vowel is to be pronounced. The Vowels' isolation is good from a philosophical viewpoint but it fails to actually show how they are to be pronounced properly. In turn, the same problem is seen regarding Semivowels, Sibilants and Sonant Aspirate. The only group in which you may see clearly how to pronounce every letter is that formed from Gutturals, Palatals, Cerebrals, Dentals and Labials. The arrangement of the letters is not a compact one. If you observe carefully, you will find that there are two big groups formed from 15 Vowels and 25 Consonants respectively. However, there are three little groups (Semivowels, Sibilants and Sonant Aspirate) which appear to be separated from those two big groups. The final result is that this traditional arrangement of the Sanskrit Alphabet looks like somewhat "dispersed".

Despite the new arrangement of the Sanskrit alphabet does not show the letters according to their level of philosophical importance, it is very useful regarding pronunciation because you may easily remember how every letter are to be pronounced according to its position. Besides, the alphabet looks more compact and integrated.


 Relationship between Sanskrit alphabet and levels of Creation

According to Trika, every letter of the Sanskrit alphabet is associated with a determined level of consciousness. Some levels have even been associated with more than one letter. The following table which will show the levels of Creation or consciousness and their respective letters is based on the Trika knowledge. If you want to go deeper into Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir, just go to the Trika section and click on the various documents you will see on the pop-up menu.

It is to be noted that "ha" is not included on the table because it is not a "letter" (although you use it as a letter anyway) but a mere sound which goes on continually within. "Ha" is the sound brought about by inhalation. "Ha" is Visargaśakti (Emissional Power) in its grossest and dual aspect. "Ha" has not awareness of its origin (Śiva). Therefore, if I had to place it somewhere on the table, I would choose the sixth tattva (Māyā or Ignorance).

On the table there are three columns. The first one indicates the corresponding tattva or level of Creation. We might say that a tattva is a kind of level of consciousness too. The second column contains the Sanskrit letters associated with that level of Creation. And the last column contains a short description of the tattva and/or letter associated with it.

Go to Transliterating (2) (English) to learn the Sanskrit transliteration I am using not only in this document but throughout this site.

The first two tattva-s or categories are the highest ones:

1. Śiva
He is beyond description. However, it might be said that He is the real "I".Philosophical name for this letter: Anuttara --the Highest letter--.
2. Śakti
She is beyond description too. However, it might be said that She is the real "am". Both of them form the real "I am". Śakti makes Śiva conscious of Himself, but no separation between them both may be stated anyway.Philosophical names for this letter: Ānanda --Bliss-- and Paravisarga --supreme Visarga--.

The following three tattva-s are divine ones too, but now an ideal universe has been manifested.

3. Sadāśiva or Sādākhya इ ई ऋ ॠ ऌ स
i ī ṛ ṝ ḷ sa
Sadāśiva is the abode of Icchāśakti or Power of Will. Here a foggy universe appears. The consciousness is "I am This" (I am this foggy universe).Philosophical names for the letters associated: (1) Icchā --Will-- (letter "i"); (2) Īśāna --The power of mastery-- (letter "ī"); (3) Ṣaṇḍha --Eunuchs-- (letters "ṛ, ṝ, ḷ"); (4) Paripūrṇāmṛta --the perfect imperishable letter-- (letter "sa").
4. Īśvara उ ऊ ष Anusvāra
u ū ṣa ṁ
Īśvara is the abode of Jñānaśakti or Power of Knowledge. Here a distinct and clear universe appears. The consciousness is "This am I" (This distinct universe am I). Philosophical names for some of the letters associated: (1) Unmeṣa --Opening, Unfoldment-- (letter "u"); (2) Ūnatā --Diminution, Deficiency-- (letter "ū"); (3) Bindu --Dot representing the Ultimate Knower-- (letter "ṁ" or Anusvāra appearing here devoid of "a", which is added to it in the Sanskrit alphabet because a vowel is necessary for it to be pronounced).
5. Sadvidyā or Śuddhavidyā ए ऐ ओ औ : श
e ai o au ḥ śa
Sadvidyā is the abode of Kriyāśakti or Power of Action. Here the consciousness is fully balanced between "I" and "This". "This" is the universe, of course. The consciousness is "I am I and This is This".Philosophical names for some of the letters associated: (1) Trikoṇa --Triangle-- (letter "e"); (2) Ṣaṭkoṇa --Hexagon-- (letter "ai"); (3) Triśūla --Trident-- (letter "au"); (4) Parāparavisarga --supreme/non-supreme Visarga-- (letter "ḥ"). There is three types of Visarga: "ā" (supreme), "ḥ" (supreme/non-supreme) and "ha" (non-supreme). This would be the intermediate one.

Next tattva-s concern Limitations. Semivowels are the letters associated with them. Note that the order of association (va, la, ra, ya) is exactly the opposite if compared to that one you find in the Sanskrit alphabet (ya, ra, la, va):

6. Māyā
Māyā is Ignorance. Trika's Māyā is not like that of Vedānta. In Trika, Māyā is a tattva or a "real" level of Creation. Māyā is in charge of drawing a veil over the essential nature of Śiva (apparently, of course). This letter has no philosophical name of its own. However, the entire group of Semivowels (ya, ra, la, va) are called Antastha (lit. standing in between, they are not either purely Vowels or purely Consonants, hence they are called Semivowels) because they operate from within the human mind. They are also named "Dhāraṇā" (supporting letters) since they wrap up and support the limited consciousnes, which was formed due to the operation of Māyā, thereby preventing it from falling into the gross matter (lower tattva-s).
7. Kalā
Kalā is the first Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited activity" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Kriyāśakti (Omnipotence) having undergone contraction. The letter "va" stands for both Māyā and Kalākañcuka.
8. Vidyā
Vidyā is the second Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited knowledge" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Jñānaśakti (Omniscience) having undergone contraction.
9. Rāga
Rāga is the third Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited will" --leading to attachment-- to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Icchāśakti (Absolute Will) having undergone contraction. The letter "la" stands for both Vidyā and Rāga Kañcuka-s.
10. Kāla
Kāla is the fourth Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "parts" --leading to the notion of time-- to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Ānandaśakti (Supreme Bliss) having undergone contraction.
11. Niyati
Niyati is the last Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "space" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Cicchakti (the Power of Consciousness) having undergone contraction.

The upcoming two tattva-s are very important. Note that from tattva 12 to 36, the letters associated with them are Labials, Dentals, Cerebrals, Palatals and Gutturals (in that order). That is to say, the letters start with "ma" and end with "ka" (tattva-s 12 to 36). If you study the Sanskrit alphabet you will realize that the order of the letters there is exactly the opposite: Gutturals, Palatals, Cerebrals, Dentals and Labials:

12. Puruṣa
It may be called "individual soul". It is Universal Consciousness with a veil over. This veil was drawn by Māyā or Ignorance. Puruṣa still has no mind at this level, but the seed for the formation of a psychic organ is about to be sown.
13. Prakṛti
Prakṛti is the seed. It is formed from three Guṇa-s (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) or qualities which are in absolute balance at this level. Puruṣa and Prakṛti form an indistinguishable reality, but an imminent unbalance of the Guṇa-s will bring about the rest of tattva-s (right from tattva 14 to 36). Prakṛti is undifferentiated and unmanifested matter. It is the source for all tattva-s to come.

And finally we have arrived in the inner "psychic" organ (Antaḥkaraṇa), formed from intellect, ego and mind:

14. Buddhi
Buddhi is the intellect. The intellect acts as a mirror reflecting the pure light of the inner self. It still suffers from mutations or modifications, but these are not so gross as those of Manas or mind. Buddhi is also a kind of library or storehouse of "labels". These labels are indispensable to give a name to the objects (e.g. "that is a dog"; the word "dog" is an abstract label associated with the actual "animal" that is perceived through the senses).
15. Ahaṅkāra
Ahaṅkāra is the ego. You know him, don't you? (haha!). From the ego arises the rest of the tattva-s or levels of Creation. Ego is full of will or icchā. Ego is also responsible for the generation of objects with volume. If there was no ego, you would only see objects in 2D. So, ego is the cause of this 3D world. The false aspect of ego appropriates all that gets in contact with it and become identified with that. Consequently, attachment and aversion take hold of the you, and the final result is obviously "pain". Its quality of appropriation is a kind of "plague", which everybody suffers from.
16. Manas
Manas is the mind. The mind is the master of Jñānendriya-s and Karmendriya-s (powers of perception and action, respectively). That is why, it is sometimes considered to be one "additional" Indriya. It is undergoing mutation and modification all the time, and this feature clearly indicates that the mind is not a source of happiness (haha!). Happiness cannot come from something that changes continuously without rhyme or reason. Manas has also other functions, but this summary is enough.

And now the Jñānendriya-s or powers of perception. They may be called "organs of perception", but I prefer to use "powers" because the Jñānendriya-s are really the "energies" circulating through the respective "organs" that we use to perceive. Manas is behind every Jñānendriya as its inner controller. We might say that the Jñānendriya-s are the sensors by which Manas perceives the outer reality:

17. Śrotra or Śravaṇa
The power of hearing. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of hearing (ears).
18. Tvak
The power of feeling by touch. It is that energy that "predominantly" circulates through the skin.
19. Cakṣus
The power of seeing. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of seeing (eyes).
20. Jihvā or Rasanā
The power of tasting. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of tasting (tongue).
21. Ghrāṇa
The power of smelling. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of smelling (nose).

The following group of five tattva-s is Karmendriya-s or powers of action. These are the instruments by which Manas performs activities in this world. They have, as well as the Jñānendriya-s, a set of organs through which operate generally. However, since the ten Indriya-s (Jñānendriya-s and Karmendriya-s) are energies (not physical organs), they are able to work by using some alternative organ (e.g. the normal course of a blind person's power of seeing must be diverted to the organs of hearing and feeling by touch because the eyes are not working; thus, that person finds that he can hear and feeling by touch better than ever.):

22. Vāk
The power of speaking. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of speaking (mouth).
23. Pāṇi
The power of handling. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of handling (hands).
24. Pāda
The power of locomotion. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of locomotions (legs and feet).
25. Pāyu
The power of excreting. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of excreting (anus).
26. Upastha
The power of sexual activity and restfulness. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of sexual activity and restfulness (genitals).

Just ten more tattva-s to go. The following set of 5 categories is the Tanmātra-s. Tanmātra-s are the subtle elements from which will be evolved the last five tattva-s (the well-known gross elements: space or ether, air, fire, water and earth). Tanmātra-s are a kind of patterns or atoms. For example: the Tanmātra known as Sound-as-such is the auditory pattern by which you are be able to recognize different sounds:

27. Śabda
Sound-as-such. You can recognize different sounds because of this sound pattern.
28. Sparśa
Touch-as-such. You can recognize different kinds of touch because of this touch pattern.
29. Rūpa
Color-as-such. You can recognize different colors because of this color pattern.
30. Rasa
Flavor-as-such. You can recognize different flavors because of this flavor pattern.
31. Gandha
Odor-as-such. You can recognize different odors because of this odor pattern.

And finally the five gross elements or Mahābhūta-s. These five tattva-s emerge from the Tanmātra-s. They should not merely be understood as "space or ether, air, fire, water and earth", but as "space or ether, all that is gaseous, all that contains heat and color, all that is liquid and all that is solid", respectively. As you see, the meaning behind such simple words as "space or ether, air, fire, water and earth" is much more comprehensive:

32. Ākāśa
The space or 3D framework within which the entire physical world exists.
33. Vāyu
All that is gaseous. So, it is not only the ordinary "air".
34. Agni or Tejas
All that contains heat and color. So, it is not only the ordinary "fire".
35. Āpas
All that is liquid. So, it is not only the ordinary "water".
36. Pṛthivī
All that is solid. So, it is not only the ordinary "earth".

I am done enumerating the 36 tattva-s and their respective associated letters. When you repeat one of those letters with an onepointed mind, you will lastly realize the tattva associated with it. By "realization" I mean "full understanding". For example, if you repeat "i", you will come to realize the Supreme Will which that vowel embodies. You may use each letter to attain to the level or tattva you wish. In the document First Steps (4) I explain in detail this topic to you. And now, let us study the six traditional philosophies and Trika.


 Six traditional philosophies and Trika: Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika

We will study now the different kinds of "sādhanā" or "spiritual practice" according to the six traditional philosophical systems and Trika. I have divided this study into three sections: (1) Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika, (2) Sāṅkhya and Yoga, (3) Pūrvamīmāṁsā and Vedānta, for the sake of convenience. I know that you dislike a long scrolling.

Before starting with our study, there are two terms that you have firstly to understand: Āstikadarśana and Nāstikadarśana. "Darśana" means "viewpoint". A philosophy is a "viewpoint" according to the Indian culture. In the sacred scripture known as Yogavāsiṣṭha it is stated that: "The world is as you see it". Thus, every philosophy or darśana is a particular "view" by which you can study the universe and yourself.

The term Āstikadarśana is assigned to those philosophies that regard the Veda-s as infallible and authoritative. They are six orthodox and traditional schools (Āstikamata-s). However, only two (Pūrvamīmāṁsā and Vedānta) are directly based on the Veda-s. The other four (Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya and Yoga) are not directly based upon the Veda-s, but do accept their testimony and attempt to show the harmony existing between them and the aforesaid Veda-s.

In turn, the term Nāstikadarśana is assigned to those philosophies that neither regard the Veda-s as infallible nor attempt to show the harmony existing between them and the aforesaid Veda-s. They are three heterodox schools (Nāstikamata-s). Their names are as follows: Buddhism, Jainism and Cārvāka. Sometimes it is said that there are six heterodox systems because Buddhism is divided into its four main schools: Vaibhāṣika, Sautrāntika, Yogācāra and Mādhyamika.

Even though Trika is not based on the Veda-s at all, it cannot be said that it belongs to Nāstikadarśana. Trika accepts to a certain extent what is taught in the Veda-s, but it does not to attempt to maintain some kind of harmony with them.

Let us get down to work:

And to start with, the first two Āstikadarśana-s based "indirectly" on the Veda-s:


A school of logic and epistemology. It is also known as Ānvīkṣikī and Tarka. The most important contributions of this philosophy were the tools of enquiry and its formulation of the technique of argumentation. This school uses a system of logical or syllogistic argument consisting of five members: Pratijñā, Hetu, Udāharaṇa, Upanaya and Nigamana. Through that argument or inference, Nyāya goes into all subjects physical and metaphysical. Let us study now each of those five members:

Pratijñā: It is the thesis to be proved. It is the premise in an inferential argument. For example: I want to prove that "there is a lake or something with plenty of water in that distant valley". So, Pratijñā is the assertion or proposition to be proved.

Hetu: It is the reason or middle term in a syllogism. Hetu is the reason for an inference. Upon Hetu the validity of an argument rests. The reason or Hetu must be consistent and non-contradictory, as well as opportune and not an absurd one. The subject is even deeper, but by now this is enough. For example: "there is a large quantity of steam ascending and forming clouds in that distant valley".

Udāharaṇa: It is the illustration and corresponding example which substantiates the reason or Hetu. For example: "wherever there is steam ascending, there is water, as in a teapot with water boiling within it". Note that an "universal" illustration was given along with an example to give a better support to the argument.

Upanaya: It is the subsumptive correlation or minor premise. It is the application. It shows that the reason or Hetu is present in the subject or Pakṣa. It is also called "minor term". Pakṣa is "that distant valley" in the example, that is, it is the place where I said that there was a lake or something with plenty of water. So, I would say now that: "that distant valley has a large quantity of steam ascending and foming clouds which is invariably concomitant with the presence of a lake or something with plenty of water there". Note how Upanaya joins Pakṣa (that distant valley) and Hetu (the presence of a large quantity of steam ascending and forming clouds there) together. And also note that after joining them together, the rest of my statement states the presence of a lake or something with plentiy of water there, which is Pratijñā or thesis, as being the cause for that large quantity of steam.

Nigamana: It is the conclusion. It states the original thesis or Pratijñā as having been proved: "therefore, there is a lake or something with plenty of water in that distant valley". This is the conclusion in a syllogism.

Well, as I said previously, the whole thing is much more complicated, but it is enough for now.


This is a school that is closely allied to Nyāya. The term Vaiśeṣika means "excellence or distinction". On one hand, it is called Vaiśeṣika because, according to its followers, it is the most excellent system. On the other hand, it is so-called since this school has developed its doctrine of "viśeṣa" or particularity.

Viśeṣa is simply that feature which distinguishes one individual from another. There are endless features which are eternal and partless. If there would be no viśeṣa, there would not be any differences at all. All things would be alike. This philosophical system states that the features qualifying a particular thing are distinct, though inseparable, from it. There is no separation, but at the same time there is difference.

Viśeṣa is the fifth category or Padārtha, belonging to the 9 eternal substances or Dravya-s. There are 7 categories or Padārtha-s in Vaiśeṣika:

(1) Dravya (substance), (2) Guṇa (quality), (3) Karma (activity), (4) Sāmānya (generality), (5) Viśeṣa (particularity), (6) Samavāya (inherence) and (7) Abhāva (nonexistence).

There are 9 everlasting substances or Dravya-s:

Ātmā (soul), Kāla (time), Dik (place), Ākāśa (ether), Pṛthivī (earth), Āpas (water), Tejas (light or fire), Vāyu (air) and Manas (mind).

These substances are said to be so different from each other that none of them can never be the other. I will teach you more about the 7 categories of Vaiśeṣika later on. The sādhanā or spiritual practice of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika systems consists generally in a study of the reality according to the categories postulated by each of them. The substance known as "Ātmā" is the individual soul living in this physical body composed of Ākāśa (ether), Pṛthivī (earth), Āpas (water), Tejas (light or fire) and Vāyu (air). This physical body is situated in a particular "place" (Dik) and is affected by Kāla (Time). The mind (Manas) also lives in the physical body and it is a kind of nexus between Ātmā and the body itself. Air, Light or Fire, Water, Earth and Mind are held to be atomic.

Althought Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika are closely allied to one other, there are two differences:

(1) Vaiśeṣika propounds 7 categories, while Nyāya propounds 16 (I will explain each of the Nyāya's categories to you later on). (2) Vaiśeṣika states the doctrine of viśeṣa or particularity, in which 9 substances or Dravya-s are considered to be eternally distinct from one another.

It is enough for now. As I said to you before, I will analyze the categories of Nyāya/Vaiśeṣika in depth later.


 Six traditional philosophies and Trika: Sāṅkhya and Yoga

Sāṅkhya and Yoga are the last two Āstikadarśana-s based "indirectly" on the Veda-s. By the word "Yoga", I mean: Pātañjalayoga or the yogic system created by the sage Patañjali.

Both schools are closely allied to each other, obviously. However there is a distinction in their spiritual practices:

While Sāṅkhya tries to attain to discriminative knowledge about the difference existing between Puruṣa and Prakṛti via "the knowledge (jñāna) of tattva-s or categories of Creation", Yoga attempts to get that very discriminative knowledge via "8 steps or aṅga-s in which the activity (kriyā) is predominant". So, even though the goal remains the same, Sāṅkhya uses Jñāna or knowledge, while Yoga uses Kriyā or action. Of course, in Sāṅkhya's spiritual practice there is also activity and vice versa, but knowledge is predominant in Sāṅkhya and activity in Yoga.

These two philosophical systems are based on the following scheme of categories or tattva-s:

(1) Puruṣa (spirit), (2) Prakṛti (undifferentiated matter, the source for all matter), (3) Mahat or Buddhi (intellect), (4) Ahaṅkāra (ego); [the group of Jñānendriya-s or powers of perception is formed from the tattva-s 5th to 10th --note that the "mind" or Manas is included--] (5) Manas (mind), (6) Śrotra (power of hearing), (7) Tvak (power of feeling by touch), (8) Cakṣus (power of seeing), (9) Rasanā or Jihvā (power of tasting), (10) Ghrāṇa (power of smelling); [the group of Karmendriya-s or powers of action is formed from the tattva-s 11th to 15th] (11) Vāk (power of speaking), (12) Pāṇi (power of handling), (13) Pāda (power of locomotion), (14) Pāyu (power of excreting), (15) Upastha (power of sexual activity and restfulness); [the group of Tanmātra-s or subtle elements is formed from the tattva-s 16th to 20th] (16) Śabda (sound-as-such), (17) Sparśa (touch-as-such), (18) Rūpa (color-as-such), (19) Rasa (flavor-as-such), (20) Gandha (odor-as-such); [the group of Mahābhūta-s or gross elements is formed from the tattva-s 21st to 25th] (21) Ākāśa (ether or space), (22) Vāyu (air), (23) Agni or Tejas (fire), (24) Āpas (water) and (25) Pṛthivī (earth).


In the document First Steps (3), I give a clear and long example of the sādhanā (spiritual practice) being practiced by Sāṅkhya followers (more information about Sāṅkhya). In that example, I start with a simple piece of blue cloth and gradually, as I make my mind onepointed on it, I can discern more and more categories or tattva-s contained both in the object and myself. It is a long process that finally culminates in the state of Puruṣa (the essential self). So, in Sāṅkhya the use of knowledge is predominant.

Let us study Yoga now, that is, Yoga of Patañjali (Pātañjalayoga).


This Yoga was designed by Patañjali. This sage stated eight stages in order to attain to that Yoga or Union with the Supreme. Hence this Yoga is also known as "Aṣṭāṅgayoga" (Eight-limbed Yoga). Let us study each of the aforesaid stages or limbs.

In Yogasūtra-s (Yoga aphorisms), Patañjali gives full form to his method. Yogasūtra-s is composed of 195 aphorisms which are distributed in four sections: The first section deals with "Concentration" and is formed from 51 aphorisms or sūtra-s; the second section deals with "Practice" and contains 55 aphorisms or sūtra-s; the third section deals with "Supernatural powers" and consists of 55 aphorisms or sūtra-s; and finally the four section deals with "Liberation" and is composed of 34 aphorisms or sūtra-s.

This scripture is well-known to all Yoga practitioners, but just a few ones really know its core. Most yogī-s and yoginī-s affirm to know it thoroughly after reading one or two aphorisms. No!, to know a scripture you have to read it completely, from beginning to end... and several times indeed. Once upon a time, I had to teach Yogasūtra-s and in my first class I had to apologize because I was going to teach them just 25 aphorisms for lack of time. Most people there told me that it was not necessary for me to teach them 25 aphorisms, since 4 or 5 would be enough. They said to me that one should only know the "core" of a scripture to understand it thoroughly. Obviously, I had to tell them that they should study all 195 aphorisms to understand Yogasūtra-s really, and not only once, but twice, thrice or even more. Because of intellectual laziness disguised as "wisdom", lots of yogī-s and yoginī-s insist on studying the "core" of scriptures. My advise, after years of studying scriptures, is that one should study seriously a scripture a number of times in order to fully understand it. After that study, it is possible for such a person to be able to define the core of the scripture, but not before; except that such a person has attained Enlightenment... how many people have really achieved that condition and how many people just pretend to have attained to it? So, my advises are always intended for "people who have not gotten Liberation yet". He who got final Liberation does not need my advises indeed.

As you acquire more and more knowledge, you come to understand how little your knowledge is and many doubts may arise. However, some people with little knowledge imagine that they have a huge knowledge and therefore no doubts arise in them. Thus, as you go deeper and deeper into a subject, understanding will come to you in the form of "non-understanding". That is a sure mark of wisdom in you. In turn, ignorant people will continue to think that they have fully understood all. My God!

There is a primordial commentary of Yogasūtra-s, whose author was Vyāsa. I will be including now and then the teachings of Vyāsa interwoven with my own commentary of some relevant aphorisms. Well, let us get down to work:

In Yogasūtra-s, Patañjali defines the eight stages in the following aphorism:


Yama (yama), Niyama (niyama), Āsana (āsana), Prāṇāyāma (prāṇāyāma), Pratyāhāra (pratyāhāra), Dhāraṇā (dhāraṇā), Dhyāna (dhyāna) (and) Samādhi --samādhi-- (samādhayaḥ) (are) the eight (aṣṭau) limbs --aṅga-- (of Yoga) (aṅgāni) --after this statement, Patañjali will describe each of them in detail--||29||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 29, Section II)

Let us study one by one:


Patañjali defines Yama-s or Restraints, in this way:

अहिंसासत्यास्तेयब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहा यमाः॥३०॥
Ahiṁsāsatyāsteyabrahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ||30||

Non-injury --harmlessness-- (ahiṁsā), Veracity --truthfulness-- (satya), Abstention from stealing (asteya), Continence --dwelling in Brahma-- (brahmacarya) and Non-possession --abstinence from avariciousness/covetousness; aparigraha-- (aparigrahāḥ) (are the five) Yama-s or Restraints (yamāḥ)||30||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 30, Section II)

Please, note that Mahātmā Gandhī, the venerable Bapujī, applied himself to perfect all Yama-s and Niyama-s throughout the course of his exemplary life. So, be concious that the force contained in these apparently simple teachings is really immense, and also realize that when a particular man or woman sincerely decides to practice them to the letter, he/she can unfold that power and use it for the benefit of all.

(1) Ahiṁsā or "Non-injury" is to abstain from injuring any being, at any time and in any manner. It is practically impossible to perfect it while living in this world. That is why, the Yogī/Yoginī should become liberated and, after dying, he/she will never return here. Thus, Ahiṁsā is perfected. Of course, suicide is not encouraged at all. In fact, I do not know any Indian philosophy encouraging this. No, I mean that the Yogī/Yoginī that has attained to Liberation should continue to live normally until death comes to him/her by its own accord. After that, he/she will not return here (because it is no longer necessary for him/her), and consequently he/she will achieve perfection in Ahiṁsā. In fact, the rest of Restraints (Yama-s) and Observances (Niyama-s) have been postulated for the perfection of Ahiṁsā or Non-injury.

(2) Satya or "Veracity" is correspondece of speech and mind to fact. So, one should say and think of what he has perceived with his own senses or inferred with his mind. And those words which have been pronounced should be for the benefit of all. Since if they hurt someone, the first Yama or Restraint --Non-injury-- would be violated.

(3) Asteya or "Abstention from stealing" is not unlawfully to take things belonging to other people. The meaning is a easy-to-grasp one, isn't it?

(4) Brahmacarya or "Continence" is to supress the sexual urge and any other activities in oneself leading to it. From the literal translation of the term "Brahmacarya" (dwelling in Brahma or a wandering in Brahma), a more comprehensive meaning results. From this viewpoint, to practice Brahmacarya is to lead a life which is completely devoted to Brahma (Ultimate Reality). In this kind of life, the aspirant does all that is necessary to do for attaining to final Liberation. That is, if Brahmacarya is translated so, it would include all eight stages of Pātañjalayoga. Enough of this.

(5) Aparigraha or "Abstinence from avariciousness or covetousness" is to desist from taking or coveting objects. This wise behaviour is based on the following reasoning: "All is subject to decay in this world. Nothing remains the same even for a second. All happiness which is based upon such ephemeral things is doomed to disappear sooner or later. Besides, one experiences so many troubles when trying to get and keep those objects. They are not worth one's own effort indeed. "This is renunciation to material things in this world and brings about a huge inner peace.


Patañjali defines Niyama-s or Observances, in this way:

शौचसन्तोषतपःस्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः॥३२॥
Śaucasantoṣatapaḥsvādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ||32||

Cleanliness (śauca), Contentment (santoṣa), Austerity or Penance (tapas), Study and Recitation of Sacred Scriptures (svādhyāya), and Devotion --praṇidhāna-- (praṇidhānāni) to the (Supreme) Lord (īśvara) (are the five) Niyama-s or Observances (niyamāḥ)||32||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 32, Section II)

This five Observances are a kind of complement to the first five Restraints. If someone practices them, immense peace will result. All these Yama-s and Niyama-s are for the purpose of preparing an aspirant for the following stages, which will finally produce Liberation in him in due course.

(1) Śauca or "Cleanliness" is both external and internal. The first one is concerned with the purificatory wash and consumption of pure food; while the second one is related to the extirpation of all mental dirt, which constitutes a hindrance on one's own spiritual path.

(2) Santoṣa or "Contentment" is absence of desire for any posessions apart from those which are necessary for maintaining one's life. To develop contentment, one should live with a positive attitude despite all kinds of circumstances (good and bad ones) keep coming to him. What is a positive attitude? It is not stupidity or excessive optimism, but a constant joy based on wisdom in the face of any adverse circumstance. To be able to create this attitude in oneself, one should develop dettachment in respect of all material things and people. If one feels attachment, it will be extremely difficult for him to maintain a joyful attitude all the time, because one's happiness depends on that material object or person toward which one feels attached. That is why, the previous Yama-s should be practiced before attempting to accomplish even one of these Niyama-s. Brahmacarya (Continence) and Aparigraha (Non-posession) will be specially helpful for perfecting Santoṣa (Contentment).

(3) Tapas or "Austerity or Penance" is being able to bear the pairs of opposites (heat-cold, pleasure-pain, etc.). When one practices it, he should observe silence. This observance of silence is Mauna and has two aspects: Kāṣṭha and Ākāra. In the first one, you observe absolute silence, and even simple communicating gestures are not permitted. It is strict vow of silence indeed. In turn, the second form of Mauna involves refraining from talking, but some gestures may be performed in order to communicate something. According to Vyāsa, Tapas also includes fast and hardship regarding various religious vows.

(4) Svādhyāya or "Study of scriptures and Chanting of mantra-s" is concerned with the study of all sacred scriptures dealing with Enlightenment and the repetition of Praṇava (Om̐). However, it also involves the recitation of long scriptural texts (Bhagavadgītā, Gurugītā, Viṣṇusahasranāma and the like). This practice is highly recommended for achieving mental concentration and purity.

(5) Īśvarapraṇidhāna or "Devotion to the (Supreme) Lord" is simply to surrender all actions to the Supreme Guru. That is, as Vyāsa states in his commentary: "Īśvarapraṇidhānaṁ tasminparamagurau sarvakarmārpaṇam" --Devotion to the Lord is offering all actions to that Supreme Guru--. Who is the aforesaid Supreme Guru? It is God as a spiritual Master within all of us. To surrender all one's own actions to Him is real Praṇidhāna or devotion. Through this practice, attachment to actions is gradually loosed and consequently you become liberated from Karma. After succeeding in Iśvarapraṇidhāna, all obstacles are removed from one's way.


Patañjali defines Āsana or Posture, in this way:


Posture (āsanam) (should be) firm (sthira) and agreeable --pleasant-- (sukham)||46||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 46, Section II)

Unlike well-known Haṭhayoga which teaches a certain number of Āsana-s or Postures, the sage Patañjali only specifies that it should be firm (motionless) and agreeable (pleasant). In other words, you should be able to stay firm in that posture for a period of time without experiencing pain. Thus, your mind may be easily concentrated on the meditation object. If your knees are paining, for example, you will find it difficult to make the mind onepointed because so much attention will be paid to that pain. Vyāsa recommends the following postures in his commentary of this aphorism or sūtra: "Padmāsana, Vīrāsana, Bhadrāsana, Svastikāsana, Daṇḍāsana, Sopāśraya, Paryaṅka, Krauñcaniṣadana, Hastiniṣadana, Uṣṭraniṣadana and Samasaṁsthāna". The first Posture (Padmāsana or Lotus posture) is highly recommended. From all taught by Patañjali about Āsana, it is clear that he was only interested in Postures for meditation. Patañjali says in an aphorism coming after this one that the perfection of Āsana is achieved by relaxation of effort and meditation on the infinite. That is to say, you should become relaxed when practicing an Āsana, and concentrate your mind on the infinite space around you, which is felt as a kind of void. You even experience that your own body is void. Thus, you achieve perfection in Āsana or Posture. Āsana is a crucial stage in Pātañjalayoga because it is the base on which you will develop the rest of your yogic practice. Perfect it before advancing further.


Patañjali defines Prāṇāyāma or Becoming Conscious of the real dimension of Prāṇa or Vital Energy, in this way:

तस्मिन्सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः॥४९॥
Tasminsati śvāsapraśvāsayorgativicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ||49||

Once that (tasmin) (Āsana or Posture) has been (perfected) (sati), Prāṇāyāma (prāṇāyāmaḥ), (which) is the suspension (vicchedaḥ) of the flow (gati) of inhalation (śvāsa) and exhalation --praśvāsa-- (praśvāsayoḥ), (should be developed)||49||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 49, Section II)

The suspension should be internal or external. There are three "operation-s" or "vṛtti-s": Bāhya (external), Abhyantara (internal) and Stambha (suppression). However, they should not be compared to the well-known Recaka (exhalation), Pūraka (inhalation) and Kumbhaka (suspension) of Haṭhayoga. No way!

I will not teach you anymore about Prāṇāyāma because it is really dangerous to practice if you do not have a personal appropriate guru guiding you. I teach Prāṇāyāma to my pupils, but I can personally evaluate their systems. Even though I can follow the development of a technique in them, I am still extremely careful. Consequently, it is not something to be taught "online". If your respiratory system is spoiled due to an incorrect practice of Prāṇāyāma, it is very difficult to fix it. You might die in the process if it continues for a long time, or face serious bodily problems. Some books teach some dangerous Prāṇāyāma techniques overlooking the problems referred to, and that is not good for you, no doubt. Although most of the authors of those books say that you should search for a guru, they explain specific techniques though. This is too bad, because a serious harm may come to a person who practices them by merely reading their books. This is my opinion about Prāṇāyāma. Some things should be learnt "personally" from a guru and not from a book or a website.

So, get a good Prāṇāyāma guru and learn this sublime science from him. Prāṇāyāma is like a fire... it may cook your food... or burn you up if you do not know how to use it properly.

Through Prāṇāyāma practice, the mind acquires fitness for concentration.


Patañjali defines Pratyāhāra or Withdrawal of senses, in this way:

स्वविषयासम्प्रयोगे चित्तस्य स्वरूपानुकार इवेन्द्रियाणां प्रत्याहारः॥५४॥
Svaviṣayāsamprayoge cittasya svarūpānukāra ivendriyāṇāṁ pratyāhāraḥ||54||

Pratyāhāra or the Withdrawal (pratyāhāraḥ) of Indriya-s --5 Jñānendriya-s or powers of perception, and 5 Karmendriya-s or powers of action-- (indriyāṇām) (is), as it were (iva), a following (anukāraḥ) the essential nature (sva-rūpa) of mind (cittasya) (by those very Indriya-s), when separated (asamprayoge) from their (corresponding) (sva) objects (viṣaya)||54||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 54, Section II)

The senses imitate the nature of mind because they have lost contact with their own "sensory" objects. It is just as a group of bees following the queen bee. If the queen bee advances, all of them also advance. In turn, if she stops, they all stop too. Thus, in Pātañjalayoga a direct control of senses is unnecessary. Just a firm resolution to introvert one's mind is enough. All senses will follow her. It is a simple teaching, but simultaneously very useful. I have to say that Pratyāhāra results directly from the previous stage: Prāṇāyāma. However, you may also enter that state through an indifferent attitude in respect of sensory objects. Dettachment and renunciation regarding external things bring about a deep Pratyāhāra in the end. This limb or stage is very important for succeeding in the next aṅga-s.


Patañjali defines Dhāraṇā or Concentration, in this way:

देशबन्धश्चित्तस्य धारणा॥१॥
Deśabandhaścittasya dhāraṇā||1||

Concentration (dhāraṇā) is the mind's (cittasya) fixation (bandhaḥ) on one point (deśa)||1||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 1, Section III)

Vyāsa says that one should fix his mind either on the navel Cakra, or on the heart Cakra, or on the head's light, or on the tip of the nose or of the tongue, or on similar spots in the body, or on an external thing. That is, wherever your mind is fixed for an instant, that is concentration. Dhāraṇā just lasts a short period of time. When that period is protracted, Concentration is transformed into Dhyāna (Meditation).


Patañjali defines Dhyāna or Meditation, in this way:

तत्र प्रत्ययैकतानता ध्यानम्॥२॥
Tatra pratyayaikatānatā dhyānam||2||

In that --in Dhāraṇā-- (tatra), the continuous flow of similar (ekatānatā) mental modifications (pratyaya) is Meditation (dhyānam)||2||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 2, Section III)

Dhyāna is simply a continuous flow of similar mental modifications. It is a protracted Dhāraṇā. Dhāraṇā may be likened to a drop falling down, while Dhyāna is a continuous and homogeneous flow formed from those very drops. In Dhyāna you retain the mental image of the object on which you are concentrating your mind, for a long time. In Dhāraṇā the mental image of that object is intermittent, while in Dhyāna is unbroken. Go to the Trika section on our site and learn more about it. Granted, I explain meditation according to Trika in that section. However, the rudiments of meditation remain the same in practically all systems, just techniques and ways of approaching meditation change.

In fact, all people have obligatorily to meditate every day. For example, when driving an automobile, if you do not meditate on the road, you will crash your car. Don't you believe me? Try it yourself! Haha! The difference between that kind of meditation and the one taught by Pātañjalayoga, Trika, Vedānta and the rest, lies in the object of meditation. When you drive a car, you meditate (i.e. you concentrate your mind on something for a prolonged period of time) on "a particular road", while in the second case you meditate on "spiritual things". However, if you focus your attention on the tip of the nose, that is not apparently something really spiritual. Still, as the final goal you want to achieve through that meditation is a spiritual one, that simple focusing your eyes on the tip of the nose could be considered to be spiritual too. In sum, the "spiritual" meditation uses a "spiritual" object of meditation, but the "mundane" meditation does not. Granted, the words are helpless to exactly define the difference, because such terms as "spiritual" and "mundane" are so ambiguous, but what the heck, we are bound to utilize them. So, all people already know how to meditate, but their object of meditation should be one of "spiritual" nature at least once a day. That is, once a day they should meditate on the Supreme Reality with whatever form or attribute they may assign to it, or even without any form or attribute at all.


Patañjali defines Samādhi or Perfect Concentration, in this way:

तदेवार्थमात्रनिर्भासं स्वरूपशून्यमिव समाधिः॥३॥
Tadevārthamātranirbhāsaṁ svarūpaśūnyamiva samādhiḥ||3||

Perfect Concentration (samādhiḥ) is just (eva) that (condition) (tad) in which only (mātra) the object (of concentration) (artha) shines forth (nirbhāsam), and the self (sva-rūpa) is absent (śūnyam), as it were (iva)||3||

(Yogasūtra-s of Patañjali, aphorism 3, Section III)

The commentary of Vyāsa on this aphorism is pretty short but with a rich significance:

"Dhyānameva dhyeyākāranirbhāsaṁ pratyayātmakena svarūpeṇa śūnyamiva yadā bhavati dhyeyasvabhāvāveśāttadā samādhirityucyate"

--When there is a meditation in which only shines forth the form of the object, and the self (whose nature is "pratyaya" or "thought") is absent, as it were, because of an absorption in the essential nature of the aforesaid object; then, that is to be known as Samādhi or Perfect Concentration--.

Through Samādhi, when it is applied to any of the spots recommended by Vyāsa, one lastly attains to Kaivalya, a condition in which pain no longer exists.

More about Aṣṭāṅgayoga here.


 Six traditional philosophies and Trika: Pūrvamīmāṁsā and Vedānta

The two philosophical systems are based directly on the Veda-s. They are also Āstikadarśana-s, of course. Since the subject is a long and abstruse one, let us advance step by step.


The names of the four Veda-s (lit. knowledge) are as follows: Ṛk, Yajus, Sāma and Atharva; but if "veda" is added to them, the final result is: Ṛgveda, Yajurveda, Sāmaveda and Atharvaveda. The Veda-s were originally three books, but then the fourth one (Atharvaveda) was added. Veda-s are, strictly speaking, composed of "only" two sections: Mantra and Brāhmaṇa. On one hand, In Mantra section, words of prayer and adoration addressed to the sun, to fire, to wind and the like, are specified. Prayers for health, wealth, long life, welfare, etc. are also included. On the other hand, in Brāhmaṇa section, there are two sub-sections: Vidhi and Arthavāda. Vidhi deals with the details of the ceremonies at which the hymns (mantra-s) are to be used. Vidhi is full of precepts about how someone should perform a particular rite. And Arthavāda deals with the explanation of the legends connected to those hymns (mantra-s). Arthavāda is full of "explanatory statements" in respect of the history behind every rite and mantra. There are many legends and illustrations too. The voluminous treatises of Brāhmaṇa section are written in prose.

The first Veda (Ṛk) is a collection of different kinds of hymns. which constitute verses of praising in meter. They are hymns of wisdom and intended for loud recitation. In turn, Yajus' hymns are in prose and intended for recitation at sacrifices, but in a lower tone. Yajus is the scripture of the Yajña-s or sacrificial rites. Sāma's hymns are in meter are intended for chanting at the Soma ceremonies. These liturgical hymns have been mostly borrowed from Ṛgveda. Most Atharvaveda's hymns are original, but some of them have been taken from Ṛgveda too. Consequently, you may see that Ṛk or Ṛgveda is the most important Veda.

So, the Veda-s are formed from two sections: Mantra and Brāhmaṇa. However, other two sections are added to it. What is this? Listen:

Brāhmaṇa-s gave rise to the Āraṇyaka-s. What are the Āraṇyaka-s? These treatises written in prose are a kind of interpretation of the ritual section (formed from Mantra and Brāhmaṇa). Their concluding portion is the Upaniṣad-s, which constitute the core of Vedānta (next philosophy after Pūrvamīmaṁsā). Āraṇyaka-s are a transition and a link between the Brāhmaṇa's ritualism and the Upaniṣad's philosophy. Āraṇyaka section continues to interpret the rites prescribed in the ritual section but in the form of allegories. The following chart will be really helpful for you to understand my entire explanation:


(even though, strictly speaking, just the first two ones --Mantra and Brāhmaṇa-- are the real Veda)

Formed from hymns of prayer and adoration addressed to the sun, fire, wind and the like. Besides, there are prayers for healing diseases, avoiding evil, etc. (1) Vidhi: A section of Brāhmaṇa dealing with the details of the ceremonies at which those hymns are to be used. Allegoric interpretation of the previous ritual section. It is a kind of transition between the Brāhmaṇa's ritualism and the Upaniṣad's philosophy. It is the concluding portion of the Āraṇyaka and the core of Vedānta philosophy. 108 Upaniṣad-s have survived, but only 10 are the most important ones.
(2) Arthavāda: A section of Brāhmaṇa dealing with the explanation of the legends connected to those very hymns.

We could consider the Veda-s to be divided into two major sections with a transitional stage. Mantra and Brāhmaṇa would constitute the first of them, while Upaniṣad would be the second one. Āraṇyaka would be a transition. That first "major" section is also known as Śruti or "that sacred knowledge which has been heard and passed from guru on to disciple from the beginning". The word "Śruti" is derived from the root "śru" (to hear), and that is why I marked in bold italic letters the word "heard". It is a knowledge to be heard rather than read.

So, the system called Pūrvamīmāṁsā is based on the first major section (Mantra and Brāhmaṇa), while the other remaining system --Vedānta-- is based on the second major section (Upaniṣad). The word Pūrvamīmāṁsā is formed from two terms: Pūrva (first) and Mīmāṁsā (inquiry, investigation). Thus, the translation is not "first inquiry" but "an inquiry into the first". In other words, "an inquiry into the first major section composed of Mantra and Brāhmaṇa". Look at the chart now:

(an inquiry into the first major section formed from Mantra and Brāhmaṇa)
A transitional stage UTTARAMĪMĀṀSĀ

(an inquiry into the last major section consisting of Upaniṣad)

Obviously, as the first major section is predominantly a ritualistic one, the foremost practice for a "mīmāṁsaka" (a follower of Pūrvamīmāṁsā) is the ritual action. The sage Jaimini was both the founder and the author of the Mīmāṁsāsūtra-s (the principal work in this school). A mīmāṁsaka must investigate all details of the Vedic rites. He also must perform rituals in order to gain direct knowledge of the proper ceremony. He searches for liberation from action and its fruits through the performance of special actions (the rituals themselves). And of course, he must follow Dharma or religious duty enjoined by the Veda-s. Dharma is primordial for a mīmāṁsaka. If he follows strictly Dharma, lots of merit will come to him. If not, plenty of demerit will.

Every Veda is intended for just one of the four kinds of priest... but I will explain all this along with some specific knowledge about ritual to you some day. It will be a long ride, but without any vehicle except your exhausted intellect, haha!

Well, enough of this. Let us study Uttaramīmāṁsā or Vedānta now:


The word "uttara" means "last". So, "uttaramīmāṁsā" is "an inquiry into the last portion of the Veda-s", i.e. the Upaniṣad-s. The translation of the term "Vedānta" has a double entendre. The word "anta" literally means "end". Thus, "Vedānta" would mean "end of the Veda-s", because the Upaniṣad-s (on which the Vedantic system is originally based) are to be found there, at the end of the Veda-s. A second possible translation would be "the conclusion of the Veda-s" in the sense of "an exquisite summary of the Vedic Truth".

I said that 108 Upaniṣad-s are left now, but only 10 are the most important ones. Their names are as follows: Īśa, Kena, Chāndogya, Praśna, Māṇḍūkya, Taittirīya, Aitareya, Kaṭha, Muṇḍaka and Bṛhadāraṇyaka. This last one is by far the most extensive Upaniṣad. It contains the exquisite dialogue between the sage Yājñavalkya and the noble yoginī Gārgī. The distribution of these Upaniṣad-s in the Veda-s is the following: Ṛgveda contains Aitareya; Sāmaveda contains Chāndogya and Kena; Yajurveda contains Īśa, Taittirīya, Bṛhadāraṇyaka and Kaṭha; while Atharvaveda contains Praśna, Muṇḍaka and Māṇḍūkya.

Various schools of Vedānta emerged from the Upaniṣad-s, but the major ones are only three: Advaita (non-dualistic Vedānta), Viśiṣṭādvaita (qualified non-dualistic Vedānta) and Dvaita (dualistic Vedānta). Although these three schools had Upaniṣad-s as their origin, there are even other two important books: Vedāntasūtra-s (also known as "Brahmasūtra-s") and Bhagavadgītā. These threefold literature (Upaniṣad-s, Vedāntasūtra-s and Bhagavadgītā) constitutes the base on which the whole Vedānta is founded. It is also called Prasthānatraya or triple system. Within this triple system, the Upaniṣad-s are the śruti or "revelation to be heard"; Bhagavadgītā is the smṛti or "truth to be remembered" and Vedāntasūtra-s are the nyāya or "method".

(Śruti or revelation to be heard)
(Smṛti or truth to be remembered)
or Brahmasūtra-s

(Nyāya or method)

Each Vedantic school explains these three scriptures in a different way according to its particular viewpoint. And the respective followers asseverate that their point of view is the correct one. I was always surprised by this strange behavior on the part of the vast majority of followers of some particular philosophical system, no only Vedānta. Trika masters also affirm that they are right, but I feel that their stuborness is not so severe as that of many masters belonging to other schools, maybe because Trika is just a thousand years old. It has a positive attitude to include within it other systems too. When I perceived this feature in it, I devoted my entire life to Trika. And I am trying through these documents to produce a synthesis from all philosophical schools, by extracting the best part of all of them. However, the previous problem is not one caused by the philosophies themselves, but by many narrow-minded followers of those philosophies. Nobody can affirm that he is the absolute owner of the Truth, because all these "apparent" owners have emerged from and will be finally absorbed in that very Truth. I think that every school has a portion of It (Trika included). Therefore, I am teaching a more comprehensive Trika, in which all schools have a place (traditional Trika too). My thought is that the various schools are a kind of pedestal on which the eagle of Truth lands now and then. So, you may find that eagle landing and staying for a while there, but the eagle is the eagle and the pedestals are the pedestals. When people pay too much attention to the pedestals and consequently lose sight of the "free" eagle of Truth, these "owners of Truth" arise, and the old problem appears once again. That is, people fighting against people. No use for this primitive behavior.

Let us study the three schools of Vedānta, one by one:


It is obviously based upon absolute non-dualism in the form of Brahma satyam (Brahma is the Truth), Jaganmithyā (The world is illusory) and Jīvo brahmaiva nāparaḥ (The individual soul is none other than Brahma). Brahma or the Absolute is the Supreme Reality. The rest is illusory or mithyā, neither real nor unreal. Two authors are to be highlighted in this school: Gauḍapāda and Śaṅkarācārya. The latter wrote such crucial works as Śārīrakabhāsya, Ātmabodha, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, Upadeśasāhasrī, etc. It was Śaṅkara who gave full support to the theory of an illusory Māyā or Avidyā (Ignorance) manifesting an similarly illusory universe. In turn, the former wrote a very important work called Māṇḍūkyakārikā, in which gives full form to his Asparśayoga or Contactless Yoga. What is this? Gauḍapāda himself explain this in three verses of his Māṇḍūkyakārikā:

सर्वाभिलापविगतः सर्वचिन्तासमुत्थितः।
सुप्रशान्तः सकृज्ज्योतिः समाधिरचलोऽभयः॥३७॥

ग्रहो न तत्र नोत्सर्गश्चिन्ता यत्र न विद्यते।
आत्मसंस्थं तदा ज्ञानमजति समतां गतम्॥३८॥

अस्पर्शयोगो वै नाम दुर्दर्शः सर्वयोगिभिः।
योगिनो बिभ्यति ह्यस्मादभये भयदर्शिनः॥३९॥

Sarvābhilāpavigataḥ sarvacintāsamutthitaḥ|
Supraśāntaḥ sakṛjjyotiḥ samādhiracalo'bhayaḥ||37||

Graho na tatra notsagaścintā yatra na vidyate|
Ātmasaṁsthaṁ tadā jñānamajati samatāṁ gatam||38||

Asparśayogo vai nāma durdarśaḥ sarvayogibhiḥ|
Yogino bibhyati hyasmādabhaye bhayadarśinaḥ||39||

The Perfect Concentration (on Ātmā, the inner Self) (samādhiḥ) is devoid (vigataḥ... asamutthitaḥ) of all (sarva) expressions (abhilāpa) and of all (sarva) thoughts (cintā). It is completely peaceful (supraśāntaḥ), ever-luminous (sakṛt jyotiḥ), immutable (acalaḥ) (and) fearless (abhayaḥ)||37||

Wherein (yatra) there is neither (na vidyate) thoughts (cintā) nor (na) oblations (utsargaḥ), there is nothing (na) to which holding on (grahaḥ) there (tatra). So (tadā), Knowledge (jñānam) inherent (saṁstham) in Ātmā (ātma) is unborn (ajati) (and) equable (samatām gatam)||38||

(That which) is known (nāma) as Contactless (asparśa) Yoga (yogaḥ) is certainly (vai) difficult to be seen (durdarśaḥ) by all (sarva) yogī-s (yogibhiḥ), since (hi) (those) yogī-s (yoginaḥ) fear (bibhyati). (They feel that fear) because of this (asmāt): "They see (darśinaḥ) fear (bhaya) where there is none (abhaye)"||39||

(Māṇḍūkyakārikā, third kārikā --Advaitaprakaraṇa--)

You liked Sanskrit, didn't you? This is one of the advantages of being capable to read directly Sanskrit texts: "You can get in touch directly with the source of knowledge. No translator between you and the scripture". Of course, I also read the translations of the scholars belonging to a particular tradition in order to learn the "philosophical jargon" inherent in that school. However, the rest is up to me.

The problem with many translators is that they generally "place" something of themselves in the translation. This is mostly a unconscious act with no evil intentions behind, but it corrupts the original text. And what is that "something of themselves"? For example: "They comment on the Sanskrit text in the translation itself". I am not referring to their merely adding some words to complete the sense, because that is often necessary (I myself do it too). No, I am talking about a commentary which is not necessary within the original text. For instance: "They see fear where there is none, but since there is no fear in Ātmā, they should not see any fear there". The last phrase (in italics) is a personal commentary disguised as a wise recommendation, and it is unnecessary. It should be placed after the entire translation, if necessary, under the title "Commentary". This time the commentary could be right, but the next one, who knows? Because of this practice, many scriptures are erroneously understood by people without knowledge about Sanskrit language. And the consequences of all that is obviously an additional and unnecessary burden of ignorance in the form of misunderstanding on the exhausted backs of those readers who, by reading Sanskrit scriptures, sought for getting relief from their oppression. However, they just got more confusion and subsequent pain. So, every time I translate, I advance slowly and cautiously despite I understand the purport of the whole text, because I do not want to place another rock on the backs of the readers.

And finally, there are translators that deliberately adapt the translation of a particular scripture to their personal viewpoints. Well, this is a really contemptible act. This behavior is based upon the lowest nature of man. It is better not to touch that person even with a long mast. It is sad, but human evilness is a day-to-day experience. A wise person always works for the benefit of everyone and not merely for his own.

Well, regarding Asparśayoga, you may see that it is called like that because it is a full absorption in Ātmā (the inner Self). In that Samādhi, there is no kind of support to which one could hold on. Thus, this particular Yoga of Gauḍapāda is known as "Contactless" or Yoga without any type of contact or Supporting. He also develops "Praṇavayoga" or that Yoga in which you repeat the sacred mantra Om̐. But this is a long subject that will be developed on some other occasion.

The other celebrated master of Advaitavedānta was Śaṅkarācārya. He fully developed the controversial theory of Māyā or Illusory Power. Only Brahma is real, while the world is a mere illusion. The term "illusion" does not mean "unreal". Not at all. Since the world arises from Brahma, it inherits a little of "reality" from That. So, this illusory world is a mixture of "reality" and "unreality". It is the jugglery of Māyā. In Advaitavedānta, Māyā is the illusory power which is responsible for all this manifestation. The word "Avidyā" (Ignorance) is an epithet of it. Māyā has six attributes: (1) Anirvacanīyā (undescribable), (2) Jñānanivartyā (annullable by proper knowledge), (3) Anādi (beginningless), (4) Āvaraṇā/Vikṣepā (it veils and projects), (5) Brahmasaṁsthā/Jīvasaṁsthā (it is located either in Brahma or in the individual soul) and (6) Bhāvarūpā (positive in nature). Except the second attribute, the rest will be explained to you in some future document. Be patient.

The second attribute states that Māyā is Jñānanivartyā or annullable by proper knowledge. This is the core of Advaitavedānta's sādhanā (spiritual practice). The follower of this school attempts to gain right knowledge about the nature of Ātmā (inner Self) and Brahma (cosmic Self). As a matter of fact, Ātmā is Brahma and vice versa. As Māyā is Avidyā or Ignorance in the sense of "opposite to Vidyā or right knowledge", the follower of Advaitavedānta wants to get Vidyā either from the words of his/her spiritual master or from prescribed scriptures. So, the practice in Advaitavedānta is predominantly Jñānayoga (Yoga of Knowledge). You have to develop a subtle and strong intellect to grasp the subtleties of this school. When you apprehend the reality of Brahma, Māyā is immediately dissolved and you achieve final Liberation. This Enlightenment is not a "new" acquisition though, but the revelation of an ever-present reality which was veiled by Māyā or Avidyā.

Well, Viśiṣṭādvaitavedānta now.


This is qualified non-dualistic Vedānta. It is a kind of mixture between "non dualism" and "dualism". Rāmānuja was the founder of this school and the principal author of its scriptures: Śrībhāṣya, Vedāntasāra, etc. Nevertheless, there were obviously other authors in this tradition: Yāmunācārya, Ālvārs, Īḍu, Sudarśanasūri, Vedāntadeśika, etc. They wrote such great works as: Nālāyira Divya Prabandha, Āgamaprāmāṇya, Śrutaprakāśikā, Tattvaṭīkā, etc. The school states three realities: Īśvara, cít and acit. These exist in an inseparable way, but the last two are completely dependent on Īśvara. Cit is the individual self, acit is the insentient matter, while Īśvara is the Supreme Lord. He is within and beyond all. He is the ultimate efficient cause of all too. He has five aspects: Para (supreme), Vyūha (emanations), Vibhava (incarnations), Antaryāmī (indweller) and Arcā (sacred idols).

(sacred idols)

In His Para aspect, He has all the six qualities of Aiśvarya (Lordship), Śakti (Power), Bala (Strength), Jñāna (Knowledge), Tejas (Splendor) and Vīrya (Virility). But in His Vyūha aspect, except Vāsudeva, just a couple qualities are present in the rest of them. The Vyūha-s are four in number: Vāsudeva (as I said before, He has exactly the same qualities as Īśvara), Saṅkarṣaṇa (He only owns Bala and Jñāna), Pradyumna (He only owns Aiśvarya and Vīrya) and Aniruddha (He only owns Śakti and Tejas). From every Vyūha or emanation, a series of sub-vyūha-s or sub-emanations arises. Each of these sub-vyūhas is full of significance for a follower of this school. Here you are their names: Keśava, Mādhava and Nārāyaṇa (from Vāsudeva); Govinda, Viṣṇu and Madhusūdana (from Saṅkarṣaṇa); Trivikrama, Śrīdhara and Vāmana (from Pradyumna); Hṛṣīkeśa, Padmanābha and Dāmodara (from Aniruddha). Again, each Vyūha is in charge of a specific function... but, it is better that you directly study the following chart:

From Īśvara, four Vyūha-s or Emanations are manifested

  Vāsudeva Saṅkarṣaṇa Pradyumna Aniruddha
FUNCTION He is the highest Self He emanates from Vāsudeva. He is the destroyer of the universe and the propounder of sacred scriptures He emanates from Saṅkarṣaṇa. He is the creator of the universe and also introduces all religious duties He emanates from Pradyumna. He protects the universe and spreads the teachings about spiritual liberation. He also gives rise to all divine incarnations (Vibhava)
QUALITIES The six divine qualities: Aiśvarya (Lordship), Śakti (Power), Bala (Strength), Jñāna (Knowledge), Tejas (Splendor) and Vīrya (Virility) Jñāna (Knowledge) and Bala (Strength) Aiśvarya (Lordship) and Vīrya (Virility) Śakti (Power) and Tejas (Splendor)
SUB-VYŪHA-S Keśava, Mādhava and Nārāyaṇa Govinda, Viṣṇu and Madhusūdana Trivikrama, Śrīdhara and Vāmana Hṛṣīkeśa, Padmanābha and Dāmodara

The Vibhava aspect of Īśvara is composed of ten Viṣṇu's incarnations: (1) Matsya (the Fish), (2) Kūrma (the Turtle), (3) Varāha (the Boar), (4) Nṛsiṁha (Man-lion), (5) Vāmana (the Dwarf), (6) Paraśurāma (Rāma with the Axe), (7) Rāmacandra (or simply Rāma), (8) Kṛṣṇa, (9) Buddha and (10) Kalki (Viṣṇu mounted on a White Horse).

Some authors enumerate the incarnations in this way: (1) Matsya (the Fish), (2) Kūrma (the Turtle), (3) Varāha (the Boar), (4) Nṛsiṁha (Man-lion), (5) Vāmana (the Dwarf), (6) Paraśurāma (Rāma with the Axe), (7) Rāmacandra (or simply Rāma), (8) Balabhadra (or Balarāma, Rāma endowed with force), (9) Kṛṣṇa and (10) Kalki (Viṣṇu mounted on a White Horse).

While even others say that the ten incarnations are as follows: (1) Matsya (the Fish), (2) Kūrma (the Turtle), (3) Varāha (the Boar), (4) Nṛsiṁha (Man-lion), (5) Vāmana (the Dwarf), (6) Paraśurāma (Rāma with the Axe), (7) Rāmacandra (or simply Rāma), (8) Balabhadra (or Balarāma, Rāma endowed with force), (9) Buddha and (10) Kalki (Viṣṇu mounted on a White Horse).

All incarnations come from Aniruddha (the fourth Vyūha) and are intended for the protection of the good and the annihilation of the evils.

The Antaryāmī aspect of Īśvara is the "Indweller", that is, the Lord as an inner Spirit within all. He is an impartial Witness to all one's own actions. Some people call this aspect "Paramātmā". Antaryāmī is completely unaffected by Karma (actions and their respective fruits). When a person realizes Antaryāmī, he is said to have achieved "equanimity", because he sees the Godhead living in all.

Finally, the Arcā aspect consists of all those sacred idols in which the Lord is fully present. Those venerable icons are used as a support for the adoration of the Supreme Being by devotees. They are not looked upon mere statues but the living form of Īśvara Himself.

So, as you surely guess, the principal practice for a follower of Viśiṣṭādvaita is Bhakti or devotion. The devotee also cultivates auspicious actions and proper knowledge as an aid to that Bhakti.

Well, enough of this. Let us study Dvaitavedānta now:


In Viśiṣṭādvaita, the universe is the Cosmic Body of the Lord, who is like a kind of colossal Fire from which endless sparks (individual souls) emerge. This is obviously an analogy I use for the sake of convenience. Nonetheless, when a soul attains to Enlightenment, it enjoys immense Bliss and Knowledge, but considers itself to be a part of the Supreme Lord. There is unity and separation at the same time. However, in Dvaitavedānta (dualistic Vedānta), the Lord is eternally and completely separated from all, even from those exalted souls that achieved final Liberation. The Supreme Being is never touched by the universe created by Himself. The difference between these schools is a subtle one.

Dvaitavedānta was founded by Madhva (also known as Ānandatīrtha). He is also the author of several crucial works in this system: Daśaprakaraṇa, Brahmasūtrabhāṣya, etc. Still, there have been other important authors too: Jayatīrtha, Rāghavendra Yati, Pūrṇānanda, etc. They also wrote important works: Nyāyasudhā, Candrikā Prakāśa, Tattvamuktāvali, etc.

The devotee of Dvaita must go through 6 stages in order to attain to Enlightenment according to this school:

STAGE Description
Vairāgya "Renunciation". The devotee becomes indifferent to all external objects because he/she understands that the real happiness is not to be found in any ot them. He/she leads a simple and frugal life which is full of contentment.
Jñāna "Knowledge". Here, the devotee begins knowing of his/her eternal relationship to the Lord from his/her guru's lips.
Māhātmyajñāna "Knowledge (jñāna) about the Lord's greatness (māhātmya)". The devotee begins studying sacred scriptures in which he/she finds descriptions of God. Through those descriptions, he/she realizes the grandeur of the Supreme Being
Niṣkāmakarma "Desireless (niṣkāma) action (karma)". The devotee applies himself/herself to the loving service of the Lord, without any interest behind. He/she is not worried about the fruits of his/her service at all, but rather the devotee gives it to God as a humble offering.
Bhakti "Devotion". After accomplishing the previous stages, the devotee is automatically brought to a devotional state characterized by a unwavering state of mind. The devotion is pure love of God, which continues throughout the course of day and night, all the time. There are several ways to classify the various devotional conditions, but the core of Bhakti is the total "prapatti" or "surrender" to God, which makes the devotion spring forth within the devotee's heart. What is the point of saying much about this? One should experience it by himself.
Prasāda "(Divine) Favor". According to Dvaitavedānta, only the God's favor is bestower of final Liberation upon the devotee who went through the previous five stages. When the aforesaid favor is given to such a fortunate person as that devotee, he/she attains to Enlightenment.

As the devotee goes from one stage to the other, he/she experiences four states of bliss (ānandatāratamya):

To enter Vaikuṇṭha (the world of Viṣṇu or God)
To be near the Lord
To have the Lord's form
To be united with the Lord

Granted, the last two are not to be understood from a strict non-dualistic viewpoint. Remember that this is Dvaitavedānta or dualistic Vedānta. Let us study Trika now.


 Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir

This is the philosophical system I predominantly teach. It is a non-dualistic school. Vasugupta was "the human founder" of this school, although the real one was Śiva or the Supreme Being. Many scriptures in this system are revelations by God: Mālinīvijayottaratantra, Svacchandatantra, Śivasūtra-s, etc. Nevertheless, there were obviously other human authors in this tradition: Vasugupta, Abhinavagupta, Kṣemarāja, Utpaladeva, Somānanda, etc. They wrote such great works as: Spandakārikā-s, Tantrāloka, Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam, Īśvarapratyabhijñā, etc.

The follower of this school starts his/her spiritual practice from one of the four "upāya-s" or "means/methods" and keeps advancing to the final Liberation according to all teachings given by Trika... but it is better for you to go directly to the Trika section for a complete information about that subject. Study all those documents and you will understand the bases and practices of Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir.


 Concluding remarks

It has been a long and hard task, but I am happy, because through this document you will have by now a better understanding of the foundations on which each of the six traditional schools is based. This has been a summary of all those philosophical systems. If you like any of them, it is very important to know about the other ones in order not to develop a "narrow-minded" attitude in the form: "We are the only owners of Truth". A person who is spiritually evolved will never harbor that primitive attitude. The reason for his wise behavior is that the aforesaid person is "free". Cultivate an open mind if you want to develop all your spiritual potential. If you think that only one school owns the entire Truth, you will lose sight of the Reality. Truth, Reality, Absolute, Brahma, Śiva o whatever name you may use to designate THAT, it does not matter in the end. The important point to be borne in mind is the following: THAT is always "free" and never subject to anything at all, even a philosophical school.

Go to the next document --First Steps (3)-- to study how each system interprets Enlightenment and to learn more about the connection between Sanskrit language and Yoga. See you!


 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.