Yogic Mindfulness: Hariharānanda Āraṇya’s Quasi-Buddhistic Interpretation of Smṛti in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra I.20

Journal of Indian Philosophy 41 (1):57-78 (2013)
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This paper examines Swami Hariharānanda Āraṇya’s unique interpretation of smṛti as “mindfulness” (samanaskatā) in Patañjali’s Yogasūtra I.20. Focusing on his extended commentary on Yogasūtra I.20 in his Bengali magnum opus, the Pātañjaljogdarśan (1911), I argue that his interpretation of smṛti is quasi-Buddhistic. On the one hand, Hariharānanda’s conception of smṛti as mindfulness resonates strongly with some of the views on smṛti advanced in classic Buddhist texts such as the Satipaṭṭhānasutta and Buddaghośa’s Papañcasūdanī. On the other hand, he also builds into his complex account of the practice of smṛti certain fundamental doctrines of Sāṃkhyayoga—such as mindfulness of the Lord (“īśvara”) and mental identification with the Puruṣa, the transcendental “Self” that is wholly independent of nature—which are incompatible with Buddhist metaphysics. I will then bring Hariharānanda’s quasi-Buddhistic interpretation of smṛti of Yogasūtra I.20 into dialogue with some of the interpretations of smṛti advanced by traditional commentators. Whereas many traditional commentators such as Vācaspati Miśra and Vijñānabhikṣu straightforwardly identify smṛti of I.20 with “dhyāna” (“concentration”)—the seventh limb of the aṣṭāṇgayoga outlined in Yogasūtra II.28-III.7—Hariharānanda argues that smṛti is the mental precondition for the establishment of dhyāna of the aṣṭāṇgayoga

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Swami Medhananda
University of California, Los Angeles


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