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2 Āgama in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali As humans, we live and move and have our being in our use of words. Although animals can use signs and sounds to signal one another, it would seem that humanity alone possesses the ability to think and speak, and at the same time to be aware of what he or she is thinking and speaking. Aristotle established the classical Western conception of humanity as the beings who have language (logos). Even to criticize its limitations , sometimes to the extent of negating it, we have to use language. When a speaker makes use of words to convey the meaning of something not present on the scene, and when this is understood by the hearer, language functions. Today the question being asked is, “How neutral or unbiased is the word communication process?” In modern thought, both structuralism and feminism see word use in the past to be an alien system weighing down human consciousness. For many today it seems that the comfortable “dwelling house of language” has become Nietzsche’s “prison-house of language.”1 Implicit in all of this is a return to the awareness of language as power—power to obscure or to reveal. The obscuring or revealing power of words was well recognized in the Indian speculations upon language. Indeed the major āstika/nāstika (Orthodox, saying “yes to the Vedas”/Heteradox, saying “no to the Vedas”) division of the schools of Indian philosophy is predicated upon the degree of revealing power allowed to words, particularly the words of the Veda. Thus an essential point of focus for the study of any school of thought is: “How do ordinary words and the special scriptural words reveal or obscure reality?” Implied within that question is the further, and perhaps more crucial, question, “Is the revealing power of words a way of salvation or release?” The focus of this chapter is upon the way in which these two questions are answered in Patañjali’s Yoga Su ūtra.2 To begin, the Yoga Su ūtra’s analysis of the revealing (and obscuring ) power of ordinary words will be examined. Next the special spiritual power of Īśvara’s words (scriptural words) will be studied. This second aspect of language is 11 of special interest, as the Yoga Su ūtras are not usually thought of as championing scripture , or meditation upon scripture, as a way of release. However, in the wake of attention being given to the Vivaran .a sub-commentary (attributed to Śan .kara) on the Vyāsa-bhās .ya3 and to Gerald Larson’s suggestion that the core of Śan .kara’s teaching is really a Vedāntinization of Sām . khya-Yoga,4 an accurate assessment is needed of the role of word and scripture (āgama) in the Yoga Su ūtras and its commentaries. THE POWER OF ORDINARY WORDS Does ordinary or everyday word-use reveal or obscure reality? Do such words convey knowledge? These questions are addressed in Yoga Su ūtras I: 7. Sūtra I: 7 identifies verbal communication (āgama), along with perception (pratyaks .a) and inference (anumāna), as sources of valid knowledge (pramān .a). Āgama is defined by Vyāsa in his commentary as follows: An object perceived or inferred by a competent [trustworthy, āpta] man is described by him in words with the intention of transferring his knowledge to another. The mental modification which has for its sphere the meaning of words is the verbal cognition to the hearer. When the speaker has neither perceived nor inferred the object, and speaks of things which cannot be believed, the authority of Verbal Cognition fails. But it does not fail in the original speaker [Īśvara] with reference to either the object of perception or of inference.5 The essential aspects of this definition are repeated again by Vyāsa in his discussion of truthfulness as one of the Yamas described in Yoga Su ūtra II: 29. Veracity consists in thought and word being in accord with facts. Speech and mind corresponds to what has been seen, heard and inferred as such. Speech is uttered for the purpose of transferring one’s knowledge to another. It can only be said to have been employed for the good of others and not for their injury, if it is not deceptive , confused or barren in knowledge.6 The answer...


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