The Sankara Connection














And what does Love have to do with it?


Article by Evelyn Einhäuser. 


Adi Shankara (early 8th century) is known as one of the main proponents of Advaita Vedanta, one of the six main philosophies of Indian thought. He was also a great yoga master and wrote a book called Yoga Taravali which explains the different stages and how to reach the highest state of yoga, Raja Yoga. Tara means star and a star is defined as something that shines on its own (unlike the moon for example which in astronomical terms is a satellite and only lit by reflecting the sunlight) . Avali is a line of stars. Thus Yoga Taravali represents a line of teachings (and a lineage of teachers) that serve like shining lights on the path of any serious practitioner.


It is a profound, precise and yet beautifully written, poetic book and i can only recommend it to anyone. In the Yoga Taravali Adi Shankara explains the six different stages of Raja Yoga. In the first state, which is called Unmani, the breath gets so subtle, effortless and refined that it seems to stop (Kevala Kumbhaka), the movement of Prana in the nadis is suspended and the mind doesnt search for sensual objects anymore. In the second state, called manonmani, the yogi has developed the capacity to stay in kevala kumbhaka. In this second state the prana moves up and reaches the crown cakra. When this happens there is a total destruction of all egoism and identity based thoughts. The only thing that remains is pure consciousness.



Usually our mind has only two choices. It either holds something (for example when you pick a focus) or it is held by something (we all know when our minds are held or absorbed by all the vrittis, the mind chatter). In the state of manonmani those identity based thought patterns get destroyed and the mind is only held by pure consciousness. In the third state, called amanaska, all roots of thought patterns (like vasanas= hidden associations, svabhava= predisposition, character and svarasa= our identity essence) get destroyed too and the mind is at total peace. From this state on the mind is no longer a faculty for action or perception.



For us as normal human beings it might be very difficult to even imagine states like that. And because states like that are indescribable by our terminology and simply by the incapacity of our language to be perceived unambiguously (the only language in the world that is unambiguous is Sanskrit, that is why the mantras are so powerful), we have even less of an idea what this means. The biggest mental challenge for many people about imagining those states is how not to have an identity. Who are you then? And how can you relate to people without having an identity?



To me the simple answer is: you can’t. Relate. Because you don’t need to anymore.



The word relation implies something that is relative, meaning something that depends on another factor. This translates to: Our minds relate to other people depending on external and internal identity factors. Meaning if you meet somebody and this person shares the same interests that you have or has similar ideas, you might think you like that person because of those reasons. It is an identity based reasoning, the ahamkara part of our mind does that with everything you perceive. Similarly if someone else suffers from the same sickness or has the same problem as you have, you might feel more sympathy with them because of that. We compare ourselves all the time to the people around us. This is how we form relations in our world. Even when you are in a loving relationship you tend to ask your partner why he or she loves you. You want a reason for relating.



But there is something that is beyond that and this is what those yoga masters referred to. That which is beyond relating is connection. Connection is not relative and identity based. Connection is identity free. Instead connection is based solely on love, because love essentially IS connection. When you love your child or another being intensly enough you might find yourself feeling connected to this being without mental reasoning, without the need of comparison, without subconscious patterns being involved.


All that there is between you and this being is the pure and essential feeling of love. This essence is god and is in you and everyone else. It enables us to get a glimpse of god.



This concept can be clarified through the following image: If you take two raindrops then each of them are single entities and thus can be compared by their similarities as well as by their differences. But when the two raindrops join together and maybe join with thousands others, they become the sea. In the sea there is no more comparison and no more identity of single water drops. The drops become one entity that is not dividable anymore.


It all becomes one connected unity.



Now we might, even if we practice forever, never reach that highest state in which we become one with all that is and don’t perceive ourselves as single entities anymore.



But maybe next time we shout at our children, scold our partners, resent our parents we maybe should remember to focus on that which truly connects us with them and which emanates from the heart. Because mental concepts of relating will never make you feel more connected to an-other.


But love will.



This article was based on the online seminar series 'Adi Sankara's Yoga Taravali' conducted by Dr. Kausthub Desikachar. Recordings of this seminar can be purchased. For more information visit