asparśa-yoga

(‘yoga of non-contact’)

Upaniṣads are the most important sources of Vedānta philosophy. The ten Upaniṣads on which Śaṅkara (A.D. 788-820) wrote commentaries have been accepted as more ancient and authoritative. Māṇḍū-kyopaniṣad, the smallest of these, has the unique distinction of being commented upon by Gauḍapāda (7th cent. A. D.), the teacher of Govindapāda (8th cent. A. D.) who was himself the teacher of Śaṅkara. This commentary is well-known as Māṇḍūkya Kārikā. Śaṅkara has written a gloss over this also.

The Māṇḍūkya Kārikā which advocates an extreme form of Advaita Vedānta, has used the term ‘asparśa-yoga’ twice (3.39; 4.2). The word ‘sparśa’ is generally used to signify contact of the sense-organs with the sense-objects. Hence any yoga or superconscious experience in which, naturally, there is no contact of the senses with the sense-objects may be called as asparśa-yoga. But in this work, this epithet has been especially used to denote the direct experience of the Ātman or the Self which is beyond the ken of all sense-organs and sense-experience. In this experience the lower self and the consequent ego-sense are completely dissolved leaving unalloyed bliss only. This is the same as ‘jñāna.’ The prospect of dissolution of the ego-sense often frightens the ordinary yogis and spiritual aspirants who therefore try to avoid it (3.39). However, those who dare try it obtain the greatest happiness, the highest good and absolute freedom from all doubts and misgivings (4.2).

See also MĀṆḌŪKYA KĀRIKĀ.