Vijñånabhiksu’s Yoga: A Note on Doctrine and Identity in Late Medieval India

How to Cite

Andrew J. Nicholson. (2022). Vijñånabhiksu’s Yoga: A Note on Doctrine and Identity in Late Medieval India: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 14(1), 47–67. Retrieved from


The 16th-century northern Indian philosopher Vijñånabhikßu has been considered a marginal and problematic figure throughout the
past two centuries of the historiography of Indian philosophy. He was the author of numerous works in the philosophical traditions of Yoga, Vedånta, and Såµkhya, and argued that when understood correctly, all of these schools constitute a unity free from internal contradiction. The historian Richard Garbe shares the opinion of many of his colleagues when he writes that “Vijñånabhikßu mixes up many . . . heterogeneous matters, and even quite effaces the individuality of the several philosophical systems.” In particular, it was Vijñånabhikßu’s views on the existence and nature of God that led Garbe to question his true allegiances. While most modern
commentators have understood the Såµkhya system to be atheistic, Vijñånabhikßu interpreted the Såµkhyasütra in accord with the Purå∫ic conception of God that was widespread in the late medieval period. This also led Vijñånabhikßu to understand the Yoga system in a new light. Patañjali’s Yo­gasütra teaches that God exists primarily as a meditative object, and has no role to play in the world’s creation or destruction. But Vijñånabhikßu argues that the union of the Såµkhya-Yoga principles of prak®ti (nature) and purußa (soul) requires a third agent. And he reveals his Vaishnava commitments when he cites passages from the Purå∫as to show that it is Vishnu
who joins these two, setting into motion the world’s creation.

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