ŚABDA-YOGA : The Language of Yoga demystified – 6.1


In this series, Yogic terminologies will be taken up and their -

  1. Etymological analysis,
  2. Lexical descriptions and
  3. Textual occurrences in Yogic literature and their commentaries, as available, will be presented. And finally observations will be made on the references.

Three texts - Yogasūtra, Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā and Bhagavad-gītā are consulted for textual occurrences portion.

Śabda-yoga is intended to help students, teachers, and professionals of Yoga to develop a sound grammatical, contextual, and thereby an authentic and immersive understanding of Yoga terminologies.

List of Words

The words that appear in the Yogasūtras will be sequentially dealt initially and then terms from other prominent Yoga texts will be taken up. Every śabda-yoga unit will analyze five terms. Three compound terms are taken for analysis in this part viz - atadrūpapratiṣṭha, śabdajñānānupātī, vastuśūnyaḥ. These three compound terms yield five unique terms for Analysis which are -

1. rūpa
2. Pratiṣṭhā
3. śabda
4. vastu
5. śūnya

The other components of the compound terms are either pronouns, oft repeated common indeclinable or coinages that are unique that have occurred only once in the text.  This slight modification of approach as that of – taking up compound terms in yogasūtra and then deriving unique & important individual components from them śabdayoga is being followed from this part of the series.   First the compound terms are analyzed and then the individual unique yogic terms are discussed in this Unit 6.

Analysis of the Compound terms

अतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठ - atadrūpapratiṣṭha

This is a compound term. It has four member terms – na (not), tat (that), rūpa(form), pratiṣṭhā(establishment). The compound split and its literal meaning is as follows –

  • तस्य रूपम्, तद्रूपम् (षष्ठीतत्पुरुषः ) tasya rūpam, tadrūpam (ṣaṣṭhītatpuruṣaḥ ) – It’s (the object’s)  form
  • न तद्रूपम्, अतद्रूपम् (नञ्तत्पुरुषः) na tadrūpam, atadrūpam (nañtatpuruṣaḥ) – Not its form
  • अतद्रूपे प्रतिष्ठा यस्य तत्, अतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम् (बहुव्रीहिः) atadrūpe pratiṣṭhā yasya tat, atadrūpapratiṣṭham (bahuvrīhiḥ) – establishment in not its form

In the Yogasūtras this compound term is an adjective of the term Viparyaya (wrong knowledge).  As can be seen from the compound split – Viparyaya is described by this adjective -  as that (knowledge) which is not established on the true form of the object. Eg: Seeing a snake in a rope – the form of Snake is the atadrūpa (not the rope’s essential form) and this knowledge (that it is snake) – Viparyaya is established (pratiṣṭhā) in that form. This clarifies the context in which this compound term has been used in the Yogasūtras.

In this compound the words  - na (not), tat (that) are indeclinable and pronoun respectively. And these two words will not be discussed. The other two unique terms - rūpa(form), pratiṣṭhā(establishment) will be discussed.

शब्दज्ञानानुपाती - śabdajñānānupātī

The compound Split

शब्दस्य ज्ञानम्, शब्दज्ञानम् (षष्ठीतत्पुरुषः) śabdasya jñānam, śabdajñānam (ṣaṣṭhītatpuruṣaḥ) – Knowledge of the words

शब्दज्ञानस्य अनुपाती, शब्दज्ञानानुपाती  (षष्ठीतत्पुरुषः) śabdajñānasya anupātī, śabdajñānānupātī  (ṣaṣṭhītatpuruṣaḥ) – that which follows the knowledge of the words

As can be seen above there are three words śabda, jñāna & anupātī. The word anupātī which means that which follows has been coined for this particular context and hence there will be no recurrences of the term in Yogic literature. The Word jñāna has already been analyzed in the previous part (Śabda yoga 5). The word Śabda  remains for analysis from this compound term.

वस्तुशून्यः - vastuśūnya

This compound word is an adjective the word विकल्पः and hence it is in masculine gender.

The compound split is as follows –

वस्तुशून्यः = वस्तु शून्यं यस्मिन् सः  (बहुव्रीहिः)

vastuśūnyaḥ = vastu śūnyaṃ yasmin saḥ (bahuvrīhiḥ)

That (knowledge) in which there is no – शून्य/śūnya  (corresponding) object – वस्तु/vastu  (is vikalpa -imagination).

The two constituent words in this compound vastu & śūnya are important terms that have significant implication and presence in the Yoga texts and hence these two will be analysed.

The compound split is as follows –

वस्तुशून्यः = वस्तु शून्यं यस्मिन् सः  (बहुव्रीहिः)

vastuśūnyaḥ = vastu śūnyaṃ yasmin saḥ (bahuvrīhiḥ)

That (knowledge) in which there is no – शून्य/śūnya  (corresponding) object – वस्तु/vastu  (is vikalpa -imagination).

The two constituent words in this compound vastu & śūnya are important terms that have significant implication and presence in the Yoga texts and hence these two will be analysed.

Analysis of Individual Yogic Terms from the Compound terms

रूप - Rūpa


रुप्+ अच्  = रूपम्

rup+ ac = rūpam

The root is - रूप रूपक्रियायाम्  – rupu rūpakriyāyām - to create a shape, to formulate, to create a mental picture

The suffix is अच् - ac to indicate the meaning the doer(कर्तृ). This suffix is added as per the grammatical rule नन्दिग्रहिपचादिभ्यो ल्युणिन्यचः  nandigrahipacādibhyo lyuṇinyacaḥ  (aṣṭādhyāyī 3.1.134)

The derivative statement of the word would be - रूपयति इति रूपम् - rūpayati iti rūpam – that which creates a mental picture is rūpa


There is one entry in the Amarakośa on the word Rūpa.

रूपं शब्दो गन्धरसस्पर्शाश्च विषया अमी  (1.5.7.)

The form, sound, smell, taste and touch – these are the objects (of the senses)

Textual Occurrences


There are five occurrences of the word Rūpa in this text.

It is to be noted that Rūpa is also part of the compound word Svarūpa. There are nine occurrences of the word Svarūpa in Yogasūtra. Those references are not collected here as they have already been discussed in śabda Yoga -3 under the entry Svarūpa.

They five occurrences of Rūpa are as follows -

  1. विपर्ययो मिथ्याज्ञानमतद्रूपप्रतिष्ठम् ॥ १.८ ॥

viparyayo mithyājñānamatadrūpapratiṣṭham .. 1.8 ..

This sūtra defines Viparyaya vritti – here the word Rūpa is used to indicated that the – Viparyaya is a knowledge that is not is not established in the form of the object. Something is superimposed on the object being perceived.

  1. वितर्कविचारानन्दास्मितारूपानुगमात्संप्रज्ञातः ॥ १.१७ ॥

vitarkavicārānandāsmitārūpānugamātsaṃprajñātaḥ .. 1.17 ..

Here the word Rūpa is used to show that the mind follows the various forms (Rūpa) like vitarka ,vicāra, ānand and āsmitā in saṃprajñāta Samādhi

  1. कायरूपसंयमात्तद्ग्राह्यशक्तिस्तम्भे चक्षुष्प्रकाशासंप्रयोगेऽन्तर्धानम् ॥ ३.२१ ॥

kāyarūpasaṃyamāttadgrāhyaśaktistambhe cakṣuṣprakāśāsaṃprayoge'ntardhānam .. 3.21 ..

The power of disappearing/concealing the form is achieved by doing saṃyama (dhāraṇā, dhyāna and  samādhi) on the form (rūpa) of the body.

  1. रूपलावण्यबलवज्रसंहननत्वानि कायसंपत् ॥ ३.४६ ॥

rūpalāvaṇyabalavajrasaṃhananatvāni kāyasaṃpat .. 3.46 ..

Attainment of rūpa (pleasing form for the eyes), lāvaṇya (symmetry and beauty of all limbs) etc will be attained by the Yogin by conquering the five elements (by the practice described in the sūtra 3.44)

  1. जातिदेशकालव्यवहितानामप्यानन्तर्यं स्मृतिसंस्कारयोरेकरूपत्वात् ॥ ४.९ ॥

jātideśakālavyavahitānāmapyānantaryaṃ smṛtisaṃskārayorekarūpatvāt .. 4.9 ..

Even if obstructed by species, space, time (in course of various births) there will be continuity (in the living being exhibiting species-appropriate behavior inherited from past births) because - recollection and (corresponding) subliminal impressions will be of the same form/nature (ekarūpatva)


There are 23 references to the word Rūpa in this text. Out of these 15 references are from the 11th chapter which is called as the viśva-rūpa-darśana-yoga – a chapter where Lord Kṛṣṇa reveals his supreme form to Arjuna. Hence the various aspects of the Rūpas – forms of Lord Kṛṣṇa is described vividly in these numerous references.

Chapter 3

There are two references to Rūpa in this chapter

1. आवृतं ज्ञानमेतेन ज्ञानिनो नित्यवैरिणा ।
कामरूपेण कौन्तेय दुष्पूरेणानलेन च ॥ ३.३९ ॥

āvṛtaṃ jñānametena jñānino nityavairiṇā .
kāmarūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca .. 3.39 ..

Here it can be seen that the word kāmarūpa is used. It is stated herein that - kāmarūpa – in the form of desire – the knowledge has been covered which is like an insatiable fire.

2. एवं बुद्धेः परं बुद्ध्वा संस्तभ्यात्मानमात्मना ।
जहि शत्रुं महाबाहो कामरूपं दुरासदम् ॥ ३.४३ ॥

evaṃ buddheḥ paraṃ buddhvā saṃstabhyātmānamātmanā .
jahi śatruṃ mahābāho kāmarūpaṃ durāsadam .. 3.43 ..

In this verse also the same expression kāmarūpa is used. It has been stated here that the enemy in the form of desire (kāmarūpa) has to be conquered by focusing on the consciousness that is beyond the intellect.

Chapter 8

There is a lone reference to the rūpa word in this chapter.

1. कविं पुराणमनुशासितारमणोरणीयांसमनुस्मरेद्यः ।
सर्वस्य धातारमचिन्त्यरूपमादित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात् ॥ ८.९ ॥

kaviṃ purāṇamanuśāsitāramaṇoraṇīyāṃsamanusmaredyaḥ .
sarvasya dhātāramacintyarūpamādityavarṇaṃ tamasaḥ parastāt .. 8.9 ..

The expression acintyarūpa is found used in this verse. The supreme being (paramātman) is glorified and extolled as the one endowed with unthinkable (manifest) forms and meditation upon such supreme being is instructed.

Chapter 11

As indicated earlier there are 15 references to the word rūpa in this chapter hence the only the specific expression on rūpa from the 15 verses with reference to the verse numbers will be given with short explanation. Diligent readers can look up in the text and explore more on each of these verses.

The expression related to Rūpa are culled from each of the verses of this is presented below – which not only clarifies the usage of the expression rūpa, but in a way summarizes the details of the cosmic Rūpa that was revealed to Arjuna.
• aiśvaraṃ rūpam (11.3) – the divine form
• sahasraśaḥ rūpāṇi (11.5) – thousands of forms
• anantarūpam, viśvarūpa (11.16, 38) – endless form and the all encompassing form
• adbhutaṃ rūpam (11. 20) – wonderful form
• mahat rūpam (11.23) – great form
• ugrarūpa (11, 31) – ferocious form
• tadeva rūpam (11.45) – the same form (At this stage Arjuna was so terrified that he wanted to see the same old form of Lord Kṛṣṇa)
• caturbhujena rūpeṇa (11. 46) – the four armed form
• paraṃ rūpam (11. 47) – the higher form
• evaṃrūpaḥ (11.48) – in this form (Lord Kṛṣṇa states to Arjuna that he was privileged to see this form which even the Gods are not privileged to see)
• ghoraṃ rūpam (11.49) – terrible form
• svakaṃ rūpam (11.50) – his own form
• mānuṣaṃ rūpam (11.51) – human form
• sudurdarśaṃ rūpam (11.52) – the really very are form

Chapter 15

This chapter has just one reference to rūpa.

1. न रूपमस्येह तथोपलभ्यते नान्तो न चादिर्न च सम्प्रतिष्ठा ।
अश्वत्थमेनं सुविरूढमूलमसङ्गशस्त्रेण दृढेन छित्त्वा ॥ १५.३ ॥

na rūpamasyeha tathopalabhyate nānto na cādirna ca sampratiṣṭhā .
aśvatthamenaṃ suvirūḍhamūlamasaṅgaśastreṇa dṛḍhena chittvā .. 15.3 ..
In the two verses of this chapter the manifest world has been compared to a Peepul tree and its various parts. This verse is interesting when it says – the form that has been described may not be perceived or may not remain in the same manner(na rūpamasyeha tathopalabhyate). This indicates the change-prone, unstable nature of the manifest existence.

Chapter 17

This chapter also has just one reference to rūpa

1. सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत ।
श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्धः स एव सः ॥ १७.३ ॥

sattvānurūpā sarvasya śraddhā bhavati bhārata .
śraddhāmayo'yaṃ puruṣo yo yacchraddhaḥ sa eva saḥ .. 17.3 ..

The expression Anurūpā  is found here, which means ‘in accordance with’. It has been clarified here that the nature of faith that one has is in accordance to his/her Sattva. The word Sattva refers to the mind that possesses unique combination of subliminal impressions (saṃskāra) that varies from individual to individual.

Chapter 18

This is the final reference to the word rūpa in the last chapter.

1. तच्च संस्मृत्य संस्मृत्य रूपमत्यद्भुतं हरेः ।
विस्मयो मे महान्राजन् हृष्यामि च पुनः पुनः ॥ १८.७७ ॥

tacca saṃsmṛtya saṃsmṛtya rūpamatyadbhutaṃ hareḥ .
vismayo me mahānrājan hṛṣyāmi ca punaḥ punaḥ .. 18.77 ..

adbhutaṃ rūpam hareḥ - wonderful form of Hari is the expression that is found in this verse. Sañjaya, the one who gave the live commentary of the entire happenings in the war field to King Dhṛtarāṣṭra – states that “again and again remembering the wonderful form of Lord Hari I become ecstatic again and again”.


There are six references of the term Rūpa in this text.

1. श्रीआदिनाथमत्स्येन्द्रशाबरानन्दभैरवाः ।
चौरङ्गीमीनगोरक्षविरूपाक्षबिलेशयाः ॥ १.५ ॥

śrīādināthamatsyendraśābarānandabhairavāḥ .
cauraṅgīmīnagorakṣavirūpākṣabileśayāḥ .. 1.5 ..

virūpākṣa is the expression found in this verse that contains the word rūpa. This verse that lists the great teachers and practitioners of Haṭhayoga also mentions virūpākṣa – as one among them.

2. प्रसार्य पादौ भुवि दण्डरूपौ दोर्भ्यां पदाग्रद्वितयं गृहीत्वा ।
जानूपरि न्यस्तललाटदेशः वसेदिदं पश्चिमतानमाहुः ॥ १.२८ ॥

prasārya pādau bhuvi daṇḍarūpau dorbhyāṃ padāgradvitayaṃ gṛhītvā .
jānūpari nyastalalāṭadeśaḥ vasedidaṃ paścimatānamāhuḥ .. 1.28 ..

daṇḍarūpau – resembling the form of sticks – this is the expression found in this verse that contains the word rūpa. The procedure to do Paścimatāna posture is described here. In that process, first, legs have to be stretched straight resembling the form (rūpa) of sticks is mentioned.

3. रूपलावण्यसंपन्ना यथा स्त्री पुरुषं विना ।
महामुद्रामहाबन्धौ निष्फलौ वेधवर्जितौ ॥ ३.२५ ॥

rūpalāvaṇyasaṃpannā yathā strī puruṣaṃ vinā .
mahāmudrāmahābandhau niṣphalau vedhavarjitau .. 3.25 ..

rūpalāvaṇyasaṃpannā – (the lady) who is endowed with pleasing form and grace/beauty.
It is stated herein that - As a lady who is beautiful (rūpa) does not attain the purpose of life without a man (spouse), similarly, mahāmudrā and mahābandha practices do not achieve their purpose without mahāvedha.

4. अर्धोन्मीलितलोचनः स्थिरमना नासाग्रदत्तेक्षणः
चन्द्रार्कावपि लीनतामुपनयन् निस्पन्दभावेन यः ।
ज्योतीरूपमशेषबीजमखिलं देदीप्यमानं परं
तत्त्वं तत्पदमेति वस्तु परमं वाच्यं किमत्राधिकम् ॥ ४.४१ ॥

ardhonmīlitalocanaḥ sthiramanā nāsāgradattekṣaṇaḥ
candrārkāvapi līnatāmupanayan nispandabhāvena yaḥ .
jyotīrūpamaśeṣabījamakhilaṃ dedīpyamānaṃ paraṃ
tattvaṃ tatpādameti vastu paramaṃ vācyaṃ kimatrādhikam .. 4.41 ..

jyotīrūpam – the one who which is in the form of light – is the expression found here in.
jyotīrūpa – is the expression that contains the word rūpa. The unmanīmudrā is elaborately described in this verse. After being seated and set ones focus – it is advised that a Yogi should focus on the conscious Atman that is in the form of light (jyotīrūpa).

5. यत्किञ्चिनादरूपेण श्रूयते शक्तिरेव सा ।
यस्तत्त्वान्तो निराकारः स एव परमेश्वरः ॥ ४.१०२ ॥

yatkiñcinādarūpeṇa śrūyate śaktireva sā .
yastattvānto nirākāraḥ sa eva parameśvaraḥ .. 4.102 ..

nādarūpa – in the form of nāda – is the expression found in this verse. This verse occurs at the end of the description of the practice of nādānusandhāna – practice of focus on internal Yogic nādas (sounds). It is clarified here that whatever internal nāda is heard is śakti (the counterpart/consort of parameśvara) only. Through this śakti in the form of Nāda, Parameśvara – the pure consciousness is attained.

6. न गन्धं न रसं रूपं न च स्पर्शं न निस्वनम् ।
नात्मानं न परं वेत्ति योगी युक्तः समाधिना ॥ १.१०९ ॥

na gandhaṃ na rasaṃ rūpaṃ na ca sparśaṃ na nisvanam .
nātmānaṃ na paraṃ vetti yogī yuktaḥ samādhinā .. 1.109 ..

The word rūpa as such is used in this verse. This verse is in the form of description of a Yogi who has attained the state of Samādhi – he said to have transcended all sensory experiences such as smell, taste, form, touch and sound. He does not even see himself and the others in such a state.


This analysis was educative in imparting how form has been treated in Yogic texts.

It is interesting to note the wide range of meanings that the word Rūpa brings in to serve the Yogic purpose. These use various aspects of the word Rūpa that include -

  • just the form that is perceived by the eyes
  • pleasing form, beauty
  • the various forms of the divinity
  • the way to vanish (make the form unperceivable)
  • the ever changing form of the manifest world
  • the resemblance of the form (to describe procedure of Asanas)
  • the luminous form to meditate upon

As evident from this analysis the external form was neglected in the Yogic context but rather utilized to facilitate the inward journey.

Unit 6 To be Continued…