Yogic Limiting Adjuncts – Upadhis

In yoga, a limiting adjunct is something that limits the mind. In sanskrit it is called an Upadhi.

In Swami Sivananda’s Yoga Vedanta Dictionary he defines it as:

A superimposed thing or attribute that veils and gives a coloured view of the substance beneath it; limiting adjunct; instrument; vehicle; body; a technical term used in Vedanta philosophy for any superimposition that gives a limited view of the Absolute and makes It appear as the relative. Jiva’s Upadhi is Avidya; Isvara’s Upadhi is Maya.

He seems to suggest that an Upadhi is a concept of limitation, that anything that limits the Jiva, or mind can be considered a limiting adjunct.

During the SYVC Teacher Training Course, we are taught that there are three Upadhis – time, space and causation. Admittedly, these would seem to be the “first” limiting adjuncts because a mind can exist only within these dimensions.

First, would arise the concept of space, here vs. there, me taking up space over here, you taking up space over there. Next would be time, if something is here and not there it has to get from here to there and can’t be in both places at once, therefore, it takes time to travel from one place to another. Finally causation, in space and time one thing seems to be the cause of another.

In the relative sense all this is real. In the absolute sense none of it is real.

However, I think the concept of limiting adjunct is more broad than simply time, space and causation. In the book Self-knowledge, Swami Sivananda goes on to explain:

Sense-organs, physical body, mind, Pranas, intellect, etc., are the products of Avidya (nescience). They are Upadhis (limiting adjuncts). Negate them, sublimate them or eliminate them through Vedantic doctrine Neti-Neti (not this, not this). What remains behind, the balance or residue left is Atman or Brahman only.

And also:

Atman is one and the same in all beings. It appears different in different persons on account of the Upadhi or limiting adjunct, Antahkarana (mind). Akasa is one and the same. On account of Upadhis of pot, cloud, room, etc., it is differentiated as Ghata-Akasha (pot-ether), Megha-Akasha (cloud-ether), Mat-Akasha (room-ether), etc. When the Upadhi-pot is destroyed, when the pot is broken, the pot-ether becomes identical with the universal ether. When the Upadhi-Antahkarana is annihilated by Sadhana, the individual becomes identical with the all-pervading consciousness.

I’m pretty sure I also read in another book by Swami Sivananda that the Upadhis of the mind are time, space and causation, and the Upadhis of the Jiva are body, mind and senses. This quote I cannot find. If I find it someday I will post it here – if anybody is familiar with this quote please let me know where it is.

In the meantime if this is an incorrect interpretation based on these quotes, maybe someone who has more knowledge than me can enlighten me to the proper understanding. It seems like depending on your stage of personal evolution you would have more or less limiting adjuncts, and within a person they can vary from day to day depending on your mind set.

I don’t know, seeking answers…


Picasso’s Ma Jolie – creating limiting adjuncts or trying to break through them?


2 thoughts on “Yogic Limiting Adjuncts – Upadhis

  1. Yes, that is right to your question. It does depend on your life time you are in but also what knowledge you are accumulating to break through the avidya/current limited adjunct and see the illusions and move past it with vidya working on your immediate understanding of the SELF during this life time.

    Om Kamala

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