Yoga - the Roots
‘Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them’ said Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist of the 20th century. But to accept our limits we should rightly understand our limits.
How to achieve this though, is the biggest question.
It is about body, the limited part of human being and mind, the unlimited entity of the same. Connecting the body and mind is the first step of going beyond them.
This understanding is the part of the spiritual dynamics in India and the answer to this is the technique of yoga which is one of the greatest contributions of India to the world. It is about preparing one’s own body and stilling the mind to experience the ultimate infinite consciousness through prescribed methods.
International Yoga Day
When India proposed 21st June to be celebrated as the World Yoga day, the celestial phenomena of summer Solstice would stretch the day ‘light’ to its maximum in the northern hemisphere on Earth. This is no coincidence. This is the longest day of the northern hemisphere and shares significance in many parts of the world.
In Indian tradition this marks the beginning of Dakshinayan, the time when the sun appears to travels towards the south on the celestial sphere. Dakshinayan is also consider as a time when there is natural support for those pursuing spiritual practices.
The Roots and Branches of Yoga tree
In Hinduism, Yoga is one of the sixteen systems of philosophy or 'Darshana'. The systems when arranged from the Vedanta point of view, form an ascending order beginning with Charvaka – the Indian Materialistic system being the furthest removed from Vedanta and Sankhya and Yoga being the closest to and approaching Vedanta. These systems include
- Charvaka Darshana
- Bauddha Darshana
- Arhata or Jaina Darshana
- Ramanuja Darshana
- Purna Prajna Darshana
- Nakulisa Pasupata Darshana
- Shaiva Darshana
- Pratyabhijnya or Recognition Darshana
- Rasesvara or Mercurial Darshana
- Vaisheshika or Aulukya Darshana
- Akshapada or Nyaya Darshana
- Jaiminya Darshana
- Paninya Darshana
- Sankhya Darshana
- Patanjala or Yoga Darshana
- Vedanta or Darshana of Sankara Acharya
The Yoga System is one of the Astika Schools. The Sanskrit word ‘Astika’ means ‘there exists’ and defines
- those who accept the Vedas as the means of knowledge.
- those who accept the existence of Atman.
- those who accept the existence of Ishvara
The word Yoga is originated from verbal root ‘yuj' which means ‘to connect’ or ‘to unite’. According to Panini (400 BCE Sanskrit Grammarian), the word Yoga may be derived from two words. The first one is ‘yujur’ which means ‘to yoke’ and the other word is ‘yuj samadhu’ which implies concentration. The traditional commentators and Patanjali, considered the latter one as right.
The origin of yoga can be traced in Vedic traditions. Though the literary evidence Yoga in the Vedic Age is misty and blurred, the fact is that the entire corpus of knowledge which includes Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda is known as 'Shruti'
The sanskrit word 'Shruti' means that which is revealed through 'anubhava' or direct experience in the highest state of meditation or Samadhi. It presupposes the physical and mental discipline of yoga required to attain higher levels of conciousness.
Scholars refer to the terracotta seal from the Indus civilization (2700 BCE – 1500 BCE) which features a man in yogic posture surrounded by animals. The earliest reference of the Mulabandhasana pose may be on this seal.
Shri Bhagavat Gita which was compiled between 500 to 200 BCE also tells about the different aspects of yoga. Infact, the 18 chapters of Gita refer 18 aspects of Yoga.
Some of the Buddhist and Jain text comprise of meditation and meditators but the chronology of these books are disputed. The yoga practiced in the present time are mainly from the yoga sutra of Patanjali (100 BCE – 500 CE).
According to the tradition of Hinduism yoga has six divisions. They are :
Hatayoga : Describes techniques to harmonise and purify the body systems and focus the mind in preparation for more advanced chakra and Kundilini practices. This includes asanas, six shatkarnas, bandhas and pranayama.
Rajayoga : Eight stages of yoga described by sage Patanjali is collectively known as Rajayoga. It deals with the refinement of human personality and behaviour. Physical health and vitality, management of mental and emotional conflicts.
Layayoga : Also called as Kundalilni Yoga is influenced by both shaktism and Tantra. This is concerned with the awakening of the psychic centres of chakras which are present in every human being.
Bhaktiyoga : It is about the devotion and surrender. It may be towards Lord Rama, Krishna, Christ, Muhammad, Buddha or any personal deity (Ishta Devata). Here the person should have an emotional bond with the object of devotion.
Karmayoga : The ultimate aim of the karmayoga is the non-attachment with the work and becoming the perfect instrument of super consciousness in this manifested universe.
Dnyanayoga : It is the application of ones mind to the chosen point of concentration. It is done to lead oneself to self-knowledge and Samadhi.
The great philosopher, practitioner and teacher Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, the finds all aspects of yoga within the Patanjali’s eight limbs or Ashtangas
Yama, Niyama and Asana belong to Karma Marga. Pranayama, Pratyahara belong Gyana Marga and Dharana & Dhyana belong to the Bhakti Marga while it all culminates as Raja Yoga in Samadhi.