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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yoga as it is

April 16, 2004

To day all over the globe one of the most important topics being discussed every where, is yoga. In fact yoga entered space several years ago when Rakhesh sharma the Indian astronaut, talked to Indira Gandhi the then prime minister of India, from space saying he is practicing yoga on the space ship. Though it is becoming popular today in the world, it was a part of daily life, at least for some people of India through out the centuries as can be seen from the ancient texts. Time and again the reference comes in the writings for all these years. It appears that we dont have to take the trouble of redefining the term yoga but it is necessary that we understand in its true sense and like the way the sages have expressed with reference to the context. If we have to define it differently then we need to establish what was wrong in their definition and how a modified definition will help us for our growth and development.Understanding yoga becomes necessary because today when you go to the market ( earlier it used to be taught in the Ashramas but today we can find yoga being advertised, franchised and marketed in yoga studios.) we find different things being practiced in the name of yoga. There are patented names for yoga according to the masters, some times giving their names and some times giving some catchy names and marketable names. But the moment we call it yoga it has to mean some thing specific. That should be the minimum respect and justice we do to the ancient yoga masters. In this context we need to look into the various texts for information. The earliest text is the Upanishads, which are part of the Vedas, second being the Ramayana or supposed to be its part Yoga Vasista one of the oldest texts ( though original Valmiki Ramayana has not made mention of it), next comes Mahabharata or its part, the Bhagavad-Gita, more scientific presentation the Yoga Sutras of sage Patanjali, and the latest of the yoga texts called the Hata pradipika while taking these texts I shall try to give few of the definitions as giving all the definitions is not possible for our purposes.While describing the origin of this knowledge in Gita, Adi Shankaracharya said, that this knowledge is given by Lord Vishnu at the time of creation itself. The acharya (teacher) of Hatha pradipika says yoga is given by shankara at the time of creation to Parvathy. Though the names of who has given to who may be different and may appear like mythological the note worthy fact is that this knowledge is a very ancient, and is available at the time of creation itself!In Sanskrit every word has the root letter from which the word is derived. Accordingly the root letter for Yoga is yuj, which suggests joining, or bringing together two things the jeeva atma and the param atma. In a practical sense it means if we can create that kind of body-mind-consciousness complex of us that we could easily blend us with the universe around us in all kinds of situations peacefully without any disturbance that is yoga; jeevatma being the body mind complex of an individual and param atma is the god in the form of manifested world around us.Upanishad says yoga is sthiraam indriya dharanaam, holding the senses (external organas and internal organs) steady is yoga. Yoga Vasista is the text which gives the dialogue between Vasista and Rama, Vasista explaining to the latter about the philosophy of yoga so it is known as yoga Vasista. Naturally the definition for yoga given by Vasista is important. Here yoga is said to be the trick for calming the mind. manh prashamanopaayah yoga iti abhidheeyate.Bhagavad-Gita is an important text in this context, because of which at the end of every chapter we express this is taken from this text which is the Upanishad knowledge, Brahma vidya- the knowledge of ultimate reality, the science of yoga and is the discussion between Krishna and Arjunaetc. every chapter in this is called as yoga and it presents the idea of yoga in ever so many ways. In this yoga is defines as Samatvam yoga ucchate- yoga is the state of equanimity. Gita also describes the state of yoga as samaadhu acala buddhih tatha yogam avapsyasi. When the mind is kept in the state of tranquility, then it is has achieved the state of yoga. Yogis mind is like the steady flame which is protected from wind, yatha deepo nivatastho..yogino yata chittasya.. Sage Patanjali who has put the ideas of yoga from all the ancient wisdom writes the crisp definition of yoga in his sutras of yoga which is the text on yoga. In his second sutra Patanjali says, yoga is to arrest the disturbances of the mind, yogah chitta vrutti nirodhah. And in the next sutra he gives it a person who controls the mind will establish himself in the state of self, tathaa drastuh swarupe avasthanam since the disturbances identify us else where, vritti saarupyam itaratrah.From all these definitions it can be seen that there is consistency in the thinking of yoga from the time of Vedas and Upanishads up the time of Patanjali which in Sanskrit is called as ekavakyata. Yoga is a methodology to achieve and also a state of peace of mind, tranquility and harmony in all circumstances.This gives rise to several questions such as, why do we need to calm the mind, what is the advantage, why doing postures, manipulating breathing are called as yoga, what has body or breath got to do with mind. All these questions we will look into in future discussions.

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