Yog(a): the basic approach
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The Philosophy of Yog
Vedas state that after the lapse of the final destruction period, when non-sexual human-beings are created, there exists no guru, acharya etc., who could give the knowledge to them about science, food, behaviour, worldly matters, worship etc. At that time no present sects, sant-mat etc. existed. It is mentioned in all ancient religious books like Valmiki Ramayan, Mahabharat, six Shastras etc., written by ancient Rishis that all kinds of above knowledge right from straw to Brahma emanates directly from God in the form of four Vedas and is originated in the heart of four Rishis which further spreads in public. [Rigved mantra 10/181/1,2 refers.] On this basis, Patanjali Rishi, in his Yog Shastra Sutra 1/26, states that God is the first guru of those four Rishis. The main motto of vedic knowledge is to provide all human-beings with above teachings to maintain peace, pleasure, happiness, healthy, long life to promote international brotherhood and final liberation, which is also the intense desire of all mankind.
So, we must all obey the vedic teachings preached by God Himself wherein Ashtang Yog Philosophy also exists, to attain happy life, divine pleasure while discharging all moral duties.
Study of Vedas further reveals that Ashtang Yog philosophy, preached by God Himself, is also the most important matter to be followed to achieve the above motto i.e., to maintain peace, salvation etc.(Yajurved mantra 7/4 refers)
So, all those human-beings who also at present faithfully practise the said Yog philosophy, they destroy the fear of facing sorrow/suffering at the time of death, remaining always away from diseases.
Nodoubt, it is praiseworthy that in the present time, there is a huge publicity, discussion and debates etc., at world level on the matter of Yog philosophy and in this regard recently, the whole world has also celebrated- “International Yog Diwas”. At this belated stage, we must pay our attention towards vedic culture which reveals that its name is not Yoga but Ashtang Yog philosophy which seems to have disappeared in all debates, teachings and while practising it at present times.
Therefore, if we popularize Ashtang Yog philosophy by pronouncing its name as Yog only, it means we are distorting/deshaping its original name- ‘Ashtang Yog’ and the eternal vedic philosophy, wherein the eight parts of Ashtang Yog philosophy are very well described. God preaches in Yajurved mantra 7/4 about Ashtang Yog Philosophy which comprises of following eight parts-
1.) There are five Yams-
(i). AHIMSA- not to do offence/ill-will/hate by all means and in all times.
(ii.) SATYA- to observe true conduct by mind, voice and deeds.
(iii.) ASTEYA- i.e., abstaining from theft.
(iv.) BRAHMACHARYA- to restrain all the generative organs from all worldly matters.
(v.) APARIGRAH- not to hoard/gather the worldly matters beyond the necessity.
Five Niyams are-
SHAUCH- to maintain outer and inner purity.
SANTOSH- satisfaction with the worldly goods to use and do not desire more.
TAPAH- to bear happily the consequences/obstacles in religious path like hunger, thirst, cold, hotness, place and in asans.
SWADHAYAYE- study of Vedas and the religious books which preach about salvation and name jaap.
ISHWAR PRANNIDHANANNI- to surrender all the deeds before the Almighty and formless God who creates, nurses and destroys the universe.
Asan:- where the state of body becomes still and starts giving pleasure.
Prannayam:- To stop inhaling and exhaling process under the guidance of a learned acharya.
Pratyahaar:- Control on five senses and mind.
Dharnna:- To concentrate on any part of human body like heart, forehead, tip of nose etc.
Dhyan:- To concentrate only in God.
Samadhi:- At this stage, the soul experiences the divine pleasure of realising God.
If we deeply study the above matter we can say that shortcomings/vices, dishonour of women, corruption, theft, poverty, corrupt politics, violence, filth, falsehood etc. are easily overcome in case we follow even a part of above Ashtang Yog Philosophy in our daily life.
So, better if we spread/teach the eternal and everlasting Ashtang Yog philosophy without its distortion. Based on vedic culture, we must know that the truth in any case/situation is always unaltered, unchangeable, unchallengeable and cannot be distorted. So, is the matter of Ashtang Yog Philosophy whose name and method of practising cannot be altered.
Keeping in view that Ashtang Yog Philosophy mentioned in Vedas is our eternal culture, we must pay our personal attention seriously that nowadays mostly the so-called Yoga teachers neglect to teach the students to first hold the above quoted five Yams and five Niyams in life and when the teachers and students have got full control on the same then they should learn to start the practice of asans. But it is sad that the Ashtang Yog philosophy, whose first preacher is Almighty God, is being deshaped by ignoring its most valuable two above quoted starting parts i.e., Yam and Niyam. [Yog Shastra Sutra 1/26 refers.] Otherwise peace would have been maintained in our country.
Secondly, no doubt, our Rishi-Munis have been preaching the said philosophy but it would amount to a great sin if we ignore the eternal fact stated in Vedas as well as by all ancient Rishi-Munis like Yagyavalkya Rishi, who says- “Hirannyagarbhaha yogasya vakta” i.e., God is only the donor of Yog Knowledge by all means.
But most of the teachers of Yog philosophy either donot know the above fact or can we say that intentionally they donot teach the aspirants that the real preacher of Ashtang Yog philosophy is Almighty God and not human-beings. That is why, in whole of the world where the Yog is being taught perhaps no one knows about Vedas.
Secondly, when we throw our attention in the previous yugas, we find that Rishi-Munis first used to teach the complete vedic philosophy to the aspirants, made them able to perform daily Yajyen/agnihotra with ved mantras and when the aspirant becomes able to knew the God from definition of ved mantras then they used to preach Ashtang Yog Philosophy to the student. Said practice is nowadays not in vogue and hence problem.
Atharvaved Kand 12 educates us that if a person steals a little portion from the full knowledge of Vedas-Ashtang Yog, God punishes him. Therefore, a learned person will never try to steal only asan, prannayam and meditation ignoring Yam, Niyam, Pratyahaar, Dharnna, Samadhi and study of Vedas.
You see nobody tries to understand that why the ancient Rishi-Munis strictly used to observe Brahmacharya (part of Yam) and after gaining hundred percent vedic knowledge, they used to start practice of Ashtang Yog philosophy.[Yajurveda mantra 19/30 refers]. For example- if we pay our complete attention on Patanjali Rishi’s Yog Darshan sutra 1/1-
“Ath Yoganushasanam” i.e., Word Yog is also made from Yuj dhatu which means Samadhi. So the meaning of word Yog is Samadhi that is the stage of a Yogi in continuous meditation where he attains Samadhi and realises God (ie., realization). Thus the Yogi realises God and attains the final Liberation stage (Moksh). So the meaning of word Yog is Samadhi. Now we study the word Anushasanam. There are two words in Anushasanam. 1st Anu and second is Shasanam. The meaning of word Anu is ‘AFTER’. And the meaning of word Shasanam is ‘TO HOLD COMMAND ON ASHTANG YOG PHILOSOPHY’. So the meaning of word Anushasanam is ‘After’ that Yogi after studying Vedas and doing long and hard practice of Yog vidya traditionally, holds full command on it and then becomes capable to preach Yog philosophy to others.
When a devotee becomes able to follow Yajurved mantra 7/4 regarding Ashtang Yog and also follows Yog shastra sutra 1/1,2, he realizes God in Samadhi.
In the light of above facts, it is sad that mostly nowadays people, in the absence of eternal vedic knowledge, for one reason or the other, directly start doing practice of only asan, prannayaam, leaving behind Yam, Niyam, Pratyahaar, Dharnna and then directly do meditation which is against the vedic principles- eternal Ashtang Yog philosophy.
So, very few know that knowledge of four vedas is the mother of Ashtang Yog education. Therefore, in the absence of vedic knowledge, yog philosophy does not have its own existence. So proper guidance of Vedas and yoga philosophy is to be attained from an acharya who knows vedas as well as Ashtang Yog, which is an eternal, everlasting, unchangeable, unchallengeable tradition.
Energy Unifies Yoga
Yoga is the art and science of attaining true, lasting happiness. It is a science, because it offers specific, practical methods. It is an art, because its highest benefits come only through sensitive and intuitive practice. Underlying all that exists is a single consciousness: Spirit, Truth, the Divine. Yoga teaches that the essence of that consciousness is joy. Since we are part of that, our own essence must be joy.
Ancient sages asked: If lasting happiness is the goal, then why try to find it through things that end when human life ends? Why not seek happiness directly, through uniting our consciousness with the everlasting joy of Spirit? Thus came about the many tools and precepts of yoga, to unite limited human consciousness with unlimited, ever-joyful divine consciousness.
The emphasis of yoga is not belief, but direct experience. Asanas, postures, offer physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Ananda Yoga, the asana style following the tradition of Paramhansa Yogananda, draws upon the power of mind and heart to amplify the asanas’ uplifting effects, thereby taking us closer to the joy we seek.
Yet asanas are merely a tiny sliver of yoga. Yoga is a complete way of life, with practices and insights enhancing every-thing we do. Uniting them all is the supreme technique of yoga: meditation.
The common thread that unifies all yoga is energy. Since Albert Einstein, science has said that all matter is energy. Yoga further states that prana, energy, intelligently governs all bodily systems, and is intimately linked to the mind. Since the goal of life is a state of mind, that is, happiness, prana’s connection with the mind is especially relevant.
Things that we like lift our spirits, and things we dislike depress us. Hence people react positively and negatively, up and down, all day, every day. Through yoga control of upward or downward movements of energy, we can control our reactions – and begin to find inner joy that doesn’t depend on outer circumstances.
Highest success in yoga requires practising with intuition. The heart chakra is the key – where we feel love, and can receive intuitive insight. Patanjali said, “Yoga (union) is neutralisation of the whirlpools of likes and dislikes.” When the heart is perfectly calm and receptive, our intuitive faculty enables us to experience our true essence; when the heart is not calm, feeling gets caught up in the swirl of emotional reactions.
To attain that pinnacle of human aspiration – everlasting joy and complete inner freedom – yoga maintains that a teacher is needed. Paramhansa Yogananda said, “People have no idea how to get out of their mental forest. Every path they attempt ends in dense undergrowth, or leads them back to where they started. In time, they come to realise that they are lost. If someone comes and says, ‘I know this forest well; let me show you the way through it,’ will they consider his offer a menace to their free will? Won’t they view it, rather, as an opportunity to accomplish what their own will has been trying for so long to accomplish? The purpose of the guru is not to weaken your will. It is to teach you secrets of developing your inner power, until you can stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.
Explained by Prashant Iyengar, son of BKS
Interaction: Prashant Iyengar
You say that yog has become ‘yogaa’; it has gone global but but has it lost its essence?
It all started when the word ‘yog’ came to be spelt as ‘yoga’ and pronounced as ‘yogaa’ in the west. It came to mean trying to get your wellbeing from the body source alone. Yog is classical and yogaa is just a pop version.
Everything has good and bad sides. Propagation is required to draw people’s attention towards it, but it cannot be done at the cost of its essential features. Trying to propagate it on a huge scale and in a rapid process, will only spoil it.
Who can learn yoga?
Who should sleep? Everyone should sleep. Similarly, anyone can start doing yog; the teacher must have the skill to impart suitable kind of yoga according to the condition of the person. If you are considering physical yoga, it is best to start young, 7-8 years of age. As a disciple, one has to just present with an open-mind and without any ego.
What is the link between yoga and karma?
Krishna talks about essential yoga in the Gita. That was a different time when classical yoga was being expounded and for classical yoga, karma consciousness is paramount. Knowing what this act is, why, how, its purpose, its results – that is karma consciousness.
In the Gita, the word ‘yoga’ is used several times. In verse 2:50, Krishna talks about karma yoga in which you must have samatva buddhi, equanimity, whether you gain or lose, fail or succeed. Also, yoga is a skill which is required in your karma performance so that karma does not get attached to you. But, this has no connection with asana pranayama. In verse 6:23, Krishna says, that which ‘dis-juncts’ this conjunction of sorrow with life is yoga. This is the definition of Patanjali’s yoga, but this is never quoted by any modern writer on yoga.
Life is a conjunction of sorrows. Even pleasures are sorrows. As pleasures end in attachments and expectations, we want to get them through any means. So success is painful and failure is painful, too. Dukkha here is being used in an empirical sense, not sensory sense. And that which causes disjunction of dukkha from life is yoga – kevala – where all sorrows are kept at bay. This is the process which helps us put up with sorrows that come our way.
So in the beginning you start attending to the physical geometry. Here, too, you are using breath and mind, though unknowingly. Later, the teacher makes you aware of how to use the breath, mind and body.
What is B K S Iyengar’s biggest contribution?
In his 96 years he went from complete social and economic destitution to reaching the zenith. His nature and character were such that he used his trump card – the ability to face challenges – to the hilt. He would look for challenges and wanted to prove himself to the world. His biggest message is, identify your potential, don’t get influenced by someone and you will go a long way. And yoga will help you identify your potential, because with it you can go within and start interacting with yourself – body, mind and breath.
The 4 paths and 5 points
Yoga means union of mind, body and spirit with the Divine and while this refers to a certain state of consciousness, both individual and universal, it is also a method to help one reach that goal.
A traditional, exact and easyto-learn system aims at naturally achieving the goal through creating a healthy body and mind that leads to spiritual evolvement.
Based in the teachings of Swami Sivananda, here is a summary of the yoga philosophy in five principles or the five points of yoga which make the complex teachings of yoga easier to understand:
Five points of yoga
Asanas: Yoga poses and proper exercise help develop a strong, healthy body by enhancing flexibility and improving circulation.
Pranayama: Deep, conscious, proper breathing reduces stress and keeps one safe from many diseases.
Proper relaxation: Helps keep the body from going into overload mode, easing worry and fatigue.
Proper diet: Eating simple, healthy, vegetarian foods that are easy to digest notably have a positive effect on mind and body, as well as the environment and other living beings.
Vedanta and Dhyana: Positive thinking and meditation are the true keys to achieving peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.
Four paths of yoga
Along with the five points of yoga, a look at the four paths of yoga completes the picture to give individuals a clear sense of direction for not only a healthier and stronger body but also a way of living that promotes peace and mindfulness to counteract day-to-day trials and tribulations.
The four paths of yoga all lead to the same place – union with the Divine – but help in getting there by giving options that fit different human temperaments and approaches to life. Which one fits you best?
Karma Yoga: Also known as the yoga of action, Karma Yoga teaches us to act without egoist expectations in all areas of daily life – home, work, school. It is a good path for someone who is outgoing and enjoys a certain sense of spiritual activism to help others.
Bhakti Yoga: Also known as the path of devotion, Bhakti Yoga is a good path for someone with an emotional nature and enjoys prayer, worship and seeking God through unconditionally loving others. Kirtan or singing/chanting the names of God is part of Bhakti Yoga.
Raja Yoga: Also known as the science of mind, Raja Yoga is the path that takes us on a comprehensive journey to understanding our mind and thoughts. Through mental control, we are able to gain control of the physical body and the life force energy known as prana. This is a good path for those who are interested in meditation and its effects on the mind.
Jnana Yoga: Also known as yoga of knowledge, is considered a good path for those with strong intellectual tendencies as it requires great strength of will and mind. Using Vedanta as vehicle, the inquiry into individual nature is the key to this difficult path. It is best undertaken after some lessons of the other paths have been well understood in order to move along towards Selfrealisation or profound spiritual awakening. (Courtesy: Divine Life Society)