21 Feb The Yoga Sutras – An Essay on History of Yoga
The Yoga we know today is a very very ancient tradition.
Many ancient Statues have been found, showing Lord Shiva an Parvati performing various Asanas. According to the mythical tradition, Lord Shiva was the first teacher of Yoga, and Parvati, the first disciple. Lord Shiva is the Symbol or embodiment of the supreme Consciousness, Parvati represents the supreme knowledge, will and action and is responsible for all creation, also known as Kundalini Shakti. By her, the individual Soul is bounded to the world of name and form, and also liberated from the bondage and united with the universal consciousness. This is what the discipline of Tantra aims to, to liberate the energy and expand the consciousness. Yoga sadhana has been practised in the Indian subcontinent (India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, China, Ceylon, and parts of Russia) for thousands of years.
Yoga arose in the beginning of human civilisation when man first realised the spiritual potential and began to evolve techniques to evolve it. It was developed as a part of the Tantric Civilisation, which existed in India and all parts of the world, more then 10 000 years ago.
In ancient times, Yoga practices were kept secret and taught personally, by the teacher, or Guru to Student or Disciple.
2500 B.C the Vedas were taught verbally from teacher to student, the philosophy was not written down.
The first book of Yoga have been the ancient Tantras and later the Vedas.
The 4 Vedas are the basic Scripture of the Philosophy of Indian Subcontinent, they were heard and seen by Rishis in deep state of Meditation, or Samadhi, although they did’t give specific practices of Yoga.
In the Scriptures called Upanishads, the Yoga becomes more clear, these scriptures contain the essence of the Vedas, of Vedanta
The Yoga Sutras codified the first definitive, unified and comprehensive system of Yoga.
The word “Sutra” simply describes a style of writing, the style of the scripture, we know the Yoga Sutras, or Kama Sutra. The Sutra Style aims to explain as precise and with the minimum possible words. Later on there has been the movement where the knowledge shall also be given to simple people, not only priests. So the famous “Bhaghvat Gita” has been written, containing 700 verses and is full of explanations, so also the common Man could understand.
In the 6. Century, Lord Budhha’s influence brought up the ideals of meditation, ethics and morality, and the preparatory practice of Yoga has been ignored. Yoga aims to prepare Body and Mind for the Meditation, and so in this point of view, the purification of body and mind has to take place before, by the practice of Asanas, Pranayamas, following Ethic rules and focusing on the Supreme consciousness. On this we can look closer, when we learn about the 8 limbs of Yoga. One of the most outstanding authorities in Hatha Yoga is Swami Swatmarama, he wrote the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” in Sanskrti “Light on Yoga”.
He points out to start with the body, and only later, when the mind has become more stable and balanced, self discipline and self control are introduced.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras:
Patanjali did not invent these practices and the Philosophy in the Sutras, he simply made a list, of the methods that he was practising and his observations. It is a manual which can show you, how to become enlightened. The Yoga Sutras are mainly considered as a Hindu Work, but especially the Buddhism, which was coming out of Hinduism, is very devoted to enlightenment. This can be kept in mind, when we look closer on Patanjalis Sutras.
The Yoga Sutras are a wisdom text, wisdom is not about conveying information but about reminding us, about our essential nature. The Yoga Sutra, is not a philosophy book to be studied with the intellect or ordinary mind, but rather it is an experiential workbook that is revealed by an open heart. Wisdom is by its nature, trans-rational and trans conceptual — broader than any man made conception or constructed thought wave, and Patanjali everywhere confirms that hypothesis. Patanjali repeatedly warns to not approaching meditation via the intellect, but rather to attain the wisdom which lies beyond through giving up conceptional frameworks. (such as conceptional thought, philosophical speculation, the study of semantics, memorisation of rules or fact).
Wisdom as well as intellect comes from an innate source less intelligence of the universal boundless mind. Patanjali tells us that at the end of ordinary linear thought processes is where meditation n begins. The ever present goal of yoga is samadhi and absolute freedom, realising the true natural unconditioned self (swarupa). Success in Yoga is through practice. It is not reached by reading about it, dissecting a book, nor discussing it.
The first sign of success in the experience of meditation is the removal of such limitations by directly realising them as hindrances. Patanjali is pointing to our own practice (sadhana) in one’s own yogic experience as the instructor, not books, religious paraphernalia, ceremony, ritual, puja, priests, books, or gurus.
The Yoga Sutras rather, in order to be taken to heart, have to be read in context of one’s own meditation experience. There exists no other adequate way to evaluate it, because the vary context which it tries to elucidate lies outside of the individual intellect, conceptual reality, duality of any separate self — of any disconnection from anything else itself, from labelling, categorising, or the process of identification itself.
Thus the yoga sutras can be understood more deeply only after one has practiced some meditation, allowing one to reflect upon the sutras from the context of one’s own direct meditative experience. Then one can reflect on the yoga sutras utilising the deeper presence and living wisdom of the unbiased, open heart; and as such then true and lasting benefit will grow.
This of course sounds strange to some one who is intellectually bent, but through meditation one understands this with an absolute certainty. The Yoga Sutras exist for one purpose, to help the meditator (the sadhak) in their spiritual journey of re-connection (yoga).
Understanding and learning The Yoga Sutras in and by itself can be a vain intellectual diversion/distraction, while the real work is in understanding the Authentic Self which resides in All – which shines forth through the fog covering of ignorance (avidya) from the eyes of the accomplished sadhak (siddha).
Sadhana and Yogis:
Yoga is aimed at universal truth, beyond any one religion, culture, era, or nation — certainly beyond all concepts, ideology, religion, or language. This is the Universal Truth that Patanjali (and authentic yoga) intends. Here we make the assumption that the yogis of old were individuals living mostly in forest hermitages, caves, in nature, along rivers, a simple and natural meditative life – the ancient Rishis and Munis of India. Their teachings were strictly oral in nature — that is it was not knowledge gained through book study. They did not go to temples to worship external gods, they did not memorize and recite the ancient texts — they did not go to the caves and hermitages to train in grammar and philosophy, but rather lived a very simple spartan (appearing ascetic to the materialist) way of life.
There was one pre-requisite; i.e., the student (sadhak) had to practice (sadhana). In such
living traditions, it is not the lineage, or the guru (the one who removes the darkness) who is important, but rather that this innate teaching/teacher be recognized and evoked from within, and then outwards. Sadhaks naturally took up such a life as a joyful liberation, rather than as a willful act of self abnegation or sacrifice.
The practices consisted of a simple way of life, embracing ahimsa, satya, aparigraha, tapas, vairagya, isvara pranidhana, (and the rest of the yama/niyamas), which all worked naturally toward fulfilling their practice of asana, pranayama, pratyhara, concentration (dharana), contemplation, and especially meditation.
Here there was one aim only, not to master the techniques nor the practices themselves — not to master the body or the lower self, but rather to gain ultimate unconditional liberation — kaivalyam.
As mentioned before, we have to have a open mind in order to learn about the Yoga Philosophy. You must have learned a lot in your life, you are educated persons, you have attended schools and studys, met professors of their subjects, you studied well and you lived in this world.You came a long way in order to learn something new. The most of us have the idea, to go to a place and learn something. Let’s say biology, we go to a second place and learn about physics, and to a third place to learn mathematics, on different places we attain different courses of studies. We have the idea in mind, that we came here to study another subject, but we have to de-conditioned our minds before we start, because we are not going to study another subject in the ordinary sense.
It requires effort for us to reorient our way of thinking, cause we are born in this world with very strong prejudice. Our way of thinking is mostly “i am from India, I am from america, I am a woman, I am rich, I am a teacher, a student” and so on.
And the whole day we use to adjust ourselves to the outside, to all kinds of political, social or geographical circumstances we eat when we are hungry, put on a coat when its cold, we are tired and lie down, we are angry and show our fist. So what we do basically is adapting ourselves on circumstances and react according to different conditions in our mind. We work very hard, every one of you is working hard. Everyone is doing it in a different way, but in the end, we are all doing the same.
And we are like prisoners, we feel, we cant be free. Each one of you know his or her boundaries, and they keep us bound as long as we don’t have the knowledge about the way, we got into it. We have problems with family relationships, visas and passport, economic conditions and bodily limitations. And you can not be free from that so easily. But who has put us into these conditions and situation of suffering and is keeping us ever restless and unconscious of a future? We are worried about the past, restless about present and anxious about the future It becomes obvious that we are after something what keeps us sober in the mind and gives us peace, under every circumstance.
And this is what we are going to do when we study the Patanjali Sutras, we learn a new way of thinking and get over these preconceived ways of thinking.
So lets be humble and patient with ourselves. There is hope for us so lets be confident and always remember the three following things:
Be clear of what you want
Be sure that you will get What you want, Yes, I am certainly going to get it.
Start with that effort just now. Don’t say tomorrow, Everything is clear to me now and I shall start.
Thank you for Reading. In my next post i will be talking about The Yoga Sutras more so look out for the next post. Thank you once again and make sure to visit me on my YouTube Channel – Yoga with Amit for some Yoga and Meditation Practices.