Yoga ["union with the divin"] is India's unique contribution to the world. It is a more intense form of prayer and religious worship. It is a way of reaching out to God [Source] through intense personal effort. Yoga aims to build a bridge between the world in which we live and the world from which we came. It attempts to reverse the process of creation and connect us to our Source.
It gives us an opportunity to transcend our limitations and realize who we are and what our true potentials are. Yoga has been the applied science of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism for the last several centuries. In this video you will come to know about the true meaning of yoga and how it was practiced in the ancient world.
The History of Yoga
Our knowledge of yoga comes to us mostly from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who lived some time in the early Christian era. The Yoga Sutras is the most authoritative ancient scriptures on yoga. However, Patanjali did not invent the system of yoga. It was practiced on the Indian subcontinent much before Patanjali by the followers of Jainism, Shaivism [Hinduism], Buddhism, and many ascetic traditions -- some of which were later integrated into the Vedic religion.
The Indus people were probably familiar with some aspects of yoga. Followers of the Samkhya School used yoga as the means to liberate themselves from the hold of Prakriti. The Samkhya philosophy was probably the oldest of the Indian traditions to use yoga for spiritual liberation.
The Jain yoga is also considered to be one of the most ancient yoga systems practiced on the Indian subcontinent. It focused more on self-denial and restraint to the extent of self-mortification as the means to liberation.
The Buddha was against hurting the body for spiritual aims. He advocated a softer approach or the Middle Path in which the emphasis was more on using right means to achieve right ends. The ancient Buddhist yoga consisted of the practice of dhyana [jhana] or "meditation" and becoming aware of breath and bodily sensations to cultivate mindfulness.
The third part of the video deals with yoga in the Vedic tradition and concepts of yoga mentioned in some of the earliest Upanishads:
- Katha Upanishad
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
- Svetasvatara Upanished
It also describes how Vedic rituals were internalized for the purposes of self-realization.
- Justin Blaha through Prof. Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II (OpenSourceBuddhism.org). This piece offers a basic but fairly thorough introduction to the ancient Jain tradition and compares it with core aspects of Buddhism. Similarities and differences are soon apparent.
Samkhya was one of the six "orthodox" systems (astika or those systems which, unlike Buddhism and Jainism, recognize Vedic authority). The major text of this Vedic school is the extant Samkhya Karika written by Ishvara Krishna, circa 200 ACE. This text (Karika 70) identifies Samkhya as a tantra. And its philosophy was one of the main influences both on the rise of the Tantras as a body of literature as well as tantric practices. There are no purely Samkhya schools existing today in Hinduism, but its influence is still felt in the yoga and Vedanta schools (Hinduwebsite.com; DefenderofHindus).
Venus in Thailand comments on the relationship between Samkhya and the Upanishads versus Buddhist Abhidharma and the Sutras, reacting to a college lecture. They are attempts by human beings to list and explain all the phenomena in the universe, both physical and mental, in a manner that is far more advanced than modern science. She also advocates trying to preserve the original palm leaf Pali texts of South East Asia, especially those from Thailand, on which Buddhism was first inscribed.