Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Ananda M. (Dharma Meditation Initiative), Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly Wiki edit

Ahimsa is at the heart of spirituality
The Indian sage Patanjali's writings became the basis for a system referred to as Ashtanga Yoga or "Eight-Limbed Practice." This eight-factor concept, apparently borrowed from the Buddha's revolutionary Noble Eightfold Path, is listed in the twenty-ninth sutra of Book 2 of The Yoga Sutras. These eight factors are:
  1. Abstentions or Yama refers to five things: ahimsa (non-harming other living beings, nonviolence), satya (truthfulness, non-falsehood), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (restraint, chastity, celibacy, fidelity to one's partner), and aparigraha (non-avarice, non-possessiveness).
  2. Observances or Niyama refers to five things: sauca (purity, clearness of mind, speech and body), santosha (contentment, acceptance of others and of one's circumstances), tapas (persistent meditation, perseverance, austerity), svādhyāya (study of self, self-reflection, study of spiritual texts), and ishvara-pranidhana (contemplation of the supreme or of the true self).
  3. Poses or Asana literally means "seat," and in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras it refers to the seated positions used for meditation.
  4. Breathing Exercises or Pranayama: prāna ("invisible life force energy") or breath [Latin spiritus] and āyāma to "stretch, extend, restrain, stop."
  5. Withdrawal or Pratyahara: withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
  6. Contemplation or Dharana: intense contemplation of the nature of the objects of meditation.
  7. Meditation or Dhyana ("absorption"): fixing the attention on a single object.
  8. Concentration or Samadhi: merging consciousness with the object of meditation. More
What about Buddhism?

While these eight do NOT correspond to Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to enlightenment and final liberation, they are compatible and helpful.

The key difference is Right View, which is missing in yoga. It is a necessary motive for taking up the Buddhism's path. There is initial or mundane right view and confirmed right view brought about through insight practices.

The contemplation, concentration, and meditation listed here would in Buddhism all come under the heading Right Concentration, whereas Right Mindfulness (defined as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) is what leads to liberating insight called vipassana.


Rhys Davids and Stede (1921-25), in their entry for jhāna, as well as Kapleau (1989, p. 385), explain that the word zen comes from the Sanskrit dhyāna.

Pali Text Society Secretary Dr. Rupert Gethin, in describing the activities of wandering ascetics like the Buddha, wrote:
"...[T]here is the cultivation of meditative and contemplative techniques aimed at producing what might, for the lack of a suitable technical term in English, be referred to as 'altered states of consciousness'. In the technical vocabulary of Indian religious texts such states come to be termed 'meditations' dhyāna/jhāna) or 'concentrations' (samādhi); the attainment of such states of consciousness was generally regarded as bringing the practitioner to deeper knowledge and experience of the nature of the world" (Gethin, 1998, p. 10).

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