The Philosophy of Yoga- Where did yoga come from?
I enjoy the benefits of yoga. It helps with stress, body connection, and spiritual connection. Yoga is practiced all around the world. Nations from all over the world declared June 21 as International Yoga Day.
There is an estimated amount of 55 million Americans who practice yoga and 200 million worldwide. An estimated amount of $16 billion is spent on yoga classes, clothing, and equipment in America and $80 billion worldwide. New variations of yoga have been created such as; goat yoga, beer yoga, naked yoga, laughing yoga, and hot yoga. The discipline of yoga comes from the Hindu religion and culture. I, like many people, never took the time to understand where yoga came from. I just know that it is helpful for the mind, body, and soul. Yoga seems to be the only discipline that people use nationally without connecting it to the roots. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of yoga and where it came from. Yoga comes from Hinduism, which is the oldest religion that is still practiced today. It is very diverse with many denominations and without one single organization in charge. There are four basic beliefs in Hinduism; reincarnation, karma, all-pervasive divinity, and dharma. There are three worlds; physical, subtle, and casual. The Hindu religion believes in the concepts of reincarnation, one supreme God, and other deities or angelic helpers. Worship can be done at home, in a temple, or in religious festivities and ceremonies. Knowledge is the key to understanding the world, people, and God. The philosophy of yoga, I believe, is to gain a deeper understanding of oneself.
Hinduism gave birth to Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Read further about Buddhism.
The culture can be traced back to 8,000 years ago, through ancient artifacts that have been found. It is the oldest living religion of today and the third largest religion. The Hindu society of today emerged from the Indus Saraswati culture, Vedic culture, Dravidian culture and tribal religion. Hinduism is also known as Sanatana Dharma which means eternal faith. It holds the largest body of sacred texts ever in the whole world. The philosophical teachings and medical technology of the Hindu society helped lead the world. This culture created zero and decimals in mathematical equations. The ancient civilizations performed complex medical surgeries. There are artifacts of statues of the gods of today, pottery, children’s toys and dice. Hinduism is an ancient religion with philosophical teachings that are still relevant today, such as, the philosophy of yoga.
The Hindu society began with the Saraswati Indus civilization. Their region reached from Sri Lanka to the Himalayan mountains. It was named after the Saraswati river and Indus River. The Saraswati Indus civilization became the largest and most advanced ancient civilization surpassing Egypt, Mesopotamia and China. The Saraswati culture declined when the rivers dried up about 2000 BCE. They then immigrated to eastern and central India. It’s known as the Vedic culture or Harrapan culture. The Vedic people are also known as Aryans.
The Hindu religion holds the largest body of sacred texts known as the Vedas and Agamas. Vedas are the general teachings such as the upanishads. The upanishads are the philosophical teachings. The Agamas are the specific teachings such as worship rituals, yogas, mantras and temples. Sages and saints have written detailed explanations of the upanishads and related scriptures like; Adi Shankara, Ramanuja, and Vallabhacharya to name a few. The Vedas have four sections; the Rig Veda (hymns of praise), the Sama Veda (hymns about religious rituals) , the Yajur Veda (instructions for religious rituals) and the Atharva Veda (philosophical teachings). The Rig Veda book is the oldest scripture.
There are a couple widely known Hindu stories. The Ramayana is the story of Lord Rama, the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and his wife Sita. The Mahabharata is the world’s longest epic about a massive war in ancient India, when cousins fought for the throne. The central episode is called Bhagavad Gita, regarding commander Arjuna and Lord Krishna, the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu on the day of battle.
Society created a caste system to give everyone a place of where they belong. The caste system is called Varna. It consists of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. This would be the priests, warriors, merchants, and workers/farmers. People from all caste systems have become spiritual leaders. Women were to take care of the household while men were expected to go out and work and provide for the families.
Diversity of Hinduism
Hinduism has many faiths. The four main denominations are Saivism, Shakism, Vaishnavism, and Smartism. There is no single organization, no single dogma, or single leader in charge. Hinduism is very diverse with freedom to choose what path you want to take. To follow Hinduism, you can choose a preceptor and follow his teachings and disciplines. Hinduism is the only religion that worships both male and female gods, with and without attributes.
The Vedic scripture says,
“Truth is one, paths are many”
“ He she is all knowing all living present in all things”
“God is in everyone as Atman, the divine soul”
4 basic principles
There are four basic principles in Hinduism:
- All pervasive divinity
Karma means deed or act. It is a concept of cause and effect and action and reaction. Man has freedom to make his own choices in life. His choices create his destiny for this life and the next. If you believe in karma, you will be aware of everything you do because you know there will be a reaction to your every action. You may endure the consequences this lifetime or in your next life.
The Vedic scripture says,
“According as one acts so does he become”
The process of death, birth, and rebirth is called Punarjanma. The immortal soul will take on many bodies. After death, the soul can exist in others worlds either enjoying or suffering until he is reborn. The soul will no longer take on new bodies when his karma has been resolved, dharma has been performed, and he has reached realization with God.
- The soul is knowledge, will, and love. It is not male or female. It is one in the same with God. The joining of God and our soul is called yoga. People search for answers in this world and search for true happiness, but it is all God, within us.
- God purposely puts a veil of ignorance on humans, limiting awareness which allows growth and evolvement.
- The ultimate goal is to reach Moksha, or liberation from rebirth.
The Vedic scripture says,
“Without the world the soul cannot evolve”
“We must love the world that is God’s creation”
All pervasive divinity
God is pure love existing everywhere and in everything. God alone exists.
The Vedic scripture says,
“ God is the creator and the creation.”
“ Within us all as the essence of everything”
“He is farther away than any star and closer than our breath”
The philosophy of yoga is to realize the divinity within you and within everything as the creator and creation.
Dharma means “that which upholds”
The concepts of dharma are; righteousness, truth, sacred laws, ethics, duty, justice, religion, and laws of nature. Dharma is non-injury towards all beings. Anza is the way to achieve harmony with the environment, all people, and ourselves. It is thought that service is important in humbling oneself to become closer with God, so service there is very important.
Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti
“Truth is one, the wise describe it in many ways”
Mahatma Gandhi achieved independence from the British by using non injury, non violence concepts of Dharma. Great leaders like Martin Luther king, Caesar Chavez and Nelson Mandela learned from Mahatma Gandhi’s tactics for world change.
There are three worlds. The physical, subtle, and casual plane. The physical world is known through the five senses and is ever changing. The subtle world is emotions, thoughts, and feelings. During sleep and after death, it is the astral body who exists in the physical plane. The casual plane is your core being and consciousness. The gods and highly evolved souls live in the casual plane. This world can be reached through yoga.
The Vedic scripture says,
“Everything is within him.
He is within everything.”
Contemplate the philosophy of yoga,
“how can you hurt someone or something when they are the creation of God and God is in them without a concept of separation, but as one?”
The cycle of rebirth
The cycle consists of creation, preservation, and dissolution. The cycle takes about 309 trillion years. Mahapralaya is the state of absorption of all existence. It is described as the water of a river returning to the sea.
One supreme God
Hinduism is the belief in one supreme God. The nature of God is the same but can take on different names such as; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer. God can also be the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Saivites recognize Shiva as the supreme god. The Shakti recognize Devi as the supreme goddess. The Smarta are free to choose. The Vaishnavite believe Vishnu is the supreme god or one of his early incarcerations, (also called avatars) like Krishna and Rama, is the supreme god.
Other deities or angelic helpers have responsibilities and powers to help and bless people. To name a few; Lord Ganesh is a remover of obstacles (with the elephant head), Sarasvati is the goddess of knowledge, and Hanuman is the god of service.
Swamis are spiritual leaders. They renounce the world and take up a spiritual life full time. They may also be known as a monk.
Priests are known as Pujaris and are normally trained from early childhood. They are known as God’s servants and are married men. There are also gurus and yogis who are spiritual leaders and teachers.
Worship can be done at home or in a temple. The worship area at home can be a shelf, called a holy shrine, or it could be a whole room. The temple is a refuge from the world. This is where the three worlds become one. The temple connects people with the celestial world. A worship ceremony performed daily is Puja. Puja is done to connect with the divine beings through bathing the image of deities, chanting, offering food, flowers, incense , and with waving lights. The discipline of yoga is practiced daily, called Sadhana. This is done by sitting on the floor chanting and singing hymns, or repeating the name of God while counting beads, or to meditate in stillness. A pilgrimage to a sacred temple is expected by all Hindus yearly. There are many sacred festivals and ceremonies performed by men and women as a way of worship, connecting with God, and asking for blessings.
People all around the world practice yoga. Nationwide, the philosophy of Hinduism is used to gain spiritual knowledge and awareness. This knowledge goes back 8,000 years from the largest and most advanced ancient civilization. Hinduism gave birth to Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It is the third largest religion today and the oldest religion of today. The knowledge and philosophy of Hindus is still relevant today, thousands of years later. It’s pretty incredible when you really think about it. Imagine if this religion was completely lost through forced conversion, what we would be missing today. All the Spiritual knowledge and awareness that we have gained from Hinduism could have been lost. But this science religion has overcame every obstacle and stayed strong as it is known, the eternal faith. This is why history is so important for self growth, self awareness and evolvement as the human race. A person does not need to convert to Hinduism to practice and appreciate yoga. But a deeper knowledge of the philosophy of yoga can heighten spiritual awareness and help you in your practice.
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Introduction to Hinduism
The history of Hindu India
How to become Hindu