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It’s time to fall in love with yoga all over again

Goals of yoga ( FROM EXPERTS)

The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), although the exact form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.

According to Jacobsen, Yoga has five principal traditional meanings:

  1. a disciplined method for attaining a goal;
  2. techniques of controlling the body and the mind;
  3. a name of a school or system of philosophy (darśana);
  4. with prefixes such as “hatha-, mantra-, and laya-, traditions specialising in particular techniques of yoga;
  5. the goal of Yoga practice.[32]

According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the core principles of “yoga” were more or less in place, and variations of these principles developed in various forms over time:[33]

  1. a meditative means of discovering dysfunctional perception and cognition, as well as overcoming it for release from suffering, inner peace and salvation; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Yogasutras, in a number of Buddhist Mahāyāna works, as well as Jain texts;
  2. the raising and expansion of consciousness from oneself to being coextensive with everyone and everything; these are discussed in sources such as in Hinduism Vedic literature and its Epic Mahābhārata, Jainism Praśamaratiprakarana, and Buddhist Nikaya texts;
  3. a path to omniscience and enlightened consciousness enabling one to comprehend the impermanent (illusive, delusive) and permanent (true, transcendent) reality; examples are found in Hinduism Nyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Mādhyamaka texts, but in different ways;
  4. a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments;

these are, states  David Gordon White described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the Buddhist Sāmaññaphalasutta; James Mallinson, however, disagrees and suggests that such fringe practices are far removed from the mainstream Yoga’s goal as meditation-driven means to liberation in Indian religions.

 David Gordon White, clarifies that the last principle relates to legendary goals of “yogi practice”, different from practical goals of “yoga practice,” as they are viewed in South Asian thought and practice since the beginning of the Common Era, in the various Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical schools.

Definition in classic Indian texts

The term yoga has been defined in various ways in the many different Indian philosophical and religious traditions.

Source TextApprox. DateDefinition of Yoga
Katha Upanishadc. 5th century BCE“When the five senses, along with the mind, remain still and the intellect is not active, that is known as the highest state. They consider yoga to be firm restraint of the senses. Then one becomes un-distracted for yoga is the arising and the passing away” (6.10-11)
Bhagavad Gitac. 2nd century BCE“Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50); “Know that which is called yoga to be separation from contact with suffering” (6.23).
Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra (Sravakabhumi), a Mahayana Buddhist Yogacara work4th century CE“Yoga is fourfold: faith, aspiration, perseverance and means” (2.152)
Yoga Sutras of Patanjalic. 4th century CE“Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind” (1.2)
Vaisesika sutrac. 4th century BCE“Pleasure and suffering arise as a result of the drawing together of the sense organs, the mind and objects. When that does not happen because the mind is in the self, there is no pleasure or suffering for one who is embodied. That is yoga” (5.2.15-16)
Yogaśataka a Jain work by Haribhadra Suri6th century CE“With conviction, the lords of Yogins have in our doctrine defined yoga as the concurrence (sambandhah) of the three [correct knowledge (sajjñana), correct doctrine (saddarsana) and correct conduct (saccaritra)] beginning with correct knowledge, since [thereby arises] conjunction with liberation….In common usage this [term] yoga also [denotes the soul’s] contact with the causes of these [three], due to the common usage of the cause for the effect. (2, 4).
Kaundinya’s Pancarthabhasya on the Pasupatasutra4th century CE“In this system, yoga is the union of the self and the Lord” (I.I.43)
Linga Purana7th-10th century CE“By the word ‘yoga’ is meant nirvana, the condition of Shiva.” (I.8.5a)
Brahmasutra-bhasya of Adi Shankarac. 3rd century BCE“It is said in the treatises on yoga: ‘Yoga is the means of perceiving reality’ (atha tattvadarsanabhyupāyo yogah)” (2.1.3)
Mālinīvijayottara Tantra, one of the primary authorities in non-dual Kashmir Shaivism6th-10th century CE“Yoga is said to be the oneness of one entity with another.” (MVUT 4.4–8)
Mrgendratantravrtti, of the Shaiva Siddhanta scholar Narayanakantha6th-10th century CE“To have self-mastery is to be a Yogin. The term Yogin means “one who is necessarily “conjoined with” the manifestation of his nature…the Siva-state (sivatvam)” (MrTaVr yp 2a)
Yogabija, a Hatha yoga work14th century CE“The union of apana and prana, one’s own rajas and semen, the sun and moon, the individual soul and the supreme soul, and in the same way the union of all dualities, is called yoga. ” (89)
Śaradatilaka of Lakshmanadesikendra, a Shakta Tantra work11th century CE“Yogic experts state that yoga is the oneness of the individual soul (jiva) with the atman. Others understand it to be the ascertainment of Siva and the soul as non-different. The scholars of the Agamas say that it is a Knowledge which is of the nature of Siva’s Power. Other scholars say it is the knowledge of the primordial soul.” (SaTil 25.1–3b)

Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid-19th century along with other topics of Indian philosophy. In the context of this budding interest, N. C. Paul published his Treatise on Yoga Philosophy in 1851.

The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga, not including asanas, to a western audience, Swami Vivekananda, toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. The reception which Swami Vivekananda received built on the active interest of intellectuals, in particular the New England Transcendentalists, among them ” Ralph Waldo Emerson ” (1803–1882), who drew on German Romanticism and philosophers and scholars like “ G. W. F. Hegel “ (1770–1831), the brothers August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845) and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829), Max Mueller (1823–1900)Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860), and others who had (to varying degrees) interests in things Indian.

Theosophists including Madame Blavatsky also had a large influence on the Western public’s view of Yoga. Esoteric views current at the end of the 19th century provided a further basis for the reception of Vedanta and of Yoga with its theory and practice of correspondence between the spiritual and the physical. The reception of Yoga and of Vedanta thus entwined with each other and with the (mostly Neoplatonism-based) currents of religious and philosophical reform and transformation throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Mircea Eliade brought a new element into the reception of Yoga with a strong emphasis on Tantric Yoga in his seminal book: 

Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. With the introduction of the Tantra traditions and philosophy of Yoga, the conception of the “transcendent” to be attained by Yogic practice shifted from experiencing the “transcendent” (“Atman-Brahman” in Advaitic theory) in the mind to the body itself.

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