By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
The foundation of Yogic philosophy is based on a number of ancient Indian Vedic scriptures, dating all the way back to 2500 BC, and possibly earlier. One of the early scriptures is the Rig Veda, a spiritual text, which was handed down over hundreds of years, orally, from generation to generation, until these scriptural teachings were written down in the early Vedic Period.
The Upanishads are a continuation of Vedic knowledge and are one of the primary sources of Yogic philosophy and instructions. These sacred scriptures date back from 1000 to 400 BC. The Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (God’s Song) contained within, are also seminal Hindu scriptures that teach Yoga students how to incorporate the practice, wisdom, and philosophy into everyday life. These scriptures date back to approximately 200 BC.
Maharishi Patanjali was a very wise Indian sage, who compiled many of the prominent points from Holy Scriptures, and formulated them into aphorisms, or tersely-phrased summaries of information (sutras). Maharishi Patanjali laid out a very comprehensive, orderly, and systematic way to achieving health, wellbeing, and oneness with God, through Yoga’s practices and the incorporation of philosophy into one’s daily life. The Sanskrit word “Yoga” means to yoke, or enter into union, and become absorbed into the divine essence of all creation. A Yogi or Yogini is a deeply committed student of Yogic philosophy and practices.
There are nine major branches of Yoga with slightly different approaches toward philosophy and practice. Some of these different branches emphasize entirely different aspects of philosophy, such as the practice of Bhakti, the Yoga of devotion to the divine, and Karma Yoga, the practice of attaining oneness with God through service to others.
The branch of philosophy, under which Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras fall, is known as Raja Yoga, or the Royal Path. His system incorporates many of the elements of the other major philosophical branches. Ultimately, Patanjali’s philosophy is a system to control, or temper, the thought-waves of the mind.
In order to control the vrittis, or thought-waves of the mind, so that the Yogic aspirant may enter into the essence of his or her own heart, Patanjali systematically enumerated eight limbs, or branches, of the Raja style in his Yoga Sutras. These branches include the practice of asanas, meditation, pranayama, behavioral restraints, dharmic guidelines for ethical living, pratyahara, dharana, and ultimately, resting in a state of pure bliss, or oneness with God, in Samadhi.
If a dedicated Yoga student follows Patanjali’s prescription toward samadhi, his or her life will be filled with divine love, wellbeing, and robust holistic health. Reaching a state of Samadhi, or complete absorption with God, may not be possible for many of us; but following Patanjali’s system of philosophy is sure to support a student in becoming lighter, happier, more peaceful, and healthier, in the meantime.
Regardless of our religious differences, those who participate in regular Yoga training sessions will improve on a physical, mental, and emotional level. Long time practitioners can experience extraordinary states of awareness, intuition, and spiritual beauty. How can we separate those who know and those who pretend to know?
To put it simply: The proof is within one’s actions. If one is intolerant, without compassion, selfish, hateful or deceitful, then he or she has not reached any level of Samadhi. Choose your Yoga teachers carefully and do not expect perfection from humans. As we are humans, we are prone to making mistakes now and then.
© Copyright 2011 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
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