Contributed by Shri Y.K.Wadhwa JI


 Yoga has always been an integral part of Hindu tradition right from the Vedic times. However, attempts are being made by some quarters in the western world to ignore its Indian roots and link yoga with western gymnastic techniques. For some people emergence of Yoga had very little to do with spirituality and exercise part of the Yoga is the real Yoga while ignoring the true objective of Yoga. This distorted presentation of Yoga has been particularly noticed in the recent past when yogic practices were imported by the West.

Sri Aurobindo in his book “The Yoga and its Objects” clearly says “To restore harmony which has got out of tune, a change is required. This Change is not possible except by Yoga.” He further says”This can only be effected by Purnayoga, a yoga not devoted to a particular purpose, even though that purpose be Mukti or Ananda, but to the fulfilment of the divine humanity in ourselves and others. For this purpose the practices of Hatha and Raja Yoga are not sufficient and even Trimarga will not serve; we must go higher and resort to the Adhyatmayoga.”Source: The Yoga and its Objects by Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry.

Vedic Yoga and Adhyatmayoga as Two Sides of the Same Coin

To speak of Yoga in the Vedas as an integral part of Vedic(Hindu) Tradition is particularly not palatable to those who look at it through the prism of West with coloured thinking and have a closed mindset. Father Heras when he found evidence of Yoga on Indus Seals, he concluded that Yoga was a gift of dravidians and Vedic people had no knowledge of Yoga. Eminent Vedic Scholar, Dr.Fatah Singh has strongly refuted this and says that this is totally an erroneous idea and views of Father Heras cannot be taken as the last word in this regard. In a paper on Vedic basis of Indus Culture Dr.Singh states “This is, however, absolutely wrong, first because the Vedas know a great variety of Yoga. To substantiate my view point, I would like to quote the following verses from the Atharvaveda:

Indrasyoj stha indrasya sah stha indrasya balam stha indrasya viryam stha
indrasya nrimnam stha…… jishnavey yogaya brahmyogervo yunjim…. .
…jishnavey yogaya shatrayogervo yunjim….
…jishnavey yogaya inderyogogervo yunjim….
…jishnavey yogaya somyogervo yunjim…
…jishnavey yogaya apsuyogervo yunjim….jishnaveyyogaya
…vishvani ma bhutaniup tishthantu yukta ma aap stha (Atharvaveda 10.5.1-6)”

Dr.Fatah Singh opines that Jishnu Yoga of Vedas signifies spiritual victory and further says: “Without attempting a detailed commentary, it may be pointed out that five-fold jisnu yoga means the jina-yoga or the yoga of Tirthankara of Jainism. The practices in five other yogas mentioned here as contributing to Jisnu Yoga may be taken to correspond to the five parmesthis of Jain tradition. Besides these yogas, Veda also knows Hari-Yoga(Rigveda 1.56.1), Chandhas Yoga (RV 10.114.9) and gha-yoga. In addition to these yogas, the Vedas are full of indirect references to practice of Yoga and meditation. In fact the concept of Veda itself is inseparably connected with Yoga. In this connection, it will be sufficient to quote here the following two mantras:-

Yasmat Koshadudbhram vedam, tasminntarvadadhmainam
kritmishtam brahmano viryan, teyn ma devastapsavathey(Atharvaveda 19.72.1)

Avayashcha viychasashcha bilam vishyaami mayaya
tabhyamudddhritya vedmath karmani krinmahey (Atharvaveda 19.68.1)

In the first mantra, there is a reference to descent and ascent of consciousness to dig out the Veda from the inmost sheath of human consciousness and to restore it to the same. This is actually the yoga process by which one can gain what the mantra calls the Brahma-virya to do the desired deed. In the second mantra, the poet talks of uniting the unmanifested and the manifested levels of human personality by filling the gap between the two. Then, he says how by digging out the Veda with the help of both the levels, the actions have to be performed.”

Maharishi Manu and Maharishi Dayananda on practice of Yoga (including Pranayam)

Swami Dayananda Saraswati in Rigvedaadi- Bhashya- Bhumika has given a list of of Asanas like Padmasana, Virasana, bhadrasana, etc. for the purpose of pranayam, dhyan, dharana and samadhi. However, he says “When posture has been fully brought under control, one is able to regulate the breath.” He also recommends this regular practice of Pranayam (on the authority of Manusmriti) for every student in the 3rd Chapter on Education in his book Satyartha Prakasha:

Dehayentey dhamayamanananam dhatunam ch yatha malha
tetheyindriyanam dehayentey; dosha pranasya nigrahat (Manusmriti 6.71)

Here Maharishi Manu enumerates the benefits of Pranayam and says that Pranayam helps in burning away all the impurities of the body and mind like a furnace fire burns up all the impurities of the raw gold and other ores.

Maharishi Manu opines that for a Samnyasi Yoga is most significant. He says “By means of Yoga, this life of inner self-direction, the samnyasi will be able to yoke his smaller to the larger Self and enter into the world of the One, with whom he owns complete kinship. He should be compassionate, truthful, forgiving maintain strict continence, abstrain from greed, be clean, contented, self-controlled, studious(Manusmriti VI.91-93). He should sit in an easy posture, withdraw from all sense stimuli(Manusmriti VI.49). He should practise pranayama, the prolongation of his breath in the three fold manner prescribed by the teachers of the subject and thereby energise his apparatus of vitality, pranamaya kosha. The meditation should be accompanied by the intonation of the Sacred Word, Aum, which is his calling himself back to the reality of his inner Being, one with the Eternal, the Divine.” Source: Manu Dharma Sastra by Kewal Motwani, Pub by Ganesh & Co.(Madras) Pvt.Ltd., 1958Ed.

According to Gherandsahmita the larger objective of Pranayam is to obtain infinite bliss and realization of manonmni shakti through ascent of consciousness

Pranayamch chaktibodha, pranaayamanh manonmani, aanando jayetey chitey, pranayami sukhi bhavet (Gherandsahmita 5.57)

Pranayam is an essential part of daily prayer (Vedic Sandhya) to be performed twice a day during the Sandhya.

Excerpts from the book ‘Yog in Synergy with Medical Science’ by Acharya Balkrishna, published by Divya Prakashan, Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar, Aug.2007 Ed.Forward by Swami Ramdevji.
Chapter 1: Historical Background of Yog:

“Undoubtedly the blessing of Yog is supreme among the gifts of Vedic sages. It is a knowledge, which is free of disputes and controversies, it is an art which is multidimensional, and it is a science, which assures abundant happiness even when there is a paucity of resources. Yagavalkya has made a humble appeal in ‘Yagyavalkya Smriti’ and said, Ayam tu paramodharmo yadyogenaatmaadarsanam. It means self realization with the help of Yog is the supreme duty. It gives us insight into how Vedic society was so much taken up to Yog.” “We cannot deny the fact that before sage Patanjali, this glorious tradition of Yog was not organised in a scientific and systematic manner in great detail.”

“Many Vedic Samhitas discuss directly or refer to various aspects of Yog. Although in these places the discussions on mind control, prana (vital energy), and sadhana (regular practice) are not detailed and systematic, they do catch our attention. Rigveda mantras (1.18.7,1.34/9, 10.13.1) mention yog. Some mantras included in Yajurveda describe the concentration of mind and the results obtained thereby. Mantras 1-5 contained in chapter 11th of Yajurveda talk about Yog in detail and probably no other Samhita could present it so wonderfully”

Yunjate mana utayungate dhiyo vipraa viprasya vasato vipaschitah

“In his Rigvedadi-bhashya-bhumika Swami Dayanand interprets the word ‘Yujjanah’ in the above mantra as “Yogam kurvanah san (manushyah)” which means “(human beings) performing Yog”. All the five mantras of Yajurveda mentioned above are discussed in greater detail in Shwetashwatar Upanishad and appear there exactly as in the Vedas. In Vedic texts, we find extensive reference to Yog’s highest aspect of Pran Vidya or the science of Vital life energy. In Yajurved, we find reference of five pranas – ‘PranaApan-excretary system; Saman-digestive system; Vyan-circulatory system; Udan-reactions and finally ejection of Pran. Although Pran as vital energy includes all these five that have been given different names related to the position, function, and purpose in the body. In Yajurveda we find refrences to these at different places individually or collectively. However, Yajurveda describes mainly the first four mentioning ‘Saman’ only briefly. In Atharvaveda, vital life energy and upward movement and circulation and expiration have been discussed to a great extent in Chapter 11. Here the different basis and actions of Pran from isolation to collectiveness have been discussed in detail. Pranapano chakshu Shrotramkshitischa khshitishcha ya, Vyanodanoo Vangamanaste va Akutimavahan.(Atharvaveda 11.8.4). Pranapanou chakshu Shrotramkshitishcha khshitishcha ya, Vyanodanoo Vangamanaste sharirena ta iyante. (Atharvaveda 11.8.26) Pranya Namo yasya Sarvidam Vashe, Yo Bhoota sarvasyeshvaro yasmintsarvam pratishtitam.(Atharvaveda 11.4.1) “We all bow down to Prana, which controls everything. It is the God to all living beings and contain the entire universe.” One of the verses of Yajurveda addresses Pran as Rishi or Sage – Saptarishaya Pratihita shashire sapta rakshanti sadampramadam.Yajurveda 34.55
(Almost all the authors have explained the word saptarishaya as seven Prans or vital life energies)”

“Ahirbudhnya Samhita mentions Hairanyagarbha as the originator of Yog. It classifies Yog into two types-external and internal or physical and disciplinary which includes the Yama-Niyam. In Yagyavalkya Smriti(125) and Mahabharat (12.349.65) also Hiranyagarbha is stated as the originator. “Hiranyagarbha yogasya vakta nanyah puratanah,”Hiranyagarbha was first to speak of Yog. In another context, in Mahabharata(12.342.96), Hiranyagarbha has been described as omnipresent and powerful. The 121st verse of 10th chapter of Rigveda is known as Hiranyagarbha verse. The Hirangarbha as mentioned in Mahabharata is none other than the Brahm of Hiranyagarbha sukta. Ramayana declares Him as the soul of the entire universe (Adhbut Ramayana 5.6).”

“The Indian philosophical texts have given a lot of emphasis to Yogsadhna. Yog is described with prominence in various texts and treatises of Indian streams of Darshan (philosophy). In terms of subject commonalities, Yog Darshan is an associate of Sankhya Darshan.The latter is considered to be more ancient than Yog Darshan. However, the two are considered to be complimentary to each other despite having many commonalities. Gita proclaims that any person who considers these two Darshans separate from each other must be having intellect that of a child. In Sankhya Darshan,Asana, belief system, Dhyan and other aspects of Yog have been codified as separate sutras and often these are identical word-by-word with sutras as stated in Yog Darshan. ”

“The main objective of Yog is the restraint of mental modifications. In fact, this is the stage of Samadhi of self-realization which is also the main objective of Upanishads. The advice given to Maitreyi in Yagavalkya-Maitreyi conversation represents the culmination of the desire for self-realization. Upanishads clearly mention about Asanas or postures, Pranayam or breath control, belief system, Dhyan and Samadhi of Yog. ”

“Various episodes of Mahabharata especially in Shanti Parva, Asvamedh Parva and Anushasan Parva contain various important references to Yog. Gita gives some radical definitions and statements pertaining to Yog. The way Gita has used the word Yog in various contexts, gives a ground breaking broad base to Yog.” (Source: Yog in Synergy with Medical Science published by Divya Prakashan, Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar, Ed.2007).

As far as Asanas are concerned, their names are of Sanskrit origin and their benefits too have been specified. Many of them have been named on the analogy of animal shapes like Mandook Asana(frog), Makar Asana(monkey shape), Bhujang Asana(snake), etc. It would be ridiculous to trace the source of Surya Namaskar, Sarvang and other Asanas to Western Gymnastics. There is no question of borrowing them from European Gymnastic techniques. It could have been the other way round since the so called penitents and street nuts have been performing such acrobatics (akin to some gymnastic techniques) in India for ages.

Yog and Vedic traditions are inseparable. One is incomplete without the other as is clearly established by Dr.Swami Divyananda in his book (also his Ph.D.thesis) “Yog Vidya in the Vedas” and can be had from: Patanjal Yog Dham,Arya Nagar, Kankhal, Haridwar.


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Posted on February 17, 2012, in Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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