Article of the Month - Feb 2023

This article by Prakriti Anand

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Table of Content

  •  Introduction

  • Patanjali’s Yogasutra : Walking The Path Of Yoga

  • Ashtanga Or Eight Limbs Of Yoga In Yogasutra

  • Yogeshwara Shiva

  • Shivananda- The Ultimate Bliss Of Yoga

  • Shiva Samhita- Learning Yoga From Adiyogi

  • Yoga In Hinduism

  • Adi Shakti In Yoga

  • Lord Krishna As Yogeshvara

  • Vishnu As Lord Dhanavantari And Ayurveda

  • Conclusion

According to a Hindu legend, Adi Shesha, the serpent on whose coils Lord Vishnu rested, learned from Sri Vishnu about the grandeur and powers of Shiva and wished to gain Shiva’s benevolence and his knowledge. With the blessings of Vishnu, Adi Shesha descended on the earth, still in his serpent form, and fell in the Anjali (hands held together like a cup) of a Yogini (female ascetic) named Gonika. Shesha called the Tapasvini his mother and transformed his upper half into a human body while retaining his serpent tail. In this earthly form, Adi Shesha came to be known as Patanjali- “he who fell or Pata in Anjali”. Patanjali went on to perform penance and gain Yogeshwara (Lord of Yoga) Shiva’s kindness, as a result of which he formulated the “Yogasutra”- the cornerstone of the theory and practice of Yoga.

In modern thought, Yoga is seen as an Indian way of life based around postures (Aasanas) and breathing exercises (Pranayama) which help one in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This image, however, is in no way a true and complete definition of the place of Yoga in Hinduism. 

Yoga Darshana in the traditional Hindu system is a part of the “Shada-Darshana” or Six Ways of Seeing (Darshana or Philosophy). The term “Yoga” has Vedic geneses and originated from the root “yuj” which means to unite or join (with the Param Brahman). Through “Viyoga” or separation from worldly pleasures and pains can a person unite with the primordial being.

                                                                                                  5" Bronze Maharshi Patanjali - Avatara of Sheshnag

Patanjali’s Yogasutra : Walking The Path Of Yoga

Patanjali’s philosophy of Yoga is rooted in the Samkhya or Sankhya Darshana which treats gyana or knowledge as the path to Moksha. In Sankhya, Purusha (soul) and Prakriti (nature) are the two realities. There is no third or Ishvara in Sankhya. Maharishi Patanjali developed this knowledge-centric theory of Sankhya further by including Ishvara or God as the supreme reality, above Purusha and Prakriti, which is why Yoga is also called “Sankhya with Ishvara”. While Sankhya places logical inquiry above all, Yoga can be practiced with Sadhana or spiritual endeavors aimed at a pre-decided goal- Parama-Brahmana. 

The Yoga Sutra is a collection of 195 sutras or formulas. A sutra in Hinduism is an essential principle that condenses a vast amount of knowledge in short written formulations. The Yoga Sutra is divided into four Pada or chapters which are-

1. Samadhi Pada

2. Sadhana Pada

3. Vibhuti Pada

4. Kaivalya Pada

The core of Yoga Sutra is the description of Purusha- the souls which are Chidarupa or form of consciousness, Prakriti which manifests as Purusha’s nature- intellect, mind, ego, and Ishvara. Ishvara or the Supreme Being also known as “Purushaishvara” is omniscient, free, and unharmed by the elements of Prakriti. The Jeeva or soul remains in the human world unaware of its true nature which leads to sufferings in life and death. For the lost souls, the path of Yoga-Sadhana is key to Kaivalya, or liberation from the sorrows of human existence. Through “Chiitavritthi Nirodha” or control over the changes of mind, the soul begins walking the path of yoga. 

Chitta or human mind according to Yoga is a dwelling place of ignorance and ego that arise from the ill-informed actions of an individual. The Chitta remains kshipta (impulsive), mudha (sluggish), and vikshipta (preoccupied) in the first three states of its existence. With the knowledge of Yoga and its practice, these states shift to ekagra (focused) and Niruddha (self-conscious). In the last state, the soul rises toward Moksha or liberation.

                                                                                                 Saint Patanjali

Ashtanga Or Eight Limbs Of Yoga In Yogasutra

Yama (control), Niyama (rules), Aasana (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercise), Pratyahara (state of withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (total absorption) are the eight components in the practice of Yoga. 

1. Yama is practiced by speaking the truth, observing non-injury to living beings, continence, and not stealing others’ wealth.

2. Niyama includes self-cleanliness, contentment with one’s conditions, and austerity in action, reading the Holy Scriptures of Hinduism, chanting mantras, and devotion to the divine.

3. Aasana is essentially the posture in which one can remain relaxed.

4. Pranayama is a breathing exercise performed to have control over the vital airs of the human body.

5. Pratyahara is the conscious action of removing one’s sense organs from the sense objects around us.

6. Dharana is the act of putting our minds to the object of focus.

7. Dhyana is the deepening of Dharana, to a point that the object remains constantly in the Chitta.

8. When Dhyana becomes a state of existence, and the human being grows unaware of everything including one’s Self, and only has Ishvara in his mind, this state is Samadhi. One who reaches this state becomes “Mukta” or free. 

These eight steps are to be followed by a person who seeks to gain supreme knowledge through Yoga Darshana. The freeing of the soul from the ocean of existence or Bhava-Sagara is the sole aim of Yoga. 

The object of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi in Yoga is Ishvara, the ultimate divine reality. This definition of Yoga is reiterated in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, where Sri Krishna as Yogeshvara imparts the knowledge of various kinds of Yoga to Arjuna. Karma Yoga (attaining divine through action), Gyana Yoga (thorough knowledge), and Bhakti Yoga (through devotion) are the variations, all of which lead to the ultimate truth, Bhakti being the supreme form of Yoga. Single-minded devotion to God in action and thought is the path to Parama-Brahmana- an infinite divine being, one who is Adi (the first) and Ananta (endless). And who better to embody the powers of Parama-Brahmana than Bhagwan Shiva, the Lord of Patanjali, Yoga, and the Universe?

Yogeshwara Shiva

Rudra of Veda, Purusha, and Purushishvara of Yogasutra, Parama-Brahmana of Vedanta and Upanishad, Maheshwara of Puranas, and Nataraja of Bhakti poetry- Lord Shiva in Hinduism is a matchless god, with a perplexing persona for an outsider. He is Mahakala- the divine destroyer on the eve of Pralaya (annihilation), but he is also Shiva, the auspicious one for his devotees. In the Shaiva Upanishads, he is described as Pashupati- the Lord of Pashu or soul, who regulates them. A shloka from Upanishads describes the distinction between Pashu and Pashupati as-

“ Paashabadhastataha Jivah Pashamukta Sadashivah”- “One who is in Paasha or bondage is Jeeva or soul, and who is Mukta is Sadashiva.” 

From the earliest periods of Indian history, Shiva is associated with Yoga as its supreme teacher and Lord of Yogic wisdom. In the seals of Harappa, the Yogi or ascetic surrounded by animals is thus identified as Pashupati Shiva by many scholars. Dakshinamurti, one of the most powerful forms of Shiva is his aspect as the great yogi, whose divine gyana of Yoga, music, dance, and philosophy is absorbed by the sages who surround him in this form. He is endearingly called Adi-yogi or the first practitioner of Yoga and Maheshvara or the great Ishvara. His most potent aniconic symbol is “Om”, the Brahma-Nada or cosmic sound vibration from which the entire universe originated. Om in Yogic practices is the simplest and most effective chant used by Yogis, repeating, meditating, and focusing on which brings the Chitta closer to the essence of Ishvara. We are already aware of the boons of Shiva which allowed Patanjali to pen down Yogasutras. The instances of Shiva’s mighty presence in Yoga, and consequently of Yoga’s inseparability from Hinduism are unending.

                                                                                   22" The Unwavering Contemplation Of Lord Adinath In Brass | Handmade

Shivananda- The Ultimate Bliss Of Yoga

Patanjali charts out several Yogasiddhis or special powers attained by a person who follows the path of Yoga. None of these are however comparable to “Shivananda” or the supreme bliss, which comes from an unwavering union with Maheshvara. The Kundalini Shakti (visualized in the form of a serpent at the base of the human upper body) lies in a dormant state in the body. Once a person starts practicing the eight steps prescribed in Yoga, they experience Kundalini Shakti moving in an upward direction, crossing Eight-Chakras or stations in the body. These stations are linked to various human characteristics such as hunger, passion, sensations, thoughts, etc., which are controlled by a Yogi through the Sadhanas. The last station in the journey of Kundalini is the Sahasrara or the crown chakra. To reach this stage, among other things, a Yogi is advised to chant “Om”, the symbol of Adi Yogi Shiva. 

Devotion or Bhakti Yoga is also integral to the practice of Yoga and experiencing Shivananda. Shaiva Siddhanta and texts describe “Panchachara” as the five ways to reach Shiva-tattva (the essence of Shiva). These ares-

1. Lingachara, or the worship of Shiva Linga

2. Sadachara or devotion to Shiva

3. Shivachara or the different modes of ritual worship offered to Shiva

4. Ganachara or the devotion of Shiva-ganas and its methods

5. Bhrityachara or serving the Shiva Linga

As a part of Bhrityachara, the Yogi is recommended to offer their body to their Guru or teacher, Chitta or mind to Shiva, wealth to Maheshvara, and in return put forth the sole wish of Kaivalya. The Shiva Linga becomes vital in Bhrityachara or the Yogic worship of Shiva, in which the Yogi must mediate upon the Linga by seeing it as a union of Bindu (Goddess) and Nada (Shiva). This fusion of Shiva and Shakti, Kundalini and Param Brahmana, Purusha, and Prakriti is at the heart of Yoga, whose principles are codified in a great Hindu text called the “Shiva Samhita”. 

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Shiva Samhita- Learning Yoga From Adiyogi

The Shiva Samhita is attributed to Bhagawan Shiva himself, who narrated the percepts of Yoga-Darshana to goddess Parvati, which are recorded in this text. It includes comprehensive discussions on the nature of Param-Hansa (the enlightened Jeeva) according to Hindu thought, various stages of Yoga, postures, mudras (hand gestures), types of Yogas, etc. The Samhita differentiates between different kinds of Sadhakas- those who perform Yogic sadhanas and groups them into four categories.

1. The first group contains people who can practice mantra chanting in their Sadhanas.

2. In the second group are people who are allowed to follow Layayoga, the practice of meditating on individual chakras to evoke Kundalini energy.

3. The third category is of Sadhakas who are skilled in Hatha-yoga which includes physical exercises and postures for Yogic sadhana.

4. In the fourth group are the most devoted Sadhakas of all. These Yogis can practice all three methods of Yoga.

In Hindu philosophy, Shiva and Parvati are the manifestations of Purusha and Prakriti, the primordial male and female aspects, whose extensions are the soul and supreme divine being. Shiva’s dialogues with Parvati are thus, on a deeper level, symbolic of the Parama-Brahmana’s interactions with the aatman, leading to its Moksha.

Shiva as we can see is the primary and most potent deity for the followers of Yoga. His Panchakshara mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) for many Yogis is the secret to Kaivalya or Moksha. Besides Shiva, Yoga, and its practices are included in all the major sects of Hinduism, where the tutelary deity or Ishta becomes synonymous with the supreme Ishvara of Yoga. 

Yoga In Hinduism

Adi Shakti In Yoga

The supreme goddess or Adi Shakti in Hinduism is the feminine, active energy of all the gods including Shiva. In the Puranas, she is mentioned as Yoga-Maya (who creates the sensory world), Yoga-Nidra (which protects Lord Vishnu in his yogic sleep), and Yogeshvari (the complementing power of Yogeshvara). In Shakti worship traditions, Devi is envisioned as 64 or Chausatha Yoginis, each one of which carries esoteric and material powers. In the Sri Vidya Tantra, goddess Lalita Tripurasundari (variously called Bhuvaneshwari and Rajarajeshwari) is the deity of Yoga with whose benevolence a Yogi reaches her heavenly residence through the practice of Yoga.

                                                                              24" Goddess Rajarajeshwari (Tripura Sundari) - Hoysala Art

Lord Krishna As Yogeshvara

The Bhagavad Gita, a profound Hindu text which talks about Yoga in great detail, mentions Sri Krishna as “Yogeshvara” or Lord of Yoga. Vaishnavas and the followers of Sri Krishna meditate upon him as the materialization of Parama-Brahmana. In Vaishnavism, Bhakti-yoga, or walking the path of Yoga with firm devotion to Vishnu is the basis of succeeding in the practice of Yoga. 

Vishnu As Lord Dhanavantari And Ayurveda

Another significant way in which Lord Vishnu’s powers are intertwined with Yoga Darshana is in the avatar of Dhanavantari. Bhagwan Dhanavantari is revered in Hinduism as a form of Vishnu and the god of Ayurveda, who emerged from the churning of Kshirasagara. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian practice of treating the human body and mind with the help of natural remedies is another fundamental part of the Hindu way of life, which together with Yoga ensures that a human being leads a healthy and long life, materially as well as spiritually. Patanjali in his Yogasutra talks about certain “anataraya” or obstacles to Yoga, one of which is Vyadhi or illness. Ayurveda clears the path of Yogi by offering them natural cures for their ailments so that they are never too distracted from their spiritual journey.

                                             Dhanvantari - The Physician of the Gods (Holding the Vase of Immortality and Herbs)

According to Charaka- “dharmarthakamamoksanam arogyam mulamuttamam” (for the fulfillment of the four Purushartha or goals of human life, arogya or absence of illness is the essential state). Unsurprisingly, Lord Shiva who is “Mahamrityunjaya” (he who has quelled death) is revered in Ayurveda along with Dhanavantari and Patanjali for the attainment of good health and long life, so that the quest of a Yogi continues without hindrances. 

In addition to Patanjali’s Yogasutra and the Shiva Samhita, Hindu literature contains texts such as Yoga-Vasishtha of Valmiki, Yogayajnavalkya Samhita, Yoga-Upanishads, and numerous commentaries and translations of these books which hold the wisdom of Yoga in their pages. The emphasis of these Hindu texts on spiritual upliftment and withdrawal from the external world is not meant to instill disdain towards the world, albeit these Yogic practices and ideas are formulated to make a human being a valuable member of their society. A true yogi can perform all the actions as “Karma Yoga”, all the while being in a state of complete oneness with the supreme reality. The pinnacle of such an exemplary state is Shiva- the Lord who is the perfection of a householder and the foremost Yogi, simultaneously. To recognize and experience the divinity of Yoga, it has to be practiced in accordance and with the knowledge of the vast corpus of Hindu texts and beliefs related to it. Just as the Jeeva and Parama-Brahman are not two but one, Yoga and Hinduism are forever fused into a single powerful path. Anyone who realizes this truly begins their journey to Moksha. 

Key Takeaways

  • Yoga is an integral part of Hinduism, and the two are deeply connected. The practice of yoga is based on Hindu philosophy and spiritual principles.

  • Yoga is not just a physical exercise, but a holistic system for achieving spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It encompasses a wide range of practices, including meditation, breathing exercises, and physical postures.

  • The ultimate goal of yoga is to attain liberation, or moksha, from the cycle of birth and death, and to achieve union with the divine.

  • Hinduism and yoga share many common themes and beliefs, such as the idea of karma, the importance of self-realization, and the concept of the chakras.

  • The practice of yoga can help individuals to connect with their inner selves and with the divine, and can lead to greater self-awareness, spiritual growth, and enlightenment.

  • While yoga has become popular worldwide as a form of physical exercise, it is important to remember its spiritual roots and to approach the practice with reverence and respect.

  • Overall, the deep connection between Hinduism and yoga highlights the importance of spiritual practice in achieving greater understanding, fulfillment, and happiness in life.

Sources And Further Readings

* Yogasutra of Patanjali

* Yoga Vasishtha of Valmiki

* Yoga Chudamani Upanishad

* Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni

* Yogayajnavalkya Samhita: The Yoga Treatise of Yajnavalkya

* The Siva Samhita

* Shiva: The Lord of Yoga by David Frawley

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