'Yoga' is a Vedic Sanskrit word that covers the full body of religious experiences. Originating in ancient India, Yoga comprises an assortment of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines. The main goal of Yoga is to control and calm the mind. Yoga is known to help individuals separate their consciousness from the mind (Chitta) and mundane suffering (Dukha). Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism have various disciplines of Yoga in their practices. Today, traditional Yoga, as well as contemporary forms of Yoga, are practiced across the world.
The very first reference to Yoga is seen in the Rigveda. It is also cited in several Upanishads. The Katha Upanishad serves as the first reference to the word "yoga" with the same connotation as the modern meaning of the word. Yoga evolved over time as a standardized study and practice in historic India's Ascetic and Ramaa movements. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is considered the most thorough text on Yoga, that dates back to the initial years of the Common Era. Later on, Yoga philosophy became recognized as one of Hinduism's six orthodox philosophical schools (Daranas).
Bengal, and particularly its capital city Kolkata, have been privileged enough to accommodate some of the jewels in Pandora's box of Indian spirituality. Eastern India has witnessed enormous growth and prominent spiritual leaders in the modern era. In fact, spiritual influences from Bengal managed to reach the West Coast of the United States, where Swami Vivekananda initially imparted yogic wisdom.
These are some of the spiritual thoughts by eminent Bengali scholars:
Sri Ramakrishna and his pupils, Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharishi were always firmly rooted in Adi Sankara's Vedantic, Advaitic culture, and placed little importance on Asana, Pranayama, or other Yogic practices. These scholars went on to launch a spiritual revolution in Bengal, which was carried on by eminent Rishis and worthy forefathers. The Sage of Arunachala, Ramana Maharshi, was a stellar representation of Yoga through questioning, employing the Upanishadic tool of "Who am I?" Swami Vivekananda, is an influential writer, orator, and charismatic personality who endorsed selfless service, mindfulness, and rational inquiry. He was a pupil of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a devotee of Goddess Kali. The Ramakrishna Mission arose from this magnificent guru-shishya relationship, and it promoted the upliftment of the masses as well as the emergence of Indian ideologies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world.
Aurobindo Ghose, also widely recognized as Sri Aurobindo, is revered throughout the world as a famous philosopher, political figure, and spiritual guru. He was born in Kolkata, where spiritual seeds had gained a foothold in his ethos. Some compelling visions drove him to Pondicherry, where he began researching evolutionary history through spiritual practices like 'Integral Yoga.'
Q1. How did the spiritual concept, Yoga, come into existence?
According to historical records, Yoga is believed to have originated from the traditions of the Indus Valley civilization in Northern India. However, the first reference of it is the religious texts of the Vedas, particularly the Rig Veda.
Q2. Who is considered the founder of Yoga in the Bengal movement?
The Indian Hindu monk and guru, Paramahansa Yogananda was considered the founder of Yoga in the Bengal movement. Through his teachings of Kriya Yoga and meditation, he educated millions of people about the practice of Yoga.
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