LIGHT ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF YOGA
The word “Veda” comes up quite often in the sphere of Yoga, as it forms the basis of many the basis of many currents of Hinduism. However, the Vedas are not the only origin.
Few people really know the Vedas, including Laura who is still looking for adequate versions. Laura, like many people, is only partially familiar with certain texts. She believes that in the general culture of people practicing Hinduism, or even yoga, it is not the compilation of texts that one knows best. This is interesting because in India we are more familiar with the content of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana – the two great Hindu epics – than the content of the Vedas. Even though many worldviews have their origins in the VedasThere are probably few sources or written records of the Vedas.
The word Veda simply means knowledge “. in Sanskrit. It is not an intellectual knowledge, but rather a revealed knowledge. It is said that this knowledge was revealed to the Rishi sages, and transmitted orally from Brahman to Brahman within Vedism, Brahmanism, and Hinduism to this day. They also belonged, according to the theories, either to the Aryan culture, or to the Indus Valley. Today, it is more usual to say that these populations who lived in the North-East of India and who settled around the river Sarasvati were :
- Either populations that belonged to the Indus Valley, to which Aryan populations migrated and came to settle with them little by little
- Either they were already a single people according to experts like Georg Feuerstein.
We don’t know much about it. of the peoples and civilizations that are at the origin of the content of the Vedas. In general, not much is known about the founding texts of yoga philosophy, be it the yoga sutras of Patanjali the Bhagavad Gita the founding texts of Hatha yoga, etc. But the content of the Vedas is even older than all the texts that we are used to in the world of yoga.. In reality, we don’t know much about the period, so we are not sure about the not sure of the veracity of the different theories when it comes to the Vedas.
Concerning the period of appearance of these textsit is necessary to keep in mind that populations begin to settle on the banks of the river Sarasvati which does not exist anymore because it has dried up. This one was located at northeast India. Gradually, these populations will migrate eastward as the river dries up and end up settling near the Ganges.
During this time, the populations are asking themselves questions such as “What is the origin of the world”, “Where do we come from? They are also beginning to create deities which are in connection with nature, like many civilizations. Thus we begin to create a knowledge, myths and assumptions that will define our that will define our vision of the worldthe way we conceive our Planet in the Universe. It is These are the kinds of questions that the Vedas will address.
The Vedas are not not really textsthey are above all knowledge revealed to the sagesand which are transmitted by the oral way. This is extremely important, because on the one hand we have an oral transmission of this knowledge, and because this knowledge will inevitably evolve in a natural way during the evolution of the the evolution of the population.
So the Vedas were not revealed as we know them todaybut it must be seen as hymns and ways of seeing the world that have been transmitted from generation to generationthrough stories in particular, and which will become more complex little by little. Over a long period of time, we will therefore see four large bodies, the so-called Samhitaswhich will be more or less classified according to themes. Therefore, content specialists will sometimes specialize in only one of the four Vedas. During the Vedic period, families will specialize in one VedaThis will be passed on from generation to generation within the same family. It is rare but it can happen that some scholars know the content of all the Vedas. Knowing that different civilizations or different groups within the same region may have different traditions.
In thehistory of yogait is very difficult to determine when this culture at which this culture began to be documented. Georg Feuerstein places the beginning of the Vedic period around the year -2500 before our era. However, there are a lot of debate as to the dating of this populationand to the sites that have been found. We must remain humble when we talk about this very distant period because we can’t be sure of anything, since there is no no paper trail. If we want to situate this period with a ladle, we can say that it probably took place between -3000 BC and -1500 BC.
The Vedas are the oldest known source of information on what will constitute the basis of many texts of Hinduism. In the Vedas we find the first vision of the world, the first deities of nature like the God of fire Agni, the God of wind Vayuthe King of the Gods and God of Thunder Indraprobably the most important of the time. There is also a very important goddess who is the one of the First word, Vac. This is not surprising when you consider that there is a huge interest in sound, hymns and everything that is transmitted orally.
As we have seen above, the Vedas are grouped into four bodies, called Samhitas.
- The Rig Veda: It is probably the most best known and the one on which most of the later texts will base their theories and create new concepts.
- The Yajur Veda
- The Sama Veda
- The Atharva Veda This is considered the most impure. In the sense that it is in this one that we find magic formulas, which will be used for different things: to heal the body, to create magic potions, to have magic powers, etc.
In these hymns of oral tradition, we find an important element for our practice according to Laura. In these oral traditions, there are hymns, phrases, sounds, words that are recited with great importance. This is where we find the primordial sound that all yogis know: the Om. The latter appears in the Vedic chants and rituals of that time as a sound that has several functions depending on when it appears in the rituals or in a sentence.
If we are interested in the Om and its history, Laura recommends us to study the work of Dr. Finnian Gerety, who is an expert and did his doctorate on the Om, this universal mantra that is often found in yoga rooms. Finnian Gerety tells us about the Om, its evolution and its use in Vedic rites. What is interesting is that in his research he went to groups in India that still practice Vedic rituals.
When we talk about Vedic ritualsmost of them are about fire rituals. Sacrifice has a special place in the rituals of Vedism. It is about ceremonies where we are going to throw in the fire offeringsincluding animal sacrificesand during which they sing. Someone will guide this Vedic rite. At the beginning of the Vedic period, he is not a BrahminThis is someone from the priestly class who will guide the rite, but a member of the family who guides the rites. But little by little all these rites are codified and complexifiedthe society starts to be structured it is at this moment that we see the brahmanic class to take more and more power in these fire rituals.
We will see moreover that it is in reaction to this class which takes power that the Upanishads appear. The Upanishads appear not to criticize or refute completely the content of the Vedasbut rather to to interpret them differently. The ever-increasing importance of rituals in society is questioned and another interpretation is offered to the orally transmitted Vedas. The Upanishads take the content of the Vedas as a basis but will interpret it, and above all create practices that will speak to us more because they are and meditative.
It is therefore difficult to be sure of the information on the Vedas, but what is certain is that they constitute the basis for the appearance of the other texts. If you are interested in the evolution of the texts, Laura proposes a Masterclass of 2 hoursIn 7 videos, we explain this logical evolution from the Vedas to the Yoga of today that we practice on a daily basis. What we know about the Vedas and about the texts of the philosophy of Yoga that followed in general is interesting according to Laura because it allows us to see the evolution of the different currents of thought, the evolution of the questions that the Man asks himself in relation to the nature, and to his in the Universe. We see a sophistication in the answers we give to these questions over time.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
Back on the 16th of the Yogom Academy on the theme of the Vedas! Laura talks to us about their origin which is debated, their dating and their contents.
WHO IS LAURA?
Laura Arley is a yoga teacher in Toulouse and certified in Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative and Yoga for Seniors. She is also passionate about yoga philosophy and offers online trainings to integrate yoga philosophy into our daily lives.