Discover our special file Philosophy of Yoga to discover theHistory of Yoga, the origins of Yoga, the sacred texts of Yoga. Deepen your knowledge thanks to Yogom’s blog articles which are also available on Youtube and in Podcast (links at the bottom of the page).
Vincent presents here an introduction to the Philosophy of Yoga and then you will be able to discover the main themes to be tackled when one starts to be interested in the History of Yoga:
What is yoga?
Definition of Namaste: “I greet the divinity within you”, “I greet the light within you”.
According to Vincent, “Yoga is experience”: Yoga is multiple and involves experimentation, there are many practices and teachers who teach in their own way. The practices depend on our objectives and our way of and our way of apprehending the world. There are many disciplines to raise one’s consciousness to a higher level, and it is up to each person to find the discipline that suits them. It can be Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Yoga or other disciplines that lead to the same goal: the elevation of consciousness.
Many of us have noticed that yoga is more and more perceived as a sport discipline, or as a postural discipline only.
However, this is not really the purpose of yoga, which is actually much more than postural practice. It is one of Yogom’s wishes togo beyond the postures and to understand more deeply what yoga is and its purpose, through different illuminations in order to get closer to its essence: through readings, explanations and interpretations of the sacred texts.
According to the sacred texts “Yoga is the realization of the divinity within us”, it is the realization of the Self.
It is not about developing flexibility, it is about developing self-love, harmony and serenity within oneself.
There are obviously many definitions and it is up to each one, through his own experience to make his own definition of yoga. Yoga is a universal tool, which can be practiced by everyone, separate from religion. According to Vincent, yoga is a powerful tool for inner transformation to raise his consciousness and live much more in harmony with oneself, with others, with Life and with the Universe. According to Vincent, it is above all an art of living.
First of all, let’s go back to the etymology of the word yoga. This word comes from the Sanskrit word योग “yug”. There is a notion of union and unity in it. It appears for the first time in the Vedas, which we will talk about later.
THE PURPOSE OF YOGA
The purpose of yoga is Moksha: the liberation of our sufferings, and the realization of our true nature. One seeks to transcend the mind and better accept things by seeing them as they are, in their reality. In doing so, one reachesunity: one feels connected and understands the Universe, others, everything, one knows one’s role on earth, and one lives in abundance on all levels. We lead a life of harmony, of balance.
In yoga philosophy, two levels of unity are sought
At the first level, we seek a union between body and mind. Nowadays, we are more and more aware of the interdependence between body and mind. Western medicine increasingly recognizes the role of the mind in disease, suffering and healing. Indeed: if the mind can have an effect of disease in the body, why can’t it have the opposite effect of healing?
Uniting body and mind is a first step towards harmony.
Union between the individual Soul and the universal Soul
At the second level, a union is sought between the individual Soul and the universal Soul. In the Vedanta school we speak of the union between Atman and Brahman:
- Brahman is the ultimate reality, the superior Consciousness, the Absolute, the Universe, the Cosmos, the Source of all existence.
- Atman is the individual soul. It is neither more nor less than the manifestation of Brahman in us.
In reality, Atman and Brahman are one. In other religions we speak of the microcosm which is inside us and the macrocosm which is outside: the great Whole. Discover also Vishnu . Shakti, Shiva, Ganesh: important deities in Hindu mythology.
The notion of Maya
In Yoga philosophy, one of the key points to know is Maya, which is thecosmic illusion. It is in fact the world as we perceive it, as we think it is. Maya is manifested byignorance (Sanskrit: Avidyā).
When you work on the union between the individual Soul and the universal Soul, and you realize the unity, and you go beyond Maya. In the texts, ignorance of the true nature of reality is considered the root of all suffering. Indeed, from this ignorance arise fears, attachment and desires. The idea of yoga is to transcend Maya and discover the true nature of reality. But this discovery is only possible through union, through unity.
THE NOTION OF UNITY
We are interested in bringing yoga into our daily lives to to live in joy and bliss, in the present moment. This is why Vincent gives us a more concrete definition, from the Indian master SARVA ÂTMA MITHRA, who defines yoga above all as “the art of loving”: when there is no love, there is disunion.
This notion is important today when we look at the inequalities, the disparities, the violence in our world: we can ask ourselves if there is not simply more love between beings. Yoga is thus to cultivate love of oneself and love of the other, despite all diversities.
Inthe Shivananda school, we find this sentence: “Yoga is finding unity in diversity”. . This is true in all spheres of our lives, and especially within a couple: we are truly in union when we find unity in diversity. This is also true between all human beings and all kingdoms inhabiting the Planet.
THE NOTION OF INNER TRANSFORMATION
The chaos we feel in the world is only a reflection of the inner chaos and imbalances of the human being. In this respect, yoga appears as a powerful tool for inner transformation.
First to transform oneself and then to vibrate, to radiate this energy in the world. Changing the world is first and foremost about changing yourself.
To do this, we must take responsibility for our destiny. We must accept that only we are capable of finding the meaning of our life. The great Indian sage Amma often says “The Blessed One is waiting for you inside”.
Just as the Dalai Lama often repeats, “The Temple is inside”. So many formulations to mean that it is not aquestion of finding a hidden treasure in India or in the Amazon. But it is really a question of finding a treasure hidden within us, to which only we have the keys. All the keys are already within us, but we must go beyond the cosmic illusion to find our essence and unity again.
Philosophy of Yoga : THE ORIGINS OF YOGA
The origins of yoga are unclear, especially in terms of chronology, because of its antiquity. The word Yoga first appears in the Vedas (“vision” or “knowledge” in Sanskrit) which are said to date from 1500 BC. The Vedas are the sacred texts considered to be the most ancient scriptures of ancient India.
In reality, the origins of Yoga are older, as Yoga was at that time a tradition transmitted orally from master to disciple. The Vedas were transmitted through mystical visions during deep meditations to the Rishis, who were sages. They were transmitted orally and then in writing.
Yoga Philosophy: THE FOUNDING TEXTS
Vincent presents us with the most recent founding texts, which are often used in the West to talk about Yoga, and which have survived the centuries.
The Veda वेद in Sanskrit means ” vision” or “knowledge”. It is a set of texts that, according to tradition, were revealed orally to Indian sages called Rishi. The Veda is composed of four vedas (Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda white and black, Sama-Veda and Atharva-Veda) and their attachments. These four Veda and their attachments are called in order of succession Saṃhitā, Brāhmaṇa, Āraṇyaka and Upaniṣad.
The Upanishads are philosophical and metaphysical scriptures. They are thus part of the Veda. These include the founding texts of the Advaita Vedanta school of thought (“end of knowledge”) the school of non-duality. Its fundamental principle affirms the non-differentiation of the individuality or individual soul (Atman) and the Totality (Brahman) which is neutral.
The Bhagavad-Gîtâ is one of the most sacred texts of India. This text is one of the fundamental writings of Hinduism, often considered as a summary of all Vedic doctrine. The Bhagavad-Gita is composed of 18 chapters and is part of the Mahabharata, which is a Sanskrit epic of Hindu mythology.
In the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, we discover a dialogue between the master Krishna who is a divine incarnation, and the disciple Arjuna who is a warrior. The scene takes place during a war between two clans of the same family, on a battlefield. In reality, this scene represents our inner battle between our higher mind and our lower mind. The story teaches that although all paths are different, their fundamental goal remains the same: to realize Brahman and escape the cycle of rebirths through Self-realization.
The Bhagavad-Gîtâ deals essentially with Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Jnana yoga. It teaches us how to act in today’s world, how to lead our spiritual life, in the midst of tensions and conflicts. It asks the questions of what is the meaning of existence and gives many answers to existential questions.
The Yoga sūtra of Patanjali
The Yoga sūtra of Patanjali is a collection of 195 aphorisms, brief and terse sentences, intended to be easily memorized. They are considered as the founding text of Raja yoga in particular. In this work, the sage Patanjali explores the psycho-mental and invites us to become more conscious, more vigilant, more able to live each moment in its fullness. From the second sūtra, we find the purpose of yoga, which is defined as: “The cessation of the disturbances, the automatic agitations of our mind”.
Patanjali codified the practice of Ashtanga yoga into eight limbs.
The eight limbs of Patanjali’s Raja yoga
- The Yama These are the rules for living with others.
- The Niyama: These are the rules of life to live with oneself.
- Asanas: The asanas are the stable and comfortable postures that form the practice of yoga as we know it in the West.
- Pranayama: It is the control of the vital energy which is the Prana, by working with the breath.
- Pratyahara: It is the control of the senses in order to redirect them within us.
- Dharana: This is concentration.
- Dhyana: It is the meditation
- Samadhi: It is the supra-conscious state of unity, the realization of the Self, the ultimate goal of Yoga
THE FOUR TRADITIONAL PATHS OF YOGA:
The four major paths of yoga are defined to work together. They are linked, and if we live by their principles, we will find the Bliss waiting inside us .
Karma Yoga is aboutselfless action. It is about acting without waiting for the fruits of the action, nor for a reward. It is, for example, helping others in a sincere and selfless way.
The goal of Karma Yoga is to dissolve the ego, which is a mechanism that drives us and with which we identify, but which is not reality. With Karma Yoga we eliminate our fears and blockages that come from the ego.
Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion. It is the Yoga oflove for the Universe and for all creation. It is practiced in particular through singing and prayer. The idea is to serve our emotions to transcend our mind.
Raja Yoga is Yoga in eight limbs. It is the science of the control of the body and the spirit, of which Hatha Yoga, Kundalini, Nada Yoga, Mantra Yoga are part. It is the path of discipline which contains, among others, those familiar yoga techniques such as Asanas, Pranayamas, Meditation and Kriya.
Jnana Yoga is the intellectual path. The idea is to use one’s intellect, to question and analyze with discernment. The goal is to develop the ability to distinguish what is real from what is not, to go beyond the intellect.
Through the analysis of the Self, and following the philosophy of Vedanta, we examine our own nature in order to recognize the Supreme Self in ourselves and in others.
Vincent closes by reminding us that an ounce of practice is better than a ton of talk, and that this knowledge is nothing without practice!
Shanti Shanti Shanti (Peace, Peace, Peace)
Go further and discover the meaning of Namaste in this article . Inspire your yoga practice with these 50 mantras and proverbs . Discover also our special report on the guru Bikram Choudhry and the controversy surrounding him in this post . Also be interested in mudras .
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Vincent Giraudon is the very first yogi passionate about yogic philosophy to join the great adventure of the Yogom Academy! Back to the very first Live “Light on Yoga Philosophy” with an introduction on the philosophy of Yoga. Vincent sheds light on his philosophy of yoga, its origins, its founding texts, its traditional paths and its purpose.
WHO IS VINCENT ?
After a trip around the world that brought him to India, Vincent discovered yoga and meditation. Through his many trips and retreats, Vincent has gained knowledge of different cultures. Since then Vincent has been a yoga teacher in Auvergne and continues to train regularly.