Yoga 1


1.    Buddhism, Jainism, and the Upanishads agree on this:

a.    life as usually lived is permeated by suffering and that liberation from suffering rquires a radical transformation of existence.

b.    At the root of suffering lies a deep ignorance of who we really are -- a misconception that binds us to ongoing suffering through many lives.

c.    They have very different understanding of the nature of the cosmos, the nature of the person, the ultimate aim, and the means of achieving this aim.

                                     i.     But they all agree that the techniques of yoga are essential to liberation.   Thus yoga is a unifying factor in much of Indian thought and practice.

2.    Origins of yoga:  unknown, lost.

a.    Evidence of yoga in the findings from the Indus Valley excavations [see images]

3.    Yoga: from yuj ‘to control’, ‘to yoke’ or ‘unite’.  Unite the self with the Supreme

a.    Technologies or disciplines of asceticism and meditation which are thought to lead to spiritual experience and profound understanding or insight into the nature of existence.

b.    The means whereby the mind and senses can be restrained, limited and empirical self or ego (ahamkara) can be transcended and the self’s true identity eventually experienced.

4.    Three Main features:

a.    Consciousness can be transformed through focusing attention on a single point

b.    The transformation of consciousness eradicates limiting, mental constraints or impurities such as greed and hate

c.    Yoga is a discipline, or range of disciplines, constructed to facilitate the transformation of consciousness

5.    Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, aka the Eight-Limbed yoga (ashtanga), elaborated in the Yoga Sutra (100 BCE to 500 CE)

a.    Codification of ideas about yoga over centuries

                                     i.     Based on Samkhya philosophy

1.    Ayurvedic Medicine, the ancient and most widespread system of Indian medicine

b.    Samkhya - A dualistic philosophy: Posits a radical dualism between the self or pure consciousness (purusa) and matter (prakrti), also understood as subject and object.

                                     i.     Purusha (male): Pure consciousness, self.  Passive observer

                                    ii.     Prakrti (female): The basic matter that constitutes the universe as we experience it.

1.    Two Bodies: The Samkhya school (and Patanjali) assumes the existence of two bodies, a gross-physical body and a body of “subtle” matter that persists after biological death. When the former body has perished, the latter migrates to another temporal body.

2.    The body of subtle matter consists of the higher functions of buddhi (“consciousness”), ahamkara (“I-consciousness”), manas (“mind as coordinator of sense impressions”), and prana (“breath,” the principle of vitality).

                                  iii.     Samkhya posits 25 categories – tattvas – that comprise the universe of experience

                                  iv.     All are governed by the balance or imbalance of three qualities – gunas:

1.    Sattva: light, goodness, cool

2.    Rajas: passion, energy, hot

3.    Tamas: darkness or inertia, slow, dulling

6.    Patanjali asserts that liberation from suffering and reincarnation comes from the discriminative knowledge that pure consciousness and primordial matter are eternally distinct from each other.

a.    “Yoga is the cessation of mental functions”.  A state of concentration in which the wandering mind, fed by sense impressions and memories, is controlled and made to be one-pointed (ekagrata).  This control occur by developing eight aspects or limbs of the yogic path.

b.    Still body and breath to draw attention away from the world (like a tortoise pulls its limbs into its shell)

                                      i.     In samadhi, no longer conscious of body or environment.  Highest state = ‘isolation’.  Consciousness purified of limiting constraints