By KV Raghupathi
Vedic Yog is different from modern yog in many ways. Modern yog mainly deals with asanas and pranayama, focussing more on health. In the present-day world, people have become more conscious of their health due to the emergence of chronic diseases. They have turned to yog, which has been amended to suit their body and context. But this yog is a mixture of martial arts and other forms of physical exercise. The number of asanas performed by practitioners are unrelated to the actual yog that had existed in the Vedic times. These are unknown even to several Hatha Yog texts, namely ‘Hatha Yog Pradipika’, ‘Siva Samhita’, and ‘Gheranda Samhita’.
Vedic Yog is not centred on asanas, powerful pranayama methods, or special meditative techniques. It cannot be reduced to the body and its health or to a set of mantric formula. Vedic Yog is vast and many-sided. It contains all aspects of yog, from lifestyle to devotion and deeper meditation. It can be approached both at a philosophical level and spiritual level. It rests upon connecting with the Divine and a return to the universal life, deeper rhythms, and transformational processes.
This Vedic Yog is classical, ancient and sanatan. It is our Sanatan Dharma, the ‘eternal tradition’. The term ‘dharma’ stands for the laws of truth and consciousness that uphold the universe, including the great laws of karma. This yog dharma rests upon the Sanatan Dharma. Dharma is the highest pursuit of truth. The highest human dharma is the pursuit of Self-realisation or direct awareness of the Cosmic Being. Yog is the means of fulfilling this highest dharma or duty of inner spiritual growth. This yog dharma is called Satya Dharma, the natural law of truth. It is Manav Dharma, the ‘dharma of humanity’, which is not only an inward seeking of truth but also outward respect for all life as sacred.
Vedic Yog also is called Rishi Yog since it was practised by sages. These rishis lived in the forest to be free from the external disturbances so that they could contemplate and meditate deeply. Hence, they were called forest sages. Pranayama and dhyana were the techniques they used to attain the highest state of consciousness. In the state of samadhi they had profound revelations, which later came to be known as Vedic wisdom. These rishis were not mere human sages but the actual sages with spiritual and cosmic powers. They were the earliest and extraordinary sages and yogis possessing great wisdom and magical powers, who gave early humanity its first religion, culture, language and medicine.
To carry forward their legacy and transmit their knowledge to future generations, they developed secret teachings and mystical traditions. These teachings invited special initiations and strict disciplines in order to receive and understand their real import. These rishis were Raja Yogis since they mastered the inner yog of mantra, meditation, pranayama, ritual and service.
To this tradition belongs Patanjali, the great sage. The distinctness of Patanjali is that he systematically organised the wisdom of yog in a scientific way and offered it to humanity.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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