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From the Vedas to Patanjali- The Development of Yoga

Author: Benjamin Guerke

Benjamin Guerke

Yoga was mentioned for the first time in the Vedas. It is a way of living discovered thousands of years ago. The Vedas are freely verbalized and written down communications of verified truth. The word Veda comes from the root, “Vid,” which means, “to know”. The word Vedanta is the ending of knowledge. According to European science, the Vedas were written about 10,000 years ago. Chinese and Indian historians put them even 25,000 years back, what could be proven by astrological facts/ positions of the stars and planets mentioned in the Vedas. (Dr. P.V. Vartak). At that time, there was not any paper, so they were written on the back of the Bhoja tree. The oldest copies of the Vedas are still on these tree barks, as well as knowledge passed on verbally. 

There are a few different Vedas made into books, organized by subject and time they were written by Vyasa, which I will come back to later. The four Vedas are Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Artharva Veda. Arthava Veda mentioned the word “Yoga” for the first time. 

The knowledge gained and assumed in the Vedas is hardly imaginable. Thousands of years before the development of the western scientists were already descriptions of atoms or cloning as well as homeopathy, which all three were “discovered” by European scientists between the 19th and 20th century. 

The society at that time can be divided into three parts: Rishis, Krishis, and Nrupatis. The Rishis were living in the forests, which were spread throughout India at that time. They wrote the Vedas in a very peaceful, harmonious, and holistic cultural background, which needed to be there to develop such a system of science and education. The required dedication of political, social, and economic stability had been given to them by the existing social system at that time. 

The Rishi culture was accompanied by the Krishi culture. The Krishis were farmers who did holistic agriculture in the forests. They did not look at the land as a factory, which has to give the most possible output. 

Further there used to be people who nowadays would be called kings or princes, the Nrupatis. They took care of the farmers, the Krishis, and the Rishis.

The knowledge written down or passed on verbally had been developed by the Rishis. The word Rishi is often translated to English as “Sage,” but that does not explain all the nuances of its meaning, which can be divided into three parts. Firstly, a Rishi has to perceive. This perception is purified, which means they are aware on a high level, even about very subtle and fine manifestations of life/reality. For example, if the Rishi is aware of light, he perceives also the consistent principles of light. Secondly, the truths which were verified by exploring and living them in relationships had to be transformed into everyday life. If someone is aware about the truth, perceives it, but is not able to live it, he could not be called a Rishi. The third aspect a Rishi needs to have is the ability and capacity to communicate; he had to be able to teach.

The homes of the Rishis were like universities, called Ashrams, where people would go to study. The Vedic literature brought the Upanishads to flourish. There are hundreds of such Upanishads, which are dialogues between the teacher and his student. The word Upanishad means “sitting near the master.” Then six schools of philosophy were developed from which Yoga is the second one. To name a few others: Nyana- the logic, and Vaisheshiha- the analysis of matter. The Uphanishads were summarized in the Bhagavadgita, which is a part of Mahabarata. The path of Yoga followed by the main actor of the Gita in Arjum is mentioned and described throughout the book. The Mahabarata is dated at least 300 years earlier than Patanjalis sutras. 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are small statements written in Sanskrit. There are to be told 196 Sutras, divided into four Chapters. Patanjali was the first person to write down such clear instructions about yoga. The age of these Sutras is estimated to a span of different dates. In our lecture we have been taught that they are dated 400 B.C. In Raja Yoga by Nagendra they are dated 900 B.C., while Dr. P.V. Vartak even puts them back to 5,000 B.C. Also, there are different points of views about whether the Mahabarata and the Bhagavadgita are developed before or after Patanjalis Sutras. The author of these two important books is earlier mentioned Vyasa. His birth name was Krishna Dvaipayama, but he is known as Veda Vyasa, which means “divider of the Vedas”, because he somehow put order to the Vedic verses in the Mahabarata.

There is not much known about Patanjali’s life. The mythology describes him as a form of Ananta, the 1000-headed snake on which Lord Vishnu is sleeping. Vyasa wrote that Patanjali also wrote the Mahabhasya, a great commentary on grammar, and the Chakra Samhita, one of the great principal treatises on Ayurveda. Western scholars believe that these three scriptures were written by three different individuals, since they appeared in three different centuries. The traditional view is that many of the great masters, such as Patanjali, were in fact Siddhas, or perfect beings, which are either immortal or could manifest whenever they choose.

 

“The views expressed above are solely those of the author. Yogapoint.com may or may not agree with these statements.”

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