The first written copies of the Vedas (meaning knowledge) were found around 5000 years ago however, it is believed they were there orally transmitted before this for up to 10 000yrs. The Vedas are a collection of sacred songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Vedic priests known as Brahmans. There are four Vedas: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda. These compilations come from many different people who wanted to put their best ideas together. They talk on nature as God or universal energy. People say that all human knowledge, known and yet to be known, is hidden in the Vedas. The Rigveda the oldest and most important Veda including Vedic history and hymns. The Sama Veda is the second most important Veda and is known for its musical and lyrical quality. The Yajur Veda is known as the book for formulas and the Atharva Veda, the most recent of the four, describes spells to protect one from death, lure a lover or prevent harm.
The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses and tells the story of Rama, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. It explores human values and the concept of dharma. In the Story, Rama goes to the forest, accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, and they live as recluses among the hermits. After Sita is kidnapped, Rama goes to rescue her, aided by Lakshmana and the mighty monkey-general Hanuman. Sita is held captive as Ravana tries to persuade her to marry him. Rama assembles an army of allies comprising mainly of monkeys under the rule of Hanuman. They attack Ravana’s army, and after a fierce battle, succeed in killing the demon king and freeing Sita, reuniting her with Rama.
Jesus is a religious leader whose life and teachings are recorded in the Bible’s New Testament. He is a central figure in Christianity and is emulated as the incarnation of God by many Christians all over the world.
In the later writings of the Vedas, known as the Upanishads, the first explicit references to yoga appear. There are 108 Upanishads with about ten being known as the principle Upanishads.The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga). Concepts of asana, pranayam and meditation, withdrawing the senses, controlling the mind, and attaining liberation are mentioned.
The Mahabharata was written by the Sage Vyasa. It contains the Bhagavad Gita, story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa. It is the longest known epic poem which consists of over 200,000 individual verse lines and explains the four "goals of life" or purusharthas.
The Bhagavad Gita is a very important text, known as “Indian psychology.” It contains solutions to the problems of human life and has inspired generations of people who have followed its teachings. Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between Lord Krishna who symbolises supreme consciousness and Prince Arjuna who represents human consciousness. Prince Arjuna asks questions to Lord Krishna about his problems. Arjuna is in a state of depression, and despondency and Lord Krishna helps him realise the purpose of life and inspires Prince Arjuna to live his life in contentment and peace. Krishna explains the concepts of dharma, karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga.
Archaeological remains reveal the earliest verifiable traces of yoga dating back over 5,000 years to the Aryan civilization in the Indus Valley. Archaeological excavations from the region uncovered numerous seals depicting a human figure sitting in a meditative position.
Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini (Rummin-dei), near Kapilavastu (Kapilbastu) on the northern edge of the Ganges River basin, an area on the periphery of the civilization of North India, in what is today southern Nepal. It was told to his father that he would either be a great king or he would be a great spiritual leader. To keep his son from witnessing the miseries and suffering of the world, Siddhartha's father raised him in opulence in a palace built just for the boy and sheltered him from knowledge of religion and human hardship. However, one day, he ventured out beyond the palace walls and was quickly confronted with the realities of human frailty. Siddhartha was overcome by these sights, and the next day, at age 29, he left his kingdom, wife and son to lead an ascetic life and to determine a way to relieve the universal suffering that he now understood to be one of the defining traits of humanity.
Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree, vowing to not get up until the truths he sought came to him, and he meditated until the sun came up the next day. Siddhartha finally saw the answer to the questions of suffering that he had been seeking for so many years. In that moment of pure enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha ("he who is awake"). He went on to preach his first sermon, in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which became the pillars of Buddhism.
The Yoga Sutras, written by sage Patanjali, are a guidebook of classical, raja yoga. They are made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom and were written to explain the process and systematic analysis of practical methods for awakening and expanding the higher faculties of mind, intellect, and quality of consciousness.
Patanjali divides his 196 aphorisms (sutras) into four chapters discussing various practices on Yoga. The first chapter titled ‘Samadhi Pada’ is for the ‘samahita-citta,’ those of a composed mind that are receptive to the subtle practices of yoga which requires high levels of concentration. In the second chapter, titled ‘Sadhana Pada,’ are practices for the ‘vyutthita citta,’ those of a distracted mind that stand in needs of more radical practices to pierce the distractive layers of physical and mental ignorance that covers the inner soul of man. Here is also found the traditional eightfold path to Yoga, including Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. . The third chapter discuss the various Siddhis or perfections one may achieve from the practice of Yoga and the final chapter investigates the state of liberation.
Hatha Yoga – focus on purification, away from mind focus but to prepare for working on the mind once the body was purified. Focus on asana, cleansing, pranayam, mudras, bandhas.
Matsyendranath is traditionally considered the founder of Haṭha yoga as well as the author of some of its earliest texts. He is also seen as the founder of the natha sampradaya (Nath tradition), having received teachings from Shiva. He is the guru of Gorakshanath, another important figure in early hatha yoga. He is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists, and is sometimes regarded as an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara.
The Natha tradition underwent its greatest expansion during the time of Gorakshanath. He produced a number of writings and even today is considered the greatest and the most influential of the Naths. He is also reputed to have written the first books dealing with Laya yoga (or Kundalini yoga) and the raising of the Kundalini-shakti. There are several sites, ashrams and temples in India dedicated to Gorakshanatha.
Shiva Samhita is a Sanskrit text on yoga, written by an unknown author. In the text Shiva speaks to Parvati on various methods of liberation and philosophical standpoints. It is one of three major surviving classical treatises on hatha yoga, the other two being Gheranda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The Shiva Samhita is considered the most comprehensive texts on hatha yoga. There are 84 asanas decribed in this text.
The Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā is a classic Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Swami Swatmaram, a disciple of Swami Gorakhnath. It is among the most influential surviving texts on the hatha yoga, and is one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga, the other two being the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita. consists of four chapters which include information about asanas, pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandhas, kriyas, naḍis and mudras among other topics. Only a total of 16 asanas are described in this text.
Gheranda Samhita is a classical text describing seven limbs of yoga. Sage Gheranda taught this to his disciple, King Chandakapali. Sage Gheranda outlines a system which can take the serious aspirant from purification of the body to the highest states of samadhi and knowledge of the soul.
Distinguishing it from other hatha yoga systems, Sage Gheranda’s seven limbs includes the tattwa dharanas (concentrations on the elements) and the seamless merging of hatha yoga and tantra by combining mudras, bandhas and pranayamas with mantra, yantra and mandala. There is a total of 32 asanas described in this text.
This Sanskrit text, attributed to Siddha Gorakhnath, is divided into six chapters called Upadeshas.
Adi Shankaracharya spread advaita vedanta and brought together the different cults and sects, removing conflicts. His philosophy spoke of how you are not your thoughts, you are the awareness behind the thoughts and only the present moment exists, so we should accept that. His reinterpretations of Hindu scriptures, especially on Upanishads or Vedanta, had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism.
Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He gave a famous lecture in 1883 In Chicago and wowed those in attendance. He spoke on unity, one world, Bhagavad Gita and new perspectives for the West. Vivekananda was one of the main representatives of Neo-Vedanta, a modern interpretation of selected aspects of Hinduism in line with western esoteric traditions.
Paramahamsa Yogananda came to America in 1920 from India, and was the first great master of yoga to live and teach in the West for an extended period (more than 30 years). He is now widely recognized as the Father of Yoga in the West. He founded Self-Realization Fellowship in1920 and Yogoda Satsanga Society of India in 1917. He is well known for the spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” Paramahansa Yogananda has profoundly impacted the lives of millions with his comprehensive teachings on:
Swami Kuvalayanada was a researcher and educator who is primarily known for his pioneering research into the scientific foundations of yoga. He started scientific research on yoga in 1920 and published the first scientific journal specifically devoted to studying yoga, Yoga Mimamsa. He also started the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center, founded in 1924 and dedicated to yogic research.
He is mostly known for his contribution to the revival of the more physically oriented disciplines and practices of hatha yoga. While under the patronage of the King of Mysore, Krishnamacharya traveled around India giving lectures and demonstrations to promote yoga, including such feats as stopping his heartbeat. He is widely considered as the architect of vinyasa, in the sense of combining the breath with movement. Underlying all of Krishnamacharya’s teachings was the principle “Teach what is appropriate for an individual.” In India Krishnamacharya is mainly known as a healer who drew from both ayurvedic and yogic traditions to restore health and well-being to those he treated. In 1923 Krisnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga School in Mysore, South India. Among his students were BKS Iyengar (born 1918-2014), Patthabi Jois (1915-2009) and T.K.V. Desikachar (son born 1938).
In 1936 he founded the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges River. He is the author of over 200 books on yoga, Vedanta and a variety of subjects. He established Sivananda Ashram, the headquarters of the DLS, on the bank of the Ganges, 3 kilometres from Rishikesh. Sivananda Yoga, the yoga form propagated by his disciple Vishnudevananda, is now spread in many parts of the world through Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.
Swami Satyanananda was born at Almora, Uttar Pradesh in 1923. In 1943 he met Swami Sivananda in Rishikesh and adopted Dashnami Sannyasa way of life. In 1955 he left his guru’s ashram to live as a wandering mendicant and later founded the International Yoga Fellowship in 1956 and the Bihar School of Yoga in 1963. Over the next 20 years Swami Satyananada toured internationally and authored over 80 books. In 1984 he founded Sivananda Math, a charitable institution for aiding rural development and the Yoga Reasearch Foundation. In 1988 he renounced his mission, adopting kshetra sannyasa, and lived as a paramahamsa sannyasin. On the 5th of December 2009 his body found Samadhi.
Swami Niranjananda was born in Madhya Pradesh in 1960. At the age of four he joined the Bihar School of Yoga and was initiated into Dashnami Sannyasa at the age of ten. From 1971 he travelled overseas and toured many countries for the next 11 years. In 1983 he was recalled to India and appointed Preseident of the Bihar School of Yoga. Since then he has guided the development of Ganga Darshan, Sivananda Math, Yoga Publication Trust, and yoga research foundation. His successor was Swami Satyanananda.
In Pondicherry, Aurobindo developed a method he termed Integral Yoga. The central theme of his vision was the evolution of human life into a life divine. He believed in a spiritual realization that would not only liberate man but transform his nature, enabling a divine life on earth. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa ("The Mother"), he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. His ideals are also the foundation of Auroville, a collaboration of people living together in the vison of Sri Aurobindo. His main literary works include The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of Integral Yoga as well as Synthesis of Yoga, which discusses practical guidance to Integral Yoga.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi was attraction to the holy hill Arunachala in 1895. In 1896, at the age of 16, he had a "death-experience" in which he became aware of a "current" or "force" which he recognised as his true "I" or Self, and which he later identified with Ishvara. This resulted in a state which he later described as "the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani." Six weeks later he journeyed to the holy mountain Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, where he took on the role of a sannyasin and remained for the rest of his life. He attracted many devotees. He recommended self-enquiry as the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in Self-awareness, together with bhakti or surrender to the Self.
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