A Short History of Yogaby Georg FeuersteinHome A SHORT HISTORY OF YOGAReprinted with permission (source)Georg FeuersteinHISTORY FOR YOGINS AND YOGINISIn Yoga, theory and practice, as well as left brain and right brain, go hand in hand so to speak. Study (svâdhyâya) is in fact an important aspect of many branches and schools of Yoga. This is another way in which Yoga’s balanced approach shows itself.If you want to know where something is going, it is good to know where it came from. “To be ignorant of what happened before one was born,” said Cicero pointedly in his Orator, “is to remain ever a child.” History provides context and meaning, and Yoga is no exception to this rule. If you are fond of history, you’ll enjoy what follows. Many of the facts and ideas presented here have not yet found their way into the textbooks or even into most Yoga books. We put you in touch with the leading edge of knowledge in this area. If you are not a history buff, well, perhaps we can tempt you to suspend your preferences for a few minutes and read on anyway.THE ORIGIN OF YOGADespite more than a century of research, we still don’t know much about the earliest beginnings of Yoga. We do know, though, that it originated in India 5,000 or more years ago. Until recently, many Western scholars thought that Yoga originated much later, maybe around 500 B.C., which is the time of Gautama the Buddha, the illustrious founder of Buddhism. But then, in the early 1920s, archeologists surprised the world with the discovery of the so-called Indus civilization—a culture that we now know extended over an area of roughly 300,000 square miles (the size of Texas and Ohio combined). This was in fact the largest civilization in early antiquity. In the ruins of the big cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, excavators found depictions engraved on soapstone seals that strongly resemble yogi-like figures. Many other finds show the amazing continuity between that civilization and later Hindu society and culture.There was nothing primitive about what is now called the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, which is named after two great rivers that once flowed in Northern India; today only the Indus River flows through Pakistan. That civilization’s urbane population enjoyed multistory buildings, a sewage system unparalleled in the ancient world until the Roman empire, a huge public bath whose walls were water-proofed with bitumen, geometrically laid out brick roads, and standardized baked bricks for convenient construction. (We are so used to these technological achievements that we sometimes forget they had to be invented.) The Indus-Sarasvati people were a great maritime nation that exported a large variety of goods to Mesopotamia and other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Although only a few pieces of art have survived, some of them show exquisite craftsmanship.For a long time, scholars thought that this magnificent civilization was abruptly destroyed by invaders from the northwest who called themselves Aryans (ârya meaning “noble” in the Sanskrit language). Some proposed that these warlike nomads invented Yoga, others credited the Indus people with its creation. Yet others took Yoga to be the joint creation of both races.Nowadays researchers increasingly favor a completely different picture of ancient Indian history. They are coming to the conclusion that there never was an Aryan invasion and that the decline of the Indus-Sarasvati cities was due to dramatic changes in climate. These in turn appear to have been caused by a major tectonic catastrophe changing the course of rivers. In particular, it led to the drying up of what was once India’s largest river, the Sarasvati, along whose banks flourished numerous towns and villages (some 2500 sites have been identified thus far). Today the dry river bed runs through the vast Thar Desert. If it were not for satellite photography, we would not have learned about those many settlements buried under the sand.The drying up of the Sarasvati River, which was complete by around 1900 B.C., had far-reaching consequences. Just imagine the waters of the Mississippi running dry instead of flooding constantly. What havoc this would cause! The death of the Sarasvati River forced the population to migrate to more fertile parts of the country, especially east toward the Ganges (Ganga) River and south into Central India and Tamilnadu.Why is this important for the history of Yoga, you might ask? The Sarasvati River happens to be the most celebrated river in the Rig-Veda, which is the oldest known text in any Indo-European language. It is composed in an archaic (and difficult) form of Sanskrit and was transmitted by word of mouth for numerous generations. Sanskrit is the language in which most Yoga scriptures are written. It is related to languages like Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, and not least English. You can see this family relationship on the example of the word yoga itself, which corresponds to zugos, iugum, joug, Joch, yugo, and yoke in these languages. Sanskrit is like an older brother to the other Indo-European languages.Now, if the Sarasvati River dried up around or before 1900 B.C., the Rig-Veda must be earlier than that benchmark date. If that is so, then the composers of this collection of hymns must have been contemporaneous with the people of the Indus civilization, which flourished between circa 3000-1900 B.C. Indeed, astronomical references in the Rig-Veda suggest that at least some of its 1,028 hymns were composed in the third or even fourth millennium B.C.Thus, the Sanskrit-speaking Aryans, who created the Rig-Veda, did not come from outside India to destroy the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. They had been there all along. What, then, was their relationship with the Indus-Sarasvati people? Here opinions still differ, but there is a growing understanding that the Aryans and the Indus-Sarasvati people were one and the same. There is nothing in the Rig-Veda to suggest otherwise.In fact, the Rig-Veda and the other archaic Sanskrit texts appear to be the “missing” literature of the Indus civilization. Conversely, the archeological artifacts of the Indus valley and adjoining areas give us the “missing” material base of the early Sanskrit literature—an elegant solution to a problem that has long vexed researchers.YOGA AND THE INDUS-SARASVATI CIVILIZATIONThis means that Yoga is the product of a mature civilization that was unparalleled in the ancient world. Think of it! As a Yoga practitioner you are part of an ancient and honorable stream of tradition, which makes you a descendant of that civilization at least at the level of the heart. Many of the inventions credited to Sumer rightfully belong to what is now known as the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, which evolved out of a cultural tradition that has reliably been dated back to the seventh millennium B.C. In turn it gave rise to the great religious and cultural tradition of Hinduism, but indirectly also to Buddhism and Jainism.India’s civilization can claim to be the oldest enduring civilization in the world. Its present-day problems should not blind us to its glorious past and the lessons we can learn from it. Yoga practitioners in particular can benefit from India’s protracted experimentation with life, especially its explorations of the mysteries of the mind. The Indian civilization has produced great philosophical and spiritual geniuses who between them have covered every conceivable answer to the big questions, which are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.THE BIG QUESTIONSTraditional Yoga seeks to provide plausible answers to such profound questions as, “Who am I?”, “Whence do I come?”, “Whither do I go?,” and “What must I do?” These are the sorts of questions that, sooner or later, we all end up asking ourselves. Or at least, we have our own implicit answers to them, though may not get round to consciously formulating them. Deep down, we all are philosophers, because we all need to make sense of our life. Some of us postpone thinking about these questions, but they don’t ever go away. We quickly learn this when we lose a loved one or face a serious health crisis.So, we might as well ponder these questions while we are in good shape. And don’t think you have to feel morose to do so. Yoga doesn’t champion dark moods, but it is definitely in favor of awareness in all its forms, including self-awareness. If we know the stuff we are made of, we can function a lot better in the world. At the very least, our self-knowledge will give us the opportunity to make conscious and better choices.THE HISTORY OF YOGAI can provide here only the merest thumbnail sketch and, if you wish to inform yourself more about the long history of Yoga, recommend that you study my book The Yoga Tradition. This is the most comprehensive historical overview available anywhere. But be prepared for challenging reading and a fairly large tome.The history of Yoga can conveniently be divided into the following four broad categories:Vedic YogaPreclassical YogaClassical YogaPostclassical YogaThese categories are like static snapshots of something that is in actuality in continuous motion—the “march of history.”VEDIC YOGANow we are entering somewhat more technical territory, and I will have to use and explain a number of Sanskrit terms.The yogic teachings found in the above-mentioned Rig-Veda and the other three ancient hymnodies are known as Vedic Yoga. The Sanskrit word veda means “knowledge,” while the Sanskrit term rig (from ric) means “praise.” Thus the sacred Rig-Veda is the collection of hymns that are in praise of a higher power. This collection is in fact the fountainhead of Hinduism, which has around one billion adherents today. You could say that the Rig-Veda is to Hinduism what the Book of Genesis is to Christianity.The other three Vedic hymnodies are the Yajur-Veda (“Knowledge of Sacrifice”), Sama-Veda (“Knowledge of Chants”), and Atharva-Veda (“Knowledge of Athar
1 Six Schools of Hindu Philosophy
Hindu philosophy is traditionally divided into six āstika (Sanskrit: आस्तिक "orthodox") schools of thought, ordarśanam (दर्शनम्, "view"), which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other nāstika (नास्तिक"heterodox") schools don't draw upon the Vedas as the sole primary authoritative text, but may emphasise other traditions of thought. The āstika schools are:
Samkhya, an atheistic and strongly dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.Yoga, a school emphasising meditation, contemplation and liberation.Nyaya or logic, explores sources of knowledge. Nyāya Sūtras.Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomismMimāṃsā, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxyVedanta, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, or the 'Jnan' (knowledge) 'Kanda' (section). Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.
The nāstika schools are (in chronological order):
However, medieval philosophers like Vidyāraṇya classify Indian philosophy into sixteen schools, where schools belonging to Saiva, Pāṇini and Raseśvarathought are included with others, and the three Vedantic schools Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita (which had emerged as distinct schools by then) are classified separately.
In Hindu history, the distinction of the six orthodox schools was current in the Gupta period "golden age" of Hinduism. With the disappearance of Vaisheshika and Mimamsa, it was obsolete by the later Middle Ages, when the various sub-schools of Vedanta (Dvaita "dualism", Advaita Vedanta "non-dualism" and others) began to rise to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy. Nyaya survived into the 17th century as Navya Nyaya "Neo-Nyaya", while Samkhya gradually lost its status as an independent school, its tenets absorbed into Yoga and Vedanta.
2 4 Vedas
The Vedas (Sanskrit véda वेद, "knowledge") are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. The Vedas are apauruṣeya ("not of human agency"). They are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called śruti ("what is heard"), distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti ("what is remembered"). In Hindu tradition, the creation of Vedas is credited to Brahma. The Vedic texts or śruti are organized around four canonical collections of metrical material known as Saṃhitās, of which the first three are related to the performance of yajna (sacrifice) inhistorical Vedic religion:
The Rigveda, containing hymns to be recited by the hotar, or presiding priest;The Yajurveda, containing formulas to be recited by the adhvaryu or officiating priest;The Samaveda, containing formulas to be sung by the udgatar or priest that chants;The Atharvaveda, a collection of spells and incantations, apotropaic charms and speculative hymns.
The individual verses contained in these compilations are known as mantras. Some selected Vedic mantras are still recited at prayers, religious functions and other auspicious occasions in contemporary Hinduism.
The various Indian philosophies and sects have taken differing positions on the Vedas. Schools of Indian philosophy which cite the Vedas as their scriptural authority are classified as "orthodox" (āstika). Other traditions, notably Buddhism and Jainism, which did not regard the Vedas as authorities are referred to by traditional Hindu texts as "heterodox" or "non-orthodox" (nāstika) schools. In addition to Buddhism and Jainism,Sikhism and Brahmoism, many non-Brahmin Hindus in South India do not accept the authority of the Vedas. Certain South Indian Brahmin communities such as Iyengars consider the Tamil Divya Prabandham or writing of the Alvar saints as equivalent to the Vedas.
The Puranas (Sanskrit: पुराण purāṇa, "of ancient times") are ancient Hindu texts eulogizing various deities, primarily the divine TrimurtiGod in Hinduism through divine stories. Puranas may also be described as a genre of important Hindu religious texts alongside someJain and Buddhist religious texts, notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods, and descriptions of Hindu cosmology, philosophy, and geography. The Puranas are frequently classified according to the Trimurti (Trinity or the three aspects of the divine). The Padma Purana classifies them in accordance withthe three gunas or qualities as Sattva (Truth and Purity), Rajas (Dimness and Passion) and Tamas (Darkness and Ignorance).
Puranas usually give prominence to a particular deity, employing an abundance of religious and philosophical concepts. They are usually written in the form of stories related by one person to another. The Puranas are available in vernacular translations and are disseminated by Brahmin scholars, who read from them and tell their stories, usually in Katha sessions (in which a traveling Brahmin settles for a few weeks in a temple and narrates parts of a Purana, usually with a Bhakti perspective).
4 Mahabaratha & Ramayana
The Upanishads (Sanskrit: उपनिषद्, IAST: Upaniṣad, IPA: [upəniʂəd]) are a collection of philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for theHindu religion. They are also known as Vedanta ("the end of the Veda"). The Upanishads are considered by Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman) and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha). The Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and have been passed down in oral tradition.More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads. With the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra (known collectively as the Prasthanatrayi), the mukhya Upanishads provide a foundation for the several later schools of Vedanta, among them, two influential monistic schools of Hinduism.[note 1][note 2][note 3] The mukhyaUpanishads all predate the Common Era, possibly from the Pre-Buddhist period (6th century BCE)  down to the Maurya period. The remainder of the Muktika canon was mostly composed during medieval Hinduism, and new Upanishads continued being composed in the early modern and modern era, down to at least the 20th century.The significance of Upanishads has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson, Thoreau, and others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant  The Upanishads were collectively considered among the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by the British poet Martin Seymour-Smith. Some criticism of the Upanishads revolves around the denial of pluralistic ideas due to the core philosophy of unity of the Upanishads. On the contrary, the exponents of Upanishadic philosophy assert that the Upanishads are not merely denying the apparent plurality but rather claiming that the human mind has the ability to realize quintessential unity behind all plurality and experience life based on this realization, and a movement toward such a realization is necessary to produce a healthier individual and a healthier society. The unity propounded by Upanishadic seers is often compared to the unity of laws of physics discovered by the physicists and the unity of the living matter on earth as discovered by the later biologists.
Two words that are of paramount importance in grasping the Upanishads are Brahman and Atman. The Brahman is the universal spirit and the Atman is the individual Self. Differing opinions exist amongst scholars regarding the etymology of these words. Brahman probably comes from the root brh, which means "The Biggest ~ The Greatest ~ The ALL." Brahman is "the infinite Spirit Source and fabric and core and destiny of all existence, both manifested and unmanifested and the formless infinite substratum and from whom the universe has grown". Brahman is the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or shall be. The word Atman means the immortal perfect Spirit of any living creature, being, including trees etc. The idea put forth by the Upanishadic seers that Atman and Brahman are One and the same is one of the greatest contributions made to the thought of the world.
The Brihadaranyaka and the Chandogya are the most important of the mukhya Upanishads. They represent two main schools of thought within the Upanishads. The Brihadaranyaka deals with acosmic or nis-prapancha, whereas the Chandogya deals with the cosmic or sa-prapancha. Between the two, the Brihadaranyaka is considered more original.
The Upanishads also contain the first and most definitive explications of the divine syllable Aum, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence. Themantra Aum Shānti Shānti Shānti, translated as "the soundless sound, peace, peace, peace", is often found in the Upanishads. The path of bhakti or "Devotion to God" is foreshadowed in Upanishadic literature, and was later realized by texts such as the Bhagavad Gita.
7 Patanjali Yoga Sutras
The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 196 Indian sūtras (aphorisms) that constitute the foundational text of Yoga. In medieval times, Yoga was cast as one of the six orthodox āstika schools of Hindu philosophy. According to the late Yogatattva Upanishad, Yoga is divided into four forms – Mantrayoga, Layayoga, Hathayoga and Rājayoga – the last of which is the highest (or royal) practice.
Although the Yoga Sutras have become the most important text of Yoga, the opinion of many scholars is that Patañjali was not the creator of Yoga, which existed well before him, but merely a great expounder.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patañjali prescribes adherence to eight "limbs" or steps (the sum of which constitute "Ashtanga Yoga", the title of the second chapter) to quiet one's mind and achieve kaivalya. The Yoga Sutras form the theoretical and philosophical basis of Rāja Yoga, and are considered to be the most organized and complete definition of that discipline. The Sutras not only provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis, they also clarify many important esoteric concepts which are common to all traditions of Indian thought, such as karma.
Structure of the text
Patañjali divided his Yoga Sutras into four chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 195 aphorisms, divided as follows:
Samadhi Pada (51 sutras). Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. Samadhi is the main technique the yogin learns by which to dive into the depths of the mind to achieve Kaivalya. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: "Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ" ("Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications").Sadhana Pada (55 sutras). Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for "practice" or "discipline". Here the author outlines two forms of Yoga: Kriya Yoga (Action Yoga) and Ashtanga Yoga(Eightfold or Eightlimbed Yoga).Kriya yoga, sometimes called Karma Yoga, is also expounded in Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to act without attachment to the results or fruit of action and activity. It is the yoga of selfless action and service.Ashtanga Yoga describes the eight limbs that together constitute Rāja Yoga.Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras). Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for "power" or "manifestation". 'Supra-normal powers' (Sanskrit: siddhi) are acquired by the practice of yoga. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation.Kaivalya Pada (34 sutras). Kaivalya literally means "isolation", but as used in the Sutras stands for emancipation, liberation and used interchangeably with moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Yoga. The Kaivalya Pada describes the process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.
8 Patanjali 8 Limbs (Ashtanga)
The eight limbs of Yoga
Ashtanga yoga consists of the following limbs: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)
Yama refers to the five abstentions: how we relate to the external world. (The five vows of Jainism are identical to these).Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one's own self, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.Satya: non-illusion; truth in word and thought.Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own; non-stealing.Brahmacharya: abstinence, particularly in the case of sexual activity. Also, responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. It suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. "Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others."Aparigraha: non-possessiveness; non-hoardingNiyama refers to the five observances: how we relate to ourselves, the inner world.Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.Svādhyāya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.Asana: Discipline of the body: rules and postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing disturbances.Pranayama: control of life force energies. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.
The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga sadhana)
Dharana: concentration of the Chitta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the midpoint of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity.Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation (pratyayaikatanata). The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds:Samprajnata Samadhi conscious samadhi. The mind remains concentrated (ekagra) on the object of meditation, therefore the consciousness of the object of meditation persists. Mental modifications arise only in respect of this object of meditation.
This state is of four kinds:Savitarka: the citta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity.Savichara: the citta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation, such as the tanmatrasSananda Samadhi: the citta is concentrated upon a still subtler object of meditation, like the senses.Sasmita: the citta is concentrated upon the ego-substance with which the self is generally identified.Asamprajnata Samadhi superconscious. The citta and the object of meditation are fused together. The consciousness of the object of meditation is transcended. All mental modifications are checked (niruddha), although latent impressions may continue.
Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyana and Samādhi is referred to as Samyama and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. But as stated above, siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but maya, or illusion. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya.
According to I. K. Taimni,[note 1] the cumulative and collective mastery of the eight limbs aids one in performing Samadhi efficiently. Samadhi then becomes the main tool used by the yogi to descend through the various layers of consciousness towards the very center of consciousness. Mastery of the eight limbs is only the prerequisite to begin the descent through consciousness to its center (bhindu or laya center). The descent through consciousness involves mastery of samskaras and overcoming the kleshas, and constitutes an effort of will perhaps greater than mastery of the eight limbs. It is through the descent of consciousness to its center, and passage through this center by dharma mega samadhi that the Atman is realized and Kaivalya is achieved. Kaivalya is related to "isolation" not because a relative being becomes isolated from all other relative beings, but because consciousness becomes its essential nature: the wholeness and fullness of the Absolute, of which there is only one. There is no other next to the Absolute; hence it is isolated. This state is the fullness, completeness, and total freedom of being (svatantra). In this state Atman is Brahman. Thus, the eight "limbs" are the means to samadhi, and samadhi is the means to the end which is Kaivalya.
Tantra[note 1] is the name given by scholars to a style of meditation and ritual which arose in India no later than the fifth century AD. The earliest documented use of the word "Tantra" is in the Rigveda (X.71.9). Tantra has influenced the Hindu, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain traditions and spread with Buddhism to East and Southeast Asia.