The Origin of Yoga Part – 4

The greatest epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata may not present yoga as a systematic practice, but they are immersed in plenty of references to yogic philosophies. Like the vedas and Upanishads, the epics also propound on yoga in symbols and stories. Bhagavad Gita on the other hand has more direct approach to yoga.

The story of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and other characters in the Ramayana is an indirect way of describing tribulations that a yogi must face (internal and external) and surpass on the path to self-realization (Awareness).

Yoga Vashishtha is another spiritual text which is regarded as a continuation of and inspired by Ramayana. Yoga Vasisthta is a great spiritual resource and is venerably lauded for its depth in philosophy and spiritual ideas. Many scientific ideas that were recently discovered were clearly mentioned in this sacred text. Yoga Vashishtha in its treatise discusses many aspects of life including health, diseases, happiness, misery, methods of spiritual realization, various yogic paths, importance of direct perception, Pranayama, meditation and knowledge of the highest form.

Yoga Vashishtha is a valuable resource of yogic knowledge, however, this sacred text is only meant for those who already are inducted into the path of Yoga. This text is never meant for the beginners as it is devoid of detailed explanation and can be misunderstood easily.

The essence of Mahabharata is contained in the world renowned sacred text Bhagavad Gita. It contains many passages which directly relate to yoga. Bhagavad Gita is an inspiration given to a despondent Arjuna by lord Sri Krishna during the battle of Kurukshetra. In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna into the path of yoga to go beyond his despair and perform his duty to which he is destined to.

Literal interpretation and over-intellectual analysis of Bhagavad Gita will take us far away from its essence. But when taken in the right spirit, Bhagavad Gita is an excellent source of inspiration and guidance to those who follow the path of yoga. Bhagavad Gita is one such sacred text where its essence is absorbed more and more when one makes progress in their sadhana (spiritual practice). Hence Bhagavad Gita is considered an infinite source of guidance and is read multiple times by the spiritually inclined.

By the time Bhagavad Gita (Mahabharata) came into light, yogic sciences began taking a definite shape. This is evident when we notice that each of the chapters of Bhagavd Gita has the word ‘yoga’ attached at the end of its titles. In a concise manner, Bhagavad Gita describes the paths of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Dhyana. The learning from Bhagavad Gita trancends all boundaries and differences. Teachings of Bhagavad are applicable to everybody in every walk of their lives. This text composed of about 700 poems contains a bounty of life lessons which are universal and valid even now and will continue to be so till eternity.

Bhagavad Gita is the first text which emphasizes the universality of yoga and also that it is meant for everybody and not just only for the hermits or the ascetics of solitude. Before the time of Bhagavad Gita, Yoga was considered a path which is difficult to practice by a common man, it was considered a practice of unnatural and imaginative acts and requires great deal of disconnect from daily life. It was considered a system which was only meant either for the monks who gave up their wordly life or for those who have reached old age and retired from the social and family circles.

Also, Bhagavad Gita is the first ever treatise ever to suggest the idea of integrating different forms of yoga into one own personal sadhana (spiritual practice). Bhagavad Gita suggests that a person following one path of yoga vigorously should also practice the other form of yoga whenever and wherever a need arises. The basic structure of many forms of yoga that we practice today were formulated in their earlier stages by Bhagavad Gita.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Conclusion