Yoga and the Indian Consciousness

Shiva by unknown Indian artist

Yoga: Treasure for all of humanity

The splendour that is India, homeland of the ancient spiritual tradition of the Hindus, leaves the foreign mind grappling with this inexplicable reality. What should one make of the Hindu Pantheon with its millions of gods and goddesses? What do these myriad forms and avataars mean?

Behind the idol worship and the rituals lies a sublime view of the world that is uniquely Indian.  All these forms are merely one way of looking at the complex, all encompassing reality. These forms are, but one of the many, changing forms of that Absolute One. From this intuitive understanding comes the recognition: All is One and each is free to worship the form that pleases him.

From which source did this incredible spiritual tolerance, nay, spiritual acceptance spring from?

The ever present Now

We could look back in to history to find an answer to this question, but unfortunately, the Indian mind has little or no interest in history. One observes this in the Indian languages where the same one word is used for yesterday as well as tomorrow. It is the present that the Indian mind busies itself with. The past and future become irrevalent.

Historical figures become legends and myths sometimes seem closer to reality. So what we have is mythology and tales that go deeper than facts. Tales that stir up ancient memories are an integral part of the different traditions in Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra. The tradition integrates the past and future in to the present in the form of stories that have been handed down since millennia.

Guardians of Wisdom

The guardians of wisdom and the spiritual tradition of Yoga were the monks, sages, yogis, tantriks, ascetics and recluses that lived outside society. As the Masters of meditation sat in their forest retreats and Himalayan monasteries, they lay in the lap of Mother Nature who gave them in abundance and without reservation. Their teachers were the sun who share all and withheld nothing, the river that flowed over all obstacles and surrendered to the ocean, the trees that were firmly rooted in the earth, yet reached for the sky. Mother Nature taught in the form of intuition. The ancients have a word for it: Shruti.

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Realm beyond the senses

Knowledge of the senses tell us nothing of the spiritual realm. The Vedas are an authority because they are the only source of knowledge of this realm, without these all would be lost. Shruti is knowledge that is heard within, it is not knowledge that is learned from books or from other sources. In the language of myth and mythology the Vedas are eternal, they are divine, not human and fallible. The source is the direct and intuitive insights of the rishis, the Seers. They record eternal spiritual laws and come from a source superior to empirical and rational knowledge.  They are the foundation of what the Hindus call their faith: Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Law.

All Hindus irrespective of their personal deities and idols accept the final authority of the Seers of Vedic lore and the Eternal Law.

This ancient culture that produced wonders of architecture and gifted the world the zero and the numerical system lost interest in the material world. The Indian mind became preoccupied with spirituality, metaphysics and the occult. 

Even today the Indian mind is preoccupied with synthesis and continuity. It seeks common ground and abhors exclusive definitions. Thus the Hindus have no fixed doctrines, no central authority, no Pope and no Church.

The Yoga Tradition: Treasure of Humanity

For millennia the hymns from the Vedas, one of most ancient body of literature in the library of humanity, were preserved by ancient family traditions of oral recitation, handed down from father to son. The Brahmins were the custodians of the knowledge. For centuries the Brahmins held on to this knowledge and established their power in society. Time and again, the spiritual vacuum forced the Masters of spiritual traditions to make this knowledge available to the rest of humanity in unique and radical ways, rejecting all conventions.

Today we see this effort taking place in the meeting of the Eastern and Western worlds. The spiritual tradition of Yoga is not the privilege of any one caste, culture or people. Yoga , a tradition of spiritual practices, is for all humanity. 

Book Recommendation

A History of Indian Philosophy (5 volume set)

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (8 volume set)


Kalpana from UK:
History and historical narrative carry a bias, often in favour of the conquering nations. When the colonial masters used their sciences, arts, including history, it was to control their subjects. The 'history' of the Aryan invasion can and is challenged as containing a certain ideological bias.

Yoga from India:
Nice article. Yoga one of the great way to tune body, breath and mind. It not only affects the body but also the keeps the mind healthy.

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