YOGA'S VINYASA PHILOSOPHY.

 



The growth of vinyasa (Birch 2018, 101–180) has been one of the most exciting developments in contemporary yoga. 

Despite its widespread appeal, no comprehensive philosophy for its methodologies and operations has yet to be developed. 



The practices of asana – the "steady seat" of postural yoga – have been emphasized in both modern and traditional yoga, seeing it as necessary for contemplative activities. 



Vinyasa, on the other hand, views transitions between poses as equally important — at its most extreme, it advocates for continuous fluid movement that is inspired by and synchronized with breath. 


Asana yoga approaches have always attempted to recreate a profound sensation of changelessness. 

The body is held immobile, suspended breathing (a refinement of bodily immobility) is valued, and an effort is made to stop the mind's workings by bringing it to a point of fixity – essentially negating mundane bodily processes in order to achieve a more lucid experience of the unity that it sees as the true nature of the universe. 

"... defined and continuous focus, dubbed ekagrata ('on a single point,') is gained by integrating the mental flux... 

which clogs the mental stream and so produces a 'psychic mass,' a solid and unified continuity," according to Eliade (Eliade 1958, 47–48). 

This might be related to Milesian pre-Socratic thinkers' attempts to figure out what the actual essence of the cosmos as a basic or primordial material was. 



In this perspective, Vinyasa, on the other hand, shares a more Heraclitian idea, positing that the basis is a process rather than a substance. 


As its ekagrata, it favors the evenness with which the process develops above the fixity on a single and immovable point. 

The practices of vinyasa yoga include maintaining evenness of breath and synchronizing it with evenness of bodily movement in order to achieve evenness of mind, but it might be argued that evenness of mind is the first need. 



Breath, body, and mind are most likely engaged in a dynamically reciprocal relationship. 


The vinyasa approaches imply that time passes at a constant pace, with no "moments" of higher significance. 


The passage of time might also be equally accelerating, decreasing, or flowing irregularly, according to different theories. 

A fourth alternative is that time is only an abstract convention for an everlasting and undifferentiated present that is simultaneously brought into existence and obliterated - something that, ironically, constitutes unity via its ceaseless changingness. 

An attempt is made to maintain a longer breath in order to build awareness of this never-ending flow. 

Postures are shifted about and given no more weight than the movement toward or away from them. 

Because there is a distinction as the breath transitions from intake to exhale and back again, there is a sensation that length does matter, which would lead one to reject the view that there is no such thing as time. 



The duration of a breath does give a fairly realistic restriction for the development of focus or concentration — it is a very small period of time to maintain attention. 


When it's finished, there's minimal connection to the experience since there's no investment in it, and the next breath, with its own set of obstacles, comes quickly after. 


  • Each breath is special and should be savored for what it is and what it reveals over time. 
  • With each breath, the process starts again, and there is no fidelity to previous or future breaths. 
  • When respiration and movement are stated to be synchronized, it signifies more than "they happen at the same time." 
  • Each breath should be full yet regulated without exerting unnecessary pressure. 
  • The accompanying movement is similar - that specific breath could only cause that movement – the movement aims to be a flawless portrayal of what that breath is – not only as it occurs in time, but also as it shares its features. 



In the same way, the intellect is in perfect harmony with the breath. 


If the breath is a little ragged, it means the mind is agitated as well. 

The breath is thought to be an accurate intermediate between physical and mental processes, with each portion mediating and attempting to precisely represent the status of the whole as it travels through a continuous transition. 


This vinyasa philosophy presents an alternative to asana's pursuit of stillness perfection, saying that no matter how hard an asana practitioner tries to stay still, their breathing will always result in movement. 


Furthermore, blood continues to flow through the body in asana, cells continue to multiply and die, and the endocrine system continues to operate. 

The asana yogi would seem to be seated on a planet that spins on its axis as it hurtles around the sun – a solar that is part of a developing and slowly rotating galaxy that is part of an expanding cosmos (Rees 2001, 50–51). 


In summary, the nature of reality is this process of movement and change, and it is important to attune oneself to this process in order to be one with it. 


There are also significant distinctions between asana and vinyasa. 

Asana practitioners "gaze" within in quest of the oneness of underlying Self, eventually seeking detachment from body feeling - subjecting oneself to intense physical challenges until mastery is accomplished in stillness. 

The vinyasa method shown here, on the other hand, begins energetically at an infinitely tiny place inside the pelvic region and flows externally with a unification of breath, body, and mind. 

Before delving into the meaning of inner and outward, it's important to define the words prana and pranayama (yogic terminology for energy and the practices used to move it). 



The meaning of prana and, by extension, pranayama, is unclear. 


Prana is defined by Eliade as "organic energy expelled by breath and exhalation" (Eliade 1958, 58), but he does not specify what that organic energy is or where it goes. 


  • Vital life force energy is a frequent current definition, albeit it's unclear if the term vital implies that there are additional types of life force energy. 
  • Prana, according to Swami Rama, pervades everything of existence, even inanimate things (Rama 2002, 202). 

This wide definition might imply that prana is a kind of energy similar to that found at the atomic level. 




The word yama is frequently translated as "restraint," although it may also be translated as "control" or "manipulation."  


The goal of asana yoga is to put the prana into a condition where there is no flux - no energy discharge. 

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Sinh 1915, 4.18) and the Siva Samhita (Vasu 1914–15, 2.13) both list the nadis (or channels) in the body via which prana passes (72,000 and 350,000, respectively). 

In their book Roots Of Yoga, James Mallinson and Mark Singleton discuss how the primary nadis start at the "base" chakra and travel to the "crown" chakra (top of the head), allowing prana to flow through the "subtle body" (Mallinson and Singleton 2017, 171–184). 


The idea of a mysterious source of energy near the base of the spine with attached channels through which energy rises is a premise so pervasive and adamantly held that one must take a step back to appreciate what an extraordinary and peculiar assertion this is if taken literally – predicated on "subtle bodies" with elaborate structures that defy demonstration but have apparently resonated with practitioners throughout the ages; replete with "subtle bodies" with elaborate structures that belie demonstration. 

The "lower" chakras (nexuses of pranic energy) are more primitive and instinctive; the "higher" chakras (nexuses of pranic energy) are more noble and spiritual; The lower ones are more simple in their qualities, while the higher ones are more elaborate in their elaboration. 

It's debatable to what extent these alleged structures should be regarded literally in reality. 

They are, nevertheless, imaginatively strong weapons with both poetic and metaphoric resonance. 



The vinyasa philosophy described here claims that literal understanding of the "subtle body" and its architecture is impossible. 


Vinyasa, on the other hand, loosely adheres to this energetic foundation and interprets it as imagery that serves as a metaphor for its ekagrata of continuous flow. 


This imagery is a useful poetic conception around which the vinyasi can cohesively integrate the concrete efforts of body, mind, and breath. 

It is unique to each individual and is a useful poetic conception around which the vinyasi can cohesively integrate the concrete efforts of body, mind, and breath. 

Whatever shape a nadi and the energy that passes through it take, it's probable that each person imagines it differently ("My sushumna is like a glittering thread"; "Mine is like a plastic tube"). 

The mula (albeit not a chakra) is the location where this energy originates, and it is seen as an endlessly tiny and fictitious, but theoretically powerful, point positioned in the pelvic region somewhere between the sitting bones, pubic bone, coccyx, and pelvic floor. 

This is where the outward flow of prana is said to begin. 


Though "root" is a commonly accepted translation of mula, this meaning may lose some of the nuance that "location or site of origin" suggests. 


The vinyasa imagery serves as a strong focus point — its ekagrata – from which the whole body moves together. 

This assumption offers the framework for imagining prana (the activity of pranayama) flowing from this infinitely tiny place - so minuscule that it equates to a zero on a number line. 



Mula is the beginning point for the continual flow of energy in the direction of the legs and feet, as well as the torso, head, and arms - compared to light spreading forth. 


Zero points on number lines and light emitted from infinitely tiny points should be recognized for what they are: culturally particular metaphors attempting to create parallels for an experience that each practitioner would interpret differently. 


This idea of vinyasa places a premium on creative participation with the event, just as it does on intellectual, emotional, and physical engagement. 

The event consumes the totality of one's existence. 

Both asana and vinyasa appear to hold extreme polar positions on the surface – one a complete negation of self and the other a complete affirmation – but they are both predicated on the entry (or rebirth) into a different sphere of being or experience – that of understanding the true nature of reality. 


The way by which they strive to assure their capacity to recreate the experience at will is via technical mastery. 


Each has significant challenges to overcome in this endeavor. 

The numerous distractions of one's own thoughts must be quelled in asana - for those searching within – as they aim to discover a new and more universal plane of awareness. 

Those gazing outwards have the challenge of absorbing everything that their senses provide them and reacting to it in a completely coherent manner - one that sees the blatant manifestation of a distinct and developing "other" with whom they are attempting to blend their knowledge. 

Vinyasa Yoga recognizes that each person conducts this as a unique and imaginative endeavor, and so it falls within the ambit of aesthetic philosophy.



Sensory Control 




Pratayahara refers to the link between the senses and the mind in this vinyasa paradigm. 


Despite the fact that it appears in most current yoga sessions in some form, it is seldom mentioned by name. 

There are three working definitions of vinyasa's processes. 

The first is "sense withdrawal," which is the most common. 

Working with the eyes closed may be one of the techniques used, with the goal of eliminating any visual distractions. 



Yoga on a mat works in the same manner — by constraining the area in which the practice takes place, it reduces the influence of sensory information that comes from outside of it. 


Another term for it is "sense refinement." The effort of vinyasa to maintain movement, for example, might be supported by sensory information. 

The slight sense of air travelling between the fingers may be noticed when one moves one's arm and hands across space. 

The sensacion between the fingertips, however modest, provides a clear measurement of how smooth the movement is. 

It's worth noting that there's considerable overlap between the two definitions. 



Other sensual information becomes more evident when you shut your eyes to practice. 


"Rethinking" or "thinking differently" is the third definition of pratayahara. 

"When the mind is upset by incorrect ideas, the solution is to ponder the contrary," Phulgenda Sinha recommends. 

For example, instead of focusing on the multiple body parts required for vinyasa, imagine yourself as an energy singularity spreading forth to overcome distractions. 




Focused Concentration




The act of concentrating on a "single point" or ekagrata is referred to as dharana. 

The volume of this single point is significant; it may be thought of as a dot (or infinitely bigger or smaller) as well as an interior space (such as the space between the brows - the third eye). 

The practitioner makes a conscious effort to devote their whole self to filling or encompassing this singularity. 

Because the ekagrata's size and form are varied, exterior objects for contemplation may be anything from a lotus bloom to a dot on paper. 

Internally, everyone's perception of the third eye (and where it is located) is different. 


In vinyasa, the concept of volume is crucial. 


In their interaction with external stimuli, the vinyasa practitioner attempts to expand the volume of awareness to the extent of their capacities in the conditions of the location where they practice, a process known as dhyana. 



Dhyana is a kind of meditation that is often used in the performing arts. 


Actors' work must be sized correctly to match the theatre. 

Their act is "projected" to suit the location. 

The size of the theatre is the volume of their awareness. 


If someone coughs in the third row distracts them, that becomes the size of their awareness area (and the performance suffers). 

This whole process starts early in practice, when they first create a reality between themselves and their fellow actors, which subsequently grows to fill the rehearsal space. 

The majority of non-actors think that an actor adopts an emotional demeanor; that they, for example, simulate the feeling of grief. 

This, however, is not how it is done. 

Instead, the audience gets the impression that a character is sad because the actor develops the audience's intuition over the course of a series of simple and specific "actions" – 

"I pick up the teacup... 
bring it to my lips... 
put it down untouched" – and the sum of these individual actions creates the impression. "

Individual moments in theatre are chosen and performed in a manner that is, for the most part, unlike actual life. 

They are carried out with a single goal in mind. 

This singularity of focus is quite similar to the kind of single-pointed concentration used in vinyasa yoga as it moves through the postures. 


The vinyasi, like the teacup actor, tries to arrange their practice with a set of roughly repeatable movements. 



Only one action is performed on each inhale and exhale. 


An inhale may be the first step toward a high arch, while an exhale might be the first step toward a forward bend. 

When one examines each particular portion of the body, there is basically just one movement. 

In the instance of the high arch, the arms may form a single arc; the pelvis would only move forward; and the rib cage would expand evenly – and all of these motions occur at the same pace as the breath, allowing them to attain their maximum movement at the same moment. 


Each breath, as well as the movement it causes, is a record of the mind. 


Someone who is very anxious to imitate a high arch they like may hurry to bring the arms back farther than the breath allows. 

Mind (or spirit) and body (matter) are both transitory and transient elements of the same reality, and each breath gives a window into an individual's connection with that reality. 



The dhyana practice demonstrates how space and volume interact to effect the practitioner. 



Things that aren't "of" the practitioner - things that are "other" – have an impact on how the practitioner perceives reality. 

The way movement is elicited changes in a chilly space. 

The person also alters the environment. 

The exertion of their movement, for example, warms the space somewhat — their "energy" changes "the other." When an actor is performing a sad scene, the energy used in conceiving the volume of their awareness (a theatrical space) will make someone in the back row to feel sad as well (regardless of whether the circumstances of their life are happy or otherwise). 

The volume of awareness in a yoga studio may be confined or increased in a variety of ways. 

Rectangular yoga mats are very universally used and are a contemporary addition to yoga practice. 

While they provide cushioning and traction, they also restrict many people's connection with space by acting as a barrier that protects them from intrusion while simultaneously preventing further growth. 

Many children will rush to keep their feet, hands, or heads on the mat at all times. 

There are certain things that can help. 

For example, if a studio is large, it tends to attract one's attention into it; and the use of music has the ability to establish a more expanded link between the practitioner and whatever "space" the music indicates. 



The Space And Reality In Between You And Existence



The operations of the "actor's melancholy" or the yoga practitioner's encounter with "the other" seem to take place in a field (Between Space). 


What is the difference between space and time? 


The volume of consciousness may theoretically be endless, like the apeiron of the pre-Socratics. 

From the rectangle of a yoga mat to the edge of the perceivable cosmos, it's a long distance. 

Even the comparatively short distances of our near cosmic neighborhood challenge the imagination13, albeit imagination is one human tool for traversing such space. 

By quantifying the issue, science has been able to solve it. 


When written as words on a paper, fourteen billion light years14 does not seem to be that daunting. 

Asana practice appears to posit that this vastness is the same as the volume that can be discovered internally by negating thought-movements until there is an irreducible essence of negligible volume (that is also immaterial and temporally unbound), and that this foundation – the "essential self" – is the same as the universe. 

Although the concept of the infinitely tiny and endlessly huge being the same may seem illogical, there are plausible explanations. 


According to the Big Bang Theory, the whole universe arose from a single point of great density and high temperature. 

The vinyasa yogi's concentration on expanding the volume of awareness might be seen as a personal effort to mimic this process, while the asana yogi's inner gaze strives to reverse time and space, bringing the whole cosmos back into a single fundamental point that holds the All. 




Physics and yoga comparisons are always forced. 


In theory, physical yoga practice has the same aim as physics, but it may be hampered by the restrictions of its "laboratory." 


There is still the chance that a prodigy sadhu had insights as implausible as Maxwell's or Einstein's recognition that Newtonian physics, although seeming to be common sense (space and time as absolutes), is not the reality (that space and time are warped). 


It is still too early to draw definitive conclusions on how current scientific knowledge of space influences the contemporary yogi's perception of "actual reality" - yet it may be cautiously accepted as a leap of faith that the universe is not as we see it. 

It is useful to study what may be seen and acquired from "life as it is lived" with incomplete knowledge. 

In the Between Space, there are "dhyanic" components to how a theatrical audience's attention works. 

Their level of awareness must embrace everything the performer is doing. 

The way a sunset is viewed provides a better explanation of how volume of awareness and the Between Space interact. 

The magnificence of a sky richly colored with colored light and shadows playing on the clouds may encourage one to feel beautiful. 

The experience of beauty, on the other hand, does not exist if no one sees it (just as the audience's grief does not exist if no one sees it - beauty and sadness are experiences, not objects in and of themselves). 


Only when the participant's volume of awareness is extended to take in the scope - the Between Space – in which the experience is supposed to occur, can the experience occur. 


There is no consideration of whether such cumulonimbus clouds would be better if they were cirrus clouds in the participant's experience. 

Acceptance and involvement are present. 

The audience, as little as their involvement may seem, plays an important role since the feeling of beauty would not be possible without them. 

In the far greater realm of the cosmos itself, the vinyasi serves the same purpose. 


The phrase samadhi might refer to a direct experience of the Totality. 



To achieve total yoga unity, there must be a dissolution of the idea that the person seeing is separate from the sunset – so that they exist without distinction. 

It takes a leap of faith to think that this can be done with the power of imagination.




References & Further Reading: 



Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Sri Srimad and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya, 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, 2015.

Birch, Jason. “The proliferation of asana-s in late-medieval yoga texts.” In Yoga and transformation historical and contemporary perspectives, edited by Karl Baier, Philipp A. Maas, and Karin Preisendanz, 101–180. Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The dance of Siva: essays on Indian art and culture.
New York: Dover, 1985.

Cooper, David E. “Introduction.” In Aesthetics: the classic readings, edited by David E. Cooper, 1–10. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga immortality and freedom, translated by Willard R. Trask. 
Princeton: Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, 1958.

Herbermann, Charles, ed. “The Absolute.” In Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

Jakubczak, Marzenna. “The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāmkhya-Yoga.” Argument, vol. 4 (January, 2014): 55–68.

Jaspers, Karl. The origin and goal of history, translated by Michael Bullock. London: Routledge, 1955.

Johnson, Williams J., translator. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis-Williams, David and David Pearce. Inside the neolithic mind. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Mallinson, James and Mark Singleton. Roots of yoga. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.

McGilchrist, Iain. The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale, 2009.

Rama, Swami. The science of breath. Delhi: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1979.

Rama, Swami. Sacred journey: living purposefully and dying gracefully. Delhi: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.

Rees, Martin. Our cosmic habitat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Sinh, Pancham. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Sanskrit text with English translation. New 
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1915.

Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as it was: rediscovering the original Bhagavad Gita. LaSalle: Open Court, 1986.

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Tarnas, Richard. The passion of the Western mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. London: Pimlico, 1991.

Vasu, Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra, translators. Siva Samhita. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1914–15.











RELIGION AND YOGA.

 



Philosophy taught from a physical standpoint might be seen as problematic. 

Philosophy has been associated with components of religion or else as something that has more to do with debate than demonstration in the modern yoga studio context. 



It's a good idea to start by examining the differences between religion and philosophy. 


Religions assume the presence of supernatural places, entities, and powers; religion claims the existence of supernatural things (Stark and Bainbridge 1985, 3). 

Belief in these supernatural beings does not have to be shown, and it may defy evidence. 

In contrast, one of the objectives of philosophy is that tenets be rationally deduced and the method by which it arrives at conclusions be provable. 

David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce develop a practical paradigm for explaining religion that, in many respects, is similar to a yoga explanation. 




Experience, belief, and practice are three mutually supportive components to explore. 


They claim that "religious experience is a series of mental states formed by the functioning of the human brain under natural and induced situations," and that individuals interpret these experiences as "kind of touch with otherworldly, but very real, worlds... 

"In the first instance, religious belief arises from efforts to codify this experience in particular social settings" (Lewis-Williams and Pearce 2005, 25–27). 



Beliefs give religious experience significance. 


The way beliefs are expressed — the specific rituals and symbology of the community in which they occur – is referred to as religious practice. 

These rituals are intended to guide individuals into religious experiences and to help them express their views. 

People may, for example, believe in the existence of a heaven and hell by visiting church on Sundays or that spiritual insight may be gained by taking a yoga class once a week. 

Because those in attendance share similar beliefs, the mystical experience is intensified and supported, and symbolism and rituals (an Om sign on the studio entrance; a cross on the church – kneeling to pray or putting the hands into namaste) are reinforced. 



Even if the most intense mystical experiences in religion and yoga are uncommon, these beliefs and practices give them legitimacy. 


Religion, on the other hand, gives definitive solutions, frequently backed up by a canon of written or oral scriptures, to challenging issues to which it presents hypothetical possibilities. 


Philosophers develop and test hypotheses in order to improve, disprove, or reify their subject's knowledge. 


Philosophical assumptions are evaluated by experience in physical yoga, and results are susceptible to change. 

The uniqueness of each experience is emphasized when the conditions of a yoga pose vary from day to day. 

The practitioner seeks to extrapolate – both about the uniqueness of the bodily experience and what this could entail – by constant exploration. 



Although Yoga has been put in a religious framework in previous assessments, there is nothing in yoga practice that requires believing in supernatural entities or that the supernatural exist (Eliade 1958, 363). 


While yoga and its physical philosophy share certain religious characteristics, such as references to heavenly or supernatural creatures, these are culturally particular (theistic) interpretations that are unimportant to the study of yoga and its physical philosophy (Jakubczak 2014). 

This is not to argue that religious ideas are unimportant to those who possess them; on the contrary, religious beliefs may help contextualize what a person experiences via yoga.





References & Further Reading: 



Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Sri Srimad and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya, 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, 2015.

Birch, Jason. “The proliferation of asana-s in late-medieval yoga texts.” In Yoga and transformation historical and contemporary perspectives, edited by Karl Baier, Philipp A. Maas, and Karin Preisendanz, 101–180. Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The dance of Siva: essays on Indian art and culture.
New York: Dover, 1985.

Cooper, David E. “Introduction.” In Aesthetics: the classic readings, edited by David E. Cooper, 1–10. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga immortality and freedom, translated by Willard R. Trask. 
Princeton: Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, 1958.

Herbermann, Charles, ed. “The Absolute.” In Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

Jakubczak, Marzenna. “The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāmkhya-Yoga.” Argument, vol. 4 (January, 2014): 55–68.

Jaspers, Karl. The origin and goal of history, translated by Michael Bullock. London: Routledge, 1955.

Johnson, Williams J., translator. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis-Williams, David and David Pearce. Inside the neolithic mind. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Mallinson, James and Mark Singleton. Roots of yoga. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.

McGilchrist, Iain. The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale, 2009.

Rama, Swami. The science of breath. Delhi: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1979.

Rama, Swami. Sacred journey: living purposefully and dying gracefully. Delhi: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.

Rees, Martin. Our cosmic habitat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Sinh, Pancham. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Sanskrit text with English translation. New 
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1915.

Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as it was: rediscovering the original Bhagavad Gita. LaSalle: Open Court, 1986.

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Tarnas, Richard. The passion of the Western mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. London: Pimlico, 1991.

Vasu, Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra, translators. Siva Samhita. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1914–15.







YOGA - EARLY NON-THEISTIC EXPLAINATIONS OF REALITY'S FOUNDATIONS.

 



Natural occurrences would have observable causes. 



During what Karl Jaspers regards to as the Axial Age (Jaspers 1955, 1–6), alternative and nontheistic perspectives of yogic philosophy emerged. 


A new method of conceptualizing reality blossomed about the eighth–second centuries BCE, as shown by pre-Socratic thinkers in Greece and Kapila and the Buddha in the Indian subcontinent. 

During this time, the idea that the universe might be cognitively studied and its unfolding probed in ways that would expose its workings by proven methods began to take shape. 


The exclusive way of construing reality was no longer deemed religious dogma. 

For example, Milesian pre-Socratics attempted to characterize reality as a primeval, indivisible oneness from which natural phenomena emerged. 


Water and air, according to Thales and Anaximenes, were the fundamental components from which everything was created. 


Anaximander envisioned this oneness as the apeiron, a boundless creature with no boundaries, an early articulation of infinity in both space and time. 

Heraclitus (of Ephesus, who disagreed with the Milesians) contended that it was not a substance, but rather an ever-changing process, and that one cannot walk into the same river again since various waters pass past. 

These pre-Socratics contributed to the study of natural, rather than supernatural, events as a method of comprehending the nature of reality, something that subsequent Greek philosophy developed and continues to grow. 

In his book The Passion of the Western Mind, Richard Tarnas summarizes the pre-Socratic Greek philosophy as two philosophic strands: Platonic and Aristotelian (Tarnas 1991, 69–71). 



The Platonic uses reason to discover hidden/mystical truths and assumes an ordered world, which analysis reveals as a timeless order that is both rational and mythic. 


The Aristotelian places a premium on what the five senses can detect, and insists that theoretical knowledge be tested against actual reality. 

The mythical and supernatural - intangible otherworld realities – are left out of causal theories. 

One of the dynamic conflicts here is between the Platonic tendency's theoretical assumption of "mystical truths" and the Aristotelian rejection of "undemonstrable otherworld realities." The following instances support the claim that yoga is an aesthetic philosophy that uses physical techniques to perceive reality. 

Consider the magnificence of the stars or planets in the sky, such as Venus. 



In the darkness or early dawn, there it is – named for a god — obviously blazing brighter than the others. 


"Ah certainly, an example of beauty," the Platonic perspective may go, "but not one that truly epitomizes the total ideal of beauty." 


We can, however, calculate the exact trajectory of its path through the sky using mathematical formulae and conclude that these formulae reveal a profound structure of elegant and knowable harmony to be found in this natural phenomenon that can be extrapolated to larger or smaller structures – that the nature of the universe and of beauty can be found in this exactitude." 


  • "It is glowing the way it does in the twilit sky because the atmosphere is 'just so' on this occasion and it is being viewed from a particular vantage point – its beauty lies in a combination of many factors that create the unique way it appears on this occasion," according to the Aristotelian viewpoint. 
  • If we replace Venus with a yoga student performing a posture or sequence, a Platonic teacher might be looking to see if it conforms to their ideal of the form (its "sacred geometry"), while an Aristotelian might be looking to see what factors are causing it to happen as it does on this particular occasion (the warmth of the room and the student's physical anatomy). 


In both situations, the description of the facts is intended to bring the analysis back to a broader scale. 


According to one viewpoint, there are exact alignments of bodily parts and other elements that suggest to a comprehension and agreement with a Platonic "mystical plane - a melody of the spheres." 

The other argues that this is an Aristotelian phenomena – a one-of-a-kind event – and that an explanation of reality may be found in the sum of the specifics of the experience. 

While pre-Socratic thinkers debated the nature of fundamental material and process, the Vedic sage Kapila posited prakriti and purusha as two types of existence. 



Prakriti is essentially "matter," or the stuff/substance that gives "being" to anything. 


Prakriti's nature as "matter" is ephemeral — it is always changing, disintegrating and reassembling itself – a perpetual atomistic modification. 


Purusha, on the other hand, is regarded as unchanging, although it is more difficult to define - however it has been referred to as "spirit" or "awareness" in the vernacular. 

It's impossible to say what Kapila could have interpreted purusha to be in his cultural context, but current conceptions of purusha include the notion that a person's spirit is completely separate from their physical body and attempt to account for both its immateriality and actuality. 

The term "potential" is used to characterize this in the study that follows. 

It's real since it's feasible (not impossible), but it's irrelevant because it hasn't happened yet. 

This corresponds to the pre-Socratics' fascination with cause and consequence. 


This gives a method to look at cause and effect, similar to the proto science of the pre-Socratics; the activities conducted in prakriti5 turn the potential contained in purusha into material actuality. 

If water were heated, it would change to steam; heat brought it into existence; nevertheless, water could not be turned into blood because blood is not something that is latent in purusha; it does not exist as a potentiality - it is not actual. 


There are those who object to the term "potentiality" being used to describe purusha. 


Purusha has traditionally been defined as "pure consciousness" (the "spirit" or "person" that is a passive property of living organisms), a simply inactive observer, an indifferent condition, irreducible, without attributes, and free from contact with prakriti. 

It's something buddhi (intelligence) can't understand since, being a highly developed aspect of prakriti, it can only understand other elements of prakriti. 


Furthermore, the only way to know this "pure awareness" is to completely conquer existence – or, if understood literally, to die and be reborn. 


It is difficult to scientifically confirm the condition of purusha via prakriti. 

Traditionalists may also be perplexed as to how "potentiality" explains an irreducible "I" - a type of passive spectator who is eternal and unaltered, everlasting consciousness. 

It may be hard to accurately define this "reality" using words (buddhi products) and precision. 

Nonetheless, the idea of "potentiality" serves as a beginning point for current yoga practitioners seeking to comprehend the nature of "pure consciousness."


Potentiality satisfies a number of the purusha-assigned requirements. 



It makes no difference whether or not potential is realized. 


It is merely a fact that it may happen, but it has no desire to do so. 

It is unattached as an endless immensity of amorphous chance - it cannot promote or affect its own emergence. 


That is the function of "cause" in prakriti. It is irreducible because it lacks substance. 

Because each "person" or "spirit's" fundamental "I" is irreducible, it shares this reality with all "persons" or "spirits," therefore even if a person dies, its essentiality lives on. 

In this sense, pure awareness would be eternal. 

Though concept is applied to living entities in Samkhya philosophy, it is not unreasonable to believe that the same potentiality may be applied to inanimate objects. 


Purusha is a genuine being that is neither material nor geographically nor temporally confined. 


"Potential" satisfies these criteria.





References & Further Reading: 



Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Sri Srimad and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya, 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, 2015.

Birch, Jason. “The proliferation of asana-s in late-medieval yoga texts.” In Yoga and transformation historical and contemporary perspectives, edited by Karl Baier, Philipp A. Maas, and Karin Preisendanz, 101–180. Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The dance of Siva: essays on Indian art and culture.
New York: Dover, 1985.

Cooper, David E. “Introduction.” In Aesthetics: the classic readings, edited by David E. Cooper, 1–10. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga immortality and freedom, translated by Willard R. Trask. 
Princeton: Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, 1958.

Herbermann, Charles, ed. “The Absolute.” In Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

Jakubczak, Marzenna. “The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāmkhya-Yoga.” Argument, vol. 4 (January, 2014): 55–68.

Jaspers, Karl. The origin and goal of history, translated by Michael Bullock. London: Routledge, 1955.

Johnson, Williams J., translator. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis-Williams, David and David Pearce. Inside the neolithic mind. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Mallinson, James and Mark Singleton. Roots of yoga. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.

McGilchrist, Iain. The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale, 2009.

Rama, Swami. The science of breath. Delhi: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1979.

Rama, Swami. Sacred journey: living purposefully and dying gracefully. Delhi: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.

Rees, Martin. Our cosmic habitat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Sinh, Pancham. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Sanskrit text with English translation. New 
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1915.

Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as it was: rediscovering the original Bhagavad Gita. LaSalle: Open Court, 1986.

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Tarnas, Richard. The passion of the Western mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. London: Pimlico, 1991.

Vasu, Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra, translators. Siva Samhita. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1914–15.








YOGA - ILLUSION AS MATERIAL REALITY.

 



What does this mean in terms of yoga and physical philosophy? 


One may argue that humans participate in acts, and that via their actions, they express what is latent in prakriti. 


In yoga philosophy, "activity" is referred to as karma and has a variety of meanings. 


It refers to "cause and effect," "physical movement" (Nyaya-Upanishads), and "any action undertaken in the course of material existence" (Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja and Bhaktivinoda hkura 2015). 

Mircea Eliade identified phenomena manifested via cause and effect as maya - ephemeral sensations granted reality but which were deceptive – in his early examination of yogis in India. 


Yoga practitioners thought that the real essence of life was a single, eternal, and unchanging oneness, and that ignorance of an unchanging, basic Self could be transcended by the practice of yoga. 


Though much is hypothetical when it comes to ancient minds and civilizations' meditative and active activities, one core assumption of early yogic teachings is that the person might come to experience this state of a reality that seems to be different from that which is obvious. 




Separation was defined as the individual's erroneous conviction that their own existence was the genuine reality. 


To break free from maya, yogis practiced great austerities in order to conquer the body's and mind's reliance on sensory input, attempting to gaze "inwards" to discover what was fundamental in the cosmos. 


To put it another way, they were looking for a negation of "self," which they perceived as either a barrier to comprehension or the source of the illusion of separateness from the vast unity. 

They put themselves in uncomfortable circumstances in order to attain mastery — to bring about significant and enduring change (standing on one leg or holding the arm in the air until the muscles wither; remaining motionless under the blazing hot sun). 

Postures might last for hours or, in severe cases, years. 

This pursuit of extreme postures and exposure to extreme events was apparently done in the notion that success in relatively benign circumstances would not ensure success under pressure, and that the results were less evident. 


This necessitated a steadfast dedication to the inquiry of stopping to connect with the body and personality - an attempt to achieve an experience of "no activity," changelessness.




References & Further Reading: 



Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Sri Srimad and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya, 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, 2015.

Birch, Jason. “The proliferation of asana-s in late-medieval yoga texts.” In Yoga and transformation historical and contemporary perspectives, edited by Karl Baier, Philipp A. Maas, and Karin Preisendanz, 101–180. Vienna: Vienna University Press, 2018.

Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The dance of Siva: essays on Indian art and culture.
New York: Dover, 1985.

Cooper, David E. “Introduction.” In Aesthetics: the classic readings, edited by David E. Cooper, 1–10. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga immortality and freedom, translated by Willard R. Trask. 
Princeton: Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, 1958.

Herbermann, Charles, ed. “The Absolute.” In Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1913.

Jakubczak, Marzenna. “The purpose of non-theistic devotion in the classical Indian tradition of Sāmkhya-Yoga.” Argument, vol. 4 (January, 2014): 55–68.

Jaspers, Karl. The origin and goal of history, translated by Michael Bullock. London: Routledge, 1955.

Johnson, Williams J., translator. The Bhagavad Gita. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Lewis-Williams, David and David Pearce. Inside the neolithic mind. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.

Mallinson, James and Mark Singleton. Roots of yoga. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.

McGilchrist, Iain. The master and his emissary: the divided brain and the making of the Western world. New Haven: Yale, 2009.

Rama, Swami. The science of breath. Delhi: The Himalayan Institute Press, 1979.

Rama, Swami. Sacred journey: living purposefully and dying gracefully. Delhi: Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.

Rees, Martin. Our cosmic habitat. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Sinh, Pancham. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Sanskrit text with English translation. New 
Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1915.

Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as it was: rediscovering the original Bhagavad Gita. LaSalle: Open Court, 1986.

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Tarnas, Richard. The passion of the Western mind: understanding the ideas that have shaped our world view. London: Pimlico, 1991.

Vasu, Rai Bahadur Srisa Chandra, translators. Siva Samhita. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1914–15.