Posts Tagged 'yoga'

Vedanta and yoga perfect match for certain American values

Vedanta and yoga perfect match for certain American values

By Mayank Chhaya, Special to Hi India
December 24, 2010

http://groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.indian/browse_thread/thread/20c99799aae46f04/54f3552eed86bde1?lnk=raot
There has always been a pervasive but undocumented feeling that Indian philosophy, as manifest in Vedanta on the intellectual plain and yoga on the physical plain, has very significantly influenced the West in general and America in particular. That feeling now finds a meticulously constructed scholastic endorsement in the form of an important new book.
Author Philip Goldberg’s ‘American Veda-From Emerson to the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West’
(Harmony Books, 398 pages, $26) offers a comprehensive account of the inroads made by Indian philosophy since the early 19th century. In an
interview with Hi India Goldberg dwells on how and why Indian philosophy has had such a profound impact in the West.
Hi India: To what do you attribute the fact that Indian philosophy has had as deep an impact on the West as your book so carefully establishes?
Philip Goldberg: The combination of Vedanta and Yoga was a perfect match for certain American values: freedom of choice and religion,
individuality, scientific rationality, and pragmatism. They appealed especially to well-educated Americans who were discontent with ordinary religion and unsatisfied by secularism, giving them a way to be authentically spiritual without compromising their sense of reason, their consciences or their personal inclinations.
HI: Is it as much a tribute to the openness of the West as it is to the appeal of Indian philosophy?
PG: Yes, indeed. I think the great teachers who came here from India were very much aware of that, and they adapted the teachings accordingly.
HI: Do you think the mainstreaming of Indian philosophy, as manifest in the widespread practice of yoga, has to do a great deal with the
fact that a lot of it comes across as secular and even agnostic?
PG: Yes, I think the remarkable growth of the “spiritual but not religious” cohort of Americans would have been unthinkable without access to the practices derived from Hinduism and Buddhism. In addition, the philosophy was presented so rationally that its premises could be regarded as hypotheses, and the practices were so uniform and so widely applicable that they lent themselves to scientific experimentation.
HI: Is there a sense among Americans drawn to Indian philosophy that it is dogma free and therefore non-threatening?
PG: Yes, and premises that might be taken as dogma were usually presented by teachers as ideas to be verified by one’s own experience, not as take-it-or-leave-it or believe-it-or-else doctrine.
HI: The Bhagvad Gita, for instance, is essentially a distilled, unemotional, remarkably modern code of conduct that is shorn of any denominational doctrines. Do you think that helps the cause of Indian philosophy?
PG: You bet. And not just a code of conduct, but also a manual for self-realization. People of all faiths and no faith have cherished it for that reason.
HI: Does the fact that Hinduism is not institutionalized, codified, congregational or instructional help in its spread?
PG: Certainly that’s true of the Hindu-based teachings that caught on with Americans, which were not even called Hinduism as such. The fact
that Hinduism, even in India, is decentralized, diverse, non- institutional, etc., made it convincing that anyone can adopt the teachings without converting to a foreign religion.
HI: One detects two distinct trends in your book in support of your primary contention about how Indian spirituality changed the West. One trend is at the operational level where words such as mantra, guru, karma and pundits have so seamlessly become part of the mainstream lexicon. The other trend is much deeper in terms of internalizing the core values of Indian philosophy. Do you think people in America are conscious of this?
PG: Some are conscious of it, and therefore grateful to the Indian legacy. Others are not: it’s seeped into the American consciousness in subtle but profound ways.
HI: You speak about Americans accepting everything, from falafel to philosophy, depending on the circumstances. What do you think made
the circumstances right for them to accept some of the core philosophical concepts from India?
PG: The rise of secularism, the success of science and especially the widespread alienation from both materialistic values and mainstream
religion, which was not providing reliable methods of personal transformation and transcendence.
HI: When you talk of “Vedization of America”, do you mean that it has been a conscious development? Could it, for instance, also not have
been a consequence of secularization/pluralization that the rise of agnostic information technologies?
PG: If you mean, could the trends I describe be attributed to the growth of pluralism and other social forces, independent of the Indian influence, it is very hard to say. Certainly, the combination of factors made for a perfect storm. I tend to think that the experiential practices of meditation and yoga, and the intellectual framework of Vedanta, accelerated, deepened and broadened what might have been an inevitable but morphous evolution.
HI: In your long experience studying this subject, are people surprised when you point out the widespread influence of Indian philosophy? What are their typical reactions?
PG: The most common response I’ve had is similar to my own once I dug into my formal research for the book: “I knew Indian spiritual teachings had influenced America, but I didn’t realize it was quite that widespread or that profound.” They’re surprised by the subtlety of it, and by the non-obvious streams and tributaries through which the teachings spread.
HI: Do you apprehend any organized backlash or, at the very least, pushback against once it is popularly recognized that Indian philosophy is more deeply entrenched here than they have understood?
PG: Not a big one, but some of it is inevitable. There has always been a backlash from both mainstream religion – conservative Christians in particular – and the anti-religious left. Vivekananda faced up to it in 1893, and all the important gurus were confronted by it. Right now, there’s an anti-yoga campaign by some Christian preachers. I’d be very pleased if my book becomes a lightning rod for such a controversy. Bring ’em on!
HI: How do you look at trends such as people saying that yoga is a Hindu tool and ought to be countered with a Christian yoga?
PG: That’s a more complicated issue than is often realized. The question, “Is yoga a form of Hinduism” depends entirely on how one defines both yoga and Hinduism. That there are people teaching Christian Yoga and Jewish Yoga strikes me as a backhanded compliment to one of the great glories of the Vedic tradition: it’s universality and adaptability. That having been said, the idea that yoga is “a Hindu tool,” i.e., a form of stealth conversion, strikes me as a projection by Christians of their own messianic drive to convert the “heathen.” That conversion is not in the Hindu repertoire – and that the gurus and swamis and yoga masters are content to have their students become better Christians – is hard for many to comprehend.
HI: Do you think that it is the intellectual underpinnings of Vedanta or the mind/body wellness aspects of yoga which have made people more
comfortable accepting them?
PG: It’s been the combination of the two, and it’s hard to separate them. Certainly, in recent years, the popularity of yoga as a wellness system has been dominant, but that has also exposed millions of people to at least the basic premises of Vedanta.
HI: Do you think that it is the intellectual underpinnings of Vedanta or the mind/body wellness aspects of yoga which have made people more
comfortable accepting them?
PG: It’s been the combination of the two, and it’s hard to separate them. Certainly, in recent years, the popularity of yoga as a wellness system has been dominant, but that has also exposed millions of people to at least the basic premises of Vedanta.
(Mayank Chhaya is a US-based writer and commentator. He can be contacted at m@mayankchhaya.net)

Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

November 27, 2010
Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul
By PAUL VITELLO
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/nyregion/28yoga.html?_r=2&sq=yoga&st=cse&scp=2&pagewanted=print

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

That suggestion, modest though it may seem, has drawn a flurry of strong reactions from figures far apart on the religious spectrum. Dr. Deepak Chopra, the New Age writer, has dismissed the campaign as a jumble of faulty history and Hindu nationalism. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said he agrees that yoga is Hindu — and cited that as evidence that the practice imperiled the souls of Christians who engage in it.

The question at the core of the debate — who owns yoga? — has become an enduring topic of chatter in yoga Web forums, Hindu American newspapers and journals catering to the many consumers of what is now a multibillion-dollar yoga industry.

In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr. Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as “Bikram Yoga.”

Organizers of the Take Back Yoga effort point out that the philosophy of yoga was first described in Hinduism’s seminal texts and remains at the core of Hindu teaching. Yet, because the religion has been stereotyped in the West as a polytheistic faith of “castes, cows and curry,” they say, most Americans prefer to see yoga as the legacy of a more timeless, spiritual “Indian wisdom.”

“In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the foundation’s co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.”

For many practitioners, including Debbie Desmond, 27, a yoga instructor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the talk of branding and ownership is bewildering.

“Nobody owns yoga,” she said, sitting cross-legged in her studio, Namaste Yoga, and tilting her head as if the notion sketched an impossible yoga position she had never seen. “Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, a method of becoming. We were taught that the roots of yoga go back further than Hinduism itself.”

Like Dr. Chopra and some religious historians, Ms. Desmond believes that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged. Other historians trace the first written description of yoga to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture believed to have been written between the fifth and second centuries B.C.

The effort to “take back” yoga began quietly enough, with a scholarly essay posted in January on the Web site of the Hindu American Foundation, a Minneapolis-based group that promotes human rights for Hindu minorities worldwide. The essay lamented a perceived snub in modern yoga culture, saying that yoga magazines and studios had assiduously decoupled the practice “from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity.”

Dr. Shukla put a sharper point on his case a few months later in a column on the On Faith blog of The Washington Post. Hinduism, he wrote, had become a victim of “overt intellectual property theft,” made possible by generations of Hindu yoga teachers who had “offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.”

That drew the attention of Dr. Chopra, an Indian-American who has done much to popularize Indian traditions like alternative medicine and yoga. He posted a reply saying that Hinduism was too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga.

The fight went viral — or as viral as things can get in a narrow Web corridor frequented by yoga enthusiasts, Hindu Americans and religion scholars.

Loriliai Biernacki, a professor of Indian religions at the University of Colorado, said the debate had raised important issues about a spectrum of Hindu concepts permeating American culture, including meditation, belief in karma and reincarnation, and even cremation.

“All these ideas are Hindu in origin, and they are spreading,” she said. “But they are doing it in a way that leaves behind the proper name, the box that classifies them as ‘Hinduism.’ ”

The debate has also secured the standing of the Hindu American Foundation as the pre-eminent voice for the country’s two million Hindus, said Diana L. Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard. Other groups represent Indian-Americans’ interests in business and politics, but the foundation has emerged as “the first major national advocacy group looking at Hindu identity,” she said.

Dr. Shukla said reaction to the yoga campaign had far exceeded his expectations.

“We started this, really, for our kids,” said Dr. Shukla, a urologist and a second-generation Indian-American. “When our kids go to school and say they are Hindu, nobody says, ‘Oh, yeah, Hindus gave the world yoga.’ They say, ‘What caste are you?’ Or ‘Do you pray to a monkey god?’ Because that’s all Americans know about Hinduism.”

With its tiny budget, the foundation has pressed its campaign largely by generating buzz through letters and Web postings to academic journals and yoga magazines. The September issue of Yoga Journal, which has the largest circulation in the field, alluded to the campaign, if fleetingly, in an article calling yoga’s “true history a mystery.”

The effort has been received most favorably by Indian-American community leaders like Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in Flushing, Queens, which helps groups across the country build temples.

A naturalized immigrant, she said Take Back Yoga represented a coming-of-age for Indians in the United States. “My generation was too busy establishing itself in business and the professions,” she said. “Now, the second and third generation is looking around and finding its voice, saying, ‘Our civilization has made contributions to the world, and these should be acknowledged.’ ”

In the basement of the society’s Ganesha Temple, an hourlong yoga class ended one recent Sunday morning with a long exhalation of the sacred syllable “om.” Via the lung power of 60 students, it sounded as deeply as a blast from the organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

After the session, which began and concluded with Hindu prayers, many students said they were practicing Hindus and in complete sympathy with the yoga campaign.

Not all were, though. Shweta Parmar, 35, a community organizer and project director for a health and meditation group, said she had grown up in a Hindu household. “Yoga is part of the tradition I come from,” she said.

But is yoga specifically Hindu? She paused to ponder. “My parents are Hindu,” she said. But in matters of yoga, “I don’t use that term.”

Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai: Saudi yoga instructor

Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai: Saudi yoga instructor

http://arabnews.com/lifestyle/food_health/article155386.ece

The quest for knowledge has not ended for yoga instructor Nouf Mohammed Al-Marwaai, even though her bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from King Saud University took her to Australia and later to India to learn about yoga and Ayurveda.
Thirty-year-old Al-Marwaai is the first certified Saudi woman yoga and Ayurveda expert and the co-founder of the Riyadh-Chinese Medical Center in Jeddah — the first center providing alternative medicines and treatments in the Kingdom. She is also the regional director of the Gulf Yoga Alliance.
Yoga was not a new concept to her, unlike the rest of the Saudi society, as her father Mohammed was founder of the Arab Martial Arts Federation in the Kingdom, Tunisia and Egypt before the 1980s.
She started practicing yoga at the age of 19, but remained dissatisfied with the meager resources and experts in the Kingdom, which persuaded her to travel abroad.
“I started to practice yoga just because I was interested in some slow and therapeutically exercises. I desperately searched for yoga classes or teachers but couldn’t find any,” she said.
“So, I started self-practicing with the limited resources I could access. I found an Indian teacher and started practicing with her for a year. Very soon, I realized its benefits for the mind and body.
“Continuing the practice regularly for years, I found that the practice and the knowledge are linked with many facts in psychology and science. Practicing it is not just an exercise, but its effects are far reaching, more than our brain can imagine.
“This made me serious and I wanted to study the science behind it, for which I started traveling and educating myself in different colleges, medical centers for yoga and Ayurveda clinics in different countries at the age of 24.”
So, why India?
“I traveled to many places like Australia first to obtain a graduation diploma in physiology and anatomy. I also studied Hatha yoga practically and theoretically with two other types of yoga, weight management and stress release therapy,” she said.
“Also, I studied some of the Ayurvedic medicine theories and its nutrition. This gave a deep insight about yoga and its functions in a body. After that I felt the need to go to India — the original land of this knowledge and learn more about the philosophy and therapy of yoga, where there are many colleges and universities of yoga and access to Ayurveda medical training and teachings.
“While studying yoga, I found it interesting to study Ayurveda because they are sister sciences and they use the same theory of mental and body energies, physiology and psychology. I heard and read about Ayurveda a long time ago before I start practicing yoga. I went to India to study more about both.”
In India, she also studied the management and diagnosis of disease through yoga and Ayurveda. After that she did higher studies in yoga therapy and medical approach, yoga psychotherapy research and higher academic studies in the field. Also, she wanted to understand the conflict between yoga and Islam.
For a long time, Muslims had shunned yoga because of the perception that it is linked to the Hindu and Buddhist religions. She argues that yoga was the practice of people living in the pre-Buddhist era, over 5,000 years ago.
“It is more a lifestyle and a science than a religion. Especially Hatha yoga, which involves physiotherapy, lengthening and stretching exercises with breathing techniques which affects and stabilizes the nervous and endocrine systems deeply and creates harmony in the brain,” she said. “Treatments should be taken without considering the religious background. There are many books which Muslim scholars translated from other cultures and made use of and vice versa. There is nothing that involves worshipping anyone other than Allah in yoga.”
However, Al-Marwaai claims she was lucky in getting good media exposure, which helped her get established. She received a breakthrough opportunity when she was invited by the King Abdulaziz University to hold a three-day stress buster yoga workshop, which was a big hit among female students.
She also conducted mental enhancement programs for gifted girls under the supervision of Ministry of Education from time to time. This brought her into media spotlight and many television channels including Saudi Channel 1, Rotana, Iqraa channel, Oyoon Jeddah and others interviewed her.
She then started receiving frequent invitations to address seminars and lectures about yoga and Ayurveda. She also received offers to spearhead awareness programs from multinational companies like Unilever and Proctor and Gamble in the Kingdom.
“After I was made the regional director of Yoga Alliance International (YAI) in 2009 in the Gulf region by Swami Vidyananda, the founder of YAI in India, people started to know more about yoga and enquired more about it and its health benefits,” she added.
In Dec. 2009, she started her center for yoga and other alternative medicines. She also conducts a certified professional yoga-teaching program. So far, 40 women have completed this diploma in and outside Jeddah.
“Around 20 of them are very active in teaching others yoga,” she said. “I also have more than 400 women students in Jeddah alone. I have a kids’ yoga program too and my five-year-old boy is one who has learnt many poses!”
When asked what made her explore yoga despite achieving a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology, she explained that the link between yoga and psychology is very strong and known by every practitioner.
Yoga is a body and mind exercise involving control of the central nervous system, somatic system and autonomic nervous system and harmonizes all three together.
The central nervous system controls the mind, the somatic system governs the body and the autonomic nervous system controls the emotions.
Practicing yoga improves stability and endurance for the three systems, resulting in strong physical health, a focused and balanced mentality and balanced emotions. Physical, mental and emotional endurance improves, so practitioners experience less diseases and pain, less mental disturbances and disorders, plus enhanced and insightful emotions.
Talking about her family and background, she said that her father has been her biggest source of inspiration.
“Being an achiever himself, my father believes in achievements. He received the King Fahd Prize in 1990 for his self-defense program, which was implemented in almost every military force in the Kingdom,” she said.
“He is now an adviser to the Interior Ministry and the government has been very supportive to him for his services to the Kingdom by introducing martial arts here. My parents are my biggest supporters who are always there for me. My husband was with me for a year in my three-year trip and traveled with me twice. My sisters and mom take care of my child when I am at work or traveling.”
Al-Marwaai asserts that her stay in Southern Indian state of Kerala was a comfortable one. “I love the people there for their kindness, hospitality, sincerity and friendliness. Their food, culture, music and dress are lovely. I miss the family I lived with in India, who were so caring and treated me like their daughter so that I never felt homesick. I would love to thank them so much for all they had done for me,” she said.

India’s contribution to the world

Here is a nice presentation prepared by Gayatri Parivar. Good one. Indias_Gift_to_the_world

Ancient Indian wisdom

It is amazing how much Western science has taught us. Today, for example, kids in grammar school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Yoga may teach us about our Higher Self, but it can’t supply this kind of information about physics or astronomy.

Or can it? Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University recently called my attention to a remarkable statement by Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar. In his commentary on a hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India, Sayana has this to say:
“With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha.”

A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second. get out your calculators!

2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 m. p. s.

Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A. D. have known the correct figure for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess it’s the most amazing coincidence in the history of science! And Sayana was merely commenting on Rig Veda which was supposedly composed 9000 years ago !!

The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences. Take for instance the mala many yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called paadas, or “steps,” marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.

Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads.

Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th “guru bead,” also called MERU, flip the mala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In the yoga tradition we learn that we’re deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a mala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.

But Professor Kak points out yet another coincidence: The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun’s diameter. The diameter of the sun is about 108 times the earth’s diameter. And the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon’s diameter.

Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number? If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe you could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.

As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and that it’s just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the vastness of eternity.

In fact the Puranas, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old, describe the birth of our solar system out of a “milk ocean,” the Milky Way. Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining womb [womb here means the source, point of origin and not an anatomical reference ] and it gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish some day billions of years hence when the sun expands to many times it present size, swallowing all life on earth. In the end, the Puranas say, the ashes of the earth will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we known this is a scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.

The Surya Siddhanta is the oldest surviving astronomical text in the Indian tradition. Some Western scholars date it to perhaps the fifth or sixth centuries A. D., though the text itself claims to represent a tradition much, much older. It explains that the earth is shaped like a ball, and states that at the very opposite side of the planet from India is a great city where the sun is rising at the same time it sets in India. In this city, the Surya Siddhanta claims, lives a race of siddhas, or advanced spiritual adepts. If you trace the globe of the earth around to the exact opposite side of India, you’ll find Mexico. Is it possible that the ancient Indians were well aware of the great sages/astronomers of Central America many centuries before Columbus discovered America?- the Mayans or Incas!!!

Knowing the unknowable: To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced astronomical instruments.

How could the writers of ancient Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very first lines of the Surya Siddhanta, informs about the Golden Age when a great astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared in his mind in an intuitive flash.

Does this sound unlikely? Yoga Sutra 3:26-28 states that through, samyama (concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. Sutra 3:33 clarifies, saying: “Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known.” Highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.

“There are those who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find universal knowledge, Professor Kak admits.
“In fact this is the traditional Indian view.”

Perhaps the ancient sages didn’t need advanced astronomical instruments. After all, they had yoga!.

Yoga at the speed of Light- By Linda Johnsen

Yoga at the speed of Light- By Linda Johnsen Courtesy & copyright Yoga International

It is amazing how much Western science has taught us. Today, for example, kids in grammar school learn that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth and that the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Yoga may teach us about our Higher Self, but it can’t supply this kind of information about physics or astronomy.

Or can it? Professor Subhash Kak of Louisiana State University recently called my attention to a remarkable statement by Sayana, a fourteenth century Indian scholar. In his commentary on a hymn in the Rig Veda, the oldest and perhaps most mystical text ever composed in India, Sayana has this to say: “With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha.”

A yojana is about nine American miles; a nimesha is 16/75 of a second. Mathematically challenged readers, get out your calculators!

2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 m.p.s.

Basically, Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A.D. have known the correct figure for the speed of light? If this was just a wild guess it’s the most amazing coincidence in the history of science!

The yoga tradition is full of such coincidences. Take for instance the mala many yoga students wear around their neck. Since these rosaries are used to keep track of the number of mantras a person is repeating, students often ask why they have 108 beads instead of 100. Part of the reason is that the mala represent the ecliptic, the path of the sun and moon across the sky. Yogis divide the ecliptic into 27 equal sections called nakshatras, and each of these into four equal sectors called paadas, or “steps,” marking the 108 steps that the sun and moon take through heaven.

Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads.

Traditionally, yoga students stop at the 109th “guru bead,” flip the mala around in their hand, and continue reciting their mantra as they move backward through the beads. The guru bead represents the summer and winter solstices, when the sun appears to stop in its course and reverse directions. In the yoga tradition we learn that we’re deeply interconnected with all of nature. Using a mala is a symbolic way of connecting ourselves with the cosmic cycles governing our universe.

But Professor Kak points out yet another coincidence: The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 108 times the sun’s diameter. The diameter of the sun is about 108 times the earth’s diameter. And the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the moon’s diameter.

Could this be the reason the ancient sages considered 108 such a sacred number? If the microcosm (us) mirrors the macrocosm (the solar system), then maybe you could say there are 108 steps between our ordinary human awareness and the divine light at the center of our being. Each time we chant another mantra as our mala beads slip through our fingers, we are taking another step toward our own inner sun.

As we read through ancient Indian texts, we find so much the sages of antiquity could not possibly have known-but did. While our European and Middle Eastern ancestors claimed that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago, the yogis have always maintained that our present cosmos is billions of years old, and that it’s just one of many such universes which have arisen and dissolved in the vastness of eternity.

In fact the Puranas, encyclopedias of yogic lore thousands of years old, describe the birth of our solar system out of a “milk ocean,” the Milky Way. Through the will of the Creator, they tell us, a vortex shaped like a lotus arose from the navel of eternity. It was called Hiranya Garbha, the shining womb. It gradually coalesced into our world, but will perish some day billions of years hence when the sun expands to many times it present size, swallowing all life on earth. In the end, the Puranas say, the ashes of the earth will be blown into space by the cosmic wind. Today we known this is a scientifically accurate, if poetic, description of the fate of our planet.

The Surya Siddhanta is the oldest surviving astronomical text in the Indian tradition. Some Western scholars date it to perhaps the fifth or sixth centuries A.D., though the next itself claims to represent a tradition much, much older. It explains that the earth is shaped like a ball, and states that at the very opposite side of the planet from India is a great city where the sun is rising at the same time it sets in India. In this city, the Surya Siddhanta claims, lives a race of siddhas, or advanced spiritual adepts. If you trace the globe of the earth around to the exact opposite side of India, you’ll find Mexico. Is it possible that the ancient Indians were well aware of the great sages/astronomers of Central America many centuries before Columbus discovered America?- the Mayans or Inca-s!!!

Knowing the unknowable: To us today it seems impossible that the speed of light or the fate of our solar system could be determined without advanced astronomical instruments. -as Sanjee argues!!

How could the writers of old Sanskrit texts have known the unknowable? In searching for an explanation we first need to understand that these ancient scientists were not just intellectuals, they were practicing yogis. The very first lines of the Surya Siddhanta, for of the Golden Age a great astronomer named Maya desired to learn the secrets of the heavens, so he first performed rigorous yogic practices. Then the answers to his questions appeared in his mind in an intuitive flash.

Does this sound unlikely? Yoga Sutra 3:26-28 states that through, samyama (concentration, meditation, and unbroken mental absorption) on the sun, moon, and pole star, we can gain knowledge of the planets and stars. Sutra 3:33 clarifies, saying: “Through keenly developed intuition, everything can be known.” Highly developed intuition is called pratibha in yoga. It is accessible only to those who have completely stilled their mind, focusing their attention on one object with laser-like intensity. Those who have limited their mind are no longer limited to the fragments of knowledge supplied by the five senses. All knowledge becomes accessible to them.

“There are [those] who would say that consciousness, acting on itself, can find universal knowledge,” Professor Kak admits. “In fact this is the traditional Indian view.”

Perhaps the ancient sages didn’t need advanced astronomical instruments. After all, they had yoga.

Super Braiin Yoga – Namaskara to Ganapati

Look at this video. They call this as ‘Super Brain yoga’, which is nothing but namaskara we do to Ganapati in most of the south indian houses. This stimulates brain it seems. They have proved it through scientific tests, which the video shows. It’s interesting. At least, foreigners are doing research in it, even if indian government trying to supress everything which has a hindu origin, in the name of Secularism !!

http://temple-project.blogspot.com/2008/12/thopikaranam-as-superbrain-yoga.html

ROOTS camp by Yugayatri on Feb 14th and 15th

YUGAYATRI – is organising a ROOTS workshop from 13th evening to 15th evening of February 2009. (Friday evng to Sunday evng.).
Roots is an exposure to your inner self. Roots unravels the interaction between your body-mind-intellect-soul, and shows ways to harmonise the interplay therein. Roots is an effort to bring to the contemporary youth the essence of Indian philosophy and culture, to enhance their quality of life, help them to become better performers and achievers, make them enjoy life to the maximum extent. Yoga, Dhyana and Pranayama will be part of the program. Participant will learn How to overcome the stress,depression and anxiety, increase our ability and enjoy what we are doing and increases productivity and effectiveness in intra personal and inter personal dynamics.

Registration is First come first served basis. You can also circulate this mail to interested ones.
Please see the attachment for more details. You can contact Santhosh at 94488 91472 or Radhakrishna Holla 94802 86022

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