Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hindus, the Deity Worshipers

आत्मैव परमो देवः - The Self is the Highest Deity

The debate on religious conversions has occupied the public mind-space in India. More or less all over the world idea of religion, views and counter-views on religion, religious conflicts etc. constantly appear in the news. depending on ones understanding of religion, based on ones affiliation to some religious group, based on benefits from associating to some religious viewpoint, one tries make his case in such debates.

In India, one major point discussed during religious debates is 'worship of deity'. Sanatan Dharma (so called Hinduism) has an option of worshiping a deity by the seeker or religious practitioner. Other semitic religions generally differentiate themselves from Sanatan Dharma on the point of 'not believing in deity worship'. So is 'Deity Worship' the prime differentiator of Sanatan Dharma from other religions?

Well, Sanatan Dharma, as the literal meaning of the term suggests, is the way of life since eternity. Its not just living a specific lifestyle but also philosophy of lifestyle. And the basic philosophy says that the purpose of life is to 'do away with the sorrows' of life. And the sorrows of life occur because of disconnect or imbalance in the understanding of basic elements of Supreme Soul (Paramatma), Soul (Atma) & the universe (Prakriti). To do away the sorrow, one should seek higher knowledge, engage in actions those bridge the disconnect in the above three.

Simplest means to reach the balance or unison of these three is mediation - where the seeker tries to rise above the state of 'bodily being' to the state of 'Soul Existence' and then reaches and remains in the state of Samadhi where the 'oneness' with the supreme soul is attained.

What appears simplest in the above method of raising consciousness is sometimes the most difficult thing to do for many practitioners - i. e. going beyond the state of bodily being. Worldly attachments, various distractions, lack of focus, bodily ailments, lack of primary knowledge etc. act as hindrance in raising the consciousness beyond the body. As one can imagine large number of people will fall in this category because they are so deeply attached to their family, jobs, emotions, friends, social issues etc. For such seekers option of 'deity worship' is recommended. 

Worship of Lord Shri Jagannatha

The worship is not only of a statue made of stone or metal but of the nature, of the river, of mountains, of the sky, of the Sun, the moon, of living person (Guru), of parents, of the animals like Cow, Bull etc.

Yoga Vaashishtha says, For those who have not known the essential nature of the Deity, the worship of form and the like has been prescribed. To one who is not capable of traveling the distance of Yojana (eight miles), the distance of one Krosha (two miles) is prescribed.

Deity worship is creation of an environment. Its a conducive environment that will help one raise his consciousness. When the distracted mind would find it difficult to focus on the supreme consciousness, the medium of deity is provided here. The deity, style of worship, its relationship with five elements, chanting of mantras, burning of incense, decorating the deity as a human being, sense of purity and faith involved in the whole ritual helps one to calm down his mind. It helps to transcend to a higher level of consciousness. The sense gets generated that some power is there which is above my bodily being. Continuous engagement is such ritual (pooja) helps the mind to settle & forms a take off ground for the mind fly high. 

Yoga Vaashishta explains further journey of the devotee very beautifully. It says, आत्मैव परमो देवः  (Aatmaiv Paramo Devah) - The Self itself is the highest deity. Worship it. Nourish it so that the union with the Supreme Soul could be attained. It says further, "The lotus eyed Vishnu is not the deity, the three eyed Shiva is not the deity. For the deity is not incarnate in the body, nor is the Deity of the form of the mind. The splendor which is not artificial and which is without beginning and the end is called deity. 

Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras says that the Deity, or God or Ishwar is the one who is beyond the sufferings, bondage of karma, remnants of Karma that cause suffering or the desires. Such special being is God!

क्लेशकर्मविपाकाशयैरपरामृष्टः पुरुषविशेष ईश्वरः॥२४॥

Yoga Vaashishtha says, Pure Consciousness, which is beyond any fragmentation and which is of the nature of generality of existence, attaining to the nature of vast existence (totality of the being) is described by the word 'Deva'(Deity).

Yoga vaashishtha explains the relationship beween God and 'I'. The Supreme Consciousness gradually moved by the splendor of energies of space, time and the like, having become the Jeeva (Individual Soul or Individual Consciousness) soon becomes the Buddhi (Intellect). Thereafter it becomes the sense of 'I'. Then attaining the state of the mind, it clings to worldly existence. 

This pure consciousness experiences sorrow abiding in the body due to this idea of "I am". This unhappiness which is nourished by mere imagination is destroyed only by the absence of imagination (the thought). 

Coming back to the current affairs, the deity worship in the form of 'Worship of the form' is helpful to keep ignorant, illusionary souls engaged in the spiritual journey. If they are not directed to such endeavors, they will engage more into body dominant enterprise like acquisition of things, competing for acquisition, fighting for acquisition for bodily gratification. To keep masses engaged in 'good deeds' religion can play good role. Good deed of 'Deity worship'is one such remedy to help raise consciousness of the masses. 


Shubham Bhavatu.

Yogi Arwind
(Rangi Arwind)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

History of Yoga

Soon International Yoga Day will be a reality reflecting increased enthusiasm towards this science and art of integrated lifestyle. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed for International Yoga Day during his maiden speech in the United Nations general assembly. As of now 130 nations have supported this move. Modi's proposal is just a reflection of last few decades of increased awareness about Yoga all over the world.

When I come across practicing yogis from India and from the West, an interesting fact I come across is, their ignorance about the history and tradition of Yoga. Western approach to yoga ranges from physical exercises to body stretches with the funniest variations - like vikram yoga, hot yoga, power yoga - brought out recently to make the 'sale' of yoga training an attractive proposition.

Indian tradition has always treated Yoga as a lifetime commitment to evolve more conscious. It is the methodology & practice that helps one reach supreme consciousness. Yog Shastra (Science of Yoga) is part of six Darshans of Vedic knowledgebase that help us understand the complexity of life.

All the learned yogis & sadhus I have met in my life have always mentioned Samkhya & Yoga together. And they believe Kapil is the originator of Samkhya Yoga. While first teacher of Yoga is called as Hiranyagarbha (The Sun). And Kapil is one of the most ancient Rishis known to us. He finds mention in the Rigveda verses. So Kapil is from Vedic period. Thus Yoga was a popular practice and philosophy during the Vedic period. The term Ýoga'has been mentioned in the all four Vedas namely; Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samveda, Atharveda. Time of Rigveda is considered as 8000 years old.

References of Yoga in Rigveda, Samveda & Atharvveda

Many Upnishads also have reference of Yoga with details of philosophy and practice. योगप्रवृत्तिं प्रथमां वदन्ति says Shwetashvatar Upanishad, which means 'First salutations to the commitment for Yoga'. This same Upnishad says, न तस्य रोगो न जरा न मृत्युः प्राप्तस्य योगाग्निमयं शरीरम् which means 'the one who burns his body in the fire of Yoga, he will be free from the diseases, ageing and death'. Maitrayani Upanishad, Garbhopanishad, Brihadaranyak Upanishad, Kathakopnishad have not only mentioned yoga but have praised the practice as an ultimate means of liberation.

Practice of Yoga took a different form after Upanishadic period as it slowly got disassociated from Samkhya and focused more on Samadhi aspect. The same trend reached its peack during the time of Mahavira & Buddha. Bhagvat Geeta also mentions about loss of some aspects of Yogic theory of Kapil Muni with the passage of time.

एवं परम्पराप्राप्तमिमं राजर्षयो विदुः I
स कालेनेह महता योगो नष्टः परन्तप II

Patanjali is the most important name after Kapil Muni in the field of Yoga. There are different opinions about the time period of Patanjali. Dr S N Dasgupta, Shri Jwalaprasad, Richard Grabey,
Mircea Eliade have given multiple references and opinions. After studying various references one can come to conclusion that the time of Patanjali was 200 BC. I don't like to go into dates of existence of great people as their work should inspire us and not their birthdates or death dates. Patanjali was such a great saint that he is considered as the most knowledgeable authority on Yoga, Grammar & Medicine (Ayurveda). One interesting tradition is important to be referred in this regard:

In the gurukuls, which follow the ancient tradition of learning Sanskrit, the students offer the yellow mustard & yogurt in the name of Patanjali before the start of learning of 'Mahabhashya' . The mantra recited during the offering is as follows:
वाक्यकारं वररुचिं भाष्यकारं पतञ्जलिम्
पाणिनिं सूत्रकारं च प्रणतोऽस्मि मुनित्रयम्
योगेन चित्तस्य पदेन वाचां मलं शरीरस्य च वैद्यकेन
योऽपाकरोत्तं प्रवरं मुनीनां पतञ्जलिं प्राञ्जलिरानतोऽस्मि
These shlokas help us confirm that Patanjali is the great sage who authoritatively wrote the three scriptures of Yoga Sutra, Maha Bhashya & Charak Samhita. Yoga Sutras are the most famous compilation of Yogic science aphorisms by Patanjali. And one must not forget that study of other darshans; namely, Purva Mimansa, Uttar Mimansa, Nyaya, Vaisheshik & Samkhya is necessary before studying Yoga Sutras.
Patanjali Muni (who is considered as a snake with 1000 hoods because of his intelligence and authority over many subjects)
Some of the major philosophers and practitioners of Yoga after Patanjali include:  
Bhashyakar Vyasa (2nd Century)
Vachaspati Mishra (Tattva Vaisharadi) (841 AC)
King Bhoj (11th Century)
Vijnanbhikshu (Yoga Vartik)(16th Century)
Bhavaganesh (Vritti)(17th Century)
Nagoji Bhatta (Chhayaa) (17th Century)
Ramananda Yati (Maniprabha) (18th Century)
Narayan Teertha (Sootrarthprabodhini) (18th Century)
Apart from this lineage of Kapil school of Yoga, which invariably is a culmination of Samkhya philosophy, various other proponents of time specific philosophies and practioners have entriched the field of Yoga. They include: Matsyendra Nath, Gorakh Nath, Swatmaram etc.
Modern yogis who followed philosophy as well as practice include: Paramahansa Yogananda, Lahiri Mahashaya, Vivekananda,Yukteshwar, Krishanammacharya, Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Baba Ramdev etc.
The flow of Yoga brought to us by these great masters is the best gift to mankind. May the practice of yoga help you experience the supreme consciousness.