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Historical description of yoga

Yoga dates back thousands of years. Yoga as we know it today stems primarily from the writings of Patanjali. Patanjali was one of the first to write down an ancient oral tradition, in his Yoga Sutras (the rules of Yoga), sometime between 800 B.C. and 300 A.D. (though some claim it is much older). Divided into four short books, they contain a profound philosophy that continues to have significant influence today. There are many branches of Yoga now, but the type that was brought to the West, specifically to the United States by Paramahansa Yogananda in the 1920s (Yogananda, 1946), traces its roots directly to the Yoga of Patanjali.

The yoga sutras of patanjali

An early translation of the Yoga Sutras lists 195 sutras in the four books, totaling only sixteen pages (Bailey, 1927). And yet, the philosophy contained within them is amazing, although somewhat difficult to understand without having prepared oneself for this very different Eastern philosophy. A more Americanized version of the Yoga Sutras has recently been provided by Hartranft (2003), along with a section by section interpretation of the text.

The first verse of the first book states very clearly what Yoga is about. “Aum. The following instruction concerneth the Science of Union.” ( Yoga Sutras I:1; Bailey, 1927). Aum, or Om , is the sound of creation, which many Christians may relate to the Word of God in the New Testament (John 1:1; Holy Bible, 1962). The union refers to the union of the individual with the divine creator. Don’t be confused by the fact that Hindus believe in many gods. In reality, they view those lesser gods as aspects or manifestations of the one true God, much as Christians believe in one God but refer often to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Holy Trinity) and the angels and demons (including Satan).

The second and third verses then set the stage for the purpose of practicing Yoga: restraining one’s inquisitive nature and controlling the mind, so that we might see ourselves realistically. The primary way in which we control the mind is to meditate. The remaining verses describe the nature of man, the universe, and the divine, the proper practice of Yoga through meditation , the challenges one is likely to face along the way, and the marvelous benefits of Yoga. Thousands of books, describing many different approaches to Yoga, have followed these simple and straightforward guidelines. No matter which type of Yoga one may choose to study, it would be valuable for anyone to return to this primary source of information to be reminded of the basic goal and purpose of Yoga.

The bhagavad gita

The Bhagavad Gita , or “Song of the Blessed One,” is a fascinating story, with great religious significance if one accepts it at face value (Mitchell, 2000). It consists primarily of a conversation between Krishna , a great Avatar or divine incarnation, and Arjuna, a great warrior, on the eve of a battle. The battle is a civil war, with noble warriors and relatives split between both sides. Arjuna decides that no good can come of killing so many people in this battle, and he decides not to fight. Krishna, who is driving Arjuna’s chariot, instructs Arjuna in Yoga as he discusses what is right both for Arjuna and for all people. Many of the principles of Yoga derive from what Krishna told Arjuna, thus it is believed by many that these Yoga principles come from the mouth of God. This is similar to what Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe about the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran: that they are divinely inspired texts.

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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