A questions often asked by users is around the origins of Yoga. The debate around origins of Yoga and who exactly founded Yoga has had multiple explanations. To keep the answer simple, the founder of Yoga as it is known today including many of its off-shoots is Patanjali.
Yoga in Vedas and Upanishads
The word Yoga, Yogis have been mentioned quite a few times in Vedas and Upanishads.
Also read – Which Veda Mentions About the Elements of Yoga?
The evidence of Yoga is mentioned in the oldest Vedic texts – The Rig Veda where the presence of Yogi-like ascetics has been mentioned. The Upanishads placed a greater emphasis on the mystical & philosophical discourse in particular the quest for Brahman, present in living beings as atman(& move away from the sacrificial rite, which is referred to as an inferior form of Yoga as described in the Vedas). The Upanishads also criticize the Vedas. For instance, the Mundaka Upanishad calls the performers of sacrifice – deluded & ignorant.
In ancient times, there was a discourse particular in Upanishads on the quality of human life and on how to remove human suffering. The Svetasvatara Upanishad, the Maitri Upanishad, Katha Upanishad describe Yoga in details.
Founder of Yoga – Patanjali
Patanjali can be referred to as the founder of Yoga since he compiled all the information around the ancient time in to a text, which is popularly called as the Yoga Sutras. It is a compilation of 195 Sutras (aphorisms) that in a concise manner mention Yoga and describe its practices in great detail. Swami Vivekananda‘s work – Raja Yoga essentially translates the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. This is the work that brought the ancient knowledge of Yoga, and placed it in the correct context to a larger global population.
Also read – What is the goal of Yoga?
Patañjali (पतञ्जलि) has been the author of a number of Sanskrit works and the greatest of these is the Yoga sūtras. Yoga Sutras is a text on Yoga theory and practice. The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali is a collection of 196 sanskrit sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga. Yoga tradition holds the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali to be one of the foundational texts of classical Yoga philosophy.
In terms of Yoga’s earliest origins, the Vedic period is the earliest era in South Asia for which we have written records, and it provides the matrix from which later religious, philosophical, and spiritual expressions such as Yoga evolved in India.
From the rich post-Vedic period emerged an individual called Patanjali whose systemization of the heterogeneous practices of yoga came to be authoritative for all subsequent practitioners. Patanjali is NOT the founder or inventor of Yoga. He systemized the pre-existing traditions and authored what came to be the seminal text on Yoga.
There are however articles that claim Shiva as the founder of Yoga. For instance the Ministry of External Affairs has an article on the origins of Yoga, which mention Shiva as the first Adi Yogi.
In the modern context, most schools of Yoga in the west and east are off-shoots of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali or are connected with practices that were first compiled by Patanjali. The founder of modern Yoga is Patanjali.
Yoga is one of the 6 philosophical schools of Hinduism. These include Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BCE.
Yoga is cessation (nirodha) of the activities (vrittis) of mind (chitta) according to patanjali’s definition in the 2nd sutra in Yoga Sutras. Vrittis refer to any sequence of thoughts, ideas, mental imaging or cognitive act performed by the mind, intellect, or ego. The mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate. Read More on the Goal of Yoga
It is important to note that the mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate.
Chitta comprises of 3 things i.e. (1) Intelligence (Buddhi)
(2) Ego (Ahankara), and (3) Mind (Manas).
Chitta can be compared to the software and the body to hardware. Both software & hardware are useless without the presence of an observe. Only the soul (purusa) is truly alive.
When the soul is uncoupled from the mind in its pure state cannot be rambled and is changeless (unlike the mind)
Yoga & Meditation
To accomplish the goal of Yoga, the means prescribed by patanjali is to still the states of mind, thoughts (vrittis) through meditation (keeping the mind fixed on any particular object of choice without distraction). You may be wondering of how all of this is working.
It works in 3 stages.
Mind to attain an inactive stage: Through sheer power of concentration, the mind can attain an inactive state where all thoughts are non-active. In this inactive state, the mind is not cognizant of anything. It does not mean unconsciousness.
Consciousness to have no choice: When there are no more thoughts or no awareness, the consciousness has no choice but to become aware of itself. It’s like a beam of light reflecting back from a mirror. The light has no choice but to become aware of itself.
Self-realization: Awareness can now only be aware of itself. This is the point of self-realization or the ultimate state of awareness, which is the final goal of Yoga.
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