Sunday, June 29, 2008

Positive Yoga


Next to morality, yoga has become the subject on which any kind of
interpretation is correct. If I were allowed, I would prefer to use the
term 'situation-yoga,' like situation ethics. As ethics evolves according
to our need, so does yoga.

One can read something related to yoga in almost every newspaper or magazine
in India these days; not only because yoga is so popular and in demand but,
it has become a fashion to relate every human activity with yoga.

Of course, Swami Nranjananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga has his
own right authority to say, 'Discover Your Potential through Practice of
Yoga'. The Bihar School is one of the rare, well established centres where
yoga is taught seriously and according to the prescribed tradition.
Therefore, my critique is not to challenge his authority and knowledge on
yoga. Compared to him, I am not even on an elementary level in my knowledge
of yoga. I do not practice yoga-viz. asanas, which is wrongly treated as
yoga in itself. All that I know about yoga is with my limited reading on
this subject-not even a proper study.

Well, coming back to the subject, it is encouraging to see what Swamiji says
in his article (The Speaking Tree, The Times of India, Bangalore, Feb. 22,
p. 18), 'If we just revolve around our likes and dislikes, actions and
reactions, desires and rejections all our life, it means we have not learned
the lesson to bring out the positivity', which according to him is the
purpose of yoga. He continues, 'Positivity and acceptance have to be our
focus if we want to succeed in life. If this focus is lost, we cannot claim
to be practitioners of yoga, only practitioners of asana, or meditation.'

To prove his point then he quotes the third sutra of Yoga Sutras of
Patanjali, which, according to him, 'discusses being established in one's
own nature as the seer, the drashta. To be established in one's own nature
means there has to be harmony, a flow in life.' And by practicing yoga
(mainly asana and meditation) if 'we only identify with the inner experience
of happiness, but react externally in our attitudes, behavior, relationships
and communication, then that experience can never be complete. That is the
true meaning of yoga.'

There are so many good points that Swamiji shares in this article. However,
I am not sure is this the main teaching of Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. If
my (limited) understanding is correct, the aim of Patanjali Yoga Sutra is to
teach some eight steps to attain samadhi, which is based on Sankhyan theory;
the purusha can be separated from the prakriti and gets its release from the

At least Patanjali Yoga Sutra cannot be analyzed by separating it from
Sankhya, as they both are two side of the same coin. If Sankhya is theory,
then Yoga is practice. There is nothing wrong in getting some practical
benefit from Yoga Sutra itself, as very few can follow the Sankhya-Yoga
systems in their totality. However, separating a few sutras from the
overall context of the text and giving our own interpretation may serve our
immediate purpose-either to write an article or to teach 'Practical Yoga.'
Nevertheless, considering our nature and need, these principles to attain
positivity in life can be taught independently. But the power of positive
thinking, is not some magic to bring positivity in life without knowing the
reason for 'negativity' that we have within us-as Swamiji himself says in
his introduction, 'Our personality is a combination of both rubbish and
gold, and generally we are affected by the rubbish and we ignore the gold.'

One of my friends in his recent comment on 'Love & Loving' said, 'Patanjali
is the ultimate on the subject with his 4 Sutras of
Maitri-Mudita-Karuna-Upeksha' (loving-kindness, compassion, joy and
equanimity.) However, Patanjali has nothing to with 'Love & Loving';
however, we wish to read such beautiful thoughts in his Sutras.2

My critique is not a 'criticism' of another's view. When some of the human
values can be taught both by words and deeds with our own level of
understanding, why do we need to quote those authorities, about which common
people have no proper understanding as well those authorities who never
taught as we wish to read in their teaching? Quoting some ancient authority
will give some weight to our point, but they may not serve our purpose.


1. Traditionally the Yoga of Patanjali is known as a 'negative' one, in the
sense of it advocating sense suppression through eight fold paths. See the
following comments by P.V.Kane:

...That sutra (Yoga Sutra III.11) states the goal of Yoga viz. the soul that
is seer abides in its own form then (i.e. when the functions of the mind
have been mastered), while in ordinary life the soul appears to assume the
forms of the fluctuations of the mind. The Vrttis are five, some of which
are (p.1409) afflicted by hindrances called klesas and the others are not so
hindered (those that are hindered are to be mastered or eliminated and the
others are to be accepted). The five vrttis are pramaana (means of valid
knowledge), viparyaya (wrong conception), vikalpa (fancy), nidraa (sleep),
smrti (memory). Pramaanas are three, pratyaksa (perception), anumaana
(inference), aagama (verbal testimony). The means for the suppression of
the vrttis are abhyaasa (practice) and vairaagya (passionlessness)
(simultaneously carried on), the first being the effort to secure a calm
flow of the mind free from vrttis, continued for a long time uninterruptedly
and earnestly and the latter (vairaagya) being the consciousness of mastery
over (i.e. freedom from thirst for) seen objects (such as a woman, food and
drink, high position) and objects promised by Revelation (such as heaven,
disembodied existence etc.). Vairaagya is of two kinds apara (described in
Y.S.I.15) and para (highest) described in Y.S.I.16 and bhaasya thereon. In
the highest vairaagya, the yogin (who has reached discrimination between the
self and the gunas, sattva etc.) is free from thirst not only for objects of
sense, but also free from the gunas, attains a stage of undisturbed
consciousness only and leads the yogin to reflect `I have attained what was
to be attained, the klesas (hindrances avidyaa etc.) that have to be
destroyed have been destroyed, the close-knit succession of births and
deaths has been cut off'.... .-P.V. Kane, History of Dharmasastras, Pune,
vol. V, part.II,p.1409-11

2. The principal virtues of universal friendship, universal compassion,
etc., to which reference has already been made, were appreciated early in
Buddhism and also in the yoga of Patanjali. But it may well be argued that
there was scarcely any place for the active manifestation of universal
friendship or universal compassion in a scheme of life which was decidedly
individualistic. No one who sought the absolute (p.98) freedom of his own
self, or the extinction of his whole personality like the extinguishing of a
flame, and who sought the cessation of his own rebirths and sorrow as the
only goal and the only ambition to be realized, could have much scope for
any active manifestation of universal friendship. The altruistic ideal can
therefore at best be merely a disposition, and can manifest itself merely in
a negative way, e.g., in non-injury to any being. But a person who holds
such an individualistic notion of salvation cannot, in his scheme of life,
have any leisure or opportunity for the doing of active good to others.-
S.N. Dasgupta, HINDU MYSTICISM, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, (1927), 1992,

Mathigiri, February 22, 2007, 11.30 am.

1 comment:

Shalaidah said...

Keep up the good work.