Sources returnpage

Hindu and yoga

Category: Mystic groups and systems

Hinduism is the predominant religion of India and a major religion in Nepal (23 million), Bangladesh (15 million) and the Indonesian island of Bali (3.9 million) The majority of the Vietnamese Cham people also follow Hinduism.

It has over one billion followers, with over 950 million in India.

It is one of the oldest religions, having no single founder.  Some of the teachings can be traced back to the Vedic scriptures,  which means it can lay claim to the "oldest living major religion" in the world.

You are born a Hindu you do not get ‘converted’ into being one. 

All the Hindu texts are divided into Sruti ("revealed") and Smriti ("remembered") texts.

There are numerous Hindu texts that cover Hinduism as a way of life, covering guidelines for:

For those able to, there are even guidelines on being naked in the sun, as well as dietary guidelines for those on the spiritual path. 

All is underpinned by a deep belief in the existence of a spiritual realm.  At one time the same system was underpinned by a set of well defined spiritual concepts, along with extremely complex and very extensive symbolism.

At one time there was also great emphasis placed on the need for simplification in life - the need to learn contentment, and not to seek continual gratification.

The Four pillars of wisdom


 

The caste system that developed in India became a sad and unjust reflection of the original aims of this mystic system.  All mystic systems employ four main branches aimed at helping the entire community within it thrive. 

  • A moral or ethical  branch - which in just societies is underpinned by the law and law enforcers.  This pillar is intended to provide justice for example, a proper legal system and the ethical values that drive good government.  In India's caste system  there is no one caste responsible for this aspect.  The Kshatriyas, also called Rajanyas, were rulers, administrators and warriors.  Thus roles were mixed and morality appears not have been a main aim
  • Defenders of the faith - a 'warrior' branch whose job it is to defend [NOT attack], the community.  These are the 'knights' in symbolic understanding.  Warriors and rulers were mixed in Hindu society.
  • Spiritual and religious guides - here at least a caste exists, called the Brahmins, whose job it supposedly is to be teachers of the religion, its scriptures, symbols, the concepts and the ethical framework. 
  • Co-creators - defended by the warriors, supported by a threat free legal framework with enforcers and guided by the spiritual wisdom of the philosophers the rest of a mystic society is there to co-create.  There should be no segregation or further division.  In Hindu society, equality of the peoples in this group has long since been lost and the Indians have created  the Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farming), and Shudras (labouring).  Furthermore there was a fifth group - the so called tribal people and the untouchables.

In the original mystic systems from the co-creators arose the 'kings and queens' - the rulers.  Rulers were not a static feature, they earned their place by achieving enlightenment on the spiritual path.  Rulers in the old mystic systems [like the Celtic system] were always philosophers - philo [seekers] after sophia [wisdom].  The wise - the sages.

So although the Yoga branch of Hinduism has developed, Hinduism did not.  One may criticise colonialism, but at least there was an attempt during colonial days to create a strong independent legal system, lawyers and a police force; as well as a separate army that could defend the law, the faith and the community.  Despite great efforts there is no equality in India even today with women, many 'lower classes' and tribal people still very poorly treated.

The one thing colonialism brought which has been a disaster to India, as it is a disaster in the colonial countries it came from,  is the increase of ineffective bureaucracy, bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy, civil servants who at best do nothing [but still are a burden via taxes on their hard  working fellow citizens] or at worst meddle constantly without doing any good.

Yoga

Yoga is not, as many people believe, a discipline or way of keeping fit.  Although in western society that is exactly how it is used by many practitioners, this was not its purpose.  It is the ‘mystic arm’ of Hinduism. 

The word Yoga describes a state of being, not a discipline.  The Sanskrit word yoga  has the literal meaning of "yoke", from a root yuj meaning to join, to unite, or to attach.  It describes the end stage of the spiritual path, the point at which we merge with our higher spirit, - become higher spirit - free from reincarnation and the endless cycle of birth and death.  This is represented symbolically by yab yum and by shakti and shiva………..

Of all the hundreds of different techniques found in yoga - every one - even the asanas which have superficially only a role in keeping you fit and supple - have a purpose in leading you to this final goal.   A little later in the description, I have provided a table to show how each technique is actually formed of other core techniques.  Gradually one works ones way from mastering a simple technique that has perhaps only one core technique to one that has two core techniques to one that has three and so on.  By doing this, you learn about your body and how to do each technique properly getting the effect desired. 

 

Belief system

I think it helpful to provide some names and definitions for the main concepts by using the main classes I have described in the Home page.

Energy - Brahman

Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe.   In the Rig Veda, Brahman gives rise to the primordial being Hiranyagarbha that is equated with the Creator God Brahma.


 

The Mundaka Upanishad
Om- That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone.

photo by Jimmy Nelson

Note that "Brahman" is different from "Brahmin", the priests/holy men. In fact "Brahmin" is derived from "Brahman" in the sense that a 'Brahmin is the one who knows Brahman'. The confusion between the terms can be dated back to the translation of the Upanishads into modern English.

Bhagavad Gita XII 12, 15, 17
Now I shall tell thee of the End of Wisdom.  When a man knows this he goes beyond death.  It is Brahman, beginningless, supreme: beyond what is and beyond what is not.
It is invisible: it cannot be seen.  It is far and it is near, it moves and it moves not, it is within all and it is outside all.
It is the Light of all lights which shines beyond all darkness
It is vision, the end of vision, to be reached by vision, dwelling in the hearts of all

Shankara
Brahman has neither name nor form, transcends merit and demerit, is beyond time, space and the objects of sense experience.  Such is Brahman – Thou art That. ………………Brahman is the cause of many.  There is no other cause.  And yet Brahman is independent of the law of causation

photo Jimmy Nelson

The Rig Veda [translated by Wendy Doniger]
What was the base what sort of raw matter was there, and precisely how was it done, when the All-Maker, casting his eye on all, created the earth and revealed the sky in its glory?

Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
The significance of Brahman is expressed by ‘neti neti’ [not so, not so; neither this nor that] for beyond this, that you say it is not so, there is nothing further.  Its name, however, is ‘the Reality of reality’.  That is to say, the senses are real and the Brahman is their Reality

 

 

Spirit and chaos – Prana and akasa

Prana is ‘programmed’ energy, functions that animate us that are like the programs in the spiritual world.  Prana includes both the idea of software like invisible functions and the hardware they animate.  By contrast, the akasa is the raw material from which the programs were made, the unprogrammed energy - raw energy or chaos.  The akasa is everywhere, as the raw material of both the physical world and the software functional world.

photo Jimmy Nelson

Gopi Krishna  - Kundalini the Evolutionary energy in man
All systems of yoga are based on the supposition that living bodies owe their existence to the agency of an extremely subtle immaterial substance, pervading the universe and designated as Prana, which is the cause of all organic phenomenon, controlling the organisms by means of the nervous system and the brain, manifesting itself as the vital energy.  The Prana in modern terminology ‘vital energy’, assumes different functions in the body and circulates in the system….., clearly perceptible to yogis in the awakened condition.   Because of  its extremely subtle nature, vital energy has been likened to breath by the ancient authorities on yoga

Kaushitaki Upanishad
I am the breath of life and I am the consciousness of life
Adore me and think of me as life and immortality
The breath of life is one
When we speak, life speaks
When we see, life sees
When we hear, life hears
When we think, life thinks
When we breathe, life breathes

References you see to the ‘Akashic record’ are wholly incorrect – you cannot build a record from unprogrammed energy – it should be called – if it exists at all  - the Prana record.


 
 

Raja Yoga – Swami Vivekanda
Pranayama is not, as many think, something about the breath; breath, indeed, has very little to do with it, if anything.  Breathing is only one of the many exercises through which we get to the real Pranayama.  Pranayama means the control of Prana.
According to the philosophers of India, the whole universe is composed of two materials, one of which they call Akasa. It is the omnipresent, all penetrating  existence.  Everything that has form, everything that is the result of compounds, is evolved out of this Akasa. It is the Akasa that becomes the air, that becomes the liquids, that becomes the solids; it is the Akasa that becomes the sun, the earth, the moon, the stars, the comets; it is the Akasa that becomes the body, the animal body, the plants, every form that we see, everything that can be sensed, everything that exists. It itself cannot be perceived; it is so subtle that it is beyond all ordinary perception; it can only be seen when it has become gross, has taken form. At the beginning of creation there is only this Akasa; at the end of the cycle the solids, the liquids, and the gases all melt into the Akasa again, and the next creation similarly proceeds out of this Akasa.

Prana has taken on an odd literal meaning in the west as being something to do with the breath, because the word Pranayama is used occasionally in reference to breath control methods.  But Pranayama actually means control of functions – all functions, those of the body and those of the universe.  If you find yourself able to levitate, you are exercising pranayama, if you can stop clocks or remotely heal people, you are exercising pranayama – control over the ‘software’ as opposed to the ‘hardware’ of the world.  ………

Chandogya Upanishad
‘Explain more to me, father’ said Svetaketu
‘So be it my son
Place this salt in water and come to me tomorrow morning’
Svetaketu did as he was commanded, and in the morning his father said to him
‘Bring me the salt you put into the water last night’
Svetaketu looked into the water, but could not find it, for it had dissolved
His father then said ‘Taste the water from this side.  How is it?’
‘It is salt’
‘Taste it from the middle.  How is it?’
‘It is salt’
‘Taste it from that side.  How is it?’
‘It is salt’
‘Look for the salt again and come again to me’
The son did so, saying ‘I cannot see the salt, I only see water’
His father then said ‘In the same way, my son, you cannot see the Spirit.  But in truth it is here
An invisible and subtle essence is the Spirit of the whole universe
That is Reality
That is Truth
THOU ART THAT

 

The Trinity

The Creator and Created were and are recognised within the Hindu system as well as the idea of a collection of Higher spirits. 

The Creator is symbolised by the Sun.  The Created as the Moon, furthermore the Moon is symbolically the place of death and reincarnation.

 

 

The Intelligence hierarchy

The Hindu pantheon has a vast range of both male and female ‘gods’ some of which are former shamans and some personifications of various functions.  There are thus  Intelligences, Spirit beings, an Intelligence hierarchy and gods who are humans who achieved annihilation.

 

photo Anton Jankovoy

 

The Higher spirit

Usually known as the Atman.

Katha Upanishad
The powers of life adore that spirit that is in the heart, and it rules the breath of life, breathing in and breathing out.
When the ties that bind the Spirit to the body are unloosed and the Spirit is set free, what remains then?
This in Truth is That
A mortal lives not through that breath that flows in and that flows out.  The source of life is another and this causes the breath to flow

Svetasvatara Upanishad
There is a Spirit that is hidden in all things, as cream is hidden in milk, and that is the source of self knowledge and self sacrifice. 

Mundaka Upanishad
Radiant in its light, yet invisible in the secret place of the heart, the Spirit is the supreme abode wherein dwells all that moves and breathes and sees.  Know it as all that is, and all that is not, the end of love-longing beyond understanding, the highest in all beings.
It is self-luminous and more subtle than the smallest; but in it rest all the worlds and their  beings.  ……  It is truth and life immortal.  …….

 
photo Anton Jankovoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Spiritual Path

The objective of the spiritual path is ‘Union’, Moksha/Nirvana and then annihilation.  The path is much the same as the generic one provided on this site and includes the well known instruction to 'know thyself'.

A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot
According to Hindu belief, the individual upon freeing himself from the shackles of the manifest world, follows a route which is the inverse of that path which he took when entering into it.
Within this system of thought there are two possible paths which he may take; either that of the liberated – de-va-yana or the 'way of the gods – or else that followed by those who still have further states of individuation to pass through – pitri-yana or 'the way of the ancestors'.
As the Bhagavad-Gita observes:
'At this juncture, those who tend towards union, without actually having achieved it, leave manifest existence behind them, some to return to it later, others never to return....Fire, light, day, the crescent moon, the half year of the sun's ascendence and its northerly course – these are the luminous signs which lead to Brahma.
Smoke, night, the waning moon, the half year when the sun descends towards the south – such are the signs that lead to the lunar light and immediately to the return to states of manifestation 

The Ashram system is believed by the Hindus to lead to a fulfillment of the four aims of life namely, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure), and Moksha (liberation from rebirth).  It combines the normal path – or the path of the hero and co-creator with that of the spiritual path.  In other words it provides a description of how both paths can be achieved in one’s lifetime……….. 

Ashram or stage

Directn

Age

Description

Brahmachari
(student)

 

East to South

0-24

The child lives with a Guru (spiritual teacher), acquiring knowledge, practicing self-discipline and celibacy, learning to live a life of dharma (right action), and practicing meditation.

Grihastha
(householder)

 

South to West

25-49

The ideal householder life is spent in selflessly carrying out one's duties to family and society and gainful labour dharma (right action).  This is the time to acquire  Artha (wealth) and Kama (pleasure)

Vanaprastha
(forest dweller

retired life)

 

West to North

50-74

After the completion of one's householder duties, one gradually withdraws from the world, freely shares wisdom with others, and prepares for the complete renunciation of the final stage.

Sannyasa
(renounced life)

 

North to East

75-100

Completely withdrawing from the world, this is a time of complete dedication to spiritual pursuits, the seeking of moksha (spiritual freedom), and practicing meditation.

Thus the route that starts in the East, moves South and ends in the West is the normal route.  The route that includes the final stage of travel to the North is the spiritual route – see The Hours and the seasons.

 

The yoga system 

 

Tongue

press

Diaphragm

holding

Chin

 lock

Anal and  bladder

lock

Perineum

Press *

Neck

press

Eyeball press

Nose

press

Ear

Press

Teeth clench

Forehead stimulation

Khechari Mudra

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agnisar Kriya

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jalandhara bandha

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ashwini mudra

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tantrix sex

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siddhasana

 

 

x

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halasana

 

 

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

Sarvangasana

x

 

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

Uddiyana bandha

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moola Bandha

x

 

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaktichalan mudra

 

x

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nasagra mudra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

x

Nasagra mudra – version 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

x

x

 

 

x

Nasagra mudra – version 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

x

x

x

 

x

Shanmukhi mudra

x

 

 

x

 

 

x

x

x

 

x

Naumukhi mudra

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

Shakti Chalini

x

x

x

x

 

 

x

x

x

 

x

Shiva Chalini

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

x

 

 

 

Increased breathing rate

Decreased breathing rate

Breath holding

Diaphragm holding

Tongue

press

Anal lock

Mantra

or hum

Chin lock

Visua- lisation

Bhastrika

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

Khapalbati

x

 

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

Kaki mudra

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decreased breathing

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ujjayi pranayama

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

Bhramari pranayama

 

x

 

 

 

 

x

 

 

Dharana darshan

x

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

x

Sahita pranayama

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sahita pranayama v2

 

 

x

 

 

x

 

 

 

Sahita pranayama v3

 

 

x

 

 

 

x

 

 

Sahita pranayama v4

 

 

x

 

 

x

x

 

 

Sahita pranayama v5

 

 

x

 

 

 

 

x

 

Sahita pranayama v6

 

 

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

 [Source:  Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda which is a translation of the original Sanskrit text compiled by Maharishi Swatmarama]

 

Just about every description you see of yoga techniques is done via chakras and nadis.  All the visualisations, all the explanations of how it works is in terms of lines on the body called nadis and energy centres called chakras.  What does not appear to get mentioned is that the Hindu medical men of old were actually very good pathologists.  They knew their anatomy and both dissected cadavers and knew their nerves and their parasympathetic nervous system from their sympathetic nervous system.

There is both a ‘hardware’ based system of the body and a functionally based system of the body, but they mirror one another – flow lines don’t suddenly veer off and go different directions to the veins and arteries, or nervous system.  The chakras mirror organs.  They have functions, but they mirror the functions of the organs.  The nadis mirror both the nervous system and the circulatory system.

As above, so below.

 

The aim of all the techniques in yoga is to firstly invoke the parasympathetic nervous system.  This is what ‘meditation’ does. Whereas the sympathetic nervous system is the ‘fight or flight system’ – one which is intended to be used only rarely, the parasympathetic system should really be the norm.  These days it isn’t, which is why using yoga techniques provides benefits for numerous people – it gets them more relaxed.

The diagram below comes from Dr Rele’s book ‘The Mysterious Kundalini’ and is one which I found quite helpful, as it correlates chakras and the ganglionic centres of the autonomic nervous system.  Those same centres are by definition also a site of a major organ.

The diagram shows the core techniques shown against the nervous system centres.

As you can see, everything works via nerve stimulation and particularly nerve ending stimulation in both the parasympathetic and sympathetic system.  The parasympathetic system is invoked to generate nervous stimulation of a relaxing character, whilst the sympathetic nervous system [fight or flight] is actually suppressed using the techniques.

References

This site is full of the rich and varied wisdom of Hinduism and yoga.  The observations placed against this entry are those that had no 'home' elsewhere on the site.  If you search you will find numerous texts, sutras, mystics, poets, artists and musicians who were informed by this faith.
In order to help you find them on the site this list is a selection with links to them. 

 

Please note, however, that this is not a complete list:

 

Observations

For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.