What is Yoga?

WHAT IS YOGA? (Harbans Lai Aroro – University of Non-Conventional Energy, sources and Department of Analytical and physical chemistry, Federal University of Gear a, Brazil). INTRODUCTION In spite of a large diversity in temperaments’, attitudes and activities, which are naturally expected to exist among billions of individuals who inhabit our planet, there are certain basic unifying common features which are summarized below: We are citizens of two worlds — the inner world and the outer world. Each one of us has a profound urge to be in a happy and blissful state of mind and to attain this state, the inner and the outer worlds and ecologies should be harmonized. The information obtained through the senses and experimentation is important and necessary but is only partial and incomplete. The experimental knowledge acquired through intuition is complimen- tary to experimental knowledge. A relaxed state of mind (known as deep alpha state in psychology) is important for intuition and creative living. Each one of us has latent potential to attain and retain deep alpha state. The higher states of consciousness correspond to self-expansion, and reduction in selfishness and self-centredness. The highest obtainable state of consciousness is what is called cosmic or universal consciousness. Inter-relatedness and interdependence are not mere abstract concepts but are inherent and indispensable operational variants for a meaningful and healthful living, ecological development, spiritual growth and general well being. Science and spirituality, matter and spirit, mass and energy, experiment REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 1 3 and experience, east and west, introvertedness and extrovertedness, physics and metaphysics, prose and poetry etc. are not at all contradict- ory but complementary aspects of one and the same reality. All operating forces in nature, from the micro to the macro domains, from matter to non-matter should be derivable from one common origin. They may, however, manifest themselves in a variety of forms depending on particular situations and states of organization and aggregation. Normally only a small portion of one’s brain is active. The left hemisphere of the brain is predominantly involved with logical thinking, analysis, digital and linear operations whereas the right hemisphere activity is related with orientation in space, emotion, non-linear and analog operation. When the left hemisphere is active, the right one is passive and vice versa. However, in a relaxed mental state, both hemispheres are active, simultaneously and harmoniously leading to transcendental states of creativity and intuition. This implies argumented utilization of the brain’s latent capacity. A large percentage of predominant diseases in our highly stressful modern way of life such as hypertension, nervousness, depression, heart problems, insomnia, tension, headaches, ulcers are mainly of psychoso- matic origin. Muscular and mental, emotional and nervous relaxation help in alleviation and even cure of these increasingly crippling maladies. A deep study of the life and works of scientists, saints and humanists, religious leaders and philosophers, psychologists and psychiatrists could lead one to believe that these great men who have contributed or are contributing towards the welfare of humanity, are, in principle, expected to be in agreement with the above-mentioned general features of man’s nature, his growth and his interaction with nature and society. In the following we shall study the relationship between these features and yoga. But let us first define and understand what yoga really is. WHAT IS YOGA? During the 20th Century and particularly within the last few decades, yoga has expanded worldwide. Yoga institutes and literature on yoga, have mushroomed up all over. However, unfortunately, the real meaning of yoga is understood’by a very small minority. For some people yoga is something shrouded in mystery, magic and mysticism, whereas for others it is equated with cow worship, fakirism, body immolation, instant REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Nirvana, acrobatics and so forth. In fact, real yoga is far from any of these things. It is heartening to convey that serious scientific research is being conducted worldwide on Yoga Science in modern equipped laboratories in various countries such as the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and philosophy and Maharishi international University in the U.S., Bihar School of Yoga, Kaivalyadhama and the Santa Cruz Yoga institute in India ‘as well as many universities and institutions in Japan and east and west Europe. Their objective is to dispel away mysticism, test and verify the claims of yogis and disseminate the science of yoga both in the east and the west. By the word yoga implies union, harmony, integration and-synergism. In other words,’yoga offers an holistic (from the Greekholos which means whole or total) organic and ecological’approach to life and living.’ Yoga is a complete science of man and his interaction with the environment since it raises and answers the three basic tenets of any scientific enquiry •—• what, why and how. What are the main objectives of life, self-fulfilment and cosmic consciousness? Why are these the main objectives? Since through these one attains durable happiness^, peace and harmony within and without. How to achieve the goal? Through selection and adequation by systematic practice, from a number of techniques and paths, which have been researched, developed and perfected by experimentation and experiencing during centuries by dedicated yogis and rishis (holistic scientists and men of wisdom), to individual’s temperament, inclination and needs. However, these techniques and paths are’merely general guidelines. The most important thing about yoga science is that it is free from all kinds of dogmas, doctrines and blind faith. Each one has to discover his own path and techniques, suitable to him. Yogic approach to life implies a continuous process of self-discovery, • conscious transformation for integrated health, and self-improvement. It is opportune to observe that Yoga’s holistic approach to life and living is in complete resonance with the concept of integrated health postulated by the World Health Organisation, namely a state of complete physical, I S mental emotional, social and spiritual well being and not merely an absence of disease and infirmity. YOGA AND SCIENTIFIC APPROACH Yoga paths and techniques correspond to human .temperaments and inclinations; for example, path of devotion and love for the emotional person, path of self-less service for the action oriented and that .of self-knowledge for the intellectually inclined. Techniques such as ‘ alternate muscular stretch and contraction -exercises, regulation and control of breath, body, mind, emotional relaxation and meditation, help one to achieve integrated health, expansion of consciousness and spiritual growth. The Yogic approach was most clearly defined by’one of the greatest yogis and an illuminated man of wisdom some two thousand and six hundred years ago. Do not believe in anything merely because it is said, nor in traditions ‘ because they have been handed down from antiquity. Nor in rumours as such, nor in writings by sages because sages wrote them, nor infancies- that we may suspect to have been inspired in iis’-by. a deity, nor in- • inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have ‘made, nor in what seems to be an analogical necessity, nor in the mere authority of our teachers and masters. Believe when the writing,- doctrine or saying is corroborated by reason and consciousness. ‘(Gautama B-udha) Similar thoughts are echoed in the following extract from the writings of a man of wisdom some 1,100 years ago: It is fitting then for us not to be.ashamed to acknowledge truth and to assimilate it from whatever source it comes to us.”For’him who scales the truth there is nothing of higher value than truth itself; it never cheapens nor abases him who seeks. (Al-Kindi) Most yoga research ‘institutions and dedicated yogis follow’the general criteria propounded above which are the’characteristics of a scientific approach. The knowledge which has been gathered about and through yoga, by experience and experiment vindicates the important aspects of .man’s true nature and his “untiring efforts for growth and self-fulfilment as outlined in the introduction of this paper. IS YOGA A RELIGION? . One of the most articulated questions which is generally asked about (continued on-page 23)