Yoga Will Never Make You Enlightened (Unless You Become a Buddhist!)

Via on Jan 22, 2011

…or start putting as much energy into a daily meditation practice as you put into your posture yoga practice. Period.

Why does yoga superstar Rodney Yee call himself a yogi yet encourages people to practice Buddhist meditation? Why do so few yogis practice yogic meditation?

The simple reason is that the renaissance men of modern posture yoga, such as B. K. S. Iyengar, put little emphasis on yogic meditation practices. Consequently, the Western teachers that eventually followed in his footsteps, from Brian Kest to Seane Corn, never emphasized nor have the knowledge to teach the higher lessons of yogic meditation.

Hence, my fellow yogis, if you desire Enlightenment with a capital E, then you better join a Buddhist Sangha where they spend time sitting instead of moving. Or, you can seek out one of those Indian yogis who still knows the art and science of pratyahara, pranayama, dharana, and dhyan—all those teachings you have heard of in class, but most yoga teachers do not have a clue about how to actually teach.

I am not talking abou paratyahara as sense withdrawal practice by staying away from watching too much sensationalist news on TV, see too many gratuitous violent movies, or surf the net at all odd hours of the day.

I am talking about pratyahara as part of your meditation practice, an inner technique in withdrawing the mind from the external world, so that one may enjoy the mind as it is blissfully reflected in the lake of its own inner essence.

I am talking about the process in meditation that prepares for and precedes your focusing on your breath and your mantra and your carefully chosen chakra. In other words, the process of meditation that distinguishes yogic meditation from TM meditation, for example.

That is, the process of meditation which enables the mind to withdraw the senses from the external world before you actually start meditating. In TM, you simply meditate by repeating a mantra. In yogic meditation—the way Patanjali intended but not prescribed in any detail—you prepare the mind through pratyahara before you actually commence the deeper process of meditation on your mantra, which is then synchronized with its inner meaning, its sacred sound, your breath and your chosen chakra (istha chakra).

That’s yogic meditation. That is at least one important aspect of yogic meditation. And you won’t learn that process in most yoga studios. Because most yoga studios do not teach the spiritual and meditative aspects of yoga.

Most yoga studios teach posture yoga. And the goal of posture yoga is not Enlightenment with a capital E. The goal of most posture yoga is to have better abs, a slimmer body, experience deeper relaxation and more general wellbeing.

That said, many yoga studios do teach pranayama, which is also part of the yoga of Enlightenment. However, the hatha yoga pranayama taught in most yoga studios is not intended for Enlightenment either, it is intended to energize the body and control the bodily airs, or vayus. Its main purpose is to increase wellbeing and health.

Spiritual pranayama (also termed raja yoga or rajadhirajayoga pranayma), as it was taught by Astavakra (ca. 400 BCE) and the tantric sages that preceded him, uses mantra and concentration synchronized with the breath to achieve sublime states of bliss.

It has a different goal than hatha yoga pranayama—its goal is to merge breath and mind in the ocean of Cosmic Consciouness. Its goal is not to exert mental force to control the body but rather to synchronize body and mind so that mind can merge with Spirit.

Because such techniques are not taught in most yoga studios, those yogis who seek Enlightenment, those who seek the deeper spiritual experiences of life, they go elsewhere to seek self-transformation. They become Buddhists, for example.

Yes, why is it that so many yoga students who have spiritual aspirations frequently quote teachers who hardly, if ever, spend time doing headstand and peacock posture—people like Thich Nath Hanh and the Dali Lama? Simply because you don’t need a yoga mat or a Rodney Yee yoga video to pursue the path of spirituality or to become Enlightened.

But you do need some form of spiritual practice.

Indeed, many of the great saints of yoga and Buddhism—people like Ramana Maharshi, Ananda Mai Ma, Milarepa and Marpa—they spent very little time doing yoga postures.  Instead they spent a whole lot of time meditating. An amazingly whole lot.

Milarepa locked himself in a cave for many years until he looked green from eating nothing but nettle soup. In other words, he had to do his home work before being considered the greatest yogi this side of the Buddha.

Ramana Maharshi meditated in his cave until ants started eating at his butt so fiercely that some of his disciples had to remove him and tell him he had better things to do—such as teaching others the art of spiritual Enlightenment.

However, there are other Enlightened yogic sages that took a more heart-centered approach to Enlightenment, such as poets Kabir and Mirabai. They danced and sang their way to Enlightenment, but not with any less fierceness as these other yogis. They often spent sleepless nights singing or chanting their bhakti hearts out to their chosen Beloveds, namely Rama and Krishna.

The point is, then fellow yogis, if you want more than what you got, if you desire more than what you got beneath your organic yogi pants, then meditation, either in half or full lotus, will have to become more frequently practiced than the yoga poses you have been used to doing.

Moreover, you’ll have to seek out a teacher or guru who knows how to teach you the lessons required to bring the mind beyond the body and into the realm of Spirit. Unless you just want to read your way into Enlightenment, which most yogis worthy of their sacred mantras would say is next to impossible.

Or, like so many other yogis, you can become a Buddhist. Or a Sufi. But why pick another path when yoga already has all you need? And more!

About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

3,117 views

63 Responses to “Yoga Will Never Make You Enlightened (Unless You Become a Buddhist!)”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, The Yoga Sanctuary. The Yoga Sanctuary said: RT @elephantjournal: Comment: "Yoga Will Never Make You Enlightened (Unless You Become a Buddhist!)" http://bit.ly/eEpqoj #buddhism [...]

  2. Padma Kadag says:

    Ramesh …Ramesh….Ramesh…provacateur extraordinaire! Maybe you write this for the EJ audience and the "yogis" of yoga and beyond…that might explain your viewpoint…but I must tell you..that…and I think you know this…Buddhism…Tantric Buddhism…beyond reading the Sutra…beyond reading intellectual western writers writing about Buddhism and Bliss…Buddhism if taught by an authentic lineage holder..is more Yogic than anything you would ever need to have or find. Are there poses, postures, breathing? Yes. Milarepa had done all of this. My teacher is a master of this. If you practice Buddhist "Yoga"…to completion…and your result authenticated by your Guru…then the fruit of this Yoga will not need to be done again on an outer level. This is a quick path…burning up karma…So I just wanted to let you know it is wrong if Buddhists think that sitting meditation is the only method to make you enlightened…or non buddhists think that Buddhism does not have a tradition of Tantric Yoga. Traditionally this practice is extremely secret. Lately westerneres have made videos and written about this Yoga. If a westerner writes about the Great Perfection then turn and go the other way.

    • Ramesh says:

      Padma, yes, my article was very simplistic and provocative, so thanks for bringing up this important point that Buddhism also has a yogic tradition. Very important point! Thank you!

  3. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    I always enjoy reading your stuff, Ramesh.

  4. Bruce says:

    Excellent words, Ramesh. I have felt/expressed these very sentiments. Ultimately, it is just you and the cushion.

  5. Ramesh says:

    From Facebook:
    *
    Kerry Usanda Verdon my yoga teacher teaches meditation, breath work, and stillness amongst other things. Love it.
    about an hour ago ·
    *
    Jennifer Taylor That is why I practice Kundalini yoga.
    about an hour ago ·
    *
    Robin Ellen Lucas meditation is the whole point of yoga. some people have to move first. but, it's not just physical. after moving in asana, it's the perfect time to harness all of the energy for meditation. otherwise, you miss the gem

  6. ARCreated says:

    Thich Nhat Hanh — moving meditation is meditation too. My yogaasana is not about being slimmer, never has been…it heals me in different ways than my meditation practice ….and when all else fails I ride my motorcycle anyway…

    I pooh pooh on your this is the only way rhetoric :) I am disiclined to agree with your assessment. although I do lead meditation in my yogasana classes I do not see one as more important that the other, merely complimentary. and remember each person has a different physical experience…don't presume to know what will work for one will work for another.

    • ARCreated says:

      but then I do have a more tantric philosophy — a little more non-dualistic, a little less "get me over this life thing".
      Since I see life as a joyous discovery I'm not all hep to "escape" per se…so maybe I'm not too conserned about this E-lightment of which you speak….or maybe I'm just tired of some really non E-lightened buddhists telling me their way is better (that is actually not pointed at you…I actually love your writing and most of the time really agree with you ;) ) but sometimes I hear this and it sounds a bit too much like "the only way to god is through jesus christ"….just sayin…

      I will continue to do both, for I feel in the end that although we are spiritual beings we are having a physical experience and I intend to LIVE that physical experience while I can…I do my half hour of meditation yep I do, but I find it easier to be out of my body than in it so I need the physcial practice…it keeps me on earth, and i sort of like it here.

      Much love my dear!!! (PS…my butt did skinnier as a by product of asana, but I think it only got smaller because my grief did….)

      • Ramesh says:

        Arcreated, thanks so much for your lengthy reply….. my article is not about one path is right for all, rather that we need to add spirituality to our asana practice, if we want to get more spirituality from our yoga. If that form of meditataion is walking meditation, sitting meditation, Buddhist, yogic, Sufi or whatever, is less important, the point I was trying to make is simply this: if you want spirituality, you need to feed your Spirit with spiritual practice.

  7. Hi, Ramesh. Great article, as usual.

    You know this already, of course, but for your readers who might not be aware of it, the path of highly disciplined meditation is only one of four paths defined in the Bhagavad Gita itself.

    The Yoga Sutra is a guide to only one of the four, and, not surprisingly, strongly influenced by Buddhism.

    We happen to be covering all four of the major paths right now in Gita in a Nutshell. This week is a summary:

    Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks.

    During the next four weeks we'll be looking at the specific passages from the Bhagavad Gita that describe each of the four major paths: 1) Knowledge, 2) Selfless Giving, 3) Meditation, and 4) Love.

    Bob W.

    • Ramesh says:

      Bob, thanks for bringing in the Gita on this…as you know, most yogis on the spiritual path will practice some of each of these four paths, they are complimentary and keeps us more balanced when practiced together. Even though we have personal proclivities toward one path over the others, it is wise to practice all of them….at least that is was my teacher's advise, and I do feel its value.

  8. Ramesh says:

    From Facebook:
    Tracy Hovde Johnson I think there is a turning of the tide, at least in Minneapolis where I practice. As more of the people who started yoga for the "exercise" are beginning to feel some sort of energetic awakening they are receptive for more than just asana and many, especially smaller independent studios, are teaching a more traditional practice including long sivasanas, pranayama, yoganidra, meditation and mantra practice.

    • Patrick says:

      I agree. Here in Montreal, we can find studio that include chanting and meditation. Asanas attract people for the health benefits but keep them with spirituality. However,i must say that i don’t see why we could not do buddhism meditation with yoga. Both path are similar and I am with Alan Watts: “Buddhism is Hinduism stripped for export”.

      • Ramesh says:

        Patrick. Absolutely. To make a broad generalization: most people practicing posture yoga practice little or no meditation, so combining that with Buddhist meditation is great. Most people doing Buddhism practice little or no posture yoga, so if they took up that practice it would be of great benefit. However, as I said in the article, yoga also includes meditative practices, so there is really no need to be a Buddhist, unless, of course, one prefers Buddhism over the yogic path.

  9. Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

    Hi Ramesh – on one level, I get your point and agree – rather ironically, I myself am currently exploring options for Buddhist meditation instruction as an outgrowth of my yoga studies!

    On the other hand – I think there is a lot more in contemporary asana practice than you acknowledge – especially on what I'll call for shorthand the spiritual and psychological levels. There are lots of classes that offer much, much more than exercise.

    True, though, I don't see much emphasis on "enlightenment" in yoga. But it's also true that contemporary Western Buddhist teachers seem to be offering an understanding of enlightenment that's quite different from the classical model – and closer to what people get out of a serious asana practice. Here I'm thinking of teachers like Jack Kornfield, who wrote "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry" – emphasizing that you can have tremendous spiritual experiences but still find that you don't know how to have healthy relationships. So a lot of instruction coming out of Western psychology, which offers so much in terms of developing a healthy small "s" self is mixed in with more classically spiritual teaching.

    I think that this sort of everyday "enlightened living in the world" is what many practitioners today are looking for, as opposed to Capital "E", Enlightenment.

    • Good insights, Carol. I agree.

    • Ramesh says:

      Carol, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I totally agree with you. Most of my articles here on EJ are consciously simplistic and provocative in order to start a discussion and thus solicit responses such as yours.

      I think Buddhist teachers have done a great job at translating its teachings to the Western public in a psychological way that people can relate to. This is lacking in yoga. However, people like Michael Stone and a few others are doing it now. Moreover, I also think that the more intellectual path of Buddhism suits the American psyche better than the more heart-centered spirituality coming out of the yoga traditions of India.
      It is in the daily experiences of life, the small stuff, in which are level of enlightenment is tested and honed. The spiritual experiences are important and evolve out of deep inner practice, but psychological transformation is also important, because yoga is abut body, mind and spirit. So, yes everyday enlightenment is important, it is not either or, but this and that.

      • Padma Kadag says:

        Carol, Ramesh, Bob….for the record…I repectfully disagree with the idea that it is a beneficial "thing" for Buddhism to be translated into psychological philosophy and thinking. It is hard enough to translate into english let alone make the leap to explaining Buddhism with psychology. I would be concerned as to whether the person writing the book themselves is actually practicing Buddhism. All of them say they are…some even have a forward by the Dalai Lama. In regard to the capital E vs. the "e". If you are satisfied with the way in which your meditation and understanding of Buddhism is going…and your relationships are healthy…you might be too comfortable. Buddhism is not for everyone and should not be approached as if it is nor should it be watered down to be all inclusive. I just returned from a memorial service for a 25 year old young man who committed suicide. Should we assume that he is now at peace? as the catholic priest and all of his family members said?

        • Padma Kadag says:

          As buddhists what do we do here in this human form? Do we follow the words of the Buddha from our Guru and actually practice as the Buddha? Or when we die or kill ourselves have the author of one of these books tell our family that we have attained parinirvana? How would they know? So why would we practice Psycho-Buddha?

        • Ramesh says:

          Padma,
          for those just reading what you characterize as watered down Buddhist psychology, it is often impossible to appreciate your perspective, that there are teachings that cannot and should not be watered down lest they loose their whole meaning and purpose. That there are some teachings that will be useless, even harmful, if watered down or altered by novices. This fact is as relevant to Buddhism as it is to Yoga. For those parcticing only posture Yoga, it is difficult to appreciate that there's meditation and MEDITATION. There's focus and breathing while practicing asanas and daily centering and mindfullness, but there are also advanced lessons that takes sitting practice and proper instruction from a guru and a lot of time. So yes, I see your point.
          However, as just yoga asanas will have benefit, the westernized Buddhism taught will also benefit people, and thtrugh those preliminary teachings many will move on to deeper study and practice. BUT for sure, some, perhaps most. will not seek the more advanced teachings. But, hey, it beats watching TV and eating potato chips!

          • Padma Kadag says:

            Ramesh….you are very nice to respond…My point, to which I dont need to have a response but certainly welcome one, is that in many many discussions with Tibetan Vajrayana Lamas, Yogis, Ngakpas from Tibet and India who have resided in the USA and Europe what they see and read, whether it is Quantum Mechanics or Buddhist Philosophy through the eyes of western psychologists, is not Buddhism. With what little experience I have I too can see this is not Buddhism. In the tradition of Vajrayana one must have a Guru. Be accepted by a Guru, have the Karma to practice from an authentic lineage. You cannot just start practicing. It is not for everyone. Having said that…if you approach the Vajrayana you may find that you do have karma for the practice. You cannot attain enlightenment…Big E…without a Guru in Buddhism. Unless! you are one of the very rare few who are without one bit of confusion right now and throughout this lifetime.

          • Padma Kadag says:

            The bottom line is that we all watch our own minds and not the minds of other's. This all inclusive watered down buddhism is part of the degeneration to which Shakyamuni was referring. Also, in this watering down, it is often these authors that will proclaim the oneness and sameness of all religions and spiritual paths without even first taking the path of buddhism to completion. This can only produce confusion.

          • BoepSaFrankJude says:

            Dear Padma,

            I found myself in deep resonance with the spirit of what I take your point to be. However, when you say that what contemporary Buddhist teachers who integrate western psychological insight "is not Buddhism," I must respectfully offer the following perspective:

            1. For many years the argument was made — and I believe is still made by some Therevadin monks, for instance — that Tibetan Vajrayana is not Buddhism. In fact, it is so far from what the Buddha is reported to have taught in the Pali Sutras that some criticize Tibetan Buddhism as completely debased!

            2. In every culture that Buddhism has entered, it has absorbed the indigenous culture. In China, it took on elements from both Confucianism and Taoism; in Japan it took on Shinto elements. AND in Tibet, it took on many "Shaministic" and Bon elements. For instance, many early sutras report the Buddha condemning monks who practice "prophecy" and yet the Dalai Lama relies on an Oracle!

            Another example: if I were to treat my Korean Zen Master as a 'guru,' he'd kick me in the ass! The whole "guru" model is one that permeates Tibetan Buddhism because of the deep influence of Hindu-Yoga!

            SO, as Buddhism is integrated into Western culture, it makes sense — and I would argue it is a very good thing — that it absorb from Western commonly understood culture: psychology; a more historical consciousness than often found in the East; the Western rational tradition; feminism; scientific inquiry.

            in metta…

          • Ramesh says:

            Well, said, BoepSaFrankJude. I resonate with your overview above! Thank you!

          • Padma Kadag says:

            I disagree respectfully. I do agree with your point #1. Let me say also that "who am I to say this or that is not Buddhism". I will say that this notion of melding Buddhism with psychology is nonsense in that psychology is not a yoga…meaning a practice one does. It is a set of theories about behavior. I would also say… that to say that psychology is our "western" culture is not accurate. Psychology is a science not a cultural practice infused into the society. It is for those who attend Universities and write books. It is not practiced by you and me as a means of making ourselves better humans. Psychology is not western in the sense that for eaxample Tibetans are infused with Buddhism and westerners are not infused with psychology…if that makes sense. Inregard to Hindu-Yoga and its alleged influence on Tantric Buddhism…Both you and Ramesh need to find a Tantric Nyingma, Sakya or Kagyu Lama of Tibetan decent and ask the origin of Buddhist Tantra. Then take his or her answer and believe it to be the actual origin. Why would the origin of Tantric Buddhism be other than the Buddha? Because you and Ramesh, as well as hundreds of western anthropologists say so?

          • Padma Kadag says:

            This so-called melding of psychology and Buddhism is humorous. Buddhism is boundless. psychology is a science which is evolving. Because we say it is evolving means that it is subject to change. Therefore it is impermanent. If we are under the illusion that we are bringing together Buddhism and psychology then why would we dilute Buddhism with a lesser school? Like mixing shit into a glass of perfectly good wine. I would also say that any attempt to meld Buddhism with psychology is impossible as you may have psychology to mix but I would doubt that whoever is doing the mixing does not know Buddhism. Buddhism swallows up psychology.

  10. Bhaeravii says:

    First of all, ENLIGHTENMENT, the goal of meditation, is over emphasized. The focus is on sitting on top rather than climbing the ladder and appreciating the process in the here and now. Enlightenment is a natural psychological process and it is not isolated to particular types of meditation or spiritual paths. It falls upon one naturally. It is part of the human death process. It is about recognizing it. Enlightenment has a big draw since the mind thinks it is a better place than where it is now. Many yogic paths force enlightenment.
    Second. there are many paths and types of meditation. it is about intention more than technique. I would rather interact with people who care about people, lead respectful lives, and are not philosophical hypocrites than yogi types who are thinking they are spiritually superior due to doing a certain type of meditation. Spirituality, a word I am coming to dislike for its over use, is a karmic path. Each person will work out of the paradigm they have been given. Even the people with no visible path or say, practice a mainstream religion like catholicism (which like other main religions, has its mystical branch) have some measure of spiritual awareness. It is not for us to judge.
    Best be respectful and tread lightly with the SHOULDS.
    Every single person I know who does yoga, and this means a wide variety of people, all do some type of meditation. sitting, walking, breathing, focusing. taking out a moment. I know 40 year dedicated yogis who sit 4 times a day who are some of the meanest spirited people with terribly dysfunctional relationships and simple neighbors who play soccer who are elevated compassionate human beings with no self consciousness about such. there can be no generalization.
    Having a great life and great relationships has nothing to do with spiritual experiences. they are parallel, not intertwined. Having a spiritual practice is no guarantee for a better life. You have to work at both.

    • Ramesh says:

      Bhaeravii, great points. I basically agree with you!

    • Joe Sparks says:

      There are no "shoulds," "oughts," "musts," "have-tos," or other "duties" surrounding any human being that that human needs to honor in any way. People may accept or agree to any of these that they decide to, but the decision is really free choice. Life goes better when one decides, acts, and feels whatever they need to feel, in that order.

    • Liza says:

      Hallaluyeh

  11. John says:

    Lord Buddha had said that after 2500 years will come another Buddha in the western world. Who is the new Buddha?

  12. Justin says:

    so true…which is why I am a student of Yogarupa Rod Stryker. His ParaYoga is an integration of Tantra, Hatha, & Ayurveda. His Tantra lineage is of the Himalayan tradition of SriVidya. A full yoga practice…not yoga lite.

    What is ironic in my own story is that I spent years dabbling in Buddhism, thinking I would eventually make a spiritual home there because I did not see anything that interested me in the yoga world. And long story short, found Yogarupa and his teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait (Swami Rama's successor & spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute).

    While this process was a surprise to me & counter my own leanings…it has also been a surprise in discovering a whole world that actually informs Buddhism. I have been struck time and again, as I am practicing in this yogic tradition, how much Buddhism is really an extension of this larger Vedic-Tantric-Yogic tradition(s). While I knew that to some degree, due to the Buddha's life story, but I am struck by listening to most Buddhists talk about who they are and what they do…as if it was a Buddhist thing…as if it was not really a Vedic-Tantric-Yogic thing. Yes there are differences, yes similarities of a Protestant Reformation to Roman Catholicism, but I question at times to what extent Buddhism is its own thing and to what extent it is a subset that tended to prioritize a set of Yogic-Tantric teachings & technologies over others (for various reasons…& too they were considered heterodox by the Brahmin elite during various historical periods, etc).

    again interesting and insightful article.

    • Ramesh says:

      Justin, thanks so much for sharing your story and your insights. I could not agree more… the yogic-tantric tradition precedes Buddhism by thousnads of years and even Buddha himself was a student of Gosala, a tantric yogi, hence we speak of boft Buddhist and Hindu Tantra, two paths with many common teachings and practices….

      • Padma Kadag says:

        There is a misconception of when and where Buddhism originated. Shakyamuni Buddha, the prince we all know, was not the first Buddha. Everything that Lord Shakyamuni did do in terms of actions preceding his enlightenment were skillful symbolic examples in order to tame the minds of sentient beings. Teachers he spent time with or practices he did which were extremist and not the middle way which he eventually revealed were all integral aspects of the path which he carried out by way of example or teaching. Tantric Yoga in Buddhism was never "born". It has always been available just not needed until it was revealed. So to say that Buddhism is a result of this other tradition or that tradition is inaccurate. No matter how many western "scholars" write about Buddha.

        • Justin says:

          Hi Padma,

          …interesting way to put it. I do not know much about what you are saying, but will spend some more time with it.

          thanks, Justin

          • Ramesh says:

            Padma,
            the word "revealed" is a way of saying it came from God, it is absolute knowledge, it is from withn, from the spiritual realm. Yes, in a way that is true, but the history of spirituality is not a Western construct. The history of yoga, for example, is very much part of the Indian yoga tradition. And in that same line, Buddha was historical… He lived, spoke. hence, it is dogma to say his teachings were revealed and thus stand outside of history. That is not logical or rational and spirituality does not conflict with rationality.

          • Padma Kadag says:

            So you are equating "reality" with a linear thinking and a timeline? Revealed means revealed. Already being in existence..just not before seen. If you ask a Hopi Indian where they came from they will point to a hole in the ground near the Grand Canyon. Ask an anthropolgist and he will say the Bering Straits. What do you believe Ramesh? The anthropologist or the people the anthropolgist is studying but does not understand ? Ask the Lamas and Yogis of Tantric Buddhism where Tantra came from. You are looking in the wrong Place.

          • Ramesh says:

            the whole in the ground is mythology, the bearing strait is geography and both are reality
            The hopis came from somewhere historically, but that fact does not mean we discount their religion or the value of their mythology, you misunderstand and mix apples and oranges I am not discounting revealed knowledge, but revealed knowledge comes to people in flesh and blood, and Buddha had flesh and blood as well. that's all.
            Moreover it was long after Buddha that Buddhism was influenced by Tantra…. and it was long before, because before his enlightenmnet Buddha had a Tantric teacher named Gosala… etc.. revelaed knowledge does not appear in a vaccum

          • Padma Kadag says:

            Ramesh….I will say it again. Go and find a Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu Ngakpa Tantric Lama, of Tibetan descent, practitioner and ask them the time and origin of Buddhist Tantra. Why would there be any other answer? Because you say so? Or 100 anthropologists say so? Your timeline on the historical Buddha and Tantra is wrong. You read too much. Your view is limited by scholarly opinions. Go and ask authentic practioners. But you discount those Lamas and Ngakpas as ignorant zealots who do not know the history of the Buddha? Furthermore…I challenge you to show me one Shaivite-Hindu or any other Yogic or Buddhist text originated in India, not a western interpretation, that supports your claim that the Buddha"s Tantra was borrowed from Hindusim, for no better term…..I am waiting

  13. Charlotte says:

    Thanks, Ramesh. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the heart of yoga. Yet relatively few yoga teachers these days practice. I think that Western yoga practitioners find yoga through the physical practice because we are a very physically identified culture (think the obsession with youth and beauty that has long dominated popular culture and more recently has colored our cultural perception of yoga). The physical practices are the doorway into the world of yoga. Many people stop here and don't want to look further. This is entirely appropriate for many practitioners, and can still be quite beneficial. I began practicing Buddhist meditation in 1986 with my teacher, Pujari, who practiced in the Insight Meditation Society tradition. It didn't take long for me to figure out that for me, meditation is the path and asana and pranayama are its complement. I think that asana and pranayama are the yoga system's gift to spiritual practice, but for many, they are not an end unto themselves.

    It is true that there are very few yoga teachers out there with the experience and depth to teach meditation. It takes years to become a competent asana teacher, but one should only teach meditation if one has gone deep enough to understand the difference between ego and no ego. That requires seeing the truth of ourselves and the nature of our beliefs. It's a humbling process that not everyone is willing to stay with. I'm very grateful to have met a teacher who is highly trained in both hatha yoga and meditation.

    • Ramesh says:

      Charlotte, always a pleasure to read your thoughtful comments and insights. I agree wholeheartedly. Meditation is a lot more subtler to teach, but even more so to practice. But, as you say, if one finds a great teacher and practice, the rewards are well worth the time and effort.

  14. Blake Wilson Blake says:

    I would suggest not chasing enlightenment.

    • Ramesh says:

      There are many ways to Enlightenment and the desire to merge, the path of bhakti, the path of love, the path of desiring only the One, is one of them.

  15. Liza says:

    If you start at Samadi, all other limbs(Patanjali) will come naturaly.The path of least resistance.
    Yoga is not a practice at all, it is a State of being. North America
    likes the physical asspect of 'Yoga'.

    • Ramesh says:

      Liza, sorry to say but this is the kind of silly intellectualization of yoga philosophy and practice that makes people think samadhi is an everyday affair… very few yogis ever experience samadhi, it takes practice, good karma, surreder, and grace, and once you experience it, you still need to continue practicing….because it comes and goes. samadhi is not the eight limb by accident, it is the result of practicing the other limbs… not the other way around.

  16. Yogi Mat says:

    OK – read all this and all there is here are platitudes and thinly-veiled conceit and/or contempt. Such a shameful waste of time – everyone on EJ shoots from the same place – everyone has the answers – now WHAT is the question? – you have to be Buddhist to get enlightened – right ? Well yoga is not about having all the answers it is about AVOIDING THE WRONG QUESTIONS – and this is another one of those WRONG QUESTIONS that EJ encourages in its myopic pursuit of page views by way of a dull, media-o-cratic business model. ANYWAY – I gotta go – just off to buy an oblong piece of sticky vinyl that takes about 100 years to degrade in landfill – or maybe I should use that tired old virtue phrase "yoga mat" – one of EJ's sponsors (top left panel) would be pleased to supply me I am sure – then I will MINDLESSLY nominate EJ for some CONSENSUS OF STUPID "green" award on my path to yogic bliss!

    • Ramesh says:

      Yogi Mat, if you had read past the title of my article you would probably have recognized that it basically makes two points: 1. that yoga is more than physical yoga, posture yoga, or hatha yoga and that 2. if you want more, such as various meditative techniques, you do not have to become a Buddhist or a Sufi. In other words, my article makes the opposite point of the title. Moreover, the discussions we have had here have been informed and thoughtful. As for EJ, you'll find all kinds of articles here, and very few, if any, are mindless and stupid.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Platitudes… thinly velied conceit… shameful waste of time… everyone at EJ shoots from the same place… everyone has answers… myopic pursuit of page views… dull… Mindlessly… stupid.

      Get out of bed the wrong side this morning did we Mat?

      If you were right, and there were conceit and contempt in this article (you're not), at least it would be thinly veiled (in the name of Ahimsa, remember that?)

      Actually it is written by a sincere, devoted, purist practitioner… so you couldn't be more wrong ironically.

      Your reply to Ramesh's sincere writing does not attempt to veil *your* conceit and contempt, and for that you should look at yourself. You may believe yourself to be 'above' EJ and it's 'stupidity', but here you are reading and commenting – in a totally negative, unconstructive manner.

  17. TamingAuthor says:

    Good article, Ramesh.

    The good thing about yoga studios focusing only on the postures and health is that people from other religious traditions can participate without being offended or turned away. Every negative has its upside as well.

  18. vanessaf says:

    Ramesh, how do you know?

  19. NotSoSure says:

    Great article. Full disclosure, I am a Hatha yogi. I am also a nightstand Buddhist meaning that I read about Buddhism in order to avoid actually practicing Buddhism. I wholeheartedly agree that the purely physical postural yoga taught is most studios today is missing the point. Not to mention waters down the practice and does a great disservice to my fellow yogis.

    But I do have a couple of quibbles. For me at my best, postural yoga is a meditation in action. Hatha yoga can/does bring calmness, awareness,sense withdrawal, concentration etc. And the fact that I have gotten stronger and can now beat up most Buddhists is just a bonus on my path to peace and enlightenment.

    Quibble 2: BKS Iyengar himself said that for the first thirty years his yoga practice was purely physical. However,the yoga he has been teaching since the 70′s evolved to be not primary concerned with the physical but the spiritual/mental/internal. Read “Light on Life” and you will understand how Mr. Iyengar believes that Hatha yoga is indeed a vehicle to enlightenment.

    Please keep up the insightful posts here on EJ. You are quickly becoming one of my favorite reads.

    • Ramesh says:

      NotSoSure, thanks for your comments. Regarding quibble 1: i agree, postural yoga is by its very nature meditative, and it has all the mental effects you are describing. I agree. Imagine, then, how more meditative your asana practice could become if you had more advanced meditative tools to use during asana practice. There are levels of proficiency and experience in hatha yoga, so also in raja yoga, in the various meditative practices. if you practice the whole shebang, each aspect of yoga will reinfoce the other in a very harmonious way.

      Quibble # 2: As in my answer in #1, imgaine then if Iyengar had practiced a more meditative form of yoga from the beginning. Imgaine what an impact that would have had on him, and, more importantly, on how people would practice yoga in the West. It's never too late, as they say, better to start earlier than later, so add meditation to your practice, books are not enough, the rewards will be amazing!

      • NotSoSure says:

        Ramesh, I cannot argue with the points in your response. And being contrary by nature I would love to make an argument. Bugger.

        As I said at my best my Hatha practice is meditative. But like most yogis, I am very often not at my best. Often my practice, like many/most Hatha yogis, degenerates into ego driven gymnastics.

        So why can’t I like so many others not make the leap from the mat to a complimentary mediation practice? Probably because I am still too addicted to the distractions (mental modifications) and fear what would come up in the silence of mediation.

        Please excuse me now, I’m going to stand on my head while forcing my legs into bone breaking, tendon snapping contortions.

  20. Silvar Elbsumas says:

    So you reach enlightenment in what ever way you do. Then what?

  21. [...] the vajrayana we are presented with the full-blown enlightened view; and the path is simply the invitation to step into that view. So this unstained child is [...]

  22. Kim Stetz Kimstetz says:

    Ramesh, your title put a smile on my face! I couldn't agree with you more. 7 years into asana practice I was lucky to spend a weekend with David Nichtern for a required yoga TT at OM and loved the Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices. This has reshaped my teachings and put me on a clear path with daily meditation and what I am actually doing while on the cushion and off. Been 10 years of regular meditation practice since that weekend and I don't know want to know what happens without it.

Leave a Reply