Yoga: Is it Vedic, Tantric, or Both?

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on May 12, 2010
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It has become common dogma in Western yoga circles to subscribe to the idea that yoga originally comes from the Vedas and that the Aryans, who developed these ancient scriptures, are indigenous to India.

The main proponents of these ideas are prolific yoga scholars Georg Feuerstein and David Frawley.

Their book In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, which seeks to demonstrate that the Aryans are indigenous to India and advanced everything great about Indian culture, including yoga, Vedic Astrology, Ayurveda, has been endorsed by Deepak Chopra.

Here’s the irony in all this: These eminent writers have thus, perhaps unwittingly, aligned themselves with some of the most extreme elements in modern India, the Hindu nationalists, who want to prove that Hindu Aryanism is indigenous to India and that anybody who attempts to disprove this idea is a racist and a bigot.

Warning: This whole debate is complicated, often heated, and rather one-sided, at least from the point of view of those who beg to differ.

That is, those researchers and writers, like myself, who present the view that ancient India was populated by peoples who had already developed yoga and tantra when the Aryans started arriving and that the clash of these two civilizations—the Vedic and the Tantric—is what has formed India’s cultural heritage.

Just imagine this: India had already developed cities, rice growing and great communal baths around 5,000 BC. And this was the time, according to genetic science, the nomadic Aryans arrived in India. A classical clash of two cultures ensued—one nomadic and, at times, rather violent, one agrarian and, to a great extent, quite peaceful.

So, yes, there is an alternative perspective to the one Chopra and the Hindu nationalists subscribes to: the Aryans came from outside India and brought with them the Rikveda, the first oral text of the four Vedas (a book in which you will find no information about yoga asanas or mantra meditation but a lot about prayers to conciliate the thunder god and the sun god as well as plenty of juicy and poetic information about fire rituals and horse sacrifices).

So to sum up: to say that the Aryans were originally indigenous to India is like saying Columbus and his fellow invaders were indigenous to Ohio.

Some questions to think about:

Do you go to a Vedic priest to learn yoga or do you go to a yogi?

Why does Lama Yeshe (a Buddhist tantric) and Swami Satyananda (a Hindu tantric) call yoga a tantric practice?

Why was the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the first book on yoga asanas (Yoga and Tantra had been oral traditions for thousands of years before this book was written), written by Tantric yogis and not by Vedic priests?

The answers to these questions are simple: Yoga did not originate in the Vedas, as Chopra claims. Yoga was not really developed by Vedic priests. Rather, yoga was developed by Tantric yogis, some of whom, over time, also happened to be part-time Vedic priests.

Indeed, it is commonly understood in Tantric circles and documented in many books how Vedic priests would practice Tantric yoga in secret at night…

So, over time, there was a cultural blending between the Vedic and Tantric streams of wisdom in India. This blending gave us the great texts of the Gita, the Upanishads as well as Kashmir Tantra, Vedanta, the Yoga Sutras, Samkhya, the great nondual Tantric Renaissance of the Middle Ages, from which much of modern yoga practice originates, etc.

To read more about this alternative view of Indian history and the history of yoga and tantra, please read my other blogs on EJ:

> How old is yoga: a reply to Waylon Lewis

> A brief alternative history of yoga.

For information about genetic research supporting the Aryan migration to India:

http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/Recent_Findings_Archaeogenetics.html

Here’s a short summary of this article: Further, this desire by VF/HEF supporters to “prove” by any means that Aryans are “indigenous” people directly relate to their contemporary political agenda back in India of distinguishing the “indigenous Aryan Hindus” from “foreign Muslim and Christian invaders” and thereby characterizing India’s Muslim and Christian minorities as “traitors” that need to be marginalized and persecuted. It is disturbing to witness how dangerously close these Hindu nationalist groups have come to whitewashing California’s school textbooks with their unsavory political agendas.

And here is an article about what award-winning author Arundhati Roy thinks about the nationalist Hindutva movement:

http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/arundhati-roy-exposes-hindutva-and-islamophobia/


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About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Comments

99 Responses to “Yoga: Is it Vedic, Tantric, or Both?”

  1. Vakibs, I do not disagree that Indian civilization represents th cradle of human civilization, this is becomeing more and more evident. However, when you say vedas, you need to qualify what you mean. There is a mile of difference in insight between the Rigveda and that of Upanishads, even between the Rigveda and the Atharva veda. In the same way as Europe was vastly different during the Middle Ages than it is today… This is just common sense. So you are simply making too many sweeping generalizations that will not hold water if scrutinized closely. The India of the Rigveda was vastly different from India of the Upanshads, an evolution of thousands of years had taken place, even though much had been added to the Rigveda as that evolution took place.
    I must get back to work, so will have to take up this thread later… enjoy!!!

  2. Indriya'na'm' manona'thah manona'thastu ma'rutah.

    "The mind is the Lord of the indriyas. The vital energy is the Lord of the mind."

    So Vakibs, while indriya means sense organs.. and the mind is the Lord of those sense organs and prana is the lord of the mind in yoga.. prana, vital breath, controls the mind, there is a vast difference between these yogic insights and Indra, the mythological lord of the Gods in the Rigveda. And now i am getting back to my point earlier, that the great fallacy is to read backwards into mythology and ascribe meaning that was not originally there. WE USE MYTHOLOGY TO EXPLAIN DEEP MEANING but we also use rationality to elaborately ascribe meaning that is not there. And that is what Frawley et al do a lot of, as well as many others. I hope I am making myself clear. gotta go!

  3. vakibs says:

    Thanks Bob 🙂 I haven't read any books on these subjects. And broadly speaking, I am very afraid of Hindu nationalist agenda. But it seems like the folks you mention are very gentle guys, I will try to find some time and read these books later. Thanks for the suggestions.

  4. Vakibs,

    I am not complaining about Vedic insights, my friend, I am simply pointing out that there has been an evolution of consciousness and culture on this planet. That is why I presented Gebser's model which is fairly universally accepted and understood. I am also saying that people in the past, be they Vedic Aryans, Greeks, Norse Vikings, etc. worshipped Gods in heaven and thus subscribed to many dogmas we would not subscribe to today.

    Yes, India is tolerant on many levels and totally in the dark ages on other levels. Just ask a dalit, at least those who are fighting back against their plight. Ask the widows being treated as animals. Those with burn scars and still living. And these traditions came from somewhere, not from yoga, not from tantra, they came from the Vedas. Just read up on the laws of Manu. The caste system is still very much alive in India. It did not come from yoga, it came from the Vedas.
    Also, my friend, please do not assume i have not read my Rigveda because I am a yogi and am "not aware of" their meaning. I am suggesting you think about your good old myths in a different way, put them into historical context and also look at how some of those myths are still very much alive and enslaving large segments of the population in India today.
    I know, we have similar dogmatic traits in Christianity in the west. I know. We also have not been very kind to mother earth, nor to the rest of the world for centuries of imperial exploitation. Yes, it goes both ways. But we are discussing the Vedas and Yoga. No need to digress.

    That said, I am enjoying our discussion and hope you are as well.

  5. Kaoverii says:

    Woah Rameshji! Your articles are rocking Elephant Journal! wow.

  6. Randomsubu,
    I am glad to hear you oppose all those "bad" practices in Hinduism, and I do understand and respect your choice of being a Hindu, of course. Similarly, I hope you understand and respect those of us who chose not to identify as Hindus, even though we practice something many consider to be Hindu. Indeed, Hindu-Tantra is an accepted term that even I sometimes use to make myself understood.
    There are dogmas in all religions and opposing those dogmas and superstitions is what I think is important.
    When you learn tantric meditation, for example, Brahmins will have to remove the sacred thread and renounce their caste allegiance as tantra does not accept the caste system. I encourage all Hindus to denounce this outdated system.

  7. randomsubu says:

    Ramesh:
    Like I said, I don't like blanket assertions, especially when I know them to be wrong. If you don't choose to identify as Hindu, fine by me! [Topic for another time: Hinduism is a constantly-evolving way of life, not a religion.]

  8. integralhack says:

    Impressive dialogue on these subjects. A lot to sift through even in the commentary. Great work, Ramesh.

  9. The caste system in India is a form of Apartheid. I therefore do understand that someone like Deepak Chopra or enlightened people who still associate themselves as Hindus, do not want to be associated with this outdated social order. How does it work?

    The Hindu social order is based on three interrelated elements: predetermination of social, religious and economic rights of each caste based on birth; the unequal and hierarchical division of these rights among the castes; and provision of strong social, religious and economic ostracism supported by social and religious ideology to maintain the Hindu social order.

    The primary unit of society is caste. There is no room for individual merit or individual justice. Rights that an individual has are not due to him or her personally; it is due to him or her because of belonging to a particular caste. The disability is imposed upon the caste and as a member of the caste that is his lot. If you are a low caste in India, especially if you are a woman, you're literally stuck for life.

    Yogis, Western yogis, Indian yogis, we need to speak out against this outrageous system of cultural injustice.
    We need to denounce those aspects of the Hindu/Vedic system that still enslaves people.

    Here are some of the Vedic Laws of Manu. They are not kind to women and many of these laws are still part of the cultural fabric of India:

    * “A wife, a son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property. The wealth which they earn is acquired for him to whom they belong.”

    * “Women, shudra (or sudra, lowest of four castes), dog and crow embody untruth, sin and darkness.” [In early times all Dravidians and other dark skinned peoples of India were considered shudras. Still to this day, most low caste shudras have dark skin, while upper castes have lighter skin due to their Aryan Vedic background.]

    * “Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear to be; for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on both the families. Considering it the highest duty of all castes, even wealthy husbands must strive to guard their wives….lest the seed of others be sown on your soil.”

    * “It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world, for that reason the wise never remain unguarded in the company of female.”

    * “A woman should not go to a meeting place; and they should not dance like the young, but sit at their proper places.”

    * “This is the first law…A wife cannot be dismissed from the marriage by a slave, separation or abdication.”

    “A man can leave a barren woman after eight years and one who only gives birth to daughters.”

    * “A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, though she have no son, just like those chaste men.”

    * “If a woman should happen to merely to overhear recitations of Vedic mantras by chance, hot molten glass should be poured into her ears.”

  10. I am looking forward to an article on that topic!

  11. vakibs says:

    "…Vedic Laws of Manu…. "

    Gosh.. The laws of manu are called smrithi – they are not part of shruti or the corpus of Vedic texts. They are explicitly set aside for a reason : the smrithi is considered to change over time, but the shruti doesn't.

    There have been several religious reformers in India who argued against the caste system precisely because it doesn't have a sanction in the Vedas. (This happened for several thousands of years, but most recently during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century)

    And about Brahmins having lighter skin, this is true only in very few cases. A vast majority of the Brahmins are very dark, as dark the rest of the Indians. You can find forest tribals in South India that are genetically closer to central Asians and Europeans than are Brahmins.

    I totally agree with you that the caste system is a form of apartheid, but its basis is the feudal system of land distribution, not an adherence to the Vedas. Nobody cares about the Vedas today in India anyways, but the caste system is very much alive and kicking ! Most of the caste-related crimes happen between land owners and indentured laborers. It is pretty similar to how race related crimes happen in the USA oftener in the southern agricultural lands.

    Over history, there were several times when Brahmins were huge land-owners. In those cases, they behaved as repugnantly to landless laborers as any others. But owning property or land is prohibited for Brahmins according to the Vedas. They are supposed to only guard intellectual wealth. And quite a lot of Brahmins in India today are materially destitute. They don't commit any caste-related crimes, which are mostly done by land owners such as Jats or Chowdhuries, who actually belong to the shudra class !

    It is very simplistic to equate the caste system in India with some Aryan racism. It is not as easy as that.

  12. vakibs says:

    Actually, that which is called shruthi (literally meaning "heard" in Sanskrit) is supposed to be heard by anyone who listens carefully. One needn't have access to the Vedic texts themselves.

    Brahma, with his 4 faces, is supposed to chant the Vedas eternally during the existence of this universe. Any person who cares to listen can apparently hear them.

    In contrast, that which is called smrithi (literally meaning "remembered" in Sanskrit) are just various texts of human authorship that are based on the cultural and moral values of the time they were composed. They don't have any permanent validity, unlike for example – the Bible or the Quran.

  13. Truth and Reason says:

    Thank you Ramesh for actually standing by the evidence, as you can see from the responses you receive, most people want to brush aside actual scientific and historical research showing that the Aryans came from outside India. There was a existent civilization before the "Vedics" came which has continued in various forms into today. People fail to understand that Hinduism in not necessarily a free exchange of ideas (caste system was barely condemned and barely let go until faced with Christian Missionary "Threat"). It was more of a appropriation of ideas, gods and practices and in a almost spiritual reflection of the caste system, subjugates them to specific approved Hindu gods, and exemplifies "vedic" as the ideal and the source. Buddhism eventually got wiped out in India, after it proved such a threat to the caste system, a campaign was initiated a la shankara to re-establish Hinduism and appropriate buddhist contributions and even the Buddha under a Hindu label. Compare it to the appropriation of African american music and putting a caucasian face on it.

    The best way to compare the Aryan invasion is what happened in central and south america. The Spanish came in, took the the native and african women as mates, relegating the native and african men as the labor and slave class. They had mixed children which became a higher "caste" which were considered better than the natives and slaves, then they took native and african foods and cultural conributions and claim them under the "Hispanic and/or Latino" label. The hispanic catholic religion absorbed native and african practices (virgin of guadlupe?) and appropriated them to ease the subjugation. Hinduism used religion to subjugate the natives mentally so there would be not slave/servant revolts, mental chains are harder to break than physical ones.

    People need to wake and smell the coffee, India suffered over 5000 years of oppression due to a colonizer called the Vedic Aryans!

  14. Thank you, Truth and Reason, for calling a spade a spade. Finally someone who really understands what I am talking about! Thank you. Thank you.

  15. Vakibs,
    the Laws of Manu are complimentary to the Vedas. I never said they constitute the Vedas. So they are very much part of the Vedic heritage, they are certainly not part of the Tantric heritage. That was my point in using the term Vedic laws of Manu, following my general division of the Vedic and Tantric traditions. Which again are two very important distinctions to make. If anything is to be leaned rfrom my writings that would be one of the most important.

  16. Yes, correct and herein lies the danger of dogmas. Any text or saying that is declared coming directly from God or the Gods, or Brahma, beware! That's how religious dogmas are started and that's how they remain. And that's why so many people in India still follow these outdated customs so blindly.

  17. Ramesh says:

    It is evident in this discussion that the Vedic bias is still very strong among yoga practitioners as well as the general public, especially in India.
    It is true, Vakibs, that one cannot blame the caste system on the Vedic Aryans. However, the caste system started with them. P. R. Sarkar, Romila Thapar, Lalan Prasad Singh, Alain Danileou and many more writers have pointed this out, that the tri-varna system of Vipras (Brahmins), Ksyattrias, and Vashyas was installed among the Vedic Aryans and that the Sudras became the lowest caste, comprised of the dark skinned Indian natives. From this, the caste system evolved into numerous sub castes.
    Again, what is important to realize, to take into account, at least be open to the possibility of, is that this system had nothing to do with Tantra/Yoga and did not originate with the Dravidians, nor the Austrics nor the Mongolians of that sub continent, but with the Vedic Aryans. In that regard, what we historically see developing in India is the classic subjugation of native peoples by those coming from the outside.

  18. Ramesh says:

    Correction to third sentence above. It should read: It is true, Vakibs, that one cannot blame the caste system solely on the Aryans….

  19. Ramesh says:

    As for the Divine Origin of the Vedic scriptures, which to any rational person, is pure hogwash, if you mean by that Gods and Goddesses in heaven being the original authors.
    Lalan Prasad Singh says the following: "The Vedic hymns, though inspired, were not of divine origin. The Vedas are not the Voice of Providence but are the achievements of the human mind."
    Any religious sentiment claiming to be the only true voice of God is dangerous, dogmatic and antithetical to true spirituality, which is open, all-embracing and free of dogma and can be supported, to a large extent, by rationality, investigation and logic.

  20. Ramesh says:

    Regarding the origin of the Vedas. Lalan Prasad Singh writes (and again this is supported by many writers, even Indian writers) says: "The Rigveda was composed in Central Asia. It bears the stamp of pure Aryan composition." He and several other writers moreover point out that parts of the Yajurveda was composed outside India, but that the Atharvavvda was composed in India. The proof of this can be in part seen by the blending of Vedic and Tantric sources, which are absent in the Rigveda, especially in certain sections, such as in the Nishinga Tapaniya shruti. P. R. Sarkar writes: "…as a result of their coming in closer contact with the non-aryans there emerged a mental or social blending amongst the Aryanas who were highly influenced by the non-Aryan Tantra. This fact is clearly reflected in the Atharva Veda, which cannot be regarded as a picture of Aryan civilization. In the subtle philosophy of the Atharva-veda, particularly in the shruti of Nisingha Tapaniya, non-Aryan Tantra is more prominent than the Vedic ideal of the Aryan civilization."

  21. Ramesh says:

    Yes, of course, there are several theories. There are basically three theories: 1. The Max Mueller Theory: The Aryans arrived from the outside around 1900 BC and destroyed the Indus Valley.

    2. Feuerstein and Frawley's theory; The Aryans have always been indigenous to India because there is no evidence of a man-made destruction of the In dus Valley civilization. They are open to the possibility that the Aryans arrive from the outside much earlier…

    3: Which brings us to the theory that I am presenting, which is based on oral Tantric history, genetics, linguistics, archeology etc. and proposes that the Aryans arrived before, during and after 5000 BC. Thus india is a mixed culture between these Vedic Aryans and the In digenous Tantric Dravidians, Austrics and Mongolians.

  22. Ramesh says:

    To sum this discussion up, there are basically three theories about ancient India: 1. The Max Mueller Theory: The Vedic Aryans arrived from the outside around 1900 BC and destroyed the Indus Valley. Most academics still subscribe to this theory.

    2. Feuerstein and Frawley's theory; The Aryans have always been indigenous to India because there is no evidence of a man-made destruction of the In dus Valley civilization. They are open to the possibility that the Aryans arrive from the outside much earlier… The Vedic Aryans developed yoga, ayurveda, etc. Most yogis in the West subscribe to this theory.

    3: Which brings us to the theory that I am presenting, which is based on oral Tantric history, genetics, linguistics, archeology etc. and proposes that the Aryans arrived before, during and after 5000 BC. Thus india is a mixed culture between these Vedic Aryans and the In digenous Tantric Dravidians, Austrics and Mongolians. According to this theory is was the Tantric yogis who developed yoga as the Vedas are more ritualistic and philosophical in nature. The Upanishads, Brahmanas etc came out of a blended culture between the Vedic Aryans and the Tantric yogis. All yogic practice is basically from tantra, as tantra is basically the science and path of yoga.

  23. Hi, Ramesh.

    These theories are fascinating to me as history, but, and I want to emphasize this is just for me personally, they have absolutely no bearing on how I practice Yoga today. They are all just interesting historical debates.

    I do understand that for you it is different, because your very impressive practice of Tantra is deeply connected to the history, and, I get the feeling, is highly dependent on that history for it to be meaningful to you. And of course, the more important the lineage and history, the more important is getting the details right.

    I respect and applaud all this. But for me it is the opposite. I only like the ancient Yoga texts because they are powerfully meaningful to my heart and soul right now, today. It would be all the same to me whether they were written by Vedics, Aryans, Mongolians, or by two guys in a bar. They make spiritual sense to me.

    The history to me is highly interesting but largely irrelevant to my own personal spiritual path. I do enjoy that the Gita is really old, but it's the the ideas themselves that I'm ultimately interested in. And I'm far more interested in how they affect me today than any authentic analysis of where they come from and how they were practiced back then.

    And just so this point is super clear, this is just my spirituality. I celebrate and admire your very different historically oriented spirituality. They're just different. Neither is wrong.

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  24. Thanks for straightening me out, Ramesh. In this response you sound exactly like the way I practice Yoga.

    I think I need to stop trying to figure out who you are from your writing. I keep missing the mark. I'll stop doing that. I'm still going to hit you hard when you seem to be say progressive Tantra is the only or even preferred path or unfairly skewer celebrities with unsupported headlines, though! But I don't imagine you'd have it any other way, right?

    Your friend in Yoga,
    Bob Weisenberg

  25. Bob, it is only in the last 10 years or so of my practicing yoga for the past 35 years that I have been interested in the history of tantra and yoga. Thus the history of yoga and tantra has had little or no effect on how I practice. As Shiva said about 5000 years ago: Vartamanesu Varteta: Live in the present. That this message is old is not important. It is the message itself that is important.
    Yoga is about being present in each and very moment. Totally present.

    So, you do not need to know anything about the history of tantra in order to practice tantric yoga.

    But just as we human beings like to know where we came from, how our history was shaped, I have also learned that the way we view history also effect our present life. If you think the holocaust never happened, you will view and treat Jews differently than if you accept the truth about the holocaust. In that sense, history is important. Also for yogis.

  26. I love Keith Jarret, because of his music, and because I have always approached music in the same way:

    Flamenco Guitar as Yoga Philosophy

    See also my music site: http://PadreeHijo.bandcamp.com

    Bob Weisenberg

  27. Ramesh says:

    Good old Keith Jarret, the improvisational jazz pianist, said it well on NPR the other day. Improvisational music is being totally present. When it works, he said, it works because that's how the universe works.
    When yoga works for us, we become one with how the universe works.

    The same Keith Jarret, I am sure, could also talk about the history of Jazz, the way he sees it, while being fairly present in the moment.

    Thanks for getting my point, Bob, and for accepting that you have been trying too hard some times to read my inner self through my talking about history.

  28. vakibs says:

    Ramesh,

    The academic culture and publications are always based on what is accepted in the society at that moment. In India, there has been a lot of political involvement in social sciences : first by the explicitly leftwing Marxist historians and now by the explicitly rightwing revisionist Hindutva people. Also, there has been social movements based on caste (Ambedkar who wanted to uplift backward classes) and on language (Periyar, Anna Durai etc. who wanted to build a Tamil nationalist movement). These movements basically tagged onto the academic publications of that time – on Aryan invasion etc. There is a lot of emotional and politically motivated literature on this topic in India. I think the "truth and reason" fellow also comes from the same background.

    But history is a "scientific" discipline, that can be validated properly by the study of archeological evidence. In India, we have an enormous collection of data available on these topics – literary texts like the vedas and also the mohenjodaro seals. Then we have anthropological evidence. It is possible to evaluate these data with an objective mindset.

    My objection to treating the Rig Veda as being composed in Central Asia is simple. There are a lot of verses in this text that are connected to the philosophy of Yoga and Tantra (which itself left visible artifacts in the Indus valley civilization). Take, for example, the verse on the Vishwe Devah. In my blog, I have explained these Vedic devas with respect to the philosophy of Samkhya (which is an offshoot from Tantra). I would be glad to have your comments there.

    The pantheon of the Vedic devas and the later Puranic devas is deeply connected to the practice of Tantra. These symbols have a deep meaning, just like the yantras and mantras. That meaning is accessible for anyone who studies them with close attention.

  29. swatijr* says:

    who's translation is this?

  30. swatijr* says:

    human minds maybe, but enlightened rishis who were clear enough to cognize the Natural Laws of the universe. if you negate this possibility, it would seem odd that you would even buy into the purpose of yoga in the first place: enlightenment.

  31. disenchanted says:

    The Christian 'missionary threat" came packaged with greed, colonialism and oppression. They called Indians sand niggers. I heard that once and I dumped that religion too. I am back to my yadava roots and Krishna bhakta.

  32. Curious says:

    Interesting essay! It is filled with arguments which are in search of a title.

    When is tantra & yoga not part of Hinduism? Hinduism can be compared to the great Indian dances. Unlike other religions, its roots combine many related (and unrelated) beliefs and mingling of innumerable sects; it has many shades and color, permutations and combinations.

    Like the Indian dances it has the good (shringara), the disagreeable (raudra) and the ugly (bibhatsa). Hinduism is still evolving and will always provide a topic for lively debate. But to overstate the ugly (bibhatsa) in order to deny what is integral (shringara) to Hinduism is totally wrong and objectionable.

  33. Pallav says:

    Thank you Vakibs for clarifying!
    Caste system was wrong. Discrimination against anyone is wrong. The term caste (comes from a Portuguese word castas) was exploited by the British colonists in their divide and rule policy. It gave them control while they ruled, and now the politicians in India are responsible for exploiting the caste system. [BTW, the Portuguese, who were quick to coin a term and be critical of the Indian society, occupied the west coast of India and they did extensive damage to the beautiful cave temple of Shiva in Elephanta by using is as their military garrison. They used the sculptures of Shiva for target practice].

    In many cases Brahmins in India are extremely poor and live a humble life. Today in many villages in Tamil Nadu, Brahmins are the oppressed community. They have no access to jobs; they cannot practice anything or seek employment because of a rigid reservation system based on caste set up by the modern Indian government- a kind of reverse discrimination system.

    Ramesh does not enlighten the readers when he just acts as if no one is speaking out. The reforms are in place. The so called Brahmins are being punished. I call it the revenge reservation system. The social order of today is maintained by the political system and the government of India.

    And you know what, Sonia Gandhi who is the current leader of the Congress Party, is going to revive the caste based census this year (year 2010) in India after almost “90 years” of trending towards MODERNISM and SWEEPING SOCIAL REFORM. (Sonia Gandhi belongs to the family of the greatest reformer and democratic visionary of modern times – Jawaharlal Nehru).
    This is the politics played by the political parties in order to retain control of power.

  34. Ramesh says:

    Thanks for your insightful comments, Curios. Your points are well taken. Many people have pointed out that Jesus was not a Christian because the Christian religion evolved long after he was dead and contains many dogmas he would have revolted against. Similarly, my essay points out that Yoga and Tantra evolved long before Hinduism and are in essence different from the way many people today practice Hinduism. To generalize: Yoga and Tantra are scientific practices while Hindusim is a religion, a belief system. Yet, for others Yoga and Tantra are seen as integral to Hinduism, but that was not my focus in this article. I also sometimes refer to Tantra as Hindu Tantra when needing to distinguish it from Buddhist Tantra, for example. So, I do not think I overstated anything, I simply pointed out some facts that needs to be looked at and acknowledged, facts that so often are overlooked in the glossing over of the history and practice of yoga.

  35. juan says:

    wouldnt it be more that the brittish empire wanted to try to make from vedas an english copyright by max muller?rather than the hindus triying to deffend their culture heritage?since the term aryan is located at the hindus valley how could we talk about foreigners?what about the grabbed stones at mohenjo daro 5000bc with yogic asanas and places destinated to yajnas?what about the vedic influence on egypt and mesopotamia.what about the sanskrit influence on languages?the sanathana dharma concept ruled earth most probably from the begining,if we should look for the original place of all that, no doubt it should be india,why did the english government during the occupation in india spoiled all the sanskrit knowledge available?i think that they got impressed about the value of the hindu culture and they wanted to reinvent the origin of hindu knowledge.

  36. juan says:

    to try to make history out of genetic research it will allways be far from reality,its just funny that the genetic proof of aryan migration coincides with the mohenjo daro proof of vedic civilization dated on 5000bce.i can imagine that yoga started in hot clima rather than in sweden,i think the same about the philosophical aspect,the northern countries couldnt have the clima support and evironement facilities to think and create such science like the yoga.imagine someone meditating on chakras in russia under 0 degrees,im comvinced that tantra or paganisme was the esoteric knowledge spreaded all around the earth the celtics had much ritualism in their culture also the vikings,even alexander the great had a witch craft man in his protocol and the american and african cultures are full of rites.but the indian tantra is the only written treatise left alive , im pretty comvinced that yoga and tantras are from dravidian dna

  37. I think it's important here to recognize that the gods of Hinduism (to use the widest and largely incorrect term for efficiency's sake) are manifestations of our innate natures, and so all describe the nuances of the science of yoga (which is the science of understanding and uniting these often oppositional characteristics to move from duality, or the manifold world, to non-duality, or the god-like state).

    Though to our "more sophisticated" understanding, it may seem that later texts have evolved and refined this understanding of the gods as representations of our various human facets, it should also be understood that as we "evolve" we move further and further away from our relationship to nature, and by virtue, move further and further away from our relationship and intimate understanding of ourselves as part of nature. In other words, although the symbolism of the RgVeda in the form of prayers may seem archaic, it is, nonetheless, *symbolic*–and composed in a time when practitioners understood this symbolism at a deep and personal level in the same way that we now understand more intellectual explanations of the same concepts.

    To follow the vein of the gods being representations of ourselves, Indra *is* no doubt the root word and representation of Indrya, or sense organ. Indra, as you say, indeed means 'big,' 'great,' 'energy,' 'electricity,' and 'light'. How do you think the sense organs operate? They operate as a result of Shakti, or "energy" moving in (and to a large extent, out) of the sense organs. By the definition of Indra as 'great' or 'big', this indicates the senses' nature to delude the mind into thinking that the senses are the big Kahuna, the ones that run the show, when in fact, this is a trick of the senses, a trick of Indra, if you will, to prevent the realization of God, Brahma, or the root of our individual consciousness.

  38. Remember in one famous story from the Upanishads, Indra is an extravagant sensualist who believes he is the Great God, the one that runs the whole universe; when in fact, he is simply an observation of Brahma, who sits within (and is produced by) the lotus growing from a dreaming Vishnu. Indra, of course, is taught a lesson, and learns that he is certainly a big fish, but in a very small pond, all things being relative. Long story short (very short), Indra learns how not to be engulfed by his sensory extravagances, and at the same time how not to withdraw completely from the world (and the use of his senses), but rather to live with Dharma (right living). This is a symbolic explanation of the practice of Pratyahara, which is intended to contain the Indryas->read Indra->read Shakti or energy, so that that Shakti (Indrya Shakti) may be redirected to the "great" pursuit of enlightenment (our other definition of Indra, the Indra that has learned not to be ruled by his senses and becomes great through Dharmic living).

    I realize this story comes later in the historical lineage of Indian theology, in the Upanishads, but it does so to further explain the role of Indra and the Indryas in the science of yoga to later, more dense (also known as more "sophisticated") minds who are unable to directly grasp the poetic (so far called "archaic") symbolism of the RgVeda.

    What we perceive as "archaic" or "magical" belief from the RgVeda is coded language never meant to be taken literally. The evolution of these texts is not unlike the evolution of Western JudeoChristian texts. The Old Testament is chock full of "archaic" mythology steeped in rich symbolism, and as the texts progress, they become more and more literal (and in the process, more dogmatic, at least on their surface).

    The story of Adam and Eve is itself a symbolic story of Kundalini (yes, even Christian texts are full of yogic symbolism, because yoga is universal). More specifically it represents the realization of duality–the separation of Man from God–that causes Kundalini to drop to the base of the spine in an individual soul. This is not an "original sin" per se, but it does cause the "banishment" or the removal of Man (again represented in dualistic terms as Adam and Eve) from the unity of God, which is described as Eden. This is the beginning of the story of human existence, because this is how we become humans–by separating as individual souls from the oneness or kingdom of God. That is the first step on the journey.

    To bring us back on point, and back to India, the RgVeda's hymns, then, are coded descriptions on how to return to God. Of course, I won't go into that symbolism, as it has been written about extensively by other writers better equipped to explain their richness than I.

    The bottom line is that we are not "looking for" meaning that was not already there, it *IS* there, but we are generally too dense, and too literal as modern and supposedly more sophisticated rationalists to see it.

    What I'm curious to know, Ramesh, is when you read poetry, do you take it literally? Poetry (good poetry at least) is *constructed* with hidden meaning. That is its point. If it were not, it would be prose. This is the relationship between the RgVeda and the Upanishads: The RgVeda is a Great poem–the Greatest, and the Upanishads its complimentary prose.

  39. A clearer example of the RgVeda's symbolism with regards to using yoga in a practical way in our bodies is the God Agni. Agni, as the God of fire, is certainly an archaic figure on the surface. However, Ayurveda teaches us that Agni, as a representation of the fire element within our bodies is our capacity to digest, kindle, "fire" (the way ceramics are cured or hardened and purified by fire). And there are many forms of Agni relative to their specific functions (Jathara Agni-digestive fire, Bhuta Agni-spiritual fire). So when Agni the god is worshipped and propitiated, this is not some external "fire sacrifice" to appease the god and create rain, but a literal biological function. Offerings to Agni are in the form of nutrition (not just at the gross food level) to allow the body to "rain" nourishment on the tissues, the mind to "rain" nourishment to the being and the senses.

    So to call the RgVeda and the people who composed it "archaic" is to call the Great pyramids "just a bunch of big stones thrown together"!

    In the end, I don't really give a hoot whether the Aryans composed the RgVeda or created the practice of yoga, or if one or both of these things originated in the Indus valley pre-or post Aryan influence. The truth is that yoga (at least as anyone knows and practices it today) is inextricably linked to the Vedas (including the Rg), Tantra, the Upanishads, and Vedanta. Knowing each of these roots and their importance to the resulting formation of what we now know as Yoga (which I would absolutely agree is older than any of those texts or traditions) is as important as knowing the difference between your big toe and your baby toe, and your left from your right. But to say that your big toe is a legitimate part of you, and your baby toe is not a legitimate part is wholly ridiculous, and in no way congruent with yoga!

  40. SRIRAM says:

    As per ancient indian literature, Maharshi Patanjali is the one who developed the science of Yoga.
    There is a famous book by him 'Patanjali Yoga sutras'.

  41. […] there is the question: “Is yoga a religion?” I always tell my students that yoga is used by a variety of faiths; but yoga, in of itself, is not a religion. I also tell them that if they have any questions or […]

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  43. Pallav Roy says:

    Whitewashing, nothing else…the american journel of genetics proves that there is no difference between north indians and south indians, languistics prove that there are more similarities between south indian languages and north indian languages, as they all have a common root; sanskrit. Archeology proves that people left the indus-saraswat valley and headed for the gangetic valley because of the drying up of the Saraswati river, turning fertile land into desert, not due to an influx of invaders. The existence of this river is also proven by NASA.
    Also the harapan civilisation shows images of yoga postures, recognised even today, so if yoga was aparently given by this mystical Aryan race whom which no historical homeland has been found, justified with the title of nomads, why did yoga already exist in the civilisations and people of the indus valley? They also show many hindu related images such as vermillion on women forehead, the tilak worn by hindus on their forehead, the great mother durga, the god shiva, sages and yogis in their meditation and yoga positions, and the revearing of animals such as cows exc.
    Also why is it so bad for hindus and indians to stand up against the whitewashing of their own history.
    Despite northern europeans having no civilisation for much of their history, and the fact that the greeks and romans called them barbarians, you still believe that they created sanskrit, hinduism and indian culture and literature.
    You must also understand the motives for this theories creation, it was created by the british in an attempt to destroy the faith of the indians by telling them that everything they know of was given by europeans so they should submit to christendom.
    It was also made to conquer india using divide and rule, diving the people by saying that the northern indians were aryan invaders and the southern indians are dravidian natives. This was created at a time of white supremacy, where african and non white groups were considered as un-human. So if you disagree with some of the raicist close minded views of european scholars of the time, why do you not disagree with this? Despite the cruel and biased agendas and motives behind its creation, its still widely accepted. This is the last accepted theory from the time of white supremacy, so why is it so bad for Indians and Hindus to prove this theory wrong despite TODAYS languistics, archeologists, historians and genetic researchers proving the Indian claim of their civilisation, language, culture and religion to be, Indian.

  44. Juven Bachan says:

    Indeed, it seemed Frawley and those foreign and Indian revisionists did indeed ride horses in the Indus Valley Civilization with their wild and fantastic indigenous Aryan theories. The DNA of Spencer Wells proving that the male Indian Brahmin population is from the southern steppes of Russia's Ukraine must be tasting like bitter pills in their mouths. This is when you have nuts like these interfering in your history.

  45. juvenBachan says:

    Question: So the Indus Valley Civilization occupied the country of India for thousands of years from the beginning. Can anyone say what was the name of India before the advent of the Aryans?

  46. Vaska says:

    Yoga is pre-Aryan and pre-Hindu *in origin* [only]. Given the material evidence from the Indus Valley Civilization that we have, there is no doubt about that.

    In fact, I'm surprised there's even any debate or question about the pre-Aryan (pre-Hindu) nature of the old Indus Valley civilization (where we get the earliest representations of yogis) or about the historical factuality of the Aryan invasions which ensued (Aryans arrived to the Indian subcontinent from Central Asia).

    Hindu nationalists, who talk about "the myth" of the Aryan invasion, propagate a fantasy version of the past and claim Aryans as indigenous to India; no historian worth his/her salt supports such (mostly 19th-century) fabrications.

  47. Anjali says:

    India used to be called bharath Hindustan and today is 80% hindus the vedas belong to hindus the Sanskrit belongs to hindus . there was never any outside invasion as Aryan is not a race but indian hindus culture.white people have absolutely nothing to do with it. as for kemetic yoga that's all BULL as Egypt never had the word yoga period yoga is a Sanskrit word. India doesn't have the word kemet.what Africans done for exercise is NOT yoga. yoga is intellectual property of Bharath.the word arya is a Sanskrit word anyone outside of North west India are referred to as mlecchas.

  48. Goku says:

    And you've cited Arundhati Roy! Hahahahahahahahaha. Why did I not see this earlier? You also mention Romila Thapar in your comments. Who are you gonna quote next? Wendy Doniger? Jeffrey Kripal?
    Oh boy, are you cute or whut! You're clearly compromised. People like you make me yearn for the existence of the Catholic Hell.

  49. Lee says:

    You display elements of hypocrisy when you call those arguing against Aryan Invasion Theory as "Extremists and Hindu nationalists" while at the same time you attack them for calling those in favor of AIT as racist and bigot.

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