One thing I like about spirituality is learning about the ancient, mysterious past of various mystical traditions.
This is dramatically true when I investigate the yogic sciences of India, the mystical sister of Hinduism.
When we look at the earliest spiritually-focused cultures, most people believe that they sprouted in lands like Egypt, Sumer and Greece. These lands certainly produced inspiring cultures, but many history experts have been amazed in recent years with continuing findings on the ancientness and far-reaching impacts of India’s fascinating Yogic sciences.
There are scores of accounts of how Lord Shiva’s ancient Saptarishis (great masters) traveled the world to share India’s esteemed sciences of meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices with budding world civilizations.
For example, let’s look at ancient Lebanon. In 2010, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of Isha Foundation conducted a meditation program in Lebanon. Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic and international spiritual leader who is focused on bringing the most effective meditation techniques and yogic traditions to as much of the today’s world as possible.
During that visit to Lebanon, Sadhguru spoke with a member of the ancient Druze sect. (Druze comprise approximately eight to ten per cent of the Lebanese population.) There he was told that the four secret texts of of Druze are translations of four of the Vedas, probably India’s most ancient scriptures.
He also learned that this sect’s founding gurus came from the Himalayas over 10,000 years ago and that the Druze still make pilgrimages to Mount Kailesh in ancient India (now part of Nepal). And finally, he learned that a Druze former prime minister of Lebanon, Kamal Jublas, was a yogi who made regular trips to the Himalayas.
Also fascinating is the fact that Hindu sculptors came to Lebanon thousands of years ago and were involved in the building of the famous megalithic Baalbek structure, including the 4200-year-old Phoenician temple. This fact has been documented by French historians.
Even today, architects don’t know how the immense 800 and 1000-ton stones were transported to this site.
And finally, Sadhguru says that the “most amazing thing for me was I saw a 16-pointed stone…a proper Guru Pooja stone with all the necessary symbols…in Lebanon which is over 4000 years old.”
This stone is from yogic culture and was used for Guru Pooja—a process involving “Sixteen ways to treat a guru.” Sadhguru also clarifies, “The number 16 itself has something to do with the 112 chakras in the body.”
A Heritage of Ancient Spiritual Culture and Mastery
What do these kinds of accounts allude to? Some would say they are clues about ancient India’s age-old commitment to human evolution and sharing its mastery of the many paths to enlightenment.
Also very relevant is the ancientness of India’s legendary culture—a fact that surely contributes to its renowned spiritual reputation. Here are just a few indicators that hint to India’s possible role as the oldest of planet earth’s still-existing civilizations:
1. Most Indian family histories, especially those of Tamil peoples, can be traced back at least 4000 years. These histories are based on elaborate family records.
2. When modern cosmetologists consider the kinds of the constellations that are alluded to in India’s Rig Vedas, they say that the Vedas themselves could have existed over 100,000 years ago.
3. Carbon dating shows artifacts from ancient flooded cities under the Gulf of Cambay in eastern India to be at about 9500 years old. This research was released by India’s Minister of Science and Technology in 2003.
4. These datings hint at a truly ancient culture with age-old spiritual texts and a long-standing commitment to spiritual advancement.
Yogic Influences Discovered
Let’s look at a few more contemporary cultures that preserve ancient gifts from the Saptarishis (literally “seven sages”) of old India.
Machu Picchu, Peru.
A friend of mine recently came back from a special pilgrimage to Machu Picchu in Peru. There she learned that a sixteen-pointed stone—now housed in the museum of Cuzco near Machu Picchu—was among the region’s artifacts.
It appears to be the kind that has been used for guru pooja rituals for millenia—to express gratitude to Great Masters (Saptarishis) who are said to guide and look after mankind. Each of the sixteen points represents a way to give thanks to the great gurus.
Greece, North Africa, Turkey.
Not only did Indian teachers travel and teach in other continents—many famed spiritual students from around the world chose India as a destination for spiritual growth. One of the most celebrated of these is Apollonius of Tyana (now part of Turkey), a contemporary of Jesus.
As a young man, Apollonius displayed deep spiritual leanings. He enrolled in a Pythagorean school and sought the secret knowledge of the ancient Mystery Schools. He ate only vegetables, wore only linen, and imposed four years of silence upon himself. He became a celebrated teacher.
Apollonius then traveled to Babylon and Egypt, but his ultimate destination was India. He followed the route that the legendary Pythagoras had traveled 400 years earlier.
After his immersion among the wise men of India, he later reflected, “ I have seen men who inhabit the earth, yet do not live on it, who are protected on all sides though they have no means of defense, and who nevertheless possess only what all men possess.”
After learning all that he had sought, he returned to share his wisdom with the Western world, influencing seekers of Greece, North Africa and Turkey. Had he not been a contemporary of Jesus and branded a pagan by orthodox Christians, his contributions to spiritual growth in the West might have become more celebrated among Western seekers.
In Roman times, the Brahmin priest Zarmaros, an emissary from India, visited Rome. Emperor Augustus welcomed him and decreed that the Eleusinian Mysteries (renowned spiritual processes) should be celebrated out of season to initiate his guest.
At the conclusion of the pageant and rites, Zarmaros confided to his hosts that it was time for him to die (he was very old), asked that a funeral pyre be erected, and walked directly into the flames in view of astonished onlookers.
Central Asia, Europe, Turkey and Arabia.
In approximately 1500 BCE a group of 61 women traveled to India to learn to spiritual arts of mantra, yantra and tantra from a teacher in northern India. They were not well known women, but they passionately spread this learning in Central Asia, Europe, Turkey and what is now Arabia.
Their teaching created a powerful movement in affected parts of these lands. Not much is documented about them in the West, but the visit was duly recorded by Indian scholars.
There are many other fascinating examples about the spreading of the yogic sciences:
1. Sculptors from India were invited to assist in constructing the renowned temples of Karnak (now Luxor) in Egypt. The most massive of these is over 4600 years old, with some stones of weighing up to 500 tons. French historians have written that the Egyptians were connected with Vedic (Indian) culture as much as 7000 years ago.
2. Skeletons of Dravidian and Nedda type peoples have been found in Ur and Kish of ancient Sumer (later known as Babylon, Chaldea, and Iraq). Sumerian statuettes similar to Dravidian statuettes have also been found. There is said to be a blood relationship between the Dravidians of India and the Ethiopian Sumerians (Elamites).
3. In Konya,Turkey, Sadhguru Vasudev (mentioned above) visited Rumi’s mausoleum. At one point, while walking in the garden, he was astonished to see a four-foot long linga (consecrated stone energy form) lying on the ground among other artifacts. It was cracked, but still in one piece and throbbing with energy. Just touching it, some of the people accompanying him were brought to tears. It speaks of ancient spiritual connections between Turkey and India.
4. In Iraq and Palestine, people of the Mandaean religious group claim to have originally migrated from Sri Lanka (once a part of the Indian subcontinent) and brought with them ancient kundalini sciences.
Transmission of the Yogic Sciences: A Continuing Commitment
So what do these ancient accounts point to? It is meaningful to know that Yogic tradition tells us that in approximately 15,000 BC, Lord Shiva (incarnated as the Adhi (first yogi) introduced yoga (union with all that is) and its associated sciences to mankind.
His main thrust in this bold undertaking was to send the seven Saptarishes (great Masters who were his disciples) to seven critical regions in the world. These included: Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, South American, Central America (of the North American continent), the Himalayas and India.
This tradition of gurus—dispellers of darkness—has continued to serve mankind through the ages with unending compassion and devotion.
Not always recognized, but always present, it is not by accident that the world has survived so many eras of destruction and seeming hopelessness, and continued to return to ages of spiritual flowering throughout history and prehistory.
I myself certainly have immense gratitude for these beings, who are said to incarnate when needed and devote their existence to guiding our return to our ultimate nature.
In my experience, these ancient yogic sciences dramatically accelerate our spiritual evolution, individually and as a group.
It may well be that the immense number of years that these sciences have existed has refined them into a more quick and direct path to one’s ultimate nature. Most paths will take you there, but the time needed to reach one’s goal can vary tremendously.
I, for one, feel the Earth evolving into a world of real peacefulness and inclusiveness. Being filled with awe and gratitude at the intensity and compassion of these devoted teachers of the yogic tradition.
I will close with the words of Sadhguru, “This life for me is an endeavor to help people experience and express their divinity. May you know the bliss of the Divine.”
If you would like to learn more about the Great Masters and the sciences of meditation and yoga, there are many sources. My personal favorites are Isha Institute of Inner-sciences (US) and Isha Foundation (India and the US). I am listing these and the other resources that were used or noted in compiling this article below for those who would like to pursue additional studies or personal growth.
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Amanda Fraser is a writer and a seeker who is attracted to the unusual, the esoteric. During her lifetime she has been drawn to Goddess spirituality, metaphysics, Quakerism, mysticism of the African Diaspora, Sufism, the Yogic sciences and many faces of the Divine. Though she loves to explore and research unknown territories, she is grounded in a strong meditative practice and cherishes her “experience” of the Divine as primary in her life.
Isha Institute of Inner-sciences
Isha Yoga Center
Hancock, G., Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization, Three Rivers Press, Three Rivers Press, 2002
Merton, R., Mystics and Seers of All Ages
Alchemy Lab, http://www.alchemylab.com/apollonius.htm, “Apollonius of Tyana”
Vasudev, Sadhguru, Discourse, Isha Institute of Inner-sciences, June 1, 2010
Kersten, H., Jesus Lived in India
Windsor, R. R., From Babylon to Timbuktu, Windsor’s Golden Series Publications, 1969
Pinkham, M. A., The Return of the Serpents of Wisdom, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1997
Scott, E. People of the Secret, The Octagon Press, 1983
Verma, V. K., Indo-Aryan Colonization of Greece and the Middle East
Editor: Carolyn Gilligan