Yoga-Dharma—Alive & Well Today

Via Yogi Michael Boyle
on Jun 29, 2013
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Foundations of Dharma—the Ancient Roots of Yoga are alive and well in 2013.

Yoga has never just meant yoga. By that, I mean that yoga postures, or asana, traditionally comprise a small component of the complete path of yoga.

Taken by themselves asana usually have a limit to the fruit they can bear. A consistent asana practice will yield wonderful physical, mental and emotional health benefits. This is great. It may also allow us to tap into a deeper sense of spiritual wellbeing because spiritual realization is very natural. But, apart from rare instances, an asana practice in isolation from a complete path of yoga can only do so much. When, in totality, the complete path of yoga is designed to confer the ultimate human experience: the (literal) rainbow light body of boundless compassion and wisdom.

A few different camps have developed in the modern “yoga” scene. One has psychologized the fruits of yoga. The people in this camp either don’t read the texts of the yoga tradition or they read the poetic language of these texts that promise supra-normal results as analogies. They see the ceiling of yoga as what it has become in the modern marketplace: a wonderful type of calisthenics that has the added bonus of relative mental and emotional wellness. In this camp some may pay lip service to the “spiritual” results of yoga, but what they are talking about is just the tip of the iceberg of what is spiritually possible through a complete yoga practice.

In a 12-stage view of spiritual progression stage three renders total self-acceptance and an uncommon experience of equanimity, and stage five is total freedom from psychological problems. These amazing and rare fruits of a complete path of yoga should not be scoffed at, yet they are not even half way up the mountain of what is possible.

Another camp has developed wherein people have sensed the other 99 percent of the iceberg that is possible through yoga. These people seek to “spiritualize” their practice beyond the physical, mental and emotional fruits mentioned above; however, many people have either very mixed ideas about these “spiritual” aspects of yoga, or they think that the highest spiritual practices and fruits do not exist within the yoga tradition.

These latter practitioners often take on a diet of spiritual eclecticism. For example, some people who are into “yoga” (i.e. asana) think it necessary to look to Tibetan Buddhism, Shamanism, or some such practice, in order to get the higher wisdom practices they seek. Some teachers even go as far as bringing elements of completely different types of practice into their “asana flows” and create yoga hybrids with things like tai chi, kung fu, dance, etc. This eclecticism is absolutely unnecessary (and may be detrimental).

These other traditions might have wonderful enlightenment practices and may be effective in their own right. But the full path of enlightenment can be tread completely within the yoga tradition and if we want deep results it is prudent to stay focused within one system.  Modern scholars on the forefront of Sanskrit textual translation like Alexis Sanderson and Christopher Hareesh Wallis are uncovering texts that not only illuminate the complete system of enlightenment yoga, but they also demonstrate that other streams of Tantra (such as Tibetan Buddhism) derive their origins from Śakta-Śaiva Tantra, which many are now saying is the original form of Tantra (Tantra being the mother of “yoga”).

So, for those who are interested in asana and want to spiritualize beyond the wonderful fruits of mental-emotional equanimity and physical health, there is no need to mix and match practices from different lineages and/or traditions… as wonderful as those other traditions may be.

When we understand the relationship between view, method and fruit we can see why the millions of yoga practitioners today are not becoming enlightened like the sages of old have promised they could. Mixing views from different traditions, and practicing methods with the idea of a “little bit of this and a little bit of that” leads to a muddled fruit and can even be psychologically and/or physically and spiritually damaging.

The path of yoga is complete and extant today with unbroken roots tracing back millennia. The incredible work of the aforementioned scholars is highlighting the origins of the complete path of yoga in its textual form. Their research is perfectly complementing what has been transmitted orally by the lineage of masters of the tradition. These oral teachings clearly demonstrate that non-dual Tantric Yoga was bristling well before even this textual evidence, which dates back thousands of years. However, it is incredibly exciting to see the texts illuminating what our teachers have been telling us. The complete path of yoga includes incredibly sophisticated rituals, countless mantras, visualization practices and a seemingly infinite variety of sadhanas (spiritual practices) that are designed to systematically take practitioners from the “a” of ignorance to the “z” of enlightenment.

Yoga asana and everything else that comprises the “complete path” I speak of has its origins in Śakta-Śaiva Tantra (which has had many different sects over the years). These origins are older than Patanjali, older than Buddhism and alive and well today. They contain teachings on Ayurveda, countless meditations, internal alchemy, astrology, philosophy, ritual, etc., etc.

So, if you are keen to go deeper with your yoga practice and love the notion that you can do so by staying within the same stream that gave birth to the asana you love, then you will be thrilled to know that this tradition is being practiced by people like you and me today.

(*Chris Wallis just completed a fascinating 6-part video series on the breaking scholarship referred to in this article, which you can view here for free by simply signing in.)

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Ed: Sara Crolick


About Yogi Michael Boyle

Michael Boyle, also known as Yogi, is training to be a DHARMA INC Acarya as student of Dharma Bodhi (Adi Yoga). Yogi is a graduate of DHARMA INC's , seven year, “Tantrik Yoga Studies Program” as well as JFK’s masters psychology program. He is a certified Sauhu Therapy Counselor, Primal Ayuveda Health Advisor, Śakta-Śaiva Dharma Teacher and Adi-Yoga Teacher. In 2010, he founded Energy of Mind Holistic Counseling, which offers counseling through the lens of yoga, ayurveda, meditation, etc. all within the context of psychological insight and understanding.


11 Responses to “Yoga-Dharma—Alive & Well Today”

  1. R.Craig says:

    This article assumes that the respectable work of Sanderson and his student Wallis is true. There is a massive project by Sanderson and many of his students to state that the origins of Buddhist Tantra are in Hindu/Saiva-Sakta Tantra. This work is currently being accepted, wholesale by many uncritical yoga practitioners who haven't the skill or tools to look with informed eyes and hear with learned ears.

    As for those who seek "deeper" teachings in outside the yoga tradition, many look to Buddhism and Buddhist Tantra for completion because by and large, the yogic and tantric traditions were preserved in the Buddhist traditions. They were largely either wiped out completely, sterilized, or watered down in many Brahmanical/Hindu circles of India. Add to this the fact that most yogic and tantric lineages of Hinduism are broken; they have died out. There are many living lineages of Buddhist tantra, both Tibetan and otherwise. I would also say that what is understood as yogic traditions absolutely must include Buddhist traditions and teachings.

    The laudable attempts of Sanderson and his students to resurrect Hindu lineages and teach "original" Saiva-Sakta Tantra along with other such projects have to be seen clearly in this light.

  2. Ah, I do so love the diversity of Yoga philosophy today. Here we have on one hand, Michael arguing persuasively that Yoga was and is complete at its pre-Yoga Sutra origins.

    Meanwhile, right now I'm reading Matthew Remski's fascinating new book "Threads of Yoga" in which he argues equally persuasively that the ancient yoga texts are, at best and stated kindly, obsolete. He then goes on to boldly re-translate the Yoga Sutra itself for modern times, openly reversing many core features of Patanjali's original, under the theory that this is what Patanjali would write if he were living in today's world.

    Then we have R. Craig's comment above, in which he argues that only Buddhism has really preserved the essentials of the original Tantric methods. Meanwhile, one of the most recent and respected translations of the Yoga Sutra, Hartranft's, argues that the Yoga Sutra is essentially a Buddhist document.

    Love it all. This is why I love being in the middle of this, and why I created my new website to help keep tabs on it all. I will be posting this article there.

    Bob W. Editor
    Best of Yoga Philosophy

  3. paul says:

    Yoga and other traditions that engage in capital T Truth don't go away so much as go into the background; no pearls for swine doesn't mean no pearls.. To view the videos at dharmainc the site asks for a $36 annual subscription.

  4. shiva says:

    Interesting discussion. I am Indian Hindu. The main reason many Hindu Tantric traditions were lost in India was the almost 1000 years of occupation by muslim rulers who came from central asia or persia. They were brutal and hindus were not organized and were easily captured. Buddhism was wiped out of afganisthan and other parts of India by muslims. Thanks to tibetans the rich tantric traditions were preserved. After muslims were finally defeated british ruled india for more than a century and were less than tolerant of native cultures of India. These comments of mine may not be liked by many readers. But I believe it to be true. My 2 cents.

  5. Yogi says:

    That's true, Paul. At a certain point the DHARMA INC site asks for a 3$/month to view certain videos (and have access to live webcasts, etc)… but, that is after literally dozens of free video hours, multiple entire manuals with theory/picture/instruction in pdf form that are absolutely free, along with tons of totally free articles, etc…

    The series of 6 videos mentioned in the article above (which amounts to about 10 hours) is also totally FREE of charge (parts 1-4 are currently available as 5 and 6 will be released over time, but will still be free).

    But you are right because then, more as a means of trying to gain funding for humanitarian service projects, than to "make money" on content, we give people the option to support what we are doing: including but limited to building a school to educate and house young girls and boys at risk to human trafficking/sexual slavery ( by asking for 3$ or 9$ per month to view certain content (which again amounts to about 1% of the volume of free content already available).

  6. Yogi says:

    Apologies to anyone who tried to look at the "free" video referred to at the end of the article, including Paul (although, Paul, I don't think that likening us to swine was that necessary). Anyway, it was a technical problem that the video was not in the free category on our site… if it is not already fixed it will be soon.

    And, again, what I explained in my direct reply above to Paul before I learned of the technical glitch is that 99% of the content on the DHARMA INC site is free (and there is A LOT of it)… the subscription fee we do ask for for certain material and live webcast teachings is more of a means for our community members and people who like we what we do to support our many non-profit humanitarian service initiatives ( Thanks. -Yogi

  7. Padma Kadag says:

    Here we have another example of someone selling a spiritual path of their creation. In order to elevate this "step right up have I got a cure for you" they attempt to deligitimize Vajrayana Buddhism with the usual Saivism is older therefore better or Vajrayana is a "higher wisdom" but not as high as dHarma Inc's wisdom. Very funny. Why is it that those who have not taken Vajrayana Buddhism to it's completion or know nothing about it have so much to say about what it is or not is? This author has no authority to discuss Vajrayana from the Tibetan tradition and therefore should just do whatever practice he chooses and stay quiet. You should not discuss Vajrayana if you know nothing about it. Please tell us which Lama has conferred your authority in the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism that would allow you to speak to it's inability to a "full enlightenment" , as you suggest. Tibetan Tantra does not need me to defend it and really this is not my intent. By the same token if your practice has blessing and merit then I am happy for you but you do not need to deligitimize Vajrayana Buddhism when you have no knowledge regarding it.

  8. Yogi says:

    I am sorry, Padma, but I believe you have misread the article. I clearly state:

    "These other traditions might have wonderful enlightenment practices and may be effective in their own right."

    The article only takes care to make the point that those who like yoga asana (postures) don't have to look elsewhere for the "enlightenment" practices. I do say that mixing practices from different lineages often leads to less than desirable and I maintain that position. And, I also say that textual evidence clearly shows that Śaivism is older than Buddhism… but I NEVER say that Śakta-Śaivism is better than anything else and I am clearly NOT positing DHARMA INC's wisdom as higher or better. I am only letting yogis know that the complete path of yoga is alive, well and unbroken in transmission despite, as others have mentioned, it being largely underground and disheveled for some time due to the Muslim conquest.

    In fact, I have a deep respect for Tibetan Buddhism/Vajrayana and my education has clearly impressed upon me the view that all of the world's non-dual dharma traditions are simply different paths to the same fruit.

  9. paul says:

    I didn't mean to liken anyone(s) in particular to swine, my apologies that it came across that way. Looking forward to the videos. 🙂

  10. paul says:

    Tantra exists in South India as well. As I understand it, Muslim rule (more like 500 years than 1000) did more to wither tantra by not giving tantrics patronage than through brutal means, though destruction of tantric temples can't have helped.

  11. Yogesvara says:

    Cool, Paul. I hope you enjoy the videos… email me directly if you have any problem seeing them for free and I will make sure it gets sorted – [email protected]. Cheers.