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What is yoga?

Yoga - Hindu FAQs

What is Yoga?

On the occasion of International Yoga day which is on 21 July, we are happy to share some basic faq’s about yoga and the types of yoga. The word ‘yoga’ is taken from the Sanskrit root ‘yug’ which means union. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve union between the individual consciousness (atma) and the universal divine (paramatma).

Yoga is an ancient spiritual science that seeks to bring the mind, body and spirit in harmony or balance. You can find a parallels for this in many different philosophies: Buddha’s ‘middle path’ – too much or too little of anything is bad; or the Chinese yin-yang balance where seemingly opposite forces are interconnected and interdependent. Yoga is a science whereby we bring unity to duality.

Yoga - Hindu FAQs
Yoga – Hindu FAQs

Yoga is commonly viewed in our everyday  encounters as “excercising flexibility”. These two words have a profound  meaning although most people that state it are referring to the  physical realm. The meaning of these words grow on the practitioner with  experience. Yoga is the science of awareness.
What are Vedic Texts?
There are several thousand vedic texts, but here below is a quick synopsis of the parent/primary texts.

Vedas:
Rig :  Defines the concepts of the 5 element theory
Yajur : Defines the methods to harness the 5 elements
Sama : Defines the frequencies associated with the 5 elements and their harmonics
Atharva : Defines the methods to deploy the 5 elements

Vedanga:
A collection of doctrines of grammar, phonetics, etymology and the science of language use to write the Vedas and UpaVedas

Upavedas:
Refers  to specific subset extentions of the vedas. More of a practitioners  manual. Here below are the most important to our discussion.

Ayurveda:
Medical science

Dhanurveda:
Martial Science

Upanishads:
Refers to a collection of texts that may be viewed as the final chapters of the vedas

Sutras:
Refers to a practitioner’s manual extracted from the Vedas. Identical to the Upavedas. The one of greatest interest to us being

Patanjali Yoga Sutra:
The ultimate doctrine of Yoga

Paths of Yoga:
There are 9 paths of Yoga, or 9 ways that union can be achieved:
Yoga  paths refer to the actual method of practice to experience the state of  yoga. Here below are the most common paths and their significance.

(1) Bhakta Yoga: Yoga via devotion
(2) Karma Yoga:  Yoga via service
(3) Hatha Yoga: Yoga via balance of Sun and Moon energies
(4) Kundalini Yoga: Yoga via harnessing the power of creative latent energy in all of us
(5) Raja Yoga: Yoga via breathing
(6) Tantra Yoga: Yoga via balancing the male/female polarities
(7) Gyana Yoga: Yoga via intellect
(8) Nad Yoga: Yoga via vibration
(9) Laya Yoga: Yoga via music

Yoga - Hindu FAQs
Yoga – Hindu FAQs

The sage Patanjali defines yoga as “Chitta vritti nirodha” or cessasation of mental fluctuation (simply put – control over the wandering mind). In the Yoga Sutra, he divided Raja Yoga into Ashta Anga or Eight Limbs. The 8 limbs of yoga are:

1. Yama:
These are ‘ethical rules’ which should be observed to live a good and pure life. The yamas focus on our behavior and conduct. They bring out our true underlying nature of compassion, integrity and kindness. Consist of 5 ‘abstinences’:
(a) Ahimsa (Non-violence and non-injury) :
This includes being considerate in all actions, and not thinking ill of others or wishing them harm. Do not cause pain to any living creature in thought, deed or action.

(b) Satya (Truthfulness or non-lying) :
Speak the truth, but with consideration and love. Also, be truthful to yourself about your thoughts and motivations.

(c) Brahmacharya (Celibacy or control over sexuality) :
Though some schools interpret this as celibacy or total abstinence from sexual activity, it actually refers to restraint and responsible sexual behavior including faithfulness to your spouse.

(d) Asteya (Non-stealing, non-covetousness) : This includes not taking anything that has not been freely given, including someone’s time or energy.

(e) Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness) : Do not hoard or collect material goods. Take only that which you have earned.

2. Niyama:
These are ‘laws’ which we need to follow to ‘cleanse’ ourselves internally. The 5 observances are:
(a) Suacha (Cleanliness) :
This refers to both external cleanliness (baths) and internal cleanliness (achieved through shatkarma, pranayama and asanas). It also includes cleansing the mind of negative emotions such as anger, hatred, lust, greed etc.

(b) Santosha (Contentment) :
Be content and fulfilled with what you have instead of constantly comparing yourself to others or wishing for more.

(c) Tapas (Heat or fire) :
This means the fire of determination to do the right thing. It helps us ‘burn up’ desire and negative energies in the heat of effort and austerity.

(d) Svadhyaya (Self study) :
Examine yourself – your thoughts, your actions, your deeds. Truly understand your own motivations, and do everything with complete self-awareness and mindfulness. This includes accepting our limitations and working on our shortcomings.

(e) Isvar Pranidhana (Surrender to God) :
Recognize that the divine is omnipresent and dedicate all your actions to this divine force. Do not try to control everything – have faith in a greater force and simply accept what is.

3. Asana:
Postures. These are typically drawn from nature and animals (e.g. Downward Dog, Eagle, Fish Pose etc). Asanas have 2 characteristics:Sukham (comfort) and Stirtha (steadiness). Practicing yoga postures (asanas): increases flexibility and strength, massages the internal organs, improves posture, calms the mind and detoxifies the body. It is necessary to make the body limber, strong and disease-free through regular practice of asanas in order to free the mind for the ultimate goal of meditation. It is believed that there are 84 lakh asanas, of which about 200 are used in regular practice today.

4. Pranayama:
Prana (vital energy or life force) is intrinsically linked to the breath. Pranayama aims to regulate the breath in order to control the mind so the practitioner can attain a higher state of psychic energy. By controlling the breath, one can gain mastery over the 5 senses and, eventually, over the mind.
The 4 stages of pranayama are: inhalation (pooraka), exhalation (rechaka), internal retention (antar kumbhaka) and external retention (bahar kumbhaka).

5. Pratyahara:
Withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. Most of our problems – emotional, physical, health-related – are a result of our own mind. It is only by gaining control over desire that one can gain inner peace.

6. Dharana:
Stilling the mind by dedicated concentration on a single point. A good point of concentration is the symbol Aum or Om.

7. Dhyana:
Meditation. Focussing on concentrating on the divine. By meditating on divinity, the practitioner hopes to imbibe the pure qualities of the divine force into him/herself.

8. Samadhi:
Bliss. This is truly ‘yoga’ or the ultimate union with the divine.

Happy Yoga day to all!

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Introduction

What do we mean by Founder? When we say a founder, we mean to say that someone has brought into existence a new faith or formulated a set of religious beliefs, principles and practices which were not in existence before. That cannot happen with a faith such as Hinduism, which is considered eternal. According to the scriptures, Hinduism is the religion of not just humans. Even gods and demons practice it. Ishwar (Ishwara), the Lord of the universe, is its source. He also practices it. Hence, Hinduism is God’s Dharma, brought down to the earth, just as the sacred River Ganga, for the welfare of the humans.

Who is then the Founder of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma)?

 Hinduism is not founded by a person or a prophet. Its source is God (Brahman) himself. Hence, it is considered an eternal religion (Sanatana dharma). Its first teachers were Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma, the creator God revealed the secret knowledge of the Vedas to gods, humans and demons in the beginning of creation. He also imparted to them the secret knowledge of the Self, but due to their own limitations, they understood it in their own ways.

Vishnu is the preserver. He preserves the knowledge of Hinduism through countless manifestations, associated gods, aspects, saints and seers to ensure the order and regularity of the worlds. Through them, he also restores the lost knowledge of various Yogas or introduces new reforms. Further, whenever the Hindu Dharma declines beyond a point, he incarnates upon earth to restore it and revive its forgotten or lost teachings. Vishnu exemplifies the duties which humans are expected to perform upon earth in their individual capacity as householders within their spheres.

Shiva too plays an important role in upholding Hindu Dharma. As the destroyer, he removes the impurities and confusion that creeps into our sacred knowledge. He is also considered the universal teacher and the source of various art and dance forms (Lalitakalas), Yogas, vocations, sciences, farming, agriculture, alchemy, magic, healing, medicine, Tantra and so on.

Thus, like the mystic Ashvattha Tree which is mentioned in the Vedas, the roots of Hinduism are in heaven, and its branches are spread out on earth. Its core is divine knowledge, which governs the conduct of not only humans but also of the beings in other worlds with God acting as its creator, preserver, concealer, revealer and remover of obstacles. Its core philosophy (the shruti) is eternal, while it changing parts (smriti) keep changing according to the time and circumstances, and the progress of the world. Containing in itself the diversity of God’s creation, it remains open to all possibilities, modifications and future discoveries.

Also Read: Prajapatis – the 10 sons of Lord Brahma

Many other divinities such as Ganesha, Prajapati, Indra, Shakti, Narada, Saraswati and Lakshmi are also credited with the authorship of many scriptures. Apart from this, countless scholars, seers, sages, philosophers, gurus, ascetic movements and teacher traditions enriched Hinduism through their teachings, writings, commentaries, discourses and expositions. Thus, Hinduism is derived from many sources. Many of its beliefs and practices found their way into other religions, that either originated in India or interacted with it.

Since Hinduism has its roots in the eternal knowledge and its aims and purpose are closely aligned to those of God as the Creator of all, it is considered an eternal religion (Sanatana dharma). Hinduism may disappear from the face of the earth due to the impermanent nature of the world, but the sacred knowledge which forms its foundation will remain forever and keep manifesting in each cycle of creation under different names. It is also said that Hinduism has no founder and no missionary goals because people have to come to it either by providence (birth) or personal decision due to their spiritual readiness (past karma).

The name Hinduism, which is derived from the root word, “Sindhu” came into usage due to historical reasons. Hinduism as a conceptual entity did not exist until the British times. The word itself does not appear in literature until the 17th Century A.D. In medieval times, the Indian subcontinent was known as Hindustan or the land of Hindus. They were not all practising same faith, but different ones, which included Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Brahmanism and several ascetic traditions, sects and sub sects.

The native traditions and the people who practiced Sanatana Dharma went by different names, but not as Hindus. During the British times, all the native faiths were grouped under the generic name, “Hinduism” to distinguish it from Islam and Christianity and to dispense with justice or settle local disputes, property and tax matters.

Subsequently, after the independence, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were separated from it by enacting laws. Thus, the word Hinduism was born out of historical necessity and entered the constitutional laws of India through legislation.

Hinduism – Core Beliefs: Hinduism is not an organised religion, and its belief system has no single, structured approach to teaching it. Nor do Hindus, like the Ten Commandments, have a simple set of laws to obey. Throughout the Hindu world, local, regional, caste, and community-driven practices affect the understanding and practice of beliefs. Yet belief in a Supreme Being and adherence to certain principles such as Reality, dharma, and karma is a common thread across all these variations. And belief in the power of the Vedas (sacred scriptures) serves, to a large degree, as the very meaning of a Hindu, although it can differ greatly in how the Vedas are interpreted.

The major core beliefs that Hindus share includes the following listed below;

Hinduism Believes that Truth is Eternal.

Hindus are seeking knowledge and comprehension of the facts, the very existence of the world and the only truth. Truth is one, according to the Vedas, but it is expressed in a number of ways by the wise.

Hinduism Believes that Brahman is Truth and Reality.

As the only true God who is formless, infinite, all-inclusive, and eternal, Hindus believe in Brahman. Brahman which  is not an abstract in notion; it is a real entity that encompasses everything in the universe (seen and unseen).

Hinduism Believes that The Vedas are the Ultimate Authorities.

The Vedas are scriptures in Hindus containing revelations that ancient saints and sages have got. Hindus claim that the Vedas are without beginning and without end, the believe is that Vedas will remain until all else is destroyed in the universe (at the end of the period of time).

Hinduism Believes that Everyone Should Work Hard to Achieve Dharma.

The understanding of dharma concept allows one to understand the Hindu religion. No single English word, sadly, adequately covers its context. It is possible to define dharma as right conduct, fairness, moral law, and duty. Everyone who makes dharma central to one’s life seeks to do the right thing at all times, according to one’s duty and skills.

Hinduism Believes that Individual Souls are Immortal.

A Hindu claims that there is neither existence nor destruction of the individual soul (atman); it has been, it is, and it will be. The soul’s actions when living in a body require the same soul in a different body to reap the effects of those actions in the next life. The process of movement of the atman is known as transmigration from one body to another. Karma decides the kind of body the soul next inhabits (actions accumulated in previous lives).

The individual soul’s objective is moksha.

Moksha is liberation: the release of the soul from the death and rebirth period. It happens when, by recognize its true essence, the soul unites with Brahman. To this awareness and unification, many paths will lead: the path of obligation, the path of knowledge, and the path of devotion (unconditionally surrender to God).

Also Read: The Complete Story Of Jayadratha (जयद्रथ) The King Of Sindhu Kingdom

Hinduism – Core Beliefs: Other beliefs of Hinduism are:

  • Hindus believe in a single, all-pervading Supreme Being, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality, who is both immanent and transcendent.
  • Hindus believed in the divinity of the four Vedas, the most ancient scripture in the world, and as equally revealed, venerate the Agamas. These primordial hymns are the word of God and the cornerstone of the eternal faith, Sanatana Dharma.
  • Hindus conclude that infinite cycles of formation, preservation and dissolution are undergone by the universe.
  • Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each human, by his thoughts, words and deeds, creates his own destiny.
  • Hindus conclude that, after all karmas have been resolved, the soul reincarnates, developing over multiple births, and moksha, freedom from the rebirth cycle, is achieved. There will not be a single soul robbed of this destiny.
  • Hindus believe that there are supernatural forces in unknown worlds and that with these devas and gods, temple worship, rites, sacraments and personal devotionals create a communion.
  • Hindus believe that understanding the Transcendent Absolute is necessary to an enlightened lord, or satguru, as is personal discipline, good behavior, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation, and surrender to God.
  • In thought, word and deed, Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be cherished and respected, and thus practice ahimsa, nonviolence.
  • Hindus believe that no religion, above all others, teaches the only way to redemption, but that all true paths are facets of the Light of God, worthy of tolerance and understanding.
  • Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world, has no beginning—it is followed by recorded history. It doesn’t have a human creator. It is a spiritual religion that leads the devotee to experience the Reality personally inside, eventually achieving the peak of consciousness where one is man and God.
  • There are four major denominations of Hinduism—Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism.

We want to build on the ancient word “Hindu” from this writing-up. The Communist historians of India and the Western Indologists say that in the 8th century the word “Hindu” was coined by the Arabs and its roots were in the Persian tradition of replacing “S” with “H. The word “Hindu” or its derivatives were, however, used by many inscriptions over a thousand years older than this time. Also, in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat in India, not in Persia, the root of the word most probably lies. This particular interesting story is written by the uncle of Prophet Mohammed, Omar-bin-e-Hassham, who had written a poem to praise Lord Shiva.

There are so many websites saying that Kaba was an ancient temple of Shiva. They are still thinking what to make of these arguments, but the fact that the uncle of Prophet Mohammed wrote an ode to Lord Shiva is definitely incredible.

The anti-Hindu historians like Romila Thapar and D.N. The Antiquity and Origin of the Word ‘Hindu’ In the 8th century, Jha thought that the term ‘Hindu’ was given currency by the Arabs. However, they do not clarify the basis of their conclusion or cite any facts to support their argument. Not even Muslim Arab writers make such an exaggerated argument.

Another hypothesis advocated by European authors is that the term ‘Hindu’ is a ‘Sindhu’ Persian corruption arising from the Persian tradition of substituting ‘S’ with ‘H.’ No proof is cited even here. The word Persia itself actually contains ‘S’ which, if this theory was right, should have become ‘Perhia’.

In the light of epigraph and literary evidence available from Persian, Indian, Greek, Chinese and Arabic sources, the present paper discusses the above two theories. The evidence appears to support the hypothesis that ‘Hindu’ has been in use since the Vedic period like ‘Sindhu’ and that while ‘Hindu’ is a modified form of ‘Sindhu’ its root lies in the practice of pronouncing ‘H’ instead of ‘S’ in Saurashtran.

Epigraphic Evidence of the word Hindu

The Persian king Darius’s Hamadan, Persepolis and Naqsh-I-Rustam inscriptions mention a ‘Hidu’ population as included in his empire. The date of these inscriptions is between 520-485 B.C. This reality indicates that, more than 500 years before Christ, the word ‘Hi(n)du’ was present.

Xerexes, successor of Darius, gives names of countries under his control in his inscriptions at Persepolis. ‘Hidu’ requires a list. Xerexes ruled from 485-465 B.C. There are three figures above on a tomb in Persepolis in another inscription attributed to Artaxerexes (404-395 B.C.), which are labelled ‘iyam Qataguviya’ (this is Satygidian), ‘iyam Ga(n)dariya’ (this is Gandhara) and ‘iyam Hi(n)duviya’ (this is Hi(n)du). The Asokan (3rd century B.C.) inscriptions frequently use phrases such as ‘Hida’ for ‘India’ and ‘Hida loka’ for ‘Indian country’.

In the Ashokan inscriptions,’ Hida’ and her derived forms are used more than 70 times. For India, the Ashokan inscriptions determine the antiquity of the name ‘Hind’ to at least the third century B.C. The king has the titles shakanshah hind shakastan tuxaristan dabiran dabir, “king of Shakastan, minister of ministers of Hind Shakastan and Tukharistan,” in the Persepolis Pahlvi inscriptions of Shahpur II (310 A.D.).

The epigraphic evidence from the documents of the Achaemenid, Ashokan and Sasanian Pahlvi established a condition on the hypothesis that in the 8th century A.D. the word ‘Hindu’ originated in Arab use. The ancient history of the term ‘Hindu’ takes literary evidence back to at least 1000 B.C. Yeah, and maybe 5000 B.C.

Evidence from Pahlvi Avesta

Hapta-Hindu is used for Sanskrit Sapta-Sindhu in the Avesta, and the Avesta is dated between 5000-1000 B.C. It means that the word ‘Hindu’ is as old as the word ‘Sindhu.’ Sindhu is a concept used in the Rigveda by the Vedik. And thus, as old as the Rigveda,’ Hindu’ is. Veda Vyas talks of the visit of Veda Vyas to the court of Gustashp in the Avestan Gatha ‘Shatir’ 163rd verse and Veda Vyas introduces himself in the presence of Zorashtra saying ‘man marde am Hind jijad.’ (I am a man born in ‘Hind.’) Veda Vyas was an elder contemporary of Shri Krishna (3100 B.C.).

Greek Usage (Indoi)

The Greek word ‘Indoi’ is a softened ‘Hindu’ form where the original ‘H’ was dropped as there is no aspirate in the Greek alphabet. Hekataeus (late 6th century B.C.) and Herodotus (early 5th century B.C.) used this word ‘Indoi’ in Greek literature, thereby indicating that the Greeks used this ‘Hindu’ variant as early as in the  6th century B.C.

The Hebrew Bible (Hodu)

For India, the Hebrew bible make use of the word ‘Hodu’ which is a ‘Hindu’ Judaic type. Earlier than 300 B.C., the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is considered Hebrew spoken in Israel today uses Hodu for India as well.

The Chinese Testimony (Hien-tu)

The Chinese used the word ‘Hien-tu’ for ‘Hindu’ around 100 B.C.11 When explaining the Sai-Wang (100 B.C.) movements, the Chinese annals note that the Sai-Wang went south and entered Ki-Pin by passing Hien-tu. Later Chinese travellers Fa-Hien (5th century A.D.) and Huen-Tsang (7th century A.D.) use a slightly changed ‘Yintu’ word, but the’ Hindu’ affinity is still retained. Until today, this word ‘Yintu’ continues to be used.

Also Read : https://www.hindufaqs.com/some-common-gods-that-appears-in-all-major-mythologies/

Pre-Islamic Arabic Literature

Sair-ul-Okul is an anthology of ancient Arabic poetry from the Makhtab-e-Sultania Turkish Library in Istanbul. A poem by Uncle Omar-bin-e-Hassham of the Prophet Mohammed is included in this anthology. The poem is Mahadev (Shiva) in praise, and uses ‘Hind’ for India and ‘Hindu’ for Indians. Here are some verses quoted:

Wa Abaloha ajabu armeeman Mahadevo Manojail ilamuddin minhum wa sayattaru If, with dedication, one worships Mahadev, the ultimate redemption will be achieved.

Kamil Hinda e Yauman, Wa Yakulam na latabahan foeennak Tawajjaru, wa sahabi Kay yam feema. (Oh Lord, grant me a day’s stay in Hind, where spiritual bliss can be attained.)

Massayare akhalakan hasanan Kullahum, Summa gabul Hindu najumam aja. (But one pilgrimage is worthy of all, and the company of great Hindu saints.)

Another poem by Labi-bin-e Akhtab bin-e Turfa has the same anthology, which is dated 2300 years before Mohammed, i.e. 1700 B.C. ‘Hind’ for India and ‘Hindu’ for Indians are also used in this poem. The four Vedas, Sama, Yajur, Rig and Athar, are also mentioned in the poem. This poem is quoted in columns in New Delhi’s Laxmi Narayan Mandir, commonly known as Birla Mandir (Temple). Some verses are as follows:

Hinda e, wa aradakallha manyonaifail jikaratun, Aya muwarekal araj yushaiya noha minar. (O Hind’s Divine Country, blessed art thou, thou art the chosen land of divine knowledge.)

Wahalatjali Yatun ainana Sahabi akhatun jikra, Hindatun minal Wahajayahi yonajjalur rasu. (That celebratory knowledge shines with such brilliance in the fourfold abundance of the words of the Hindu saints.)

Yakuloonallaha ya ahlal araf alameen kullahum, Veda bukkun malam yonajjaylatun fattabe-u jikaratul. (God enjoins all, follows the direction shown by Veda with divine awareness with devotion.)

Wahowa alamus Sama wal Yajur minallahay Tanajeelan, Yobasshariyona jatun, Fa e noma ya akhigo mutibayan. (Sama and Yajur for Man are filled with wisdom, brothers, following the path that leads you to salvation.)

The two Rigs and Athar(va) also teach us brotherhood, sheltering their lust, dissipating darkness. Wa isa nain huma Rig Athar nasahin ka Khuwatun, Wa asanat Ala-udan wabowa masha e ratun.

Disclaimer: The information above is collected from various sites and discussion forums. There are no solid evidences which will back any of the above points.

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