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Introduction to Indian Philosophy

Philosophy is the human attempt to understand the nature of the universe and the meaning of life. For the study of philosophy to flourish, a settled society where people need not struggle for bare existence is important. India is blessed with a good climate, fertile land, the protection of the Himalayas and an abundant rainy season.

OmIn many parts of the world, the reflection on the nature of existence is luxury of life. However, since ancient times, philosophy has held a prominent position in Indian society as the basis of all arts and sciences.

The Indian view of the universe is that it is dynamic and constantly transforming itself. This is in quite different from that of Western science, which seems to want to “freeze” reality.

Indian philosophy accepts

  • a cordial relationship bet the human and Divine realms. God is not a tyrant, sitting up in heaven, who punishes you for your sins. Your karma (your own action) determines the reaction that you will get.
  • The idea that what thought reveals is not opposed to reality, but part of it. Reality can be understood by intuition; the subjective “truth” is as important as objective truth. It is generally accepted that truth may be many sided and paradox is readily accepted.
  • Each one of us, in essence, is pure – and can never be impure. Although you might identify with certain negative qualities, your essential nature remains pure. An analogy is that water may appear to be polluted, but actuality the water is simply carrying impurities.

Indian scriptures tend to be written in a way that is difficult for you to understand. The general consensus is that it is best to study them with a teacher. Yoga Vidya offers many excellent courses on Indian philosophy and various scriptures. In addition, you might want to consult the following books:

Ayurveda and Yoga by Dr. David Frawley
The Yoga Tradition by Dr. Georg Feuerstein

What is Yoga?

Enlightenment practice

  1. Union, union of individual soul with supreme soul;
  2. discipline by which such union effected;
  3. name of philosophy of sage Patanjali, teaching process of this union; '
  4. unruffled state of mind under all conditions.
  5. from root ‘yuj’ meaning to yoke, to harness, join together’

All life interconnected, integrated whole. When don’t experience that wholeness, feel isolated & dis-empowered.

Yoga means both experience of oneness, as well as practice by which attain that experience. Yoga is your progress & techniques for overcoming whatever obstacles may try to prevent that progress

“Yoga is the union of the individual psyche with the transcendental Self”.

  • - Yoga-Yagnavalkya, 1.44

“Evenness of mind is called yoga”.

  • - Bhagavad Gita, 2.48

“Yoga is skill in action”.

  • - Bhagavad Gita, 2.50

“This is the real meaning of Yoga, the severance of union with pain and sorrow”.

  • - Bhagavad Gita, 6.23

“yogas cittta vritti nirodhah” 
“Yoga is the cessation, or the calming, of the mental modifications, i.e. the thoughts”. 

  • - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.2

“Yoga is ecstasy”.

  • - Yoga Bhashya, 1.1

“Yoga is said to be the oneness of breath, mind and senses, and the abandonment of all states of existence”.

  • - Maitri Upanisad, 6.25

“Yoga is said to be control”.

  • - Brahmada Purana,

“Yoga is he separation of the Self from the World-Ground”.

  • - Raja-Martanda, 1.1

“This they consider yoga: he steady holding of the senses”.

  • - Katha Upanishad, 6.11

“Yoga, in a nutshell, is to keep the entire eternal and internal body clean, pure, sanctified, so that the mind flows without any barrier within and absorbs what goes on inside the body”.

  • - B.K.S. Iyengar

“Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distraction”.

  • - T.K.V. Desikachar

“Yoga is the science which teaches us how to get direct experience of God”.

  • - Swami Vivekananda

“I consider Yoga to be the oldest spiritual tradition in the world. The purpose of Yoga is to instil or to realize complete inner freedom. 

  • - Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Unveiled

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A word about Karma

The word “karma” has become a fashionable term that many people use with little understanding of its actual meaning. The Sanskrit word means “action”, and every action has an equal and opposite re-action. Karma has nothing to do with your destiny or fate – or with being punished for your sins. It doesn’t refer to luck – good or bad.

The principle of karma is simple: if you throw a ball against a wall, it will rebound with a force equal to the strength you used to throw it. If you think of this in terms of life in general, you will understand how your actions return to you.

Another way of summarising karma would be: as you sow, so shall you reap. If you plant an apple seed, you will get an apple tree. If you plant apple seeds, don’t complain because you would prefer to have cherries.

In yoga, do your practice and reap the rewards. Don’t resign yourself and think “I will not do anything”. It is impossible. You can’t live without doing action – even for a second. If you are not doing something positive with your life, the lack of activity will result in negative consequences.

An understanding of the ‘law’ of karma leads to your taking responsibility for your own actions. Don’t blame others when things aren’t going as you would like them to. If you want to change your life, change your actions. You always have a choice, but sometimes it takes time for your actions to manifest – so be patient, but keep at it.

Take some time to understand the philosophical basis of yoga. Then, in addition to asanas and pranayama you can begin to put them into practice in your own life.

Remember: success in your yoga practice is the result of six important qualifications. You need cheerfulness, perseverance, courage, knowledge gained from direct personal experience, firm belief in the teachings, and solitude.

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