I want to do research in yoga, but have been told that a minimum knowledge of yoga is compulsory to do an MA. How should I proceed in this direction?
This problem has existed for a long time. It has been discussed for several years and the decision has been taken to convert the Bihar School of Yoga into a yogic university, which will eventually receive accreditation from the University Grants Commission. This university will offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. There will be four faculties: Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Psychology, Applied Yogic Sciences, and Yoga Ecology and Environmental Science. A faculty of languages, which would include Sanskrit and Pali, is also planned for the future. First of all, we want to begin with these four basic faculties and then we will expand.
After completion of a two-year postgraduate course, an aspirant will be able to obtain a post as lecturer in another university. The chances are greater abroad because yoga is highly respected in foreign countries. We are looking at yoga from the point of view of its development. What do educated people who have done their MSc do afterwards? In India, no university offers yoga as a postgraduate course. The truth is that those who are teaching yoga today have no in-depth or background knowledge of the subject. They do not know the philosophy of yoga, nor do they know the historical connections. What is the connection between yoga and the Indus valley civilization? What is the connection between yoga and the Scandinavian countries? With what tradition or school of thought was yoga linked: Kashmir Shaivite, Lingayat Shaivite or Veera Shaivite? Where did Vaishnavism originate?
Yoga teachers have no knowledge of all this. They only know how to teach asana and pranayama. That is how they manage to earn a living. In India, we lack qualified teachers who have studied yoga systematically. Even sadhus and mahatmas who have studied yoga systematically, and who would know the origins of the word yoga, are difficult to find. Was yoga first referred to in the Rigveda, Yajurveda or in Buddhism? Every era has attributed different meanings to yoga. In sannyasa, there are also references to yoga. When the Bhagavad Gita was written, yoga had different meanings: vishad yoga, samkhya yoga, karma yoga and so on.
Many texts have been written on all these particular yogas, which people have not read. What is the relationship of yoga with tantra? How did hatha yoga emerge? Was it a part of yoga or was it taken from another tradition? What were the conditions when hatha yoga was extracted from that tradition and joined to yoga? Despite being such a great science, why was tantra responsible for the decline of so many great religions? Tantra was responsible for the decline of Buddhism and also the decline of other religions.
Tantra is a great science and there are no two opinions about that in the shastras. It is said that the best path for awakening kundalini has been given in tantra. However, those religions and religious teachers who propagated tantra were rejected by society. Buddhism declined for this reason. Due to its connection with tantra, yoga was also rejected. The bandhas and mudras were all part of tantra. The tantric kriyas were based on the practices of uddiyana bandha, nauli, maha bandha, sirshasana, vajrasana etc. Then people saw that society was rejecting tantra, although it encompassed many positive aspects. So chapters on hatha yoga, describing ida, pingala and sushumna, were added to the yogic science, whereas Sage Patanjali has not written about this anywhere. In Sage Patanjali’s yoga it is only written – Sthiram sukham asanam: the meditation posture should be steady and comfortable.
Where did sirshasana, vajrasana, padmasana, vrishchikasana or mayurasana come from?
There is no reference in Ashtanga yoga or in Samkhya, but there is in Buddhism. Lord Buddha used to sit in padmasana with his hand raised in abhaya mudra. Mahavir, the Jain guru, sat in padmasana. The coiled locks on Lord Buddha’s head are a sign of the sahasrara chakra. The study of this is essential for yoga because it seems to have united several civilizations. Did yoga originate from the Indus valley civilization? There is not only the Indus valley civilization, there is also the Ganga valley civilization, the Brahmaputra valley civilization, the Narmada valley civilization and the civilization of the Cauvery Delta. Yoga belonged to these five civilizations.
The Indus valley civilization was dynamic and mobile. It was engaged in trade and warfare and had an army. Out of this emerged a vibrant civilization, the Ganga valley civilization. There the rishis and munis created a whole literature, wrote the Vedas, Vedanta and the Upanishads, gave a direction to society, performed religious practices and rites, and understood the goal of spiritual life. This was the Ganga valley civilization. The Narmada valley gave birth to esoteric knowledge, magic, tantras and mantras. From the Cauvery Delta arose the arts, architecture, literature, dance and music.
Which Indian civilizations was yoga taken from?
Evidence of padmasana and siddhasana have been found in excavations of the Indus valley civilization. Evidence has also been found in Colombia, a faraway South American country. There is a huge forest in Colombia called San Augustin, where I found ancient statues of pre-Colombian figures doing yoga postures. I published these pictures in Yogavidya magazine. One is doing nauli, another vajrasana, another sirshasana, another sarvangasana, another neti. Where did these statues come from? How did this civilization disappear? So you must wait and pray that Swami Niranjan’s resolve to establish a yogic university will be fulfilled. Many people, like you, will then be shown a path.
11 December 1994, Rikhiapeeth, published in Bhakti Yoga Sagar Volume Two