By Surya Nath Prasad, Ph. D.
Yoga is a practical skill in peace education developed by the author of this paper. His peace education is based on universally inherent five elements, viz. physical, vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual in all men and women everywhere without discrimination of any types to be manifested integrally. The skill of yoga will help every man and woman to be healthy in all parts (elements) of their body leading them to be nonviolent. Hence the author advises that since 21 June 2015, the beginning of the UN International Year of Yoga let all people of the world be aware of their five elements within them and grow integrally through perpetual practice of skill of yoga for their holistic health and sustainable nonviolence.
Initiation of International Day of Yoga
The United Nations declared 21 June as International Day of Yoga on the adoption of the resolution of Assembly on 11 December 2014 with support of 170 Member States without a vote. The credit goes to Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi for his initiation to propose for the UN Declaration of International Day of Yoga, who said on 27 September 2014 addressing the UN General Assembly, "Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day."
Yoga for All People
Like Laws of Isaac Newton was not for the people of Great Britain, Invention of Steam Engine of James Watt was not for the people of Scotland and Great Britain, Archimedes Principle was not for the people of Syracuse, Italy and Greek, Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity was not for Jews and the people of Germany, and like other inventions, discoveries and creations of other scientists and philosophers were and are for their respective nations and people, but for the benefits of the people of the whole world, similarly the Science of Yoga developed by ancient Indian Saints is not for people of India only, it is excellent and unique gift for the people of the whole world. Therefore yoga is a Catholic (universal) skill. It is everybody's technique to be practiced without discrimination of any type to get benefit of it.
Who can do Yoga?
Yoga can be done by those who are well-fed. But alas! 80 per cent of the world population out of about more than 7 billion people is not able to perform different skills of yoga because it lives on less than $10 a day. And nearly 1/2 of the world’s population - more than 3 billion people - live on less than $2.50 a day, and more than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty - less than $1.25 a day. 1/3rd of the world’s hungry live in India, and 836 million Indians survive on less than Rs.20 (less than half-a-dollar) a day.
Therefore the resources should be made available for 80% of the financially deprived persons of world to end their hunger and poverty to enable them to take care of the integral health of their physical, vital mental, intellectual and spiritual bodies through the practice of yoga. Besides this, 20% of the world's highly financially abled persons should be awakened towards the importance of practice of yoga to maintain the integral health of their bodies also and to be motivated to arise in them a natural desire to share their much, much more surplus financial resources with their helping hands to the needy persons around them and in the rest of the world.
Availability of Resources for All to Practice Yoga
It is learnt that the world has enough resources to meet the needs of the five bodies of 15 billion people while there are about more than 7 billion people in the world. But 80% of the world resources are in the hands of 20% of the people everywhere in the world. While as Oxfam estimates that it would take $60 billion annually to end extreme global poverty--that's less than 1/4 the income of the top 100 richest billionaires. And also the world produces enough food to feed everyone. For the world as a whole, per capita food availability has risen from about 2220 kcal/person/day in the early 1960s to 2790 kcal/person/day in 2006-08, while developing countries even recorded a leap from 1850 kcal/person/day to over 2640 kcal/person/day. This growth in food availability in conjunction with improved access to food helped reduce the percentage of chronically undernourished people in developing countries from 34 percent in the mid 1970s to just 15 percent three decades later. (FAO 2012, p. 4) The principal problem is that many people in the world still do not have sufficient income to purchase (or land to grow) enough food. Therefore the United Nations, The World Bank, respective governments of different nation-states and rich people of the world should share their resources to meet the needs of hungry people to facilitate and encourage them to practice yoga for their holistic health. It is a matter of distributive and restorative justice. And for this, the affluent persons should be awakened to start to practice yoga.
History of Yoga
History of Yoga may be divided into four categories, viz. Vedic Yoga, Pre-classical Yoga, Classical Yoga and Post Classical Yoga. (Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies, 2015)
Vedic Yoga (1700-500 BCE)
The ancient texts of Vedas are the oldest scriptures in the world. The Sanskrit word Veda means “knowledge” and rig means "praise". Thus the Rig Vedas are a collection of hymns that are in praise of a higher power. Other three Vedas are Yajur Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama Veda (Knowledge of chants), and Atharvana Veda (knowledge of Atharvana).
Vedic Yoga can also be called Archaic Yoga, as people believed in a ritualistic way of life. Rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies existed because they were considered a means of connection to the spirit world. People turned to rishis or Vedic yogis for illumination. Vedic masters were blessed with a vision of the supreme reality and their hymns speak of their marvelous intuitions.
Pre-classical Yoga (500-200 BCE)
This covers an extensive period approximately 2,000 years until the second century. Gnostic texts, called the Upanishads, that spoke in detail about the self and ultimate reality appeared. There are approximately 200 Upanishads. One of the most remarkable yoga scriptures is the Bhagavad Gita, which was composed around 500 B.C.
The central teaching of the Gita is, to do ones' duty and not expect the fruit of the action.
In 1200 BC the great teacher Rishaba, who was the exponent of the tradition of Jainism, also emphasized on efforts dedicated to the liberation of the spirit.
It was during this time, that Yoga found its way into Buddhism too; Lord Buddha was the first Buddhist to study Yoga. Buddhist scriptures lay stress on meditation and physical postures, which are Yogic processes.
Classical Yoga (200 BCE – 500 CE)
In the second century C.E, Patanjali composed the yoga sutras, which consists of 195 aphorisms. They expound the Raja yoga or the eight-fold path, which are meant to be memorized, as it is not in written form. The earliest known Sanskrit commentary on the sutras is Yoga-Bhashya (speech on Yoga), by Vyasa in the fifth century.
Patanjali believed that each individual is composed of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). He advocated that yoga would restore the spirit to its absolute reality, a teaching that saw a shift from non dualism to dualism.
Patanjali's writing also became the basis for a system referred to as "Ashtanga Yoga" ("Eight-Limbed Yoga"). This eight-limbed concept is derived from the 29th Sutra of the Book 2 of Yoga Sutras. They are:
1. Yama (The five "abstentions"): Ahimsa (Non-violence, non-harming other living beings),[ Satya (truthfulness, non-falsehood) Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy, fidelity to one's partner), and Aparigraha (non-avarice, non-possessiveness).
2. Niyama (The five "observances"): Sauca (purity, clearness of mind, speech and body), Santosh (contentment, acceptance of others and of one's circumstances), Tapas (persistent meditation, perseverance, austerity), Svādhyāya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of God/Supreme Being/True Self).
Asana3. : Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
Pranayama4. ("Suspending Breath"): Prāna, breath, "āyāma", to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
Pratyahara5. ("Abstraction"): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
Dharana6. ("Concentration"): Fixing the attention on a single object.
Dhyana7. ("Meditation"): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
Samadhi8. ("Liberation"): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.
Post-classical Yoga (500–1500 CE)
This period in yoga affirms the teachings of Vedanta, that there is ultimate unity in everything in the cosmos. Vedanta is the philosophical system based on the teachings of the Upanishads.
The earlier eras saw yogis laying emphasis only on meditation and contemplation. Their goal was to shed their mortal coils and merge with the infinite; but, during this period, yogis began to probe the hidden powers of the body. Yoga masters designed advanced yogic practices that would rejuvenate the body and prolong its life. This led to Hath Yoga, which is presently practised throughout the world.
What is Hatha Yoga?
The yoga of postures or asanas is called Hatha Yoga. It broadly consists of asanas (body postures), pranayama (body techniques) relaxation and cleansing techniques. The main goal of Hatha yoga is to facilitate concentration and meditation, which is actually a preparation for achieving the final stage of yoga, called Samadhi.