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New group read: Yoga FAQ > Yoga FAQ discussion Second part & all of book

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message 1: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 807 comments Mod
So I have to say that even though I thought I knew a lot about yoga, there was a lot of good material in here that I'd never heard before. One thing I especially found intriguing was how much Hindu and yoga scholarship sounds a lot like Jewish scholarship, in that the experts are arguing with one another over the centuries about what words (even basic words like hatha or yoga) or texts actually mean.

I also have to say the book was written in a bit of a dry manner, so it wasn't exactly a scintillating read. Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it and I hope those of you who read it are glad too. Let us know.

As with my prior post on this book, I'm not going to ask specific questions, only that you remark on the points you found especially interesting in the second half of the book.

Here are mine:

In discussing Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (note that the book title is singular, not plural as is often written), Rosen describes the three distinguishing characteristics of the true self. Two are that it's unlimited and pure. The third is the one I don't often hear associated with yoga teachings: "Last, because it's completely self-contained and self-sufficient without a care in the world, the Self is joyful (sukha)." (p 89).

"The system outlined in the Yoga Sutra was never intended for the uplift and betterment of everyday citizens; rather, its goal was to free to solitary ascetic from what was deemed the painful trammels of worldly existence. The restraints and observances are the first baby steps in that direction, distancing the yogi from distracting entanglements with people and things, and creating a mind-set conductive to an intense regimen of meditation" (p. 103).

"An informal survey of a number of other books, both primary and secondary sources, turns up as many as sixty more yamas/niyamas.... Rectitude, constancy, resolution, fearlessness, patience, equanimity, silence, sympathy, generosity, modesty, hospitality, sweetness, bathing... (p. 104-105).

"Some of my favorite [ancient yogic wisdom books] that aren't on most popular reading lists include the Shiva Sutra, the Heart of Recognition (Pratya Bhijna Hridaya) and the Knowledge of Bhairava (Vijnana Bhairava) (p. 109).

"Of the four chapters in the Yoga Sutra, the third is no doubt the strangest. About three-quarters of its fifty-five sutras are dedicated to the enumeration of the seemingly miraculous, Superman-like powers a yogi might acquire" (p. 112).
He later goes on to name some, including the power to make yourself as small as an atom, a light as a feather, to touch the moon with a mere finger's tip, to get anything you want just by wishing for it, and the power to manipulate the elements (p. 113-114).

"Indian yogis and priests have been using hallucinogens for a very long time as part of their practice and sacrificial rites. In the Rig Veda, for example, we can find numerous mantras extolling the use of soma, nectar.... Soma apparently was a powerful hallucinogenic concoction made from the juice pressed from a now forgotten plant." (p. 123).

"In order to relay the full meaning of practice in the context of Classical Yoga, we need a qualifier or two, which is exactly what Patanjali gives us in the Yoga Sutra: we must practice 'assiduously' and for a very long time 'uninterruptedly,' in other words, all the time. And what is it that we're practicing.... to stabilize the otherwise chattering consciousness and create a state of stillness" (p. 125).

"It is interesting to note that in the practices of asana and nada described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the asanas are desribed over the course of about thirty-six versus, while the nada instruction [reflecting on the subtle sound in the right ear] takes up about forty versus. This shows us that 550 years ago, though it was just beginning to emerge as a practice that included more than just sitting poses, asana still took a backseat to breathing and meditation" (p. 152-3).

"...Far from being a hoary practice with scriptural roots, it appears that Sun Salutation is actually an invention of the early twentieth century, and so is something less than a hundred years old" (p 186).
And "One of the most vocal critics [of the sun salutation] was Shri Yogendra (1897-1989), founder of the Yoga Institute in Mombai.... He railed against 'exercises involving violence, strain, or fatigue,' specifically the newfangled Sun" (p. 186).

"Namaste comes from the word namas, which means to 'bow to, to salute reverentially, to adore,' along with the pronoun te, 'you.' Literally then, namaste means 'I bow to you.' ... Namaste is often interpreted to mean 'The divine in me bows to the divine in you.' This is no doubt a beautiful sentiment, but Indian acquaintances of mine inform em this is a bit overdone, and that 'namaste' is no more than a token of respect" (p. 221).


message 2: by AZIMVTH (new)

AZIMVTH Ashram (azimvthashram) | 11 comments Very good observations. And summary. I need to read a lot of new books myself.
A few comments.
* Yog is more than 500 years old. The contested figure of Pashupati found at Indus Valley is an example.
* I am glad that it is now a common knowledge that appropriate breathing has a higher priority over physical exercises. And meditation is on the top of these two. Actually, meditation leads to some feelings akin to the positives of hallucinations, I think. And there have been some recent medical studies too.
* Soma was a juice, and I think it was non-alcoholic. Perhaps, kept over time it gently ferments. I suspect it could be a species related to Beil - the wood-apple. The Beil tree is especially dear to Lord Shiva. The leaves grow in a bunch of threes and are used for prayers on Shiva-ratri. I remember my grandfather in Haridwar piling hundreds of these 3-leaf sets in a garland during Shiva-ratri time. Incidentally, a new Beil tree, gives first crop of fruits after eleven years as compared to mango which could be 2 years! Perhaps Bhaang and Dhatura, also dear to Shiva, and hallucinogens, were mixed.
* The point about Sun salutation is appropriate.
* Lastly, the language aspects are really critical. Though studies in great detail by linguists and Indologists, for Yog it has taken a back seat, apparently. For centuries knowledge in Sanskrit was transferred across generations by word of mouth. Appropriate pronunciations are critical. Mantras, when spoken rightly, with other functionalities are supposed to have powers.
That divine bit in the interpretation of the word Namaste is an over-kill. But, the two words are Namah and Te. Namah as in 'Nam:'. or Numuh. on joining (called Sandhi) of Namah + Te it becomes Namaste. Not Namas and Te.
((Decades ago, in an entirely different context, I remember a discussion we were hvaing. It was about which language has a better way of greetings. And someone had a problem with the bowing bit. Namaste has an alternative - 'Namaskar' (Nam: + kar) which would have a slight different connotation. It is perfectly acceptable to use Namaskar.))
Namaste means 'I bow FOR you'. Not 'I bow TO you'. As in 'Aum Namah Shivaay'. I bow for Shiva. The reason is that though the intent is to say 'TO' we can't do it because the rules of Sanskrit grammar enforce exceptions on certain verbs, Namah being one of them. The exceptions aren't random but codified. There are rules for exceptions too! For example, one is called 'Jhaalaamjashoante'. At least, this is what I believe in.

Though I haven't read the book, through your posts I already feel that I have kind of browsed it. Thank you.


message 3: by Meryl (new)

Meryl Landau (meryldavidslandau) | 807 comments Mod
Thanks for adding to my observations. I enjoy learning from you.


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