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What Yoga Really Is
Aarhus University, Danmark
The philosophy of yoga can be expressed as follows:
“Ashes are fire, ashes are water, ashes are earthy everything is ashes, mind, sight, and the other senses are ashes.” (Atharva Siras)
All things in life are transitory, and pain, suffering, and death lurk behind everything. All of life with its omnipresent suffering and death goes on and on in an eternal cycle (samsara or the reincarnation cycle) from which no one escapes. Life is an endless wandering through relentless and insurmountable suffering. The future holds only further rebirths, and whether one is inching towards a better life or sinking into worse life makes little difference.
For all life is ashes.
Hinduism in all its various forms is first of all an attempt: escape from this relentless cycle of rebirth. It is not death wish because the aim is to escape death as well as life. Hindus wish to escape from life with good reason – for life on the Indian subcontinent is hard. Sickness of every kind, famine due to drought or flood, war and oppression make life an unbearable succession of suffering and defeat. The religious faith of the hindus which grows out of their painful experience of life finds its foremost expression in the god Shiva and his consort Kali.
Fear of death
The various Hindu techniques for liberation are attempts to be free of both life and death. Even those who fail to reach the ultimate goal can at least reduce their involvement with life. This is the aim of yoga. By practicing yoga one can reduce suffering and defer death by reducing or completely halting the normal life
An important text of hatha yoga expresses it this way
92. As long as prana is held in the body, so long consciousness (cittam) (is) free from disease. What cause is there for fear of death so long as the sight (resins fixed) between the eyebrows’
93. Therefore, from the fear of death, Brahma (is) intent on pranayama, as are also Yogis and sages. Therefore, one should restrain the prana.” (Gozaksa Sataka)
As expressed in this text the source of yoga is the fear of death, and the way to avert death is to hold back breathing. The same hatha yoga techniques will hold back and immobilize other life functions.
Hatha Yoga Techniques
Hatha yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) are not intended to lead to better breathing, but to the reduction or complete cessation of breathing! In the same way hatha yoga body postures (asanas) are intended to immobilize the whole body. Practicing them will enable the body to become completely motionless and hardened in fixed positions. Meditation words (mantras) serve to immobilize the consciousness. Mantras are usually the names of gods used for worship. Symbolic body movements (mudras and Continue reading “What Yoga Really Is – Johannes Aagaard Aarhus University, Danmark”